Best food: falafel and shwarma (both beef and chicken). I cannot get enough of both of them. It helps that they are ridiculously cheap, only 1 EGP per falafel (about 15 cents).
Best drink: Egypt has two local beers that I’ve tried, Stella and Sakkara, both very similar to domestics in the U.S. Heineken is also found here, but what’s the fun in choosing to drink that here?
Best sight: Hands down the pyramids, even in spite of the numerous touts.
Best way to get around the city: the Metro aka “moving underground furnace” (1 EGP) or by foot. The buses were a little too intimidating for me, as they were more like large mini-vans. There aren’t set bus “stops”, and you had to wave frantically to get them to stop. If the bus had numbers on it, they were in Arabic. Couple that with the language barrier, and I decided to pass on them haha. Besides, walking allows you to exercise and see a lot of the city at once.
How to “Walk like an Egyptian”: Simply walk right out into the street wherever you happen to be, even if there is a green light for the cars. Weave through the many cars Frogger-style with a sort of nonchalance as the cars constantly honk their horns at both you and the many other vehicles crowding the road.
Observations about Islam:
It is a bit shocking the first time I heard one of the daily prayers being blasted through the city (also waking me up at 5 something in the morning). After a couple days though I became used to the chant-just another typical Cairene thing. It is interesting to see how the women are dressed in various levels of modesty-from the full black burquas (how do they not suffer from heat stroke?), to the women in colorful full covered head and dress, to the women who wear a hijab and jeans. Finally are the non-Muslims, who wear Western style clothes. It is evident that the society is still very much male-dominated, especially with the more devout Muslims. On that note, none of the scam artists or touts that I encountered were women.
This is one of the more famous museums in the world, containing thousands of years of Egyptian history in the for of statues, mummies, hieroglyphics, pottery, and jewelry. Of course, in true Egyptian fashion, it only costs 4 EGP for locals, and 75 for foreigners. Oh, you actually want to see the mummies of Egyptian royalty you say? Well, you have to pay an additional 100 EGP. I found the museum to be very spectacular, despite Egypt’s best effort to ruin it. It is very dark, dusty, and hot-at least 10 degrees warmer than the already scorching temperatures outside. The descriptions are often no more than one paragraph, and typed on a size 12 font and placed in a difficult to read position on the particular exhibit. Photos are also forbidden, (even with no flash), although Sayir, one of the workers at the hostel, said that it’s possible to sneak a few with your phone, which I took full advantage of. I feel that’s safe to admit now that I’ve left Egypt haha.
I unfortunately did not get any pictures of two of the King Tut’s coffins, as the guard watched that area like a hawk. They were very impressive though, especially the innermost one, which is made out of solid gold. King Tut’s body lies in his burial site of Luxor, Egypt. (King Tut’s icon is the one you think of when you hear the word “Pharaoh”).
This is the area for the churches and places of worship for all the non-Islam religions. Walking through the area definitely had a different feel than the rest of the city, with some cool alleyways to wander down. This is the area where the Holy Family stayed during their flight into Egypt from King Herod. The church built on the spot, Saints Sergius and Bacchus church, was a surprisingly simple one. It was also undergoing some sort of restoration.
Other than the Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum, where I saw many different tourist groups, I have not see many other visitors. My hostel currently only has 5 or 6 other people staying there. Tourism has been way down since the rioting/problems that occurred back in 2011. In fact, some of the displays at the Museum referenced them being restored after they were damaged during this time by rioters. Of course it is “low season”, as Egypt is just finishing with their scorching hot temperatures, and seguing to their more manageable winters, where visitors come to escape their winter climates. Sayir explained that as the tourism industry has suffered, it has caused the already crooked people in the industry to double their efforts and scams on the few people here, which would only exacerbate the problem, as these visitors would then discourage their friends and family from visiting. I will talk about my experiences with these people (for I had many in such a short time!) in a later post.