At 8:00 AM we met Zenab, our guide, and her driver for a full day of visiting Cairo’s highlights. The Great Pyramid of Giza, Cairo’s main attraction was our first stop. When I think of Egypt, I think of pyramids, so seeing the pyramids was a big deal!
We drove through the Western Desert (known to us as the Sahara Desert) to get to the pyramids. I was struck by how quickly the landscape changed from city greenery to sandy vistas.
About thirty minutes after leaving our hotel, we arrived at the entrance to the Great Pyramid of Giza, the largest pyramid in Egypt. Built in the early 26th century BC, it is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Several smaller pyramids surround the Great Pyramids, including three smaller pyramids known as the Queens’ Pyramids.
A camel ride was part of our tour, so we rode camels. I was not sure what to expect from my first camel ride, but the friendly camel driver assured me it would be great.
I’m still not sure if the camel ride was great, but it was definitely interesting. My hat fell off, but my body stayed on. After I put my hat back on, all the sand in my hat ended up in my hair-a small irritation. I think Jeanne’s camel had a thing for my camel because I kept finding his head right next to me.
The Great Sphinx of Giza is a short drive from the Great Pyramid. The bedrock and limestone block sculpture is the oldest known monumental sculpture in Egypt. Archaeological evidence suggests it was created between 2558 and 2532 BC.
It was our guide’s idea to take pictures of us “kissing” the sphinx.
We visited three of Cairo’s government-approved craft shops. The government regulates and approves certain artisans in order to protect and promote authentic Egyptian products. I loved learning about the history and processes of their crafts.
At the Egyptian perfumery, Soha told us how they extract and use the oils of flowers and trees for perfume and healing.
Samah demonstrated the ancient art of papyrus making.
At our last stop I watched a jeweler make a pendant of my name in hieroglyphics called a cartouche. In Egyptian hieroglyphs, a cartouche is an oval with a line at one end, indicating that the text enclosed is a royal name.
The Egyptian Museum
The Egyptian Museum was our last stop of the day. Built in 1901, it is currently the largest museum in Africa, Soon the Grand Egyptian Museum will open on the Giza Plateau and be much larger than the Egyptian Museum.
Not knowing what was moving to the new museum, I was afraid some of the special antiquities of the Egyptian Museum would not be on view. Our guide assured there were plenty of highlights to see, including the King Tut exhibit, at the museum.
And she was right! It was amazing to see so many antiquities in one place. Photographs were allowed everywhere except the King Tut room.
I loved seeing and learning about Queen Hatchibsut, one of Egypt’s greatest pharaohs, who ruled from 1478 BC until her death in 1458 BC. Our guide described her as Egypt’s first feminist.
Tomorrow we leave early-4:30am-to fly to Casablanca and begin our Morocco adventure. I am so thankful we were able to make a little stopover in Cairo. Memories of the warmth and friendliness of the people will be with me for a long time. Every person we met made an effort to welcome us. Children waved to us and one adolescent boy asked if he could take a picture with us. He made half a heart with his hand and we completed the other half with our hands.
So, thank you, Cairo for a great two days.