Living in the Middle East made it seem that we had to get to Cairo and see the pyramids, which I had seen in photographs throughout my lifetime. From Abu Dhabi it is a pretty short flight so we booked for four nights.
Two nights we stayed right next to the pyramids in a beautiful hotel and then two nights we stayed by the Nile in the Kempinski. The days before we arrived, the Egyptian currency lost about half its value. This was devastating for Egyptians, but for us it cut our costs in half. There had been a bombing or attack on a Christian church not long before we arrived so very few tourists were there. Very tough times.
We had hired a driver to pick us up at the airport and to tour us around on a couple of the days. I do recommend hiring a driver there as it is chaos in the streets. We met our driver and started our journey towards the pyramids. It was one of the worst first impressions I have ever had. We were in very slow moving traffic with cars filling I don’t know how many lanes. I could literally reach out the window and touch cars. I have never experienced cars traveling so close together. Most of the cars were dented and scraped. I wonder why? The air was filthy and nothing had color. Grey, brown, hazy air. Greater Cairo has about 20 millón people. I was thinking we should have gone somewhere else.
The hotel we stayed at was spectacular in the shadows of the pyramids. The first day we toured perfume shops with fancy glassware, carpet shops and a place where papyrus paper is made. The Egyptian people do not seem terribly happy. I would say many have an almost angry edge. Egypt was such an amazing place in the past with its rich history and civilization. Even in the not too distant past it was vibrant. Now the economy is weak and the Arab Spring erupted there which led to more chaos. It feels like the people are upset when they look at how great their country once was compared to today.
We of course visited the Sphinx and the pyramids. There were actually not many people there. The instability was keeping people away. When we pulled into our hotel, they asked the driver where we were from and he said England. I asked why he did that and he said that if they said I was American, they would have several vehicles come and escorts us. They did not want something to happen to an American tourist. There was high security almost everywhere.
The pyramids were cool and photogenic but didn’t really wow me. When we stayed two nights by the Nile, we went to the Egypt museum near Tahrir Square where the Arab Spring demonstrations took place. The museum was actually dusty, dirty and at times cluttered seeming, but truly amazing. We also took a night dinner cruise on the Nile. I stepped out of the hotel to get a taxi and the hotel blocked me from doing it for fear of kidnapping is my guess. They said for our own protection only they could arrange it. The cruise was fine. There was a belly dancer and a whirling dervish sort of dance performed by a man.
The khan al khalili market was interesting to visit. We also visited a big mosque and the city of the dead where people love to care take the tombs. At least that is what I understood.
When we were leaving the airport it got chaotic. They let my wife through but wouldn’t allow me to pass. The guy refused to explain and pointed to a desk quite far away. Unnerving to be separated from your spouse like that. The desk told me it wasn’t true. I returned and the guy told me I had to pay him. I did and got through. Interesting trip, but I definitely recommend a driver.