Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Cairo, Egypt, Part 1: Let's Just Start With The Pyramids

...because why wouldn't you just spend Day 1 in Cairo heading straight to the Pyramids?

I headed from Qatar to Egypt to meet up with my friend Thai - he's a good friend of mine from Austin, who was on a trip with his friend Maria. We had made plans to meet in Cairo earlier, which I was super glad for, only because I'm not sure I would have headed to Egypt by myself otherwise.

Maria, Thai, and me at the Great Pyramids!

What It's All About:
Cairo! Capital of Egypt, home of the Great Pyramids, and packed with people. This city is huge - over 20 million people in the metro area (can you imagine??)  Actually, you can imagine - because once you get here, there's sprawl everywhere. To be honest, it's not the prettiest city (I'm going to say smog and garbage were my first two impressions), but in terms of historical and cultural richness, Cairo can't be beat.

Cliffnotes of the Day:
  • Met up with Thai and Maria! Fancy life, re-commence (and by "fancy life," I clearly just mean "normal hotels").  We started Day 1 with a tour with My Great Egypt Tours (which, very randomly, some guy I shared a taxi with in Jordan in July raved about to me and I happened to write down). 
Off the side of a busy road; a man shepherding his gigantic flock

And among all the crazy roads and drivers, random burro-pulled vehicles are also everywhere

  • Our tour started in the ancient city of Memphis (but not Tennessee!), which was a former capital city of Lower Egypt around 5,000 years ago (FIVE. THOUSAND. YEARS.) - back when Egypt was divided between Lower and Upper Egypt.

A tiny little Sphinx precursor in the ancient capital of Memphis City with Thai and Maria

The crowning jewel of Memphis is this statue they found of Rameses II, which is seriously gigantor - see tiny Thai in the back for reference

  • Next, we hit up Saqqara, the largest necropolis, aka lots of dead people are buried here, or the ancient burial grounds for the city of Memphis.
One of the famous step pyramids; the ancient king Djoser's tomb

And then we got to visit some of the tombs! Descending into one of the tombs in Saqqara

Which had a super tiny entrance you had to stoop down through for awhile

And inside, incredible hieroglyphics!!! The clarity of these were amazing

And the ceiling had tons of starfish carved into it!

We were told that photos weren't allowed - and then out of nowhere, the local guide scouted the scene for other people and seeing that we were alone, he let us take as many photos as we wanted (all while shouting "shhh!" as if we were all in on a big secret together), and lifted Maria into one of the tombs.  Um. Ok. Later on, we found out the reason when he asked for tips.

Some other talents of our local guide besides lifting us into sacred old tombs: fashioning our scarves into head scarves for us, and immediately changing his face from smiley-to-serial-killer as soon as anyone pulled out a camera

Entering another tomb for a high priest. Can you believe these years and how old these are?? ...Bueller?

This tomb was crazy because the carvings and color are all over 5,000 years old! Also, the carvings are all of the man whose tomb it is. Amazing.
  • And then......drumroll......the Pyramids of Giza!!! There are 3 main big ones (but 6 in total) - built over 5k years ago. The largest one is called the Great Pyramid, for the ancient Egyptian pharoah Cheops, and is almost 500 feet tall.  Its scale seriously defies belief.  The other two pyramids are for Cheops' son and grandson, which get slightly smaller in succession.

The Great Pyramid was huge - each brick weighs 1.5-2 tons, and the pyramid is made of more than 2.3 million of these bricks! It took over 100,000 workers over 20 years to construct this

Big pyramid, medium pyramid

Sitting on some of the Great Pyramids' GIANT 2-TON BRICKS

  • We then went to a panoramic overlook of all the pyramids, where our attempt to take some photos turned into a full-blown photo shoot guided by a local.

These were all posed by the man taking our photo, which tells me it wasn't his first rodeo

And then he let us do jumping photos

Group shot!

3 Asians go to Egypt

  • And one of the best parts.....camel riding!

Just casually taking a ridearoo on a camel next to the pyramids

My camel was the CUTEST

And my camel and Maria's camel were apparently in love. And by this time, Thai's camel had wandered off alone.

Thai's camel was fancy and would pose all elite

Eeeeeeee!  Please note my camel and Maria's camel are still in love.
Camel kisses! Fun fact, this is actually Maria's camel because apparently he is more attractive for photos

  • To top off the day, we ended at the Great (nose-less) Sphinx!

Hi, Great Sphinx!

We are doing great at these photos

Our tour guide for the day, Hamdy. Decked out in Thai-gangster-style.

  • The next day we spent chilling at our hotel, which is the most blinged-out/fancy Marriott known to man. Such a step up from the hostels (and because Thai is some kind of fancy member, we get free food and drinks from the super elite lounge)!

View of the Nile River from our room balcony

Hotel pool + more Cairo

The entrance to the lobby. Not complaining about how royal this hotel looks

  • We walked down to a Nile River-side restaurant called The Sequoia that was recommended to me by another guy I shared a taxi to the airport with in Nepal (I didn't even get the guy's name, but wrote down like 5 Cairo recommendations he gave me). To be honest, the Nile is not the prettiest river (OR JUST A RIVER IN EGYPT), but The Sequoia was gorrrrrrrgeous and open-air and such a great place to watch the sunset.

Dinner overlooking the Nile

The Sequoia interior = cutest

More waterside sunset restaurants

Fun Facts of the Day:
  • There are also tuk-tuks in Cairo!
  • Egypt is one of the countries that seems semi-unsafe to the Western world (and some parts definitely are). But the one thing that many locals, guides, hotel staff, etc. have been concerned with conveying to us is that Egypt is safe (except for the Sinai peninsula perhaps). Post the 2011 revolution, tourism in Egypt has dropped like crazy - in fact, as you can see in the photos, we are some of the only tourists in most of the places we went. Even in the pyramids, our guide said they used to be completely packed - you couldn't take a photo without 20 other tourists in it. And they were incredibly empty when we were there.  It's sad, and I can say we've felt fine so far (there's security checkpoints everywhere), but I guess the real test is when Thai/Maria leave tomorrow and I'm alone in Cairo.  No worries though, I will be super safe!

Moment of the Day:
Upon arrival at the Marriott, Thai had thoughtfully pre-ordered the world's most delicious birthday cake to the room! 

AND gifted me a hot pink power bank (given my power bank also died an instant death in Sri Lanka a couple weeks back; apparently when traveling your electronics have a ~6-month shelf life).  

Friends are seriously the best.

Please ignore the random pen, hotel phone from 1970, and fruit plate. 


  1. Excuse me, but do you know...what the...best blog post is...? Excuse me my friend, this one is. ;)

    1. You think so??! Please record video and leave tripadvisor 5 star review then, thanks!!