A Traveller’s Guide to Cairo

Travelling to Egypt and seeing the Pyramids of Egypt, the last remaining of the 7 ancient wonders of the world, is a once in a lifetime trip for many people. Because of the travel distances involved for most tourists who go to Egypt, advance planning is definitely required and you are advised to go with a tour group that specialises in Egypt Travel. SpiritualEgyptTours.com can assist you in planning your once in a lifetime visit because they know Egypt and are partnered with Egypt’s leading Travel Agency Quest Travel to bring you the absolute best tour experience that will create memories for a lifetime.

When you visit the capital city of Egypt which is Cairo, you should be prepared as it is a very large city of 83 square miles with 19 million inhabitants. It is not a picturesque city for tourists but instead it is noisy, dusty, crowded and very chaotic but with a magic and charm that has been handed down through the millennia. But it is also a modern city with a good road system and many beautiful buildings even if they are covered in dust from the surrounding desert. However, this is the entry point for most travellers to Egypt and the base for some famous sights such as the Great Pyramids, the mighty Sphinx and the famous Cairo Museum the home of Tutankhamun’s treasures.

Driving yourself through Cairo is definitely not recommended as the traffic is just crazy. It is best to take organized tours, metered taxis or private hire cars with a driver and leave the driving to the locals. Don’t expect to get anywhere in a hurry. For instance it is a good 2 hour journey from the airport to Giza where the pyramids are located and at least an hour from downtown Cairo to the pyramids – not because they are a long way away but because of the heavy traffic. I actually learned Arabic numbers from observing the number plates on cars and getting guidance from my Egyptian driver – that is how slow the traffic usually moves in Cairo.

Many 5 star hotels are available in Cairo including many of the worldwide chains like Sonesta, Four Seasons, Hyatt, Le Meridian, Oberoi, Radisson, Hilton, Inter Continental, Marriott, Sofitel, Concorde, Sheraton, Movenpick to name a few of the major hotels in Cairo. Most of the hotels offer several restaurants to choose from, day spas, pools, gyms, in house movies –  in fact everything you could want to fill in your time when you are not out enjoying the sites.

The Great Pyramids and the Sphinx of course are the main attractions here in Cairo. They are located in the Giza plateau which is just outside the city. There are actually six pyramids with the largest being the Great Pyramid which was supposedly built by King Cheops in 2650 BC. The second pyramid was built by King Chephren, Cheops’ son and the third by King Mycerinus, son of Chephren. Of course the photo opportunities at the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx are just wonderful.

A visit inside the Great Pyramid is highly recommended for an extra admission charge but this is not recommended if you are remotely claustrophobic. The tunnel leading to the Kings Chamber in the Great Pyramid is not comfortable at all. You have to walk in a semi crouching position all the way because the tunnel is quite long and not very high. The insides of the pyramids are obviously also not air conditioned so temperatures are hot but at least the entire path is now electrically lit.

Outside on site, there are numerous people offering camel rides. They are a real novelty since there are not many opportunities to ride a camel in the desert with the Great Pyramids in the background. But be warned that some of these camel owners will try and get as much out of the unsuspecting tourist as possible. Negotiate with a few of them before hand. One such story from an unsuspecting tourist tells how a camel ride was bargained for the equivalent of $7 US which is quite reasonable. After the ride was paid for, the camel owner passed over the actual duties of working the ride to his teenage son. During the ride, his son kept hinting that he expected a tip which is normal practice by everybody offering services to tourists. At the end, a $2 US tip was offered but the son was expecting a ridiculous amount of $30 US and got angry when he realized that amount wasn’t going to happen. The local tour bus driver who was watching the entire incident had to come over to ‘rescue’ the tourist. I’ve always found that a little charm and humour goes a long way when negotiating prices in Egypt. Prices are usually much lower than back home anyway and the locals are paid a pittance compared to the wages back home in Western countries.

