Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Cairo, Egypt 2/27 - 3/1

Before planning this vacation, we didn't know much about Cairo. After a bit of research and eventually making friends with the locals, we realized there's much more to the city than 5000 year old stuff.

See a closer view of our interactive map
Our visit to Egypt would only be complete with a trip into the dessert to see the the Pyramids of Giza. We hired a driver and a guide to show us the popular historic attractions and a few places off the beaten path. We saw Memphis (the ancient capital), the Step Pyramid, the Bent Pyramid, the Red Pyramid, the Pyramids of Giza, and the Spinx - all during a sand storm.

Since many tourists are currently wary of Egypt's political unrest, we frequently found ourselves outnumbered by souvenir merchants and camels. The highlight of our tour was exploring the inside of the Red Pyramid completely alone. Unfortunately we don't have any pictures of the interiors of any tombs. To best preserve the interiors, no photos where allowed inside any ancient ruin throughout Egypt.

Sphinx and Khafre's Pyramid
Alone at the Bent Pyramid
On our first night, we met up with the local Couch Surfing group; a volunteer-based network connecting travelers with members of local communities. The Cairo group is primarily made up of Egyptians and a handful of expats from a few Western countries. They took us under their wings and made us feel right at home. We were lucky enough to hang out with them every day we were in Cairo.

Sailing a felucca on the Nile with our new friends in Cairo
Top: Wael
Middle: Q, Laure
Bottom: Christine, Yasmine, Rania, Mohammed, Amr, Heather
We knew little about Egypt's food before visiting. We were quickly introduced to their delicious food by following the advice of our new friends, especially Rania. Laure's favorite dish was stuffed pigeon and Q's favorite dish was Kushari.

Wael and Laure eating Kushari
We were able to visit the Egyptian Museum, Coptic Cairo, Citadel of Saladin, and the Khan el Khalili bazaar. Our absolute favorite attraction was the Tannoura show. It's a free performance which takes place at Wekalet El Ghoury, a building historically used to lodge merchants that traveled to Cairo. The hall is located in the city's main bazaar and well worth the extra effort to find. The performance is an hour long treat for the eyes and ears with traditional music and whirling Tannoura dancers in colorful outfits.

Mohamed Ali Mosque inside the Citadel of Saladin
Tannoura show
The most stressful part of visiting Cairo was riding inside taxis. The lack of seat belts and the chaotic traffic didn't put us at ease. Crossing the street was a close runner up.

Driving the opposite direction around Tahrir Square
The most difficult part of our trip was saying goodbye to our new friends. We hope to some day have the opportunity to host them in San Francisco. Insha'Allah.