This is what I had been googling ever since we booked our flights to Cairo for Easter. Every news article seemed to be about protests, bombings and political unrest.
As the time approached, we considered cancelling our flights as both the Australian and English Foreign Office warned against travel to Egypt. But our sense of adventure kicked in and we decided to give it a go anyway; after all, I had been wanting to see the pyramids and explore Egypt ever since I was little!
We landed bright and early on Good Friday after a very short overnight flight, which seemed like a good idea at the time of booking but not so much when we arrived… bleary eyed after a sleepless night. That said, driving (or speeding, which is the default for most Cairo taxi drivers!) through the sleeping city and seeing the sun rise over the Nile was the perfect way to start our holiday.
We spent our first day exploring the Pyramids of Giza. It was such an unbelievable and surreal experience to be standing at the bottom of these ancient wonders, built over 4,500 years ago. My inner history geek was in heaven! My imagination raced, picturing it as it would have when it was first built with the Nile running next to the pyramids, instead of the carparks, restaurants and houses that are now situated nearby. It was a bit disheartening seeing the modern world in such close quarters to the pyramids but I guess it was bound to happen. Nevertheless, their sheer size and scale was just breathtaking. One advantage of visiting in the midst of a political crisis was the lack of tourists; usually there are thousands of visitors to the pyramids every day, but when we went it felt like there were more camels and horses than tourists.
On Sunday morning, we walked down to spend some time at the Egyptian Museum. We arrived to barbed wire, police, officials and a whole lot of tanks, all to protect the ancient wonders housed within. The museum itself is quite disorganised so we had an Egyptologist guide show us around and give us insight into the different artefacts. The Tutankhamun section was incredible! It was amazing to see the level of detail and effort put into the shrines, sarcophagus, coffins and all the objects he was buried with. We spent ages staring at the golden coffins and his funerary mask in awe of the grandness and skill required to create these beauties. We left hours later, our minds’ buzzing with ancient Egyptian history and the utmost respect for the people who crafted these treasures.
So did we feel safe? Yes – mostly. There was security everywhere. Upon entering our hotel, the car was scanned for bombs, our luggage was scanned, and we had to walk through metal detectors. It was the same when we visited the pyramids and the museum. What was scary were the crazy drivers in Cairo… it was hectic! The traffic was ridiculous; there were motorbikes cutting in front of speeding trucks, vans overflowing with people, donkeys pulling carts and people crossing the road in between all of this chaos. But we survived!
Next time, it will be Luxor for the Valley of the Kings!
© 2014 Fiona Tregeagle.