A snapshot of Cairo in a day – the ultimate sightseeing guide

writing on MS20 from CAI to SSH

As we’re flying back, leaning against the more comfortable Egypt Air backrest (compared to Nile Air in the morning), I have the chance to recall the day. In a nutshell: It all went very well and we felt safe, despite the recent terrorist attacks.

I consider it luck when I say we were offered a private tour for the price of a group tour (135 GBP instead of 170 GBP per person). We decided on going on that trip only two days in advance and our hopes weren’t up that we’d even be able to get a reasonable flight. I chatted with two different travel agencies via Whatsapp or iMessage, which is really the fastest way to get quotes or see if there is any availability. Better than filling out a lengthy form on one of their websites and having them checked their messages on a PC once a day, mobile chatting makes them get back to you within the hour. Although both could work on the professionalism of their profile pics 😉

I never received any confirmation via e-mail but I was assured via Whatsapp that a driver would meet us at 08:30 am this morning to take us to the airport and hand over the flight tickets. He was more than punctual and the car he took us to the airport with, as well as the car in Cairo we were driving with, were in the best condition that I’ve seen around here.

Meeting with Sharif, our guide for the day, was easy too, he was waiting right next to the entrance and took us to his driver. When we were getting in and driving for the first couple of minutes I couldn’t help but wonder if he is going to stay so motivated, friendly and patient throughout the day. But he constantly conveyed the feeling that it was a pleasure for him also, even though he must have done that literally for thousands of times. Later he told Daniel that he indeed used to work as a guide like ours on a daily basis, but these were the old times before the Egyptian revolution in 2011 and the Russian plane crash in 2015. Now he usually is in Cairo once a week. We were really struck by the fact that he doesn’t live in Egypt’s capital but in Alexandria and is probably heading back there now. Considering that he is on one of the mini-buses for a trip that lasts three to four hours his day is longer than ours. A typical trait of the Egyptians, as well as of other Asian or South American cultures I believe, is that people hardly complain.

Even if they think it a total dumb idea to go to Africa’s largest bazaar, Khan Al-Khalili, after having visited the Egyptian Museum and the Giza pyramids with the Sphinx, because the traffic is terrible a day before the weekend and it will require a detour of almost two hours in total – they don’t complain. The guide was very obliging and we had the feeling he meant what he said.

Also he loved taking photos of us. Even though I don’t like the typical touristy posed pictures that much he did his best to also make our visit memorable on my memory card. I was proven wrong thinking an 8 GB SD card would be enough for a day trip…

I was able to take some great shots you can see below, nevertheless.

At our first stop, the Egyptian Museum, Sharif was prepared to tell us everything about whose tombs the pyramids had been and how ancient Egyptians drafted their self-conception, how they understood the world and the life after, praying to gods and goddesses. We didn’t bother much to pay the extra amount of 200 EGP to see more mummies, though some sources say it is absolutely worth it. What is definitely worth of doing is taking a guide with you through the museum, highlighting the most important details to you. Entrance fees for us were included (120 EGP each), though for my DSLR camera we had to pay an extra 50 EGP (does not apply to cell phone cameras).

We learned the museum has that many artifacts that one could easily spend six months there to see them all. One of the details Sharif referred to was the eyes of some statues that the builders have mastered to bring alive with the different stones and crystals they have put together. Try it yourself and point the flashlight of your phone towards the eyes. Amazing!

When we finished wandering around and finally also had the chance to gaze at Tut Ankh Amun’s 11 kg mask we took of to Giza. The traffic around 2pm was ok so it didn’t take longer than 30-45 minutes. Here also the entrance fee was 120 EGP each, no fees for the camera.

Entering the pyramids costs extra, depending on which ones you want to see from the inside – they’re all empty, no hieroglyphs, it’s dark and you only reach its innermost chambers when climbing or going up a steep and narrow tunnel (something between 30-90 meters long) in which you can merely stand.

We have just gone down one of the three tiny, almost destroyed pyramids – it was free.

After paying a visit to the Sphinx, hearing more rumors about how it lost its nose – strangely our guide didn’t tell us it was Obelix – we went to a close-by restaurant to have a late lunch. Although it was a more typical Egyptian place than the Pizza Hut besides it and a lot of tour guides seem to be coming here with their guests, the personnel was a bit disorganized.

Nevertheless it was worth coming here to see the sun go down at around 05:00 pm. With a great panoramic view of four pyramids and their guardian Sphinx we waved the sun goodbye for the last time in Egypt. Tomorrow we are going to head back to Germany.

Be sure to tip both the guide and the driver when they get you to Cairo airport after a long day. They’ve earned it.

The day trip was a perfect end to a lovely short trip to Egypt – well organized, hitting the cultural hot spots of Cairo and making my uninformed self aware of both ancient treasures and modern culture of Egypt.

// travel agency: Sharm Club

// more day trips from Sharm el-Sheikh: via getyourguide

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