We left the Hotel Long Champs yesterday but not before I broke their shower. It was not working properly and I shook it and the shower end broke off.
We caught a taxi to the Train Station. 15 Pounds, no real dramas there.
We arrive at the train station at 8:20am and our train was due to depart at 9:00 so not too long to wait. We get a few people wanting to help us, wanting tips.
The train was quite spacious but not very clean. We were in a 1st class, air conditioned carriage so we were quite comfortable. The seats were comfortable and reclined quite a bit.
A lady came down the isle and asked if we wanted breakfast?, I tried to ask if it was included in our ticket? She said something and walked off and a few minutes later a guy dropped off a plastic box of pastries and a bottle of Mango Nectar. We assumed we would have to pay for these and in the end they cost 20 pounds each. It was quite dry being bread rolls stuff like that and we ate hardly any of it, so overall not really worth having.
The train travelled through the country side which was nice to see instead of a concrete city like Cairo. The fields were green as far as the eye could see. They have a very good irrigation system as everyone's fields seemed to have enough water.
We arrived in Alexandria at about 11:45am and quickly found a taxi after a bit of bartering and ended up paying 10 pounds for the taxi to our hotel "The Windsor Palace" a 4* hotel.
Once you step inside the lobby you are greeted with a nice clean environment, with lots of staff around. We check in and they give us a welcome drink while they sort out our room. I placed my drink (1/2 drunk) on the table and a lady came and took it away, I thought she may have gone to fill it up but she never returned.
The hotel has an amazing lift and I will post some images when I can.
Our room is nice, quite large, and we have a balcony where we can see the harbour.
Since we missed getting to the Cairo Egyptian Museum on Thursday we decided we would get there nice and early today. In fact we got up about 6:30am (isn't this a holiday!) and had an early breakfast and then got a taxi to the museum.
We arrived at about 7:55am, it opens at 9:00am
Well today I got position #1 in the queue as seen in this photo:
It was a quite long wait, but we started talking to an Asian couple and their child, they said the actual outer gates open at 8:30am, where you then scan your bag like at an airport. You then buy a ticket ( exit the security area, go forward 10 meters, turn 180 degrees and buy your ticket - 50 Pounds per person, of course no signs to say this).
You are NOT allowed cameras inside at all, so again you have to go to another window with no name to leave the camera and get a token so you can pick it up later.
After this you queue again until you can get inside at 9am.
We again were positioned at #1 position, until they closed our turnstile - "Typical" but we were very close the first in. First in to the next security check point, obviously the first checkpoint is a bit useless so they need another to catch more people - they don't do this at airports! - well I suppose they do as they have another checkpoint at the gate before entering the aircraft.
So we deposit the camera (hence no photos) and go through the next security checkpoint. Once inside we zoom to room #3 - the Tutankhamen Gold Gallery with the Funerary Mask. The real mask - quite amazing containing 24 pounds of solid gold. This room is the busiest room in the museum I believe.
There is so much to see it is quite staggering. You get a feeling that you are in a second hand shop as the exhibits are housed in old cases. Amazing pieces are on display with no details of what they are or where they are found.
Almost all the pieces have been written on with red felt pen a code to identify the piece. These people are stupid, they have basically destroyed every peice of artifact they have by writing a number on it in red felt pen.
There are so many pieces to see and after a day at the GIZA pyramids Pam and I have sore feet in an hour of getting inside. We all up spend about 2 hours inside, and it is now extremely busy with 1000s of people inside.
There is so many amazing pieces that you do not appreciate it and just walk past a lot of great things.
Some things I learned.
The coffin or casket is made of wood, the face, the hair and the hands on the coffin appear to be made for the person who will be placed in side. These are actually added to the coffin, they have dowel type things that connect these to the coffin. The coffin is made of wood, and it is then plastered over to give it a nice smooth surface.
The Egyptian museum has a lot of mummies and coffins or caskets. Actually too many to appreciate from tiny ones about 12 Inches high to ones about 140 inches high.
It is a real pity you can no longer take a camera in as they have destroyed most things anyway with the red felt pen.
We left about 11am and went to the Nile Hilton and thought we would have a beer.
The bar did not open to 12pm and as we walked around we spotted an Egypt Air office so I thought we should confirm our flights ahead.
These people already stuffed us around before we left NZ by cancelling our flight and placing us on another with no notification that they did. Well they had done it again.
We were due to fly from Sharm El Shiekh to Aswan via Cairo on the 30th of March at 6:40pm with a 2 hour stop over at Cairo. Well they changed us to a flight at 2:40pm, which then got us into Aswan at about 1am - 2hours to about 7 hours.
