Andrew and I have a list of all the places we want to visit…in fact it seems to grow longer the more we travel instead of getting shorter each trip we take.
I guess that is why they call it the travel bug.
One of the places on our list was Cairo- I mean who doesn’t want to see the Pyramids, the Sphinx and thousands of years of history?
Some of my teaching colleagues felt the same way, so we all packed up and jetted off for a quick weekend trip to Egypt. (Yes, you read that right…Egypt is close enough that we could go for the weekend)
We left right after school and didn’t stop till we returned two days later, completely exhausted and amazed at all the things we had seen.
Now traveling to Cairo is a little bit different than traveling anywhere else- starting with security. We had to go through more security before arrival into Cairo than we usually do in an entire trip.
Once we arrived in Cairo we purchased our 25 USD visa (a requirement to enter the country), cleared customs and met up with our guide and driver.
I would 100% recommend, if you travel to Cairo, to book a guide who will help you navigate Cairo’s amazing sights. But more than that, you want a guide and driver who can get you safely though Cairo’s insane streets.
I moved to a country where people drive fast….140 kph on highways and sometimes even on side roads, but at least they stay in the lanes and have some understanding of lane control. Not so in Cairo. Cars literally drive everywhere. If you stuck your hand out the window, you would most definitely touch another car…maybe even a few people on a motorbike. At one point we saw a car full of people with the trunk open and three more sitting with their feet dangling out.
And if that weren’t bad enough, people walk EVERYWHERE. Not at crosswalks, not even where a crosswalk might make sense. They walk everywhere! No matter how large the road, no matter how fast people are driving, there are pedestrians weaving their way like frogger every few feet.
Needless to say, as I held my breath and would sometimes let out a little gasp as we drove, I was thankful for our driver who expertly weaved his way through the traffic and got us to our hotel safely.
We stayed at the Le Meridian Pyramids. By the time we arrived at 2:30am, we just crawled into bed and tried to get some sleep before our early start, but when we pulled the curtains back in the morning light, there were the pyramids reminding us how far from home we really were!
Our day started with a tour of Memphis- the ancient capital of Egypt. We saw many different artifacts of the old kingdom including a huge statue of Ramses II and a Sphinx.
Next we drove to Sakkara- the site of the oldest Pyramid in Egypt. Pyramids were built as the final resting place for the Kings of Egypt. The Egyptians believed that they had to prepare for the after-life and so when Kings were appointed, they quickly started building their pyramids for the day they would die. These were not only the place where their mummified bodies would find their final resting place, but it was used for rituals and ceremonies around their roles as king.
Our final stop on our first day in Cairo was at the Pyramids of Giza. These are the ones that most people associate with Egypt. Egypt has 116 Pyramids, but by far, these are the most famous. The Pyramid of Giza complex includes the Great Pyramid (Pyramid of Cheops), a smaller pyramid (of Chephren) and the smallest pyramid of Mykerinos. There are many small pyramids surrounding these for the wives of these kings as well as the great sphinx, the mummification and funerary temples and the solar boats found near the great pyramid.
We had the opportunity to go into the pyramid of Mykerinos. For a mere 40 Egyptian pound (3 Canadian dollars) we descended 30 m into the burial chamber of the pyramid. There is not much to see down there, but the thought of being that far underground with that much rock above you, and that people thousands of years ago made it…it was pretty cool.
That evening, instead of catching up on our sleep (who needs that?) we opted for a Nile dinner cruise. We set sail on a beautiful large boat, saw Cairo from the water and ate delicious food (kofta anyone?)
Day 2 started very early so we could be some of the first people into the Egyptian Museum. This museum is home to an extensive collection of Egyptian artifacts. And when I say extensive, I mean there is stuff in every corner, every hallway…every spare space has something. And that is just the stuff they SHOW!
Our guide gave us a highlights tour of some of the key pieces in Egypt’s history and then we were able to wander around and visit King Tut’s gold room (where the famous gold head covering is) and the mummy room. Yep you read that right…a whole room filled with mummies. Mummies who have been so well preserved that they still have hair, and nails…and are thousands of years old. Unbelievable.
Our final stop was at the Saladin citadel where we visited a mosque from the 1800’s.
From there we were whisked back to the airport to catch our flight so that we could all return to work the next day exhausted but amazed by all we saw.
A week after our trip I still have to remind myself that it really happened. I saw it with my own eyes…Egypt, the pyramids. Amazing!