It was Saturday morning and I was sitting in my balcony with my cup of coffee. As I was thinking about my Antarctica trip and gazing at the canvas world map in my hall, it struck me that Africa would be our only untouched continent out of the 7 continents. Akshat is turning 30 this March and I thought it would be exciting for him to complete all 7 continents under 30 with a grand celebration in Antarctica on his birthday. That is how his loving wife (which is me) added Egypt into the itinerary for our 1 month long vacation. 🙂
Many people recommended otherwise as there was a general notion of Egypt not being safe after the recent revolution in 2011. We still decided to go after reading the reviews online and it was worth the trip. Cairo still continues to be very safe for tourists with really warm and welcoming Egyptians. I was amazed by the hospitality and politeness of the locals who went over and beyond to help us throughout our stay.
- It is advisable to take up a taxi through a tour operator so you can move around conveniently. We contracted Egypt Tailor Made Tours and it was a fantastic experience. I highly recommend them. They helped to expedite the immigration procedure and we didn’t have to stand in long queues. Our local guide Laila was extremely knowledgeable who had done PhD in Egyptology so we could learn a lot about Egyptian history and culture.
- Do check out weather forecast. Pyramids are best seen on clear days. You can call to the pyramid office to check the weather conditions. Modify plans to see the pyramids if there is haze.
- Shop souvenirs from Khan el-Khalili and avoid the touristic spots to get better prices.
- The key attractions include The Citadel of Saladin, The Coptic, Sultan Hassan Mosque, Egyptian Museum and the Pyramid complex were all very unique and rich in their own way.
- Carry umbrella, wind cheaters and sunscreen as the sun can be quite harsh in Sahara desert area.
How We Spent Our Day
We intended to start the day with a visit to the Pyramids but owing to the haze in Giza, we changed our plans and visited Citadel of Saladin. The Citadel of Saladin houses the blue mosque which is an exact replica of the Blue Mosque in Turkey. The whole compound looks beautiful and gives a bird eye view of old Cairo.
Very close to the Citadel are the Sultan Hassan Mosque and Rifai Mosque. Both of them are very different and unique. The Sultan Hassan mosque is very simple and was once used as a Madrasa to teach students. Rifai Mosque on the other hand is intricately carved with jewels and stones from various parts of the world and was indeed the most beautiful mosque in Cairo in its times.
We came back to the downtown area to spend a few hours in the Egyptian Museum. This was my favorite. The museum had original artifacts from the tombs of the kings ranging from mummified seeds, to chariots, clothing, jewelry, mummified pets such as duck, crocodiles etc. The exclusive section on real mummies of Kings was very fascinating. It is impressive how these mummies have been preserved for over 5000 years….
The mummification process was carried out by special priests who knew the correct rituals and also the human anatomy. The art of mummification got lost when Greeks came in and little is known on how actually it is done in practicality. Theoretically, all the soft organs were removed and only the heart was left intact within the body. The cavities were then rinsed out with palm wine and filled with packets of natron. Finally the entire body was covered with natron and left for 70 days until it was completely dry. Then natron was completely removed and the body was filled with Lenin to give a human shape. The entire body was then wrapped with hundreds of meters of linen stripes. The deceased was then carried to the tombs on the boat across the Nile to the West bank where most Pyramids exist.
Then we went to The Pyramids: One of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the one that dragged us all the way to the Egypt! The pyramids used to be the tombs of ancient Egyptian Kings who were mummified and preserved for 70 days after death before being transferred to the pyramids. The tombs were intricately decorated with mummified articles like food, meat, chariots, clothing, pets etc. The largest Pyramid of Giza consists of more than 3 million blocks of stone, each weighing between 15 to 50 tons and arranged to form this beautiful architecture without glue or cement. This is a complete engineering marvel. Even today only 20 percent of the ancient Egyptian tombs have been excavated! I wonder what else is hidden and unseen in this mesmerizing landscape of Egypt.
The Pyramid Complex also houses the largest Sphinx, face of a human and body of a lion, which is considered to be a guardian of the tombs of the kings and emperors.
We ended our day with a visit to the Bazaar, Khan el-Khalili. It was very vibrant with festivity all around. We enjoyed shopping, Turkish coffee and live Arabic music. Can you bargain to get the best price for your purchases. We spent an eventful day at Cairo and Giza and got completely blown away by the magnanimity of the Great Pyramids of Giza.
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