I’m going to quickly develop a reputation as that one travel blogger who only stays in places for one day and then moves on. There is something to be said for that approach, jet lag isn’t a problem because you’re back home before you even acclimate a bit, you spend less money, and at the rate I’m going you see everything everyone else does.
So lets do Egypt? I mean, why not right? It’s a stones throw away from where I’m working right now on any number of regional airlines. When the new schedule was finished by our lead pilot I noticed I had a remarkable, rare, and to-be-coveted 4-days off. Not sure how it happened, or why it happened but I was excited.
Really though I didn’t think much of it. It was just 4 days off. In my passing thought I considered I’d be able to go to the gym during the day when it is less crowded, and thought that I’d get to spend some more time with my American friends here that work with another company down the road. It wasn’t until the night shift prior to the start of the 4 days off that it clicked that I had FOUR FRIGGIN’ DAYS OFF. I needed to go somewhere, see something, do something. I began to rack my brain.
That next morning I still hadn’t decided completely, and was still mulling the decision over as we closed up our flight bags and lockers and drove to breakfast. Could I do it? Should I? You see, my friends had just returned from Egypt and I loved their photos. It took me back to my childhood, we all grew up hearing stories of Egypt and the Pyramids. They are probably the single most recognizable one of the world wonders. I had to do it.
So, as we sat down to a table for breakfast I pulled out my smartphone and set to work – undertaking my most ambitious, and spontaneous roam ever. I ordered coffee, and eggs with toast and set to mashing the screen as quickly as I could. I sent frantic messages to my friend Bethany, whom had just returned from Egypt with her husband Phil and asked her for any info she had on trips they did or pointers.
I booked my flight. Royal Jordanian, an airline I’d never flown on connecting through Amman, Jordan. Sweet. That was easy enough. I found a hotel in Giza at the base of the Pyramids that was going for $55 a night. What?!? You can’t get a Motel 6 in Grand Junction, Colorado for $55 a night and I just booked a Starwood preferred room in GIZA at the PYRAMIDS for $55 bucks a night. Pffft! This was turning out awesome.
Bethany started replying with suggestions, companies, options and what it was they did. Best tip I can give to anyone thinking of going to Egypt – go check out Viator.com (these companies really should start paying me) and book a private car pick up from the airport. You’ll save a TON of money getting to your hotel, have a nicer ride, not have to fight the taxi driver on a price, and the car was nice. After you get there get the drivers phone number and set up a private car back to the airport when it is time to leave.
The next thing I booked was a private day tour. I didn’t know it was private when I booked it, it was for “small groups” (also through viator) and only $100. It covered all entry fees (except going inside of the Pyramids) and came with a English speaking guide. It wasn’t until they picked me up that I realized I was on a private tour. Just me, the driver, and the guide. The three of us would set out to see as much Egypt as possible in a day.
This is where having the private tour came in handy. I was able to spot correct our schedule and make changes all together. Normally the trip started at the pyramids and worked out toward Memphis by way of Saqqara where the original step Pyramid is. We elected to flip the schedule and drive right to Memphis and beat the tourist flock there, then work backwards towards Giza and the Pyramids and Sphinx since my hotel was in Giza, an added benefit was that every tour that had started at the Pyramids would be in Saqqara or Memphis by then so the Pyramids wouldn’t be as busy. They were still fairly busy. Easier. Smarter.
Then my breakfast arrived. In the time it took them to make eggs and coffee I’d booked, on a Samsung Galaxy S5 Active, an awesome Egypt adventure, and my flight departed in less than 24 hours. I needed to get home, do laundry, and pack. I also drew out cash from the ATM to exchange when I got there.
Ok – now pictures!
The trip was so last minute I decided to surprise my family by not telling them until I was there. Coincidentally the mall had this display up, so I snapped this photo and put it on facebook captioned “One day I’ll go see the real thing!” The next morning I did.
Boarding Royal Jordanian. It had been a long time since I was bussed to an airplane. The planes were really nice and new. The cabin crew was tops.
The food however was just…so bad (sorry RJ it is true). This is Economy class, those are eggs and a hot dog. You’d think this was an American carrier or something…the one saving grace was the little thing of Hummus top left of the tray. I’m a self-confessed Hummus addict. And I don’t want to kick the habit.
The International Airport in Amman, Jordan is really nice!
Not pictured here is every thing you can eat and drink here. Including American brands like Burger King and Starbucks.
I spent my layover in the Catalina Cafe and Bar. They had a ton of power outlets and well…they are a bar soo…
…beer and peanuts.
Cairo International Airport, not as nice as Amman, but still a really great terminal on this side. More on that later.
Ok this is an important detail I left out. You need to fly in with $25USD in your pocket per person. You buy your entry visa there in the terminal when you land. It’s easier just to have the USD on hand. That was one of the tasks I handled in Kuwait before flying out. This Egypt visa was my Christmas present to myself.
I give you – Cairo at sunset! Photo was taken from a van rocketing down the road dodging Egyptians with a cell phone. I think it turned out.
These rooms are up for grabs for an extra fee if you aren’t a Starwood Preferred Guest
And all of the rooms feature great pool views…
Among other things…
Even the restaurant had a great view of the Pyramids of Giza
The Memphis Sphinx was so cool, but sunglasses made it cooler.
Saqqara, this entry was to the courtyard for the original pyramid.
Looking back through the entryway.
The original pyramid was built in steps, a series of rectangles on top of each other. It wasn’t until later on following Pyramids that the sides were smoothed out in the design.
