Farewell Turkey and Hello Egypt

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January 16th 2013
Published: January 17th 2013
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Yalçin met us at 9.00am this morning for our last half day of sight-seeing in Turkey before we fly to Cairo this afternoon. Because the Hagia Sophia is closed on Mondays it was not included in our city tour last Monday so our driver took us back to Sultanahmet so that Meredith and Alex could see the Hagia Sophia and we could revisit with the benefit of Yalçin's commentary.

We stayed with the group while we explored the ground floor and, as expected, Yalçin shared a wealth of information with us; who knew that the crosses on the floor aren't just random tool marks, but markers that reflect the circumference of the dome overhead?!Rather than re-visiting the galleries we teed it up with Yalçin to go across the road to visit the Basilica Cistern while he took Meredith and Alex upstairs to see the mosaics.

We are so glad we went across to the cistern as it was amazing. We were blown away by the sheer size of this enormous underground water storage that is hidden beneath your feet when you are visiting the Old City. The cistern is a huge rectangle, 140 metres long and 70 metres wide. The street above is supported by 336 columns that are nine metres in height. The cistern's capacity is 100,000 tons of water. The highlight of the cistern is the two Roman Period Medusa heads used as plinths in the southwestern section.

We met the others at the exit of the Hagia Sophia and then strolled to the Grand Bazaar via the tomb of Sultan II Mahmud, Constantine's Column and Nuruosmaniye Mosque. Yalçin left us at Gate 1 and arranged to meet us back there at 12.20pm. That gave us about an hour and a half to explore the Grand Bazaar. We actually found that the Grand Bazaar was not as colourful and vibrant as the smaller Egyptian Bazaar. One of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, it consists of 61 covered streets and over 3,000 shops. We're not sure if it was always the case, but these days many of the stalls in the Grand Bazaar are very upmarket, especially the jewellery and leather/fur shops.

We made a couple of small purchases - a cushion cover and a cashmere/silk (allegedly??) scarf. We didn't even haggle over the price of the cushion cover even though Yalçin told us that we should haggle. It was only ten Turkish Lira or five Australian dollars which is incredibly cheap anyway. The scarf started at 85 Turkish Lira, I suggested 50 and we agreed on 60. I am not the world's greatest haggler!!

After an apple tea and a Coke at a small shop in the Grand Bazaar we met the others back at Gate 1 and went to find some lunch before being taken to the airport. Yalçin escorted us into the airport and was going to help us with our check-in, but we had arrived about an hour before the Egypt Air counter opened. We finally convinced him that he could go home and we would be fine to organise our own check-in when the counter opened. Yalçin has been a fabulous guide. He has been friendly, considerate, helpful and accommodating and has impressed us with his wealth of knowledge of his country and all of its amazing history and culture.

If you are looking for a Professional Tour Guide in Turkey you can contact Yalçin Aydin at aydin_yalcin@hotmail.com.

We got ourselves checked-in without any problems and cleared immigration before settling down to wait at the gate lounge for another couple of hours for our flight to Cairo. It is so dull sitting around in airports waiting for flights!

Our flight departed on time and we touched down in Cairo just three minutes later than scheduled. The Egypt Air pilot had our aeroplane 'kissing the ground like a bird' as we enjoyed a very smooth landing. We were met at the airport by a Bunnick's representative who assisted us with the purchase of our Egyptian visas and then facilitated our passage through immigration. We felt like VIPs!! We disembarked, bought our visas, cleared immigration and arrived at the baggage carousel just in time to see our bags come out of the chute. Bernie reckons it only took us half an hour to be entered into Egypt - very quick compared with many other countries.

The airport respresentative escorted us out to meet our guide Ammar (?). We were taken by minibus to our hotel out at Giza with Ammar giving us a running commentary on various sites along our route. Unfortunately, in the dark it was a bit difficult to appreciate what we were seeing ... and we didn't catch a glimpse of the pyramids. It looks like that will have to wait until tomorrow!

Steps for the day: 15,407 (10.49km)

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