After spending my first few days in Cairo on my own, I finally met up with my tour group from Gecko’s Adventures on the fourth day. The tour, called Nile & Sinai Revealed, would cover Cairo, Aswan, Luxor and Dahab over about two weeks. Unlike th Contiki tours from my younger days, my Gecko’s group was small – just fourteen of us total.
I was the only American – everyone else was from Australia. My roommate, Chantelle, was 30 and also traveling by herself. One couple, Linda and Randall, were probably in their late thirties. A brother and sister pair, Chris and Michelle, were 20-something and just 19. A pair of Aussie girls, Kristen and Natalie, were both in their mid-twenties. Two trios of Aussie girls – Sophie, Anthea and Jana from Sydney and Lauren, Megan and Khanh from Brisbane, were all in their early to mid twenties. Our tour manager was a Jordanian/German guy named Shady who had lived in Egypt for quite a while.
Our first day together started where my sightseeing the previous day left off – with a visit to the Giza pyramids and the Egyptian Museum. What can I say about the Museum? It was enormous and had the potential to be pretty interesting, but it was probably the most crowded museum I have ever visited. Seriously, it was worse than the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museums, the Louvre, you name it. And this wasn’t even peak tourist season – it was the end of January! The Museum seemed to be almost entirely full with tour groups, all with guides trying to explain the same things in front of the same exhibits. In short, it was absolute chaos. I don’t even know that it would be any better visiting on your own because a lot of the exhibits don’t have signs in English and you’d be fighting through the masses of tour groups anyway. We spent a couple hours there, the highlights being King Tut’s treasure – a plethora of gold artifacts – and the Mummies Room, which we had to pay extra for, but it was worth it. It was a brief respite from the crowds and we saw about twenty mummies.
After a stop at a papyrus shop and a restaurant for lunch, we headed to Giza to see the pyramids that have made Egypt famous. Fighting the dust and wind, we walked all the way around the Great Pyramid and then wandered around some smaller tombs and the Queen’s Pyramids. I went down into the Tomb of Queen Hetepheres, the wife of King Snofru, who built the Great Pyramid.
After that, we drove up to a nice viewpoint where we could take pictures of all the pyramids at a distance before continuing on to the Sphinx. While I wasn’t so impressed with the Sphinx, the pyramids definitely did not disappoint. I was even pleasantly surprised that they weren’t as touristy as I expected (likely due to visiting in the off season). I had heard horror stories about touts hassling people to buy souvenirs or take camel rides, and I really didn’t think it was any worse than outside of the Coliseum in Rome or the Eiffel Tower in Paris. After four days in Cairo, though, I was ready to move on and see some more of Egypt.
Note: I visited Egypt in January 2008, prior to the revolution. This post was originally published in 2010.