Walk Like an Egyptian

Walk Like an Egyptian

Is it safe to travel to Egypt?

Good question, and my answer is……..

A resounding YES!

My wife & I have wanted to travel to the “Land of the Pharaohs” for quite some time. In fact, we were planning on doing so in February 2016 but were put off by dire warnings of a place that is politically unstable with factions fighting each other in a struggle for power.

So, we went to Vegas instead (see my post “Viva Las Vegas” here

That was a great trip – so, no regrets. However, for the last 12 months I have been keeping my eye on what’s been going on in Egypt & there has been very little. In fact, Europe (especially France & Germany) have had more terrorist related incidents over that period than Egypt has!

So, we decided that, this time, it was full steam ahead for us to tick a couple of our bucket list items & we booked our trip to Egypt.

Digital Nomad Egypt

Arriving to Cairo

We set off from Frankfurt airport (which is 20 minutes from where we are currently living here in Germany) on the 18th February. It was a cool 9C on that Saturday afternoon, so we were quite excited about heading to Cairo (our first stop) & temperatures of 18-22C.

After a four hour flight we landed in Cairo at a little after 8pm & we were greeted by our tour company rep.

Unlike most of our previous travels, where we travel completely under our own steam & explore places for ourselves, I had decided to use the services of a tour company for this trip as we didn’t really know enough about the destination (& we were a little nervous about personal safety to be honest).

It was reassuring to see our names on the representative’s white board! He quickly took us to the baggage carousel area where we picked up our single case (we’re only away for a week) & then to the foreign exchange counter where we obtained our entry visas (around $25USD) & some Egyptian pounds (for our trip we got 17 pounds to the Euro). – I exchange 300 Euros & get just over 5,000 Egyptian pounds in a wad of 100 pound notes that only just fit into my wallet!

He then escorted us outside where he introduced us to our tour guide whilst in Cairo – Muhammed. Unlike all the other international airports we have previously been to, this one does not allow anyone without an air ticket into the terminal building (unless they are authorised like security personnel, airport staff or registered tour reps) – so there was quite a crowd milling outside the building.

This was our first taste of just some of the security protocols that Egypt has introduced to ensure the safety of tourists & it’s tourism infrastructure.

Muhammed was very pleasant & took our luggage whilst we made our way to our car, complete with our own driver! We got into the back of the vehicle whilst Muhammed sat in the front passenger seat. He explained that we would be going straight to our hotel, which was in the Giza area, so that we would not take too long to get to the pyramids (our first attraction) the next day.

The trip from the airport to Giza took just over an hour. Muhammed explained that, because this was a Saturday, there wasn’t as much traffic & that, on a normal day, the same trip could take over 90 minutes as Cairo traffic is very heavy. Along the way, he was describing the Cairo environment & the areas we were passing along the way.

Once at our hotel, Muhammed made all arrangements for our check in & then sat down with us to explain our day tomorrow which would involve visiting the pyramids, sphinx & Cairo museum.

We said goodnight to him a little before 10pm & made our way to our room. We are staying at a hotel called the Oasis, aptly named as it is a low rise complex built around gardens & a pool. Our room is at the far end of the complex. Although rated at 4 star I would give it 3. Nothing wrong with it, very clean but dated & a little tired.

DAY TWO

Iris & I are up early (6am) so that we have plenty of time to organise ourselves & have breakfast before meeting Muhammed at 8am in the lobby.

This is a day I have long been waiting for – to see the pyramids up

Digital Nomad Pyramids

Giza Pyramids

close – & to even go inside one! The drive to the Pyramids is short, less than 15 minutes. Mind you, the Cairo traffic is quite thick – even at this early hour. I am impressed with our driver’s ability to deal with what seems to be totally chaotic traffic conditions. About the only similarity between German traffic & this is that they drive on the same side of the road!

