After a really great night’s sleep (our room was cool, comfortable and quiet with the windows open), we had breakfast then we met by Ahmed Hamed Yousif at 9am for our day’s tour in the countryside. Our excellent driver again was Tamer. I’ve been very well pleased with the staff at the Mena House Oberoi--all very friendly, nice and accommodating. Each morning there is someone in a golf cart waiting to drive me to the main lobby for breakfast--I’ve never prearranged that but every morning so far one of the carts has been waiting. Really super nice.
About the breakfasts--buffet style with tons of selections including pastries with homemade jams (guava!, strawberry), cereals, yoghurts and fruit, meats, hot cooked eggs, sausages, fuul, falafels, etc., etc. The hibiscus juice is delicious and the coffee is strong. We fill up to a lovely view of the pyramids. What more can you ask?
|Khan al-Khalili Restaurant: breakfast with the pyramids!|
|Main lobby of Mena House, Oberoi|
|One of the drivers who kindly schlepped me to/from my room to main lobby|
Today the plan is to visit Dahshur and Saqqara where pyramid building began. The drive from the hotel to Dahshur takes you through the countryside. We drove along canals and saw lots of activity--people going about their daily lives. The canals were unfortunately very littered and I noticed people drawing water out of them--it didn’t look suitable for drinking so I hope they were just wetting down the road to keep the dust out… I also noticed some dead animals in the canals which was upsetting. I am trying to remember to just accept what I’m seeing without judgment but it’s hard when it comes to animals.
|Donkeys are common forms of transportation|
Dahshur is home of the Bent Pyramid--they started it at an unsustainable angle so changed course and completed it at another. Looks bent or broken, hence the name. Dahshur is also home of the Red Pyramid so called because of the granite that covered it long ago (iirc from Ahmed’s discussion). We were the only tourists around so hubby and bro ventured into the tomb. I didn’t because of the ankle--there’s no way I would have made it. Hubby was a little nervous and turned back once before he was convinced to go on. He said it was worth it but didn’t need to do another.
|Us and the Bent Pyramid|
|Hiking up to the entrance of the Red Pyramid|
|Bro inside Red Pyramid|
|Hubby inside Red Pyramid|
|Hubby and pyramid guardian|
|It's huge! No one around.|
We lingered a little while, about 8 other tourists showed up, the guys walked around the side of the pyramid while I read a little and enjoyed the amazingly gorgeous weather. We then met back up with Ahmed and Tamer to go to Saqqara, home of the Step Pyramid, the first pyramid that was built in the Old Kingdom. It is under restoration so lots of scafolding around it and men banging on stuff. We also toured the site which consists of ruins of tombs of Kings and their family members. Ahmed helped bring the site to life but there’s really not a whole lot there right now.
We wandered to a higher spot for a panoramic view and could see the pyramids at Giza way off in the hazy distance, the pyramids at Abu Sir (per Ahmed still closed to tourists), the pyramids at Dahshur and of course the Step pyramid right there. We could make out a number of smaller pyramids, Ahmed said there are 110 total. Hubby decided he wanted a photo with a camel and the Step pyramid and the ensuing negotiation resulted in both of us getting on camels, posing for pictures (the camels “kissed”), then getting a short little ride before getting off. The camel guys were very nice and had fun with us--Ahmed Hamed Yousif made sure we didn’t pay too much for this little adventure and they seemed to respect that we bargained. It was fun! I really like the camels! Egyptians are really very nice people and seem to want tourists to have a good time. We are getting a lot of “We love Obama” when we tell them we’re from the USA. Nice to not have anti-americanism…
|Hubby and me on camels at the Step Pyramid!|
After another wander on our own, we were treated to our first tour by a tourist policeman. He showed us some statues and “the feet” around the back of the site. He then directed us out by the half columms. No picture though, he said, since he is police. Hubby then bargained with “Mustafa” for postcards and a souvenir book. We are all getting better at it. We then drove back to the Imhotep Museum and toured that on our own. It is really well done and the antiquities are lovely. The displays are in four languages and it’s well worth the time.
|The very worthwhile Imhotep Museum|
It was now around 2pm so time for lunch. The drive to Sakkara Restaurant was about half an hour. We noticed some guys around a silver refrigerator looking thing on the side of the road with a couple of spigots. Ahmed said that was for water for the poor of the community and a way of helping out. This lead to an interesting discussion of the importance of helping those in need in muslim culture/religion. Ahmed said there’s not a lot of homelessness because someone helps out those who can’t help themselves.
|Bread lady at Sakkara Restaurant; delicious.|
We had a delicious lunch at Sakkara Restaurant. I had the roasted chicken, hubby had mixed chicken and meat and bro had meat. Along with the appetizers, it was great. The bread was fresh out of the oven. Everything was delicious. I am loving the food so far--and you guys know that I’m pretty picky. Afterwards we decided against any shopping (only interested in jewelry) and instead headed back to our beautiful hotel to spend a little while at the gorgeous pool. It was so nice to nap, with an ice bag on my ankle, in the sun, while hubby and bro enjoyed the pool. We watched the sunset and headed back to the room for showers before dinner.
|At the pool|
Tomorrow we’ll check out of the Mena House Oberoi--sadly, no more pyramid views from the bed--and tour Old Cairo (Coptic and Islamic) and the Bazaar before getting on the plane for Aswan. We’ll be in Upper Egypt for the rest of our trip--no more pyramids instead we’ll be seeing elaborate tombs. So far/so great! Ahmed Hamed Yousif has already made us super happy and he promises the same for the rest of our time!