Saturday, May 2, 2009

The world's biggest Epilogue - Vol. 1 Cairo

Lazy writer in the house. It's now 30 days since I returned. The jet lag has finally worn off. Yes it was that bad. Ok not THAT bad. But it was bad. The challenges of shooting hundreds of images a day, editing photos after spending all day every day on the move left no more room for writing. So here I leave a summary of the highlights for posterity.

I spent a total of 11 full days in Egypt with several goals in mind. I surpassed all my goals but I would do some things differently if I were to do this trip again, which I wouldn't. I covered it. 5 days in Cairo is 3 days too many. This city was by far the most difficult, crowded and polluted city I have been to in my entire life. It's not a dirty city as you might find in places in Central or South America. But it was a horribly polluted city due mostly to the size of the population, 15 million, and the fact that every other person drove a diesel belching automobile. The smog was Dante-esque.

Part of the problem is that I stayed about 10 km outside the city which forced me to grab local cabs every time I went into the City. Bumper to bumper traffic in Cairo is bumper ON bumper traffic. Thousands of cars literally on top of each other lurching together at no more than 10 miles per hour at any time of day all day and all night. Even in the most tightly sealed vehicle with air conditioning blowing you can't escape the nausea of the fumes. Oh. And everyone smokes....Fucking lovely.

My Hotel in Cairo was stunning. Brand new. Business traveller hotel. The Fairmont Towers Heliopolis. It was just opening so I availed myself of the promotional $110.00 a night price for a suite. Well worth it. It was a trade off but this place was quite an oasis.

I survived just fine for 3 days with my Egyptian track suit actually. My luggage took four days to show up. And when it did I was disgusted at how overpacked I was.......again!!! 42 countries and I still lug around a trunk full of clothes I never ever wear. Why??

The highlights of the City can be done in probably a day and a half if you are a motivated organized solo traveller, which I am. If you are on a tour, you can also be whisked around in an air conditioned bus and get all the highlights in adding about another half day for the perfunctory tourist shops you are dragged into on tours. Unless you are a super savvy experienced solo traveller a tour is probably the way to do this country in all honesty. I am not the tour kind of guy though.

The compact old City of Cairo can be done in a day if you are interested. The Islamic quarter contains some stunning Mosques, colorful Bazzare's and wonderfully warm people. Oh yeah there's also thousands and thousands of armed guards. Despite the fact there had been a small bombing in the City the week prior I found the security in the City iron-clad. I was never worried. The government goes a long way to protect the tourist. Egypt is not a major oil producing country. Egypt's oil is the tourist. So they don't mess around.

There is a small and quiet Christian quarter which is a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of the Islamic Quarter. Eqypt has a significant Christian minority and some of the world's oldest Christian sects. The Christian sites are well protected and respected. Not so much for the lone Jewish Synagogue you can find in Cairo. More on this disturbing subject later.

In total the must sees of Cairo are the Pyramids in Giza, The Egyptian Museum and the Islamic Quarter. If you have an overwhelming urge to delve deeper there is plenty more to see and do. There are side trips that can be done including the ancient Capital of Memphis and Sacarra. Then there is Alexandria on the North Coast. I didn't think I would have the time to make it here but I did. Alexandria next........

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