Today is our final day in Egypt. Our flight is at 12pm and we need to leave the hotel by 9am to get to the airport by 10am as the Marriott Mena is considerable further to the airport from downtown.
We don’t usually opt for breakfast during our hotel stay but we would not want to miss the chance of a lifetime dining with the pyramids so we decided to go for their buffet breakfast. To be honest, the view is amazing but the breakfast are not so. We prefer the food on our cruise to be honest, it was much more superior. Marriott Mena definitely need to do some adjustment to their buffet breakfast. The selection is great but taste wise is not good.
After breakfast, we bid goodbye to pyramid and checked out after a good shower. We booked a limousine service with the airport transfer at EGP450 as there are less Uber around the area and we would not want to miss our flight.
We reach the airport and after security check, we manage to check in on time. The queue for the flight is definitely longer so we were worried that the flight was full. The cabin that we were given were pretty full but I realise the back cabin is quite empty. Emirates should have done a better job in seats arrangement, after all Covid is not all over yet.
Nevertheless we enjoyed the flight and the in flight dining was so good. We gobbled down the whole chicken beriyani ( I don’t usually do that!) and even ate the bread etc.
Upon arriving in Dubai, all passenger except kids below 11 need to do a compulsory Covid Test complimentary of the UAE. The swabbing area was effective and we are in and out in no time. After clearing custom, we got into the car we prebook with our insurance company. We get a complimentary airport transfer per year and since we have not been out of the country yet, it is our first time using it!
Today is an easy day for us and one of the most exciting one as well.
We booked a tour on Viator.com and for USD40 for adult and USD 20 for children, we got ourselves a one day tour to The Great Pyramid of Giza (includes entrance fees to the general area), Sphinx, a traditional Egyptian lunch (koshary), visit to The Egyptian Museum (includes entrance fees) and a bazaar.
At 8am in the morning, we got picked up from our hotel lobby and began our adventure at the pyramid, the first and most exciting stop to wake us up from our sleepyhead. Before heading to the pyramid, we stop by a gas station with a view of the pyramid. We went to the washroom and got ourselves some On The Run coffee and cake for snack. We ate them while enjoying the pyramid. The Nutella tart is amazing , highly recommended.
Next the driver drove us to the entrance where our tour guide purchase the tickets and we just too excited and keep snapping photos. Going into the pyramid is not included in the tour and we opted to top up EGP 100 for adults and EGP 50 for children to enter the Khafre pyramid (the middle one).
After the usual security check of our bag, we enter and our tour guide explain the history of Egypt and the pyramids. It is build on the hill and the tallest pyramid look even taller on the hill. Build in 2500BC, the Great Pyramid of Cheops (Khufu) has been standing strong for over 4000 plus year, and one could not stop and wonder how the ancient people can make such magnificent building with almost non-existence technology. The tallest pyramid used to be 146m tall and now it is only 138m as the tip broke off. It took 100,000 workers 20 years to build it. In a year, the workers work 9 months on building and the remaining 3 months was when it flooded, so that was the time where the pyramid building work was stop, and the limestone was transported to the pyramid area using the high level of river water.
The ancient Egyptian believe in the God of Ra which is the sun and since the sun rise in the east and set in the west, the kings stayed on the east of the River Nile and build their tomb on the west of River Nile.
Next to The Grand Pyramid of Cheops (Khufu), we have the son (Khafre) and grandson (Menkaure) and they are not allowed to build taller than their respective father. To make a distinction, the Khafre Pyramid has a painted top to make it look different. There is also a Sphinx next to it which has an interesting story. It was not build intentionally but rather a mistake which turns out to be amazing. That is supposed to be the site of the tomb but due to the piece of stone that was not hard enough , the tomb was moved to another site and when the pyramid was build, this piece of stone decided to be carved into a sphinx, a lion with a human head to symbolise power.
Did you know that till today, the tomb of Khufu has not been found yet. This is because his tomb was build in an upper room as compared to the other pyramid where the tomb is underground. The empty room hat Khufu build for his queen has been found in the middle of the pyramid and words are that his tomb is at the top of the pyramid. Many has tried to look but to no avail as there are many false door and since the building was not build with cement, removing blocks and stone may cause instability and the pyramid might collapse.
Entering the Khafre Pyramid was an experience. The stairs are narrow and we had to descend down before ascending to the room where the tomb is found. There is not much headroom as well and we had to bend down. There was already nothing in the tomb as the mummies has been moved to the museum but it is good to have an idea how the tomb looks like.
Next up, we had our camel ride with the three magnificent pyramids as our backdrop! It is not our first time riding a camel but definitely one of the most unforgettable experience.
Next to the Sphinx there was a temple where the mummification process is made. I think the temple has a more interesting story as that is where the mummies are made. Although the exact process was not known but here is what our tour guide told us. The deceased body was clean with lotus oil (which is one of the scared flower in Egypt, you can see them a lot in the statue and inscription), then the organ is removed except the heart because they believe in afterlife and that your heart determine if you will be going to a good afterlife. Next the body is rub with lots of salts to remove the water and then wrap in many layers of clothes and kept in layers after layers of coffin. The male coffin consists of four layers while the female three layers. Each layer is carefully designed and look different. We saw one mummies in the museum and it was very much well preserved. The facial features are still maintained and even the hair is intact. It is indeed an amazing technique that no one to date able to figure out exactly what is used.
