The Ramses Train Station!
The trip to Egypt wasnât my first option for a travel destination that summer to be honest. I planned to visit South Africa with my American friend Eric first, he was supposed to go there for work to attend some conference. He had some contacts there that would be pretty useful. But things donât always work out as we wish and his company reconsidered his attendance. The 2nd option was to join an organized trip by bus through Turkey visiting all the interesting places of the country, my University friend Pavel was ready to join me in that case. The price for this trip was really good and the tour organizer had a good image of alternative travelling. But when we tried to apply by the agency they told us that there were not enough participants so they cancelled the whole trip. Hmmm, where else to go?
While Pavel still opted for Turkey on our own, I came up with the idea to visit Egypt.
Iâve been dreaming already as a little child of the Pyramids or other ancient Egyptian sights, now I wanted to see them by myself.
The Egyptian Museum - a storage of artefacts with no concept.
Arranging everything went pretty smoothly and then suddenly the day of the departure arrived. Our flight was provided by Czech Airlines from Prague late in the night. Pavel is half Slovak, half Czech and has some family in Prague, he was there waiting for me already a couple of days before the departure. He picked me up at the bus station and we went to his grandmotherâs place for some lunch. It was then his mom who drew us by car to the airport when the time of our flight got closer. The guy at the check-in was a quite talkative personality obviously (maybe he was just bored), he saw that we were flying to Cairo and told us about his friend who stayed in Egypt for two years and got almost psycho because of all the sand.
Hmm, thanks for that story. Really inspiring, thanks again. Aaaaaahhhhh.
Effective control by the Egyptian Museum?
My father told me that during the times Eastern Europe was still communistic their airlines used to fly to Arabic countries mainly during the night as the airport taxes were lower at that time. Well, looked like certain things havenât changed, we landed in Egyptâs capital at around 1am local time (it was already 2am in Central Europe). Ufff, of course we had no reservation ahead for a hotel, whatever. We would manage somehow as usually. When we got our luggage and entered the arriving hall I asked Pavel to wait for me while I went to the toilet. Right by the door was some guy who gave me a sign to get in. From that moment on until I was finished he was like my own shade, always pointing me out where to go next. I wouldnât need his help of course, the toilet was like any other Iâve been before and no that big anyway.
When I was ready to leave he just pulled his hand in front of me and said a word I would hear quite often for the following 2 weeks: âbaksheeshâ. This guy expected a tip for his âserviceâ, whatever his âserviceâ was supposed to be. I had no Egyptian money at that point, so I gave him a small Slovak coin. The value was about 6 euro cent. The guy didnât know that of course and seemed to be happy enough.
Pavel in front of the Egyptian Museum.
While we were thinking how to proceed a small round guy approached us. He was supposed to be from the airport tourist information center and wanted to help us to find an accommodation. But first we should follow him into his office upstairs. We were just too tired and sleepy to oppose.
He asked us which sort of accommodation we were looking for and did then a couple of calls.
It didnât take long and he had found us a hotel for 7 euro per night each. At that point we didnât know that we would pay that night the highest price for accommodation in Egypt during the whole trip. And it wasnât even the best one we had.
Me in front of the Egyptian Museum.
The guy brought us outside and called us a taxi. It was in the middle of the night, but it was pretty hot outside. Uff, I preferred not to imagine how hot it would get during the day. Well, it was August, whoâs stupid enough to travel to Egypt the hottest month of the year?...us. The drive took some 30 minutes thanks to the fact that there wasnât as much traffic as during the day. And then there we were, or hotel was located opposite the busy Ramses Train station. Yeah, right, it was still around 3am, but the people didnât seem to sleep here.
We entered the hotel, the guy on the reception knew about us, but we had to wait a bit to get our room. He asked us to sit down a brought us some tea. Meanwhile the smiling but a little bit sleezy hotel manager appeared. This guy wanted to know what our plans were and had immediately a promotion catalogue in his hands showing us that he could arrange for us the whole trip if we wished. We didnât but we said we would think about it to get rid of him.
Finally our room was ready and we received our key. We just wanted to sleep. The room we entered wasâŚnot the best one, but we would be fine. I opened the door of the balcony because it was quite hot inside. Damn, the noise outside was just incredible, I closed the door again. I discovered the airconditioning, a dirty grey big box on the wall and switched it on. Oh my god, it sounded like the motor of a really old car and it was pretty loud. We had two options: putting the aircon on and not be able to sleep thanks to its immense noise or open the balcony door and not be able to sleep thanks to the noise outside.
We chose option number two. Suddenly we managed somehow to get even a couple of hours of sleep.
The modern Cairo!
We slept till about 10am and got prepared then for some sightseeing. The guys from the hotel denied us breakfast âcause we werenât paying for the last night as we checked in that late in the night, almost in the morning. Whatever. We needed some Egyptian money so we entered a bank.
Three fat guys all around 40-50 years were sitting right by the entrance and were showing the people which lane they should go. Even one of them would be more then necessary, but three???? What for? So the bank could show they can afford 3 fat guys doing nothing instead of 1? At least we got the exchange money, the rate was at that time 1 euro = 7 Egyptian pounds.
We still had no breakfast so we made a stop in a bakery and bought some local cakes.
Honestly, I had no idea what I was ordering, I just pointed on something and the vendor put it in a paper bag.
When I bit suddenly into one of the cakes I thought I will just die of a sugar shock. This was the sweatiest thing I ever had in my mouth, gosh. I just wasnât able to eat much of it and gave the rest to a beggar on the street. He was pretty happy about the unexpected present and pulled one whole cake into his mouth so the sweet sirup was dripping on the floor. I thought I would throw up, no more sugar in my whole life, please.
Our man sightseeing destination that day was the famous Egyptian museum. It houses a lot of ancient Egyptian artefacts, but honestly, they could have organized it better. Not just like a big storage without any clue.
We were quite disappointed, they had some pretty impressive stuff inside, they just didnât know how to present it.
Traffic in Cairo. Just crazy.
The rest of the day we just walked around, had some nice and very cheap dinner, enjoyed a cup of tee in the evening and watched the people moving around us. Cairo was definitely a very lively place.