We arrive at the pyramids in one piece & must now decide which pyramid we want to go inside of. It’s an additional charge but we decide on Cheops – it is, after all, the pyramid of pyramids! The impact of these monuments is nothing short of fantastic – to be in this area with three pyramids around you is something else! After walking around the base of Cheops Iris & I make our way inside by climbing to the entrance. It’s only a short climb &, thankfully, the crowd isn’t too large, so there’s no queue.

Digital Nomad Cheops

Cheops Pyramid

You aren’t allowed to take photos inside & the ticket collectors are inspecting bags to make sure no-one is trying to get anything inside that shouldn’t be. Mind you, when he spots my camera he just nods, winks & smiles. I understand where he’s coming from & slip him 10 Egyptian pounds & he tells me that I’m a “Good man” & we head on inside.

The first 5 metres or so is a corridor at the end of which you take a right turn & climb a couple of steps to get into the small shaft that takes you to the central chamber. It’s a steep incline & you have to navigate it in the crouching position as it’s not high enough to stand up in. After that effort the ceiling opens up & you can at least stand upright to make the bulk of the climb to the central chamber. At the top of that climb there is a narrow, level, corridor which requires more crouching until you enter the main chamber where you can stand again. This chamber contains the empty stone casing that is believed to have once held the Pharaoh’s sarcophagus.

It’s awe inspiring! Iris & I explore the square area before heading back down. It’s quite warm inside – & it’s not even 9am yet on a day that is yet to top 15C. I’d hate to see what this is like in mid summer!

 

Once back outside Muhammed takes us back to the car & we drive to the next pyramid for some more photos. All the time we are travelling he is giving us background to the pyramids & the pharaonic period – really interesting stuff!

Once Muhammed makes sure that we are ready, it’s time to head off to see the Sphinx.

This is located on the same plateau as the Pyramids, so it’s not a long

Digital Nomad Sphinx

The Mighty Sphinx

drive. However, we do have to pass by a number of local souvenir stalls & this is our first experience of the “Persistence” that Egyptian traders are famous for – they just won’t take no for an answer!

After running this gauntlet we arrive at the front of the Sphinx & it is most impressive! We are not disappointed. There are so many angles to view this relic from – definitely the most impressive being with the pyramid in the background. It’s times like this that I’m very grateful for digital photography as I’d hate to have to pay for all the photos I’m taking!

In what seemed like minutes, more than 4 hours had flown by & it was time to head across town towards the Egyptian museum. Along the way we made a stop at a local essences display centre where we were treated to a sampling of local pure essences. A very entertaining demonstration &, of course, we bought a couple!

As we were to discover, these ‘Cultural’ stops are another way of convincing tourists (like us) to part with our money &, we’re sure, a way that the tour companies maximise their revenues! However, we didn’t feel in the least bit pressured to buy anything.

The Egyptian museum artefacts were jaw dropping – to think that

Digital Nomad Museum

Egypttian Museum

these items were part of a culture almost 6,000 years old is quite humbling. Even though the museum building itself was past its prime it did not detract from the impact of what was on display. Muhammed advised us that a new, larger, museum was in the process of being built (hopefully to be open later in 2017 but more likely 2018) closer to the site of the pyramids. He took us past the construction site & it looks like it will be an amazing building when finished!

We got back to the hotel at a little after 8pm – a long day but wow! What an experience. If this is just day one how are we going to top it?

DAY THREE

Up early – 3.30am (ouch!) so that we are ready for our driver to pick us up at 4.15am for our transfer to Cairo airport. Today we fly to Luxor where we’ll be boarding our Nile river cruise & our flight is at 6.50am.

Once at the

Digital Nomad Airport

Cairo Airport is sooo Quiet!

airport, we passed our first security checkpoint, making sure to put all bags onto the X-Ray conveyor. The man loading bags onto the conveyor asks me for a tip – which I refuse. We’re a little earlier than expected & our gate lounge is not yet open, so we grab a seat & make ourselves comfortable.

Our flight time is just on an hour, so at 7.55am we are making our way down the aircraft stairs & onto the tarmac to get into the terminal building. It’s still quite cool but the skies are clear &, according to the weather forecast, we are in for a warm 20C!

