Cairo

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The train trip was uneventful as was our arrival in Cairo. We were not allowed to carry our suitcases. It was peoples’ jobs to do this. We sat on the coach hopefully waiting for them to arrive. They did so, but in their own time.

We were then driven to the Step Pyramid at Saqqara. This was our first pyramid and we were all excited. It was actually buried by sand until the mid-19th century. It was discovered by French Egyptologist, Auguste Mariette. It was finally fully exposed in 1924. Recently a 2300 year old mummy was unearthed and discoveries continue to be made.

My local friends

Again I attracted the locals who allowed me to take a photo of them. Before I knew it, I was wearing a blue turban and was unstably seated on a long suffering donkey. Several photos were taken of me with my new friends and in front of the pyramid. When it came to rewarding them for their service I opened my wallet and only had one 200 Egyptian Pound note. (About 30 AUD) I parted company with it and they then pointed out that there were four of them and they were all very poor and had families etc etc. As I had no more money, they were out of luck. I reckon I actually own that donkey now. I hope they look after her for me. Needless to say, my fellow found my purchase much to their amusement.

Inside Kagemni’s tomb

Our next stop was the Tomb of Kagemni. He was a chief justice under Teti. He is depicted in his tomb as a little portly. It was clear that he enjoyed the good life. This tomb was comfortable, being at ground level. Next door we visited the Tomb of Mereruka. This was a serious challenge. It required a steep climb down a long and very narrow and low passage. When I reached the lowest level my back was aching and I saw that there was at least as far again to go so I gave up and made my way back up. I was soaked in sweat by the time I resurfaced. I took this as a sage warning for further tomb exploration. On the surface there was no relief. It was just a matter of standing in the sun and enjoying it, knowing that

Garbage Island

my friends back in Canberra were freezing at the same time.

We reboarded the coach and headed to Memphis. Much of the trip was beside a canal. It was filthy and often blocked with islands of garbage. According to our Pilot, this is standard for Cairo.

Rameses

Memphis is 20km southeast of the Gaza Plateau and was the ancient capital of Egypt at the time of the pyramid construction. The city has completely vanished. The museum we visited is a collection of artefacts. The main attraction is a statue of Rameses the Great. It was found in a swamp and now lies horizontally in a protected room. Outside there are other statues in a sort of garden but nothing to rival Rameses.

On return to the coach I saw a motorcycle under a palm tree. On closer inspection I saw

Date Palm

the tree was smothered in dates. I had seen dates earlier but they had been covered in plastic, I assume to catch them before they hit the ground.

We now took a fairly long trip into Cairo itself. The Nile is still huge in Cairo, unlike what we were told by our GP who said it was unnavigable. Cairo itself is a shambles. Most buildings are

Citadel of Saladin

unfished. This is caused by tax laws similar to Jordan. Tax is only payable when a building is finished. They add another twist though. If there is a mosque on top of the building, no tax is payable either.

Our destination was the Citadel of Saladin. This is a huge complex overlooking Cairo. The mosque is built from alabaster and, on close inspection, is quite attractive. Of course the mosque is on top of a hill and the car park is not. It was a very hot, exposed walk to see it. Shoes off as we entered. Getting them off is not a problem but refitting them is a trial. One young lady in our group was given modest clothing to cover her bare arms and very short skirt.

From outside the mosque brings to mind the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. This is unsurprising as they had the same architect.

Pyramids

Mohammed Ali lies in a marble tomb inside his mosque. The ceiling is an amazing arrangement of domes, all highly decorated. They tower over the space. Lighting does come through glass windows high up but it is supplemented by enormous chandeliers.

Once outside there are panoramic views of Cairo. In the distance, through the haze, we could just make out the pyramids.

We continued inside the citadel and visited the site of the gaol that held President Sadat. It was not very presidential. We continued on the visit the Police Museum. Here there was a display of mannequins with a sign “no photographs”. Another item that took my attention was a display of dangerous drugs. Included was cough medicine. It contains alcohol.

Coptic Cathedral

Earlier in the trip I was fascinated to watch a woman who continually walked around with

Selfie-stick

her phone taking selfies. I had referred to her as “selfie-stick”. I got a good shot of her in action here.

 We re-joined the bus briefly and then wee offloaded in minivans for our next site; a glorious Coptic Christian Church. To get there, we transited the worst of Cairo. The road was falling apart and the edges were lined with huge bags of garbage. Apparently it is collected here for sorting and recycling. The stench was horrendous. We wondered if the placement was deliberate?

The Monastery and the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary and St Simon the Tanner was

incredible. It is built into the side of the hill. It would seat probably 3,000 or more worshipers. The decorations were spectacular. The colours were splendid.

Sanctuary

We were finally taken to or hotel, The Grand Pyramids. It was below a motorway and near a filthy little canal. It was also beside half finished flat blocks. The hotel itself was halfway decent and had a pleasant pool, which Anna and I enjoyed. It was however dry. I asked the concierge where I could get a beer?  He said not here. I repeated the question. He said duty free at the airport. This hotel is not on my highly recommended list. It was however clean and the food was adequate, if monotonous. Anna had saved one bottle of red wine in her luggage so all was not lost. They did have free WiFi but it was so patch as to be virtually unusable.