Sunday, 8 January 2012
TRAVEL - Egypt 2011, Cairo
As we arrived in Cairo on the sleeper train it was clear that dinner hadn't really agreed with either of us. Breakfast was yet more 'beige' and we'd barely slept a wink. Despite the staff on the train urging us to stay in Giza, we wanted to go downtown. It was 9am and we picked a hotel from the guidebook and jumped in a cab there. The hotel, called Pensione Roma, had real character. Faced with a two hour wait or a more expensive room we opted for the latter and went to bed until 1pm. Feeling much better, we got ready to go to the Egyptian Museum. The lady on reception informed us that there were some demonstrations taking place and to just avoid any large crowds. I managed to direct us to the museum without the map but when we arrived we were told it was closed due to the trouble in Tahrir Square. We could see the smoke from where we were, then all of a sudden people started running towards us and the museum worker told us to run too. He helped us get far enough away to send us into a papyrus shop (always trying to sell you something!).
We headed back to the hotel and got a bit lost in the progress. By this time we were starving so after a drink we went in search for grub. We thought it would be far easier than it was but settled on McDonalds (opting for something we knew after our last dodgy meal on the train). I suggested the cinema as something to do in the evening and the latest Mission Impossible film was playing just around the corner. We went back at the time we were told it started only to find it was actually an hour later (story of our life). While we waited we headed for a bar and saw the golden Stella sign. We were ushered up some stairs and it was quickly apparent that we'd been duped into going to a bellydancing club. As soon as they put the napkins and snacks on the table I knew it was time to leave (we'd have been overcharged for those sorts of extras). As we tried to leave, the same men who ushered us up there talked us into staying but at a pub downstairs, exactly where we had wanted to go in the first place. We got reasonably priced Stella, action movies starring Arnie and free bar snacks. Result! Then it was on to the cinema, which in the dark looked rather grand. There were no ads before the film and the tickets cost under £2 which was a breath of fresh air. They even confused us by stopping the film early for an interval (or should I say smoking break). The film wasn't bad and we headed back to the hotel glad that we'd found some decent entertainment for the evening.
We got up early and started with a trip to the Egyptian Museum, we hoped that by going early we'd avoid the previous day's demo drama. So, off we went with the hotel's rather measly breakfast of a bread roll and jam in our bellies. The museum seemed almost like an exhibit in itself. It's dusty and old just like the things inside it. We saw as much as we could but I was feeling pretty poorly so wasn't managing to take that much in. I was surprised by how many wood statues had survived and in such great condition though. I couldn't help feeling though that many of the statues lacked the context of the original setting, some of them would have so much more impact if they were at their original temples. We decided to head back to the hotel before visiting Giza and it seems we left the museum just in time. As we walked toward the exits, the barriers were being closed and the armed guards were standing ready for a confrontation. As we hurried past, a large group of angry men arrived at the museum gates and we rushed away in the opposite direction. Our timing was just right, any later and we'd have been stuck in the museum like people had been the day before.
On the walk back I was tempted by a bakery so we got tomato and herb bread and a cake each for lunch. I chose a coconut cake which was delicious and light with sweet syrup. Almost at the hotel we bumped into Omar and his wife who we'd chatted to earlier. He wanted us to go to Giza with him, so we agreed to save on the cab fare. When we arrived we were roped into an afternoon camel ride which we paid slightly over the odds for, but we were kind of glad as we had a great Time. James's camel peed all the way round while mine couldn't stop farting which amused us no end. Our guide let James steer the camels too and actually he wasn't too bad. We got all the touristy snaps and even broke into a run in parts. The pyramids themselves didn't look how I expected them to, even having seen so many pictures. I guess some things you just have to experience in the flesh. The tour ended (as they always do in Egypt) with a visit to a family member's shop. The owner was desperate for us to buy flower essences but his prices were high and the free tea forced upon us wasn't great either. By this time it was clear that either the horse or the camel had sparked an allergic reaction for James and his eyes were bright red amd sore. I enquired about a couple of things in the shop but the shopkeeper insisted on aggressive and pushy sales moves so I left it. Later in the evening we went out for cheap pizza and I was so pooped I fell asleep before 9.30pm. Going from bad to worse, the flu was taking hold.
More pics can be found at my Flickr account plus I'll be reviewing some of the places we visited on Qype.
Next up, Shark's Bay and Sharm el Sheikh...