Friday, March 18, 2016

Egypt - Cairo

Many years ago, we fulfilled an ultimate travel goal and visited Egypt. While I have not returned since the revolution, my husband has and found it to still be a vibrant, safe and welcoming place. I would like to go back one day. It's an incredible, striking, massive city that is different from every other place I've ever been. 



The Nile River cuts through the city.



The Egyptian Museum - full of amazing antiquities but crowded with tourists and disapproving of photos - is near Tahrir Square. These photos were taken from our hotel balcony.



The city has a metro that does provide some convenience, but it's not an extensive system. While there we hired a driver for the day to see some of the sites just outside of the city, including the most ancient pyramids in the world. This was a really fun day, as these sites aren't nearly as crowded with people as some others.



Our first stop was the Red Pyramid, built by Snefru. I went inside of this pyramid. I found them to make me a bit claustrophobic. My husband went inside others.






We saw some other sites in Samara. The pyramid above is one of the early attempts, and is called the Bent Pyramid, built by Snefru around 2600 BC it is thought to be a transitional style between pyramids with step and smooth sides.



Funerary complex of Djoser, a part of the Saqqara complex.







Djoser's Step Pyramid was built by Imhotep, considered by some to be the world's first architect. This is the world's oldest large-scale cut stone construction and probably the world's first pyramid.


Back in Cairo, we went to the Great Pyramids of Giza.
The metropolis and frenetic activity of the city basically goes all the way up to where the pyramids are located, then there is just desert beyond.








Most of the limestone that used to cover the pyramids was removed to build other structures, but some still remains. Above, near the tip, you can see some still there. The gentlemen in the photo are trying to sell me a camel ride, and they can be persistent.


The sphinx (Arabic name: أبو الهولʾabū l-hawl "father of dread") was a smaller structure than I was expecting, but still so awesome to see in person.


In Egypt, you get the sense you are standing at the crossroads of history. People from Cleopatra to Winston Churchill and Gertrude Bell to Napoleon were here at one point.



When we visited, we walked all over the city. We found it to be a safe place full of friendly if sometimes overly curious people. I think western white folks are still a bit of a novelty, and lots of people approached us on the street. Our interactions were always positive.


We took a few days outside of Cairo to see other parts of Egypt, including Luxor and Abu Simbel. After those excursions we made our way back to Cairo.
The view from the plane was stunning.



Approaching Cairo, the city sprouts from the desert and explodes.



I am lucky to know an Egyptian woman and her family, who live in the United States but have strong ties to their home in Egypt, where members of their extended family still reside. Above is a view from their balcony. We met up with them at their home and toured a few other places in the city.



One was El-Harrawi House, an Islamic house from the Ottoman era. It's located down one of the many narrow alleyways near Khal el- Khalili. After the tour, we strolled around the market.



The stones above are commemorating the ancient city walls of Cairo.


 We also went into an old mosque and climbed into the minarets.



Cairo was spellbinding.


Check out our time in Luxor and Aswan as well...

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