Once we have collected our bag we head outside to be greeted by our new tour guide, Amy. She is just as personable as Muhammed & proceeds to tell us what the rest of the day holds for us.

Once in the car we head for the Valley of the Kings. Any concerns I

Digital Nomad Luxor

Valley of the Kings

had about Egypt not being able to live up to the splendour of the pyramids soon evaporated when we arrived at this amazing collection of tombs. We only saw three but – wow! They were amazing. I just couldn’t get over how good a condition they were all in & the stories being told on the walls & ceilings.

You can see more than three, as long as you are prepared to pay for it – a couple of the tombs (like Tutankhamun) require a separate ticket.

Digital Nomad Temple

Queen Hatsheput’s temple

Next stop, Queen Hatsheput’s temple – Egypt’s first female “King”. Nestled at the base of a large hill it is very impressive & in amazing condition for a 3,000 year old set of buildings. In its day it would have dominated the landscape!

From here we make our way to an alabaster showroom where we are shown how items are made from this rock, by hand! Very interesting. Yes, you guessed it, we were offered the chance to buy some of these amazing items but this time we resisted!

It was then time to check into our hotel, which is a cruise boat that will take us up the Nile to Aswan. On the way we stop at the Colossi of Memnon for a photo opportunity. The Colossi are a series of partially refurbished statues 19.5m high. Originally dedicated to Amenhotep, but renamed by the Greeks.

Amy checks us into our riverboat hotel – whi

Digital Nomad Nile Cruise

All aboard!

ch is very comfortable. I wouldn’t say luxurious but not far from it. Our cabin is a decent size & includes floor to ceiling sliding doors on the outer side so that we can enjoy views of the river. As it happens we are west facing so we’ll get to see the sunset over the Nile for the next 3 nights (it would have been four but we’ve missed the first sunset on account of our long day!)

Tonight Amy has organised a horse drawn carriage tour of the city, along with a visit to the Luxor museum, followed by dinner at a typically Egyptian restaurant. Not fancy but the food is awesome. There’s so much of it that we can’t eat it all!

Our carriage driver is called “Mustafa” & he has a rather infectious

Digital Nomad Carriage

Our carriage awaits

(although largely toothless) grin. He is most proud of his horse which he often refers us to. Mind you, he does drive the animal pretty hard – I’m sure he could hold his own on a German autobahn (well, not quite but you get my drift I’m sure!) – still, the horse is in very good condition, so he definitely looks after it.

He takes quite a few side streets &, at one point, we even drive through a closed in street market that has aisles only just wide enough to fit the carriage through. But, no one shouts at us so I assume that this is perfectly normal!

A big day but oh so much fun!

The only downside is that the internet onboard operates at a speed that you would have expected during the time of the Pharaohs! After 30 minutes I’m still waiting for all of my emails to download! Ah well, I guess I’ll have to wait until we hit Aswan & try again – hopefully, there won’t be any client emergencies this week!

 

DAY FOUR

Another early start – we’re up at 5am so that

Digital Nomad Ballooning

Looking down on desert & farmland

we can be ready for a pick up at 6.10am. Today we’re crossing our second bucket list item off (the first being the pyramids) – hitting the skies with a balloon ride over Luxor! We’re picked up by the balloon company guide who escorts us to a small boat which we will cross the river in. There are already another four couples waiting for us there – two from Chile, one from New Zealand & one from Canada.

We are offered a cup of tea or coffee, we opt for the tea which we just have time to drink before arriving on the opposite side of the river. From there we’re all ushered into a mini-van & driven to our staging point for the impending balloon ride.

On the way I can see that there are already a half dozen or so balloons that have taken off, we drive between some Egyptian semi mud brick dwellings, the other side of which opens up into a clearing in which are three more balloons – one just about to take off & the other two on the ground, about to be positioned for inflation. Our guide introduces us to our captain, a veteran of some eight years ballooning experience, & he takes us through the embarkation & disembarkation processes, along with what we can expect from today’s flight.

