Due to the surprising amount of requests the on-going CohenRosenberg Adventures continues.
After a great week in Manchester catching up with all the cousins (thanks again Mark & Ruth) we found Jason at London airport & continued on to Cairo.
The first day was spent settling in and browsing the main bazaar, later that evening we went to a fantastic show called ‘the whirling dervishes’ consisting of all male musicians & dancers.
Day 2 found us at the Egyptian museum where no photos are allowed inside but basically it just holds all the stuff that has been found inside the various pyramids & temples that hadn’t already been looted by thieves or other countries (I’m looking at you, Napoleon!).
Day 3 was always going to be the most anticipated – a camel ride to the Pyramids of Giza. Certainly one of the highlights of any trip, I am unable describe how overwhelming these structures are. They are certainly difficult to photo up close and the area containing the 3 big pyramids & the Sphinx is quite vast and right on the outskirts of the city.
These puppies only date back to around 2500BC, unlike the 7000 year old Sakkara pyramid we visited later which is a ‘step’ pyramid and much smaller. Very similar to the Mayan ones we saw in Central America. This was followed by a visit to Memphis which is an old capitol of Egypt but these days there is just a museum (read that as garden) that houses a few statues.
That evening the World Cup kicked off and Cairo like everywhere else was gripped in it’s fever. All the cafes had big screens out with unfortunately Egyptian commentators. But at least the 3 of us could enjoy a meal watch the game and share a Hookah (it’s not what you think).
All the activities so far added to the mid forties temperature were stating to catch up with us so we slept in the next day and got a late start and ventured out into the midday heat to try & find some of Cairo’s tourist icons by ourselves. This started out bad ’cause when we saw the inspiring site of the Citadel in front of us we yelled for the cab driver to stop and let us out as we thought he was just going to keep going round in circles & rip us off. Besides it was right there in front of us how far could it be? After a 40 minute forced March up hill (by herr Debbie) & 6 litres of water, we arrived at the entrance in a somewhat dishevilled state with myself being in the worst condition.
However, it was all worth it for inside we found the most amazing mosques and museums with splendid views over the city. While walking around the grounds 2 muslim women approached Debbie & asked if they could have their photo taken with her, I guess they were tourists too and thought she was part of the attraction. Either way there wouldn’t be too many muslim families who could boast of having their photo taken with a ‘Cohen’!
At the exit we were able to find a taxi driver who spoke good english and offered to take us on an afternoon tour. After negotiating a reasonable price we asked him first to take us somewhere nice for lunch and we ended up at a restaurant on the Nile. As per usual the guide took us to a typical “tourist” restaurant. Food and service was definitely a step up from what we were used to so far, but then so was the price! Food & drinks for the 3 of us plus Jason’s hookah (and 2 Stella’s of course) cost us a whopping 400 Egyptian pounds $AU80. Huge $ for food in Egypt. But we all had a great feed and the setting was amazing and we enjoyed the tranquil cool location.
With the afternoon sun getting low the temperature plummetted into the high thirties and the city took on a wonderful golden glow. Our guide took us through what he respectfully called ‘garbage city’ and up the mountain beyond. The area is populated by Coptic Egyptians who are christians and make their living by travelling into the main areas of Cairo each day and picking up the garbage. They return to their homes which are usually multi-level structures and the garbage is stored & sorted for recycling by the women on the ground level with living quarters above. Weaving our way thru the narrow streets in his cab it felt quite bizarre being 3 aussie tourists looking out at what we thought must be the most poor & dirty people of the city.
It was only when we reached the top of the mountain beyond that we gained a different perspective. Near the summit over the last 40 or so years this Polish guy worked with the locals to carve out several churches, statues, amazing rock carvings and an amphitheatre. There was a park with kiosk and and people that were milling around us looked a lot more clean and happy than the wretches we had seen a few minutes before. Our guide explained that they were all from the same community and down below we had seen them working, but when finished they get cleaned up and ascend the mountain to attend their schools & churches….amazing!
We had planned the next day to go to Alexandria which is a 2 hour train ride but we never quite made it. Instead we just mooched around the shops near our hostel in downtown Cairo did a little work, watched more world cup & drank more tea. On our final day in Cairo we had arranged for the cabbie we had met 2 days earlier to pick us up and show us a few more sights before delivering us to the airport in the afternoon for our flight to Aswan. He started with another large mosque followed by what he called ‘city of the dead’. Rather than being something from a ’50s horror flick it was actually quite interesting. Seems 20 years ago Cairo was quite small only about 5 million in population compared to todays 20 million plus. Consequently a lot of communities that were outside the city have now been swallowed by the rapid growth. Soooo in an area of the city that was on the outskirts where wealthy families built tombs for their deceased loved ones they also used to build small modest dwellings among the mausoleums so that when the relatives would come to grieve (evidently a lengthy affair lasting the entire day or maybe more) they had a place to refresh themselves during their stay. With affordable housing in huge demand people started renting out these dwellings and now live amongst the tombs.
Our last Cairo tourist stop was to be an area known as Coptic Cairo that contains some extremely old churches and even a synagogue. These were wonderful structures in very good condition unfortunately there were not many places you could take photos. Security is everywhere and one feels fairly safe as long as you apply common sense. We finished walking around the area which felt a bit like ‘the rocks’ with hoummos and then departed for the next leg of our adventure.