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
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.
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.