Cairo Travel Blog› entry 25 of 58 › view all entries
It was a rough start to the morning. I had set my alarm for 8:00am so we could eat breakfast and meet our driver for the pyramids at 8:30am. Unfortunately, neither of us heard the alarm. I woke up naturally, looked at my clock, and saw that it was exactly 8:29am. I jumped out of bed, yelled at Craig, threw some clothes on, and went to the lobby. To my surprise, breakfast was waiting for us as well as our guide, not rushed whatsoever. What a relief. We had time to get dressed, eat, and head out by 9:00am.
Mohammad was our driver today. We began the drive heading towards the Great pyramids of Giza, just outside of Cairo.
As we got closer and closer, we were able to faintly see the pyramids getting closer and closer. I had chills going through me as this was a site I had always wanted to see since learning about them when I was younger. We parked in a small square lined with tourist shops and various animals. Mohammad led us into a shop to negotiate a price for a tour of the pyramids.
Iâ��m not a big fan of riding animals but it added to the experience. We trotted along the road towards the pyramids with our guide. The entrance to the pyramids is heavily guarded by special â��Tourist Policeâ�� and we had to show our tickets and have our guide lead us in. I never thought Iâ��d be riding a horse through the Sahara Desert on this trip, but here I was. Luckily, it was still around 10:00am so the sun wasnâ��t at full strength yet.
Then our guide took us to an area of Egyptian tombs that were forbidden for tourists to enter. Our guide ensured us we would be fine.
After that little excursion, it was off to the Sphinx. One interesting fact about the Sphinx is that it is missing its nose. It was stolen by Napoleon in the early 1800â��s when France invaded Egypt and taken back to France. It now calls the Louvre home. The view itself, however, was incredible. The Sphinx with the Great Pyramids in the background.
It was time to head back to return our horses and rejoin Mohammed. After a quick photo op on a camel, we were off to a few shops. Many people in the Arabic world think Westerners are loaded with money and try to sell anything and everything to you. The first stop on the tour was a papyrus store. We saw how the plant was turned into paper and dozens of beautiful papyrus paintings. Once the store workers noticed we werenâ��t going to buy anything, they left us alone to browse. I was expecting them to hound us until we left the door like on my previous trip to North Africa, but, thankfully, to no avail.
Next was a trip to an Egyptian perfumery. Again, we were shown the different natural oils, perfumes, colognes, and lotions. Craig was interested in buying a package for souvenirs and I decided to buy some cologne as well.
Our next stop was the step pyramid of Saqqara. The step pyramid is the oldest pyramid in the world, built around 2700 BC for King Djoser. It is built in layers that get smaller towards the top, resembling a stairway to heaven. We began walking around as Mohammad waited in the car and we were soon approached by an amateur guide. We tagged along with him until he began asking for money. Hereâ��s the dialogue:
Guide: â��You give me tip now?â��
Us: â��No, no moneyâ��
Guide: â��Small changeâ��
Us: â��We donâ��t have cash, just credit cardsâ��
Guide: â��I just want small changeâ��
This carried on for another 5 minutes until the guide got the point and left us alone.
After an hour walking through the desert around the step pyramid, we made our way to the Titi pyramid. This is one of few pyramids in Egypt that you can enter for free. In we went. The tunnels throughout the pyramids are very small due to the fact that the Egyptian Civilization was very short. It was a tight squeeze and Craig, at six feet three inches, had to practically crawl down backwards. Once down, the walls were covered in Egyptian writing. We continued to crawl through the cool, well lit tunnels. At the end, we found an open tomb.
First off, we didnâ��t have a guide even though I think we were supposed to, but no one stopped us. Second, cameras were not allowed inside the pyramid.
After we crawled back out, we were approached by locals trying to sell your typical what-the-hell-am-I-going-to-do-with-that souvenirs. I decided to talk to one. In French. He handed me a book of the pyramids in French. I told him (In French) that I didnâ��t read books and he just stared at me. I began asking him other questions in French but he was dumbfounded. That was the end of that sale.
We then returned to Mohammad and began the 45 minute journey back to Cairo.
Down the elevator of sketchiness we went to the streets of Cairo. We took a left, walked past a few shoe stores, a pet store, a KFC, and before the end of the block, we were at the koshary shop. We walked in, with the unsure swagger of a tourist, and ordered koshary.
Koshary! (pronounced: Coo-sha-ri). I figured out what the weird look was about. Our $1.20 meals each weighed what felt like a couple pounds. It was so much food. Like ravenous dogs, we hurried back to indulge in our Egyptian surprise. Up the sketch elevator and into the hostel living room we went.
Koshary is a blend of rice, noodles, and a variety of beans and sauces. We also received additional spicy sauces to try. Needless to say, it was different, but delicious. It tasted exactly how I imagined it would. I tried some of the spicy sauce as well, which cleared my head instantly.
After digesting and talking to the hostel employees about everything from soccer and Obama to Egyptian politics, Craig and I decided to explore the surrounding area by foot at night. The place was packed. The streets again, like the previous night, lit up after the sun went down. We walked passed many stores, crossed a couple of streets, and just strolled, attempting to blend in with the locals (which was unsuccessful). Even at night, we began to break a sweat and decided to call it a night. Today was one of those days that I will remember for a lifetime.