"STEPPING BACK 4500 YEARS IN THE LAND PHARAOHS"
At the end of a trip to Norway our flight was delayed by around 5 hours. We had been sitting waiting for our flight and talking about how cool it would be to go and see the Pyramids in Egypt. A few weeks after our delayed flight I managed to claim around 500 euros compensation from the airline for the delay and straight away we decided to book our flights to Cairo.
We had a stopover in Rome and made the most of it to go see the colosseum, eat pizza and gelato before hurrying back to the airport to catch our flight to Cairo.
We arrived late in Cairo and had to fight our way through all of the taxi drivers desperate for our business. We managed to haggle a taxi driver down to what we thought was a reasonable price to drive us all the way from the airport to our hotel in Giza.
We decided to stay in Giza because our hotel had views of the Pyramids in the distance. On our way to our hotel it felt as though we were driving through a ghost town and it all looked a bit eerie at that time of night. The blocks of flats along the highway looked as though they were abandoned and some even looked as though there had been fires.
As soon as we had checked in we went to our room and straight to bed as we were both pretty exhausted. The next morning we woke after a little lie in and then relaxed by the pool for a few hours. It was nice to be in the sun after a long cold winter in England.
The hotel was virtually empty and we appeared to be the only guests staying. Tourism had taken a massive hit over the last couple of years because of various terrorist attacks etc. There was a couple of bombings in northern Egypt a few days before we flew out. I always felt that after an attack when the security of a country has been strengthened is a safe time to visit, whereas for most people this would put them off. We definitely noticed the extra security when coming and going from the airport. We had never been checked or scanned as much as we had been in Egypt at every opportunity you were scanned.
In the afternoon we got ready and grabbed a taxi to visit the pyramids of Giza. We were hoping that the heat would be less intense and to try and stay as long as we could to catch the sunset behind the pyramids (closing time is just before sunset).
Luckily I had done some research beforehand about taxi drivers taking you to the wrong entrance for the pyramids because they have friends who are trying to sell you their guide packages etc. Our taxi drive did exactly that despite being asked to take us to the official government entrance. He turned off the main road which should be a straight drive to the pyramids and to a guys house who sat us down and started trying to sell us camel/horseback rides and all sorts of other things. He even said that we wouldn’t be able to enter the pyramids complex without a guide. I said to Hannah lets just say no, stand up and walk away. They didn’t seem too happy about it and I kept saying we just want to go to the government entrance which luckily for us was less than a 5 min walk away. Eventually the guy in a grumpy way waved his hand and left us alone as we approached the official ticket office which was just a small booth.
The pyramids really took our breath away. They were colossal, massive and each carefully cut piece of rock for the construction was as big as a family car. We can see why scientists struggle to understand how the Egyptians built these amazing monuments 4,500 years ago.
We were hassled a fair bit as we explored the complex. One of the negative effects of the locals being desperate for customers after a lean few years. We had been told that if we just ignored them and didn’t say anything then we would be left alone. However, if you said no to their offer, they would follow you asking the same question over and over. The ignoring tactic felt rude but worked.
We found a nice local and his young assistant who had a couple of well looked after camels. They were polite and not pushy so we decided to book them for our camel tour of the pyramids. We were taken to the iconic pyramid view point where all three pyramids looked similar sizes. The third pyramid is in fact a lot smaller than the other two. Our guide tried to take some photos of us at the view point (most were overexposed). I really liked that if you turned around at the viewpoint you could see the Bent Pyramid in the distance as well as others.
When we finished the camel ride some Egyptians called out to Hannah and were crude towards her. This always makes me really angry and I don’t care what country or culture I am in as it has no place anywhere. I shouted back at these guys, but they quickly rode away on their horses. I was a bit shocked as most of the time in Arabic countries the men will ignore Hannah and only talk to me. For the rest of the trip I gave Hannah all the money and made the men speak to Hannah when we needed to pay for something or ask for help instead of totally ignoring her and only speaking to me.
We then managed to sneak into the Sphinx complex with another tour group that the security guard thought we were a part of it. It was nice to be able to see it up close although we felt a bit bad for not paying the overpriced entry fee.
