The following morning the breakfast was the same with no option to have a variety of different foods. Later in the day we again headed into the centre of Cairo, this time with specific purpose – to see the Egyptian Antiquities Museum. The hotel’s bus again took us past the pyramids along the long road to get into the city. We found our way to the museum relatively quickly as it turned out it was not far from the Hilton we’d eaten at the day before.
The road leading to the museum is barricaded on either side with armed tourism police patrolling the perimeter. It seemed odd to see a tourist attraction guarded in such a way, but what followed seemed even stranger. Anyone who was white was allowed to pass straight through and carry on to the entrance to the museum, whereas anyone who looked like they might be Arabic were stopped and questioned before being allowed down that road. After this you can pay at the entrance to the grounds, but you have to leave any bags you have there.
As they let you take photographs on the grounds but not inside the museum I took a few pictures around outside first and eventually once we’d seen everything there was outside we dropped our bags off and headed into the museum. Even outside there had been a fair bit to see though it was also a shame as some of the reliefs and statues were open to the elements and to people touching them which meant they were a little worse for ware. To enter the museum there was yet another layer of security – metal detectors to ensure you weren’t going to be carrying anything questionable into the museum in your pockets.
Inside the museum you could tell that it had not been well looked after, but the exhibits were amazing. Pieces were on display from many different dynasties that demonstrated aspects of the culture such as their religion and their way of life. You could gaze up at massive pillars of stone carved with Egyptian hieroglyphs.
There were also some signs that the museum was undergoing some refurbishment as a new section had been freshly painted but was currently empty. The best piece in the museum though was the airtight room dedicated to the boy Pharaoh, Tutankhamen – one of the most famous rulers of Ancient Egypt. The burial mask was unlike anything I’d seen previously, and for that alone the museum was worth visiting but there was o many other artefacts that made the whole visit enjoyable and worthwhile.
On the way out we stopped by what passed for the giftshop and bought an ice cream. It wasn’t the best of ice creams as even though it was a Walls one it was a bit crushed. Whilst we sat down outside in ever present heat we watched as one Egyptian took empty water bottles and filled them from a tap before taking them back to a stall outside.
Wandering about Cairo once more we were on an island in the middle of the Nile called Zamalik, a name that reminded me of the marketplace in Babylon 5; a place in Cairo where some of the more up-market areas are. Whilst wandering around this area, gradually being roasted alive, we came across the Cairo Opera House, and eventually a hotel where we were to meet up with a friend’s cousin who just happened to be in the country at the time on business. After a couple of drinks in the hotel the three of us headed across the road and onto a boat for a dinner cruise down the nile.
Throughout the meal there was entertainment in the form of belly dancing, a man spinning around on the spot, and Egyptian singing. By the time the entertainment was done and we’d returned to the jetty we’d left from it was pitch black. We weren’t sure how safe it would be hanging around for the hotel’s bus so instead we headed into the nearest hotel and booked a limo to take us back to The Oasis.