Pyramids and Coral Reefs – Egypt before the demonstrations.
Part one: The Pyramids

It is tricky to find a nice destination for a holiday, when several needs in the family have to be met.
My son wanted action, my daughter no caching, my friend water and diving and I some sun and warmth and a new country colored red on the map.
Now, my daughters whishes were ignored, I do have to cache on holidays.
But settling on Hurghada in Egypt, there were just a handfull of caches around, so at least Finnuala was happy.

For the first time in my life I went on an organised holiday. Having done that now, I can say, it’s not really my kind of holiday. For some reason or other the travel agency booked us on a different flight. Wouldn’t have been so bad, if the airport hadn’t changed as well. So instead of driving to Erfurt, which is only one hours drive away, we were now scheduled to fly from Leipzig, at least three hours drive. So we decided to take a hotel near the airport and do some caching in Leipzig on the evening.
The flight was great, the chaos at Hurghada airport not too much for Egyptian standards.
We were really lucky with the hotel, it was a great and well kept site. Lots of flowers made us feel like in a park.

view from the balcony Sunset from the balcony, Bougainvilleas in full bloom.

On our first day we made plans which activities we wanted to try. So GermanSailor booked his diving, while I went searching for the cache right there under the steps. To have a cache just 500m from the hotelroom on the grounds of the hotel was great, it ensured that we would find at least one cache in Egypt.
For all four of us we booked a snorkeling trip, the kids wanted to learn windsurfing and I wanted to see the pyramids. When in Egypt I recon one just has to see the pyramids.

With all these plans made and organised, we made a tour through the resort, which included three hotels. I got the feeling, that we were really lucky with our rooms, noone could disturb us, as we had one of the few first storey rooms with own balconies.

Our day in Cairo started quite early, at 3 am we were picked up at the hotel. The flight was uneventfull and the airport in Cairo sleepy, nothing to warn us of the chaos later during the day.
As the booked tour included not only the pyramids, we got a sightseeing tour of Cairo. Well, for me it would have been enough to just go to the pyramids… Finnuala was quite sick with a stomach bug, but we got some medication for her.
Our tour lead us past the Unknown Soldier Memorial in Cairo, where also the tomb of Anwar Sadat can be found.

unknown soldier memorial
Memorial of the Unknown Soldier

We were the first group to visit the Alabaster Mosque that morning, the waiting time we spend sipping some really hot and sweet tea from a strange market stall. Black tea with some leaves of peppermint. Strange but very tasty.

alabaster mosque
Alabaster Mosque in early light

When entering this mosque we had to be bare feeted. The Alabaster in the court yard was really cold on the feet. But still I had to take some pictures outside, before stepping into the mosque with its rich carpets.

This mosque isn’t used for service anymore, but for showing around the tourists. Otherwise we certainly would have to cover our hair as well as taking off the shoes.
It was also noticeable during the day, that all women had their hair covered. Some with full body burka, others with just colourfull scarfs, leaving the face visible.

fountain detail
The fountain to wash the feet           Detail of the fountain

inner yard
Inner yard with fountain and clock tower

The brass clock tower was presented to Muhammad Ali (who built the Alabaster Mosque) by King Louis Philippe of France in 1845. The clock was kind of traded with the obelisk of Luxor now standing at Place de la Concorde in Paris.

Intricate roof decorations

Sunrays sunbeams
There was fog not only outside, but even inside the mosque

The difference between a turkish and a egyptian minarett, one is like a pencil the other with an onion shaped top.
turkish egyptian
Turkish minarett like a pencil, Egyptian minarett with round top.

first view
Our first view of the Cheops Pyramid out of the van.

When you approach the site, there are houses quite near, but when you’re at the location, you have a feeling, this is far out in the desert. There is just barren sand around, even some dunes.
But far from it, the pyramids are quite close to populated areas.

