A Travellerspoint blog

Egypt

Vacation On The Nile

sunny 31 °C

We woke up yesterday still frustrated and tired from the day before. Long story short, we went over our budget from Egypt and some things hadn't gone how we planned. We were frustrated that we had spent more than we wanted to and we hadn't had the experience we were hoping for! We thought about getting a cab to the airport and just waiting there allllll day until we flew out at 3am the following morning. But we thought things couldn't get much worse and we were going to try and make the best of it and find a pool.

We went outside to hail our own cab, the man didn't speak any English but he understood the area we wanted to go and he wrote down the price, he couldn't even say that in English. We agreed as it was ridiculously cheap and we hopped in. Offline google maps have totally saved our trip, so after tons and tons of mid day Cairo traffic, we were on Zamalek island and I had the GPS going to get us to the Hilton. Maps are a universal language! We made it and the very nice man happily excepted our fare and tip even though we felt like it was nowhere near enough.

Walking into the Hilton was a breath of fresh air. The reception was all solid marble it was GORGEOUS. The first hotel staff we came in contact with was sweet and spoke English and led us to the pool where we paid the fee (which was smaller than what they quoted us over the phone) and we set up our lounge chairs. They had huge towels for us and it was hot and sunny and it was everything we had wanted for the day! I was worried that if we had drinks from the bar it would cost a fortune, but the local beer was only $2.65 Canadian plus tax for a large can! We had a few drinks and decided to order lunch, also super, super cheap.

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We ended up chatting to a couple from Miami here on business who had nothing but rave reviews for Egypt. We shared our last couple of days and they just shook their heads and said it wasn't at all what they had experienced. I was happy to hear that they had a great time, and they said they'll be coming back often for more business and vacation. We did some quick math and had we stayed at the Hilton at just under $100 usd a night and had the reception help that they did, our trip probably would have cost us less! Live and learn.

We enjoyed the sun, drinks, pool, and view of the Nile until about 4:30. The sun had gone behind the hotel and we decided to cab back to our place to get some rest in before we had to leave for our flight. Traffic was once again a nightmare and it took us over an hour to get home. Our young driver spoke little English but he was super friendly and was definitely the least aggressive driver we've had! We once again spent next to nothing on the taxi and wished we had done it our way from the start.

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Inside the hotel we thought we should enjoy the rooftop view for the last time, and I still had the bottle of wine gifted to me from the hotel. We went up to the roof to enjoy the sunset, and we watched below as some teenage guys were fighting and playing in the huge empty lot next to the hotel.

Things escalated quickly from there, as we watched the boys start to chase and throw rocks at the dogs, trying to corner them in the cemented areas and chuck the rocks right at them. Josh yelled from the balcony to get them to stop, and they did. But they went to a cemented garage and pulled out two dogs on ropes, a puppy and a bigger one, and then they pulled off their shoes to start scaring them. It almost looked like they were trying to get them to fight or try to bite the other boys. We ran downstairs and asked Karim, the front desk guy, to open the window and ask them to stop, in Arabic. I asked him to tell them to respect animals and pick on someone their own size. Those dogs didn't do anything to them. The boys yelled back that they owned the ones on the ropes and that they weren't doing anything to them. I didn't like any of it.

We then stayed down to chat with Karim and his friend, our former camel guide, came up the stairs to join us as well. He apologized a ton for the other day, but we know it wasn't his fault he was taken by the guards! Karim also used to be a pyramid guide and he told us stories of when he was taken and basically held for bail when he was as young as 14.

We talked for an hour or so, about Egyptian politics and military, and mostly about what needs to happen to Egypt if tourism is ever going to come back. Karim had some phenomenal ideas; he totally gets that the country needs an overhaul. We expressed our thoughts and totally agreed with each other. It was crazy.

Which brings me back to chats we had with our driver Mansour. He was talking religion with us and his frustration with social media and the news. He said he is a Muslim but his best friend is a Christian. He said nobody asks each other's religion and nobody cares. He loves alongside his fellow Egyptians no matter what religion, and everyone respects each other's choice. He was frustrated with the way the media represents the country, and while it has its problems, friendlyness and respect isn't one of them. Yes we were hassles at the tourist places, but most often if we said no the local would just tell us to have a nice day and, "maybe later" we could heck put his store or service. It was not like this in Kenya or Uganda where they didn't really leave us alone! In hindsight we just had some terrible luck in a country that had quite a bit more to offer us.

