When I was in elementary school, I was always fascinated by the Wonders of the World. History was one of my favourite subjects, and I was always watching the Discovery Channel eager to learn new things.
In grade four, (nearly 17 years ago) my classmates and I were asked to pick an attraction that interested us for a school project. We were then to research it and build a small scale replica to present to one another. I selected the Great Pyramids of Giza for this assignment, which I attribute to my uncle’s fascination with King Tutankhamen and the statue of him that he proudly displayed at his home.
When it was time to explain my “masterpiece” to the class, I dressed up as Cleopatra using a Halloween costume I had worn a year earlier. Although I can’t say my choice of clothing was historically accurate (especially to that period of the time), Egypt has been on my bucket list ever since and I’m glad I finally got the chance to go!
A lot of Cabin Crew travel to the Great Pyramids of Giza on their days off. This is because our home base, Dubai, United Arab Emirates, is only about a three hour flight to Cairo, Egypt and can be visited in just two days time. It was by recommendation of my colleagues that my friend Kailah and I stay three nights at the Marriott Mena House, and book tour guide Mina Samir to take us around. While the service at the hotel wasn’t exactly five stars as advertised, my friend and I had a very pleasant experience with Mina and would highly recommend him!
Our first day was spent grabbing some local eats, visiting the Egyptian Museum and cruising down the Nile River by sailboat. The Egyptain Museum took me by surprise because it was FULL of artifacts (120,000) stemming from the glittering treasures of Tutankhamun (his famous mask included) and other great pharaohs, mummies, jewellery, eating bowls and toys. Normally I don’t visit museums because I find that they tend to be time consuming and boring, but Mina took us through it and explained to us what we needed to know and what we had to see. Sailing on the Nile was cool too, having played a critical role in the history of ancient Egypt. Our ride there lasted about 30 minutes, which was enough time for us to experience it and snap some photos for the ‘gram.
Our second day was spent visiting Saqqara and the Great Pyramids of Giza. We went to Saqqara first, and arrived early enough to be the only ones at the Pyramid of Djoser. This structure predates the other pyramids in Egypt and was vital to archeologists’ understanding of the development of pyramid construction. Erected over 4,700 years ago, it is composed of multiple mastabas (rectangular tomb structures) stacked one on top of the other, to form the appearance of steps.
From here, we moved northeast to the Pyramid of Teti. Historically, it is known for being the second pyramid to contain pyramid texts. The image below was snapped by my friend Kailah, displaying the texts found outside of the Tomb of Mereruka. (It depicts people dancing, in case you were wondering).
The Great Pyramids of Giza were my favourite part of the entire trip. The largest and oldest one, the Pyramid of Giza (also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops), was just incredible. Tourists are able to purchase an extra ticket to go inside, which I found it totally worthwhile! If you are not a fan of small spaces though, I don’t recommend it. This is because there is a steep passageway that leads upwards to where the Pharaoh Khufu’s tomb was discovered. There is no ventilation, so it gets really hot and stuffy as you (literally) climb through the small tunnel. It’s also quite dark, and not for those who consider themselves to be physically challenged. As fit as I am, even I was huffing and puffing on my way back down!
We didn’t venture to the other pyramids for times sake, but they were still admirable from afar. Built during a time when Egypt was considered to be one of the richest and most powerful civilizations in the world, witnessing their large scale firsthand really put into perspective the unique role that pharaohs (or kings) played in ancient Egyptian society.
The Great Sphinx of Giza was also amazing; its face just as deteriorated as I had imagined! For those of you who may not be familiar with it, it’s the statue of the head of a human and the body of a lion. The structure’s nose has been absent for centuries, with two theories as to why. According to some, Napoleon’s troops shot it off with a cannon. However, illustrations prior to their arrival reveal a noseless sphinx. Another theory, and the one our guide, Mina, shared with us, suggests that Muhammad Saʾim al-Dahr mutilated it in the 14th century because he didn’t like that people were making offerings to it. A ceremonial pharaonic beard is also thought to have been attached to the statue, although there are several theories that it may have been added in later periods after its original construction.
On our third and final day, we visited the Cairo Citadel, Hanging Church and Khan El-Khalili Market. Going anywhere on Friday in Cairo, Egypt is hectic because it’s a weekend, but there really were a lot of people out and about. The Cairo Citadel was full of children, but we were still able to see what we wanted- which was the Mosque of Muhammad Ali. Built during the first half of the 19th century, it is hard to miss given its contribution to the Cairo skyline.
The Hanging Church was interesting too. It got it’s name from its construction. Built on the southern gate of the Roman Fortress, logs of palm trees and layers of stone suspend the structure above the ruins in the area.
The market we went to wasn’t as busy as some of the other places I’ve been to in other parts of the world, but it was a bit of a challenge to bargain. Some stores have fixed pricing, others allow you to talk them down. I ended up walking away with a statue of King Tutankhamen and a magnet regardless. (Even though I’m sure I’m going to pay for it when I have to check-in my luggage on the way home).
Overall, my friend and I had an amazing experience in Egypt. It’s one thing to read about places like the Great Pyramids of Giza, but it is another to see them for yourself up close.
If you plan on visiting, October is the perfect time. The weather is nicer and there aren’t as many tourists (especially during the week). I also recommend that you have a local guide with you. Egypt is safe, but having a language speaker and someone who knows where they are going made things easier for us. We were still approached for photos and encouraged to buy things from shop keepers, but our guide was able to warn us of scams and ask people to leave us be when it got to be too much.
Another tip for travellers from my experience- stay at a resort. It is a little more expensive, but three star hotels in Egypt are not the same as three star hotels in Europe. The security is tighter, there are more options available to you in terms of packages, and the bigger hotel chains tend to be more reliable. We used booking.com to help us make our decision.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read my blog and for leaving all the lovely comments and suggestions that you guys do. It means a lot to me!
Next stop: Cappadocia, Turkey 🇹🇷
Disclaimer: My posts are my personal views and and do not represent the views of my company.