It took a while for my feelings to settle and to be able to digest everything that I’ve experienced on my recent trip to Egypt. Seriously: it was the most intense, controversial, emotional and quirky trip I’ve ever been on.
I’ve been struggling to put my thoughts in the correct order and to figure out how I want to sound and what I want to say because I have mixed feelings about this trip. It’s only logical that I write more than one post about this country to be sure I cover everything.
So let this one be about my first day in Egypt’s capital city, Cairo.
As soon as the plane landed in Cairo’s airport late in the afternoon, my heart started singing. I was so excited for my first (and only) 24hrs in the city. Getting into the country with my EU and hubby’s Serbian passport was quite easy; we just had to pay a small visa fee – approximately 20euros.
We had a mini van waiting for our whole group of 6, including 2 security guards -which I’d recommend you hire too if you’re traveling without a guide, solo and especially if you are women!
The air was different. It had a desert feel to it and the color of the sky was golden and not as blue as I’m used to. It was clear I was on a different continent and I already loved it. The sandy landscapes and the sand washed golden brown buildings were exactly as I had imagined them to be: magical.
First stop: Khal el-Khalili market (or Al Halili as we would say in Greek).
It took us forever to get there because the traffic in (not only) Cairo is insane and the drivers are c-r-a-z-y. Seriously, lunatics! But every passing kilometer where we literally risked our lives was well worth it because this market… Ah this market!! The most beautiful, colorful, picturesque and dreamy market I have ever been to in my entire life. I couldn’t stop taking photos!
Khal el-Khalili is the place you want to be to buy your souvenirs, scarves, Egyptian dresses and even some gold jewelry (I scored a Nefertiti ring from my loving husband). It is also the place where you must negotiate for EVERYTHING. Haggling is a tradition in Egypt, even in actual stores. The merchants in the market usually ask for double or triple the price of the items and, in order to haggle successfully, your goal should be to drop their rates by at least 50%. If you are shy like me, you might want to stand back and watch how others do it and then just go with the flow. It is actually quite entertaining after the first few times!
Also, you should be ready to make quick decisions and have an escape plan in mind! I mean… if you give a product a second glance or slow your pace as you walk out of a shop, or even if you happen to accidentally lock eyes with the seller, be prepared for an “attack” of offers and an aggressive approach to sell. Don’t let that intimidate you and definitely do not be afraid to move on even if they follow you after your 8th “no thank you”. Just keep walking!
The sellers at the market are very clever and could recognize your origins just by looking at you. They would start speaking Greek to us, and then Spanish to a group of Spanish people, without hearing any of us speak first. They are also quite loud, yet most of them super friendly, even if you end up buying nothing.
You are gonna love Khal el-Khalili, I am sure!
Next Stop: Tower of Cairo
It was night when we left the market so our Egyptian friend Ayman suggested that the Tower of Cairo would be ideal for me, the InstaJunkie. He was absolutely on point. For just 5 euro, you could take a lift to the top floor and enjoy amazing panoramic 360 degree views of all Cairo and the River Nile, which are so pretty by night.
If you want, you can also have dinner at the restaurant there, which revolves around the tower while you sit, and enjoy the same views (from the inside though). Amazing, isn’t it? Despite being slightly overpriced and kinda touristy, it sounds like a cool experience.
When we left the tower, we realized we hadn’t eaten, so we headed for dinner in a small place that one of the security guards recommended. It was a simple, laid back kinda restaurant with very well known and celebrity adored street food. It didn’t look like much, but God… the food was delicious!
After this long, tiring yet fulfilling day, we decided to hop over to Safir Hotel Cairo for a good nights sleep. There, they tried to charge us 2 times more than what the online price was, but hey… I’m a genius member at booking.com. They can’t pull anything on me – I ended up booking the hotel online using their lobby internet, LOL! The beds were super comfy, the breakfast nice, and the lobby gorgeous. However, the rooms could definitely use some renovations and better decor. We paid almost 80 euro for each double room including all the fees, taxes and service charge!
The following day, we woke up full of energy and, after an early breakfast and coffee, we rushed to Giza to pay our tributes at the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx! There’s a whole post with a lot of pictures coming up very soon, dedicated to this miraculous site.
Until then, I send you my love!
– The prices for Egyptians and tourists are different almost everywhere, even at the hotels. To save you some money, it would be nice if you had a local friend with you.
– The local currency is Egyptian Pound. 1 euro = 20.5 Egyptian pounds.