The flight I cancelled from Luxor to Cairo about 6 weeks ago still had us as confirmed passengers and our other confirmed flight earlier in the day from Luxor to Cairo had us down as Wait listed.
In the end we changed almost all of our flights to more appropriate flights - NEVER TRUST EGYPT AIR - ALWAYS RECHECK
We then went upstairs to the roof of the Hilton and settled in for a few beers and some nibbles.
We knew it would not be cheap, it ended up costing us 265 Pounds for 4 Beers + 4 Tapas dishes.
But we had a great spot and here are some photos.
For more photos see : http://picasaweb.google.com/iisfaq/PamMuseumAndNile
We caught a taxi back to the hotel and have been resting, out of the 37 degree day....
Well its hot here, today has hit 37 Celsius in Cairo, not bad for the 22nd of March.
The weather stickers below are live so not indicative of when Pam & I travelled but what it is like when you are viewing this page.
The weather stickers as they are called are listed in the order of the places that Pam & I visited while in Egypt
When I made this entry at 4pm on the 22nd March 2008 the stickers above showed the following:
|Sharm El Sheikh||34° Celsius|
Just to put it into perspective, Pam & I are from Christchurch, New Zealand. Christchurch is 11 hours ahead of Egypt, so daytime in Egypt is night in New Zealand.
But just to show it, here is my home town current temperature.
Here is a panorama I made of some photos I took while at the GIZA Pyramids:
I decided that sunrise over the pyramids at Giza would be a good look and I managed to convince Pam as well, so at 5:15am we dropped our key off at reception (the guy thought we were crazy when he looked at the clock, that was because he was sleeping when approached) and went down stairs to find a taxi.
In about 30 seconds we spotted one coming down our road (Ismail Mohamed Street, Zamalek) and we did a bit of bartering to get the taxi to the Giza Pyramids for 25 Pounds.
It was still dark as sunrise was not until 5:56am. We headed off at speed since the roads were quite clear. After a long time we approached Giza and noticed lots of nightclubs just closing down with bright lights and people outside.
We continue on and Pam notices a Pyramid behind a building. We approach the drop off point and notice a rather dirty divey street scene with a few men and horses and camels.
Our taxi driver said the gates open at 7am, the men on the street say 8am, and most guide books say 9am - well 8am is the opening time,
The pyramids are fenced in behind a 12 foot concrete fence - looks crap with graffiti on it and it goes all around the complex.
There is lots of litter everywhere and of course horse poo and camel poo.
We wandered around the fence to see if we can find a decent view point for the pyramids only finding a gate once is a while - locked and usually with a partially obscured view of the pyramids.
Every man with a horse wants to take us for a ride to see the sunrise which basically had now already happened. Prices for horses and camels appeared to be quite uniform at about 80 pounds for a 90 minute ride to the hills where you get a great view of the pyramids.
We flagged the idea and just told them no, to probably 30 people, we obviously looked like tourists!
So after a while we decided to turn back towards the gate.
On the way back there were "Egyptian Boy Racers" doing wheelies and donuts - one man said they were drunk. The police which are everywhere obviously could not care less, but then they are the "Tourist and Antiquities Police" so maybe they have no power even though they all carry either a rifle or hand gun,
We were told originally that a cafe was open by one of the first men who wanted to take us for a horse ride so we thought we should find it. There were a couple open now - 6:15am
We walked past a couple and decided to go back to one which had about 15 police men in it, having their tea and Shisha pipe.
We met the same man again and he was friendly and asked what we wanted and translated it for us. We wanted to try the tea everyone drinks but flagged it for coffee when he could not quite understand what we wanted.
The coffee was Turkish Coffee, better than we had in Morocco, and with spices like Cinnamon or Mace.
We talked to the guy for a while - I got his card from him - his name actually is "Yasser Mohamed El Kenawy" a "Camels and Horses Rider"
We ordered another coffee each - again for some reason they needed a translation since our attempt at "2 more" did not go down that well.
After our second coffee Pam asked were a toilet was and was told they have one. She came out with an interesting expression and later told me "It was one of the most disgusting toilets she has ever seen" and she has seen a few.-
At about 7:30 we went back to the main gate to wait until it opened. This time we were ready to be in the queue at #1 position.
While waiting we watched a run away camel come bolting down the street, I tried to get my camera out but did not. It ran near us and then a guy wacked it and it turned around near the gate, the Police then shut down gate and it went near me to the corner where it came back and I thought it was going to try to squash me, Pam had took off.
It then ran down the street some more with people chasing it, so a bit of fun early in the morning.