These things sure are sharp!
I paid extra for a ticket to get into the great pyramid of Giza. I had to, absolutely, without question, go inside the pyramid.
The narrow, long, and steep, single lane ladder to and from the burial chamber.
See how the walls have smoothed out in this area? A second, equally steep climb. But this one was two lanes!
I was the only one climbing inside the pyramid at this point. So – here I am, taking a selfie, alone, mostly in the dark, in the empty burial chamber of the Great Pyramid of Giza…the mummy was nowhere to be found so I presume he was out wandering about.
Ok funny story on that. Like I mentioned I was the only one up here at the time. On my climb down I heard and saw a Canadian family at the start of the ladder (How did you know they were Canadian? Because. I did. They were polite, had french accents on American English, and sounded Canadian). Anyways, I scrambled down the ladder, I had this little nugget in mind for them (being the prankster my dad raised me to be) and the timing was working out great. As I got to the bottom of the ladder they had pulled off to the side to let me pass. Out of breath from the quick descent I said between gulps of air “You’ve got to turn around! Go back! I was just in the burial chamber and the mummy…the mummy isn’t there – he must be roaming the pyramid!”
They laughed. I laughed. The girl and her mom thought it was more funny than the father and son, whatever. I still laugh out loud thinking about it.
Back outside the Pyramid now. The cool air was so refreshing. It gets insanely hot in their. Also, I was being chased by a mummy.
I think every tourist in Egypt has this photo. Now I have it too!
Sphinx + Selfie = Sphinxie? Let’s not make that a thing…
Also – getting fresh with the Sphinx at Giza.
I had to also make the Sphinx at Giza as cool as the Sphinx in Memphis.
Travel Pro Tip: Some hotels are set up so that the power to the room is dependent on a card being in a slot. I travel with an old expired license so that I can keep both keys on me and not waste one on the power slot. So if I am charging devices, or in the rare case where the A/C is hooked up to it too, it all keeps working while I’m out. If the maid makes off with my old expired hole punched license…it won’t get her far.
So at this point I’d been all over Egypt, and I was exhausted. Areas I didn’t get pictures off were (1) the jewelry store where I bought my mom a silver pendant for her birthday which had just passed with hieroglyphs essentially saying she’s an awesome mom. (2) The Papyrus shop where I bought my sisters and myself some traditional looking Egyptian paintings. I also got my sister’s family a large papyrus family tree with their two boys’ and their family name on it in hieroglyphs. (3) I went to the light and sound show at the pyramids and it was 100% worth it. Spring the little extra for VIP seating and you’ll not regret it. A very cool, all English, presentation that uses lights and lasers to illuminate and tell the story of the Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza.
Ok – so now for the bad. Egypt is in a bad state right now and have been since the revolution, and then ISIS blew up that plane, they’re hurting. As a result poverty is high and visible everywhere. Each attraction has any number of people there trying to sell you things, or pick your pockets. Just keep an eye out. The people in general are super nice and they just desperately want the tourism industry there to spring back.
The single worst experience I’ve ever had at an airport, and this is coming from a guy who has been in more airports than I can count, occurred at Cairo International. Security is a joke, an armed guard was standing in the metal detector (his gun setting it off as it should) while a horde of veiled women (easily 3 of them – probably 4) crammed themselves into the metal detector with him. These people have no sense of what a cue (line) is. Hundreds of people tried to surge through the barricades, they forced their way into the lines and into you. There wasn’t a millimeter of space between you and the people pushing you. I’m a broad shouldered guy, when I get pushed like that I just try and swell up and throw a few elbows – they get the point, or at least normally. Not in Egypt. They were maniacs, the passengers. I don’t know if they were on a migration and had never seen an airport ever in their lives or what. The women were the worst. You’d have three or four of them crammed into the metal detector, the guards gun setting it off, a dozenmen pushing to get with their women and cut in front of you and then another 3 or 4 women would push in front of them. It was a mad house.
Print your itinerary and have it with you, security wants to see a ticket or something along those lines for your flight WHEN you make it up to him. The guards don’t bother the women they just shoe-horn the pushy broads through the metal detector, so when the men get to them it’s all business. The guy almost wouldn’t let me though because I didn’t have a ticket (the check in counters are behind the security control point – try explaining that to the security though. In order to get a ticket I need to check in. To check in I need through security. To get through security I need a ticket.)
Everyones bags just get heaved onto the x-ray belt, and get taken off and put back on by any number of strangers and security. Positive control is hard to maintain while you battle for a single opening in the metal detector line. Once that horror is all done you go check in, get your ticket and go through passport control. It also bears mentioning that the tiny 8 foot tall plexiglass barrier the Egyptians use to separate the “secure” and “non-secure” sides does no good. Families hand stuff to each other over the wall all day long. Totally making the metal detector and x-ray machine pointless. By far, without a doubt, the worst airport security I’ve ever seen. Those women needed sprayed back with a riot hose or something.
That all being said, once you’re past security, past check-in, past passport control and into the main terminal you can take the escalator up to the gate level and then stairs up to were the lounges are and you’ll find a Starbucks with free WiFi and a McDonalds. The waiting part of the terminal is fairly nice. It’s also eerily quiet and deserted, leaving you wondering where all those throngs of people went to. I have one theory:
They have never, or don’t regularly travel by air. They arrive AT departure time, and freak out. Hence all the pushing and idiot antics. Then as they barrel through security the run onto their planes and leave.
And there you have it! Egypt in a day!