Sunday, 28 June 2015
I woke up a little nervous this morning, mainly because I had not started to pack at all. I also wanted to pack as light as possible on account of all the shopping we were planning to do in Istanbul! And that is always a difficult thing for someone with an inherent fear of running out of T-shirts, or underwear or not having my own hairdryer at hand!
But we managed! We used 1 medium sized suitcase and 1 small one for all our checked in luggage and a small roller bag and backpack for carry-on luggage. In the end, we were done long before we had to leave for the airport and ended up playing cards and Yahtzee to kill the time.
After losing my wallet to an opportune pickpocketer in Florence last year, I was adamant that I would make sure we don’t end up in a desperate situation again. But, despite the best intentions, I almost DID lose my phone! Just after we passed through the x-rays before passport control I all of the sudden realised with a fright that I did not have my phone with me… Luckily we found it at the check in counters, so after some excitement, we could relax and wait for our flight.
Monday, 28 June 2015
We arrived in Cairo at 5:30am in the morning, after an 8 hour flight. I had arranged a tour with a local agent, and lo and behold they were waiting for us just beyond the exit. However, it soon transpired that this would not be that easy and after some scramble, and lots of shaking heads, we were asked why we did not arrange a Visa. Huh? I did not think we needed a Visa for a stopover. The tour agent then went to the Egyptair desk which stated something like “Connection accommodation services” and after handing over our passports and onward boarding passes at the desk and some more discussions that we did not understand, we were finally told to sit down and wait.
The one thing I am always told is that you DO NOT hand over your passport to someone, so I have to admit I was waiting very anxiously. Eventually after probably 20 minutes, someone came out of a room with a stack of passports wrapped in yellow sheets and called our surname. Since his pronunciation was a bit off, he had to repeat it before I realised we were being called. We promptly followed the guy with our passports, together with about 10 other fellow passengers. At a checkpoint we were called again and asked if we need a double room. I explained with some confusion that we wanted to do a tour, not book into a hotel. We were told to wait (again) and after a few more minutes a guy from Karnak tours came to meet us. It appears they work with Egyptair and would be able to offer us the same tour for half the price, and get us back to the airport on time for our onward flight. We quickly agreed and after a bit more of a wait for our transport we were finally on our way!
The drive from the Cairo airport to Giza, where the pyramids are situated is about 45 minutes. The driver was quite friendly and pointed out many sites. I have forgotten a bit what a dreary and dusty city Cairo was. From my previous trip (a few years ago on a tax conference), I remembered the many unfinished buildings and sky scrapers in Cairo, as well as the multitude of satellite dishes on all the buildings. It was however quite something to see Anya’s reaction to these! Similar to Lagos, you pay more taxes in Cairo once a building is complete, therefore a lot of buildings are never finished and people live in the incomplete buildings.
We crossed the Nile and entered the Giza area. We had to wait a little bit for our guide, Yahia (pronounced Ya-ya) to join us. Yahia took us to the Giza pyramids and was very knowledgeable and helpful and not too shabby a photographer either! We loved the pyramids. Yahia even bout Anya a little statue of Nefertiti, the wife of Akhenaten, the infamous Pharoah of Egypt who upset the nation by changing his name and religion to only worship the sun god, Aten, instead of the many gods that the Egyptians used to worship.
The well known pyramids of Giza consist of the 3 large pyramids (Pyramids of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure) but also another 4 smaller pyramids (known as the Queens’ pyramids) as well as the Sphinx. We were very lucky and because it was still early in the morning, the complex was not too busy and we managed to get good views of the pyramids and were able to go inside one of the Queen’s pyramids.
After the visit to the pyramids, we went to see the Sphinx, which is still the largest monolith statue in the world and still manages to take your breath away!
After the visit to the pyramids, Yahia took us through Giza and stopped over at a perfume seller, where we were offered some tea of coffee and had to sample some of the perfumes. Anya had some tea, but I decided to have the Hibiscus tea, which was absolutely delicious. Egypt is of course famous for their perfumes which are made with natural oils an do not contain alcohol. They are quick to tell you that they sell their perfumed oils to the famous perfume house like Chanel No 5, where they add alcohol in different quantities to make Eau de Parfume or Eau de Toilette. We bought a couple of small bottles, including the famous Lotus perfumed oil. The Lotus flower represented creation and rebirth in Ancient Egypt and you can find the flower depicted in many ancient Egyptian drawings. I will be dabbing some Lotus perfume on my wrists to tests its magical properties and get back to you on that!
After the perfume stop, we stopped briefly at the Papyrus Museum where Moses showed us how they make paper from papyrus. It was very informative and the papyrus art was quite something to behold. Of course we were offered some more tea and a mini tour of the artworks (clearly in the hope that we will buy something!).
After this, we were taken back to the airport where I was very relieved to be able to get our passports and boarding tickets back! At 2:30pm, we were seated in our aeroplane (smelling very fragrant, I may add), and ready for the final leg of our journey to get to our final destination, Istanbul!