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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Cairo

UNITED KINGDOM | Monday, 2 July 2007 | Views [3096] | Comments [5]

The journey to Cairo did not go to plan. I had an original flight from Casablanca to Cairo on 1st July that I shifted to 26th June to fit in some time in Cairo before heading down to Nairobi, and eBookers assured me that having paid the change fee I just had to turn up at the Egyptair agency at casablanca and my ticket would be re-validated for the new date. Got to airport and of course, the agency was closed. Oh bugger I thought. Wasn't going to be open until after the flight had left. Rang ebookers - just go straight to check-in - it'll be ok. No it wasn't - wouldn't accept the ticket. Ended up with Royal Air Maroc & Egyptair arguing with each other about which flight I might get on. Finally got on an egyptair air flight that left about 2hrs later than the one I should have been on due a kind agency rep who saw I was in trouble and there was plenty of space anyway. There was more to this story but basically, I could kill eBookers!

Wed 27th June -  After the pain of arriving later than planned, sorted $15 entrance visa ok and got my backpack on a trolley, which was promptly whisked away by a tiny ferret like man in smart clothes who flashed an official looking badge at me before running off with my luggage. Grabbed hold of him and about to rip his head off, Got a vague explanation that he was tourist assistance. Nice way to start I thought. He proceeded to run off even faster with me in tow to an office where I got quizzed about my travel arrangements in Egypt, how I planned to get around, what I was going to see etc. Ended up with me being appointed a driver and an air-conditioned taxi for a good price to get me to my hotel (hotel oasis on Alexandria desert rd). The ferret then wanted some 'baksheesh' so I told him to get stuffed and he hit the taxi and screamed at the driver! The driver, khaled Insahar, turned out to be the best thing that could have happened. Great guy. Now, I was planning to meet a friend later in the day (marguerite) who was joining me for 4 days to see the sights so we organised her airport pickup and got talking about other stuff. Ended up with khaled being our guide for the stay in Cairo, interpreter, general gofer and organiser for anything we wanted. As it turned out, the Cairo authorities are petrified about troubles and tourists getting fleeced or worse, that they lay on a lot of protection if you choose to use it. So for $40us a day Khaled would chauffeur us anywhere, sort out meals, etc. Also booked a late night Nile cruise inc buffet and show for $35us for the saturday night.

After settling into the rather nice 4* oasis hotel not far from the pyramids in Giza, chilled for the rest of the day and met up with marguerite who arrived a bit late after not having the air-con taxi I had but his brother's non air-con version and getting lost en-route - best laid plans as they say.  After dinner did some dancing to a singer in the foyer and a bit more later on a stage in an outside area - gave the other guests a bit of entertainment!

Thu 28th June - Visited the pyramids & sphinx. Better than I had been lead to believe so enjoyed it. Cost £50LE (1LE = egyptian£, about 9p) to get in plus £25LE to go into the middle pyramid tomb. Decided to go for a 1hr return camel ride to a good vantage point for a view of all 9 pyramids for £100LE with our camelier Shaban who spoke fairly good English, and a 10yr old camel called Shitfa (well I couldn't understand his real name as I didn't speak camel). Now, these pyramids are 5000 yrs old and comprise millions of blocks of local limestone plus granite blocks as an outer layer, brought from Aswan 170km away. They killed off a fair number of slaves in the process cos they didn't feed them, so a bit of a bum deal being a slave in those days! Going inside a pyramid is interesting as the humidity was ridiculous. I leaked a gallon in there. Laid down inside the empty tomb of course - as you do! The 3200yr old Sphinx is interesting, with its famous nose missing. I was photographing it when someone who announced himself as the curator of the sphinx said 'better picture over there'. He was right of course but he then got a bit shirty with me when I wouldn't pay him for that simple piece of advice. Everyone here is on the make!

Next on the agenda was a papyrus factory. For those who don't know, papyrus comes from a tall grass-like plant with a feathery top. The stem is cut into sections and the outer peeled off. The very spongy remaining center is then sliced into thin strips and left to soak for upto 6 days. The longer, the darker the finished result. After that time it comes out very pliable and sticky as starches have been released, so that it can be laid in criss-cross fashion sticking to itself to form the sheet. This is then put into a press to squeeze out the moisture and left for 6 days to dry. After being removed and a short amount of air drying it is ready to use. The inks used to draw on papyrus are natural pigments added to finely ground stone and egg white to bond it together. They never age. I ended up buying a picture called 'the last judgement' which came with an explanation of the heiroglyphics used in it. Made the sales guy sweat a bit with some nifty bartering and he tried to fleece me for another 10LE at the till but didn't get away with it.

Later in the day started itching and noticed an enormous amount of mosquito bites. Later counted at 101 and can only attribute them to when at the pyramids. Look like a human dot-2-dot in places!

Fri 29th Jun - Booked Khaled for the day. First stop the 'Mohammed Ali mosque' named after a famous smart arsed western boxer... Well actually, named after a guy who was attributed with modernising islamic egypt. On the way there, passed what was to become a familiar sight - the 'Twinky' patisserie. In a place as barking mad as Cairo - innit sweet! The mosque itself is a grand piece of architecture with beautifully ornate ceilings. Other than that it's a mosque.