In a little over five minutes our balloon starts to take shape & the basket into which our group will soon be asked to climb into shifts from a horizontal position alongside the half inflated  balloon to a vertical position immediately underneath it. Now the bask seems to have a life of its own as it starts to bounce up & down with each burst of propane to the heating jets.

This is where the ground crew earns their pay (which I’m sure isn’t very much!), as they hold restraining ropes at each side of the basket to make sure there isn’t a premature take-off! As an additional

Digital Nomad arial views

Queen Hatsheput’s temple from the air

precaution, I can see that there is a steel cable affixed to the base of the basket that is hitched to the front of a nearby flatbed truck by way of a winch on the bulbar.

With a final command from our Captain the steel safety cable is released &, as he fires several jet bursts into the balloon canopy, we start to rise slowly upwards. In only a few minutes we are a couple of hundred feet above ground – our staging point quickly getting smaller as we continue to climb. The view is fantastic! On our west is the backdrop of the hills which line the Luxor skyline, at the base of which is Queen Hatshepsut’s temple – words cannot describe this view.

To the east is the Nile river and the sun – a huge ball of orange against a pale blue sky. The land below is equally dramatic as, from the air, the dividing line between the lush green local farmlands & the desert is well defined & quite spectacular. All around us is a flotilla of hot air balloons which seem to be flying in a “V” formation, although this is by accident rather than design as each balloon is reliant on wind direction for navigation.

Nevertheless, it’s quite a picture & with several balloons at differing heights there is no shortage of photo opportunities! It’s still only just past 7am so the surroundings are reasonably quiet. Mind you, having a couple of propane gas jets going off in regular bursts certainly disrupts that serenity!

In between taking photos from various angles I am quite taken by the landscape below, with farmers & farmhands in the fields working the sugar cane crops that are the mainstay of this area.

In no time at all (45 minutes) it’s time for us to start our descent. Here’s where our Captain earns his pay as he steers the balloon using a couple of guide ropes that ater the angle of the balloon’s lift. At a couple of hundred feet up he calls his ground crew to let them know where we are most likely to land (this is not an exact science!) & here’s where things get really interesting! It appears like we are coming down in the middle of a fresh cane field but, if we land in that, there will be hell to pay from the farmer!

In fact, we end up about twenty feet above a dirt road that services one of the cane fields & the ground crew race to meet us so that they can grab one of the guide ropes attached to the basket’s upper frame & pull us & the balloon towards the wider road that must service this area.

Digital Nomad grounded

Ground crew at work

It takes five men to pull us to this roadway where any traffic is stopped by two ground crew (one for each direction of traffic) as the basket hits ground. We are all in the “Landing position” that the Captain instructed us on prior to take off – basically a crouching position with you back pushed against the side of the basket that is opposite to our direction of travel.

The good news is that everything went according to plan, the bad news being that the experience was over way too soon! Our guide reappeared to get us back into the minivan that would take us back to our ferry ride back to where our floating hotel was docked.

We arrived back at the riverboat just before 8.30am. Our tour guide, Amy, was there waiting for us so that we could complete the rest of the day’s activities. But first we needed some breakfast!

Twenty minutes later we were on our way. The rest of today will be spent visiting the Karnak & Luxor temples. First to Karnak – the world’s largest columned temple, built over a period of two thousand years. Saying that this temple is spectacular doesn’t even come close to describing its impact. It is a feat of engineering & would have been a jaw dropping experience for the ancient Egyptians who worshipped there. It has everything – obelisks, columns, hieroglyphs, statues & is in amazing condition.

Needless to say, I took quite a few photos here!

From there we drove the short distance to the Luxor Temple which is

Digital Nomad Karnak

Karnak Temple

in a straight line of sight from Karnak. Presently, the Egyptian ministry for Antiquities is excavating an area that runs from Karnak Temple to Luxor Temple, lined with Sphinx like statues which will, when completed, join the two temple together – as they would have been two thousand years ago!

