Sunday, May 23, 2010

Egypt – Cairo


Map picture

My introduction to The Middle East begins when I board Delta Flight  84 from JFK to Cairo.




Lonely Planet I have reserved one night of hotel accommodations and with a backpack,  cash, credit cards and a Lonely Planet Guidebook I am ready for the adventure to begin.



I am assigned a window seat on a pretty full flight and after a chicken dinner with Middle Eastern flavor, thanks to Tylenol PM I sleep about 6 to 7 hours. This part of my plan to hit the ground running well rested once we arrive in Cairo.

First stop The Egyptian Museum!


Aerial View Of Nile Pyramids, The Nile and Cairo come into view as we make our arrival descent for landing.





Prior to landing, the friendly flight crew provides myself and a few other passengers some "snacks" and “beverages” for the road.

Tourist Visa ($15) can be purchased prior to clearing Immigration and Customs. An ATM is available nearby.


Bus Terminal Exiting Customs at Terminal 2, I take a left and head across the parking lot to bus terminal.




Taxi fare to the city is about 40-50LE compared to 2LE for a local bus which I think will be a much better experience.


DB At Cairo Bus Terminal My guide book says it’s bus “356” to The Egyptian Museum.




I am having a difficult time finding it until I make a few inquires and discover I need to find bus “707” in Arabic.

About an hour or so ride into town picking up many locals along the way most of them wearing "Levi's" which made me feel right at home.

Longchamps Dropped off at the main bus station behind the museum, I hop a taxi cab for a short ride to Hotel Longchamps.




Most taxi rides around the city should be no more than 10LE.

Hotel Longchamps located in multi-floor building with other hotels comes highly recommended and I am not disappointed.


DSC00330 Ready for lunch, I head to Abou El Sid located at 26th July, Zamalek just a short walk from Hotel Longchamps.




Like dining in a castle,  Abou El Sid offers a great atmosphere and local cuisine with a friendly English speaking staff. When in Egypt do as the Egyptians do, start with a cold draft “Stella” beer and “Foul” a delicious fava bean, green peppers & onions mix.


DSC00329"Fettah" - Risotto, meat & bread with a tomato sauce. If I were in Italy, I would say "Mama Mia". Delicious!  Total cost about 100LE including tips.



DSC00331 All charged up, I begin my walk to the Egyptian Museum. Crossing "The Nile" with smiles and hello's (Zi-Act) from kids.



A group of singing teenagers passes by and although I don’t know what they were signing I clap and join. So far, I feel right at home in Egypt. 



Entrance to Museum 60LE with a nice ticket stub as a souvenir. Be sure to check your camera to the left of where you purchase your ticket before you enter the Museum.

Since I do not want to spend 9 months in the Museum (The time it would take if you spent just one minute at each display), I opted for a highlighted self-guided tour.

Tour guides are available and range from 50-100LE. I chose to tour Room 32,37,42 - Ground Floor then Room 2,3,7,8 - First Floor.  To stand in the midst of exhibits from 2-3000BC was awesome!

TUTANKHAMUN (Room 8) was breathtaking and by far my favorite exhibit.


Seesha Pipes

To the insanity of Cairo driving with horns bleeping and frequent misses with people, I hop a taxi 10LE (after some bargaining .. most start at 20LE for tourist) to Khan Al- Khalili.



DSC00340Similar to Canal St in New York but times one thousand and you still have not reached the level of people buying and selling stuff.


How about an ongoing auction for clothes where the auctioneer just tosses the clothes to the winning bidder. Even kids 5-8 years hawking merchandise, in plain English, like the best salesman you have ever come across.


SpicesI am not a shopper so I survived the experience without buying anything but along the way I was called everything from movie star to Obama and even Egyptian which I take as a compliment.




DSC00348 After much navigation around Khan Al-Khalil I make my way to "El Fishway" for tea and to experience "Seesha".




The tea I handled pretty well but it took a little help and a few laughs from the locals to get the "Seesha" going.  An experience.

Another taxi ride to Midan Rameses (Train Station), one of the only places you can purchase tickets for the sleeper train to Luxor.  Unfortunately, my “Seesha” experience gets me there too late and I will have to wait until morning.


DSC00358 Before retiring for the night, I take a midnight stroll around Zamalez to cross "The Nile" .


Along the way, I pass by many Egyptian late night cafes with tea and "Seesha". This time,  I resist the temptation.

So far, in my experience, Egypt is a safe place to visit for solo travelers. There is a police presence in most public places but it is more comforting than imposing.

Freelance tour guides are easily available thru your hotel ($40US/Per 8 Hrs) or at tourist sites. Most taxi cab drivers will also give you their cellphone numbers, I guess a cool thing for them to do.


Popcorn Vendor While here have lots of small change, 1LE notes. It helps with your bargaining as most taxi drivers and street vendors mysteriously seem unable to make change.





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