Strap in, it’s going to be a bumpy ride…
We were in Cairo for a few days. Granted, it wasn’t the first place that sprang to mind when searching for a winter get-away, especially with the mass of red tape that currently surrounds the region after a number of terrorist attacks. But it was the allure of the pyramids – and the amazing BA Holiday deal that presented itself in the January sales – that pulled us in to booking our mini hand-luggage-only adventure.
It’s only when looking at a world map do you realise how close you are to political unrest. The advice from the government website at the time stated that Cairo was one of the few places in Egypt that is deemed safe to travel to. However, when there, all advice is to avoid large public areas such a religious sites and – it goes without saying but – always be vigilant.
The drive from the airport to the hotel said it all. Abandoned cars on either the side of the road didn’t give us the warmest of impressions of Cairo. But secure as one could be in the back of a car without seatbelts, we drove on. Speed limits and lanes aren’t a think in Cairo, it seems, and I lost count with how many near-misses we encountered.
Our driver, to give him his due, did show us some incredible landscapes of the new city (east side) and after passing the late-night congested streets, we crossed the Nile and headed into the old city of Giza. We knew that our hotel was right next to the Pyramids, but the darkness of the night restricted our view and site seeing was curbed for the evening by large yawns and a strong longing for a lay-flat bed.
Homosexuality is a bit of a tricky topic in Egypt. According to a survey in 2013 by the Pew Research Centre, 95 per cent of Egyptians believe that homosexuality should not be accepted by society. Although Egyptian law does not criminalise homosexuality, it does criminalise any behaviour or expression of any idea that is deemed to be immoral, scandalous or offensive to the teachings of a recognised religious leader. In addition, 2017 was a bad year for Egypt’s LGBT community, as reported by Foreign Policy. My partner and I, therefore, thought it was best to settle for two separate beds and not to dispute the matter any further.
I would say that the strongest impression of Cairo was made the morning after, when we drew the curtains of our very modest hotel room for the first time. Captured appropriately on my Instagram story, the Pyramids were framed perfectly in all their majestic glory with the blue sky as a backdrop.
Those who read my blog regularly (thank you) will know that the first day of travel – when not work related – is always reserved by the pool, and Cairo was no exception. We decided to keep our toes hydrated, taking regular dips in the heated pool while we bathed in the shadow of the great pyramids of Giza (how many people can say that?).
With so much speculation and conspiracy around these great Egyptian structures, and how they came to be one of the natural wonders of the world, I was eager to get up close and personal. Call me arrogant, but before seeing the vastness of stone, I had also wanted to climb them. However, it turns out someone beat me to it. Andrej Ciesielski got the T-shirt in 2016, and the criminal record to go with the experience, so that I didn’t have to! Your sacrifice is much appreciated Andrej!
My advice for visiting the Pyramids is to book your guide in advance. There are a lot of chancers who will, given the opportunity, try to rip you off with every exchange. However, despite our guide meaning well, it wasn’t long before even he started to feel like unwanted piece of extra luggage that we had to drag around the desert. The ‘call me brother, I will protect you’ speech was where I drew the line. Not long after that, my attention faded and all hell broke loose when I decided to accidentally lose him for a while to explore the incredible structures for myself.
While visiting the Pyramids, there are places I would absolutely recommend. The first being the Giza Plateau, which allows you to capture some breathtaking moments. We decided to mount camels at this point to make a dramatic entrance down to the youngest of the three pyramids. My first camelback experience was heightened somewhat by the fact that our camels actually hated each other, taking various strikes at one another throughout the short-lived trek.
The other piece of advice I wish to share is to not limit your experience to only capturing what is on the outside. Go inside, but don’t hold your breath for anything special. You won’t find any hieroglyphics, or tombs (the only tomb actually found intact was that of Tu Tu Kamun). In reality, the interior of a pyramid is an empty shell – taking minimalist to a who new level. However, you won’t leave completely empty handed, you’ll walk away with some serious, unmatched bragging rights that you stood inside a pyramid, which I for one believe is more than worth the extra seven dollars!
After a quick search in the sand to try and find the sphinx’s nose, we decided to head back to the hotel to enjoy Egyptian cuisine and fine wine while watching the sunset over the Pyramids.
Our trip ended with a swift departure to the airport the next day, almost missing our flight as we miscalculated the rush-hour traffic, which was shortly followed by losing a fiver at airport security to tip the officials in order to use the less crowded line in order to make our flight. Until next time, Egypt!