Last weekend I was in front of the The Great Pyramids; the trip was unplanned and I never thought I would go to Egypt. Growing up, I was taught that Egypt was one of the greatest ancient civilizations that ever existed. When I went there, that’s not what I saw.
Arrival in the Airport
Last Thursday I flew into Cairo International Airport. It was nothing special: I had to wait in for a little bit while I got my visa. After I got my visa, I was asked to present my passport several times. After every checkpoint, there was a security guard waiting to see my passport. I was so confused as to why they kept wanting to see my passport, but just figured it was for safety precautions.
Drive to the Hotel
My driver was waiting outside for me with a sign reading the hotel’s name. After I greeted him, he was surprised that I was not speaking with an Egyptian dialect. He told me that I looked Egyptian, but I informed him I was a tourist.
When we were on the main road, it was a complete mess. There were lanes but no one seemed to drive within them and the cars looked like they were piled on top of each other. The ride to the hotel was hectic: cars honked almost everywhere, people were crossing the road while there was ongoing traffic, beggars walked in between cars asking for money. It was a complete cultural shock, but I don’t understand why. The streets of Iraq were similar. I think it was because I had a different expectations for Egypt.
After thirty minutes, I arrived to the hotel and it was nothing like I expected. Before I booked it, I did a lot of research and it was a four star hotel but it was not even close. When I arrived, they asked me to wait in the lobby while they prepared my room. I was just confused, shouldn’t it already be prepared? After fifteen minutes, I walked into my room and it looked dingy. Again, I had high expectations and they were let down again. I decided to take a nap before I went out to explore the city. The hotel was located in Tahrir Square, which is in the downtown area, and is inherently busy.
I think that in Egypt car horns are used to alert other drivers that they’re close by or that they’re changing lanes, because I could not nap for the life of me. It was too noisy and the honking did not stop for a second.
The first thing I did was get lost, which was not surprising to me. I wanted to get something to eat and most of the restaurants in the Square were American. I took it upon myself that I would not eat at American restaurants while I am abroad. It kinda defeats the purpose of experiencing a new culture.
Anyways, I ended up approaching a sweet lady and asking her where I can find an authentic restaurant. Oh, did I mention that the national language is Arabic? It came in handy the whole time, because my phone service was not consistent and kept getting disconnected. Anyways, I ended up at a shawarma restaurant and had a beef shawarma.
Although Egypt is a poor country and is politically unstable, they have Uber and it was so cheap. It was the safest thing and it was very useful when I had service. I was able to explore the major touristy places within a day.
I ended up going to many mosques on my first day. In Athens, they don’t have established mosques and it has been a struggle trying to find one so I gave up. When I was in Egypt, there were mosques everywhere and I just wandered in half the time. The energy of the mosques were all so inviting and I was able to pray and reflect. I almost forgot what it was like to be in a mosque and it felt rejuvenating to finally be in one.
My favorite mosque was Al-Azhar Mosque. The architect was beautiful and the area was very busy and filled with so much life. People were interacting with each other and it was so beautiful to each. Egyptians are probably the most hospitable people there are. Everyone was so nice to each other and it felt that everyone was a big family.
The other major touristy thing I did was walk through Khan el- Khalili, which is an open market. That was very overwhelming for me. There were things everywhere and everyone was shouting and telling you to buy from their shops. They kept showing merchandise and it was all too much. It was all just too much for me and I quickly had to find a way out. It was like a maze and to get back on the main road was a nightmare.
The Great Pyramids
When I finally got back on the main road, it was able to Uber to The Great Pyramids. (It was a forty-five minute drive and it only cost seven US dollars, which was crazy to me). On the way there, the streets were even more chaotic. I swear at some points I thought I was going to die because the cars were getting too close to each other. The thing I enjoyed the most about the drive was the Nile River. I learned so much about it when I was younger and to see it in its glory was something else.
I could not help but think that because of the Nile River, the ancient Egyptian Civilization was able to thrive. Being there it felt like a glimpse back in history.
When I arrived to The Great Pyramids, they were closed. I was able to see them but I couldn’t go by them. But I never thought that they would close The Pyramids. So I had to find a find a good view. Believe it or not, Pizza Hut had the best view of The Pyramids. So I ordered a pizza and enjoyed the view.
So much for trying to be cultural and sticking to Egyptian food.
The Great Pyramids are given that name because they are amazing. I could not understand how an ancient civilization was able to build such things without the help of modern technology. It was amazing to see what humans are capable of. But then I saw the current state of the people and it was upsetting. This was once a great civilization and there was so much poverty.
The Drive Back to the Hotel
The drive back was horrifying. It was more chaotic and I was so tired. The cars never stopped honking and I was looking forward to sleeping. I couldn’t help but keep thinking I was in Egypt. It felt like a dream and I was so proud of how far I’ve come in life and what other travel opportunities are in the future. I never thought I would be traveling to so many different places at such a young age. When I arrived back at the hotel, I slept right away and did not hear a single car honk all night.