Monday, March 28, 2011

Egyptian Museum and Pyramids!


Today, our first full day in Cairo, we finally met our guide after months of email communications. Ahmed Hamed Yousif ( is just as we expected: youthfull, intelligent, thoughtful and in charge. We find out he is a Virgo and “speaks the same language” as all the other Virgos in my life (hubby and dad)! We pay the final dollars for our tour, give him little New Orleans tokens for his family, and are off for our first day in Egypt. On the agenda: Eyptian Museum, the Pyramids at Giza, and lunch.
The view from our room at Mena House Oberoi!

First, let me say that Tamer, the airport driver, is back and apparently will be providing our safe transport through Cairo for the next few days. He doesn’t talk much but he drives like an angel. Very safe. Ahmed Hamed Yousif tells us about Cairo and Egyptian history as we make out way via the Ring Road to the Museum. We recognized a few areas from CNN pictures of the Revolution. Very interesting to be where it all happened not so long ago! Cairo traffic is as crazy to our Western eyes as you would expect. It doesn’t seem dangerous like you‘re going to get killed, more like you should never buy an expensive car since it will be damaged in a fender bender before long…

We passed one of the Four Season’s Hotels and were surprised that it was on such a main highway through town. We are even more grateful for the move to the Mena House as it’s secluded and quiet and away fronm the chaos that is Cairo traffic.

We arrived at the Egyptian Museum and Ahmed Hamed Yousif let us directly to the King Tut rooms. It was more crowded than expected even as early as we arrived (around 9:30am). He gave us a good introduction to the treasures and we took our time exploring the displays. At one point, we were the only people, save the museum staff, in the room. Pretty cool! All of the displays were amazing and we couldn’t decide what we liked best ( I leaned toward a fabulous scarab necklace). We exited the room about a half an hour later found Ahmed who then told us about the rest of the treasures of the Boy King, including his beds and chair and statuettes of servants who were to provide for his comfort in the after life. Very interesting.

We visited and marveled at the collection of jewelry, regrouped with Ahmed Hamed Yousif, then, after more discussion of the treasures within the Museum, had an hour to peruse on our own. The animal mummy room was fascinating as were the roman inspired art pieces. We also saw the Palette of Narmer and a bust of Queen Nephrititi sans hat. We bought a t-shirt in the gift store and took some pictures of the outside then off with Ahmed and Tarik again.


Egyptian Museum entrance courtyard
Burned National Party Headquarters building
 We stopped at a government Papyrus store and Sam showed us how papyrus is made. We bargained for some pieces for souvenirs. Ahmed stopped here only with our permission and it was an interesting experience. I appreciated the sodas and bread that they provided ’cuz I was feeling a bit peckish.

Now we were on our way to tour the Pyramids--the same ones we could see from the room. I’m still amazed at that view! All the news on the internet has been about the dearth of tourists in Egypt but there were loads of tour buses on site today, mostly Brits in Thompson’s coaches. Ahmed said the levels are pretty close to normal despite the media/blogs reports. Although it was crowded, and I have never been here before, it sure seems like fewer people than the many thousands that are normally expected.

We made our way slowly (because of my bum ankle and the sand) to the biggest pyramid--it‘s huger than you can imagine! We clambered up onto it and got some photos. Ahmed Hamed Yousif paid for the minivan to enter the grounds so it picked us up and we went into the desert for our camel rides. “Moses“ was our Bedouin guide and I rode "Charlie Brown." Ahmed helped us negotiate the price and told “Moses“ to ensure my safety and enjoyment so he walked my camel into the desert, all the time asking in a hilarious Texas accent if I was having fun (the answer was yes!). It was not as scary as I imagined, especially after I survived the camel getting up (seriously that little pommel is NOT enough to hold onto!).

After the camel rides, we stopped at the baby pyramid with the granite base and took pictures. We then headed to the Sphinx which was super crowded. I stayed at the top of the walk (and amazingly was only approached by three touts ; “la shook ran” and refusing to engage in further conversation really does work) while hubby got as close as possible to the surprisingly small Sphinx. It‘s kinda like the Mona Lisa: not exactly what you imagine from all the photos--but still impressive.
Hubby and bro at big pyramid at Giza
They pyramid is really, really big

Us with Ahmed Hamed Yousif, guide/arranger extraordinaire!

Hubby and I loved the camel ride; bro, not so much...

Me on "Charlie Brown" with "Moses"

The Sphinx is so much smaller than the pyramids

Afterwards, hungry and a little weary (foot bothering me) we decide against the Solar Boat Museum and head to an early dinner. The restaurant was quiet but it had amazing views of the Pyramids and quite delicious food (sea bass for guys, chicken for me). Then we went back to the Mena House for the evening where we relaxed and enjoyed the music, service and food in the piano bar.

It has been a lovely day; I’ve written a book, and will wrap up. My impression of Egypt is as favorable as can be. Ahmed Hamed Yousif has been great, the sights are spectacular, the weather is lovely, the hotel is outstanding, and the people (even the touts) are great. Since the internet at the Mena House is quite costly I won’t be uploading photos until I have a free connection!

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