Cairo & The Pyramids...
Wednesday 7th April: Left the boat safely in the hands of
local Egyptians under the auspices of the wonderful Ismailia Yacht Club, with
fingers crossed it would all be there for Jeremy & Sally's return in 3 days
time!! We got a taxi to the Bus
Station, where we were faced with about 50 bus/coaches of differing ages and
conditions. Tickets to Cairo were
the cheapest thing ever @ E£15 each = £1.75 – and yes you guessed it, our bus to Cairo
was indeed old and dilapidated – and had the crappiest air conditioning units
ever – the one above our heads was so noisy, I was convinced I would end up with
tinnitus despite the paper tissues stuffed in my ears, the scarf wound round my
head, and the hands pressed against my ears until they were painful. At one point Sally thought the whole
machinery was going to crash through the ceiling and decapitate her!! It was the most uncomfortable 2 hours of
my whole time in
The hotel was miraculously quiet with spacious
beautifully decorated rooms, and run by helpful French speaking Egyptians. But they insisted on being paid cash
(preferably in Euros – were they kidding???). We were to learn over the next few days
just how many times
Having dumped out stuff, we immediately set off to walk
Cairo Museum has so many amazing things, you could spend
a week there and not see everything, so in our short 2 hours (before "museum
legs" totally took over) we only "did"; the Mummies, loads of jewellery and of
course Tutankhamen – which I have to say, even having seen loads of pictures and
TV programmes, was a million times more awesome than I could ever have
imagined!! The mummies on the other
had, were totally, totally gruesome!
Unfortunately, Cairo cannot beat the war against the dust, and the whole
museum needs updating – so apparently they are building a new one, all
hermetically sealed, and air conned, so they can store and show their treasures
properly, which is why they are now pitching to get all their stuff back from
the European countries that have nabbed them over the generations, (Rosetta
Stone being the main focus!). They
have to settle for a replica in the entrance to the
Walking back to the hotel, the shopping district was just hotting up and the streets were getting packed – but nothing compared to what it would be like at 9 or 10 o'clock at night!! We grabbed a coffee and retired to the hotel for a snooze before dinner.
On returning to Talisman Hotel, we met the resident tour
guide company – run by a smooth operator called Hamdi, who organised us a car
& driver and guide for the next two days. It made life soooooooo much easier. He also recommended us a restaurant for
that evening, and his driver took us there! It had a great atmosphere and while
waiting for our table we had beers and the customary dips (humus etc) at the
bar, where we met an English girl on holiday alone for a week in
Thursday 8th April: After a lovely French breakfast, our
guide collected us at 10.30am and we set off south west (in air conditioned
We then headed back up north to
We were then taken for a bit of a ride (literally and figuratively speaking) to see how Papyrus is made, which was fascinating, but we were incredibly lucky to escape from the "shop" without spending upwards of £25 on something we really didn't want.
We were starving by now (about 4pm), so Sheema took us to what we think is the equivalent of Café Uno – but happily the food we ordered turned out to be just the ticket, and a common drink to order (remember no alcohol) is Mango juice, which is often quite thick, but totally delicious and thirst quenching.
We had pre-booked our "Son et Lumiere" tickets back at the pyramids, for an early showing at 6.30pm so we could get back to Cairo for a decent dinner, so Sheema left us there (with the driver!) and we settled down in the amphitheatre of approx 500, with about 20 others!! There were two slight disadvantages to this early time slot, a) it was not quite dark enough to enjoy the full effect of the lighting up of the pyramids and b) although we had earphones with the English commentary, the loudspeakers were blaring it out in Japanese – imagine the dramatic intonations of Lawrence Olivier telling the stories of the Pharoahs to a background of lit up pyramids, and dramatic music, only with Atsuko Katsouru's version filtering through as well!! Apart from almost freezing to death (although it was a beautiful cool 30 degrees during the day, it got very cold at night as soon as the sun went down), it was an extremely entertaining hour and we are all glad we saw it.
We asked the driver to take us to the Mena House Oberoi, just down the road, for a drink, but ended up staying for a truly scrummy non-Egyptian meal – (beef burgers + frits and prawns & avocados, but followed by the ubiquitous Omm Ali!). A bit pricey, but what the hell, it was our last night together, and we celebrated the end of a lovely holiday, (for me at any rate!) On returning to the hotel, we had to pack ready for an early start on Friday.
Friday 9th April: We arranged to leave our bags at the
hotel, and Sheema arrived at 8.30am with a busy schedule, starting at the
By now we were gasping for a coffee and/or something to
eat, so back to the mini-bus and off to the mosque at the Citadel of Salah
Al-Din, which was enormous if nothing else. We had a light lunch snack at the
only place available, but it was almost empty, as the mosque only really had
school parties attending that day.
Again, simple humus and mango juice cannot be beat. We duly took off our shoes and entered
this one huge area – like a totally empty
We now headed for our last stop, the markets at Khan el-Khalili, once known as the Turkish bazaar during the Ottoman period, but now usually just called the 'Khan'. An absolute warren of little streets with thousands of shops all selling similar tourist tat, leather goods, brass trinkets, carpets, scarves, endless t-shirts, Egyptian cotton sheets, plus the gold & silver district (the Hatton Garden of Khan el-Khalili). Every tiny shop has 2 or 3 men trying to ply their wares and once they suss you are English, its "Come and have a butchers, come and have a shufty or lubbly jubbly" – do they watch nothing but Eastenders and our Jamie Oliver?? We rested our feet with more coffee and hyacinth tea, fending off street sellers every two minutes! We could have spent all day there (well Sally and I could have), but without Sheema would certainly have got lost!
After another exhausting but interesting day, we got back
to the hotel at about 5pm, to settle our bills and sort out our next move. We took advantage of their hospitality
and sat in the lounge drinking the last of our Rosé and eating crisps (wisely,
Sally had brought provisions from the boat). Hamdi arrived and after a chat about how
successful our two days had been, thanks to Sheema and the excellent drivers, he
put his car and driver at our disposal – for free!! We dropped Sally & Jeremy at the
main bus depot, armed with the correct information to get the right bus, and I
prayed their journey back to
Saturday 10th April: The hotel transfer bus arrived absolutely as promised, and apart from battling through the endless security (before even getting to baggage drop off) and form filling at Cairo Airport, I had time to spend virtually my last E£ on gin and brandy – leaving £E8 (£1) for a bottle of water, but typical airports, the price was 10 times the normal E£2, which was just as well, because going through the final security x-ray checks at the Gate, ALL bottles of drink (regardless of whether bought airside or not) were removed from people – unbelievable!!!
Thanks Sally and Jeremy for a brilliant trip………………… I hope their Mediterranean guests feel the urge to join the blog, and fill us in, but perhaps not at the same length as this, for which I apologise, to those who have read thus far!!! Penny x