Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Cairo Is For Real

The time has come to explore the northern part of Africa. It is decided that Cairo will be the first stop in this North African country of Egypt.

Why Egypt you ask?   

Hantour - Local Carriage in Cairo


Egypt has so much history and has a lot of stories to tell...the Nile, the Sphinx, the Pyramids, and the local people... I want to see them all!
  

I landed in the early afternoon at the Cairo International Airport from Larnaca, Cyprus.  Although it was only a short one hour trip between the two countries, my family and I were a bit tired due to the hectic wandering previously done in Larnaca.
 
I fall in line with other tourist for immigration formalities. The passengers in front of me seemed to be moving very slowly. I noticed  a couple of people turning back. They were directed to pay the fees in another booth before lining up again for this immigration officer.

I did not wait to be told and did not waste my time so I went to the same window where the other tourists were going. There were no signs indicating that paying for the visa was separate from the stamping of visa. I have not seen this procedure in other countries. 

You will be surprised because when I went back to the line to have my turn, it did not take long. 

The officer had two questions, 'how long are you staying here?' and 'where are you going after Egypt?, he asked.

Enjoy your stay!.  Isn't that nice?  It took less than five minutes.  

Now I am ready to leave the airport and starting walking.  

But wait!  

There was a group of people coming my way though I don't remember I arranged for someone to pick me up.  Taxi drivers -- maybe ten, were all talking to me at the same time.  I felt uncomfortable but assured myself that it must be the Egyptian way. But of course I gave in to only one of the drivers. 

I heard the drivers argue about who spoke to me first. I knew what they were talking because I have lived in an arab country and can speak and understand basic arabic language. That was funny.

After such hullabaloo at the airport, we are now on our way to my hotel, Pharaoh Egypt located in the modern area of the city of Cairo. The hotel is good enough for us, a family of three. As soon as I settle in the room, I start scouring the amenities that I may enjoy.  

Yes, there is a room that can be used for computer-less guests for a fee. I check the roof-top pool and admire the views of the pyramids and the Cairo tower.  Spectacular!

In the Front Desk, I arranged for a driver cum tour guide for the next 4- day stay in the city.  It was easy.  I received confirmation within fifteen minutes. 

I started to walk the side streets, going back and forth. I lost my way at one time, which was fun. The locals were very friendly.  I just kept on walking around the neighbourhood for the rest of the day.

It was almost midnight when I checked my watch, and I thought it was time to go back to the hotel and go to bed.

I explored the city with the same tour guide in different places in my last three days.  We did the Nile River cruise in Cairo, walked around the city of Memphis, Giza, and Saqqara.

Belly Dancer in the Nile River Cruise
Belly dancing is part of Egyptian culture.  

The eastern dance which is called as raqs sharqi is performed almost everywhere in Egypt (weddings, birthdays, and other holidays).  In Cairo, belly dancers performed during our cruise.

Egyptian Male Dancer - Whirling Dervishes

Whirling Dervishes, an amazing and unique way of dancing! 

This is an Egyptian traditional dance that is performed only by men. The dancer keeps on spinning from start to end which lasts for at least 20 to 30 minutes.  

He keeps on pulling layers of his costume and in the end - one of the layers open up like a lantern. Whew!  It looks so tiring!  But the way I look at it -- he definitely is enjoying it from start to finish. 

It is interesting to see these male dance moves which are very different from any other Egyptian dance that I have seen before.  Very colourful! 

Old Buildings in Cairo - Bazaar & Perfumery
In Cairo, I enjoyed wandering through the narrow streets with curiosity.

There are buildings in Old Cairo which look really old. One of my photos have signs of a bazaar, a museum, a papyrus, and a perfumery.  I took the pictures when I was in the city of Giza touring the pyramids and sphinx.  This building caught my attention and I was tempted to take some shots.  Are they still operational, I asked? Well, I can see clotheslines on the rooftop so I concluded people live there. 
 
Flower in Cairo - Hibiscus
I can see flowers in Cairo.

I cannot remember the name of the flower in the photo, but I am sure it is in the family of hibiscus. Very pretty. We have this type of flowers in the Philippines. I love cutting them from the stem and using it as a decorative arrangement for the Mayflower festival.  

As a kid, we use them to make blowing bubbles. We would collect and mince them. Once it gets sticky, we make bubbles with a little mixture of water.
  
Unique FloorTiles in Saqqara
Unique Floor Tiles. 

As soon as we stepped into the entrance of the Sakkara Nest Restaurant, the pathway floor caught my attention.

Decorative tiles of different shapes and colours were arranged unevenly which made it unique and attractive. I am sure you will agree with me that though it may look simple -- to me, this work of art deserves recognition.  I have not seen this type of artwork in my previous tours.  Full of colours!

Tour Bus in Cairo



Sakkara Nest Restaurant in Saqqara
Sakkara Nest Restaurant serves simple Egyptian dishes.

The food is presented as a buffet arranged on a long table around one side of the outdoor restaurant. The food is tasty...and spicy (which I like). Local desserts are sweet (as always!)...as in very sweet! 

There is also a selection of fresh local fruits.  Ambiance is excellent.

Egyptian Women Baking Local Pita Bread
Local Pita Bread.

I like this Egyptian local bread, it is very tasty. I had a chance to see the local women punch down the dough, knead, and then rest briefly ready to be shaped. This bread is made round and flattened, then put in an outdoor traditional concrete oven.

In a few minutes it is ready to be served fresh and appetizing. Try it when you visit Sakkara.

Ahmed, an Egyptian Waiter in Sakkara
Egyptian Waiters.

It is not only the excellent food that is served which is important. We love the food in Sakkara and we love the way the waiters attended to what we needed on the table. Whenever the waiter see us looking around and senses that we need something, he immediately comes to our table.

Ahmed is one of the waiters in a restaurant in Sakkara. He is very friendly, and bet he will make you feel comfortable; he is a very pleasant person.

Pharaoh Egypt Hotel & Restaurant in Cairo
Pharaoh Egypt Hotel & Restaurant.

This hotel offers continental breakfast in one of the lower level restaurants which was presented in a manner that looks appetizing. The decor is Egyptian, which I like and the ambiance is good enough. 

The breakfast is the same everyday and there are no choices for the three nights of my stay. Coffee is unlimited but bread is not toasted. I don't remember a toaster available.

There is also the King Tut Restaurant at the rooftop of the hotel. We tried fried Tilapia that was served at the dinner table. Thank you very much to the two Filipino men who treated us for dinner. They work in Cairo and are regular patrons of the hotel. 

Overall, the food served is just ordinary!

This is not the end of my story about Cairo. I am creating first hand information about Egypt and you will read them in this blog site. See you in a bit!


From the desk of: 
Freddie Miranda
A blogger and a Canada-based freelance writer. He shares the value of his travel experiences and discoveries with his friends and fellow travellers. Share your passion, join and visit him. Send a message @ fromatravellersdesk(at)gmail.(dot)com.