We finally made it upstairs for a cat nap before our driver took us to the airport at midnight. Driving through the dark streets most of the stores near our hotel were still open! Several weddings were sending off the bride and groom, so that was cool to see. And there was traffic almost all the way to the airport. The city doesn't sleep!

And neither did we. I write this on the metro in Athens heading back to the airport for our connecting flight, more on that soon. But we've slept 3 hours in the last 29, so we're not feeling 100% but we're ready for a comfy bed in Tel Aviv, sooner than later!

Posted by kmcveggie 03:39 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Egypt or Bust

sunny 28 °C

After yesterday being so long and full we decided to book a little retreat away from the city to get a little R&R from all the sightseeing we've done lately. It was a 1.5 hour drive to the Red Sea and we'd spend the day at a resort on the beach with a pool and a bar. The day trip was quite expensive, and we had low expectations since so much of Egypt has not been what we thought it would be, but the photos of the resort looked great and I had read about this little town before. Although we were told we could buy drinks at the resort, we packed the bottle of wine we were gifted and four of the 10% (!!) Egyptian beers we had bought for the hotel, just in case. Yes I forgot to mention, the liquor delivery service got us 10% beers which we have gone though quite slowly haha.

Mansour picked us up at 8 in the morning and we set out for the drive through the desert. He suggested we get bottled water since they would cost more at the resort, and my spidey sense was already tingling as we paid quite a bit per person to go to this resort, so why did we have to being our own water? They desert was vast and kind of eerie, and the two hour drive had mostly the exact same scenery. Once we reached the sea we made a turn and found the resort. It looked decent from the outside, but the town was dead and not quite what the vibrant blogs I read spoke about. Mansour went in to talk to them about our stay, and we were out in the car waiting getting very antsy to start relaxing! So we walked in and Mansour gave us the tour. We saw a very fancy lobby, then a run down pool with a few beat up lounge chairs. All of the rooms that we saw looked completely empty, it almost felt like an apocalypse.

The beach looked really nice, but time can't really run down a beach! I wish I took a photo but we were too much in awe at that point. They also had a beach bar, score! But when we asked about drinks they said they don't have any. We asked if we could use their beach bar fridge, since nobody else was, they said yes. Score! They had a few plastic cups laying around for my wine, we're gold.

The host, who spoke no English, showed Josh and I to separate rooms to change. They were DISGUSTING, they had no beds where beds should be, the bathrooms were disgusting and I stood in an inch of water to change.

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We got out and I asked for towels, Mansour translated and the host said that sorry, towels aren't allowed by the pool. Ummmmmm, k. Mansour said he had one in his car we could use. Ok, my patience was wearing thin. So we busted out our drinks to put in the fridge, and the host picks up the phone to make a call and motions for us not to go near the fridge. He's on the phone for maybe 2 minutes, hangs up and tells us in broken English that alcohol is not allowed on the property, in public places, only in the rooms. You mean in the rooms you just showed us? We were done. No towels, no liquor, a nasty pool, and a place that looked like it hadn't been used since the revolution, which was probably true!

We found Mansour in the lobby and we explained that we just wanted to go back to Cairo. Our patience was tested and we were not spending the money we spent on that place. He suggested we try the other resorts that line the Red Sea, and we were just not into it.

As we drove for maybe 20 minutes, totally perplexed and frustrated that we were wasting our day driving in the desert, we decided to bust out those 10% beers and at least get some R&R on the drive. Mansour had no problem with that, and while you can't drink in the majority of the country, there's no rules on open alcohol in a vehicle! Cheers to that. Two of those each and we were feeling good for our drive home. We even stoped for a desert selfie.

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There were outlets we passed on the way so we decided to stop there and see what kind of sales they had. They were regular Canadian prices so we didn't buy anything, but I did find a cute scarf on sale so I bought that. I needed something positive from Egypt!

Throughout the drive we talked again about intuition and how we have to trust our gut. What we intended for the day was just to go to the Marriott or Four Seasons and ask to use their pool for the day. Our hotel, being the planners and hosts that they are, talked us into this trip. And while I'm sure it was fantastic pre-revolution, I don't think a tourist has been there since, nor do I think our hotel has had tourists book these tours to see the condition of those places. We also contemplated changing our flights to get one more day in Israel, wondering how much that would cost, but nothing could be done until we got back to our hotel and figured it out. Thank goodness we had Mansour as our driver, we had some good chats and laughs with him.

Being on the road for 5 hours we decided just to get some food and go back to the hotel. We had a huge lunch at a place recommended and we finally got back to our home sweet home.

