Cairo was orginally a pitstop before getting a flight to Bangkok, but Laura had the idea to take out the last flight of the day and make our time in Cairo approximately 20 hours. That way we could organise a tour of the city without actually 'staying' in Egypt. When the idea was originally explained, Sarah thought Laura had lost the plot, as did many people we told, but as with most things Laura plans, this trip worked perfectly!!
Our arrival in Cairo was an early one - 4:30am to be precise, and rather than rush out we had 2 hours sleep in the air-conditioned airport before heading out to meet our Memphis Tours guide at 6:30am. The meeting was efficient, Laura's name was held aloft and we were whisked off to the car parked just outside. In the back seat we had ice cold waters waiting and in the front seat, our awesome driver Osama, ready to start our tour!
We picked our guide, Nesreen, up from central Cairo 5 minutes later and the tour began. Informative, friendly and speaking perfect English, Nesreen was a hit instantly. we were SO relieved as she turned around to introduce herself and said we looked like movie stars haha! We were laughing before we arrived at our first stop.
Cairo is a strange combination of modern flats, flash cars and quality roads mixed with donkeys pulling carts, mosques and ancient monuments. The main road is normally so busy it can take hours to travel down, but as our luck had it on a Friday during Ramadan, the road was ours to cruise.
Suddenly, the Pyramids appeared out of nowhere. Because Cairo has gotten so big, the city practically backs onto the pyramids - no more trekking to the middle of the Saharan desert! The 'site' didn't open till 8 but we were first in the line of cars and sat tight in the air-conditioning while Nesreen sorted out the tickets. Her efficiency meant the only people who beat us to the pyramid were the sellers!
The feeling we got staring up at the biggest pyramid, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and our first, was one of amazement - partly as we were standing at the foot of a PYRAMID and partly because of the size and majestic-ness, there really is NOTHING like it. At 8:15am it was already a hot 32 degrees and the haze was appearing so Nesreen suggested we attempted our ascent before it got busier. From a distance the blocks used to creating the pyramids looked small, from up close they are almost as tall as us - the feat of moving them must have been a hard one.
Staring up from the 3rd layer of rocks, the pyramid rose above us and you could see for miles - back towards the centre of Cairo and into the surrounding desert, over the camels that you could hire to go into the desert, and into 1000's of years of history.
Our next stop was a vantage point where we could view 3 pyramids for the pharaohs and the smaller 3 pyramids dedicated to their wives. We were driven over in the car - topped up with new ice-cold water and delivered to an area with only a few people. Nesreen got us eating pyramids, holding pyramids in our hands and generally making the most of the photo opportunities.
From the pyramids we were taken to the Sphinx, the half man, half lion statue guarding the pyramids. As we found out EVERYTHING in Egypt has a meaning. From the placement of the pyramids aligning with stars, to the Sphinx facing Cairo and the rising sun. As we walked around this giant monument (made entirely of only one rock!) Nesreen told us about how the Pharaohs were mummified, how the valley of kings became home to the tombs after pyramids became too easy to rob, and how pyramids were only built in months where farming couldn't happen due to the flooding of the Nile - kind of an off-season job, in a way!
Next stop was the Egyptian museum and by far the most interesting part of our day. Nesreen toured us around and was able to tell us about EVERYTHING - there is nothing she didn't know about. From the way statues stand to show power (left foot forward), to how the hand positions dictate the type of ruler they were (a fist for powerful, an open palm for fair), we saw beds that made the Romans attempts look poor and boxes that had traps to scare robbers- those Egyptians were so clever! But the highlight was the perfectly preserved contents of Tutankharmun's tomb. His games, his belongings, his shoes, his jewellery, the famous head piece and all in one room. The ingenuity of securing the tomb was evident with the 4 boxes that fitted within each other - each the size of a room but getting slightly smaller each time was incredible. Each box was covered in heiroglyphics telling the spirits of the afterlife about the king's desires - it was amazing to see and stand in front of such incredible history.
The afternoon was one of such interest that Laura actually stayed engaged the whole time - no small feat, as her attention span is usually quite short! - in the paper museum we learnt how the Egyptians had made the paper you are used to seeing the heiroglyphics on. Made from papyrus plants, the process took about 2 weeks! Our demonstrations took 15 minutes but we were so impressed we bought our own design with the key of life and our name (in hieroglphyics) either side. The key of life entitles the bearer to strength and health in life and safe passage to the afterlife. We want ours to be together (you know if we happen to have an afterlife :) ) so we thought it would be a nice memento.
To refresh us, we were then taken to the Nile and boarded our own private felucca - well us, Nesreen and the 2 guys streering. We criss-crossed the river (the 2nd largest in the world) and it is magnificent. It is so wide and its banks have cafes, shops and offices as well as flats that reach a value of over a million pounds. The boat trip was relaxing and provided a whole new perspective to the city. We were meant to arrive at our lunch destination on the boat but the mast (this boat had no motor!!!) made the boat too tall so we sailed back and drove over the bridge instead.
Lunch was an Egyptian buffet with an English twist of fries! It was delicious and much needed! And our view was the Nile - not bad!!! With baba-ganousch and fired bread we also ate the traditional dishes.
We then had the chance to stretch our legs, and purses, by visiting a few shops - a jewellery outlet and a perfume store. Our limited budget meant we could only really look but Sarah got a key of life necklace and we came out smelling delicious.
We were then given the choice of market or mosque. As it was a nice and hot 40 degrees we opted for the mosque and we were glad we did. We were taken in by Nesreen and watched the prayer before being set upon by local women to create a hijab - Sarah ended up looking more like a wizard in a big green cloak. We learnt about the mosque, the religion and the history - it was eye-opening. Nesreen sealed herself as the most AMAZING guide EVER! Not only was her knowledge incredible but the way she explained everything, including her religion, was inspiring.
|Sarah looks like a jedi|
For Sarah this trip was extra poignant, her parents are moving house and this means clearing out, and in one of the boxes was an old school project completed age 9. The project started 'It's my dream to visit the pyramids, they are wonderful, I will go there and be happy' ah how true that statement was- it only took 20 years! This trip was a dream come true for us both!
Now you've read about it why don't you check out the footage: