Five Days in Cairo
- Egyptian Museum (the NEW ONE!)
- Giza Pyramid Complex, sometime referred to as the Giza Necropolis
- City Tour and city markets
- Southern Pyramid tour
- Negotiating and Alcohol
Day 1 The Egyptian Museum and 5000 years of artifacts was spectacular. This was in the original museum near Tahrir Square. The new museum is now open nearer Giza. We saw it being built in 2018.
The sheer number of artifacts from around the Egyptian Empire is staggering. Sixty-foot seated statues sit on one side of a large hall. The statues, hieroglyph carvings, sarcophaguses, down to cups and combs were available to see. Scrolls, entire carved walls and the canopic jars were on display.
- Spend the day and visit the grounds.
Giza Pyramid Complex
Day 2 we headed to Giza. This was the reason we came to Egypt. The three large main Pyramids stood out at the entrance. Very Few visitors were present and the touts made walking the site annoying. We “found” a guide who showed us areas I would not have ventured into. One tomb in particular was great. The hazy dust day detracted from our visit. The walk into the largest pyramid (Pyramid of Khufu). The tunnel wasn’t tall enough to walk in; a hunched lumber on the wooden “steps” angled up for a hundred yards. The end had a large room 30 x 40 feet and 60 feet tall. It had a replica Sarcophagus, but was empty beyond that. The carved wall had even been removed. The walk down was easier but my quads got a workout.
There are nine pyramids total. Three large and 6 smaller pyramids and the Sphinx in the complex. There are other tombs and ruins to see.
The Great Pyramid of Khufu is the tallest and the first one you get to from the main entrance. The Khafre Pyramid is the middle one with the top appearing to have a finish and the smallest of the big three is The Pyramid of Menkaure. The six smaller pyramids were built for queens.
A large wooden ship has been recovered and placed in a museum on site. An extra fee is required to get in. We did not walk to the panoramic viewpoint due to the dust in the air. We saw the Sphinx and exited the Giza entrance. We did get to a vendor shop at days end and dropped $135 for our guide, scrolls, perfume, coffee and rides. It was annoying but not the end of the world. The last “taxi” driver got the brunt of my frustration.
- Go on a weekend with clear weather
- Seven miles of walking without a camel ride to the vista
- Walk/hunch into the open tomb, in my case it was Pyramid of Khafre
- The Wooden ship museum is worth the extra cost
- The Cut Rock Tombs north of the Pyramid of Khafre should be walked
- Bring small change (10 or 20 Egyptian Pound Notes) for guides and recommendations.
Day 3 we had a City Tour. We met our driver at 9:30 and went to the Salah El Din Al Ayouby Citadel. The walled fortress was impressive. The views over the city and the Mosque of Ibn Tulun were excellent, but marred by the hazy air again. We went to the Coptic area of the city and walked the car-free streets. A couple churches, cemetery and shops lined the street. The city market we walked through was fun. You’ll really enjoy the shopping if you are a shopper. Have fun haggling!
- Salah El Din Al Ayouby Citadel
- Coptic Area
- City Markets
Day 4 we headed to the Southern Pyramids. The Bent Pyramid is a failed attempt at a pyramid. The angles and engineering early on didn’t quite work out for this one. The Step Pyramid (Pyramid of Djoser) had the best entrance. Columns lines an entrance to a large sand courtyard on the walk to the pyramid. Walls carved on each side were excellent. We could not walk on the pyramid itself and scaffolding covered parts of the “steps”. The Red Pyramid had a tomb to walk/hunch up. This may have been more difficult than the Giza tomb. The no pictures sign is not taken seriously and I tipped the “doorman” after the trip. We walk around the site we were escorted by “Watcher.” A guard with an AK-47 followed us at a distance for the first half and then showed us a few features and places to get good pictures. A second guard arrived part way through and “took over”. He let me walk several hundred feet up to the top of a second pyramid. I gave each man a good tip. It is expected for the help.
The Black Pyramid is a large dark colored very worn “pyramid.” We drove by but did not stop. There are many other pyramids in the area, but I think this is a list of the best ones to visit.
- The Bent Pyramid
- The Step Pyramid
- The Red Pyramid
The age-old art of negotiation is in play. Everything starts off with, “Hi, how are you? Where are you from?” which translated into how much should I charge you. No matter what, they expect to haggle with you. I can get you a car for 350 (Egyptian pounds). “This shirt is only 250. I give you the Egyptian price.” It took me six days to adjust. I was glad to get out of Cairo and then my first interaction in Aswan and I got taken again. “NO!” I learned the game face and not to interact if I wasn’t interested. Hold up your hand “La a Shukra!” “No Thank You” in Egyptian.
I learned to answer questions more effectively. “Is this your first time in Egypt?” “No, I have been here several times.” Sometimes they just walk away. Other time you are treated like you know the game. Once I figured out the game it was actually fun. The first price is five times the price you can get it for if you want. How much is the shirt? 250. No, 50. I settle on 100 or 150 Egyptian pounds, 6-9 US dollars. I never want to get to the lowest price, but I do not want to pay full price. Have fun, play fair.
Walk away if you need to. I wanted a book. The first asking price was 400. I converted on my phone and laughed $22!? “It’s a paperback book. No.” and I walked away. He followed us 100 yards down the street and spoke with us as we waited for our ride. I paid 100 for it and I think it was fair. We paid 350 for a taxi and then 150 for the same service the next day. Learning to negotiate can be fun. Learn to walk away and learn to be fair. Always carry small change with you. I carry 20 Pound notes, but 10s will work too. I start my day off with 10 of them and hope they lasts. Banks are great at giving you change.
For those of you who want to partake in alcohol while in Egypt beware! Buy it at the airport and buy as much as you can legally get. You can only buy foreign alcohol for two days once you arrive in the country; after two days you can buy alcohol, but it must be Egyptian alcohol. Egyptian Wine is quite good but the hard liquor is not. Alcohol is only found at nearly unmarked Duty Free shops. If you are flying again after landing in Cairo carry what you can, and check your luggage. We were able to get alcohol in the major cities Aswan, Luxor and Cairo. The duty free shops are hard to find. Many restaurants do not serve alcohol. On a hot day a cold beer is good. Beer and wine are commonly available, but check before you expect it.