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Alicia & Rich's Roads to Everywhere London to Australia on the route less traveled

Cairo - Day 2

EGYPT | Monday, 20 October 2008 | Views [748]

We decide that we want to leave Cairo ASAP, as in tonight. There’s loads of Egypt to go see and we’ve had enough of all the pollution, smog and pushy hostel managers who double as tour agents.

The plan for the day therefore is to get to the train station, buy tickets for tonight's sleeper train, and then go see the pyramids. Unfortunately for us we fail immediately as the train is fully booked. This is a real hammer-blow and not a good start to our day. We walk dejectedly outside the station and find a cab driver who insists he's the answer to our prayers. Firstly, he speaks passable English, secondly, he can arrange tickets for tonight's train, and thirdly, he'll be our driver for the day, taking in all major sites.

So we go visit our driver's friend who is (surprise surprise) another pushy hostel manager/tour agent. He's very confident in his ability to solve all our travelling problems and wastes no time in mapping out the next 10 days of our lives. We tell him that it's really only train tickets we're after but eventually agree to a couple of tours/hotels he insists on throwing into the package. He just needs a few hours to get things organised and then we can come back and collect our tickets. After handing over some Egyptian Pounds we set off to Giza.

Giza Pyramids

Giza is only a short drive from downtown Cairo and yet it's like going into a completely different world. There's an abundance of greenery (finally!) and, most importantly, a distinct lack of pollution and dirt. As you cross the bridge over the Nile you can see the pyramids in the distance. What an amazing sight!

The first thing we went to see was the Sphynx. Stupidly, we were collared by a supposedly legit guide who, although quite knowledgeable, tried to fleece us for some ridiculous amount of Backshish (tip). No way Jose. We give him what he considers to be a paltry sum and set off across the desert in search of the Great Pyramid. This sounds a bit more challenging than it actually was – it’s only about 200m (or 200 yards for our American readers) and you can’t fail to find a 150m (150yd) tall pyramid that’s directly in front of you! We aren’t able to get inside the Pyramid today for whatever reason, which of course is a bit of a disappointment(although Alicia has already been inside on her 1st trip), but it’s still a pretty awesome experience just standing beside this bizarre structure. After taking a few photos of all the pyramids (all 10 of them) and fighting off all the offers of camel-rides and cheap postcards, we find our way back to our driver and head off to get some lunch.

Our cheeky taxi driver takes us to some ridiculously expensive restaurant way out in the middle of nowhere, where he clearly receives a nice little percentage of the bill. We spot this early though and negotiate down to a much more reasonable price. The food isn’t bad actually but meager portions (which is probably as a direct result of our bartering).

Lethargy sets in after lunch as we re-cross the Nile back to Cairo and our tour of Cairo’s Old Town & Citadel is conducted entirely from the back seat of the cab. Time’s getting on anyway and we still need to collect our train tickets for tonight’s journey. Surely there’ll be no problem with collecting the tickets. The guy promised he’d get them. I’m sure he won’t let us down.

The guy lets us down. Despite his best efforts, he simply can’t change the fact that the train is sold out. A perfectly reasonable point except that it goes against all his previous promises and assurances. This is a bit of a problem. We’re limited on time in Egypt - only 10 days in all – and this idiot’s just told us we’ll be spending a third day in Cairo. We take our money back and leave Mr Idiot behind.

We now have only one last hope. We met a guy called Atef in the street this morning who also told us he'd be able to get us train tickets. We'll have a look for him. This is now about 5pm and even the most optimistic people (which is not us right now) would be giving up hope. We find Atef. He's very helpful but also honest. The train is full and we'll have to go tomorrow. Despite a strong resemblence to our not-so-favourite type of person right now, i.e. a pushy hostel manager/tour agent, Atef seems a lot more genuine and we have a good chat about all the stuff we want to do whilst in Egypt. He comes up with a plan involving a free trip to Dahsur, Sakkara & Memphis (more pyramids and old stuff) tomorrow, train tickets for tomorrow night, along with various tours and places to stay as we see all the other things we want to see in South Egypt. Better still - it's affordable and the deal involves a free night's stay in his hotel. We sign up immediately.

The Sphynx

The Sphynx "protecting" the Great Pyramid.

 

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