The three sites we especially wanted to see in the Cairo area were the pyramids of Giza (of course), Saqqara, and Memphis. They were all quite a distance away and tricky to get to by public transportation. We were able to hire a car and a driver for the whole day to take us to all three for $25 each (not including entrance fees). Driving in Cairo was reminiscent of India, but the wider streets of the city centre made even more space for the horn-tooting traffic and people to zigzag in all directions. One would be hard pressed to find a car with no dings and dents. It’s like they drive by feel and sound here. Fortunately our driver was cheerful, competent and helpful.
We also wanted to visit the UNESCO world heritage site of Memphis. It was Egypt’s capital during the old kingdom (2686 to 2181 BC) and was once a cosmopolitan city with temples and palaces. You can still see the remnants of the city it was.
Saqqara is one of Egypt’s most important archeological sites and served as the main necropolis to the city of Memphis. This step Pyramid in Saqqara is Egypt oldest known pyramid (of the 109 discovered pyramids) and is considered the first large scale stone construction. It was an important phase in the royal tomb conception towards a full pyramid shape. Vendors greeted us selling their wares as their predecessors did 2000 years ago when people came to visit their ancestors and to leave offerings. It was a surreal day full of extraordinary history and I couldn’t believe I was actually there!
The plan after Cairo was to take the bus northwest to Alexandria. The original library is long gone but I still loved the thought of spending a day at ‘the library of Alexandria’. But that meant travelling to and spending time in another big city. While Cairo has been good to us, my window for city dwelling is small and it was closing fast. Since Gord was OK either way, we decided to head south to Luxor and more warmth. After 11 hours on the night train we hit Luxor at 3:30AM. We were too tired (we hadn’t slept) and cold (it was 6 degrees on the unheated train and our warm clothes were not accessible) to get off. We decided to stay put and continued on south to the town of Aswan. When we arrived at 7am it wasn’t any warmer but at least it was daylight. We have found another great little hostel for $11 per night which also includes breakfast. As we are almost the only ones here we literally have our own little apartment. People have been very friendly. Egypt is in a bizarre cold snap but we have been warmly welcomed everywhere we have gone.