This “Promenade” had, until recently, had many residential building built over it & it was only by accident (when a building was being demolished) that the promenade was discovered when some parts of statues were discovered in the rubble. Since then, the homes & building along the line of the promenade have been pulled down so that excavation & restoration work can be completed.

And that is another thing about Egyptian Pharaonic history – more & more is being discovered, unearthed & restored. All of the ancient sites we have visited this trip are, in fact, “Works in progress”. If Egypt’s economy was more robust, this work could (& would) be carried out at a much faster pace.

Luxor temple, whilst not as large as Karnak, is no less impressive. Built by Amenhotep III, the templ

Digital Nomad Egyptian Temple

Luxor Temple

e was dedicated to Amon Ra & represented offerings based around fertility – which is why it is located so close to the Nile river. Again, the statues, carvings & columns are in remarkable condition.

 

DAY FIVE

Today we are going to be joining up with another couple with whom we will be sharing a guide (also called Muhammed but no relation to our Cairo guide!). Their names are Casper & Lili, a young German couple who are currently living in New York.

We make our way to reception, after breakfast, at seven am. Muhammed is waiting for us, as are Casper & Lili. Once introductions are completed we’re off to see another temple – the Temple of Edfu. This one was completed over 200 years during the Greco-Roman times (around 400BC) & is dedicated to the God Horus – God of the sky & security.

We hop aboard another horse driven carriage which will take us to

Digital Nomad Edfu

Edfu Temple

Edfu Temple. It’s quite a scene along the river as there are several riverboats docked at the same time – all with passengers doing the same thing (Edfu has just the one temple so it’s really the only show in town!). It seems like there are more horse driven carriages here than there are cars! The scene is quite chaotic with drivers shouting at each other & hustling to try to get a tourist to take their carriage – of course every driver insists that his carriage is the best! Fortunately for us, Muhammed has it all sorted & we are in a carriage & on our way in no time.

It’s a little under 10 minutes ride to the temple. Along the way are dozens of school children on their way to school, they seem to think it is great fun to wave & say hello to the tourists – we do the polite thing & smile as we wave back. Arriving at the temple we are, once again, forced to pass through a small collection of street vendors hawking all sorts of Egyptian wares – all original, made in Egypt (not China we are assured!) with “Special” prices for us. Now I know what a duck in a shooting gallery must feel like – I have also developed a greater sense of empathy for those celebrities that are hounded everywhere they go – it’s not pleasant & takes quite a bit of self discipline not to tell them where to go!

These guys are a real lesson in persistence & they have an answer for every objection you can come up with. I’ve learned in the last few days that avoiding eye contact & repeating the same answer of refusal is the best way to deal with them – but always remain friendly & don’t take offense.

When Alexander the Great conquered Egypt he was very careful to adopt the Pharaonic beliefs of the Egyptians & even had himself depicted as an Egyptian god – no doubt to appeal to the general population. This tradition was maintained during the next 300 years as successive Ptolemaic rulers of Greek origin came to the throne of Egypt. It is in superb condition as, until the mid 19th Century, it was buried in sand and rediscovered by a French archaeologist.

We will be sailing this afternoon to Kom Ombo for a visit to another temple – the Temple of Sobek (the God of Crocodiles). It’s a short sail time of a less than two hours, which gives us enough time for lunch & afternoon tea!

Digital Nomad Kom Ombo

Kom Ombo

At 4pm we arrive to Kom Ombo & it’s pretty hard to miss the temple we will be visiting at it is adjacent to the river & the area where we are docked. We meet up with Muhamed, Lili & Casper at the boat’s reception area at 4.15 & walk to the temple entrance.

Muhammed tells us that Kom Ombo was a major source of gold in ancient Egyptian times, so it was a very prosperous area. Unfortunately, the temple, due to its proximity to the river, was largely destroyed. So, what we are seeing is part original & part reconstruction. It’s still pretty impressive & would have been an imposing building in it’s day – over 2,000 years ago!

