20,000 leagues under the sky, 2004- travel blog

Port Said at sunrise


t'other pyramid


Sphinx n Pyramid



Humpback Sphinx

You know.

Cairo Museum

Every now and again I have to remind myself why I avoid group tours and this was one of those occasions. Just about every time I go to Cyprus I say to myself that I'll do the trip over to Egypt, this time I had an extra incentive, to finish another mission and have at least one stamp from all 7 continents in the same passport.

The cruise over was fairly uneventful other than the over-fawning and quest for tips from the crew. A bit of sunbathing in the afternoon, a couple of beers and a reasonably nice meal, hit the cheap whisky and then sleep until Africa.

After breakfast the sheep-trials began - go here, get your passport back, go there, have this ticket ready, queue here get a lovely orange sticker placed on your chest, this bus if you speak this language, that bus for that one, any bus for English. As soon as we hit the dock-side the street vendors were out in force and they know their market, morons with orange stickers on their chests! Strictly speaking I did wear my sticker but it was inside my breast-pocket and certainly not going to be visible to the locals during the day.

The guide in my bus spent the first 10 minutes telling everyone how naughty the camel drivers and salesmen are in Cairo then spent the rest of the trip trying to sell things, conduct currency transactions for people, and generally make a small fortune in kick-backs.

After a two and a half hour escorted (armed) bus trip we arrived in Cairo, first point of call the pyramids of some Geezer. As soon as the bus doors opened I legged it away from the busses and other sheep and with my "I'm a mug" sticker well hidden had a pleasant walk around the pyramids with very little hassle from the camel drivers and traders as I told them I wasn't with a group but travelling alone, which they all thought was much more sensible. Unfortunately at the appointed hour I had to stroll back toward the bus-park as if it was on my route and rejoin the flock. I don't know why I did get back on the bus as the next stop was at the bottom of the hill to see the sphinx with the pyramids in the background. I found the sphinx to be a lot more impressive than the pyramids on there own which didn't live up to my expectations. Again at the sphinx (which is now almost surrounded by a suburb of Cairo) I lost my tour group and wandered around alone.

Another huge bus journey of a few hundred meters brought us to the "Papyrus Institute" which was doing a very good impression of a papyrus shop. I was almost tempted but resisted and decided to go outside for a cigarette, they didn't want to open the doors for me but I think they guessed that I might just make a scene if they tried to keep me locked in so kindly let me out via the gift shop but I did a swift left straight out the door and had a wander around the area while the flock shopped.

Back on the bus again this time into central Cairo for our "Lunch Cruise on the Nile". The food was good but why did we have to do it floating on the Nile doing circles between two bridges that couldn't have been more than a couple of hundred metres apart? The entertainment was fantastic, I kid you not, there was an old git singing "strangers in the night" and "are you lonesome tonight?" when we boarded. It improved slightly with a belly dancer and the Whirling Dervish was actually very impressive.

Final destination was the Cairo museum, outside the museum the guide gave us our tickets and said what time the bus would be back and where, so that was my cue to give them the slip again and do my own museum tour. Photography is banned in the museum and they search and x-ray you for cameras as well as any nuclear devices or other weapons so no King Tut pics I'm afraid, probably a ruse to sell books and postcards - I can't see what damage a flash is going to do to things that have weathered a few thousand years of history and Egyptian sun.

One minor incident on the trip back to Port Said was the bus breaking down, fortunately our convoy of 6 busses included a spare so we had to swap on to this one and rejoin the formation. Back at portside I couldn't resist a little last minute bartering just to keep my eye in. Dinner, wine, sleep, sun and before you know it back to Europe.

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