Cities on Sunday – Cairo

Egypt. It’s been a heck of a long time since I visited there, but one things for sure, I still have good memories of the places I went. It’s the sort of place that is genuinely unforgettable with incredible history, the Nile River, the desert and the people.

Its capital Cairo has seen its share of upheaval in the last decade, but it seems travellers are slowly but surely venturing back to this city and the country it’s in.

For me, it was a city that left its mark. Although according to Wikipedia it has under 10 million, I remember that the greater Cairo area was put at around 20 million in my Lonely Planet at the time I went. Which would make it pretty much equal any city I’ve ever visited. Egypt’s population is over 95 million, and there’s no doubt that a high proportion live in or around Cairo.

It is big. It has a feel to it of more than just ‘big’ though. It’s an education in travel terms because crossing the road can be a task and a half. To someone extremely new to solo travel, I was blown away and intimidated. And yet enthralled. I was there with a good friend of mine, and it was good to be able to share the culture shock a bit.

Walking around, it is pretty dusty. We ventured out to see the Muhammad Ali mosque in a dusty suburb, we were soon walking over rocky, sandy hills to get there. It is the incredible contrast to the centre of town, either side of the lifeline of the entire country, the mighty Nile, where a walk through a leafy suburb resulted getting pinched on the bum by a local girl! I kid ye not.

The people were interesting, engaging, wanting to talk to visitors. ‘I like people from any country, except for Israel’ the girl who worked in my run-down (and how!) hostel told me. At the time, I didn’t know of the hate for Israel its neighbours had. This was my first introduction – in some ways my first introduction to the politics of the entire Middle East. I was so naïve. That hostel was something special, at 5 bucks a night, clean? No. Friendly? Sure.

Lift shaft in the hostel building.

Up on the third floor of an old building, not far from the best falafels in all of Cairo. But Cairo is about the pyramids, right? And Giza is not far from Cairo, just a local bus ride to see these incredible edifices. And we managed to negotiate it pretty well, which made it cheap. Which was nice.

As for the experience, well, the pyramids are mind boggling. They are seriously huge! I remember walking around them and photographing them – photos I would later lose in Luxor when I put the roll of film down to change it and left it there! Luckily, my friend took a couple of photos. Camels were the go – we were approached many times by people with camels and asked if we wanted a ride. We declined. The line ‘I have a camel’ was heard countless times during our stay in Egypt.

We arrived near the end of the day. It provided nice light and we were two of only a handful of tourists. The only downside was we never got to go inside a pyramid. There was a KFC opposite, and we had dinner there before returning to hostel. PS – the Sphinx is pretty cool too!

One other highlight was the Egyptian Museum. Sure, you can see probably more in the British Museum, but this is in Egypt where the artefacts should be. And there were floors of stuff, the building wasn’t big enough to house it all. Sarcophagi, mummies, paintings, inscriptions, statues and more. It’s an amazing treasure trove!

So Cairo. Writing this post, I really want to go back now. So many places to go. Thanks for reading today – May the Journey Never End!

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