This was my first trip to Africa and I was very excited. So Egypt and Greece have always been on my travel bucket list forever. I love history and Greece and Egypt are definitely two countries where history is so pervasive. We spent 5 days in and around Cairo and I was a little surprised by how much there is to do. Of course, I only knew about the Pyramids but Cairo is so much more.
After London, Cairo, like Barcelona, is a bit of a shock. The roads are huge and wide and crossing one is intimidating. DJ kept telling how the city reminded him of his hometown, Delhi. When we went around the end of April the weather was perfect – sunny but not too hot. Now lets get down to everything we did and everything to eat, drink and smoke.
- Pyramids and Sphinx: Needless to say you have to check out the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Nothing can really prepare you to actually view the Pyramids – its pretty awe inspiring.
The camels did not look very happy and I am not sure how well cared they were. We skipped the camel ride.
A word of warning – inside the Pyramids its pretty low and if you tend to get claustrophobic I would suggest you avoid going in.
There are assorted other tombs and spaces you can check out around the Pyramids as well. These have hieroglyphics carved on the walls. It was quite a surreal experience for me to actually touch walls with hieroglyphic carvings on them.
2. Smoke a Shisha, Drink Tea and Coffee: From my Egyptian friend I discovered that Egyptians are pretty serious about their tea – like Indians. I am not a tea drinker and don’t really like the sweet milky Indian tea very much but loved the mint tea in Cairo. And this is real mint tea, not hot water with mint leaves which passes off as mint tea in London *eye roll*.
We had tea at this old tea shop in the market in old Cairo.
3. Visit the Mohamed Ali Alabaster Mosque: Its a beautiful complex. You will have to take off your shoes at the door before you go in. I did not cover my head and did not face any issues.
4. Belly Dancing: We saw belly dancing at the Sofitel el gazira hotel. Its a lovely hotel on the Nile so make sure you look around.
5. Day out in the Red Sea: This was the favourite day in Cairo! When I realised we would be spending almost the whole day out on a boat I was a bit skeptical. I mean – what can you do for 8 hours on a boat? Apparently you can do nothing and still want to stay for another 8 hours! We swam in the sea, read slept, ate and drank – its a day I will remember for a long long time.
Dj even learnt to fish.
We also went out for a brief boat ride on the Nile.
6. Egyptian Museum to see the Mummies: Needless to say the Pyramids don’t actually still house the mummies. The mummies have been taken out and kept in the Egyptian Museum. I would definitely term this as a must visit when in Cairo. But a warning – its pretty creepy and strangely gory.
The museum is pretty well stocked and has a lot of artefacts. If you want to see everything its going to take you a long long time.
We had a guide who showed us around. I would recommend letting the guide know about the kind of things you are interested in. For instance, I was interested in jewellery and clothing so snuck off to take a look at the room that houses the jewellery even thought the guide didn’t take us there.
7. Market in Old Cairo: I ended up buying this amazing chunky statement necklace and some papyrus scrolls which I have still not managed to hang up.
My advise would definitely be to ensure you have the option of taking back some good amount of luggage if you want to do some serious shopping here.
Egyptians are also super serious about their spices as you can see from this picture. Even being Indian I was not able to recognise some of the spices available.
8. Tahrir Square: I just wanted to mention this since its obviously of great historical and political significance. But if you are looking for something actually resembling a square you are going to be disappointed – its not really a square anymore. However, when my Egyptian friend pointed out the road to us it did set off an interesting conversation about the Egyptian revolution and politics.
9. Stuffed Pigeon at Farahat: Have you ever eaten something and its so good that you cant stop smiling? And you cannot believe you had never tasted it before? Basically, do you remember the first time you had pizza – this stuffed pigeon arouses the same feelings. But warning – this does not look appetising at all.
I am pretty sure if eating this was the only thing I did in Cairo I would be ok with that.
10. Horse Riding in the Desert: I have to admit, I was too hot, scared and uncomfortable to really enjoy this. Cairo had great weather the whole time we were there – except the last day when we planned to spend horse-riding in the desert! Its was almost 40 degrees and I was just too uncomfortable.
But I will put it this way – if I had went to Cairo and did not do this, I would have regretted it.
So what are your thoughts on visiting Cairo? I cannot recommend it enough – its definitely a city I can say this about: you will never see anything like this anywhere else. The history, the food and the politics was what attracted me to Cairo. I came back from Cairo and added Luxor and Alexandria to my bucket list – all in good time! If you are looking for more travel inspiration take a look at out other travel posts and see what works for you.
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