The gate - a large steel gate with bars about 8 feet high, no signs in any language saying it was the entrance. So we waited and as we wait we notice they let in people, people who want to sell us stuff later, who through slight of hand pass some pounds to the security people.
At 8am the gate is open and we wonder trying to find where to buy the ticket, again no signs in any language but we head in the correct direction and find a guy in a booth.
Ticket price 50 Pounds each.
So we started to explore at 8am and we finally left exhausted at 11:30am
It is quite amazing how close you can get to the Sphinx, as the following photo shows, even though you can't actually touch it because it is in a pit and fenced off.
It is quite amazing, you expect to be harassed by locals with horses and camels, but the police also harass you. They say come here, let me take your photo etc.. then want some tip for the effect.
And it is not just one or two but every one of them you see in the complex. It is sort of hard to ignore them since they have guns, but in the end they get the no treatment as well.
Just after the Sphinx we get sold some head scares which Pam was interested in. 20 Pounds each, or in my case 2 for 15. These were great, kept the sun off our heads since it was only about 35 Celsius when we were there in the hot part of the day. But everyone comes up and has a new scam - you do not have it on correctly and promptly tries to take it off and put it back on the same way again and then want a tip for their help.
We left the complex and went to find water, and food. We found this up the road, a can of Merinda was 4 Pounds, a 1.5 Litre water was 4 Pounds and a Hummus + bread was 3 Pounds and a Shish Kebob was 20 Pounds.
The Shish Kabob was pretty crappy as it was mostly Kofta (Mince) and the actual meat was tough and chewy. But it was a place to rest after our long morning.
We then caught a taxi to the Train Station to buy a ticket to Alexandria - 35 Pounds for the taxi, and our tic
Our first day in Cairo greets us with clean skies and warm weather (33 Celsius)
We had a simple breakfast of Toast and Jam, weak drip coffee and some cheese.
After breakfast a quick look around the streets near the hotel - well nothing much to be said about that. Pretty dusty, broken pavement and a few shops open. It is a public holiday today - Mohamed's Birthday.
We find a Cab or they found us - a black type of beaten up car ( Fiat ) which is too small to be a taxi.
We said we wanted to go to the Egyptian Museum and he said 30 Egyptian Pounds - a couple of moments bartering and we got it for 10 Pounds.
We arrive at 9:10am and notice that there is a huge crowd in line already. We walk past the crowd to get an idea of the line and notice that after you pay there was yet another line into the museum.
We flagged this as it looked like you would be there for 3 hours before getting in side.
We grabbed another taxi and a bit more heavy bartering we got a 10 pound ride to the Khan el Khalili bazaar. We arrive early just about 9:30 and it does not properly open to 11 or so.
We walked around and grabbed a drink in a cafe - 1 can of coke, 1 small water = 35 Pounds - ripped off but who cares as we stayed there for 30 minutes or more.
During my time sitting there I had a guy want to sell a wallet, watches, and 3 shoe shines.
I bought a leather wallet (well they did the lighter test and it did not melt) - bartering started at 100 pounds, and I got it for 10 pounds.
I flagged the watches without ever knowing what they wanted for them - I am sure far too much.
After we left the cafe, I got a show shine down the road for 5 pounds - about $1.30 NZD. The guy did a good job, but it was funny as all the tourists were watching me as they wondered by. My shoes needed a good clean anyway.
We wondered around the souk seeing lots of similar things for sale. There is a lot of crappy Egyptian type tacky tourist stuff - gold coloured as we would expect to see. Lots of real gold and silver, lots of ornate boxes and plates. As you continue on you get to a clothing souk, where people are trying to sell t-shirts and belts and other crap.
We bought some sweet potato from a buy pushing his cart of them around - quite smokey and basically ok to eat. Cost 1 pound for 1 medium sized one - probably about twice the locals price.
We ate our sweet potato and then decided to head back to the hotel as it was over 30 degrees by then.
We found a cab - again my time to barter with him. First cab I show him the card to the hotel, 50 pounds - I laugh and move to the next. 30 pounds - I say 10, he says 20, I say 10, he says 15. I decide not to take his offer - mean while he is holding up all the traffic behind him and everyone is tooting. He calls out to me - I poke my head in the car and he says 15 pounds - No I say and in the end he agrees on 10 pounds.
We get in - I can't even get my feet behind his seat ... He starts to reverse against the traffic and then we are off on some rather interesting driving...
There is a small video of the driving at this point - click here to download - approx 1.2 MB
We get back to the hotel and again he wants 15 pounds, I give him 10 and say bye...
We go back inside the old lift to the 5th floor to the hotel and have a snooze.