Anytime I have gone traveling, I have this thought that everything always has to be perfect. When I write about it, I want to write about how much fun it was, and how I would go back at the drop of a hat. I think that’s why it has taken me more than a month of being home, before I could even start writing this one. Being on a resort in Hurghada was easy – that was amazing. Being in Cairo, out of the comforts of a resort, was different. A friend told me when I mentioned I was having trouble, that “you had a rough time and people want to hear your side of the story”. So… I will try to explain exactly what was going through my mind during my excursion, no matter how good or bad they were.
We were going towards Cairo, to the city of Giza (twenty minutes away), to see the Pyramids of Giza. One of the Ancient Wonders of the World! How amazingly cool is that?!?! Our tour guide gave us a price, and what was included. We paid 280$Usd (about 370$Cnd), for the mini bus, Egyptian Museum, Nile Rive Cruise, the Pyramids, and then supper. This was through our resort – which after extensive research, was much cheaper than other companies off-site (at least 100$Usd – even for the kids!!). I only had one “rule” (which I only told my husband – bad idea only telling him!) – I didn’t want to go into Cairo itself. Staying on the outskirts where the pyramids were, was pushing it, but that was the only option to see the Pyramids, so I would just have to accept that.
Cairo is almost a five-six hour drive from our resort. We left at 4:30am and stopped once along the way. We slept for a lot of the drive. We awoke once and passed the largest resort in Egypt. At one point I was between sleep and awakeness, when I heard our tour guide says “look, over there, that’s new Cairo”. All I could think, was “woah, we are that close to Cairo..”. I fell back to sleep, and woke up once the car stopped. I opened my eyes, and we seem to be in a busy town at first glance. So I asked my husband where we are. He says “Egyptian Museum. Meg, we are downtown Cairo”. I instantly felt this need to leave. Of course we couldn’t, we had tickets to buy and go check out the museum, but I think my heart stopped. Either totally stopped, or was beating so fast I could barely breathe.. This was one city I did not want to be in, and here we were – right downtown. Trying to enjoy everything, I grabbed my purse, got out of the car, and went through the gates to the museum. We were to meet our tour guide back at the car in an hour and a half.
It was not expensive to get in. It was 60LE (Egyptian pounds) – which is 3€, so 4.50$cnd about. Kids were all free. You also had to pay 50LE for photography purposes. You get a ticket for your camera, and if you get caught taking a picture without the ticket, you actually get fined. And absolutely no flash allowed. To get into the museum, you need to pass through security. Metal detector, the full thing – at least you know it’s safe enough to be in there. Throughout the entire museum, there are mummies, sarcophagus’s, artifacts, statues…etc The statues are actually huge – much bigger than I thought they would be. Egyptian Gods everywhere. Replicas of tombs. So much. But repetitive. For someone who isn’t really interested in this kind of history, I was bored, and annoyed at everything looking the same. Of course it wasn’t the same, but hieroglyphics start to all look the same after an hour… It was nice to see, but we were all at our limit, and ready to head out.
Once you get outside, you walk through gates to get into the pick-up area. The second you step out of the gates, you literally get bombarded by vendors. Full on, in your face – and that is not an exaggeration… We bought some Papyrus photos – five for 100LE (5€). And there was another person selling these little Egyptian purses, which were perfect souvenirs. We bought seven for 100LE – gave the man 200LE and were expecting 100LE back for change. Instead of giving us our change, he tried to give us more bags! We said no to the extra seven he offered, then he kept adding to it – eight, nine, ten… It took us at least five minutes to get our 100LE back!! This was when I realized I wanted OUT! I wanted to go see the pyramids, and get back to the resort…
Finally the van came back about twenty minutes late. It was time to go on the Nile Rover Cruise. I looked at John, he looked at me, and we both knew that wasn’t going to happen. We said we didn’t want to go to the cruise, we wanted to get to the Pyramids, then eat, and leave. I think the guides were quite confused, as it is something we paid for, but didn’t question us. Took us forever to get out of the crazy traffic, finally getting on the highway. What was really cool, is literally from the highway, you can see the pyramids over the buildings. Excitement is starting to kick in – kids included. We talked up the pyramids so they knew where we were going, so they were very excited! Off the highway, into the town, and what we thought was “stereotypical Egypt”, is not stereotypical… There are camels everywhere, as well as donkeys all over the place. Everywhere you turn, they are there! I really thought “this is only what you see in movies” – but this is the reality in and around Cairo. Our guide started to explain how to say No Thank You, in Arabic – La Shukran. He had John say it more than once to make sure he knew how properly, and left it at that. I thought it was strange, but didn’t think more of it.
