Cairo is a busy, bustling city with ages of history behind it. We spent a total of around 2 and half days in Cairo. One and half day spent in exploring the pyramid area, Cairo museum and a bit of main Cairo city. The other day was spent not exactly in Cairo, but in Memphis, Saqqara which are within 30-40 kms of Cairo.
It was already afternoon when we reached Cairo.
We headed straight to our hotel from the airport. Egypt is a bit notorious when it comes to haggling and locals have a tendency to take tourists for a ride. So its best to get some money exchanged to the local currency in the airport itself to avoid hassles later on.
Our Hotel Movenpick, was just about a km or 2 away from the Pyramids. Just stepping out of the hotel, from the main road we could see the pyramids at its full grandeur. The city has grown to the very edges of the pyramids. This is very contrary to the image I had in mind of the pyramids being in between the desert somewhere.
After exploring the local area for some time, we headed for the famous light and sound show at the Pyramids in the evening. Overall it was a good experience, with lot of dramatic sounds and light effects. But it was a bit overhyped is what we felt. The show ran for around 20-30 mins.
1) Giza Pyramid Complex
We finished breakfast and headed for the Giza pyramids complex first thing in the morning. The Pyramid complex consists of the Great Pyramid of Giza (the largest of all Pyramids), the Pyramid of Khafre (or Chephren) and the Pyramid of Menkaure (or Mykerinos) which are relatively smaller, all within a few hundred meters of each other. The Great Sphinx also lies within the same complex.
One can enter the Great Pyramid of Giza. We chose not to. It was too crowded and also our guide said that its a steep downhill walk for quite sometime which you have to bend down and go. To understand how the chambers were inside the pyramids, we entered other smaller pyramids in the same complex. Plus these pyramids had free entry, the great pyramid had paid entry.
Its an amazing experience to explore the area around the pyramids. We spend quite some time here, before heading for the Sphinx.
Beware of vendors: Here vendors seemed to know famous people from whichever country you are from. They would strike up a conversation, force some items in your hand saying that its a gift from him to you, and then demand to be paid. Avoid all vendors in this area. There are enough and more memorabilia shops in Egypt, which you can buy stuff from.
2) The perfume shop
Egypt is also famous for perfumes. So we visited a perfume shop on the way to the main city. The plethora of bottles and perfumes amazed me. According to the owner of the shop almost all expensive perfume brands like Chanel, Bulgari, etc. takes the original essence from Egypt, then marks up the price multiple times and sells to the world 🙂
Do visit a perfume shop, even if you dont buy anything to see the variety of perfumes and some awesome perfume bottles they have!
3) Cairo Museum
Filled with relics and artifacts, Cairo museum will transport you to another era all together. A major part of the museum is filled with artifacts obtained from Prince Tutankhamen’s tomb. The chamber where there are mummies of Ramses and other pharaohs and queens is also amazing. The museum will easily take a few hours to explore.
4) Cairo City
Cairo city has a lot of flavors. Coptic Cairo, Islamic Cairo, etc. We shortly visited these areas which are best explored on foot.
Whereas Cairo around the Nile is filled with modern buildings and hotels, Islamic Cairo where there is Khan El Khalili market, Mohammad Ali Mosque is completely different, with narrow bustling roads and markets. We reached Khan el Khalili market around evening. Here we tried a local street food called fateer, a sinful, oily, cheese filled item, but extremely tasty too 🙂
We were tired with our travel throughout the day, so we did not spend much time in the market, headed for hotel and retired for the day.
There’s nothing much to explore in Memphis. Its an ancient city, the first capital of lower Egypt. But not remains of the old city. Many of the relics from old Memphis are put in an open air museum.
Here there is a 3200 years old huge statue of Ramses II, which is truly remarkable. The lower part of the statue is broken off, hence its lying down.
Saqqara is a huge ancient burial ground used during ancient Egypt. Here is the famous stepped pyramid, the pyramid of Djoser, said to be the world’s first pyramid. A lot of this complex was built by King Djoser, along with his prime minister Imhotep. Imhotep a multi talented person, architect, physician, astronomer, was the architect behind this amazing complex.
There are several smaller pyramids and tombs in this complex. The pyramids are all in dilapidated condition. We entered one of those pyramids. The wall sculptor done is truly amazing. And the fact that these are from more than 4000 years ago is something which is just mind boggling!
Some of the most intricate and well preserved paintings and wall engravings in Egypt can be found on the walls of the Tombs of Nobles. You can see the colors still being intact from these engravings done 4500+ years ago!
Saqqara was out last stop before we headed to the airport. For our flight to Aswan.