Sunday, May 14, 2017

Egypt: Out and About Cairo

As a history geek and a lover of all things medicine, Egypt has always been high on my "travel list". Let's be honest though, it is not somewhere that I would have traveled from the US to visit, as it is a small country, and SO far from the US. Thus our good fortune to live in the Middle East, where we can take a long (four day) weekend to escape and explore.

Could we have taken longer and seen more? ABSOLUTELY! Do I feel like we missed out on a ton of things or the cultural essence? Not really. Ideally, I think that a week would be perfect, as we quickly covered the highlights of Cairo, Giza, and Alexandria, and I would have liked to explore independently a bit more, and to make it down to Luxor, but we satiated our thirst, and really did love our quick little trip!

We were fortunate that our trip was only 3 hours direct from Abu Dhabi, and we had been connected (thanks Brian!!!) with an amazing tour guide (Hi Ahmad!!!) to deal with all of the in-country issues. We made it off from the plane, through customs, and into the car in less than 10 minutes. I am not kidding. It was incredibly efficient. Cairo Airport is well organized and easily navigated. It also helps that we NEVER check bags. We did land at 1145p, and we were ASTOUNDED with the sheer volume of traffic at that hour of night. I very quickly decided that I would NEVER recommend non-Egyptians to rent a car in that country. Seriously. Don't even think about it. You will never make it. We have been all over Asia, and the Middle East is bad, but dear God, Egypt seriously have the most insane and terrifying driving that I have every experienced.  That being said, we were safe and survived, and our driver was fantastic.

Our driver quickly informed us to the THREE CARDINAL RULES of surviving driving in Egypt:

  1. Good brakes
  2. Good horn
  3. Good luck

Also, to address the most frequent question that we heard before AND after going: What about your safety? Yes, we did go to Egypt two weeks after the church bombing...and we were not nervous and felt safe the entire time. Did we hesitate going? Ehhh, not really. We were informed, and we registered with the US Embassy, and took appropriate safety measures. Also, if we eliminated going places where bombs went off, then Europe, Asia, and even the US would be taken off from our travel list. What...are we suppose to live in fear of everywhere and let terror rule our lives? Nope. That is not how we want to do it.

First stop: Cairo Museum
Fantastic for ALL things Ancient Egyptian history. Mummies, King Tut's tombs, statues, hieroglyphics, and figurines. We only spent a few hours here, but easily could have spent an entire week. Not kidding; their collection is that massive. There is also a new museum opening to replace this one, which is breathtakingly big, and very beautiful from the outside.

How real do those eyes look!?!??!

King Tut's outer tomb

A gold gilded throne

Actual sarcophaguses

Sarcophagus close-up

Cat mummies

Scarabs...look at the reflection of their underside in the mirror!


Our guide was SO excited to take us lunch for Koshari, the national Egyptian dish (read about it here). It was my first time, and I was shocked with how much I enjoyed it. Seriously, it is surprisingly delicious and I do understand (though do not share) the obsession!

Koshari lunch!

Onto a Mosque, a Church, and a Synagog. All within in a single community, and peacefully coexisting. The architecture for all of them was stunningly breathtaking. My neck was sore at the end of the day, from the amount of time that I spent in awe just staring upwards.

Adam and our incredible guide, Ahmad!

Looking out over Cairo

More of Cairo

Cairo Love <3

We ended out tour at the Citadel:

We got a really good deal and stayed at the Sofitel Cairo Nile el Gezirah, in the middle of Cairo, and it was very conveniently located to everything we seemed to be traveling too. Ahmad, our guide, also seemed happy that we were staying there, knowing that we would be cared for. Other than the coffee their shop served being disgusting, I highly recommend the accommodations and location. We walked to dinner (only about 2 miles away) our first night, and it was amazing. Seriously.

Abou El Sid Restaurant is very discrete (a tiny sign above a massive door), that does NOT look inviting. It is on a back and quiet street, with no open shops around it. We walked by it several times, and then when we finally saw the sign, we were doubtful that it was open. Starving at this point, I climbed the stairs to at least try. It was open. And it was busy inside. While the service leaves much to be desired, the food is more than worth the annoyance and wait.

Our incredible dinner!!!

Stay tuned...actual pyramids and sphinxes to come!!!