Cairo
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We arrived in Alexandria early on Sunday morning, set for an overnight in Cairo.  Prior to the cruise we had arranged (as a small group) to use DeCastro, a local company to provide a 2 day tour including transport to and from the port, an overnight hotel and a guide.  This proved to be a good decision - our guide, Dahlia, was excellent and the general aggressive driving style and traffic jams were by far the scariest of anywhere that we have ever visited - including Italy and China!

The drive from Alexandria to Cairo takes around 3 hours.  When we got there, our first stop was the famous Cairo Egyptian museum (no photos allowed).  This museum is a throwback to old fashioned museums - all wooden and glass cases, no interactive buttons to press and lots of dog-eared cards describing the contents.  However, it is those contents that make this museum so worthwhile a visit - inside are many of the treasures of ancient Egypt, as well as some of the contents of Tutankhamen's tomb (including the famous golden death mask).  This was a fascinating stop, and the 2 hours we spent there just flew by.  After a quick stop for lunch, we then visited the 12th century Citadel of Saladin, the Alabaster Mosque and the Qasr El-Gawahara (Jewel Palace) built by Mohammed Ali.  Great views over the city, and the mosque is an amazing piece of architecture - it is around the size as many Western medieval cathedrals, and the walls and ceiling are richly decorated.  We finished with the obligatory stop for souvenirs.  Once again, we managed to resist the hard sell ...

         

         

We spent the evening on a river cruise, watching the whirling dervish and belly dancers.  Whilst this was enjoyable, I suspect in retrospect that the sound and light show over the pyramids would probably have been a better evenings entertainment.

                   

The following morning we headed out to see the pyramids.  We visited two sites, separated by around 30 miles - firstly the oldest pyramids of all at Saqqara (including the oldest stone structure in the world, the step pyramid of Zoser I, built around 2700 BC), and then the great pyramids and sphinx on the plateau at Giza.  These are amazing structures - it's hard to imagine how big and old they are until you are start getting up close, and then they stretch away from you up to the sky.  Each site also had many persistent souvenir sellers, camel rides and the like - you soon learn how to ignore them!  Useful tip - the souvenirs from the hawkers are considerably cheaper at Saqqara then Giza!

         

              

              

Cairo was a fascinating, dusty, bustling, dirty and vibrant city.  It was well worth the journey.