Muhammad and Karim, the brothers who run or hotel, were so sweet in trying to plan our days for us. They truly have gone above and beyond to make our stay amazing. But Egypt is not ready for tourists. As Muhammad tried to recommend other hotels, I pointed out that their last reviews for the property were from 2011. That's unheard of! The Marriott and the other big hotels have plenty of recent reviews. But these ones they use for tourism and day trips have been completely dead since 2011, and in my opinion it will take a lot of renovation to get this city ready for tourists again.

As I write this we're watching a movie in our room, where we've been R&R'ing since we got back. There's more than 600 channels and we found 4 with English. Josh made a few calls and the Hilton does allow outside guests to use their pool for a small fee. Instead of changing around our entire flight and hotel plans we are gonna go at it again tomorrow. It can't get much worse! And then we have to leave the hotel at 11:30 pm for our 3:10am flight to Tel-Aviv, so we'll come back and try and get some sleep before we have a super long day of travel.

More tears from me today in frustration that I feel like we've wasted so much time here. Between the traffic, language barrier, hassling, plans falling through, etc etc. I just wanted our time in Egypt to be over. But just yesterday we were standing in a 5000 year old tomb under a pyramid! Life isn't so rough after all. Glad to have Josh by my side keeping me sane, and really looking forward to the last leg of our trip in Athens and Israel!

Posted by kmcveggie 14:07 Archived in Egypt Comments (1)

Sightseeing Cairo

sunny 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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Posted by kmcveggie 13:05 Archived in Egypt Comments (1)

The Great Pyramids At Giza

sunny 29 °C

Up early yesterday as we had booked a camel ride around the pyramids. Being vegan for animal rights, this was never on my agenda. Our two very helpful guys at the hotel convinced us it was the only way to see the pyramids as it's 12km around and you shouldn't do it by foot. I agreed, but I had a pit in my stomach as soon as I did.

So yesrerday morning our guide picks us up with a horse, and we walk behind the hotel to the stables to pick up the two camels. When we met them they were full of flies, and it just broke my heart to know I was participating in this industry. The owner and guide told me he respects them, he does not hit them, and that he takes care of them. I almost cried climbing on for our ride.

They are more difficult to ride than I thought, very bouncy and not that comfy until I sat closer to the front of the saddle. We rode around the back alleys and towards a gate where more camels, horses and guides were. We were the only tourists. There was a lot of yelling in Arabic going on. As our guide led us through this big gate, the security guy yelled and yelled and forced us out. Throughout the next 5 minutes nobody explained what was going on, just lots of yelling in Arabic. So we try again to be led inside, and again we are forced back out. I saw or guide try to give the guard money but he didn't take it. All the while Josh and I are on the camels and they are being pulled and pushed around by other guides and other camels and horses. Finally, our guide hooks Josh's lead onto a string of other camels, and we are led in by another man. I called out to our guide, "you're coming with us right?" He says, "of course!" This is THE saying in Cairo. Everything is, "of course!" So we're inside and they close the gates and our guide is nowhere. The other man unhooks us from his camels and Josh and I are sitting on our camels stationary just waiting. Our guide doesn't come, and at this point other people start asking us if we want to come with them. Uh, no, we say.

Disclosure: this all happened so fast so we have no photos to document.

There are young boys working with the animals as well, and they speak some English. We ask where our guide went, and they say, he's coming, he's coming. One of the boys then takes our lead and guides us back outside the gates and ties us to a post. Again we sit... guys on horses are sprinting past us on this back road, there's a momma dog and 3 pups who are terrified of everything, and probably 4 other adult dogs barking and full of flies. And then all these guys just kind of waiting around with their animals. Finally a young boy helps us get down from the camel as I tell Josh I'm done waiting. My intuition had been kicking in from the start of the day and I should have listened to it when we booked. We asked again where our guide is, they said he's coming, but I didn't want to wait another minute. Josh said he could walk us back because he remembered the route, and I was starting to tear up so we walked away.

The young boys ran after us assuring us our guide would be back but we weren't having it. Then other guys were trying to recruit us to come on their tour, but I was not interested at all. We made it back to our hotel and Muhammad, who arranged our tour, looked shocked to see us! Plus I was really crying at this point. He immediately called our guide and he wasn't answering his phone, the main tour company also couldn't get a hold of him. Muhammad says that sometimes things can happen and maybe he was "taken." We didn't really know what that meant but I didn't like any of it.

