After our Barcelona/Paris trip in the spring of ‘08 we were trying to figure out where our Thanksgiving trip would be. We started punching in airports to see where we could get a reasonable fare to and Cairo came up. A new continent, exciting culture; and the Pyramids- I was very excited! We flew from Minneapolis to Amsterdam and had 8 hours to spend in the city walking around. Amsterdam is a great layover spot and is really easy to take the train from the airport to have a day to see all the great architecture, the Anne Frank museum and all the people on the canals.
The flight to Cairo leaves very late and arrives around 3am, nothing like getting to a new country in the middle of the night. We scrambled to find a safe enough looking cab to get us to our hotel for a shower and sleep. Mike used points to stare at the Sheraton Cairo, it was pretty nice and had a great hot shower!
Our first tourist spots on the list was seeing the Cairo Museum and the home of King Tut
With the museum off the to-do list we headed for the Pyramids in Giza. When you think of the great pyramids you think of massive structures out in the middle of nowhere. Really not the case! Giza is a suburb of Cairo and only about 20 minutes away. The pyramids, while amazing at the feat of construction that was accomplished, are not as big as you would think and there was a Pizza Hut right in front of the Great Pyramid.
You could get up close and personal and actually touch the pyramid and go inside. If these were in the U.S, Canada, or Europe you wouldn’t be able to get even close enough to put a hand on the stone. It was a surreal experience to know how long ago these were built and how much labor went into it. The locals have figured out how to monopolize the experience, the cab drivers will only take you so far so another one can come pick you up take you 50 feet, they will follow you until you pay for a picture with them (like the one above of me and the local gentleman) and they want to earn as much money as possible. While I may not agree with the methods, they do need to earn a living!
That evening we headed out for the traditional Egyptian meal at one of the most recommended restaurants. We tried as much as we could and just soaked up the culture of the evening.
My favorite thing about travel is to find that one great restaurant, that you have that one amazing meal in that you remember for the rest of your life. The next day the main market was on our list, we needed to see how the locals shopped and what they ate.
Cairo is a HUGE city and can feel very overwhelming but it is manageable. My Cairo travel tips are:
- Find taxi’s on the street and know in advance what the price should be and the relative route for where you are going.
- Women MUST dress modestly, no shorts, tanktops or cleavage. It is a Muslim country and is so important to respect their culture regardless of personal feelings about it.
- Walk around the city, enjoy it and be confident in your abilities to figure it all out.
Favorite Part: The traditional Egyptian meal
Not So Favorite Part: Being very unsure of ourselves when arriving at the airport in the middle of the night. I actually wrote Lonely Planet to suggest a few thing that they should add to the arrival section of the guidebook.
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