Enamoured in Egypt – Cairo

Today’s departure is at 4am, and this will be the last ridiculously early departure. It is a 5-hour drive back to Cairo, so it makes sense to hit the road early! Because Timeless Tours offers a variety of tour options, 5 of us were left with an extra day in Hurghada and are now combined with a different group for the day. Which ends up being a huge pain in the ass – while I love doing tours, this is an example of where they can go wrong. Our guide for the day is George; he is ok but I think he could have handled the situation a lot better than he did. Before I get into the awesome things that Cairo has to offer, I’ll tell you what happened….

We have a lot to see and do today, and unfortunately both groups have been given different expectations as to how the day will proceed. We arrive at the Egyptian Museum, and there is conflict over how much time we need to explore one of the most important collections in the ENTIRE WORLD. One woman from the other group is saying how they were told they’d be back at the hotel by 5:00, because some of them are flying out early the next day. Our group was not told this, and the 5 of us really want to make the most of the day and see as much as possible. I bring this up, and this woman starts to argue and yell at me like she’s making the decisions and my opinion doesn’t matter . I basically “give her the hand” and tell her to shut it because her behavior is uncalled for and she’s causing a scene in the museum. Then she makes an effort to walk over to me (she was at least 20 feet away) and get in my face to tell me off and act like a complete bully. Like she’s trying to scare me. I don’t move, and I tell her repeatedly to back off and get out of my face, which she does not. It takes everything in me not to hit or shove her. No joke. And our tour leader (George) just stands there and does nothing. It gets to the point where a man comes over and asks if I need museum security. I say no, but really, I should have said yes and gotten her ass kicked out – or worse. You don’t want to mess with the police in Egypt. I tell George this behavior is unacceptable and I don’t feel comfortable being with her on this tour. He said he talked to her after the incident, but you’d think maybe she would have the sense to apologize for her behavior? Nope. So I spend the rest of the day as far away as possible from her.

This is where the problem ensues…when the group is split on how they want to spend their time. I think an easy solution would have been to have a separate car take some of the group back to the hotel early if they wanted to leave. Don’t make the rest of us cut our time short. This is probably the only time I’ll ever get to visit Egypt, so the fact that you’re tired or you booked an early flight for the next day is not a reason to make everyone else miss out. Sorry. Anyways, let’s get on to the rest of the day!!!

Built in 1901, the Egyptian Museum houses an extensive collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities – over 120,000 items and still only a portion is on display for the public.

What you’ll see here is everything from pieces of papyrus paper, coins, statues, coffins(sarcophagi), items from the tombs of the pharaohs, and mummies!

Once the new Grand Egyptian Museum at Giza opens(date pushed back to 2021 due to the pandemic), most of these artifacts will move there as well as the many that are currently in storage.

There is so much to see, and you’d need 3-4 hours minimum to take it all in.

Unfortunately, we barely have 2 hours. I try my best to blast around that place and take in as much as I can.

I wish I had invested in a proper map, or at least figured out which things I really wanted to see instead of leaving it to chance!

I take so many pictures; here are more that stand out!

Back on the bus to head over to what’s known as the Coptic area of Cairo. It was a stronghold for Christianity in Egypt; it’s believed that the religion began to spread when St. Mark arrived into Alexandria. We wander through the small alleys until we arrive at the Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church, one of the oldest Coptic churches dating to the 4th century.

What’s cool about this church is that it was built over a cave where Joseph, Mary and Jesus rested at the end of their journey to Egypt. This cave is now a 10 metres deep crypt that you can look into.

This church also hosted elections of the patriarchs of the Coptic Church. It has been damaged and rebuilt over the years but it still has that ancient feel to it.

Next stop is the Citadel; we are here to see the beautiful Mosque of Mohammad Ali. It was built in Ottoman style, similar to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul.

It’s made of limestone that most likely came from the pyramids of Giza, and is tiled with stunning alabaster. Mohammad Ali Pasha built this mosque in memory of his son, Tusun Pasha. Mohammad Ali’s body was transferred here from the royal mausoleum in 1857; his tomb lies within the mosque.

Upon entering one of the courtyards, I spot the brass clock tower, even though it’s covered in scaffolding.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

This is the clock from France that was given in exchange for one of the obelisks from Luxor Temple. It never worked, and it remains broken all these years later. Inside the mosque, it’s spacious and colorful with many round lights and chandeliers hanging low from the ceiling.

It’s not as peaceful in here, since there are a ton of people and kids running around. Because the citadel is located high on a hill, it provides sweeping views of Cairo below.

I’m approached by a nice local who wants to sell me a picture book about Egypt, and he’s calling me Jennifer Lawrence, which is new. Haha. He pretty much follows me all the way to the exit, and I’m not as bothered because he is cool – but I don’t want his book!

Last stop of the day is in the historic center of Cairo – the Khan el-Khalili, a famous shopping bazaar. First we sit down for lunch in the square next to the gorgeous al-Hussein Mosque.

We sit outside at the tables of El Zahraa Café, and I decide it’s time to try some real Egyptian cuisine. Yes, it’s time for pigeon! I order the bird stuffed with rice, and it comes to the table in full pigeon mode – head and all.

Romana has one too, but her pigeon doesn’t have a head. Kamali is sitting next to me and she’s fully disturbed, and I don’t blame her, but I can’t help it! I’m not super into it either, but I want to try this popular Egyptian dish. The verdict: it’s ok; there’s not much meat on it so I’m mostly eating the pigeon flavored rice. Haha. But kitty definitely wants some.

It’s getting later in the day and now we only have around an hour to explore the bazaar and do some shopping. I wish there was more time; we were told throughout the tour to wait until this last day to do all of our shopping here – for good deals and better selection. I think 2 hours would have been more ideal, so I’m not too happy. I want to wander around and enjoy the atmosphere, not rush around. I would have stayed longer and taken a cab back to the hotel but as a solo blonde woman in Egypt, I need to be careful and it’s just not something I feel comfortable doing. So I go around and do the quickest haggling and shopping I can manage, and then we all pop back on the bus to head to Oasis Hotel – where it all began 7 days ago.

Dinner by the pool

The 5 of us that are left have dinner at the hotel with Ramez, and we say our goodbyes. I truly hope I see all of these people again somewhere down the travel road….

And a last note- I am known to have tasty blood so therefore I attract a ridiculous number of mosquitoes (sexy vampires also take note and hit me up haha). I had a few bites after leaving Jordan – no big deal. I didn’t bring any repellant with me because I really didn’t think they’d be that bad, and there is no threat of malaria here. I do borrow some bug spray here and there but it is just not enough. The two days in Hurghada put it over the edge. By the time we are back in Cairo, I have – no joke – around 25 bites on each leg/foot.

So incredibly uncomfortable and not super attractive. This is a wakeup call to ALWAYS travel with insect repellent from now on. When I arrived back in Canada I picked up this device called Bug Bite Thing that is supposed to suction out the poison from the bite. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but it will be joining me on my next trip!

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