Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Travel Tuesday : Cairo and the Pyramids Sound and Light Show

Managed to sleep until 9:00, then up and a quick trip to the buffet breakfast. We went to check on the shuttlebus at 9:55 -- and we told that it left at 10. Perfect! So we got on and rode into town. At one point I saw something out of the corner of my eye... PYRAMIDS!!!!! They are HUGE. Bigger than I had thought. And they were RIGHT THERE. I, of course, burst into tears. It was really overwhelming.

Once in Cairo, we walked to the train station first, so we could book our sleeping train tickets for tomorrow. Yay! People were astounded that we would walk "that far" - "better to take a taxi". It took us 15-25 dawdling minutes to get there. Along the way we passed dozens of Cairenes about their business -- none in the tourist business, mind you -- and the vast majority said "Hello! Welcome!" -- which made us think there had been a (successful) campaign to promote friendly exchanges with tourists. On the way we stopped to try a drink we'd seen on an advert -- Limited Edition Pepsi Cider. It was like sparkling cider with a Pepsi aftertaste. Awesome!

Then back towards the Cairo Egyptian Museum -- where of course more scams started. "Sir, the museum is closed for lunch... why not come to my shop?" Of course, the guy was clumsy -- he told us the museum closed from 12:30 - 1:15, but it was only 11:45. So we went past him and went into a very quiet museum. LP's description was pretty apt, however: a queue for the scanner at the gate, then a queue to buy tickets, then a queue at the turnstiles to get in, and then another security queue inside. But we were lucky -- the queues were never more than 2 people long, and of course they weren't closed.

So in we went to one of the greatest collections in the world. They have so much stuff that it's all jumbled together and poorly labelled. Any single piece would have pride of place in any other museum (except the British Museum, perhaps) worldwide. Crazy. As Shar (from Singapore) said, "I'm from a culture where we make up a mythical beast to sell to tourists -- but they've got so much history it's just jumbled together!"

We paid the extra 100 each to see the royal mummies -- both worth it and a little weird -- I mean, in some ways they were underwhelming, until you thought about how old they are. And about how strange it is to show your dead rulers. Would England dig up its kings and queens to display them? No. Would we disinter our presidents? Nope. Very strange.

The Tutankhamun galleries were amazing, bringing back childhood memories for both me and Wil of books we had in 1977 - 1978, and my very vivid memories of the Tut exhibition that came to Seattle. I remembered the cow-couch, "the chair", the canopic jars, and -- of course -- the mask. We managed to get into "room 10" at exactly the right time -- hardly anyone there, so we had the mask all to ourselves. It's still mind-blowingly beautiful.

We wandered around looking at amazing things -- crocodile mummies, tomb treasures, huge statues, and more -- until we were feeling overloaded. Amusingly, large groups started arriving at 1:30. Maybe it had closed to admissions? So we decided to bug out. We went to the cafe for overpriced soda (Fanta Blackcurrant!) and to plan our next move. The shuttle back to the hotel wouldn't go till 5, and it wasn't quite 2. We didn't fancy the hassle of directing another taxi, so we decided to wander around Cairo a bit. Walked along the Nile, through a high-priced fashion shopping mall containing absolutely nothing I would ever wear, visited the Nile Hilton's pristine bathrooms, etc. Also walked through a local's market and were "Welcome!"d to Egypt over and over again.

Met a nice Bedouin businessman who told us his life story and invited us to tea, coffee, cocacola to celebrate the birth of his first grandchild. We had to decline, but it was a nice exchange. Oh, and there must have been an epidemic of grandchildren last night -- we met three people who told us the same story. While made the story less sweet.

Then back on the minibus to the hotel, where we asked about transport to the SOUND & LIGHT show. They quoted us 80 return, $16, which seemed a lot easier than haggling and struggling each way, so we booked it. Does it make us old that we're pleased by this? Probably. But still.

Back to the room for mediocre room service and a nap, and then back to the lobby to meet our driver -- Alaa. He was very nice, very calm, very confident, and told us a little about the area as he drove. The S&L show was reputedly very kitschy, tacky, touristy -- but when else do you get to see the pyramids lit up? So we got there, inadvertently went to the VIP ticket line (because there was no queue), and happily paid 90 (as opposed to 75) each to sit unmolested in the front row. Got there as the sun was setting -- amazing. We were led to the VIP seats, which had 3 rows roped off behind them -- nice to keep the riff-raff out. :)

Promptly at 8:30 the show started and it was beautiful. Lights, stereophonic speakers, projections, lasers -- really nice. And nice to be outside in the evening with a cool breeze.

After the show was over we found our driver right away, and decided to book him for the next day's trip to the pyramids. Then spent the rest of the evening sitting outside in the moonlight drinking bourbon and coke light. Very nice.


  1. Wow, what a sight that must have been (the S&L show)! All of it really.

    1. I have been a sucker for a "sound and light show" since I was a kid and we saw the one at the Grand Coulee Dam! I still think of the lines "I am power! I am strength!" and the laser-arms "hitting" the sides of the dam. :)