Egypt, catchin a glimpse of the pyramids.
We were a little apprehensive in making the decision to head to Cairo, with Aus Gov Smart Traveller website advising against any non-essential travel to the country. Egypt has always been so high on the list so we decided to go for it with a tour guide recommended to us.
We felt like rock stars being picked up from the airport - before immigration! It was great to have someone to help us grab a visa and get us through the hectic front doors. If we were by ourselves, we probably would have turned around the got back on the plane.
Our guide, Mamdoh, drove us to our hotel which we didn't leave without him as our escort. He offered to take us into the city to experience Cairo at night so we jumped at the opportunity. It was the Islamic month of Ramadan so the city came alive at night, and was rather quiet during the day whilst they all fast. We sat by a market in the outdoor area of a cafe and had a beverage (juice and tea, as alcohol is not readily available...) and took in all the action and chilled with a shisha pipe. Mamdoh then took us through a bustling market where there was not a single tourist in sight, and it was also the way to seeing the original city walls. It was so packed in the narrow market street that we had to squeeze through a sea of people and make regular stops so we could regroup after being separated by the masses. Somehow they still managed to get a few scooters through there somehow!
Our 1st day started late with Mamdoh being stuck in traffic, which changed the plans around a bit. Instead of the pyramids on the first day, we went to the Coptic Christian and Islamic sites of the city. We visited the Citadel (castle) which also houses two mosques. We learnt a lot about the islamic faith here from Mamdoh. Mamdoh is Christian, but he has studied the religion for many, many years and is fluent in Arabic, which means that he has actually read the Quran... Next we visited Saint Virgin Mary's Coptic Church known as 'The Hanging Church'. This church has been around since the 3rd century AD and is famous for the apparition of the Virgin Mary appearing on the roof of the church, every night for a period of 2-3 years back in 1968. You should Google it! We visited a well in the back of a nearby little church which was used by Jesus and Mary when the resided in Cairo.
Our second day was a big one, starting at the Egyptian National Museum. The express guided tour from Mamdoh was really interesting and we got to see the treasury from the tomb of Tutankhamun, the boy king. His inner sarcophagus is solid 24 carot gold weighing in at 110.4kgs, and a material value of $2 million USD. The sarcophagus has the most intricate and breathtaking images and inscriptions.... Fit for a King in fact! The best part was a section we payed extra to see. It was a display of ten mummified kings and queens. AMAZING! So strange to see a person that was alive nearly 3000 years ago! Some still had hair and one had a bashed in skull from being murdered in a war, and the center piece was the famous King Ramsays II. From here we headed out to the pyramids. It would've been hell there without Mamdoh. Local people and security try to convince you, usually by grabbing you or abusing you, that you're not permitted to enter the pyramid areas unless it's via their horse drawn carriage or camel. Which is bullshit. Luckily Mamdoh did all the yelling back on our behalf, but we did have a few moments when we had to be separated from Mamdoh but he gave us instructions to just barge through and tell people to bugger off. Pretty intense!
We had a ride on a camel out on the desert side of the pyramids which was fun and then cruised around the site of the pyramids. We payed the extra again to climb into one of the chambers in the middle of the Great Pyramid. What an experience! The precision of the whole structure, especially the passage way and the actual chamber was beyond belief! After the chamber, and telling a whole heap of camel people to fuck off, we headed a few hundred meters down the road to the sphinx. The sphinx is carved from one gigantuous piece of rock and is the guardian of all the souls of those who were lucky enough to have a pyramid erected for them and their passage to the afterlife.
Mamdoh took us to a few local vendors that sold local products and we grabbed a few souvenirs before he navigated us through the hectic Cairo traffic back to our hotel.
We had to leave early the next morning, but wished that we have been able to see more of the country. Mamdoh was an excellent and fun guide to have with us for the trip!