Homer's Travels: 2022 Fall Travels, Part Three - Egypt - Cairo

Monday, November 21, 2022

2022 Fall Travels, Part Three - Egypt - Cairo

Cairo from the Mohammed Ali Mosque.
We flew into Cairo in the late afternoon and were met by our facilitator before we entered passport control.  Egypt was the only country that allowed us to be assisted before baggage claim.  It made things a lot easier.  We sped through the airport and were dropped off at our hotel overlooking the river Nile.  Like in Israel and Turkey we had a free day to acclimatize before our tour started.  These off days saved us I think.  They gave us time to regroup, for me to edit photos, and for us to recharge before going back on tour.

View of the Nile and Cairo at night from our hotel room.
On our free day we were going to take a walk around the area of the hotel.  Our facilitator and the doorman of our hotel both repeatedly warned us about being careful while crossing the street.  I wondered about this until I realized that there were no stop signs or stop lights.  I can understand a traffic roundabout not having stop signs but even the four way intersections had no signs.  You soon learned that the way to cross the street was "to walk with purpose and a prayer."  People just stepped out in the street and walked across.  It was up to the drivers to watch out for them.  Note, they do not have formal driver's ed in Egypt - they are all self taught.  As far as I could tell the order of vehicles going through a four way intersection was solely based on the size of the vehicles.  Trucks and buses had the right away.  Cars just got through when they saw an opportunity.  Pedestrians just walked with purpose.  Oh, and there wasn't a single horn honking.  The whole city transportation system was just organised chaos.

Colossal statue of Ramesses II.
We didn't walk too far.  Our hotel was in the embassy area .  We ended up in Tahrir Square where the Arab Spring protests took place.  We later walked to a coptic christian church not far from our hotel.  The guard at the door would not let us in and stopped us from taking pictures of the outside.  Not sure what the deal was but there has been violence against coptic christians in the past.

When we weren't walking around we were most likely at the rooftop pool swimming and eating.

The tour started.  We met our tour mate.  We were surprised that our tour group was only three people.   We thought Egypt would have attracted a larger group.  Our guide, we had three on this tour, were all Egyptologists, very knowledgeable, and actually fun to be with.  It turned out the Israeli guide had been an anomaly.  Our facilitator met with us every morning before handing us off to our guide.  We even met the tour company representative a couple times.  Egypt, and our local tour representatives, were trying very hard to sell Egypt to us.  Tourism is important in Egypt and Covid has not been kind.

First stop was in the city of Memphis where we visited a small museum where we saw the colossal statue of Ramesses II.  We learned about Egyptian sculpture style and the symbolism in their statues.

Saqqara Necropolis Gate.
Next we went to the Saqqara Necropolis where we entered a recently discovered burial chamber where we admired the vibrant paintings on the walls.  We then visited the oldest stone structure in Egypt, the step pyramid of King Zoser (Djoser).   The pyramid is four thousand six hundred years old.  There are older structures but only rubble has survived.

Lunch was approaching so we stopped at a hotel with views of the pyramids to have lunch.  We used possibly the most sumptuous bathrooms I've ever seen.  The only negative thing was the over eager bathroom attendant who practically washed my hands for me.  I can wash my own hands, thank you very much.  Back in the restaurant Egypt fed us well though not as extravagantly as Turkey in my opinion.

The Step pyramid of King Zoser.
Next on the itinerary was the highlight - The Great Pyramid of Cheops.  The pyramids were exactly what I expected.  We could have paid extra and gone in the pyramid but the interior is unadorned and my head was still tender from the low ceilings on the Cappadocia underground city.  The idea of being crouched over and smacking my head on random rocks didn't sound appealing.  It was actually hard to get a good picture of the pyramid of Cheops because it was so big.

Pyramids everywhere.
We next drove to a viewpoint where you could see multiple pyramids in a line.  This was also where we were to ride camels.  I want you to know that I had zero desire to ride a camel but the Wife insisted that we would ride camels in Egypt.  We got on and I hated it from the start.  I constantly felt like I was falling off.  I kept looking down trying to find a piece of ground without rocks where falling off wouldn't hurt too much but there wasn't such a place.  Not only did I feel like I was falling off but every step of the camel sent a jolt up my aching back.  Did I say that I hated it?  Well, I hated it.  It is something that I will never do again ... ever.

The sphinx and a pyramid.
The last stop of the day was the Sphinx.  It is smaller than you imagine but it was not disappointing.  We walked around it to get some good shots of the Sphinx with the pyramids in the background.

The dome of the Mohammed Ali Mosque.
The second day of our Cairo tour took us to the top of a hill in central Cairo where we visited the Citadel and the Mohammed Ali Mosque.  Mohammed Ali is considered the founder of Modern Egypt.  There were nice views of the city from the top of the hill.

The interior of the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities.
Coptic Church Mary.
After the Mosque we toured the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities.  We saw lots of interesting history there including King Tut's golden mask.  The Wife and I had already seen the mask and other Tut treasures when they toured the US.  We saw them in Los Angeles sometime before 2006 I think.  This is the old museum.  The Grand Egyptian Museum is not open yet and the opening date keeps slipping into the future.

After lunch at a local restaurant we visited the Hanging Church, a Coptic Christian Church.  We walked through some streets lined with shops before stopping at the Khan El Khalili Bazaar.  The guide pointed out some mosque minarets and said we could use these to guide us back to a coffee shop where he would be waiting for us.  We did some shopping and when it was time to go back we looked around and realized the bazaar was ringed by mosque minarets.  It took a bit of lucky navigation to get us back to our guide but we managed to find our way out of the maze.  Our tour mate wanted to visit a scented oils shop which we visited on the way back to our hotel.

It was a busy day and we were ready to go to the next part of our Egypt tour - A cruise down the river Nile.

Pictures can be found in my Egypt 2022-09 Google Photos album.

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