Before we left Egypt, we spent another day in Cairo, so our guide took us to the Cairo Museum (the old one–the new one is still being built as of the time of this post, though it’s like 5 years behind schedule) to see King Tut’s treasures, Ramses II and other mummified pharaohs and animals, and lots of other cool stuff.
We went into an enormous bazaar, where I got Ramadan lanterns that I figure I can use as Christmas decorations, as the stained glass sides are red and green. I also bought an ushabti of Sekhmet that now stands proudly in our den (she’s too big for carry-on, so DHL brought her to me); it was carved by the shop owner’s grandfather from a tree trunk that he covered in plaster, and I love her.
We also went atop the Cairo Citadel to a mosque high above the city, called the Mosque of Muhammad Ali, which was much higher than George Foreman’s mosque. I’ve never been in a mosque before, and we enjoyed learning about its history and about Islam from our guide.
We spent our last night in Egypt in a hotel that was built adjacent to the airport, which made flying home at 0-dark-30 a bit simpler. Also, the guys cleaning the pool let the children swim an extra 30 minutes, even though they were closing, because they were super nice. With the exception of some of the beggars we found inside tombs, I loved all the people we encountered in Egypt, in addition to its history and wonder.
The 9 days we spent in Egypt were the best vacation I’ve ever taken. It was also the most expensive, as we stayed in hotels instead of AirB&Bs, and we arranged everything through a tour company instead of on our own, so we had drivers and guides everywhere (and even armed security the day we shopped the bazaars in downtown Cairo). Since the language and culture were so unfamiliar, and since we figured this would likely be our only trip to this area of the world, we felt the extra expense was worth it to maximize the experience and for peace of mind (though we saved a lot on airfare, since it was Ramadan). We used Osiris Tours and were very happy with their customer service and guidance.
The above notwithstanding, I’d love to come back after the new Cairo Museum is finished (which will be the largest archeological museum in the world) and head north to explore Alexandria, visit the Sinai peninsula and dive the Red Sea (which we were told is not safe to visit these days). The fact that we got to explore this ancient civilization just a few weeks after exploring Rome made the experience even more amazing and educational for our children, as we could compare engineering, culture, art, and architecture from two differing civilizations from the ancient word.
Sitting in the Cairo airport before we flew home, I couldn’t help but notice the other airport gates with words like “Tehran,” “Beirut,” “Baghdad,” and other places I spent my whole life hearing were dangerous places because of how they’re portrayed in the news. I’d love to see other ancient cultures, engineering, art, and architecture like we did in 2019 in Rome and Egypt.
But for now, 2020 is looking like more “western” destinations, as we explore Amsterdam + Berlin on spring break, Madrid+ Barcelona+ Lisbon in May, and at least 5 U.S. National Parks in July, plus trips to New York City, Washington DC, New Orleans (x2), Raleigh, and Huntsville all before July 4. I can’t wait.