After 8 hours to Rome and another 4 to Cairo, a friendly brown-skinned man met us to take us to baggage claim, looked incredulous when we told him we didn’t need such a stop, led us through passport control, into a van, and to our hotel. Shortly after, the guide we’d spend the week with, an Egyptologist named Syed, was leading us through the night streets filled with 20 million Muslims breaking their day-long fasts.
We ate what would be the best meal we had in Egypt; it was inside an old cantina called Nahuib Mahfouz Cafe that was full of young people, music, and merriment as the locals enjoyed their day’s first meal. Afterward, I shared a hookah and coffee with Syed.
We saw mosques; we saw people–lots of people. It was sober Mardi Gras! But after an hour or so, I wanted none of it.
At first, I loved the energy and the colors on display in the decorations that colored the narrow streets and passageways about old Cairo, but as more and more people surrounded us, and cars or motorcycles nosed their way through the crowds in the streets–running over the foot of a woman next to us at one point–I wanted to stop worrying something awful would happen to my children and just go to bed. At like 9pm, we finally got to our Four Seasons and went to sleep.
Our first morning in Egypt, our driver and guide took us to the Giza plateau, where we looked up at the Great Pyramids–the only surviving Wonder of the Ancient World, and it was beautiful.
He had us pose for pictures, and then the 5 of us climbed inside the largest of the 3 and followed the steps and wooden walkways into the pyramid, up to a burial chamber that was about 90 degrees inside but held an empty sarcophagus (and an attendant of some type who wanted to take pictures of us for tips).
We saw the oldest (4800 years old!) of the pyramids, the “step pyramid” not far from the 3 most iconic ones. After that, we visited the enormous wooden ship buried near the pyramids to take the occupants to the afterlife. Then, the Great Sphinx!
We stopped by the Sakkara carpet school, watched carpets be knotted, and bought rugs for my office and our dining room. Next, we descended into the nearby tomb of Ka-Gmni Dyn VI and saw Titi pyramid and Saqqara pyramid.
We had a quick shower/change break, and then, our Osiris Tour guide took us to the Basata Stables to climb aboard our camels for a sunset walk across the Giza plateau. If you don’t have “ride camels across the Giza plateau at sunset by the Great Pyramids,” then you need a more imaginative bucket list. It was breathtaking.
After riding the camels to the top of the plateau, we dismounted, sat in the sand, and watched the sun set behind the 3 great pyramids as the desert turned black. Not a person was in sight, save for our guides, but as darkness surrounded us, the calls to prayer from the mosques in Cairo rose into the night below us and welcomed us back into the city.
We returned to civilization on the backs of our camels, choosing for dinner a place called Abou Shakra overlooking the uplit Sphinx through a giant window facing the ancient world we’d just left. It was touristy, but the food and the view were genuine.
The next morning, we’d fly from Cairo to Aswan.
It still feels like a dream. I would go back tomorrow if I could. Incredible isn’t a big enough word.