The following morning we went to get breakfast – not exactly the best meal of the day considering the only food that looked particularly nice was the cooked food such as sausages; not that they tasted like normal sausages. As it was our first morning in Egypt we decided it would be an idea to try out the swimming pool we’d noticed the night before and get a bit of swimming and sun bathing in – this easily took up most the morning and by 12 noon we’d decided to try something else. Personally I found that a welcoming idea as I’m not one who likes to sit around doing nothing – I like to be out seeing the sights and experiencing the culture of the place. The entire point of Egypt is to see the sights, and as it happened the Oasis hotel ran a free shuttle bus to the centre of Cairo at certain points during the day so we decided it was a good idea to take it to do a little exploring.
The bus generally takes around 30 minutes to an hour to get into the city, and the route is filled with many different sights as it passes mosques, slums, and of course the pyramids. It was that morning we saw the pyramids in passing for the first time – totally amazing to see how close to them we were actually staying and how close to the city they actually are. An absolutely breath taking sight seeing them for the first time.
I’ve been interested in Egypt for a long time, and seeing pyramids in films such as Stargate made me all the more eager to see them. But going inside the pyramids wouldn’t be a task for this day.
Looking around Cairo on the first day we didn’t really visit any of the sights, but from the moment we got off the bus we were being shown to shops in Cairo – specifically a shop selling papyrus. We were shown how papyrus was made and then asked if we’d like to buy any. Since it was a good place to get souvenirs we didn’t really mind, and probably spent a little more than we should have there.
Once we were done, what we thought was a guide took us to a shop that sold essence and left us there. This is when we figured out that the guy greeting us off the bus was not actually with the hotel, but was from the papyrus shop, or at least was friends with the owner there and at the essence shop.
We were sat down in the shop with the shop owner telling us about the products, products we were not interested in – we kindly refused and left. For the next hour or two we continuously led by people who wanted to show us their business, but each time we kindly said no and tried to make our way to find somewhere that sold water as the weather in Cairo is a little dry to say the least.
Not really knowing the language or where we were we didn’t really want to offend anyone, but eventually we got the hang of saying “La shukran” (which means “no thank you”) and to continue walking without acknowledging them.
The pavements are actually quite high, and it it’s quite understandable, as I said earlier – the driving and traffic in Egypt is a little different from home. When you want to cross the road – even if it’s a four lane road (that might have five or more cars side by side) you have to take your chances and walk out into the road and hope for the best as you weave in and out of cars. In our search for a place that sold water we noticed that there was the Cairo Hilton not far from where we were. Attached to this was a small “shopping mall” (used in the loosest sense of the word) which had a souvenir shop and a few food places – most of which were closed.
There didn’t seem to be much activity in the cafe there so we went inside the souvenir shop to ask for directions to a place where we’d be able to buy some water. The guy who ran the souvenir shop was your typical Egyptian – kind, polite, and eager to sell. He sent his assistant out to find us some water and in the meantime gave us some red coloured herbal drink to try. It tasted foul, but we didn’t want to seem impolite and we were thirsty, so drunk it anyway. Whilst sipping on the drink we took a look around and bought several more souvenirs. After about an hour there was no sign of the water so we thanked the shop owner and headed back out into Cairo.
We went into the Hilton to try their restaurant – it was actually quite nice food and was priced around the same as what you’d expect in the UK. For example, a meal consisting of chicken and chips cost us around 75.50 LE, which is around £7.60 in British money. We later learnt that this was a pretty good way of judging how good the food was – the closer to what you’d expect to pay in England the better the quality of food.
Once we’d finished our food we headed back to the hotel using the Oasis’s bus. Along the way we hadn’t seen any signs of where the sights in Cairo were located so knew that we’d have to figure it out from the map where we’d been.