Cairo Wrap Up

We have been fortunate to see three different countries in Africa, and had 3 very different experiences.

Like the two previous African countries we visited, the people here are exceptionally friendly and helpful, although the Arabic language make you wonder. When they talking between themselves as they look to be fighting and arguing and quite aggressive – even when they are laughing. It like everything Arabic is the inverse of English.

The food was good and I managed to eat a lot, but I don’t know if this was because I had simply given up on worrying or just needed vegetables in my diet; although I did get an upset stomach on the last night – perhaps the McDonalds wasn’t as clean as we’d hoped.

There were serious amounts of rubbish in the streets, including the river and irrigation channels. We seen fisherman fishing the channel, but having to dodge and pick out the garbage. In one part, it was so thick, a weed was growing over it. I swear you could have walked over it – possibly even driven a car it was that thick.

When I say garbage, I don’t mean litter, I mean actual piles and piles of garbage, on every spare block of ground and river bank. It is disgusting.

Sewerage was being pumped directly into the channels and the channels were being used for irrigation by local farmers – the whole thing was quite discussing and the only blight on our time Cairo.

Business opportunities – I’m sure there would be some here, but nothing that I found or identified in my conversations. Certainly if you could help with Garbage, Traffic or finishing off some of the buildings, I’m sure you could make a fortune. There may even be an opportunity for shopping centre type developments, as we didn’t see anything like this in any of our travels.

Overall, I really enjoyed my time an Egypt and I look forward to returning again. Two days was never going to be enough, but it gave us a taste and we liked what we seen. Next time, Id like to visit Luxor and the Valley of the Kings, which is in south of the country, and Alexandra, which is in the North on the Mediterranean. I’d also like to visit the Suez Canal. All three have now been added to my bucket list.

Day 14 – Cairo (Museum and Mosque)

Day two in Cairo started with breakfast overlooking the city again.

Following breakfast, we met our guide and went to Cairo Museum, which was just across the road from the hotel – even so it was still a 10 minute car ride.

Outside in the garden there were more Statues.

Inside, on display, were goods from King Tutankhamun’s Tomb, including toys, furniture, clothes – even his underwear. He had a folding camp stretcher, where the base was made of three pieces of wood, connected by hinges. The hinges looked incredibly modern, like something made round the turn of last century, but I was assured they were over 4000 years old.

We went into the Jewel room, where jewels from Tutankhamun’s mummy were on display. They wrapped Jewels between the layers of cloth on the mummy, as well as to pronounce other parts of the body like the hand. Included and on display was his head dress (placed over the head of the wrapped mummy). This was the piece that you see in all the references to King Tut and it was magnificent. Considering it was made 400 years ago, it too was something else.

Amazing and Incredible the technology skill and ability these guys had to produce this type of work at this quality.

We also visited the Mummy Room, where there were a number of Mummies on display, mostly former Kings and Pharaohs. It was incredible to be looking at these people – real people – who had lived and ruled Egypt so many years ago now mummified and on display.

Most still wrapped, had their head showing and some of their arm and hands.

Included in the display was King Rames II. He was about 90 when he died, and although his body was well mummified, it was easy to see the age and frailty of the body.

It sounds a bit off, to be looking at real dead people, but there was something about seeing these mummies after a few days in Egypt that seem to make it ok. There was actually nothing “yuk” about the experience. It was all “ok” and very very interesting.

We then visited the Mosque of Mahamad Ali (not the boxer), built inside a fort on top of a hill overlooking Cairo. We took of our shoes and went inside where our guide explained the religion and the process they go through 5 times a day to pray, as well as other ceremonies and parts of the religion.

Most surprisingly, the men and women are separated in the Mosque, and never pray together. This means that when it comes to things like Weddings, they are not done in the Mosque. Likewise the burial.

It was all very interesting, and a real privilege to have our guide share her religion with us in such a significant and beautiful place.

Following the mosque, we had lunch on the Nile in a floating restaurant – which incidentally was directly opposite our hotel and one we had been admiring since we arrived in Cairo.

We finished out the day with a trip to McDonalds, which was a bit of a highlight for the kids. Big Macs and Quarter Pounders all round.

Day 13 – Cairo (Pyramids, Sphinx, Carpet School)

We started the day, 30 floors high, with Breakfast overlooking the city and the Nile, and the traffic below. Its said that Cairo does not have a “peak hour” for traffic, it just has “peak traffic” every hour of the day.

We were met by our guide and taken to Giza, where we were to visit the Pyramids. The city is built almost right up to them, so it wasn’t long before we could see them in the hazy distance from the vehicle.

Arrival at the site was incredible. Seeing Pyramids for the first time, in all their size and glory was really something else. They were huge! As much as we had seen load and loads of pictures and images all our life, it was still not enough to prepare us for what we were looking at.

There were three large Pyramids, all in good order, plus about 6 others in various amounts of decay – although they all looked pretty good for 4000 years old to me.

We went inside the Largest Pyramid – the Pyramid of King Cheops and walked up to the Chamber, where he was entombed. Everything was removed, but it was a massive room made of Granite, right in the middle of the Pyramid.

Getting up there was a challenge, as we had to navigate up a stretch nearly 40m long at about a 45 degree incline, in a tunnel which was less than 1m high. We were passed by someone on the way down – just before we commenced our climb – and they were huffing and puffing and sweating, and I couldn’t understand why – until we begun the climb.

