June 11-- Just landed in Cairo on Flight 10 from JFK. I'm taxing in and to my right is a lot of sand and lots of parked planes. I was in the middle aisle, so I couldn't see the pyramids as I landed. This month marks 25 years since my first international travel.
On arrival, I checked into the Sheraton Tower, where I stayed in the Cleopatra Tower, room 1868, with gorgewous views of the Nile to my left and the Pyramids to my right.
I walked around a bit, exploring the area. Then, I spent the afternoon by the pool, where I had a nice Caprese salad and a beer. Afterwards, I went across the stree to Bondokah, where I watched football (soccer) games and had dinner, feteer stuffed with chicken shewarma.
June 12-- I slept in late this morning then left for the Sofitel Le Sphinx. On the way, I stopped by the Papyrus Museum, which basically was an interesting tourist trap to show how papyrus was mad and then they try to see you art painted on papyrus. My very nice guide through the papyrus place was a guy named Ahkmed. Here he is holding papyrus--notice the scene of the last judgement painted on papyrus behind him:
When I got to the hotel, just by the pyramids in Giza, I checked in to find Judd, Leslie, Camille, and her son Will checking in behind me. We met up with the rest of the gang and went to lunch. Afterwards we went to the pool until our 6:30 pick up time for the Nile Dinner Cruise. The Nile Cruise started with our guide Muhammed and driver Ali taking us to Maxim Khulkhal Arabian restaurant where we had a few drinks and then desended to the boat below. Here, Smita and I are hanging out at the restaurant.
Dinner on the Nile featured a salad buffet, then I had veal. The cruise also included entertainment--whirling dervishes, belly dancing, and other dancers. Here's the whirling dervish:
After the cruise, we went back to the hotel where we went up to rooftop and had drinks, smoked an apple sheesh with the pyramids as a background, then went to the disco downstairs, the Mirage.
June 13-- We met our driver at 9:00 am on Friday to go to the pyramids. Our guide told us that they were the tallest man made structures until the Eifel Tower was constructed. There are three larger pyramids-- The Great Pyramid of Cheops is the largest at 146 meters. The one built by his son Khafre is 3 meters shorter but often looks bigger because it is on higher land. It also still has limestone on the top. The one built by Khafre's son Menkaure is much smaller--66 meters. The three big Pyramids from left to right below are the Pyramid of Menkaure, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Cheops.
We rode camels through the desert, making the perfect Kodak moment with the pyramids as background. I had riddent a camel before in Dubai, but this was much more fun as we were really going somewhere instead of going around in circles. At one point, the camel broke off into a gallop as we went downhill, so I had to hold on really tightly.
After the camels, we went to see the Sphinx, which wurprisingly I had not seen while we were riding around on the camels. I had not even thought about it, though I knew it was supposed to be there. It's really not visible unless you are on the side where it is. Here, Jonathan and I stand with the Sphinx.
In the afternoon, I got some good quality pool time and a nap. After napping, I went down the street to buy some water and sodas. Along the way, I ran into Mr. Abdul, who took me to his family's store, then gave me a tour of the neighborhood. It reminded me of Mumbai, rickshaws everywhere, lots of little shops, and farm animals running through the streets.
Mr. Abdul then took me to look at fruit and produce--it looked good, but it was surrounded by flys. Needless to say, I didn't buy any. So then he took me to his cousin Mr. Fathey's perfume and cologne shop, where I was served Turkish coffee as he told me about his shop and showed me lots of different fragrances. He was very upset when I didn't buy any from him.
Mr. Abdul was also upset that I did not tip him more after our tour of the village, but I was was running late for dinner and was a bit perturbed that I had spent so much time being "sold to." But that is the nature of Cairo.
After being about 15 minutes late, I quickly changed clothes. Jonathan, Judd, Susan, Katie, Leslie, Jacob and I took a cab to the Four Seeasons by the Nile for a great and surprisingly inexpensive dinner. Our driver, Nagy, stayed with us for the entire night. We ended up at the Nile Hilton rooftop at a club called Mojito's--gorgeous views of the city and the Nile, and of course, terrific Mojitos. We stayed there until last call which was at 3:00 am or so before heading back to the Sofitel and Le Mirage for a final beer and a little more dancing.
The beers I had in Egypt were local brews-- Meistar Max, Stella, and Sakhara. Meister Max was the higher gravity of the bunch.
On Saturday, June 14, we left the hotel at 10:00 am to head to the Egyptian Museum, where we saw many artifacts. Below: The Egyptian Museum.
The highlight was the King Tut exhibit. King Tut wasn't particularly a famous or even known Pharoah before his tomb was discovered in the 1950s. He was only king for 8 years, and for almost all of that he was a child. What made him famous was his tomb's discovery. It was the only tomb not totally vandalized by robbers, and was almost completely intact. This makes the exhibit fascinating, to see all of the detail and artifacts (and all of the gold!) that went into the burial.
After leaving the museum, we went to the Khan el Khalili marketplace for some shopping, which dates back to 1382.
There, we sat at Al Fishawy, a coffee house that has been running for 200 years, where I had a Turkish coffee. Here's Jonathan at Al Fishawy:
I bought a couple of things at the market (including a scarab representing resurrection), then I headed back to the Sofitel to cool off by the pool.
The next day, we went to the Citadel of Salah al-Din where we saw the famous Alabaster Mosque:
We also a couple of other Mosques, each older than the Alabaster Mosque. Here are some interiors:
Later that afternoon, we went to Coptic Cairo -- the ancient Christian area of Cairo where tradition says Mary and Joseph took the baby Jesus after fleeing Bethlehem. We visited several Churches, including the one built above the grotto where the Holy Family lived, according to legend.
More churches. St. George's Church and The Hanging Church (also known as Saint Virgin Mary's Church:
That night, we watched the laser light show on the Pyramids from, of all places, the Pizza Hut rooftop: