Thursday, June 19, 2014

egypt, it's where it's at

Something we had talked about doing, but hadn't yet, was the one night layover thing that certain airlines offer. On our way back to the US from Israel, we finally go the chance to do it with a one night layover in Cairo. Neither had ever been there and we really wanted to go. We made sure we'd have enough time to get from Cairo to see the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx--and it was close, but we would just make it.

We got into Egypt around noon, but the whole process of getting one day visas and having to go through customs didn't get us to the hotel and ready to head out until 3. We walked out to the street in front of our hotel and talked to a few cabbies before finding one who was charging what we thought was reasonable for the ride to the pyramids and back. He was a nice guy who ended up telling us a lot about Egypt's current situation and from a local's perspective, why they had their summer revolt.
The traffic was pretty stop and go for a while and we didn't get to the Pyramids until around 4. Once there, we found out that the Pyramid Complex had closed early that day, and was already closed. We were bummed, but what could we do, jump the wall in front of the military patrolling with guns? We took pictures of it from the gate, which luckily wasn't too far away. (And strangely, there wasn't another tourist to be seen. We knew Egypt tourism was down, but there was literally no one there.)

Maggie over the Nile River in Cairo 
View from the locked gate




A cat guarding the Sphinx--whose original head is thought to have been a cat.

Andrew finding high ground to peer over the wall into the Great Pyramid Complex

Maggie posing with the Great Pyramid

As the taxi driver told us, the fairly new wall around the Pyramid complex is a good example of why the people of Egypt are so upset. The government built the wall around the Pyramids so they could control who could gives tours and when they are allowed in. While to Americans this may make sense, to the hundreds, if not thousands, of Egyptian families who have been making money off Pyramid tourism for generations, this is creating a barrier for making a living.

We saw this with a family we met while walking around the Pyramid wall. We were just wandering around (we were still the only tourists in the entire area) when a lady came out of her house and started chatting with us, and invited us into her house for tea. There we sat on the floor in the one small room where it appeared the whole family lived and slept (there were six of them there at the time) and met the whole family. The oldest son spoke English, so he was the translator, and we told them about ourselves, how we had been traveling for awhile and were now going home. The woman told us that her husband's family had been living in Cairo for hundreds of years and that they used to be able make money giving tours of the Pyramids whenever they wanted, but now because of the wall and the permits, they have had to try to find new ways to make money off the tourist trade, but with many families in the same boat, it is harder to do. This combined with the huge decrease of tourism has made the times harder.

Everyone we met in Egypt told us, and wanted us to relay to everyone we knew, that Egypt is not dangerous and no one should be afraid to travel there. It is really is true. (Or at least, it definitely seemed to be at the time--this was mid-2014.) To us, it seemed like there is no better time to go to Egypt. The tourist infrastructure is there, but with fewer tourists. The people couldn't be nicer and really want tourists to come back to their country. So if you are thinking of going to Egypt sometime in your life, now is a great time. We couldn't speak more highly of what we saw of the country.

Maggie with the family we met, in their house

Andrew hanging with the Egyptian Justin Bieber

2 comments:

  1. I email subscribed to your blog when you were travelling more regularly (it is so fun living vicariously - through pretty much anyone with a camera) and your stories make it feel more like a real, chair-side trip.

    But I am rather confused about the timing of when I get these posts. I got the Dead Sea one when I posted my last comment, and this one just popped up (with your boating adventures), but I see it's actually from 2014. Any time's a good time for a short tour of new places, but it seems odd.

    I really enjoyed the Egypt story. It makes me wonder what it's like there now.

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    1. Hi Sarah! Good eye--we actually just never did a couple posts, like this one, from when we were traveling before, and just tossed them up now since we're starting to do some traveling again. The dates are completely confusing, I know. Sorry! :)

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