Crazy Days, Crazy Traffic
Cairo Travel Blog› entry 4 of 13 › view all entries
So, here I am in Cairo, which I am still a bit shocked about. I keep thinking: "I am in Egypt" but it never quite seems real to me. I was quite an adventure getting here. I left Minneapolis at 9:30 p.m. on Sunday and, with an eight hour layover in Amsterdam and a delayed plane, arrived at my hotel at arround 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday. Fortuantely we had a cab scheduled to pick us up, otherwise it would have been too much.
So, the first thing to knwo about Cairo is that the traffic is insane. I have seen two people get hit by cars so far in only three days here. There must be a system for driving, but I am not privy to it at all. Cars just kind of drive at random. This is a city with millions and millions of people and millions and millions of drivers. The gridlock is pretty intense. That said, we have had no real problems getting around through a combination of walking, metro and taxi.
The first day we slept rather late and went to the Egyptian Museum. As with many things, it closed early for Ramadan, but we still managed to see the first floor including the royal mummies adn the King Tut exhibits. There is an amazing amount of stuff in the museum and there is no way to see it all in one day, or even two days. Still we are planning on going back when we swing though Cairo again.
The next day we hired a car and went to Saqqara, Dashur and Giza. Many pyramids and tombs. The biggest challenge was avoiding having to pay a ton of baksheesh for taking pictures in areas where one is not supposed to take pictures. Once we fugured that out, and once more tourists showed up we were left in relative peace. We went into the Red Pyramid at Dashur, which was quite amazing and not terribly crowded. We also went into the Pyramid of Khafre in Giza. It is the second largest of the great pyramids, though it looks the biggest because it is up the hill a bit. Going into a pyramid is not for the claustrophobic or the weak of knees. Lots of crouching over and walking down down down. It is amazing being inside when you think about the huge mass of what is above you. We also say the Sphinx, who is really quite lovely. Another one of those totally unreal moments. Our driver for the day was nice enough and only got irritating when he took us to a stable when we said that we did not want to go there, but he soon relented and we were back on the road. When we took an interest in the date harvest he actually stopped at one of the farms and bought a large sack of them while we hung out with the family and watched the folks climbing up in the tress and bringing down the baskets of dates.
Today we went to Khan al Khalili and Coptic Cairo. The markets were a bit slower than usual due to Ramadan, so we will probably go back there again. A great deal of chaos. I am not planning on buying anything, so it is easy to sit back and watch and be imune. Also, since I have dark hair and Chris has light hair they tend to head for her right away.
We are heading out of the overnight train to Aswan tonight. We went to the station a couple of days ago and this fairly nice fellow who does Japanese tours asked for us about purchasing tickets. They aparently said to just show up the day we wanted to travel. Then, when we went back to our hotel they told us that everyting was booked up for the end of Ramadan. We went back to the train station and they said all trains were booked till Sunday morning. We ended up buying the tickets through a travel agent and will pay about $5 more than otherwise, but since he has the connections (and pays the bribes according to the guy who runs the hotel) he is able to get tickets.
At any rate, I have many pictures to add and much more that I could write. Cairo is a crazy place, but I am gald that I am here and did not get freaked out by all of the warnings and advice that I receieved about how hard it would be to be a woman traveling here. Of course there are difficulties, but nothing that has been a huge concern so far, just minor tourist things that one would expect.