After living the relaxed beach life in Dahab, we flew from Sharm El Sheikh to the colourful and chaotic Cairo! Cairo has an astonishing amount of personality. All buildings are a yellow sand colour, women hang their laundry on all the balconies, the streets are bustling and the markets go on for a mile weaving in between old buildings and alleyways. Cairo’s population is 9.5 million which is just below that of New York City and London.
The Nile river runs through the city and splits around Gezira Island where you can find the Cairo Tower and Egyptian Opera House. All 80 or so Pyramids in Egypt are built West of the Nile river for a sacred purpose. Pyramids were built to protect the body of a deceased pharaoh. The pharaoh’s soul is meant to join with the sun at sunset in the West and then continue eternally. The West of the Nile is commonly known as the land of the dead. Almost all cities and villages in Egypt are built along the Nile or East of the river.
The pyramids have stood the test of time for 4, 500 years. From learning about the Egyptian slaves who built the pyramids in school to today, learning about new theories and scientific research about how they were built, it’s a lot to take in. The Egyptian pharaohs had a duty to construct monumental buildings to honour the gods and to preserve the memory of the pharaoh’s reign. The building of pyramids, temples, palaces and tombs ensured paid work for skilled and unskilled Egyptian workers. It encouraged unity, pride, culture and harmony. No slave labour of any kind was used. Located next to the Great Pyramids of Giza you can see the building ruins where the Egyptian workers ate and slept.
The Pyramids of Giza are made up of Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure Pyramids. They’re strategically aligned with the constellation Orion as seen in the image above from the Online Star Register. The Egyptians believed their gods descended from Orion’s Belt. Every 13,000 years this constellation will rise until 58 degrees and then the next 13,000 years it will set to fall again. This phenomenon will continue forever.
The Great Pyramid of Giza also known as Khufu Pyramid is the oldest and largest of the 3 pyramids. Khufu was the 2nd king of the 4th dynasty and the first Pharaoh to build a pyramid at Giza in 2550 BC. It’s also the oldest of the seven ancient wonders of the world. It reaches a height of 147 metres and it took over 20 years to build. It was the tallest man-made structure in the world for 3, 800 years. It took 2.5 million stone blocks, 5.5 million tonnes of limestone quarried around Cairo and 8,000 tonnes of granite stone that came from Aswan, 800 km’s south of the Nile River. When Pharaoh Khufu passed on he and his 45-metre long ship were buried deep inside his pyramid.
Khafre is the son of Khufu and was the 4th King of the 4th dynasty. The Khafre Pyramid is the second tallest rising up to 136 metres. He began construction on his own pyramid. Its sides rise at an angle of 51° and it’s accurately oriented to the four cardinal points of the compass. Khafre appears to be the biggest pyramid because it’s built on 10 metres of bedrock and it rises at a steeper angle than that of Khufu.
Menkaure is the smallest of the 3 pyramids as it’s 61 metres tall. It was erected for Pharaoh Menkaure, the 5th King of the 4th dynasty and it took 10 years to build. Some of us paid entry into this pyramid. Photography is forbidden inside however you can keep phones and cameras on you but it’s best to not disrespect. It’s not a recommended activity for people that suffer from claustrophobia. You need to bend down low while walking downstairs and shuffle through passageways. To be inside one of the Great Pyramids of Giza is a precious experience.
The Great Sphinx of Giza portrays the face of a man and the body of a lion. Egyptologists have different theories on whether it’s the face of Pharaoh Khufu, the 2nd King or his son, Khafre, the 4th King. The Sphinx is one of the largest sculptures in the world. It’s 73 metres long and 20 metres high. The most impressive fact about this magnificent sculpture is that it was carved from 1 single block of limestone. It’s estimated that it could’ve taken 3 or more years to chisel away. The Great Sphinx lost his nose and again there are a few theories about the how but most claim that a Sufi Muslim defaced the nose during a protest against idolatry (believing in one god only).
