Cairo – Honeymooning in the land of the Pharaohs
As part of our Honeymoon way back in 2006, Michelle and I took a day trip from Cyprus – where we were married – to Cairo.
Revolution and unrest have doubtless changed the look and feel of the city since then, but here are a few tales of the Egyptian capital that may give a flavour of it and our trip there.
When travelling always check your dates…
In order to get from Paphos to Cairo and have enough time to see a decent chunk of the city you have to get up pretty early.
4am to be precise.
Obviously this isn’t ideal in the middle of your honeymoon, but for Cairo – pyramids and all – we thought it was worth it.
This was one of those rare moments where we put our whole trip in the hands of a tour company, and they had sorted everything out for us so we didn’t have anything else to worry about beyond getting up on time.
Oh, and making sure we got up on the right day.
Waiting for a coach that never comes at four in the morning because you mixed your dates up, and then realising you have to get up that time again the next day is a good way to get your first wedded row out of the way!
The Pyramids of Giza
Sat on the edge of the densely packed city of Cairo are three massive signatures of another age.
Not much more than a century ago the Pyramids Road existed as little more than a dusty carriage track leading out from the city to the peasant village of Giza.
But tourism and a rapidly expanding population now sees Cairo sitting on the doorstep of its own history.
The pyramids are home to three Fourth Dynasty Pharaohs – Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure – and are guarded by the equally impressive Sphinx.
This guardian sports the body of a lion and the head of Khafre – but it no longer has a nose, an act of vandalism blamed variously on British soldiers in World War I or Napoleon’s troops in 1798.
However, 18th-century drawings show the nose is already missing, pointing the finger towards the occupying Turks.
Beware the camel trade
When travelling it is always best to keep your wits about you – particularly when confronted by a local trader looking to make a quick couple of quid.
Outside the famous Pyramids of Giza, scores of locals offer tourists the chance to ride on their camels.
“Free, free,” they tell them reassuringly.
But that is only half the story. Once safely up on the camel there is one catch.
You have to pay to get down…
Home to 120,000 items and a compelling history of ancient Egypt, the Cairo Museum is a must for any tourist.
Also known as The Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, it contains vitally important artifacts including many treasures of King Tutankhamen.
Based in Tahrir Square, it was sadly broken into during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 with two mummies reported to have been destroyed and several pieces damaged.
Around a further 50 objects were lost, although half of these are said to have been found and were restored as part of an exhibition called ‘Damaged and Restored’ in September last year.
Whether the air conditioning has been ‘restored’ I am not so sure.
During our visit in 2006 it was horrendously hot and stifling, and I’m genuinely surprised that people weren’t passing out as there was no access to water.
Escape to the Nile
The stifling nature of Cairo Museum (at least in 2006) was a reflection of the whole city.
It is very hot, very muggy and very oppressive.
The best way to escape is to take to the Nile on a river cruise.
Our trip included dinner, fantastic views of the city, a smooth journey and… a much needed sea breeze.
Driving in Cairo is a true test of bravery.
Lane etiquette is a secondary factor as cars, buses and dangerously speeding taxi’s compete for space on the busy roads.
Don’t be surprised to see rickshaws pulled by lumbering horses or more nimble donkeys trotting along in the fast lane; while pedestrians with a death wish attempt to cross this Egyptian equivalent of the M1.
Rome is bad, Lima is frightening, but Cairo still tops my list of scariest places to be on a road.