Even though we had enjoyed a comfortable business class flight with Nile Air, our morale dropped a bit when we saw the brownness and chaos of Cairo appear below us. We had taken the easy way out for the last leg of our Egypt adventure, and booked ourselves into the 5 Star Kempinski on the banks of the Nile in the hope of not having to do unadulterated Cairo.
Our behaviour over the next few days indicated that we may have had Egypt fatigue. We did get out every day, for 2 guided morning tours and one self guided wander, but found ourselves spending more time in the hotel than normal, sitting by the pool, reading in our room, and twice having a room service dinner.
The two morning trips were interesting. The first took us back to the Cairo museum, this time with a guide and a desire to focus on the top floor. Having a guide made things much more interesting as there are no descriptions anywhere. The highlight is seeing Tutankhamen’s treasures; beautifully preserved works of such skill, few today could replicate it. His inner sarcophagus is solid gold and weighs 110kg, and his death mask, also solid gold, is 35kg. And they buried them. This really is a must see.
Seeing the mummies is also fascinating too. Perhaps a little morbid, but seeing the well preserved bodies of those who ensured we have the amazing buildings left in Egypt provides a solid connection. Also, seeing Ramses II’s little,, empty body is a great reminder that no matter how important we think we are or what influence we have, we all die as individuals whose wealth counts for nothing.
After this, we went to the Hanging Church in old Cairo, a church dating back to the third century, high above other buildings in the area as it was built on the ruins of a Roman watch tower. Close by is another church that has as its claim to fame a crypt that was once a cave that Mary and Jesus hid in when Herod was doing his baby killing thing. It seemed that the holy duo had a really good donkey as most towns in Egypt have a crypt that used to be a cave that they hid in. They got about a bit. Both are worth a visit as they are quiet and there’s not too much God involved.
The following day was mostly about Mosques and we visited Mohamed Ali mosque, the most famous in Cairo and of a similar design to the Grand Mosque in Istanbul, and the Sultan Hassan mosque just below it. Both are hugely impressive buildings and the latter is rather breathtaking. Built in the sixth century, it’s proportions are extraordinarily, rivalling any European cathedral of the time. We were lucky enough to come across a guard willing to open up the Sultans tomb, a huge cavernous room behind the main pulpit. Whilst in there, the same guard began to sing/chant in the style they do in mosques and it was utterly amazing. It made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. It made us both feel real emotion. Really special.
It was good to see a bit of old Cairo as it made us appreciate the city a little bit, and if we had our time again we would spend more time exploring that area.
We left Egypt on a cheap business class flight with Royal Jordania, via a lounge with no booze. Our flight was on a Friday morning, the only time when Cairo are reasonably empty and comparatively safe and it almost felt like a liveable city.
Our feelings about Egypt are mixed and we realised how mixed when we had lunch with a Brit who asked ‘How was Egypt?’. We covered the tough stuff, then after a while we realised that we had both been talking constantly and enthusiastically for about 15 minutes about the history, the achievements, the beauty of the Nile, the wonderful boat, the lovely Mango Guesthouse, the incredible feat of engineering that moved Abel Simbel, how well we were looked after in our AirBnB in Luxor, the Alexandria Bibliotheca etc, etc.
Egypt is an assault on the senses in every way, and if you are after an interesting adventure, that must be a good thing.