My dream trip has always been to finally visit Egypt. Back in April of 2016, I made that dream start to come true when I booked my ticket. Not going to go into that story, again. You can read it for yourself.
Anyway, two days ago, I arrived in Cairo, and my driver (if you'd like to get my driver's info, contact me and I'll happily send to you), Hamed, met me at the airport holding a sign with my name on it. I had just spoken to him a few days prior to solidify my tour plans, and confirmed the times I'd be arriving and departing from Cairo. Since I landed at about 4:30 PM, and traffic was really heavy (it's always heavy in Cairo, and they have no rules on the roads...you'll see), I just had him drop me of at my hotel, Le Méridien Pyramids Hotel & Spa.
When I booked my room, I chose a "Pyramids View" room, so I was pretty disappointed when I got to my room and realized that I couldn't see any damn pyramids. Not knowing that the pyramids go completely invisible at night, I called downstairs to complain. They assured me that I'd be able to see the pyramids in the morning. I chilled out, but then I called downstairs again to ask for the free wifi password since I have Starwood Preferred Guest gold status. Reception said "Oh! You didn't tell us you were a gold member! We are going to upgrade your room! " And so it was!
I then went downstairs to meet a couple fellow travelers that happened to be staying at the same hotel as I. We opted to stay at the hotel for dinner and drinks. The meal (a buffet) was extremely cheap. Most food and drink in Egypt is extremely cheap! Enjoy! And if you can, always opt to pay for things in Egyptian pounds.
Now let's get into the two days I spend traipsing around Cairo.
Hamed picked me up at 9AM, and though we were going to head to the Pyramids of Giza first, he decided to hold off on that because it was foggy that morning and he didn't want me to be disappointed in the experience. Good man! He opted to take me to Sakkara first. Please note: Before getting out of the car at any location, Hamed was always sure to tell me how to interact with the people of Egypt who will try selling things. Also, everything comes with a price. EVERYTHING! He let me know what and what not to do, and who was legit and who wasn't. So, don't worry about that too much.
I went inside one of the pyramids - Pyramid of Teti (the collapsed pyramid). It actually just looked like a mound of dirt, but the inside was pretty dope. I saw the hieroglyphics, a tomb and some ancient art. If you are claustrophobic, I would not recommend going down into the pyramid and you will have to hunch down and walk through a long passageway. Tip: You aren't supposed to take pictures inside but the guide will offer to secretly let you take photos. He'll expect money. Again...nothing is free. If you choose to do this, pay him when you get back to the surface. Don't pay him while you're down under. Once you have gone inside this pyramid, there will be no reason to go in another. I was told that this was the most interesting pyramid to see.
Hamed and I then walked over to see the step pyramid (and the view). It's actually undergoing renovation because they fear it's unsafe to go inside, so they aren't allowing people to go in. After sticking around an seeing a few more things in Sakkara, we then went to Memphis. This was a very rural part of Cairo that had locals riding around on donkeys, herding sheep, and tending to their markets. Hamed took me to visit the courtyard. I was only in there for about twenty minutes - enough to see the the inside of the structure and then run out because I was annoyed by the vendors attacking like vultures.
We drove to Memphis next, and went to the Memphis Museum, where I saw the statue of Ramses inside the museum, and the Memphis Sphinx out in the courtyard. Hamed then took me took one of his friend's house for a home cooked meal. The food was hot and fresh (they served rice, pasta, fried chicken, salad and hot tea with mint). Lunch was great, but even at the end of that, one of the family members tried to sell me some souvenirs. I had to insist that I was not interested. That was a bit disappointing but I didn't let it ruin my day.
Next, was what I was waiting for the entire trip...the Pyramids of Giza. Hamed took me to one of his friends' businesses where I chose which package I'd like to pay for in order to ride a camel through the desert to see the Pyramids. I chose to ride on a camel (as opposed to a horse) and opted for the longest ride, which was about 1.5 hours. I paid the man, he assigned me a guide, and we were on our way! If you go to this place, request Hamoda. He is a very nice guy and takes such great photos! I was overwhelmingly pleased with what he was able to do with my camera phone! I even got to walk up and climb onto one of the Great Pyramids to take a photo! See the shots below. Note: The tour guide and the worker who pulls along the camel will expect to be tipped.
To end Day 1, we went on a dinner cruise on the Nile. This cruise was about 2 hours long, with a buffet. There was entertainment including a live singer, band, and belly dancer. The food was pretty good, but after such a long day, I was just excited to go sit out on the deck and watch the sites of the Nile.
On Day 2, we went on a city tour. First, I went to the Egyptian Museum, which was just as awesome as I'd assumed. Since I'm a quick walker/observer, I didn't need more than about 1.5 hours inside, but there is SO much to see! I did enjoy being able to walk through the museum and not be haggled, however.
Next up was Coptic Cairo. When we arrived, I just kinda walked around and took photos of the locals. I wasn't in the mood to go in another museum, but the Coptic Museum is definitely an option if you're interested.
The last activity for the day was the Saladin Citadel of Cairo, where I saw The Mosque of Muhammed Ali. The view of Cairo from there is awesome, especially on a clear day. I didn't think a selfie would capture it, so I asked one of the students who was walking around if he could take the picture for me. He obliged, and then when he found out I was American, asked if he could take a selfie with me. I said, "of course." After that, he followed me for fifteen minutes, saying "Give me dollar" under his breath. I was so annoyed but a bit amused! No, I ain't give him no damn dollar! He took a picture of me, and then I took a picture with him...we were even!
The tour of the Pyramids of Giza was my favorite part of Cairo. If I could have gone back, I would have only spent one day there, however. Day 2 was not as interesting as Day 1 for me.
Note: Tour tour guides will most likely take you to shops or vendors that they have relationships with. This is their way of helping their colleagues out with getting business. Though the vendors (I went to a carpet shop, papyrus paper shop and scented oils shop) will give you a tour or demonstration, they are eventually going to hope you buy something. Stick to your guns if you don't really want anything.
Also Read: #CatchGinEgypt - Part II: Aswan, Egypt