10.01.2010 - 14.01.2010
For this blog I really need to start off by telling the story of my journey from Turkey to Cairo, a seemingly easy task that somehow turned into a bit of a mission. It all started so well with the hour long trip from my hostel in Istanbul to the airport going off without a hitch arriving the standard two hours early only to find that my flight had already been delayed by half an hour. No major dramas I though as I settled into a coffee and poached some Wi-Fi, surfing away I slowly watched my flight drift out to 3 hours delayed! Meaning that I would be arriving once again in the dark something I am not a big fan of.
After finally arriving in Cairo I had to pay for my visa, this shouldn’t have been a problem with an ATM right there. Sure enough that ATM was offline at the time and my remaining Turkish Lira couldn’t be exchanged. This left me with having to talk my way into Egypt and then back out again just to pay the visa this as you can imagine did not come without a price. After finally getting my visa and entering the country I went looking for the bus that the old testament (Lonely Planet) recommended to get me to my hostel. Sure enough there was no bus and after an hour I gave up and tried to find the least dodgiest cab driver possible, after a couple of near misses due to communication issues I found one I thought was a good bet – wrong. Despite assuring me that he knew where he was going and he was going to use the meter he had to stop and ask for directions killing the meter in the process, telling me we will work it out. After getting directions we work it out to a price I am ok with then he starts to drive again only to hit the curb and blow a tyre (I swear you can’t make this up). Finally after getting this fixed he gets lost looking for my hostel at which point I give up get him to let me out (at which point he demands more money) and make the 10 minute walk there with no further hassles – you cannot imagine how glad I was to get out of that cab! Still I made it. [After 4 days in Cairo I have half a dozen stories of dodgy cabs so I thought I would go with the original but if you want more just flick me an email]
The next day it was off to check out the Egyptian museum, which is both the best and worst example for museums around the world. In the best case scenario it has a massive range of artefacts and some are nothing short of amazing however it is also housed with little organization making it a little difficult to work through. There are seemingly endless examples of sarcophagi and burial coffins as well as statues from the colossal down to the minute each decorated with amazing detail in every possible location. The main highlights would have to be that taken from the most recently discovered tomb of Tutankhamen, which includes the gold headdress and the gold layered coffins in which he was buried – each having a thicker layer of gold the closer to the pharaoh. There is also plenty of weapons, tools and statues of gods that were placed in the tomb to help in his journey into the afterlife. Also in the museum is an ancient peace treaty signed between the Greeks and the Egyptians which I found quite amazing but other people seemed uninterested – I’ll let you decide. The stone treaty signed by the two great civilizations is analogous to the famous Rosetta stone in that the agreement is written in hieroglyphs, demotic script and ancient greek allowing the translation and discovery of hieroglyphs.
The second day it was off to the labyrinth bazaar here in the Islamic part of town. It was quite interesting to wander around the little market stalls little more than a metre apart making it very difficult to walk through without being hassled. I even managed to get dragged into a perfume shop with the guy insisting I buy some, when I asked him what he expected me to buy and he shrugged his shoulders and let me go – a tad annoying. Outside of the hassling its not too bad if you can deal with it although the quality of goods for sale is not quite what it was in Istanbul. The ever present mosques add a sense of decoration and authenticity to the area.
Today it was off to visit the big one, the only remaining wonder of the world from ancient times – the pyramids of Giza. As you approach them it is easy to be confused as the northern part is completely surrounded by the slum suburb of Giza, including pizza huts and KFC’s outside the entrance the remaining sides however give way to endless deserts populated only by camel trains. Despite this once you walk in it is impossible not to be amazed at the pyramids that dominate everything in front of you, even the sphinx. The three pyramids, one baby and two massive ones are simply magnificent. The baby one still is incredibly big and dwarfs you in size putting into perspective just how the other two really are. The smaller one also has a large chuck missing where they tried to destroy and after 8 long years they gave up acknowledging their complete failure to destroy and indeed make any real impression on it. Despite being hassled constantly by the camel touts and reminding them we were there to see the pyramids it was still an incredible day, for something I have wanted to see for so long it was great to finally be here.
After enjoying the pyramids during the day we decided to head back and watch the laser show that is projected over the pyramids and is featured in a james bond movie. Despite our best attempts Cairo traffic and taxi driver incompetence stopped us from getting there in time for the English show. There is however some advantage to visiting with three girls and we managed to bribe our way onto the roof of the pizza hut (sadly selling myself out here) but we got to watch both the French and German shows from the roof and get some pretty good photos. It was also quite a sight to see them all lit up and different time contrasting against an almost perfectly plain back drop of the desert.
The fourth day was spent going back in pyramid design history visiting the step pyramid of Djoser the first successful attempt at a long lasting pyramid. Based mainly on a step design this is slightly less impressive than the great pyramids but impressive in its own right given its place in history. The most disappointing part however is that they are now renovating it and with what they have done so far its almost a given that there will be little preserved of the original pyramid. But on the plus side maybe Elouise can one day visit the great step pyramid of 2010!
Despite having quite possibly the most well known site in the world on its doorstep Cairo is not really that nicer place to visit and seems to struggle with its own lack of identity. Everything and anything exists simply to profit from tourists from the ever present touts to the completely pointless tourist police who seem to be there only to stop you doing what you shouldn’t until you have paid your backsheesh! With the pyramids seen its not off to see Luxor, the modern day city built on the ruins of the great ancient city of Thebes. Standing in the way is what promises to be a long overnight train ride.