A must see attraction is the Cairo Museum where some of the most important and priceless ancient Egyptian attractions are housed. The treasures of King Tutankhamun including the famous gold mask are at the Egyptian Museum. The treasures are extremely impressive as each object was made with such fine detail. It is interesting to note that although Tutankhamun’s treasures are impressive, the boy king was not one of the major pharaohs. So one can just imagine what the treasures of the other pharaohs would have been like. The other antiquities at the museum are also quite impressive so one can easily spend a good portion of the day here. The building is grand so roaming through the halls you can have a real “Night at the Museum” (ref the movie) experience. There are many artefacts together that were not designed to be housed together so the energy in the museum is really quite extraordinary. This really becomes apparent if you see the Museum after hours as you will when you join a SpiritualEgyptTours.com tour of Egypt. This is when the Museum really comes to life. Our guide has many stories to tell of unusual and unexplained occurrences that have happened in the Museum over the years. They are building a new modern Museum in Giza and is shaping up to be very beautiful. But I’m rather fond of the energy that has been created in the current Museum.

Egypt’s population is 94% Muslim and 6% Coptic Christian. As expected, there are some marvellous looking mosques in Cairo that are worth seeing and they would usually be in the agenda of most organized tours. Certainly you should not leave Cairo without doing an organised tour of Old Cairo.

The markets such as the Khan El-Khalili bazaar are interesting experiences too. At these markets, one can shop for spices, perfumes, jewellry, brass, copperware, ceramics, fabrics including Egyptian cotton and many more souvenir items including replicas of ancient Egyptian treasures. Be prepared to shop around and bargain though. Prices for the same items can vary greatly at different shops. Many shop owners are welcoming to customers and will often offer a soft drink or a cup of tea. But Egyptians are hard sellers and will put on the pressure to buy so don’t be intimidated because they respect someone who matches them at the bargaining table. Most prices can be brought down even if the sellers appear irritated in fact this is part of the process. Some will even follow customers out the door still trying to get the sale. So be warned that the Egyptian markets are not relaxed places to shop but they can be a lot of fun. The main thing is not to get upset by their hard sell tactics. It is just part of the adventure of shopping in a foreign land such as Egypt and just like back home, these traders are simply trying to make some money to feed their family and keep a roof over their heads. Many of them are solely reliant on the passing tourist trade for their income.

To get a change of pace in Cairo, you can take a ride on the river Nile on local sailboats called feluccas. However, if you are going to travel to other parts of Egypt like for instance Aswan, be sure to enjoy the experience of sailing in a felucca in the Aswan area because the scenery is more beautiful than around Cairo, and the river is quieter and more peaceful. There are some restaurants located in Cairo with surprisingly pleasant outdoor terraces overlooking the city and the Great Pyramids in the distance. Your tour guides will know where they are and will likely include one in the tour’s itinerary if you ask them.

One thing you will need to get used to as a tourist in Egypt is the sight of many uniformed security personnel armed with machine guns. They are stationed at all the tourist sights, airports, major hotels, shopping centres and the Egyptian Museum. At these locations you can expect to have your bags put through a scanner and you will need to walk through a scanner as well before entry is allowed but it really isn’t a big deal. Tourism is the life blood for Egypt so they take protecting tourists very seriously and all this is for your protection not to intimidate you.

A trip to Egypt is an adventure of a lifetime. Travelling through Egypt is usually very safe and the Egyptian people are very friendly and accommodating. Travel to Egypt with SpiritualEgyptTours.com and visit the sites of Ancient Egypt with private and exclusive access to many of the sites without the crush of other tourists. Experience Egypt through the eyes of locals. Travel in 5 star comfort staying at luxury hotels and experience an Egypt that many tourists do not have the opportunity to see. Travel to Egypt and experience the magic and mystery of this ancient land on a Spiritual Tour to Egypt and discover not only Egypt but also a part of yourself that you didn’t know existed before your tour to Egypt.

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By Rhonnda Fritz


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