Egyptian Vacation: Part I, Cairo

26 Dec

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to travel to Egypt. Our proximity in Jordan makes getting to Egypt so manageable too (it’s only an hour flight from here to Cairo). With all of the political unrest going on in Egypt, especially in Cairo, I thought this fantasy would have to wait indefinitely. Will there ever be a good time to go? Luckily, despite the protests that were going on while we were in town, we were able to tour around, escaping any problems.

I know it’s not possible to see everything that Egypt has to offer in ten days, but it certainly feels as though we were able to see quite a bit. We started our tour in Cairo for three days, followed by a Nile Cruise for four, and ended with a flight to Abu Simbel and then back to Cairo for two more nights.

Cairo, Part I: Antiquities Museum, Memphis, Sakkara, and the Giza Plateau

Grounds of the Mena House (with Pyramids in background)

Our first three nights in Cairo were spent at the Mena House Oberoi (built as a palace for the Empress Eugenie when she visited Egypt for the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869). The hotel is directly across the street from the Giza Plateau and the pyramids dominate the skyline.

Antiquities Museum: Our first full day in Cairo was spent in the Egyptian Antiquities Museum. Unfortunately no cameras are allowed in the museum so I don’t have any pictures of it or of the grounds. We saw the treasures of King Tutankhamun along with other amazing pieces. What I found most astonishing about the museum was it’s state of decay. I suppose this makes the museum more charming, but the debris, the dust, the didactic materials in the cases seem to be period pieces as well–information cards typed on typewriters and yellowed with age. We didn’t pay extra to see the mummy room, it just seemed wrong, but I did enjoy the mummified animals–everything from tiny lizards, to birds to gigantic crocodiles were featured along with their coffins.

As we exited the museum, we could see that our driver and tour guide were visibly distressed. They pointed out nearby smoke in the sky coming from Tahrir Square and whisked us out as quickly as possible. En route out of the square,  cars and busses being turned around into oncoming traffic by protestors. We were turned around as well and made it out safely back to the comfort of our hotel, which felt miles away from any problems.

Light & Sound Show: The Light and Sound show is one of those things that tourists just have to do. As cheesy as the show and music are, there’s something to be said about hearing Omar Sharif narrate as the Sphinx in Old English. There was a wild dog, a wadi dog, who stole the show. Before it even began, the dog grabbed a seat pad and started flinging it in the air, just playing with it, and during the show it howled in concert to the music. It made up for the content of the twenty year old program that hasn’t been updated since its inception.

Memphis: This tour started with the remains of Memphis (the capital of the Old Kingdom) in the village of Mit Rahina. The highlight’s of this open air museum included a giant alabaster sphinx and a limestone Colossus of Ramses II, laid supine within a shelter.

Saqqara: This is where Egypt’s Old Kingdom royalty were buried. The highlight here is Zoser’s funerary complex and the step pyramid, which heralded the start of the Pyramid Age.

Zoser's Funerary Complex

Pyramids of Giza: As our tour guide kept pointing out, we were extremely fortunate to be taking advantage of the lack of tourists because every place was empty. There were throngs of aggressive vendors and camels, but we were able to go into the smallest Pyramid of Menkaure without any lines or hassles.

Entering the Pyramid of Menkaure

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14 Responses to “Egyptian Vacation: Part I, Cairo”

  1. Marti Hunter December 26, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

    Merry Christmas Jen and Raj! Thanks for the pictures…..what an amazing trip.
    Looking forward to part II.

    • jenmaaninamman December 27, 2011 at 5:09 pm #

      Merry Christmas to you and your family as well! Are you taking some time off work to travel to DC?

  2. joe palumbo December 26, 2011 at 4:24 pm #

    When I grow up I want to come back as Jennifer and Raj. What a trip. Things must be very good.. in the Maan household….The pictures are wonderful. I just know you had a great time and you will be able to travel back each time you look at your pictures. The size of some of these monuments are staggering..Keep on traveling as you are only young once and I am speaking from experience..Love, Dad

  3. Kim Hatfield December 26, 2011 at 5:29 pm #

    Wow! Definitely a trip of a lifetime. I ‘m glad you navigated the areas safely amid the unrest. that’s a little scary! Beautiful pictures.

    • jenmaaninamman December 27, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

      Thanks, Kim. It was an amazing trip; a trip I’ve always wanted to take.

  4. joe palumbo December 26, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    What a trip the two of you were able to experience. Your photos are absolutely amazing. I know you have had to have had a wonderful time and I’m looking forward to the next part of the story. When you and Nicole were small you were so wrapped up in the King Tut antiquities that you talked about taking a trip to Egypt. Well you did it, Jen.
    Love, Mom

    • jenmaaninamman December 27, 2011 at 5:10 pm #

      Hi Mom posing as Dad. I vaguely remember seeing the treasures at LACMA as a kid but it was so much better seeing it in it’s true home.

  5. NTP December 26, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    I notice that my mom is impostering my dad again. Well maybe I should bring Buddy back for his comments. He has an account you know. I want to see some more pictures. Is The Valley of the Kings your next post.

    • jenmaaninamman December 27, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

      Please send Buddy my best. I noticed that your imposter schnauzer got a schnauzer cut in the Christmas photo. The Valley of the Queens is up next. There were NO cameras allowed in the Valley of the Kings. Too bad!

  6. Maggie December 27, 2011 at 3:34 am #

    I am SO jealous of all your adventures, what’s new? Your pictures are incredible! Love that the museum was so very authentic. You have the best memories/stories now from all your trips. Looking forward to part 2!

    • jenmaaninamman December 27, 2011 at 5:12 pm #

      Thanks, Maggie. I’m looking forward to your next post too…I’ve been waiting for a month now!

  7. Richard Leste December 30, 2011 at 4:32 am #

    Hi Jen and Raj,
    Wow! what a review with so much informative facts! Were you anywhere near Madi? not sure of the spelling. A suburb of Cairo and the location of King Faruks(sp?) summer palace? I think. I have always wanted to travel there….and believe you both may be some of the last tourists to see Cairo as we have known it for so many years. Let us hope I am wrong!
    So what about all the Christmas Trees Jen? where are they???
    Thanks so much for your informative narratives….we simply love them!!!!
    Where is part two????
    Love ya,
    Richard (larry) and Mary….oh, yes and Indy too!!!

    • jenmaaninamman December 31, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

      Hi Richard and Mary,
      As always, thanks for the comment. We saw a summer palace of King Farouk’s, but it was in Aswan. It’s right on the bank of the Nile and is now a hotel. We didn’t venture much out of Cairo except to Memphis.
      The closest thing we got to Christmas this year was at the Four Seasons in Cairo. They had a REAL Christmas tree and REAL gingerbread houses.
      Happy New Year to you both!
      All the Best,
      Jen

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