Cairo, pyramids & traffic 


Idyllic and peaceful, everything but Cairo !


After having been thrown out by a crowd in Minya, we arrived in Cairo eager to get some sleep and work on obtaining on Libyan visas. What we got instead is hassle, mosquitoes and ... no visas.


Sleepless in Cairo
After a short night in Minya, we were looking forward to some good sleeping. We found a quiet spot and parked our car next to the Anglo-American Hospital in Central Cairo. We had noticed some road workers sipping tea and smoking a cigarette as we arrived. We greeted them, winched up our tent and went to bed. After one hour in bed we started to hear the men whispering and laughing next to the car. Our plastic bag dustbin was opened and thrown away. From within the tent we asked them to be quiet. That was not to be. Ten minutes later they were back and started to knock on the car. Christian went out, grabbed one of them by the clothes and tried to ask them to be quiet. Half an hour later one of them was taking the air out of one of Troopie's tyres. We got out with the shovel in our hands and decided to move. This must have been our worst experience in a year on the road. The worst before was one day earlier. We ended up in the Cairo's only camping which, not surprisingly, is infested with mosquitoes. Despite our tent's mosquito nets, we spent the next 3 nights killing one of them every half hour !


As dirty and unhygienic as it gets : Dashur village, south of Cairo


Many small canals of the Nile have little or no current at all. With all the garbage that is thrown into them, these must become playgrounds for rats, mosquitoes and disease. The picture above was taken as we got lost looking for the Dashur pyramids. Asking directions for "Dashur", we ended up in the village itself instead of 5 km up the Nile road. What we discovered is what no tour company will ever show its customers. Worse than anything we've seen in India or China, and that is quite something. As we took the right turn from the Nile road, we noticed that large sheets of plastic had been put up next to the canal in question so that the coaches zooming by would not notice anything. With a little luck, they would not smell anything either ! It is our belief that this filth has nothing to do with poverty. Indeed, we have met Westerners who have lived in this part of the world for decades who have told us that Islam played a part in not setting hygiene as a priority ! Oops, politically incorrect topic !


11 kg of solid gold and precious stones and probably the most recognised single museum item in the world : Tutankhamun's funerary mask


The Egyptian Museum
An absolute must-see, we thought. We made the mistake of driving to the museum as we wanted to visit the Belgian Embassy. Reaching a 1st car park, we were told our car was too big and would be a hassle to move around. Same story at the next car park. We were then directed to a car park that did not exist. We headed straight for the museum where we finally found a parking spot. There both the Tourist Police and the man in charge agreed that the price for us was a ridiculous 20 Egyptian pounds (US$ 4.50). Having wasted the last hour being re-directed from one spot to another we were not going to move. It wasn't before we indicated that we would make trouble that we got the more reasonable price of 5  pounds for the day. We will spare you the details of the hassle of getting into the museum but just tell you that we were every single one of the 9 people who stopped to check our ticket/student card/bag would get sacked in any decent country.  


The Egyptian Museum in Cairo : an amazing collection but the worst museum experience we had so far


The next battle on our hands is having to deal with about 2000 people visiting the museum at the same time and tour leaders shouting their stuff so that every single participant would hear, even those bored out of their minds who only wish to be back at the hotel's bar. "So, was the museum wonderful ?" you may ask. Yes and no is the answer. Yes, because of the sheer beauty of many pieces put on display, no because very little effort has been made in terms of lighting or display. Most items are stashed away in wooden displays that were probably put up a century ago.



A necklace made of gold and semi-precious stones (left), fine decoration on gold on one of the chairs found in Tutankhamun's tomb (right)


Tutankhamun's golden sarcophagus


Cairo and the pyramids
Egypt's best known icon must be its pyramids ! It is an experience of entering one of these perfectly shaped man-made hills and to walk down steps leading 50 or 70 meters down to a burial chamber. The corridor leading down is far to small for anyone but the smallest human being to stand straight in adding to the feeling of being explorers ! The air becomes hot and so humid that pictures taken with a flash would show up water particles in the air !



The guardian of the shaft leading into the pyramid (left), Troopie dwarfed by the sheer size of the structure (middle), some people show no respect whatsoever when tagging their names inside the pyramids (right)


Paintings that are 4300 years old, inside the tomb of Teti, South of Cairo



We were not alone visiting the pyramids at Giza ! (left), stunning and majestuous Sphinx (centre) and famous colours outside our embassy in Cairo (right)



Cairo and its crazy traffic
"Cairo is filthy and chaotic, and the driving and traffic in this city must be experienced to be believed." says Christian Figenschou who has driven up from Cape Town to Cairo in his VW kombi. For us it has been the worst city driving ever. Despite our experience of driving in top of the chart cities for worst driving such as Teheran or Calcutta, Cairo has been even more of a nightmare. This can now probably be explained that we were always very tired whilst in Cairo. 

Palm trees on their way (left), traffic jam on one of the cities viaducts (centre), a camel wondering what's coming next in life (right)


Cairo is a city where staying in one's lane is a challenge. The rule seems to be that as soon as a car is 1 cm in further than you it can swerve into your lane without warning. This can happen so quickly that the only way to avoid collision is to stand up on the brakes. Keeping your cool in a situation like that is possible but every now and again, your blood boils and you want to make it clear you are not impressed by their driving standards. Of course, any apologist could call this a system. Once you know the rules, all is well. Pure chaos sounds more appropriate.



At this stage, we would be happy to leave the country

Here are our extra pages on Egypt II :

Luxor : treasures & tourists Cairo : pyramids & traffic Alexandria & the coast


Egypt, part I Back to Trip page Heading to Libya