After an eleven hour journey, most of which I slept through, we arrived in Cairo at 6am and only had 17 hours before our next flight to Dar Es Salaam. We were picked up from the airport by our driver and Egyptologist, Muhammad 1 and Muhammad 2, and were ready to set out and see the city. The first thing we learned was that 1/3 of the men in Egypt are named Muhammad after the Prophet, talk about a popular name! Our first stop was to Bab al Futuh, a gate in the walls that protected the Old City. The gate was finished in 1087 and behind it was a slow, peaceful city that was just beginning to wake up and start a new day. In the Old City we visited Al-Hakim Mosque; Al-Hakim is the sixth Fatimid caliph and the first Imam born in Egypt. The Old City was so beautiful and each building had so much character and history behind it. We passed dozens of Mosques, children on their way to school, storeowners opening their shops and bakers filling their shelves with fresh treats for the day. We passed through Khan el-Khalili, a bazaar district that would later be crowded with tourists and locals, and made our way out to a large square. We sat down for a quick cup of coffee on El Mo’ez Street and Muhammad left to get us sandwiches for breakfast. He came back with falafel, red bean and hummus in a pita and it was divine. I never usually enjoy falafel but this was the real stuff! After our coffee we made our way over to the Egyptian Museum. The Egyptian Museum holds 120,000 ancient Egyptian antiques including the tomb where King Tutankhaten was buried and all of the jewels, furniture, and personal items he was buried with. We were also able to see beautiful sculptures, jewelry and a bunch of mummies! Muhammed 1 taught us about how to distinguish if the statue was of a Pharaoh, a King, a Peasant, the living or the dead; it was very educational! We moved from statue to statue observing the different false beards, head dresses, clothing, coloring and eye make-up. After we got a brief overview of history for the past couple of centuries, it was finally time to see some pyramids! Our first pyramid site was to Saqqara to visit the Pyramid of King TiTi, the step pyramid of Kind Djoser and the Mastaba of Kagemni. We were able to go under the Pyramid of King Titi; we had time to admire the hieroglyphics and even lay in the sarcophagus!
After a leisurely Egyptian meal we made our way to the Pyramids of Giza. The Great Pyramid was our first visit of the three and is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. We were able to climb up to the eleventh level but were prohibited from going any further. A couple of years ago a man climbed to the top and could not get down so a helicopter had to lift him from the top; ever since no one is able to go up. We were even able to ride a camel around the pyramid! We then walked over to the Panorama lookout point and were able to see the pyramids and back of the Sphinx in the distance.
The day was just about winding down and we made two final stops to a papyrus paper shop and a perfumery. The employees taught us about cutting the papyrus, soaking it and interweaving the pieces before letting them dry to make very sturdy paper. At the perfumery we watched as they blew the glass for the perfume containers and then learned about fragrance extraction from different plants and flowers that designer brands use in their products.
Our final goodbye to Egypt was said as we sailed on a felucca down the Nile. After the scorching day, the cool night breeze was very relaxing and Katie and I were very excited with all we were able to see in Cairo over our 17 hour layover.