🇪🇬 CAIRO / A love-hate relationship with a historic city
Updated: Mar 9, 2021
Et boum! C’est le shoc - we’re in Cairo!
If you - like most of our dear readers - have read through the last posts of this blog breathlessly, impatiently waiting for the next piece of written art to show up, you might be surprised. Have we not just picked up Boggy in Alexandria? Indeed, we have, my dear attentive reader, so let me take you back for a quick rewind to when we were impatiently waiting for our baby to cross the Mediterranean Sea. We decided to visit Cairo - a city rich with history, impressive historic monuments to visit und explore, streets filled with bustling markets, seducing you with the smell of oriental spices and magnificent sunsets on the river Nile. Well, Cairo is a very dirty and dusty city with people that will annoy the shit out of you. The history part is pretty impressive though.
„Helmut Schmidt good?”
„Angela Merkel good?“
“I like Hitler, he kill many Jews.”
And so, our time in Cairo begins with this sympathetic taxi driver who picks us up from our hotel directly located at the Nile with a great view from the 17th floor. Still at this height you can’t tune out the permanent honking of the cars that are cramped up in the streets. Cairo traffic is insane, the rule is that there are no rules and yet it all seems to work out just fine. By just fine I mean we had about 5 near-death-experiences when we were crossing the streets on foot, but obviously we’re still alive.
We were literally the only Western tourists and never once in Cairo saw any Europeans - this fact probably explains why we got scammed big time on our first night in the city. We must have looked like a delicious meal for all the tourist catchers lurking around but I believe we got the sneakiest one. Step 1: Build a connection. We were walking along a bridge at night when he passed us, stopped, and asked: “Deutsch”? and when we answered yes, he proceeded to tell us about his wife from Nurnberg, how he had visited Cologne and so on and so on. Step 2: Pretend to go out of your way in order to help. When we told him where we were headed, he shook his head sadly and informed us that we head to take a different route since we could not pass behind the bridge. He offered to show us the way which - SURPRISE - happened to pass by his shop. Step 3: Closing in on your prey. We were talked into coming in, sitting down, having tea, looking at his “artwork” (shitty papyrus paintings”) and before we knew it, he had painted our names on our “favorite” artworks. Step 4: Make them feel bad. It dawned on us that we were supposed to buy know - I mean, they already had our names on it, what was he supposed to do with them, right?! And so we bought ugly, overpriced papyrus paintings we never wanted and when we stepped outside of the store we found out that, of course, we could take the way we wanted after all. That was just the first of so many f*** annoying encounters with vendors of all kind but at least we had learned our lesson.
On our tourist radar were the pyramids of Gizeh and the Egyptian Museum. The latter is basically a huge storage room full of dusty artefacts, each on undoubtedly of great value, and yet many of the objects seem like they have just fallen off a truck and the facility manager had to find a place for them somewhere - once put there, he forgot about them. There are rarely any descriptions so you basically don’t know what you’re looking at (probably some kind of deal between the museum and the pushy guides that approach you outside). Don’t get me wrong - the exhibit is very impressive and we spent 2 hours wandering around, mostly fascinated by the mummies that are well preserved. There is a new museum being built next to the Gizeh Pyramids, the Grand Egyptian Museum, which was supposed to open in 2020 but the date got postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic.
After the taxi incident we found out that you can Uber in Egypt (also you don’t pay “tourist” prices there since it’s fixed) and that’s what we took early in the morning to head to Gizeh. As all of our other rides had been very reliable, we were surprised that our driver was trying to fuck us over by taking us to the wrong place, apparently having a deal with the guys who then offered us - once more - to “show the way”. Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. I was so upset I just started yelling at him to take us to the main entrance.
Along with a group of Egyptian tourists (with whom we had to pose in various selfies in front of the Sphinx) we were the only ones and loved taking our time to walk around the huge area, amazed by the size of the pyramids built thousands of years ago. We paid 20$ to see the tomb chamber of the Cheops Pyramid, which was not a scam but nevertheless disappointing - a blank room with an open stone tomb inside.
" ... it seems as if people feel obliged to use superlatives when describing the places they visit."
After having explored for a while we started talking about how famous landmarks that you have seen a thousand times before on the media seems to be less impressive when you’re actually there - does anyone else ever fell like that?! It certainly doesn’t seem like that, even more so it seems as if people feel obliged to use superlatives when describing the places they visit. Why is that? Do they have to proof to themselves it was worth the money and time they spent to get there? Or is it just a form of social media inferiority complex - if it wasn’t the most awesome experience you ever had in your entire life (Oh. My. God.), it was basically no experience at all.
We did find a little peace and quiet, including good food in the neighborhood of Zamalek. There you can actually walk the streets, sit down for a coffee or enjoy a good dinner at Zööba, which serves Egyptian food. Koshari turned in our go to (and to go) comfort food, a dish consisting of rice and fried pasta, topped with a fruity tomato sauce, lentils, chickpeas and fried onions. And if that wasn’t enough to calm down after a stressful day in Cairo, we were headed to drinkies, the local liquor store, to get an ice cold beer.
Last but not least we had to get our visas for Sudan at the embassy in Cairo. If you’re expecting an official building with a dignified interior - you’re wrong. It’s a run-down building with lots of people cramped inside one big room, queueing up in front of 4 counters that indicate nowhere what they’re there for. People always skip the line, pushing by you and you can only hope someone pities you and offers help. In the end we got rid of 300$ (no other currency accepted from foreigners) and were proud owners of 2 Visas after a 5 hour hustle.
We are done with the city now. Off to the wilderness...