Images of Cairo ...

I was thinking about Cairo as I walked back to the hotel tonight.  I was watching a plastic bag do a circular dance in a corner as it rode the breeze and just let myself feel Cairo in an open way ... and I'm left with a mixture of feelings about the place as a whole.

Like so many tourist locations, litter's a real problem.  Pollution is another.  If you suffer from asthma or any other chest condition,  I would seek the advice of your doctor before travelling. I only used bottled water for drinking and brushing my teeth and stayed away from salads and ice.  I tried some local food and found it to be delicious ... but my appetite was much reduced owing to the heat.  I survived on sugar can juice and fruit in the main.  If you buy fruit, make sure the skin is in tact and wash the fruit with your bottled water before eating it.

I didn't feel much of anything around the pyramids in a spiritual sense, actually, that's not true.  I felt that whatever was there has been raped, desecrated and sold to the material world ... and maybe even that the interference that other cultures have inflicted on the pyramids have, in some way, interfered with an important  process on a spiritual plane.  It's just a feeling I get whenever I see the pyramids ... they're just empty shells now.  It didn't feel right to visit the tombs.

Cairo is a thriving city that depends on the tourism industry to a degree.  I saw every type of shop I'd expect to see in a western city with regards to manufacturing etc.  The shops were full of equipment but there wasn't that much evidence of actual sales.  Food and clothing seem to be the most frequented shops.  Hearing the Muslim's call to prayer around the noise of traffic and music from different counties was a surreal experience.   I'm not sure what percentage of the population practise which religions but they seem to be able to co-exist peacefully.  From my own experience of terrorism, it's the minority that tend to make problems for the majority. 

The hawkers and guides can be a pain in the rectum and some of them try to engage you in conversation very skillfully.  Seen 'Jaws'?  Well, if you're the tourist, you're shark food.  Everything has to be haggled for.  The amount of businesses that will offer you, the tourist,  a fair price for a product are very few indeed.  Get a map and ask other tourists about where they've eaten etc.  I only used the black cabs here.  The white cabs boast having air conditioning but they'll charge you more to turn it on.  I flagged down black cabs, negotiated the fare and THEN got in.  Don't get into a cab first without negotiating.  Some of the drivers will offer you smokes, tissues to wipe your sweaty brow or other things - refuse everything ... or they'll charge you for it at the end of the ride.

The Old City, the Pharoanic Village and the Sufi dance in the old city are highly recommended.  If you want to see the pyramids, hire a driver and negotiate a fair price.  I tend to stop a lot on sighting something interesting to photograph, so I don't mind paying a little more than the going rate.  Don't go above 220 Egyptian Pounds for such a trip and remember that you still have to pay the entrance fees for the various sites you'll visit, as well as the car parking fee for your ride.  If you want to see all the pyramids in one day - start very early - 6:30am and head to Dahshur first, then Saqqara and finally the pyramids of Giza.

Accommodation prices can vary greatly depending on your requirements.  I used the African Hostel, located at 15, Emad Eldeen Street.  It's central, cheap and has hot and cold running water.  It's basically a youth hostel.  I paid 899 Egyptian Pounds for my 6 night stay (around 99.00 GBP) for a double room with an en-suite shower and toilet.

Would I visit Cairo again?  Yes, but in the winter!



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