We went on a spontaneous tour of Egypt. This time it was my youngest (at the time 7 years of age) son who joined me to Cairo and the Pyramids, and on the classic Nile cruise from Aswan to Luxor.
This article is one of four from a visit to Cairo and the Nile in 2005. It is based on my diary at the time.
Sunday 2.1.2005, Stavanger – Amsterdam – Cairo
On the internet I had booked KLM via Amsterdam and a round trip of 8-9 days with Milano Travel in Cairo. That should give us a couple of days in Cairo both travelling in and out, an overnight train south to Aswan, a cruise ship on the Nile north to Luxor and a night train back to Cairo. The deal included guiding and local transport.
At home we were driven to the airport in wet snowy weather. The flights went well, 1.5 plus 4 hours with film, food and service. The highlight for my son was undoubtedly the blueberry muffin on Schiphol Airport.
Cairo airport was big and rather rundown. We were met by the travel agency representative, a nice young lady carrying a sign with our names on. We got our visas for 17 USD and continued to pick up our luggage. It never came! The suitcase was gone, stolen or whatever. We reported the loss and were told that the next KLM-plane would arrive tomorrow. The KLM office on the airport was closed, even though they ought to be open during arrivals and departures of their own planes.
We bumped off into town in an old minibus.
- HOTEL MAADI, 55 Misr Helwan Road. Tel 3585858. It was not the hotel I expected, but a less expensive. Fair enough. In bed at 0300 (equals 0200 at home, European time). A view to the pyramids and the Nile from the room
Monday 3.1.2005, Cairo
Today was without a guided program. We started with an alright breakfast at the hotel. Even my son managed to eat something. Especially the baker had made tasty stuff.
We changed us some Egyptian pounds in a nearby bank. After this we hired one of the many taxi drivers. My intention was to take the taxi for a small ride into the sights of Cairo, but we ended up having Said at our disposal the entire day (30 USD). It was a very OK deal; he waited for us on all sites.
Lots of traffic and crowds everywhere. Much poverty, worn-down and dirty facades.
Our first stop was at the Citadel, the medieval fortress on a hill above the city and with the huge Mosque of Muhammad Ali. After this we dropped by the Sultan Hassan Mosque right below the hill, then Ibn Tulun Mosque before paying the Gayer-Anderson House a visit.
The latter was exquisite! Many small and large rooms with collected art objects formerly belonging to a British major. The harem and its living conditions was exciting, with secret windows and shaded roof terraces. “The dream of an orientalist”, my guidebook states.
Afterwards we went hungry down to the very city centre and a late lunch at a very good place. Later we bought “emergency” clothes and went home.
My son got disappointed by the pizza in the evening. It was “actually” very good, but I should have ordered it without onion, mushrooms, paprika and olives. Of course. We were awakened during the night because our suitcase arrived. Everything intact. Luckily.
Tuesday 4.1.2005, Cairo and Giza
Another active day. After breakfast we checked out and drove with our guide to the Pyramids. A great experience.
We walked around the largest, the Pyramid of Cheops (Khufu), and entered the middle one, the Pyramid of Khafre (Chephren), and rode a camel on a hill near the smallest, the Pyramid of Menkaure (Mykerinos). My son was struck by the size of the animal and refused to climb it. But we rode 300 metres together and he was all happy about that.
This video is from Giza outside Cairo with its pyramids and Sphinx. A look around and a camel ride in a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage List and the only one left of the ancient seven wonders of the world.
The drive into Cairo city included stops at two shops, one selling perfumes, the other papyrus. We bought some.
The Egyptian Museum was overwhelming. The highlights were definitely Tut-Ankh-Amon and the 13 mummies.
In the late evening we boarded the night train to Aswan. We were served dinner in our compartment. OK. Egyptian first class sleeping-car, but it had never come anywhere near a Norwegian railroad track. But we were happy about it.
All chapters in this series from 2005:
(1) Cairo: A spontaneous tour of Egypt: This time it was my youngest (at the time 7 years of age) son who joined me to Cairo and the Pyramids, and on the classic Nile cruise from Aswan to Luxor.
NEXT CHAPTER: (2) Aswan and the south: Our tour of the Nile started with a night train up the Nile to Aswan and continued on a cruise ship north to the temples of Kom Ombo, Edfu and Esna.
(3) Luxor: The tour of the Nile continues with Luxor, the Valley of the Kings, and the temples of Karnak and Luxor.
(4) Cairo (2): Back in Cairo after the cruise on the Nile, for a last round of sightseeing – this time to sites not originating in Ancient Egypt.
We used this guidebook:
Pictures from Cairo and Giza: