Cairo

Trip Start Oct 07, 2007
1
8
45
Trip End Oct 31, 2007


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Flag of Egypt  ,
Monday, October 8, 2007

Plan: We arrive at noon, and settle in... I have so many things I want to do in Cairo, I will have to wait until we are actually there: the Museum, the City of the Dead, & Khan al-Khalili Market...
Hotel: The Pyramid View Hotel

Well, here we are in Cairo and I am actually able to see th pyramids as I type this.  I am laying on our bed at our first hotel which looks straight out our sliding door. Directly above the railing are the pyramids in the not so far distance.  We are less than two hours into our actual Egypt adventure and already have survied our first car accident (Take a breath Mom, it was just a friendly nudge).  They use their horns here like nowhere else; constantly warning each other that they are now the fastest car and going to be passing on the shoulder (think Mexico times ten).  Kids, and I mean four year olds are standing on passenger seats as their parents weave in and out of traffic where familites of ten pile into five seaters.  Despite their lack of concern for fellow citizens on the road, so far everyone has been extremely helpful and fiendly and thus here we are sipping our complimentary orange juice and taking in the 30 degree weather.  I don't think I am quite ready for Lonely Planet yet though, I still need to figure out this whole tipping system without getting flustered before I can even think of riding camels.

- Ben

I have never been through and airport faster or easier than Cairo.  I am sure it helped that we were escorted by a travel representative the whole way.  Once in the car, we went straight to our hotel getting a little taste of the traffic.  After arriving at our hotel around 4pm, we took a couple pictures of our amazing view and then fell asleep.  When I woke up, it felt like the next day because it was pitch back outside, I checked the clock and was really surpised to see it was only 6pm but glad we hadn't wasted our time in Cairo sleeping.

We had planned to meet the guide, Mohammed, in the Khan el Kalilli but were to arrange our own way there.  We got the front desk to help call his cell as we wanted to pick a spot to meet before we got there but he said he would find us.  We asked for help getting a cab which was definately our first mistake as we got ushered into a room where an agent tried to talk us into renting a private car and driver.  After managing to talk our way out, we walked to the curb and flagged down a cab. Just our luck, he spoke no English and couldn't read the map I was showing him but Ben's pronounciation came to the rescue and an understanding was reached.  The ride was uneventful by Egyptian standards and we got to the market safely.

It didn't take long for us to realize it might be hard to just run into Mohammed but since we stuck out it made sense that he assumed he would find us.  The market was an experience I am glad to have survived.  We made it out without buying a thing, although they tried every trick in the book.  Our first try was a perfume stall, we drank tea with the owner and his cousin and were shocked when they wanted 600 LE (~$120 US) for some lemon perfume.  Not trying to bargain, but actually just leave the store, their tenth offer was 40LE (~$7 US) for a quarter size bottle.

The rest of the three ours of shopping was very much the same.  The most aggressive shop keeper was actually the last of the night.  The sheesha(hookah) dealer tried to physically restrain Ben in order to get him to buy.  Luckily, this is exactly when Mohammed, as promised, found us and we started to the tour part of the evening.


We definately got noticed in the market but aside from cat-calling to look at stores, we were generally left alone.  Once in Mohammed's company however, it seemed even easier to move around. He was able to point out and explain many parts of the Islamic quarter of Old Cairo.  Being that it was night, the photos aren't fabulous but they should help to explain a few things when we get home.  We wandered around for quite a while and hailed another taxi at 12:30am.  We got back to the hotel around 3am since the city is alive and celebrating Ramadan, creating irregular, late night traffic.  We will have a new guide tomorrow, hopefully all the future guides are as enjoyable as he was tonight.

- Ashley

Ashley stood out like a sore thumb in the market.  It was either guys giving me the thumbs up when they found out that she was my wife or young girls walking by crouched down to get a closer look at her white, even by Canadian standards, legs before they ran away giggling.  The most obvious was walking by a group of guys on the corner who we didn't realize until the second time passing by were doing it for us, but would blast music extrememly loud and stand to do some bizarre dance moves in Ashley's direction.  We were unsure after a while if we would actually run into Mohammed because we had been inside a very small, closet-sized shop, enjoying tea and having different perfumes rubbed all over our arms, so we started looking for a phone.  We came to a booth of about 10 landline phones plugged into wires coming from all over and displays in the back showcasing some of the latest cell phones.  The guy at the booth offered to help when he found we wanted to dial a local number to get a hold of Mohammed.  At first, I had a squealing noise in my ear and he said he would try again.  This time, I was on the phone with what I assume was a girl and her boyfriend speaking to each other in Arabic.  I handed him back the phone for a third attempt and finally got through to Mohammed.  This time, we were succesful and we were on our way to a common spot to meet because we had seen it before.  Think we could find it again?  Let's just say, we are lucky that he found us.

- Ben
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