A short five minute walk from the temple is a museum which features mummified crocodiles. Just outside of Kom Ombo is a large burial area (over 100 acres worth. So far, more than 100 mummified crocodiles have been recovered, with many more expected to be recovered as archaeological digs continue in the area. The crocodile was revered in the day – in the guise of the God Sobek and crocodiles were credited with giving Pharaohs their strength.

Once we leave the museum Casper & Lili head back to the temple to take some more photos. We head back to the boat with Muhammed but stop along the way for a drink in an open air coffee shop. It’s quite large with garden areas in which you can sit. We elect to sit in a shaded area undercover. Iris & Muhammed opt for tea, whilst I opt for a coffee.

There’s a small group of Arabic musicians playing at one end of the area that remind me of the cantina band from the original Star Wars movie that adds to the “Egyptian” atmosphere! We spend about twenty minutes there before making our way back to the boat in time to see another amazing sunset over the Nile.

DAY SIX

Today, we’re in Aswan & have the morning to ourselves. We could have gone on an optional tour – the one most highly recommended was to Abu Simbel. But with a start time of 4am we decided to rest up instead!

Breakfast was certainly much quieter – obviously, most people went to Abu Simbel.

After breakfast we relaxed on the sun deck for a while before

Digital Nomad relaxed

Relaxing on the Sundeck

venturing into town. We were running low on cash, so thought we would head into to town to find a bank with an ATM facility. The guy at reception told us to take a right turn once off the boat & that would take us into the city, so that’s what we did.

After about a 5 minute of walking & being approached by innumerable locals, all with great offers because we are such “Nice” people, Iris spotted the main railway station on our left, we figured that a bank would not be far away from that, so decided to take our lives into our hands & cross the road! Pedestrians here seem to adopt the same attitude to traffic as drivers do(which is to largely ignore it) – except as a pedestrian you do not have the metal of the car as a protective barrier. It’s a case of measured risk taking, as you weave between the traffic which, whilst aware of your presence, does little to accommodate you.

Nevertheless, we made it safely across & headed towards the station. As we got nearer I noticed a couple of banks to the left hand side of the main station building, so these became our new target. Luckily, one of the banks had an ATM so, with our cash reserves back up to a decent level we continued our walk towards the local market.

As we got closer the stall holders were looking at us like a buzzard looks at a potential meal – it’s a little disconcerting but we put on a brave face and continue forwards. Everyone is very polite but they don’t give up easily when we reject their ongoing offers to allow us to have a “Free” look inside their shops or stalls.

When we returned to the boat it was just about time for lunch, after which we rested on the sun deck until 2.15pm when we met with Muhammed, Lili & Casper & were escorted to our tour van which was to take us to the unfinished obelisk first. This was really interesting as we got to earn how these solid granite monsters were made. Aswan is rich in granite & the local quarry was the source for all granite used in ancient sites for statues & obelisks.

Digital Nomad Aswan

Nassar Lake

From the obelisk we headed off to the Aswan high dam, the second largest in the world (the largest is in China, apparently). It has created a lake (Nasser lake) that measures 20km across and over 400km long (it actually crosses into Sudan) with a depth of up to 174m. It contains enough water to keep Egypt supplied for 40 years – even if no rain were to fall anywhere in its catchment over that time! It also supplies over 40% of Egypt’s electricity needs by way of 12 hydro electric turbines.

At the time of its construction (during the 1960’s) the only country that would help Egypt finance the project was Russia so, as a gesture of thanks, the Egyptians built a massive memorial tower nearby which is shaped to represent the Lotus flower.

The dam’s completion in the early 1970’s has resulted in the Nile river no longer flooding each year, when the waters of the White & Blue Niles swell due to the rainy season in Northern Africa. This has meant that a lot of land which was previously subject to these floods can now be used for development that was not possible previously.

We return to the boat at about 5.30pm – just in time to watch our final sunset over the Nile, as we head back to Cairo tomorrow.

 

DAY SEVEN

We were awoken by our wake up call at 4.30am. Having packed most of our stuff the night before, we were showered & dressed by 5am & put our bag outside the cabin as instructed the previous day. Then we headed to breakfast. Once we had finished we headed to reception to meet up with our driver for the airport transfer at 5.30.

