Like many others, we were unsure what to think before heading to Egypt. The news reports really do not give the place a great reputation. Bloody Journalism! We had booked a group trip through On the Go when the FCO had lowered the risk level in January and when it was 2 for 1. Two days later, there was a bomb detonated in Cairo and since then the level has been stuck at ‘Reconsider Your Need to Travel’. As we walked towards customs, the Rep from On the Go tours met us with the biggest smile we had encountered on our adventure so far. We reconsidered our need to travel and we never thought about FCO advice again. He organised our Visa, walked us through the Diplomats queue (obviously) and while we waited for our luggage, we were taught some helpful words in Arabic before being driven to our Hotel in Gaza.
There is driving, and then there is driving in Cairo. Three lanes marked on the highway means there will be seven cars wide. It didn’t take long to work out what you need to drive there. One foot on the accelerator, one hand on the horn and plenty of luck. If the Pharaohs’ were still around, we are pretty sure there would be a Car God. There would have to be.
As we drove to the hotel we could just make out the shape of the Great Pyramid. Excited Much? Yup! We tried to calm down by sitting at the bar with an Egyptian Stella beer (not Artois) and a surprisingly nice Egyptian White Wine.
From the beginning we knew our guide, Haytham, would be good. To the point and full of advice, he was what you want in a guide. Oh and talk about modest! We will tell you, as he definitely wouldn’t, but he also won an award for the best guide worldwide for the company. A lot to live up to but he we thought he could do it.
First up was none other that the Pyramids of Giza. When we arrived, there would have been only about 15 other people at the Great Pyramid. Something we would get used to during the rest of the trip. It was great that we could be there and have such an amazing monuments to ourselves, but so sad for the country as their economy is getting wrecked with no-one visiting. Definitely now is the time to go.
The entrance to the second pyramid, The Pyramid of Khafre, is much easier to find these days compared to 1818 when Giovanni Belzoni discovered it. We entered and after a few minutes of walking down a slope and up a slope, we were in the burial chamber of Pheoracs faced with his casophegus and the question of how they put it there when all entry points were smaller than it. Hmm. I know he told us but we were slightly distracted as the hasslers tried to sell us there “goods”. The best advice was to ignore them completely but a smile cracked as one trailed of with “Closing down Sale!”
A few people say the pyramids can sometimes disappoint but it wasn’t the case for us. We were in awe, and with Haytham there to explain the facts from the “Bullshit” it was a great start to our trip. We liked it so much; we even hopped on a Camel after swearing to ourselves 6 years ago in Dubai, we would never do it again.
We drove on down to the Giza Plateau where we stood under the watchful gaze of the Sphinx. The Sphinx and the Pyramids on day one! Could it get any better.
We drove to Saqqara where the Step Pyramid and the world first ever free standing structure was built (we were learning). We stood in the shade as we heard about the process of mummification and how and why it was done. We had time for a quick lunch before visiting a papaya shop to learn about how the first ever writing material was made. We were given an icecream on the way back for two reasons, we think. One – to keep his title as best tour guide, and two – to soften the blow as he told us our wake up call in the morning would be 12:30am to catch our flight. We made a promise to go straight to bed before we jumped in the pool for one last view (via a reflection) of the Pyramids and
a few beers some sleep.