Its not so much the city which is curious, though it is crazy, rather it’s the people. You see, sadly tourism has all but died here and there is evidence of that almost everywhere, especially down-town. The streets are littered with many things, chiefly dirtiness but in this context, tour-hosting businesses. I observed and admired a small minority still active, though probably only just I’m guessing. The others that have failed all show similarity in the form of filthy, sun-drained signs previously showcasing what might have once been a thriving plethora of stores. Still, these people get by, somehow.
As such, desperation shouldn’t excuse or justify what happened to me the other day. Shouldn’t it?
Speaking of which, thank you sincerely to all the people that got in touch with me on the blog or privately. Time, and your understanding comments have helped seal the recently sore wound. In the words of one gentleman:
“Look on it that you spend £50 on a day out and it was a bit of a shit day only because your guide turned out to be a twat.”
If you can’t trust the words of a Trade Union official, then who can you trust!? :–)
Back to curiosity. When the mixed-aged locals see me walking down the street, they really stare. Some stare just a fraction too long and they continue to stare as I’ve past them. (A quick turn of the head just to confirm, confirms). Some kids even giggle. Hmmm….? I’m not a bloody alien I would often think, or say out loud.
This in turn has made me curious too; would this have been the case before Egypt’s turbulent past and pre-revolution when tourism was booming ? Or is this because some of the locals, the young kids in particular, really have not seen individual tourists like me roaming around their streets? That sounds so bizarre but highly probable at the same time. I don’t know the answer for sure but I continue to be intrigued by it. Oh, how I’d love to be able to read their minds as I pass on by.
Through some frustration I’ve attempted different strategies to mitigate ‘the eyes’, including: wearing jeans in 30 degree heat. Not pleasant as you’d imagine. No shades or earphones but still, no joy. Heck I even left out the backpack on one day too!
I can confirm that only when all those things were combined, I was finally being spoken to in Arabic. Not that those conversations lasted very long at all.
Folks, the distinct lack of tourism is no exaggeration. I’ve walked an insane amount of kilometres every day for four days covering many different areas including. I can honestly tell you that I saw no more than 30 tourists in over 20 hours of exploring. Then consider that over half of these were with a guide and the majority rest I saw at ‘attractions’. For I only saw two individual students, one American, one Chinese, in all my time which has meant I really haven’t had a lot of conversation for a while. That’s been tough and I’m pretty sure travelling should be easier and more enjoyable that this.
Still, I also crave challenge and adventure and Cairo has certainly been delivering that…
Anyway, what is there to do here? Let’s take a look, starting with:
The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities
Apparently this was only opened to the public in 2015 which surprised the life out of me. What has it being do for so many years other than collecting dust! Anyone…?
It is reported to have over 120,000 items making it almost impossible to see them all. I entered, browsed , enjoyed, photographed and then left. Mind you I still wandered for around two hours though.
The image below shows a trial representing Horus (the falcon headed statue) and Seth (jackal-headed) crowing King Ramses III. These statues were found in fragments and then later restored. They date this to be around 1153 BC!
Cairo Citadel and Mosque of Muhammad Ali
This medieval Islamic fortification can be seen from just about anywhere, which isn’t surprising really as it was a fully functioning castle at one time! Entry to the Citadel will also grant you access to some other sites up here including a number of museums. Also there was a rather impressive looking Mosque which when I thought about it, would be the first Mosque I’d have ever visited the inside of. Then again, that’s because many of them don’t allow non-Islamic people to enter so I was particularly interested in seeing the inside of this one knowing visitors were allowed.
Darn it, why did I wear white socks today of all days…!
Whilst, it was large, impressive, holy etc… there’s something else that stood out immediately to me, something putrid, unfortunately.
Yes, sadly there was no getting away from that repugnant smell of ‘feet’.
The Cairo Tower
The highest free-standing in Egypt and (north Africa) for over 50 years. This was not in anyway spectacular to look at from ground level. In fact, it largely consisted of a lengthy circular tube around an outer perimeter. This long circular tube was of course the elevator shaft. At the top they had the foresight to at least build a restaurant and it revolves too! There’s certainly no option to stop on other floors on route up to access other areas as I don’t think there were any other accessible floors or areas! Straight to the top you go and that’s that. Though thankfully there were some fantastic views on offer (despite the smog) and admittedly, I was really chuffed to be looking at the Nile for the first time, and from so high up.
Until you get a reminder of what is down below:
Surprise! Look below, can you believe there is actually some green in Cairo amongst the concrete city!
It could me less than £1 to enter, which despite being OK, is so typical of Egypt – to charge for everything, everywhere. This is also the first country I’ve seen who had distinctly different charges for ‘foreigners’. Take the Cairo Tower for example which cost me around £7. The charge for a local would be £2. That’s a big difference.
As I walked here from a metro stop far away, I would take a decent rest before continuing to snap away. This was the quietest part of Cairo I had experienced for several days and I have to say, it was pleasant. I just needed company and a picnic – of which I had neither.
Oh, the distant Mosque images you see later will be of the Citadel/Mosque I first visited earlier in this post.
Don’t ask me who ‘Frank’ is as I’ve no idea, though he was persistent in wanting to be in a shot. So be it, ‘Frank’.
Would I recommend Cairo for you to visit?
Visit? Sure, why not. Stay? Maybe for a night or two. Stay for close to a week? No, not really.
Even the few attractions that exist, they’re a chore to get to – especially if you’re a solo backpacker anyway. For couples or friends who can share a taxi and split cost, this is less of an issue as you can reach them in good time and at a decent price.
It’s fair to say that to maximise your time in Cairo, you definitely need a pro-active, not re-active attitude.
Also you should ask yourself if you have a real taste for the rife un-pleasantries of big city life, includingL plenty of filth in the form of sight and smell, the abundant poverty, an endless amount of poor animals largely fending for themselves, the relenting traffic, the constant horn blaring, the pollution, the tourist scams, an unimaginably hectic metro system, the sneaky stealth charges applied on just about everything and of course, not forgetting the claustrophobia of the place where every few seconds, you’ll see (or bump into) a different person. Sure, there will some major cities just like this and inconceivably worse, but it’s Cairo that is the topic here and on that note, we can wrap this post up.
Still, there’s something niggling me at the back of my mind that I forgot to see here. I was sure Cairo was famed for more reasons than just having a crazy capital city!? There’s gotta be something I’m missing. Hmmmmm….?
Nah, forget it, I’m probably thinking of another country…
PS – I ended up staying in that place I last depicted for five nights; which will be to the disbelief of some of you.
PPS – when I said earlier I’d walked a lot, well I’ve honestly covered at least 50KM in those 4 days. I have a feeling you aren’t gonna meet any non-local people to have done that in Cairo in such a short space of time. Then again, they probably have the sense not to!