Our flight to Cairo departed a little late – just over 15 minutes, so we

Digital Nomad Flying

Aswan Airport

didn’t arrive into Cairo until 9.45am. Once we picked up our bag we headed outside to be met, once again, by Muhammed who was to be our guide for our trip to Sakkara & Memphis today.

As Friday is a part of the Muslim weekend, there wasn’t much traffic so we made good time to our destination –  Memphis. This was the first capital of Egypt after the unification of the upper & lower kingdoms. It served as capital for more than a thousand years. Much of the old capital has been destroyed through the ravages of time & the village that is now on the site bears no resemblance to what would have been a magnificent city in its day. We are taken to a site that features several large monolithic statues – mostly of Rameses II – that are very impressive & we walk around the site for a while before heading off to Sakkara.

Digital Nomad Sakkara

Sakkara Pyramid

This is a relatively well preserved site & is credited with being the area where the Egyptians first started playing with the Pyramid. This is where the famous “Step” pyramid is situated just outside of Memphis. It features a small temple, several early pyramids & numerous “Mastabas” (these were the burial crypts of high ranking Egyptian nobles & priests).

We are permitted to enter one of the interiors of an early pyramid to look at the carvings & hieroglyphs which are remarkably well preserved. You are not allowed to take pictures here, although our

Digital Nomad Tomb

Inside a Sakkara Pyramid

guide allowed us to (he actually encouraged it) – for a small “Fee”. We also went into a Mustaba which was also amazingly well preserved for something over 4000 years old!

As we headed back to our vehicle Muhammed told us that there are over 100 pyramids in Egypt but only four are well known outside of the country – those at Giza & the one here at Sakkara (which, itself, is surrounded by other pyramids in various states of decay).

Time to head back to the city to sample the “Khan el-Khalili” street market before we head to our hotel. The drive takes close to an hour this time as the traffic has built up considerably since the morning – at times we were moving slower than walking pace!

Digital Nomad Market

Khan el-Khalili Street Market

Finally, we pull up outside a Mosque in the Islamic centre of the city. Muhammed takes us to an Egyptian Pancake restaurant for a quick lunch stop – I have a chicken filled pancake & Iris has the Mexican cheese. They were delicious – & huge!

The eatery is right at the start of the market, so we don’t have far o go before we are in the midst of it all. This market is supposed to be one of Cairo’s largest catering for tourists but seems to have quite a large percentage of visitors that look very local to me. We’re here for the experience more than the shopping – although I do end up buying a “Fez” – a round Egyptian hat – for 40 pounds. Again, there’s the tradition of bartering before we got to finalise the sale – part of the fun!

After an interesting stroll around we head back to the van to be transferred to our hotel for the next 2 days. Once Muhammed has checked us in we wished him well & thanked him for looking after us so well whilst we were in Cairo. After such a big day we decide to have a quiet night!

DAY EIGHT

Our last full day in Egypt was spent relaxing by the pool of our hotel – & it was fabulous! It was also the first time in five days that I had decent internet access – so I was able to check all of my emails – thankfully no emergencies so I could relax in the knowledge that any actions I needed to take could wait until Monday! Tomorrow we would be up early for our homeward flight to Frankfurt.

This was a really incredible trip that has left a real impression on us both (as can be seen from the length of this post!).

In terms of being a safe destination – we felt secure at all times & the presence of the checkpoints & security forces was a part of that. The people here are so friendly (albeit a little too friendly in market areas!) – they really appreciate tourists. So, if you have been putting a visit to Egypt on hold because of safety concerns I would suggest that now is the time to reconsider that.

Contrary to what many government websites publish warning against travel to Egypt, it is not a dangerous destination – it has had fewer terrorism incidents than either Germany or France over the last twelve months &, as long as there are no incidents in the near future, I feel that it is as safe as anywhere you are likely to visit in Europe or Asia.

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