Maybe 15 minutes later as we sat in the lobby and Muhammad assured us we could get our money back, our guide walks in! He had a slight limp and his pants were torn. Apparently he had been taken by the guards because he missed paying an entrance fee a couple of times back or something, and he ended up jumping out of the back of the guards car, which is why his pants were ripped. He actually looked like he had tears in his eyes. He apologized and left as the guards also had his camels and he was going to get them back.

Muhammad was shocked but said that these things can happen. He assured us he would get the money back and take care of us. I was mad at myself because I should have trusted my intuition when we booked the ticket. And I'm glad that I trusted it when we were waiting because who knows what could have happened and how long we would have waited there.

I was calm at that point, so we decided to still go to the pyramids and walk them. Muhammad prepped us, and hailed us a cab. We agreed on a price that was way too high, but we're tourists so they charge much higher. The taxi driver spoke no English, and he dropped us off at the gate. We had our tickets already from the tour, so we went through security and we were standing in the desert facing the pyramids head on before we knew it.

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The walk looked daunting! But before we knew it we were up the hill and standing next to the sphinx. It was actually a lot smaller than I thought it would be.

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Walking up a bit more we got close to one of the big pyramids and we were being solicited by everyone to ride their camel or horse. No thank you, we've been there done that! We weren't sure what areas we could walk in as we were on the road and the camels, horses and other tourists were right next to the pyramids. We finally came across a security guard who checked our tickets and led us around to a tomb. He assured us we could go inside and many men were trying to help me out. He also assured us we didn't have to pay him, which is not common as everyone wants payment after they do anything for you. Descend 30 feet into a pyramid and never come out??? I was super skeptical at this point and unwilling to trust anyone. But we did it anyways, and we were inside one of the small tombs! Crazy. No photos allowed.

As we climbed out the one man who was helping us on the very steep ladder demanded a tip. I told Josh no, let's go, and Josh said he was grabbing him and wouldn't let him go. All we had was a 100 pound note (around $7.50) and Josh grudgingly gave it to him and finally got through. Josh wanted to get away from the security guard because he didn't want to pay off anyone else today as it was already exhausting enough. But he spoke English and he assured me we didn't have to pay so we carried on. He took us to another tomb, told us some history, it was actually the tomb for the man who led the building of one of the pyramids. He led us to a couple of good view points we never would have found and told us more history. There were tons of stray dogs and puppies, it was so hard to see. But we finished with our new guide and he was ready to send us on our way, without payment! It was so refreshing. Josh happily tipped him and he was so grateful.

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We carried on walking up the hill and found ourselves at the base of the largest pyramid. It's HUGE, way bigger than we thought it would be.

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Here's a photo to grasp the size. See the man walking on blue? He's walking next to it. These things are so huge and the photos just don't show that as much as we felt in real life!

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We walked further around and dodged the camel men trying to sell us a ride. Lots of them were very nice and just wanted to know where we're from. When we say Canada, everyone in Egypt says "Canada Dry #1!" Its so bizarre lol. A few guys even posed for a photo for us, "no charge for you my friend!" They say. I only took one photo because I was scared they would turn around and demand money!

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We walked down the hill and towards the sphinx again. We didn't get close the first time but we could see people below so we followed. The whole time we felt like we were somewhere we shouldn't be but it was so quiet, hardly any tourists so we just carried on. Then we reached the sphinx and a Chinese bus tour was there, phones out taking selfies in one of the few roped off areas. We got our photos and got out of there!

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Walking back down and through the entrance we decided to walk back to our hotel. It wasn't that far and we were over paying people money for nothing! Josh got a cold drink, I got a delicious mango frozen fruit popsicle and we walked. It was nice to walk the street and see the locals. We were stared at the whole way, we're pretty convinced they don't see tourists out and about anymore, just these big bus tours. We saw tons and tons of pitas out in the sun, waiting to be purchased in huge lots by the restaurants. We saw lots of orange juice stores, and I wish I got one. I'll try one before we go I'm sure. We saw lots and lots of coffee shops where men sit, drink coffee and smoke shisha. I felt like in the 15 minute walk we got a little taste of Giza.

Back at the hotel our driver, Mansour, was waiting for us to take us out to the rest of our day. We got waters and headed out with Mansour to explore more of Cairo. More on that in another post!

Posted by kmcveggie 07:23 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Cairo - Egyptian Antiquities Museum

overcast 25 °C

We were up at 1:45 am for our taxi pickup to Entebbe international, where we went through a much different airport system than were used to. It was easy though, and before we knew it in our early morning haze we were dozing off on our flight to Cairo. Here's us twinning on the plane:

Pulling into the city I saw just brown desert and really sparse looking farmland. We haven't flown since we got here and it was much different than pulling into Kenya.

