05.03.2017 28 °C
After our pyramid debacle, as we'll call it, our driver and new friend Mansour took us downtown towards the Citadel. We were pretty overwhelmed from the morning but we wanted to get our sightseeing in for the day as we weren't sure what we had planned for the days to come. When researching Egypt, so many things come up as must-sees. Our hotel front desk brothers Muhammad and Karim assured us we could see it all in an afternoon, so we made a plan and we set out.
Mansour dropped us off at the citadel with a specific time for pickup as he couldn't park near the area. We walked up and tried to find our way to the entrance. These places really don't have things clearly marked, and nobody, not even the main ticket agents or any workers of this major attraction speak English, but we found it. The language barrier is real!
We went inside and saw the huge Muhammad Ali Mosque. It was massive and stunning. We even got to go inside; I didn't think we would since I didn't have a headscarf and we aren't Muslim.
We also got a fantastic view of the city from the edge of the citadel.
With almost an hour still to go until our pickup we wandered around the compound, seeing the police museum, an open air exhibit of old war machinery, and seeing another mosque.
We really could have used a guide. This was my intention on this trip - hire a guide to take us around and show us the history of Cairo. But our hotel said we didn't need one and so we slowly wandered on our own. I'm glad we saw it, I guess I'll research the history when I'm home?
Mansour picked us up right on time and took us to old Cairo, the Coptic area. Once again we were dropped at the gate and left to fend for ourselves. We found a few churches, mostly by accident, and then wandered back to our driver. We really have no idea what we saw, and while it was nice, I really wish we had the history.
We also happened to walk into a graveyard with these massive tombstones. It appears that families were buried together and that potentially these people are buried above ground.
After this we asked Mansour to take us to a place for lunch. One of the spots on my list was a little far out of the way, but it seemed like he was just going to take us to a random, boring restaurant. So I asked for what I wanted and he says, "Sure! Why not?" So we made the half an hour drive in traffic up to Zooba, an Egyptian new age restaurant in a hip little district of Cairo. We ordered all the food we could eat, little side dishes and sandwiches, drinks (non-alcoholic of course) and our drivers big lunch as well. We got the huge bill of less than $15 Canadian and we happily paid.
Driving back through traffic to the hotel we had just enough time to shower the day off and get ready for a Nile dinner cruise. We had planned all of this the day before, and while I was tired from the long day I felt refreshed and ready to go out that evening. We set out with Mansour and got there an hour early to board the ship. But we got to watch it come into the harbour area.
We boarded and again waited an hour until we actually took off. We got to watch the sun set from the boat and we watched all of the cruise goers come on board. I was one of two women without a headscarf on. People come with their families, young people and their friends, all dressed up to have dinner and entertainment on the Nile. We felt like we were in good company.
Josh went to order us a drink and... no alcohol is served on the boat. What kind of dinner cruise is this?! Welcome to Egypt!
While waiting the hour to set sail, a guy came around asking if we'd like to buy shisha. My immediate reaction was no, thank you. But as he left I thought, when in Rome, we should do as the Romans do. And everybody smokes shisha! So we decided to order some, chose an exotic flavour, and it was delivered within a few minutes. I can no longer claim my innocence and say I've never smoked anything in my life! My poor Virgin lungs...
We went downstairs as the dry party was getting started. We took our seat and proceeded to watch the belly dancer do her thing. There was a live band, all in Arabic, and almost the whole cruise was singing along to their music. Must have been some well known songs. Once the belly dancer was finished a Chinese woman who was sitting close to the stage volunteered to go up and try it herself. She was right into it, smiling the whole time. She was maybe 40-45, and she was sitting with a young, good looking Egyptian guy. It was a little odd!
After the belly dancer we watched a traditional dance done by a male with this large skirt that he twirls around in. I got dizzy just watching him and had to look away a couple of times! He did some crazy things with that skirt and it even lit up near the end of his performance. Once again the Chinese woman volunteered to go up and try the skirt dancing, the whole time her "partner" was filming away haha. After they finished the belly dancer was back to perform a different dance with a cane.
Next came dinner and everyone rushed to the buffet. The food was not great I'm not gonna lie, but Josh got to try some traditional looking deserts. After dinner we were treated to this Safari looking man who sang both English and Arabic songs. The English songs he sang were super cheesy, and it seemed like the Arabic songs were too! Except some songs really got people going, and they were standing and dancing and even joining the stage to dance. I have a hilarious video of this guy dancing on stage! Too funny.
In the middle of his performance the Chinese woman gets up and sort of requests a song. They don't have the song, so she gets up and announces that she is from China and she loves Egypt and she has a gift for us all in the form of a song by Celine Dion, My Heart Will Go On. I think my jaw hit the floor. So with no music playing, and with half the boats phones at the ready to post to You Tube, she sang. Oh, first she positioned her partner in the right spot so he could video her. It was something special let me tell you!
Then more music by Safari man and more dancing by the locals. By the end of it we were so entertained it was great. I'm glad we went and got to experience this crazy side of culture! I can't imagine what the people would have done had there been alcohol on the boat.
We got a ride back in with Mansour and updated Muhammad about the dry boat, as it was advertised that we could by drinks on board. We also found in our room a bouquet of flowers, a bottle of wine, and a box of fancy deserts from the hotel. They felt so terrible about our morning tour that they not only refunded our full for cost, but they also paid for our laundry to be done and then left these gifts in our room. They went above and beyond for us! They have been so helpful with everything.
We thanked them and then settled in for the night as we had another early morning planned for our third day in Egypt.
Photos to come, check back, wifi is quite slow here!