*Tony had organized a work trip to Cairo for a portion of the school spring holiday in the event that Anna Grace and I might be able to join him. Clayton Theodore’s favorite sitter was available, and so the holiday was planned.  Tony’s Egyptian colleagues arranged the accommodations for us and somehow Tony’s middle name became the Family Name in the registry, so for three days I was addressed as, “Madame Patrick.” I played my role well, forgetting only once and signing a spa receipt with my name and causing but a tiny kerfuffle that was quickly resolved. But more on the accommodations in our “upmarket” neighborhood later…

For this holiday we hired both a driver and a guide. Cairo doesn’t really lend itself to being a do-it-yourself destination; plus, tackling 4.000 years of history on our own seemed daunting. It is a large and populous city; the public transportation mainly consists of microbuses and ad hoc slug lines (though there is an overcrowded subway system if one is so inclined); and my Arabic language skills are honed just enough for basic greetings, identifying “shai” (tea) and “koshary” (an Egyptian national dish) on a menu, and otherwise staying out of trouble.

Our first day of sightseeing started out, well, an hour early. We had arrived on the night of Daylight Savings; Egypt no longer observes daylight savings, but my iPhone (and hence, the alarm) missed that memo. On the following morning we awoke, enjoyed the first of many worthy-of-a-pharaoh’s-visit breakfasts, and presented in the lobby at 0825 to meet Rania. Except, the time was only 0725. With an hour to spare (!), we decided to walk about the neighborhood. There’s definitely more on that adventure to follow, as well.

Villagers from the rural areas coming into Cairo to sell their fruits and vegetables, passing right by our hotel.  Not something I’d ever see from my kitchen window in Vienna!

In good measure, we were off to Giza.

Camel traffic is an actual thing.
The part of Cairo nearing Giza is shabby, to put it politely.  Efforts to convert the mounds of refuse into a green island along this road are underway, but the process is certain to be a lengthy one.
Though some travelers dismiss it as “expensive” or not “worth it,” it was never a doubt that we would take a camel ride to see the pyramids. “Expensive” is relative, given the history we would be experiencing for likely the one and only time.  One can barter with “independent” camel guides, but that activity is discouraged for a number of reasons. We Our guide arranged the tour for us with the government-owned and licensed camel guides, as the camels are well cared for and the guides are knowledgeable.
Tony’s camel, Ali Baba, needed a little coaxing to join the caravan. In the interest of respecting my husband’s dignity, I will not share photos of him getting on or off of the camel.  🙂
A short and wobbly walk later, the oldest of the seven ancient wonders of the world came into view.  At that moment, the question of “Worth it?” blew across the desert with the sands.
The Patrick Family and our Camel Caravan, Ramses, Thebes, and Ali Baba.

My camel decided to have fun with the dismount at a photo op stop. Look at his sassy smile!

By the time this photo was taken, I was as puffed as a blowfish from a reaction to Thebes’ hair. That is why Zyrtec was invented.

 

Before long the tourist lane comes into view. Just outside the frame is the bus drop, for the day-trippers from Alexandria who just want to snap and go.  Tourism in Cairo is dismally low (no complaints from us!) Our camel guide shared with us that he used to give 4-5 tours each day during tourist season; now, he gives a tour every other day or so.

 

King Khufu’s Temple, leading to the Sphinx and his Pyramid.  Owing to the low ceilings and narrow spaces of the tomb, and Tony’s height, our guide suggested that visiting the tomb might not be a meaningful experience for us, so we just admired the structures from the exterior.

 

No Internet photos or virtual tours will ever compare to standing in front of the Great Sphinx of Giza.

 

In the foreground of the Giza Pyramid complex is an auditorium, from where a light show is held nearly every evening. Seemed a little too, “Yanni Performs at the Acropolis” for us.

Our desert journey came to a traditional close with tea at the camel stable and a “Shoukran” to our dromedaries and their guides.  From Giza we departed for an afternoon in Coptic Cairo…