An inexpensive entrance fee of 80EGP (5USD / 4GBP / 7CAD / 8AUD*) will gain you access to visit the 3 pyramids and the Sphinx. If you wish to go inside the Pyramids additional fees are required. The largest pyramid is much dearer than the others. Khufu Pyramid is 300EGP (19USD / 16GBP / 27CAD / 32AUD*), Khafre and Menkaure Pyramid is 60EGP.
Afterwards, we went to The Egyptian Museum. The entry fee is 400EGP / 25USD / 19GBP / 33CAD / 37AUD*. This museum contains 120,000 artifacts and it’s located in the heart of Cairo. The entry fee to see The Royal Mummy Museum inside the Egyptian Museum is EGP180. You will see the 4,000-year-old mummies of Ramses, Amenhotep, Tuthmosis and their successors. Many people are unsure whether it’s worth seeing the mummies but most will only visit Egypt once so do it!
If you’re visiting Cairo in 2021 there will be a brand new museum you should not miss. After 14 years of construction, The Grand Egyptian Museum is set to open its doors by the end of 2020. A third of the entire museum holds a collection of Tutankhamen’s possessions. 50,000 artifacts to be exact. The new $1 billion museum will be the largest museum in the world dedicated to just one civilisation. It’s a 15-minute drive from the Great Pyramids of Giza so it’s a great opportunity for future travellers to gain an incredible insight into Egyptian history!
The last place we visited in Cairo was Khan el-Khalili, the local bazaar. We weaved through narrow streets, alleys and passageways peeking in for papyrus paintings, perfumes, fabrics, rugs and spices.
You can fly into Cairo International Aiport from many destinations. To fly domestic within the country, EgyptAir flies to Alexandria, Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada, Luxor, Aswan and Abu Simbel which covers all the Egyptian holiday hot spots.
Within Cairo, you have the choice of Uber, local taxis, public bus or the Metro. The Metro is the most inexpensive and efficient way to get around Cairo, to museums, The Great Pyramids of Giza and Cairo International Airport. A fare costs 1EGP for most routes no matter the distance you are travelling.
Elite Pyramids Boutique Hotel – 9.3 rating (Booking.com) – Located next to the Great Pyramids of Giza, airport pickups/drop-offs and surrounded by restaurants and shops.
The Nile Ritz-Carlton – 8.6 rating (Booking.com) – Located in Downtown Cairo, on The Nile River and opposite The Egyptian Museum.
Marvel Stone Hotel – 8.3 rating (Booking.com) – Overlooks the pyramids, 24/7 front desk and room service, all facilities from pool, Jacuzzi, balcony, restaurant, bar, wellness centre & airport pickups.
The Citadel (400EGP) – A medieval fortification where Egyptian Government rulers resided for 700 years.
Coptic Museum (350EGP) – Holds the largest collection of Egyptian Christian artifacts in the world.
Islamic Art Museum (350EGP) – It contains wooden, ceramic, crystal and textile artifacts from all ages of the Islamic world.
Saqqara & Memphis Tour (1177EGP) – Urban Adventures – 4 hours – Saqqara is an ancient burial site located near the city of Memphis.
The Giza Pyramids Sound & Light Show (1100EGP) – Watch the pyramids light up at night and listen to their history.
Cairo Tower (150EGP) – Get an awesome view over the city of Cairo and see the Pyramids in the distance.
Mosque of Muhammad Ali (180EGP) – A beautiful place of worship.
WHAT TO EAT
Kushari – Egypt’s national dish. It’s a combination of rice, chickpeas, pasta, lentils, onion, tomato, garlic and tomato sauce. It’s interesting and delicious. You can buy Kushari off the streets but we went to the El Houssen Star Koshary in Cairo and it was a lovely restaurant.
Shawarma – A choice of rotisserie meats, add in hommus, vegetables, garlic, onion, tomato, pepper all wrapped in pita bread.
Falafel & Hommus – A deep-fried ball made from chickpeas and the adding of onions, spices and herbs.
Hawawshi – Pita stuffed with mincemeat and spiced with onion, pepper and parsley.
Cairo is a big city and there are restaurants on almost every street with plenty of local cuisines to choose from.
*Based on currency rates at the time of being published.