We then lingered around the front of the Sphinx with one of the pyramids in the back ground taking photos and doing our best to stay till sunset. A guard was now shouting at people to leave and clearing the complex. We kept moving around and did our best to delay our exit for as long as possible.
When we finally left the pyramid complex we discovered that all the other tourists had long gone as well as all the taxis and other transportation. We then spent the next 40 minutes trying to find a taxi. We found one with a couple of girls in the back who tried to charge us a ridiculous amount of money for a couple of miles. The driver then laughed at us and drove off. We eventually found an old man who didn’t speak English but offered to drive us to our hotel. This was a bad move as he kept saying Ramassess hotel, that was not our hotel! I noticed that we were driving across the river Nile which was totally the wrong direction. We kept trying to get him to turn around but he wouldn’t listen to us. Eventually Hannah shouted stop and he pulled over, we quickly scrambled out of his car. He got angry and demanded money. Lucky for us there were a couple of police men on the side of the road, we walked towards them and the old man quickly drove off. We then started walking back across the nile and realised it would take forever to get back to our hotel. We did eventually find an official taxi and he managed to get us back to our hotel which we were grateful for.
When we originally planned our trip we were going to be having a guide with us the whole time as we thought it would be a safer option. I am personally not a fan of having a guide as I don’t like to feel rushed or dragged around. The guide had booked us flights to Luxor the morning after visiting the pyramids. So despite not using the guide in the end we still had and paid for our flights to Luxor. It ended up being our favourite day in Egypt.
We left our hotel before sunrise to get to the airport and arrived in Luxor early. We were met by a friendly man who helped to arrange a local taxi driver to take us to the sights in Luxor for the day. We agreed on a price and our first stop was the Valley of the Kings.
When you pay for your entrance ticket you get to choose three tombs that you would like to visit. You can visit more at an extra cost. Tutankhamuns tomb is also an extra fee. We were told that we would have to leave any cameras at the main desk which we didn’t do as we didn’t trust where you had to leave them (literally an open shelf). We were told that we wouldn’t be able to photograph in the tombs (although I have seen plenty of videos on Youtube recently of people being able to film and photograph). Many places in Egypt made you pay extra to photograph at sites, not here though we were told it was a big no.
Despite being told this I was stupid and tried to sneak a phone photo of one of the tombs. A local guard saw this and quickly snatched my phone, he threatened to take me to the police and despite my protests and trying to get my phone back, he was having none of it. I eventually asked how much money he wanted just as another local started walking into the tomb. He then quickly gave me my phone back and said delete it which I did and that was the end of that. We then went to another tomb and the local asked if we wanted to talk a photo?? We declined as we thought it was a trap and felt like we couldn’t trust anyone. It was all very confusing and we didn’t know what the rules were by the end of our visit to the Valley of the Kings. The detail inside the tombs though was amazing and well worth a visit to see such ancient writing and artwork preserved so well.
After leaving the valley of the kings we visited Karnak temple which was a vast complex full of gigantic collums. It was our favourite temple that we visited while in Egypt, there was plenty too see and explore there.
The Valley of the Queens has a beautiful complex to explore and lots of hieroglyphs with their original colours to look at. It is best to do both the valley of the Kings and Queens right after each other as they are on the same side of the river.
There was so much to do and see while in Luxor that we were totally exhausted at the end of the day. We didn’t even have time to explore Luxor temple, there is a good couple of days worth of sites and we would have preferred to stay in Luxor rather than Cairo as it was a lot calmer and more beautiful.
We spent our final day and a half in Cairo exploring the Egyptian museum and relaxing by the pool. The Egyptian museum is crammed with so many artefacts that they have corners of rooms stacked with wooden crates of items that they just don’t have space for. We purchased a photography pass ticket but that still didn’t allow us to photograph Tutankhamun's exhibit including his death mask which was one of the most beautifully crafted items I have ever seen. It was a childhood dream come true seeing his tomb.
I really enjoyed Egypt because of the sites that we were able to visit. It was incredible to finally see the pyramids. However, the desperate vendors made it hard to enjoy some of the sites. It was worth the trip though and nice to be able to see these historic sites.