Mar 17, 2015

Travelogue - Cairo




Hardly did the aircraft touchdown, people started standing up and pulling down luggage from the overhead lockers, started ringing up their friends & relatives. ..Wow - I'm finally travelling in a sector just like my hometown Calicut where this happens on a regular basis.

Welcome to Africa !!! . Finally I set my foot on the erstwhile dark continent & the  'untapped economic potential' of 21st century.

The one hour taxi drive from Airport to Novotel hotel in central Cairo was so convincing that I don't think I'll ever dare to drive a car here . Driving here needs a different set of skills altogether. You zig-zag, you maneuver, yet you maintain the speed .

The chaos in Cairo just reminded me of Mumbai. A city with an ever increasing influx of people, Everyone struggling to make ends meet .  The drive next morning to Giza was just like driving through a Mumbai suburb.

The imposing pyramids took our breath away. The important thing about Egypt & Cairo is that unless you are without a guide , you'll not enjoy the trip.  Even in places like Moscow, where you can't read or communicate much in their language, you can manage without a guide if you are a bit tech-savvy ( trip-advisor, maps, language apps, etc ) .

But here in Cairo

* You need someone who shows you the monuments by telling the right mix of history
* You need someone to negotiate the rates , get tickets , gets you out of the chaos
* You feel safe with the guide overall

Fortunately we picked an extremely helpful agency ( http://www.viator.com/ ) .

The guide took us through the story of pyramids - I have to say that it was a heavy & interesting dose of Egyptology . What Pyramids made me realize is that the boundaries of human endurance are far far higher. In an age without machines, if they had to build it, with the most minutest of the details taken care of, it would have been an incredible effort.

But the best experience in Pyramids was not the sight in itself, it was the sound and light show at night. The history of Pyramids narrated by Antony Hopkins & Omar Sherief was really an awesome experience. A snippet from that embedded here.

If you are in Cairo, this is the experience that you should not miss at any cost.

Next to the pyramids, you have the Sphinx, the largest monolithic statue in world. Near the Sphinx you can see the ruins of a funerary chamber where the mummification used to take place

Visited a perfume factory & papyrus factory nearby the Pyramids. Again these are the places which you will miss unless you go with a guide.

The next major stop was the famous 'Egyptian Museum' in central Cairo. It is said that if you spend one minute seeing each of these artifacts, it'll take nine months to see this museum fully.  King TutanKhamun's artefacts, countless mummies, Rosetta stone ,.. This was a lifetime experience for someone like me who likes history a lot. And, fortunately the guide - Ahmed, knew enough & was passionate about Egyptology. Unfortunately, no photographs permitted here.

To be frank, Cairo is not a place where you would find comfortable roaming around on your own. Street vendors swarm upon you accosting you to visit their shops . Heavy military presence is there in the city throughout - that makes you feel secure, but yet uncomfortable. But the experience of pyramids & museum makes up for it.

It is a sad part that a place that is so rich in history has lost out on tourism front over the last few years because of political troubles.  Since the inflow of tourists have dwindled , it has made the local traders a bit desparate for business. That manifests unfortunately into this over-accosting of visitors.

I wish good times return to this place soon so that my generation don't miss on this wonderful piece of history on our planet.

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