Cairo is one of the world's most populated cities and has some of the oldest recorded civilization which is represented by the Pyramids of Giza. The Nile runs through Cairo providing some limited riparian habitat to go along with a solid base of urban landscape.
Africa: Egypt and Ethiopia
1/1/2011: We arrived in Cairo just as the new year was beginning. Even late at night, the city was crowded with people and traffic.
I would like to preface the rest of this entry by mentioning that most of the people we met in Cairo, outside of the main tourist areas, were very friendly and honest.
In the morning, we took the subway to get closer to the pyramids. We hired a taxi at the subway station, but instead of taking us to the entrance gate for the pyramids, we were driven to a "government office" in an attempt to scam us into buying a camel ride. After some small pressure to buy the camel tour, our driver finally took us to an official entry point. We bought our tickets, and we started walking toward one of the pyramids.
The next scam at the pyramids involved a tout who tried to steer us into the sphinx complex because "only 300 people are allowed to see it each day". We shook off that tout only to find out that to go into the pyramids required another ticket costing even more than the entry fee. And, to get that ticket, we would have to walk back to the main gate (which we never saw due to the first scam with the taxi driver).
As we contemplated whether or not it would be worth $20 to enter a glorified tunnel, some new tout approached and put some kind of sheikh hat onto Barbara's head. Before long, he had convinced us to let him take our photo. All fine and well until he basically demanded that we buy his stupid hat. Since the hat was basically a nose rag worth about nothing, I generously offered him 10EGP ($2) as a tip for taking the photos. 10EGP is easily enough to buy lunch in Cairo, but the tout thrust the money back into my hands claiming is was "nothing" and that I was insulting him. Fair enough, I put the money back into my pocket and began to walk away. After some increasingly uncomfortable discussions, I lowered my tip to 5EGP and was told by the tout about the warm place that I should visit.
This kind of guilty manipulation was continued for the entire time that we visited the pyramids. The place was crawling with touts, police, and guards who all demanded baksheesh any time you pulled your camera out. The funny thing is that there is basically nothing to see at the pyramid site other than the pyramids and the sphinx, all of which you can see from outside the paid area. I honestly would have been happier staying outside the compound.
The scams continued in the area of the Egyptian Museum. We did not visit any other monuments in Egypt, but it seems to me that anything worth seeing has been relocated to this museum. The mummies cost extra to see of course which was annoying.
Outside the museum, you will be accosted by someone whose relative lives in your country. He learned English at the American University. If you agree to his "hospitality", you will be led into a perfume shop for tea and pressured to buy gallons of worthless perfume water.
1/2/2011: One would think that after all of the scams around the pyramids and Egyptian Museum that Cairo is not much fun. On the contrary, walking around the neighborhoods of Cairo was probably the best thing that we did in Egypt.
We took the subway to a spot near a park across the river from the Egyptian Museum. A tout accosted us and told us that the park was closed because of a function involving the president. We told the tout that we knew about this since we had been invited by the president to this function. Thus, we missed out on his "sister's" art studio.
Of course, the park was not closed, and we spent a couple of hours looking at some birds in the park and chatting with Egyptian teenagers about the latest in social networking websites.
Following our trip to the park, we did quite a long walk along the Nile. Later that night, we visited some market areas and Islamic Cairo. We took a taxi to the airport to catch our 2:30AM flight to Addis Ababa.
Previous Visit (London: 12/31/2010)
Next Visit (Addis Ababa: 1/3/2011)