Next was the famous Cairo museum. On the way there stopped for a bite to eat and this highlighted a favourite Cairo passtime - that of trying to kill each other at every opportunity. You cannot go to a shop and say...kind sir, may I have one of your delicious sandwiches...oh no. You actually have to scream at him for a few minutes, curse his parentage, scowl at him a bit and then when you get what you want, put your foot on the gas and fly off at a rate of knots blaspheming everything. We saw this method in action regularly. Standard cairanese purchasing technique.

The Cairo museum needs no introduction being famous worldwide for housing king Tutankhamun's collection, mummies, and all things ancient Egypt had to offer. In fact about 136,000 exhibits in total plus another 136,000 or so crated in the basement, some of which are sinking into the soft ground. Entrance price is £40LE plus £100LE for the royal mummy room. No cameras allowed in so have to be checked into a dodgy building outside. Rumour had it that they don't always give the right camera back to the person claiming it! The museum is awesome - 2 levels of antiquity dating back 4000yrs or more. The mummy room Is eerie considering the age of them. And they can tell what health problems they had before they snuffed it too. The famous one in there is king Rameses II from 19th dynasty (1279-1213 bc). The highlight was the Tutankhamun room. The famous mask is from a sheet of beaten gold decorated with glass and weighing in at 11kg. This was put onto his mummy so that his soul 'ba' could recognise him - a photo would have been cheaper! This was then put into the main gold carcophagus decorated with glass inlays. And that placed into a final outer casket of wood plated in decorated gold. This guy was seriously important to get this treatment. The actual mummy is in the tomb at Luxor in the valley of the kings.

Next stop a perfume manufacturer for which Cairo is famous as supplying some major western perfume makers with the raw ingredients. Came out smelling like a tarts boudoir. Lovely!

Back at hotel for dinner and a cherry Sheesha pipe. Cheap at £6LE plus taxes & infinite refills. (note here that egypt bills have 12.5% sales tax and 10% service charge added to everything). Got on stage for another boogie with Ines the egyptian singer. Note - if Egypt could be in the eurovision song contest, they would definitely get 'nil point'. Waad the belly dancer appeared late so shook her stuff til 2am, so with the smoke and the time the focus was going on what she was shaking about. Not bad though!

Sat 30th Jun - Chillin' day by the pool! Had a bit of a teary day unfortunately with memories of recent events with Rachel being stirred up when I hear certain pieces of music. Still suffer lots of down days although trying to get on with things, but it's not easy. Anyway, got my laundry upto date which was delivered back by two smartly dressed porters in pristine white uniforms. Imaculately washed and pressed results. Worth it.

Went for a cruise on the Nile in the evening collected by khaled our trusty chauffeur and then a manic drive across town to the Corniche-el-Nile to board the Aquarius for the 2hr or so round trip sailing. Nice buffet choice although not told that locusts had boarded with us that would strip the food clean in minutes. The meal was accompanied by a dodgy asian lady dancer and some guys bopping around. The later acts were better with a midget spinning a cape and another guy with a spinning cape act and the usual belly dancer who was ok. All in all a good cruise.

Get this ...decided to stock up on drinks on the way back to the hotel as cheaper. If you have a local guy doing the buying for you (with the standard purchasing technique mentioned earlier, you can get 4xlitres of water and 4xcans of pepsi for £1.5LE. In the hotel, 1xlitre of water costs £11LE. Howzat for markup!

Sun 1st July - Departure day for marguerite back to uk at lunchtime. I stop on to leave tomorrow for Nairobi. Met a NZ guy Brent and spent the rest of the day chatting and had a meal and some beers. Samoan/danish mixed parentage so an Interesting conversation about each others histories. Learned about some travel option around the polynesian islands that I hadn't realised so useful. He also lived close to someone I plan to see in NZ so a small world.

Next blog will hopefully be from Mombasa sometime during the next week.

Cheers

Bye for now

Tags: Sightseeing

Comments

1

Hi Jeff. Great to hear you are still travelling around. It sounds like you are certainly having some interesting adventures. I look forward to more updates. Nat

  Nathalie Jul 4, 2007 4:11 AM

2

Hi Jeff

I can feel the itching from the mosquito bits, have you sorted out some repellent?

Thanks for your text, it would not accept a reply, so have sent you an Email

Great blog, keep it going

Cheers

john

  john.shenton Jul 7, 2007 10:03 PM

3

Hi Jeff

Enjoyed your blog. It sounds abou7t right for Egypt
:-) Going to Cairo again on Wednesday can I have Khaled Insahar's mob no. if you have it please as we will need a good guide and interpreter. Got some tricky things to deal with over there.

How much does he charge per day ?

Thanks a million,

Jo Ann

Mob. 07964 356 379

  Joann Thornby Jul 21, 2008 11:00 PM

4

Hi Jeff

Enjoyed your blog. It sounds about right for Egypt
:-) Going to Cairo again on Wednesday can I have Khaled Insahar's mob no. if you have it please as we will need a good guide and interpreter. Got some tricky things to deal with over there.

How much does he charge per day ?

Thanks a million,

Jo Ann

Mob. 07964 356 379

  Joann Thornby Jul 21, 2008 11:00 PM

5

hi.Jo, I did have Khaled's number but unfortunately he changed.his.mobild and don't have his new one. Sorry about that.
Best of luck. Egypt can be full on and it does help to have a good driver. I actually met him at the airport, so he may be contactable through the tourist office there. if you do track him down let me know.
Regards
Jeff

  jeffbrad Jul 22, 2008 1:34 AM

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