I flew to Cairo via Turkish Airlines where I received great service and a “no hassle” experience. Upon arrival to Cairo, be sure to have Egyptian pounds and negotiate your taxi ride from the airport for the best rates but research ahead of time. Cairo also has Uber and it is worth checking out since there is no negotiation over rates which I found to be very reasonable – just plan ahead though as my typical wait was around 15 minutes.
For the first part of my visit, I stayed at the Kempinski Nile Hotel. The rooftop is nice and I enjoyed the views, sunsets, and the pool. The breakfast is good and worth getting if offered as part of your rate. I have stayed at many Kempinski locations around the world but this one does not measure up to the others in terms of service – a little something is missing here.
Next, I moved on to The Fairmont Nile City Hotel. This hotel is one the best in Cairo and I received a very nice rate from Booking.com. I enjoyed the rooftop pool and views from the 23rd floor during the day, sunsets, live music, belly dancing, and dinner at night. The service, the food, and the hotel gave me a great experience in Cairo – everyone here is friendly and helpful, and the rooftop is amazing.
During my visit, I wanted to make the most of it and see and take in all the cultural and historical experiences that I could so I booked 3 different tours from EMO Tours using the GetYourGuide app. This app is great and very helpful for making the most out of your visit pretty much anywhere in the world but just be sure to ask a lot of questions and read everything very carefully. Overall, I have found this app to be a great way to get tours at good prices anywhere you travel.
One of the tours I booked was a Nile River Cruise that included dinner, live music, and belly dancing. I made the most of this tour and let’s just say the experience was interesting…
The next tour I took was to the Giza Pyramids, Memphis, Saqqara, and it included a traditional lunch. At the lunch I was greeted by traditional music and the food was good. My visit to Saqqara was very impressive with its polished limestone that reflects like a mirror and was built over 4950 years ago – amazing! The pyramids are obviously a must see and should be on everyone’s list. I recommend taking a guided tour here since the prices are very reasonable and the tour was very informative. During this visit, I was fortunate that the crowds were very limited and even though it was blazing hot, I was left inspired by their accomplishments that took place so long ago. At Memphis, the main attraction here is the statue of Ramsey II. It was incredible and also a “must see.”
The last tour I took was to see the light show at the Pyramids that included a dinner afterwards. I was expecting more from the light show but it was informative and more of a history lesson than anything else. Afterwards, I went to a traditional dinner on the rooftop of a local restaurant that had views of the pyramids that my guide setup for me. Overall, the guides at EMO tours delivered. Be sure to understand exactly what you are getting and you will not be disappointed.
Khan Al Khalili Market was crowded, chaotic, and interesting. Research the location and know it well before taking on this adventure. There is a lot going on there and good bargains are to be had here IF you can handle the smells, chaos, and constant badgering to buy things you may not want… Always negotiate to get the best deals. This is an experience for sure!
Some thoughts about Cairo and Giza – Remember that are visiting a developing nation and you will experience this in full force from the moment you leave the airport. The city is let’s just say not clean – you will see rubble, trash, and poverty but all this reminds me of just how lucky I am. What can be said about the streets of Cairo? The traffic is pure chaos almost anytime day or night. There are no real lanes or rules and everyone goes where they want. If someone is in the way, honk! Pedestrians’? Cross at your own risk as I saw many close calls. The car horns are constant and never ending… Throw in scooters with whole families on them, trucks piled so high you cannot even imagine everything not falling off. Throw in some donkeys and horses and it is an experience you will never forget for so many reasons!!!
On my last day, I squeeze in a visit to the museum of Egyptian Antiquities. This museum holds thousands of artifacts from a civilization that was truly advanced for its time. “Must sees” include the mask of Tutankhamen, the tombs, artifacts, and of course the mummies! I bought my ticket using the mobile app GetYourGuide but was disappointed with the experience. The app issues what appears to be a ticket that can be scanned but upon arrival to the museum, it was not accepted and no one at the museum was able to help. I ended up having to come up with cash for the tickets since they do not accept credit cards. My advice here would be to always have some local currency with you for contingencies, know exactly what you are buying, and be patient. Also of note, there was not any air conditioning and Cairo gets very hot! However, they are building a new museum to be opened in 2019 that is rumored to be a much better experience when complete.
Time to leave… As my friends know, I do not like wasting time at the airport and always try to make the most of my visit so my departure was cutting it a little close. I had been using Uber but on this day the driver and I did not connect and my phone died – time to take a taxi! Although the driver spoke almost no English, he understood that I was in a hurry and was happy to get me to the airport quickly, very quickly – remember the rules, there are none! The driver honked for nearly the entirely way while flashing his lights and weaving in out and out of traffic even when the openings between cars appeared to be non-existent all while animating the drive with his own sound effects. This ride was scary and hysterical all at the same time but I was happy to make it to the airport safely and on-time. My happiness with the driver turned to disappointment when he tried to take advantage of my situation and be deceptive with the payment, pretending that I gave him less than I did. My tip here is to know exactly how much you are paying and be very aware of what is taking place during any transaction.
My visit to Cairo was educational, eye-opening for many reasons, and even inspirational. The accomplishments of the ancient Egyptian civilization are remarkable given how long ago they took place and I am sure Egypt will continue to flourish in the future. I will definitely return and plan to visit other parts of Egypt including the Alexandria, Red Sea, White Desert, and Luxor.