Cheops Pyramid
Cheops Pyramid. The only one of the Seven Wonders of the World, which still exists.
There is a virtual cache there, where you have to circumnavigate the pyramid.
Also the pyramids and sphinx are waymarks, so you can log those. Pitty though, that the only Traditional was muggled as we were there…

I had several travellers with me, one coin actually was in my caching bag since September. But I had asked the owner if it was okay to keep it, as I could fullfill the goal in a few month time. The owners nephew, a young boy, wanted the coin to visit Egypt and the pyramids. Well here I was and I took some pictures with the coin in front of the Pyramid of Khufu.

the back
From the other side the fog wasn’t so visible. The building beside the great pyramid houses the reconstructed solar barge of Khufu.

damaged corner
The damaged corner. Someone clearly had use for those huge boulders…

steps up
Some steps lead up to the entrance. My son wanted to go up there, even we didn’t pay for the tour inside the pyramid. See the tiny blue dot? That’s him. The people look so tiny beside those huge boulders, it is amazing what kind of hard work went into constructing those monuments without modern technology like cranes and lifts.

camels in front of pyramid
Camels in front of the Pyramid of Khafre. This one still has the casing stones on the top. It is said, that all the pyramids had such smooth lime stones and even were decorated with murals. Nothing can be found of this nowadays.

care for a ride
Would you like to go horseback riding? Here is a man looking for tourists to show around and give them a taste of the desert.

desert feeling
Pitty, it was so foggy, but this is actually not out in the desert but very close to the city of Cairo.

Pyramids in fog.

A short bus ride and we were at a different quite spectacular location. At the foot of the Sphinx.

Again due to the fog it all looked quite mysterious. But then, the story behind this strange creature with a lions body and human head is mysterious.

body of sphinx
The restauration and excavation is still continuing.

waiting for customers
Camel and horseriders waiting for customers to take on a ride.

wiki map
This map of Wikipedia shows the site of the pyramids.

The trouble with a guided tour is, that you can’t really stop where you want to. So with great sadness I had to sit in the van and see on the GPSr, that we passed several caches in the city of Cairo.
But we also didn’t stop for great photo opportunities. The crossing of the River Nile or passing some strange houses, where the top storeys weren’t finished, but the lower storeys were already lived in. Some of the flat roof tops were covered with rubbish, some were with grass and some hens and a cockerel were pecking around and on one roof I even spotted a herd of at least six goats. Imagine, having a herd of goats on the roof top!

River Nile south
View south onto the River Nile out of the driving van.

river nile north
River Nile with modern buildings in Cairo.

unfinished houses
Unfinished houses, some with goatsmilk, eggs and fresh meat production.

During now heavy traffic, and quite chaotic driving I might add, we tried to make our way to the Egyptian Museum. With the obligatory stop at some shops, as it is usual at those guided tours.
Now, I’m not really that fond of museums, but this was really something else. In here there are the original artefacts out of the pyramids. Statues, furniture, jewellery, tableware, clothes of the pharaos and shrines. We didn’t visit the mumies, some of which are said to be damaged by luters during the revolution just three weeks after our visit.

egyptian museum

I’m quite happy that we were in Egypt in early January, End of January the people of Egypt demonstrated against Husni Mubarak and there was quite an upheaval in Cairo. Just at the place, where the Egyptian Museum is situated, Tahrir Square, the main demonstrations took place.
I can’t even imagine the chaos there, as it was strange for us Europeans even in peace times. Cars won’t keep to lanes, the horn was used to just let all people know: Hello, here I am, do you see me? Some crazy motorcyclist, with wife and three kids on the back and fueltank would weave their way through the throng of cars.

No wonder we didn’t manage to be at the airport in time for the 6 o’clock flight. Then there was pandemonium in the waiting area, as several planes were scheduled to leave at the same time. The waiting area was for passengers of approximately three planes, but there were at least double as many people squeezed into that tiny space. My great worry was that I’d be seperated from my kids and that we might get trampled.

I was so glad as we were sitting in the plane back to Hurghada….
But Cairo was an expierence I wouldn’t like to miss. Makes one appreciate, how lucky we are to have such orderly behaviour on our roads at home.