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Steve and Emma's Travel Tales

A Short Cultural City Break in Cairo

EGYPT | Monday, 23 September 2019 | Views [12]

Emma and I had some time off work in Addis so we were wondering where to go. Flight prices in Africa are pretty expensive even if the distance isn’t that great, so there were not many options which make a financially viable option for a short break out of Ethiopia. A quick search on Skyscanner brought up Cairo as the place that fitted the bill in terms of flight times, price and things to do, so a short break in Cairo it is.

We had a late night/early morning from from Bole which meant that we arrived in Cairo very early but this meant we could maximise the time on our city break.  Arrival was easy and we soon got a visa on arrival and out into the early Cairo morning as the call to prayer swirled around. We had a taxi organised by the hotel and for once they were actually at the airport when we arrived – a good start. The taxi driver was hyper considering it was 6 in the morning and when he found out we were English and Emma a Liverpool fan, he cranked up the stereo and played a medley of Mo Salah songs at full blast. Who would have thought there were so many recordings dedicated to the Egyptian footballing god? After about 20 songs he turned to videos on his phone showing Mo scoring for various teams. He spent most of the ride turning round to show us the videos. Hey, who needs to look at the road when driving in the Cairo rush hour? He dropped us at the hotel and we bade goodbye, him and Emma with one last Mo song and me singing about an Argentinian who is miles better than Salah.

The hotel turned out to be ok, the staff were friendly and they let us check in at such an early hour. The room wasn’t great but after we changed to one with the promised balcony it was fine. The best bit about the gaff was it’s roof top restaurant and we soon investigated it for breakfast. Actually, that was the second best thing, number one is they served beer, not a given in these parts but it was a bit early for all that. The views from the terrace showed how gigantic the city is and how absolutely beige it is. Time to explore this sprawling magnolia metropolis, which as we normally try to do, on foot.

As this was a trip planned at short notice we didn’t have a guide book or map and I really have to have a map. We wandered around the city all morning trying all the newsagents/booksellers etc for a map with no luck. Oh well we had a good tour of the city so time for lunch. After a quick kebab, strange to be eating one in daylight, we headed back to the hotel past a bookshop just round the corner from the hotel with all manner of guides. If only we had gone left instead of right. We retreated to the roof top and cold beers and shade for the afternoon before heading out to explore along the banks of the river Nile once it had started to cool down. We enjoyed our first taste of Cairo but had an early night as we had basically been up all night.

Over the next couple of days we explored more of the city with a few main highlights. The Egyptian Museum is incredible with an extensive collection of historical artefacts. The museum is in the process of relocating so some mummies were wrapped up waiting transport but there was more than enough to satisfy our hunger for the ancient history of Egypt. We also enjoyed wandering around the citadel and old town taking in the mosques and crumbling buildings. Another memorable experience was hiring a dow to sail up and down the Nile. It’s always great to view a city from the water and this was no exception. It took a bit of haggling and a few different boat men before we got a fair price but it was worth it. Our capitan was cool and it was ok for us to down a beer as we enjoyed the ride. Our favourite restaurant that we tried was Estoril, a hard to find place down an alley way near the museum. The food was good and the beer and air con cold. Actually the air con was too cold but nice to cool down and we really loved it in there.

Well, we had done all the main sights of Cairo but we still had a couple days left, what to do? Someone geezer at the hotel said we must see the pyramids of Giza. Pharaoh enough, why not while we are here. Wonder of the world and all that, be rude not to. We couldn’t be bothered getting the bus and getting hassle from touts while we visited the pointy triangle things so we booked a car and guide for 2 day trips. First day we would visit the pyramids and the sea port of Alexandria and the second off into the desert to an oasis.

The pyramids and sphinx were really impressive even though you have seen a 100 pictures of them. They are rather quite big and you do wonder how they built them in ancient times.  Our guide was a nice guy and was informative about the history but also realised that we wanted to wander round on our own. There were lots of tourists but you could get away from the crowds and it was even possible to avoid the camel touts. Although they did get the hump when you said you didn't want a camel ride. I guess the only slightly negative things is the setting as it is really on the edge of Cairo. Quite a strange landscape and contrast between old and new but we were glad we went. The road trip to Alexandria was only a couple of hours and we took to the city as we always like places on the coast. We looked round some of the ancient sights including the old fort and had a nice sea food meal before heading back to Cairo. All in all a good day trip.

The next day’s outing wasn’t so good. Basically we went to a restaurant surrounded by sand which had a stream by it. So we sat around listening to loud awful music waiting for lunch. We cut the trip short after lunch and headed for the airport early but overall it had been a really enjoyable city break with lots of history.



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