When we first started planning the trip of a lifetime, we asked ourselves our ‘must visit’ spots to see. Hungry Husband has always had the Great Pyramids of Giza on his bucket list, so Cairo, Egypt was a logical location. I was not convinced at first, so we umm-ed and ahh-ed, talked to people who had been, did our research, and despite travel warnings, booked Cairo as our first stop on our trip to travel around the world.
After an 15hrs flying, and a 9hr stopover in Abu Dhabi, we finally landed in Cairo. It was hot, busy and loud, and a bit chaotic, but we expected no less! It was easy to get our visa on arrival for US$25 before heading through customs.
After getting through immigration, and finally getting our luggage, we were picked up by our hotel transfer. When 3 people jumped in the front of the car, it should have been an indication of things to come! Traffic in Cairo is interesting, maybe not quite as crazy as Phuket, Thailand, but pretty close. Lots of horn honking, drivers going everywhere, and a chaotic looking system that seems to work OK for them. Crossing the road is a risk on your life every time, the method we observed is to just step out and hope that cars will slow down or stop.
Our hotel was nothing flash, but in a great location on Talaat Harb Square, with a comfy bed and a shower (a not very good shower, but it was amazing after 25hrs travelling, and a night spent on the floor in Abu Dhabi Airport). It was OK for us, cheap accommodation for just a couple of nights, but I couldn’t recommend it to anyone. The lift had broken glass so you could see through to each, where there was a few abandoned & trashed floors, with metal scraping along the sides (I did at one point think we were in some kind of horror movie. I was thankful we survived). We checked in, then headed straight to the Egyptian Museum.
We had been warned about people approaching us, or trying to scam us, but after Thailand and Bali we had learnt to say ‘no thanks’ and walk away. What amazed me was how friendly people seemed, and seemed a bit offended when we didn’t want to enter their shop/buy their wares/come meet their friend for a good deal. Egyptian people are lovely, and there was no point where I felt unsafe, which I had expected due to all the warnings about heading there.
The Egyptian Museum was a short 5min walk away. We got there about 2.30pm, got through security, and found it easy to buy entry tickets ourselves. Only EGP100 (around AU$15) was a bargain to see this incredible amount of history.
The museum has a no photo policy, unless you want to pay extra. We spent our time looking at the displays rather than taking photos. There was a haphazard system, with artifacts separated into vague type and timing (Old Kingdom – 2686-2181 BC, Middle Kingdom 2055-1650BC & New Kingdom 1550-1070 BC). We spent around 2hrs there, but you could spend all day if you really wanted. It was hot with no air conditioning (but there were fans) so maybe choose a cooler day. It was quite quiet, we were told all the tour groups and crowds go in the morning (probably for the cooler temperature!).
Egypt is the home of the oldest recorded history in the world. There were mummies, carvings, sarcophagus, chariots, furniture, art, tombs, statues, clothing, mirrors, wigs, papyrus scrips and much much more. It was amazing to see how advanced they were back then, the chairs looked like something you could find in your house now (except a little bit more worn). Most of the descriptions (where they existed) also had English & some French translations.
The highlight for me was the King Tutankhamen room. Included was his mask, and 2 of his sarcophagus made of gold and precious stones, along with various other adorning. It is amazing how the Egyptians could create these works of art so many years ago, the detail was incredible! Precious stones in intricate patterns inlaid in gold, fine drawn details, just awe inspiring.
After the museum we headed out into the streets to have a bit of a look around. We did consider getting food delivered, everything had delivery drivers! We managed to find a liquor store where we picked up some local drinks, which was perfect to go with our street food of Kushari and Shawarma. Kushari is a dish that was layered with rice, noodles, pasta & a lentil and tomato spiced sauce. Sounds weird, looks weird, tastes delicious! Shawarma is similar to a donar kabab. Dough was thrown until it was paper thin (yes thrown, like a pizza), baked in a pizza oven, before having rotisserie meat with veges rolled up in it & grilled. It was so amazing, we went back for more the following night.
The Egyptians were the first culture in the world to make wine, so of course we had to sample a bottle. The wine was a 2013 Omar Rhaggam Sultanine Blanche from Egypt. Apparently its the same grape that sultanas are made from, which is obvious in the taste. It was a very very pale yellow. There wasn’t much on the nose, sultanas of course and slight notes of over fermented citrus. It tasted like sultanas, and hints of rock melon. Very easy to drink, would be perfect for a hot day at a BBQ. I would recommend for friends who prefer fruity style wines.
We also picked up a couple of beers. This was before my appreciation of beer (that comes later in the trip!) but Hungry Husband said that while they weren’t bad, they weren’t great. It would have been better if we’d had a fridge to keep them a bit colder. We also grabbed a couple of pre-mix gin & tonics. A bit sweet, but not too bad overall.
Read more about our time in Egypt (and see a whole lot more photos) in the upcoming Part 2.