We finished our 4.5 hour flight and got into customs, and by the time we finished filling out our immigration form our entire plane had passed us by. Everybody was connecting in Cairo. Josh and I and this old local couple seemed to be the only ones staying in Cairo. The airport was dead quiet, and at our belt it was just our two backpacks and the local 4 suitcases waiting to be picked up. I said to Josh, "I guess people really listen to those travel advisories eh?"

Our driver was waiting for us with a sign, and thankfully so as there were a few people trying to rope us in. It's a stat holiday here today and so that was the cause of most of the quietness, our driver assured us. We got into his beat up Chevy (a common theme in Egypt so far) and we headed out for the half an hour drive to our hotel, which would normally be 2-3 hours with regular traffic. We seem to be hitting the driving lottery lately.

Along the ride we saw a lot of malls, even an IKEA. But then we got into Cairo more and saw a mosque on every corner, each so intricate and unique. We saw a ton of construction and unfinished apartments, and our driver explained it's because if it's an unfinished building the owner avoids paying taxes. So he rents out the finished suits but doesn't finish the top part of the building. We also drove across the Nile and towards the pyramids, where we're staying. It's a hazy day so we can barely see them but we see the tips peeking out behind the buildings. We are staying right next to them, and basically on the last road before the desert starts and goes to Libya.

We arrived and we're greeted by some friendly Egyptian brothers, Mohammed and Karim, who run the hostel. They were so helpful in planning out our four days here. They organized a driver for us to take into the city so we could get lunch and go to the famous Egyptian Antiquities Museum. We freshened up and headed out. Our driver spoke no English, so Karim had to really prep him for our day as we couldn't even text him when we were ready to go. Since josh still has his Kenya cell phone we decided we would phone Karim when we were ready to go, who would then phone our driver. We decided it was a plan (even though it seemed like Karim and the driver were in a heated argument - it's just how they talk here). We didn't get halfway down the stairwell and our 55 year old zero-English-speaking driver who hasn't even acknowledged our presence whips out his phone and motions for us to stop to take a selfie. Both of our shocked faces smile for the world's most awkward selfie. And as I get in the car I asked Josh if that's the photo he sends to the future keeper of our dead bodies?? Morbid, but you're all seen the movies. Spoiler, we end up just fine.

We're dropped off at a corner of Tahir Square, and our driver assures us, in Arabic, that the restaurant we want to visit is just "waves and points arm in direction" and then "walking motion back to Egyptian museum". We said Shookram, thank you, in Arabic.

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We obviously looked lost within the minute as a local came up to us and proclaimed he was not a guide but just a friend. He was to show us where this famous restaurant was. He leads us in a different direction than our driver had pointed, and before we know it we're passing his shop! He sells essential oils, and his family has been doing it for 120 years. Then he's showing us a photo of his dad with Mohammad Ali who visited the shop many years ago! That was pretty cool. The guy was bouncing around talking English very fast, really funny guy. Kept joking with us about different things. Next thing we know we're upstairs smell-testing the oils. We liked one and he quotes us a price and he starts pouring it and wrapping it up! We're like "no no no!" I did like it and I do use them at home, but it was way too expensive! I said if I'm gonna buy one it's got to be a tiny one. He pours it in a smaller bottle but doesn't charge that much less. Josh just wants out so we agree, and as a "token of our friendship" he fills up another bottle and wraps it, for free. He takes our money to make change, and while making change he is showing us all this other stuff and we're just like, we need to get out of here! Our first stop and we're already being swindled lol. So we finally ask him four times for the change and we get it and we're back outside.

We found the restaurant and it was super cute, we ordered some mezze, josh got a beer, everybody is happy!

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We walk over to the museum and back into Tahir Square. Again, someone tries to tell us the time isn't right to go now, we better come to this bazaar first and wait for the crowds, we said no this time. We walk in and we're checked for security and our bags are scanned and checked a total of 3 times. I don't blame them since the stuff in this museum is priceless. We pay the small entry fee, and a small fee to take photos inside (3.75 Canadian) and we're in. The place is huge, 2 giant floors, and the guides all around are asking to take us, for a price of course. We didn't agree, though in hindsight it probably would have been nice to hear the history a little more.

