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Published: February 27th 2020
After 22 hours flying from San Diego to San Francisco to Frankfurt to Cairo – I arrived on Wednesday, Feb. 25th. The flight to Frankfurt was not crowded so everyone found seats to stretch out on and sleep. Thankfully I arranged an airport pickup. Ali helped me with the customs steps and then we got into the van for a 1 hour ride to the hotel. Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak died and there were street closures so it took longer to get to the hotel – plus the traffic is a nightmare.
I arrived 2 days before the tour starts so I figured out what I wanted to see. Ali told me I could get in touch with the trip guide but for some reason I couldn’t get through to his phone. Transportation choices here are not good: the taxis will overcharge you, I could use Uber, there are trams and buses but they are really crowded and I would really need to know where I was going. So I decided to hire a driver for each day.
I also wanted to see the Light and Sound show that is at the Pyramids each night. Same problem with
transportation and if I hired a driver he would sit around and wait for me and I deemed it too pricey. I looked on the web and found some tour groups that pick you up at your hotel, and the price includes the admission ticket so I booked that.
Thursday, Feb. 26th
, Mustaffah picked me up at 9 a.m. and my first stop was the Cairo Tower (610’ tall) which is close to my hotel. I expected a great view of Cairo and the Pyramids but that didn’t happen. There was lots of suspended dust and smog and the view was terrible. Oh well. On to Old Cairo which is also called Coptic Cairo. This is a part of Cairo that has many Coptic Catholics. Copt is a corruption of Arabic Qibti. According to tradition, Mark (one of 12 apostles) introduced Christianity in Egypt in 1st
century, then later Egyptian Christians split from Orthodox Christians.
Coptic Cairo lies within the walls of a 3rd
century Roman fortress. I went to the Hanging Church, which is called that because it is built on top of the Water Gate from the Roman ruins. The church was originally built in the
century and rebuilt in the 11th
century and other additions since then. Beautiful mosaics before the entrance. After that I wandered into the Greek Orthodox Church of St. George (martyred by Romans for belief in Christianity). The circular shape is because it is built over a 1st
century Roman gate tower. Then I wandered into the cemetery of Coptics, Greek Orthodox, and Catholics.
Mustaffah then drove me to the Papyrus Museum, near the Pyramids. This was my first look at the Pyramids. First impression – not only are they big but they are steep. I will be going there Saturday with the tour group. I knew the Papyrus Museum would be a sales pitch but it was worth it. They explained how papyrus is made and how durable it is, and they served tea. Then of course they show lots of papyrus that I could buy. I bought 4 and they threw in 2 for free. They tried really hard to get me to buy 2 large ones but I just wanted 1 large one. I got one for my brother Steve with his name written in hieroglyphics.
Next stop the perfumery, where they served hibiscus juice.
I think Mustaffah had a bunch of his friends’ places to take me. I listened to the explanation and Salomon had about 7 types on my hands. I didn’t buy any because this is the beginning of a 1 month trip and I don’t want to carry around a glass bottle of perfume oil for a month. The next stop was with Hassan at a shop that is supposedly good prices for tourists. They really haggled me here and I bought 2 items. I got another papyrus that was a lot cheaper than the museum so I’m wondering why the museum pieces were so expensive. Hassan claims the quality at the museum is much better but I couldn’t tell much difference. I think I have a lot to learn about touristy things.
We went back to the hotel so I could rest before this evening. Mohammed brought me into his shop and tried to sell me cartouches that they can put your name on in hieroglyphics. At this point I don’t want to do anymore shopping until I scope out touristy items more. We had tea and he is going to polish my necklace with the ankh. I’m feeling
that serving a drink is supposed to make you more likely to buy something.
I went to the Pyramids Light & Sound show. The tour group was prompt about picking me up and the 7 p.m. show, the English one, was not very crowded. It was interesting. The Sphinx talked and they illuminated his head when he was talking (the voice of Omar Sharif). It was basically a condensed version of Egyptian history. The crescent moon and Venus were out also so that gave nice photos. My phone doesn’t take good nighttime photos, so these photos are not great quality.
I decided to take an all day trip to Alexandria tomorrow and forgo seeing things in Islamic Cairo. It was a tough decision because there are really nice things to see in Islamic Cairo.
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