The sphinx, step pyramid and carpet school
Cairo Travel Blog› entry 7 of 8 › view all entries
Quite near the great pyramids is the infamous sphinx. I've read other people describe it as disappointing, but I'd have to disagree... I though it was pretty amazing myself. So iconic! And we got to shuffle up quite close to it too, which was a bit of a treat. While the pyramids on their own were great sights, adding the sphinx to the mix made it easier to imagine what it must have really looked like there so many thousands of years ago, with giant statues and such impressive structures. It also made for some excellent photos, even without its nose!
After the sphinx we took a trip to the site of the first pyramid known to have existed. This was a fairly forlorn area; barren and very, very dusty, but super interesting. It was also the first time we felt like we were in the proper desert.
... Over time, the Nile has shifted position in Cairo, but various canals have taken its place, and boy did these seem like disease ridden life takers. There was so much rubbish piled up on either bank of the canals we passed that there didn't seem to be any actual ground underneath them. We passed more than one dead animal in the water, including a HORSE, followed by people in there up to their chests fishing or washing clothes.
After the step pyramid, we were taken to lunch (not overly thrilled) and then Carpet School. We had seen a lot of these carpet schools as we drove to the pyramid site, but didn't know what they were. Turns out that this is where very young children are sent to learn how to make the expensive rugs we put on our hallway floors. Each of the carpets is hand knotted, and it seems as though only children have hands small enough to make them properly. So instead of going to a real school to get an education, kids as young as 5 or 6 years old are sent to these places to learn how to make rugs.
The real kicker, though, is that when the children reach the age of around 16 or so, they are physically too large to continue making carpets so their 'education' in this trade is all but defunct.
Carpet school aside, the day had been equal parts amazing and shocking and we were ready for some drinks and dinner at the hotel before our last day of sightseeing around Cairo...
And so we were finally due to head to Cairo after 4 days cruising down the Nile checking out temples and ruins aplenty. Once again our tour operator kicked into overdrive as we had reps come and collect us from the boat, drive us to the airport, check in our bags and get our boarding passes. They even arranged for us to have emergency exit seats so Milton, who is very tall, could have a little leg room. The Egypt Air (gulp) flight was only for a couple of hours through the night and we were unbelievably thankful to have another rep waiting for us when we arrived in Cairo.
On our way through Cairo to the hotel we got our first glimpse of the density of life in Egypt's capital. Whereas further south everything seemed to be very rural yet largely uncluttered, with villagers living in little more than mud brick huts at times, Cairo was a sprawling metropolis of what seemed like a lot of unfinished buildings, old cars, rubbish, pollution, people and even donkeys.
The hotel itself was fine enough. Clean rooms, spacious and comfortable with courteous staff. We had elected for a two day Cairo tour, wherein we joined another couple to check out the main city sites with a guide and driver, so after freshening up we made our way to the reception area to head out into Cairo. First stop were the great pyramids of Giza, which loom over the outskirts of the city in the most amazing way.
As an aside, when you're in Egypt you have to watch out for anyone trying to eek out a living on the visiting tourists.
Anyway, after getting our up close view of the pyramids, we were taken to a viewing platform a short drive away to get the landscape shot of all the structures together... pretty magnificent but also somewhat marred by the heavy pollution making the vistas hazy. Still, well worth the trip to Cairo for just this view!