From Rome, we connected through Malta and then down to Cairo, arriving sometime after midnight.
This wasn’t my first trip to Egypt but was my wife’s, and it was a great trip. There’s a saying that you can never repeat an experience, and that’s definitely true for this trip.
When I first went to Egypt in early 2014, we stayed at a brand new AirBnb location right across from the pyramids. The host was super friendly and welcoming, and so of course I thought we should book with him again. Nowadays, though, that location is being remodeled, so his new place is a little further away from the pyramids and doesn’t have the same view (buildings blocking parts of the view). He also wasn’t in town at all and left his building staff (who are friendly but don’t speak English very well) to take care of things. In the end, it just wasn’t the same experience staying with the same guy like I’d imagined.
That being said, we still had a great time.
The first day, we walked around the pyramids and sphinx rather aimlessly, just taking it in and enjoying it.
It was quite amazing seeing a huge difference in the older vs younger guides and touts working around the pyramid complex. The older people were more laid back for sure. They’d ask if you want a camel ride or want to buy something, you’d say “no”, and they’d leave you alone. The younger people (maybe being more confident in English?) were REALLY pushy. They also hit the animals a lot more, and we argued with some of them. You’d say “no” and they’d ask you again and again until you had to yell at them to go away, then they’d curse you and your whole family before finally leaving. But they’d come back 5min later to ask if you changed your mind and want to buy something/ride a camel/etc. We started just ignoring them and pretending to not speak English.
The pyramids complex at Giza is amazing. Even though I’d been before, it was still amazing. It’s a really beautiful area, and the history is also super interesting.
At night, we went to the “old” building owned by the guy we’d rented from. From there, you can watch the twice-weekly light show on the pyramids telling the history of the Giza complex.
The next morning, we had a Cairo city tour booked. This tour was…something else. I’d been to all of these spots before, but I wanted to share them with my wife. Unfortunately, we got a HORRIBLE guide.
First stop was the history museum. Mummies, statues, even the artifacts from King Tut’s tomb. The problem with our guide is that she would tell us info for 5 min and then give us 15min to wander on our own while she played on her phone. Then another 5min and 15min of walking on our own. Not much “guiding”.
At the end, we were told to meet her at the exit. Guess who wasn’t at the exit… We spent 45min looking for her, and then of course the driver was yelling at her in Arabic when we finally met up. I had to call our host, who called the guide to tell her to go to the exit and find us. Super unprofessional.
Next stop was the old city and the “Coptic Cairo” sector. For those who don’t know, Coptic Christians split off from the Catholic-Protestant-Orthodox part of Christianity in the 400s during the first major schism. They have their own bishops, pope, etc.
We went to a church where legend has it that Jesus’ family hid / drank from a well during their time running and hiding to save Jesus’ life as a baby.
Next was the hanging church.
In those glass plates, you can look down and see the foundations from thousands of years ago, above which this church was built.
Next, we went to the Cairo Synagogue. It’s built on the site where legend says Moses was found by the pharaoh’s daughter. There was a service going on, so we didn’t take any pictures.
Next, we passed through the city to the Salah Al Din complex and the Muhammad Ali mosque.
From here, the views over the city are super interesting. You can see the pyramids, but not well, due to all the smog. The mosque and the complex are really interesting, but you have to have a good guide to learn anything. Again, we got a few minutes of info and then were left to ourselves. We spent a lot of time on our “tour” eavesdropping on other tour guides.
Our last stop on the tour was the famous “Garbage City”. These people subsist around the city garbage dumps. They are not “poor,” to be totally honest. It’s not a life many people would want, but a lot of them make decent money by salvaging items of value, like glass, plastic, metal, car parts, etc. We discussed the obvious health issues many times, wondering what the per capita rates of breathing problems are, life expectancy, etc. They have schools and homes and everything here.
We didn’t take a lot of pictures, since suffering and poverty aren’t cool, but it’s a really fascinating place. It obviously smells horrible. Nearly all of the people in this area are Christians, since Muslims are forbidden to live in unclean places, since you can’t pray in a garbage dump. In fact, Muslims aren’t even supposed to be spending time in here.
That being said, the 2 times I’ve been to Cairo (plus friends visiting), I’ve never heard of a single Muslim tour guide saying they won’t go there with a paying customer. Just one more reason to not believe in religions. They all seem to fall apart when there’s money to be made.
Passing through Garbage City, there’s the famous cave church built into the rock.
This is the St. Simon The Tanner Monastery & Church, and it has an incredible seating capacity of 20,000! There were multiple tour groups here when we arrived, even some with buses. I have no idea how those buses made it through the tight alleys of Garbage City.
From here, our guide and driver took us to what SHOULD have been a surprise, but the guide mentioned it earlier in the day (even though I’d told her not to mention it, being a surprise). We had a sunset dinner cruise on the Nile. To me, this seemed like a great way to end the year. Even Salah thought it was a great idea!
There was a singer (who even performed “La Bamba” in Spanish), a belly dancer, and a Whirling Dervish. The food was pretty good and had decent vegan options.
After the cruise, a driver picked us up and took us back out to our room in Giza. It was late in the night on December 31, so traffic was picking up. We wound up not staying up for midnight, since we had an early flight in the morning to start heading home.
We packed up and reflected on an amazing few weeks and lots of great memories.
In the morning, while waiting for our flight, I messaged our host to tell him I wasn’t asking for money back but wanted to tell him how dissatisfied we were with our tour, recommending that he use a different guide in the future. He explained that he had booked her due to being highly rated on Trip Advisor. Only after our tour was over had he found out that her husband had asked for a divorce the day before our tour. Obviously, she wasn’t in a good mental state. In his opinion, she should’ve not done the tour. He even said that she probably didn’t tell him in order to not have him cancel/book someone else at the last minute. In the end, she got paid still, and we had a bad tour. Life happens, but just don’t do the tour if you don’t want to talk to/be around people. That’s kind of a necessary element in being a tour guide.
Despite that, it was still a great trip. Glad we went.This entry was posted in Africa, Cairo, Egypt