Updated: Oct 19, 2018
by Nina Sabin - Travel
Blog #7 Welcome back to our Cairo Adventures...
Soon after arriving in Cairo, we took a horse-drawn carriage ride through the great land of these huge pyramids, rode a camel and went inside one of the pyramids. There was nothing to see inside the pyramid, but we wanted the experience. Picture this…claustrophobics beware…. entering and bent half over in a 4’ x 4’ shaft decreasing at a 45 degree angle for approximately 250 feet into the bowels of the pyramid with makeshift wooden “steps”…quite fun! Once inside, there were several of these tunnels going up and down that we explored with a guide. We were happy to be out of there, but are thankful for the experience!
Our favorite part of Cairo, of course was visiting the Sphinx and the Pyramids. We had the opportunity to ride a horse and carriage while we went around the Pyramids. The people in Egypt are so friendly and love children. (Later we found most countries love children and want to take pictures with them, more on that later.) The man even shared his goutra with John. It was amazing to see the Pyramids and it was unbelievable when we were standing by the Sphinx and getting our picture taken.
We also went shopping / haggling in Khan el Khalil, the best shopping in the Middle East for bargains. It is a huge area of dimly lit, tight streets, most with dirt walkways. We were there after Iftar, the nightly breaking of the fast (Muslims fast daily during the month of Ramadan) so it was PACKED with people celebrating the end of Ramadan – it was incredible. A “tour guide” hooked up with us so he could practice his English. We didn’t mind as we got to practice our Arabic. With him, we saw great non-touristy sites in Islamic Cairo and Khan el Khalil. The kids unexpectedly saw a big basket of lamb heads for making soup – they were not too happy about that, but I guess the lambs were not either!
Everything is bargained for in Egypt – water, food, tips, cab rides, goods, everything. Arabia has some haggling, but not to this extreme. Even the money exchange in the hotel was a place to bargain where John was able to use his new Egyptian expression “you’re breaking my heart, its Ramadan” when the money ex-changer wanted a 15% spread on the exchange. John ended up getting an even spread on the exchange with no commission charged. With John knowing and speaking some 250+ words and phrases in Arabic, it really appeared to get the respect of the merchants as more than just the items being sold and the costs were discussed. This “small talk” drove the prices down as well. We did get some double takes as they saw us and thought “American”, but heard “Arabic”. Many of them thought we were residents in Egypt.
One of the most interesting areas of Cairo was the area known as Old Cairo. Think of a walled town with cobble stone walkways winding through centuries old streets no more than 10 feet wide with high walls and a church around every bend - this is the famous place of Old Cairo. We saw the famed Hanging Church and the churches of El Muallaqa, Sitt Mariam, St. Mary’s and Abu Serga. Abu Serga church is the crown jewel as this is one of the churches where Jesus, Mary and Joseph stayed when running from King Herod. This is a must see for anyone.
We did not realize it, but apparently Old Cairo is home to the ancient city of Babylon – at least Egyptians think so. There is a large, multi-year project to reconstruct the city Babylon in this area…wonder if there is any connection to Revelations 18?
The Egyptian Museum is a great place to see with 1000s of antiques from Pharaohs’ time including mummified everything – people and animals. We also saw the Mohammed Ali mosque that appears on the Egyptian pound. It is HUGE. We also visited the old Aqueducts and the City of the Dead. On our last day in Cairo, we visited the Paranoiac Village – a great place to see a smaller version of the temples, the gods and the re-enactment of what life might have been like 5,000 years ago.
There is so much more to tell about our adventures in Egypt besides our journey through Cairo. In my next blog I will share how we saw Egypt in style by train, cruise ship, sail boat, horse, camel and on foot. Through our adventures you will have a good understanding of Egypt trip from our perspective and hopeful be inspired to have the “traveling bug.”