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The museum is stocked full of Egyptian artifacts. The bottom floor is all the heavy stuff, all the stone, limestone, marble etc. Huge tombs made completely of marble, huge stone casts of different famous pharaohs and kings. It was all so overwhelming and so cool. The hieroglyphs hey carved into this material is amazing. It's crazy how clear they could write into the stone. We wandered around the bottom floor for about an hour, reading whatever little write ups they had about the various pieces. I read about one cast that was found in two pieces, and for a while the shoulders were on display at the MET in New York. There were thousands upon thousands of these pieces here, and reading that part of one was on display at the MET made me truly appreciate where we were.

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Lots of write ups talked about the break in of 2011 where items were stolen and then recovered, or found broken into pieces and then restored. The team did a great job of showing the before and after of what the vandals did to these artifacts.

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There were also tons of artists inside, just siting down and sketching things or even standing up and painting like this woman. It seemed like a large group were maybe from a school and were all there to sketch for the day.

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I found the jewelry to be the most stunning. How they managed to carve the beads this way in 2000 BC is beyond me. We had a look at a ton of tools, but it still didn't seem possible.

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These clay tablets were used to deliver government messages across the land. They would wet the clay, use writing tools to write the tiny characters, then fire the clay to harden. They were then sealed in wax and delivered.

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We also visited the room of a famous Pharaoh and were not allowed photos. On display was the gold pieces he was buried with. Intricate jewelry and chest plates, all made with gold and precious stones. The three gold plated tombs he was buried with were massive and so detailed, and we also saw his solid gold head piece that weighed close to 25 lbs. It was all so stunning. Lots of those creepy scared beetles everywhere!

We also paid extra to visit the mummy room. There were two rooms with about 25 pharaohs, kings, and common people on display, and you could see their faces, shoulders, and sometimes their arms and feet. Plus the body all wrapped up. It was astonishing to see that they still had heir skin, teeth and nails, and sometimes even their hair. These people were alive over 3000 years ago and their bodies were right in front of us! No photos allowed though.

Overall we spent only about 3 hours in the museum, but my feet and back were totally down by the end. We tried to make the call to Karim so he could call our driver, but Josh's phone had just run out of minutes since it costs more to call outside of Kenya. Ef! We wandered around trying to ask to use a pay phone, but the language barrier is real here and nobody understood us. Lots of people just waved their hands in a general direction and sent us away. A concession stand owner was very helpful but couldn't get Egyptian minutes to load on our phone.

After trying several stores with no luck, we tried an Egyptian Air travel agent, where they all spoke English and a woman kindly let us dial Karim. We got through and thanked her immensely, and she wouldn't let me pay her. Finally! We were getting frustrated and now felt much better.

We walked back to the museum and our driver was already waiting for us at that point. We drove home, only stopping when I pointed to a fruit stand and the driver pulled over. Bought a few things totalling less than $1 and then we were back to our hotel.

Karim was inside, and he helped us organize a few things for the next day. He is so helpful! He reassured us that our driver would speak very good English, and that today we had just booked so last minute that he couldn't find someone. He also ordered us some beer and wine to be delivered to the hotel, since its hard to find in Egypt, being a Muslim majority country. Our order was delivered in about 20 minutes and I had some awesome Egyptian red wine, the recommendation of a couple of the drivers who were hanging around in the lobby.

Beer and wine in hand we made it up to the rooftop of our hotel to finally get this view!

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Muhammad, the other brother, and his friend Bahaat (spelling?) were upstairs and asked us to join them, even though Bahaat spoke no English. He did speak a lot of Arabic to us though haha. Muhammad is 25, so friendly, and we talked about many things. He mostly got fired up about soccer, and he and Bahaat support the two opposing Egyptian teams so that was funny to watch. We talked about the misconceptions of Egypt, and how we could walk around at 4 am with no trouble here. We talked about our trip so far and showed him some photos, and he talked about his plans for travel. Muhammad doesn't drink, and he also follows a strict diet of no sugar and no salt, just for personal reasons, to keep fit. He says he hopes to live a long life, and be in Brazil for his 60th birthday having a glass of red wine in one hand and a joint in the other for the first time. He's got quite the goals for himself!

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We enjoyed the company, enjoyed the view, and enjoyed the sunset. Being up since 1:45 we were fading fast, but we ordered some traditional Egyptian food for dinner with the help of the guys. Not pictured is Josh's rice and shrimp, total cost $7.16 Canadian.

Off to bed and excited for a full day of adventure tomorrow.

Posted by kmcveggie 23:02 Archived in Egypt Comments (2)

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