Travel Tales


 It was Saturday morning, and I was sitting in my balcony with a cup of coffee. As I was thinking about my Antarctica trip and gazing at the canvas world map in my hall, it struck me that Africa was the only continent out of the seven continents left untouched in our travels. I was turning 30 in March and I thought it would be exciting to have visited all seven continents under 30. That is how we planned a quick trip to Egypt.

 

 



















 


Many people recommended against it as there was a general notion that Egypt was not safe after the revolution in 2011. We still decided to go after reading the reviews online, and it was worth the trip. Cairo still continues to be very safe for tourists, and we found Egyptians to be very warm and welcoming. I was amazed by the hospitality and politeness of the locals who went above and beyond to help us throughout our stay. 


 














 

Summary

  • It is advisable to book a taxi through a tour operator so that you can move around conveniently. We contracted Egypt Tailor Made Tours and it was a fantastic experience. I highly recommend them. They helped to expedite the immigration procedure and we didn’t have to stand in long queues. Our local guide Laila had a PhD in Egyptology and was extremely knowledgeable, so we were able to learn a lot about Egyptian history and culture.              
  • Do check the weather forecast. The pyramids are best seen on clear days. You can call the pyramid office to check the weather conditions. Modify your plans to see the pyramids if there is haze.
  • Shop for souvenirs at Khan el-Khalili bazaar and avoid the touristy spots to get better prices.
  • The key attractions include The Citadel of SaladinThe CopticSultan Hassan MosqueEgyptian Museum and the Pyramid complex; each is unique and rich in its own way.
  • Carry an umbrella, windcheaters and sunscreen as the sun can be quite harsh in the Sahara desert area.


























 

How We Spent Our Day

We intended to start the day with a visit to the pyramids but owing to the haze in Giza, we changed our plans and visited the Citadel of Saladin. The Citadel of Saladin houses the Muhammed Ali Mosque, which is a replica of the Blue Mosque in Turkey. The whole compound looks beautiful and gives a bird's eye view of old Cairo.
 
Very close to the Citadel are the Sultan Hassan Mosque and Rifai Mosque. Both of them are very different and unique. The Sultan Hassan mosque is very simple and was once used as a madrasa to teach students. Rifai Mosque, on the other hand, is intricately carved with jewels and stones from various parts of the world and was indeed the most beautiful mosque in Cairo in its time.
We came back to the downtown area to spend a few hours at the Egyptian Museum. This was my favourite. The museum had original artefacts from the tombs of the kings, ranging from mummified seeds to chariots, clothing, jewellery, and mummified pets such as duck and crocodiles. The exclusive section on the real mummies of kings was very fascinating. It is impressive how these mummies have been preserved for over 5,000 years.


The mummification process was carried out by special priests who knew the correct rituals and also the human anatomy. The art of mummification got lost when Greeks arrived and little is known about how it is actually done in practical terms. Theoretically, all the soft organs of the deceased person were removed and only the heart was left intact within the body. The cavities were then rinsed out with palm wine and filled with packets of natron. Finally, the entire body was covered with natron and left for 70 days until it was completely dry. Then natron was completely removed and the dehydrated body was filled with linen to give it a human shape. The entire body was then wrapped in hundreds of metres of linen strips. The deceased was then carried to the tombs on a boat across the Nile to the West bank where most of the pyramids exist.        


After our visit to the museum, we went to the pyramids — one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the one that dragged us all the way to Egypt! The pyramids used to be the tombs of ancient Egyptian kings who were mummified and preserved for 70 days after death before being transferred to the pyramids. The tombs were intricately decorated with mummified articles like food, meat, chariots, clothing, pets, etc. The largest of them, the pyramid of Giza, consists of more than three million blocks of stone, each weighing between 15 to 50 tonnes and arranged to form this beautiful architectural structure without glue or cement. This is a complete engineering marvel. Even today, only 20% of the ancient Egyptian tombs have been excavated! I wonder what else is hidden and unseen in the mesmerising landscape of Egypt.


The Pyramid Complex also houses the largest Sphinx, a limestone statue with the face of a human and body of a lion, which is considered to be a guardian of the tombs of the kings and emperors.

 























We ended our day with a visit to the bazaar, Khan el-Khalili. It was very vibrant with a festive atmosphere all around. We enjoyed shopping, Turkish coffee and live Arabic music. Here, you can bargain to get the best price for your purchases.     

   
We spent an eventful day at Cairo and Giza and got completely blown away by the magnificence of the Great Pyramids of Giza.

 

Read more about Akshat Jain & Sona Jain's trip here: https://travelpinsonmap.com/2018/02/25/1-day-itinerary-for-cairo/

 

This Article has been shared By Akshat Jain, Alumnus from PGP Co '14 and authored by his wife, Sona Jain.