Friday, 5 October 2007

Goodbye to cockroach roommates (Day 3)

This was one busy day, so I decided to divide it into two posts. Here is the first part.

Our second morning in Cairo started with our luggage being loaded onto the bus waiting in front of the Cosmopolitan hotel. The hotel staff who tried to arrange the luggage loading, failed the simple task completely. After half an hour watching two luggage boys walking up and down the hotel hall and waiting for who knows what, we loaded the stuff ourselves. That was not a problem at all, but a part of the deal at the hotel was also luggage transport to and from our rooms. So our guide wanted it to happen. It was the first real taste of Egyptian (non)efficiency.

During the wait I also observed a light bulb changing procedure on the lobby chandelier. It took 4 people, 3 of which were just standing around philosophizing. I must say the show was quite amusing.

After that we left the worst hotel of our trip behind (along with our little cockroach roommates). And it had 3 stars like all of the further ones. This tells you all you need to know about Egyptian standards.

Most of our day was spent at the Egyptian museum, which houses more than 120.000 relics and antiquities. It is well worth spending at least half a day at this place. Things you don't see in empty pyramid tombs are mostly on display here (along with the famous golden death mask of Tutankhamun).
Roughly one quarter of the museum (half of the first floor) comprises relics from the tomb of Tutankhamun. He is believed to be one of the least significant pharaohs, but his treasure is still unbelievable. One can't even imagine what amount of riches had to accompany the most important of the pharaohs on the journey into the afterlife. Those were all stolen by grave robbers.
You can't take almost anything inside. They even take away your camera - so no photos from inside the museum.

Our next destination was Mosque of Mohammed Ali. A huge fortified building, which took 18 years to build (1830-48). For me this was the first mosque I have seen from the inside. I liked its simple, yet beautiful decoration.

In the central courtyard it houses a chintzy clock. A gift from King Louis-Philippe of France in thanks for the Pharaonic obelisk that adorns the Place de la Concorde in Paris. It has never worked (supposedly it was damaged during transport). What a scam!

Next we were up for a surprise. It wasn't even announced in our trip plan, but it sure was interesting...


Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Day of the pyramids (Day 2)

Our first whole day in Egypt began by visiting some of the most magnificent buildings in the world. The number one reason for so many tourists coming to Egypt every year - the pyramids.

It was still early in the morning when I woke up and went to check the hotel room balcony view. Well, nothing to brag about, but here it is...

From the center of Cairo (locals call it Al Qahirah) we drove through the suburbs and visited Saqqara. Djoser's step pyramid is one of the oldest pyramids, built by the famous pharaoh's chief architect Imhotep.

Our next stop was at Giza. It is the most famous and at the same time also the most touristy place in Egypt. Little of the ancient romantic spirit is left in that place today. Some time ago one could climb each one of the pyramids and enjoy a romantic sunrise breakfast at the top. Loads of tourists have put this to an end and nowadays one is greeted by a walk-through x-ray, rope with signs forbidding close contact with the pyramids and a bunch of annoying locals trying to sell some "genuine first class souvenirs". Those were really annoying and with many tricks up their sleeves.
For instance, if you don't want to buy a T-shirt they go like: "OK, you don't have to pay. I give it to you for free. Consider it a gift from your Egyptian friend." I smelt something fishy and didn't want to play along. Some other people weren't so lucky. After a while (by a pure coincidence) their new friend found them again and inquired about a gift in return. Of course they had nothing convenient of them and had to settle for a money gift. Of course giving an already accepted present back was out of the question - what kind of a friend would do that? ;)

Regardless of all that the Great pyramid of Khufu (also known as Cheops) is still a magnificent sight. They say it could be put over St. Peter's basilica in Rome and cover it completely.

Next to the pharaohs' pyramids also stand smaller queens' pyramids. I was allowed to climb one of those. In the distance expanding city of Cairo could be seen. They say it is getting closer every day.

After a couple hours of trying to shake off the annoying locals, we went on to see the Sphinx.

Because of the non-proportional head it is nowadays believed that in the old days it has carried a head of lion. Many years after it was built, one of the pharaohs has supposedly ordered carving a head resembling his own image.

In the evening a walk through central Cairo followed. In one of the many street cafes I have tried my first sheesha (water pipe). I liked it a lot so it was not my last one.


Monday, 1 October 2007

Flight to Egypt (Day 1)

The whole thing started at Ljubljana airport, where we caught our afternoon flight via Istanbul (Turkey) to Cairo.

On the first photo is our last glance at Slovenia for 15 days. Alps can be seen in the background.

After a couple of hours we landed in Istanbul.
I usually try not to buy things at airports. I didn't do it this time either.
My two companions (my girlfriend and her sister) on the other hand could not resist the temptation. They just had to sit down at one of many cafes and order something.

You can see from the photo what exactly it was. I'm sure you would never guess the sum on the bill. Well, what is your best guess?
5 Euros? Wrong!
10 Euros maybe? Wrong again!
It was 42 Euros! 42 Euros for a cup of coffee, a Red Bull and a bottle of juice!

Later on, I have learned that Istanbul airport is supposed to be the most expensive airport in Europe! No shit!

We still haven't fully forgotten about all that, when around midnight we landed in Cairo and went to our Hotel. Sleep was the only thing on my mind. I don't know why, but airports always tire me out completely.

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