It truly was hard work.

We spent a few hours in the area and looking at the other Pyramids as well. There was something special and magical about the area. I don’t know if it is real or imagined, but I definitely felt it. The same feeling I had a few years back on a visit to Uluru.

Afterwards we went to the Sphinx and took a tour of a tomb at the front. Again, something quite amazing about this place, in the air and in the sand. You can just feel it in your bones. Not to mention how amazing the actual Sphinx itself is, the amount of detail in the monument and the fact that they created it so many years ago.

Next we went across to another side of town, and another Pyramid, the Step Pyramid – which was under restoration. Unlike the earlier pyramids, which had rows of blocks making up their sides (kind of like a very large set of steps about 2m high at each layer), this pyramid had large sides to it, and only about 4 or 5 to the top (probably 10m+ for each layer). It was very different to the first Pyramids we were looking at.

It was odd, looking up at this 4000 year old piece of architecture, and seeing scaffolding on one side (for the restoration).

Whilst at the step Pyramid, we also visited a tomb, and seen the hieroglyphics on the walls, as well as the chambers where belongings and offering were placed. This was not a Kings tomb, more an advisor to the king but still a great burial chamber.

The guide explained to us that the Egyptians did not kills their subject to burry them with the king, but the Kings key advisors (and hairdresser, butcher and even the guy who did their nails) would often have great tombs around the base of the King or Pharoh’s Pyramid and would be buried there once they died. This was one such tomb.

On the way into the Step Pyramid, we went past all these “Carpet Schools”, so we requested our guide to stop so we could have a look at one.

Children as young as 9, (because they have small fingers) work in the factory, and learn how to make carpet. The public school system is so busy and over crowded that they do two shifts at school, and when the kids are not at school, they work shift at the “Carpet School”

Not sure about this – seems to be just a way to try and legitimise child labour. Once the fingers grow, there are very little opportunities for these kids – so I just don’t get it. The work was really very good, but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to knowingly pay for something that was manufactured by child labour.

We also visit a Papayra Shop on the one way home – making paper out of Nile River Weeds. They showed us the process, and how strong the finished product was – which was no doubt why we still have papayra scripts today – that stuff is strong.

We purchased a drawing of the Key of Life, with our Family name – Ridley – drawn in hieroglyphics as a catouche. This is our souvenir from Egypt.

Day 12 – Welcome to Cairo

The plane arrived early and when we disembarked, we had to board a bus to the terminal.

The bus was about 30 years old, and the steering wheel had duct tape holding it together. The ride to the terminal was forever, and we must have circled nearly the entire airport to get to the gate.

When we got through the gate, we met our guide Mohab, who requested our passports. We went to the bank and purchased our entry visa – you buy them in the bank at the airport, then the guide took us to immigration. He told us to go through, while he spoke with the agent. Not entirely sure what was going on, we were a little uncomfortable with this complete stranger handling our passports and our entry into a new country.

After collecting our bags, we had to pass through customs. It was a bit like Vic Falls, where their was a declaration and no declaration line, but again, no one appeared to be manning the declaration line, so following our guide we just exited without speaking to anyone further.

The ride from the Airport to the hotel was a lot like driving in Manila. There were no lanes on the road to speak of, and with a honk of the horn before creeping into any available space (even if the traffic was heading in the opposite direction) you just keep moving forward.

Cairo is an interesting city with most buildings still being built (apparently you don’t pay the building tax until completed, so nearly every building has two floors on top that are not completed) and everything was dirty and sandblasted. There were piles of rubbish in the streets and people everywhere. 22 Million people live in this city. To me, everything about it reminds me of Manila, except in a sand blasted, 2000 year old shell.

Given our overnight flight, today was a designated rest day, so we checked in to the hotel and went to bed.

The hotel is in down town Cairo, right across the road from the Museum, and on the Nile. The noise when you open the window is one of a busy city, with plenty of horns honking, as well as the local mosques calling people to prayer. Also on the river are the nigh party boats with their music playing loud to get peoples attention.

Mohab (our guide) had suggested we might like to do a Nile River Cruise for Dinner, so we booked it in.

One the boat, we had a buffet dinner, including one of the largest cooked birds I have ever seen. The chef said it was turkey, but I have a feeling it might have been an Ostridge. The entertainment on the cruise was a belly dancer, and a Tanora Dancer.

The Belly Dancer was good, but the Tanora Dancer was outstanding. For about 20 minutes, this man stood on one spot, and spun around in a circle. He had a costume which spun with him making him look like a top. To music, (and all while spinning) he took layer upon layer of his costume of, entertaining and involving the crowd. At one point, he turned his skirt into a baby, and pulled a bottle from his shirt to feed it, before throwing it perfectly to his handler – all while spinning and not missing a beat.

Then, once he was done, he simple stepped off the stage, right up to us. Straight as a die. It was incredible and one of the most amazing things I have seen for a very long time. I cant describe how excited and mesmerised I was by this act.

After the show we met with the dancer for some photo’s and thanked him. Not only was he a great entertainer, he was also a wonderful person, sharing and engaging with us freely.

So far, I love Cairo. Everything about this city (except the garbage on the street) make me smile. I’m just sorry we’re only here for a few days.