We got out of the car at the site and our guide bought our tickets. The kids were all free, and John and I were I believe 200LE each. This lets you get into all the pyramids. We got back in the van, and drove to the first pyramid – the Great Pyramid – the Pyramid of Khufu. The enormity of this, was incredible. Absolutely mesmerizing! THIS was the reason we came to Egypt, and here we were! We took some pictures, and off we walked towards the entrance. Our guide told us to go look, go inside if we wanted, and come back to the car when we were done, and they’d drive us to the next pyramid. I didn’t mind walking, but he thought it would be a good idea to drive us, so whatever. We get to a walkway to the front door, when someone stops us to talk to us. He asks where we are from, and when we told him, he says “oh, Merry Christmas, here are some presents”. And he proceeds to hand each of my children a gift – an envelope of postcards, another one a small Sphinx type of cat, and another three pyramids, representing the ones we were seeing today. He started to put articles of clothing on each of our heads, except one child who refused. Then once he was done, he demanded money. We proceeded to give him some, but it just wasn’t enough. So our “gifts”, were not turning into “gifts” any longer. All of a sudden out of the corner of my eyes, I see our tour guide coming towards us. Since he could speak Arabic, he got the man to stop demanding money and accept what we were giving him. We got everything for 200LE – 10€. What we got was very worth what we gave him (each envelope of postcards had eleven in them, and I have noticed, out here they are about one euro each) but that’s just not the point. If our tour guide hadn’t come over, who knows how much he would have “demanded” for our “gifts”. Now I fully understood why our tour guide wanted to drive us to each pyramid instead of us walking – we would have been attacked with vendors all day!
We were brought to the two smaller pyramids – the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure. These may be the smaller ones, but they seem just as enormous when standing right in front of them. Our guide was able to take one picture of the five of us sitting on ONE brick – the kids had to be picked up to get on (I almost did too..). We were also brought to a lookout where you can see all three at the same time – this was very cool! There are also boats you can go into. The kids were always too scared to go into any of the pyramids, so we didn’t go inside. I don’t feel like I missed much by not going inside – neither does my husband. As long as we have no regrets, we are happy with what we did.
Next, was a small drive down a hill, to the Sphinx! I didn’t even realize this was where the Sphinx was until the day before we came. When I say I am not very good at remembering history stuff, I am really not kidding – this was probably taught in school… To get to the Sphinx you need to pass a row of vendors – you get through by keeping your head down and making absolutely no eye contact! You can see the Sphinx from far, but to get close, you need your tickets. Good thing we had them! To be that close to something you see and hear about in movies/television/books was amazing! This was exciting to see. Also surprising was to see how much it seemed to be falling apart. I thought it would be better preserved, but I guess there is only so much preserving you can do before it almost becomes a “lost cause”… Since you need tickets to get close, no vendors were here. So it was also nice to be able to see and enjoy being in this area without having someone wanting you to buy their items!
Last, was supper time! We were starving at this point. We only picked on breakfast foods all day, so we were all really needing real food! It was not even a five minute drive. We pull up on a road to park, and literally, all you see around you, are stray dogs. These dogs are eating the mounds of garbage on the sidewalk! Mounds!!! No garbage to put your stuff into, just throwing it on the road is normal. This was sad. To see people living like this, hurts. To have this be a normal, is scary… Trying not to think of it, and focus on getting into the restaurant, we turned the corner and walked in. The restaurant itself was very nice. Not what I was expecting after what I had just seen outside. We were brought upstairs, and our meals were all ordered for us. I was worried it wouldn’t be appropriate for the kids, but there was nothing I could do at this point. I was so preoccupied with getting the kids to the bathroom and getting them settled, I didn’t get a chance to see where we were. Once I finally relaxed, I looked up and out the window, and here I was, staring right at the Sphinx – with the Great Pyramid in the background. Absolutely outstanding! This was probably the first time since we left the resort I had a chance to “relax”. I had been nervous and worried something would go wrong all day, that even though I was seeing everything, and knowing how spectacular it was, I wasn’t “enjoying” it properly. This, sitting in this restaurant, was perfect! We got appetizers of Egyptian bread, tahini, and a couple other sauces I’m not sure what they were – but they were delicious! The three kids loved the bread, and Nathan loved that the sauces tasted like hummus – I think he had an entire one to himself! And then our food came and it was even better – and child friendly! All five plates were the same – chicken, pork, meatloaf type, carrots & cauliflower, and rice. But not just any rice – it was in the shape of a pyramid! How impressive is that?!?! Kids thought it was the coolest thing! They had a competition on who could crush their pyramid the fastest. We also got desert included. I do not like Rice Pudding – I have tried it more than once, different brands, and can’t stand the taste. I was worried when desert was homemade Rice Pudding, but figured I may as well try it, just to say I have. And oh my goodness was it ever good! Maybe it was the freshness, who knows, but I ate my entire one! For expecting a McDonalds type of fast food meal, this was a million times better!!
All in all, I do not regret going to visit the Pyramids. They are an Ancient Wonder of the World – you cannot go wrong saying you have been! But now that I have been, I never need to go back. Sounds sad to say I would never go back, but it’s true – it’s not a place I ever need to see again. Feeling worried and scared all day is not something I want to experience again. My kids had a wonderful time – they loved the pyramids and the Sphinx (“stinks” as they pronounce it), and I am so glad to have photos of their memories – and ours too!!!