After leaving the pyramids, we headed to a papyrus making shop where we saw real papyrus tree and get an idea how paper was made in ancient days.
For lunch, we had a choice of shawarma and koshary. We had too much shawarma back in Dubai so we decided to try koshary. It is a very traditional Egyptian meal that is a mix of Italian, Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. It is made out of rice, pasta and lentil, served with tomato and garlic vinegar sauce, topped with chickpeas and fried onion. I have to say it tasted amazing! We loved it and glad to have an Egyptian twist to our meals here.
Next, we braced the traffic and reach The Egyptian Museum. I am not sure if I would count ourselves lucky or unlucky. There is a big event going on in a couple of days so the royal mummies has been removed from the collections to prepare for their transport to the new Egyptian Civilisation Museum so we did not manage to see the mummies but because of the move , a collection of special cars has been made for the transport and they are all parked outside the museum so we were able to see those cars up-close and that might not be possible during the procession as many would be rushing to the streets to catch a glimpse of the mummies’s car.
The Egyptian Museum is huge and our tour guide spend time explaining to us many of the history behind the signifiant exhibits and pointed to us many of the details that we would not notice otherwise.
I did not know that the pharaoh wore a fake beard and they has always made them in their statue. The are many kingdom of the pharaoh and each of them has different inscription in their coffin. One even had a goddess protecting him at the cover of his coffin. The Coffin are all made according to their face so that in afterlife, their soul would come back to search for their body. Khufre King had a falcon holding its head in its statue and that make the head strong and well preserved, you can see that at the EGP 10 pounds money.
Another highlight in the museum is this amazing statue with an almost real eyes (made from gemstones). It is the picture on the EGP200 note! The real statue is amazingly real!
We ended the night with a cold Sakara Gold beer before leaving Cairo, heading to Aswan tomorrow for our second leg of adventure!
I would never have guess that our first holiday destination during the pandemic would be visiting Egypt. After not travelling for 15 months , I felt weird packing our luggages which has been kept at the farthest back of our storeroom.
Going to airport seems very surreal but we are actually heading to Egypt. On a normal day, Egypt is packed with tourist but these days, the crowd has definitely toned down a lot.
Many would question our decision to travel at this time especially when we are bringing two kids that are not vaccinated (Both Steven and me has been vaccinated). I guess we just wanted something other than staycation over this spring break and as the weather is getting really warm in Dubai, the weather in Egypt is perfect for visiting. After watching a couple of YouTuber’s vlog on travelling to Egypt during the pandemic, it seems that Egypt is beckoning us to go.. and so, we did our Covid PCR test and book our ticket upon getting a negative results.
We flew via Emirates direct flight and Egypt is 3.5 hours away. Keep printed Covid PCR test results in your hand carry as it will be check at check in, when boarding the plane and also upon arrival in Egypt. Custom is cleared in 30. mins which is pretty fast. Upon arrival, there is a counter to check your Covid test results and you have to hand in the health declaration form that you would have filled in on airplane.
Next proceed to one of the bank counter just before the border control to purchase a visa which comes in a form of sticker at USD 25 each (paid in cash). Stick the visa on ourselves and get a stamp at border control. Then proceed to get your luggage. At this area, you can get your money changed into Egyptian pound at a better rate than in Dubai.
Once you are out, there are lots of limousine service (able to book online) or can book an Uber. There are many telco service to purchase a SIM card, if need to.
We go straight to our hotel and there are security dogs sniffing the car and our luggages before we check in. Covid-19 precautions are done in the hotel, with mask on and sanitiser provided.
We got our room upgraded to a Nile River and Cairo Tower facing room. It has two double bed and perfect for our family.
After a quick rest, we walk over to Cairo Tower where we had our lunch. Security check is done before entering the compound, water bottle is not allowed. They will label and keep your bottle for you to pick up after the visit. After lunch at one of their cafe downstairs, we bought ticket(EGP 200) to go to the observatory tower. They had crowd control in place so we waited for a good 30 minutes before it is our turn to go up. Cairo tower is the highest tower in Egypt and the view is good but the observatory area is small and windy. We spend only 30 mins enjoying the view before heading back to our hotel. We manage to catch a glimpse of the Giza Pyramid far far away in the horizon.
There is a revolving restaurant on top of the tower that has a separate lift to go up. If you bought tickets for observatory, you can also choose to have some snacks or coffee at their coffee shop just one level below the observatory. Price are reasonable for tourist attractions but the windows are not very very clean so not insta-worthy!
Had our dinner with a friend at Casa Mia, an Italian restaurant. We were shocked with its huge portion. Apparently, the standard food portion here is American size. So, we learn something- must share dishes when we order the next time!
Ending first day blog with a sunset from Nile River: