Cairo isn't a gentle city. Home to more than 16 million Egyptians, Arabs, Africans and sundry others, the 'Mother of the World' is an all-out assault on the senses. Chaotic, noisy, polluted, totally unpredictable and seething with people, the sheer intensity of the city will either seduce or appal.
Cairo has plenty of fine 19th century buildings, modern art and sculpture, precious green spaces and ancient districts (Islamic Cairo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site). Then there's the Pharaonic sites that stretch south of the city, not to mention Those Pyramids and That River.
19 Jul 2003 - Cairo, EgyptIf you ever holiday in Cyprus then Cairo can be done in a weekend. I was with the TA in Cyprus and part of our R&R was either a weekend in a Paphos, Cypus or a cruise to Cairo. I chose the latter and we left Cyprus on Friday night on a cruise ship with dancers, singers and lots of the British staple, alcohol. Early the next morning we arrived in Port Said, Egypt and then sat on a coach of the next 4 hours as we were given a heavily armed escort to Cairo. Upon arriving we found that streets were blocked for us and everything was made as trouble free as possible - hardly a way to endear Western tourists to Egyptian hearts but with the security situation and Islamic fundamentalism this was an unfortunate necessity.
My first glimpse of the pyramids were awe inspiring. Viewing the monuments from a great distance they still seemed massive and appeared blue owing to the tricks that light can play on distant objects. When we finally arrived at the pyramids we were given only a very limited time to explore the area. We were also immediately set upon by hawks selling all sorts of souvenir trash.
A few photos and we it was off to the next destination on our tour. This was a shop that sold papyrus, jewellery and bits of clothing. Its main wares were Egyptian style art and silver trinkets with our names written in hieroglyphics. My choice of purchase was a gown, the national dress of Egypt whose name escapes me.
Our final destination was the Cairo museum containing a fascinating collection of Egyptian antiquities. The mummy room was the highlight and you could stare into the faces of mummified kings and queens, dead for between 2000 and 2500 years.
The next move was back to Port Said and our return cruise. The night was much like the out bound journey but the beer flowed a lot more strongly. I remember performing my old trick of waking up after urinating myself and kicking my soaking underwear onto the floor and going back to bed. The bus back to barracks was touch and go as my mouth started watering and I began sweating profusely - the precursor to a bout of vomiting but somehow it subsided and I avoided the ignominy of ejecting my guts on the bus.
Egypt - The Sphinx
Located 500m from the Pyramid of Khafre, the Sphinx combines a human head and a lion's body to symbolise regal power. The face of the Sphinx is actually thought to be that of Khafre himself.
Egypt - A view of the Sphinx and Pyramid of Khafre (143.5m)
This pyramid can be identified by its external limestone covering at the top. All over the site are traders who try to sell you anything from sweets and souvenirs to camel rides. Watch out when they put something in your hand and then try and make you pay for it!
Egypt - The Pyramid of Khafre
Khafre's Pyramid, is the second largest of the Ancient Egyptian Pyramids of Giza. The pyramid sits on bedrock 10 m (33 ft) higher than Khufu's pyramid next to it which makes it look taller.
Egypt - The 'queens' pyramids
Besides the two main pyramids are these smalle pyramids known as 'queens' pyramids. In the background can be seen Cairo which encroaches right up to the pyramids' site. This area also acts as the bus park for the hordes of tourists who descent upon the area.
Egypt - The Sphinx and Khafre's and Khufu's pyramid
The Great Pyramid, Khufu's Pyramid or Cheops Pyramid is captured on the right of the photo which tries to portray the scale of the site. Unfortunately, without actually leaving the site or with a special wide angle lens, it is difficult to find the right angle. The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and largest of the three pyramids in the Giza Necropolis.