It’s been a few days since my return to the dreary and wet lowlands and the heat and sand of Egypt already feel like a lifetime ago.
Following Part I in this series detailing my Topdeck Trip (which in case you’re interested, was the Spirit of Egypt one), here is Part II – the start of my journey around Egypt, beginning in the capital: Cairo.
One the 16th of August, around 4am I was awake after a night of three hours barely-slept sleep. By 5am, I was in the car on my way to the bus stop where a bus would take me to the airport. About 10 hours, two flights, a lay-over in Frankfurt Airport (which, by the way, is HUGE!), and an in-flight meal (which was surprisingly tasty – thanks Lufthansa!) later, I arrived in Egypt.
Immediately, I was completely blown away by the amount of sand everywhere. I mean, it is well-known that 97% of Egypt is made up of desert, but it’s an entirely different thing to suddenly be faced with that.
I was picked up by Topdeck representatives and driven to a hotel in Cairo where we would be staying for one night. That drive was as mind-blowing as the desert, if not more. I’d always thought Paris had crazy traffic – until I went to Marseille, after which that city’s traffic was the craziest I’d ever experienced. But both cities and their driving styles pale in comparison to what I witnessed on the streets of Cairo. On the side of the road there were people walking, donkeys pulling carts, people selling tyres, drinks and a plethora of other things I wouldn’t think about selling on the literal side road in any of the more Western countries I’ve been to. Then there’s the case of people just driving where they want, when they want and how fast they want. People pass you left and right and our driver at one point even reversed on the middle of the road because he’d taken a wrong turn!
Upon arrival at the hotel (where the view from our window was of the Great Pyramid!), I met our trip leader, Ahmed, and spent a few hours dozing off in the hotel room, waiting for my roommate and the others to arrive. By 7pm, my roommate, a lovely Australian gal named Meg, had arrived and we made our way to the hotel restaurant where we met the rest of our group. As it turned out, our group was the smallest Ahmed had ever had, with only four people in it (there were supposed to be six of us, but two never made it to Egypt – we don’t know why/how). The other two were Australian as well, Luke and Arnold.
We spent the night chatting about the trip, went for food, stocked up on water at the supermarket, before hitting the sack, ready for an early start the next day.
On the 17th, we were up and ready by 7.45am. Our first port of call was the Egyptian Museum – unfortunately you were only allowed to take pictures of the outside, so I can’t show you any of the mummies, Tut’s 15kg solid golden mask or the statues displayed there. The museum itself is very close to Tahrir Square (where in 2011 a lot of the demonstrations happened during the Revolution) and right next to it was an army tank – which was a very surreal sight. It’s a very big museum (and they’re actually planning to complete the building of an even bigger one) with over 100,000 pieces of several different dynasties, as well as two rooms dedicated to mummies – one holds mummified animals, the other the mummified pharaohs.
After the admiration of the artefacts of several dynasties and saying hello to the remains of Ramesses II, Hatshepsut and a few other Kings and Queens of long ago, we had a brief lunch and continued our journey to the plateau of Giza.
We were driven to a part a little bit away from the pyramids, so that we could get some good pictures of the three big pyramids together. We took this opportunity to also do some pyramid jumping, take some selfies and pose in that typical Egyptian way.
After we’d filled our camera roll a bit more, we got back into the van and drove closer to the pyramids. For an extra L.E. 40 (about €4.55 or £3.32), we got to enter the pyramid of Menkaure (our tour guide suggested going into this one instead of the Great Pyramid, because the insides are basically the same, but entering the Great Pyramid would cost L.E. 200). Truthfully, there wasn’t a lot to see on the insides, but it was nonetheless interesting to crouch down as we walked through those corridors and down to the chambers where the mummy, sarcophagus and possessions would have been stored so many years ago.
Once again outside, we spent some more time admiring the different pyramids, all amazed by the technique, craftsmanship and calculations that must’ve gone into the constructing and building of each of them – and all that without any of the technology we know today.
After gazing at the pyramids, avoiding people offering camel rides and all sorts of trinkets, and a few more selfies, we made our way back to the hotel to gather our bags, got as comfortable as possible in the Topdeck van and mentally prepared ourselves for a 12 hour ride of 1000 km all the way up to Aswan!
I’ll be back soon with the next instalment in my Egyptian adventures.