Yipee! I finally got around to working on posting about our fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime trip to Egypt. I have split it into two sections: Cairo and the Nile Cruise. The hardest part was choosing which photos to use…I have close to 500. Enjoy!!
The Egyptian Museum of Antiquities
Commonly known as the Egyptian Museum, the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities has been in the current location in downtown Cairo on Tahrir Square since 1902. This two-story building houses an incredible amount of Egyptian artifacts, including the world’s largest collection of Pharaonic antiquities, and is typically one of the first stops on the Cairo tourist trail. It is hard to describe this museum as the space is literally busting at the seams with antiquities. In fact, when the tomb of Tutankhamun was discovered in 1922, museum officials had to find room for all of the newly found treasures, and it feels as if they crammed them all into one corner of the museum. But, arguably, that is also part of the charm. Hubby says when he visited in 1992, there was one large room with mummies stacked to the ceiling. It is more orderly now, with a few rooms devoted to mummies that are encased in temperature controlled cases, and you can walk through Egypt’s ancient history gazing at the frozen faces of the greatest Pharoahs, such as Ramses I, Seti I and Ramses the Great (note: entrance to the Mummy room requires the purchase of an additional ticket). And while you will find all of King Tut’s treasures here, note that his actual mummy is still on display in his tomb in the Valley of the Kings.
All this is about to change as the government has invested 1 billion dollars into the construction of a new museum in nearby Giza that will be home to 28 shops, 10 restaurants, a conference center and a cinema. More than 20,000 items that have never been on display before will be part of the permanent exhibit that will take visitors chronologically through time from prehistory to the Greco-Roman times. Plus, the entirely of King Tut’s artifacts will be on display in two large galleries that will show visitors the intricacies of the Egyptian court, from how the young king ate and dressed to his lasting legacy. The new museum is to be called the Grand Egyptian Museum. The government is building an airport in Giza as well, with the idea being that one merely has to visit Giza to take in the primary sights of Cairo. It will be interesting to follow this development.
The Pyramids of Giza
No doubt the iconic pyramids of Giza are a must-see when in Cairo. If you have the time to spend an entire day pyramid gazing, it is worthwhile to tack on a visit to the Step Pyramid of Djozer at Saqqara (known as the oldest stone building complex in history), as well as the Bent and Red Pyramids of Dahshur. You can split up the day with lunch at the Mena House in Giza, which has a stunning view of the great pyramids of Cheops, Chephren and Mykerinos. The pyramid visit was definitely one of the highlights of our trips, if nothing else because they are the only one of the seven Wonders of the World still standing. They were built 4,500 years ago approximately, and standing in their vast shadows will make you feel pretty darn insignificant.
** NOTE: We toured the pyramids the day after a roadside bomb exploded near a tourist bus, killing the tour guide and three Vietnamese tourists. This was an isolated incident and they were well off the tourist trail, from what I understand. In no way did I feel in danger during our tour, or in all of Egypt for that matter.
Mosque Tour: Mohammad Ali, Sultan Hassan and El Rafa’i
Known as the City of a Thousand Minarets, Cairo has a wealth of beautiful mosques to see, the most famous (and, arguably, most beautiful) being the Alabaster Mosque of Mohammad Ali (1830-1957). No, I am not talking about the boxer, but the Turkish Army Officer considered to be the founder of Modern Egypt. With minarets measuring approx. 270 feet in height, the mosque is located on the summit of the Saladin Citadel. Visitors have a dramatic view of surrounding Cairo. As my mind is always centered on food, I will mention that a great spot for lunch afterwards is the Studio Misr Al-Azhar Park, where you can nosh on hummus, baba ganoush and schawarma in a beautiful garden setting, before heading on to the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan.
Built in the 14th century and considered one of the largest mosques in the world, the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan is not to be missed. Plus, it is next to the El Rafa’i Mosque, built in the late 1800’s and houses the tomb of the Shah of Iran. When our tour guide took us over to see the tomb, a woman approached him, and it sounded as if she were admonishing him. When I asked what she had said, our guide, Mohammad, explained that she was inquiring if we were believers, if we should have been allowed in this area. His response was that we worship a different faith, but are believers in a higher power, and that should be all that matters. Amen. Xo M
Our trip to Egypt was coordinated by the fabulous people at Indagare Travel and their Egyptian partner, Nubian Travel.
All photos taken by Marci Symington for texAZtaste.com.