Running Like Lunatics in Cairo
I woke at exactly 5:30am when the train had stopped at Giza train station. I could not believe it!... I had actually slept the whole train journey. How I had managed to sleep with extremely noisy passengers and a very dry throat from the smell of smoke I shall never know. I felt fully refreshed, well, apart from the fact that I had been wearing the same clothes for two days, my hair looked like it was forming dreadlocks and I had mascara smudged on the side of my face.
I felt lost in the train station and despite numerous attempts at asking where the exit was, no one seemed to understand English. After a while of wondering around and almost getting on the Metro we eventually made it outside onto the empty dark streets... what a great time to arrive - no hawkers shouting in our faces to use their taxi.
We found a corner restaurant open and decided to have some breakfast. They were serving Koshari, so we ordered a small plain pasta with tomato sauce. It was the best thing I had eaten in Egypt! And was only 5 EGP each.
Back out on the streets of Giza we decided to grab a taxi to take us to the pyramids. It was only 6am, but we hoped we would be able to somehow get a picture of the pyramids against the sunrise.
We got to the security point, but there was no way the guards were letting us through. Instead, we paid our taxi driver 30 EGP and decided to explore by foot. Every so often we would get a glimpse of the pyramids, mainly the larger one, but still, it was the wrong side of what we wanted.
It was obvious we felt safe in Egypt because there we were walking in the back alleys of Cairo and it wasn't even daylight yet. It was mainly occupied by savage dogs guarding their territory. An interesting place (aside the terrifying dogs) of peoples homes and the way people in Egypt probably lived.
After a failed attempt at trying to photograph the pyramids at sunrise we headed back to the security check point. This time we decided to be a little bit more sneaky. We asked them to let us in, and again, they replied "Open at 8am". So instead we just said "Hotel", and sure enough, they let us through.
We walked straight into the hotel, no questions asked, passed reception and pretended like we knew where we were going - of course we had no idea. Fortunately we found a lift and pressed the button to take us to the top and arrived in a corridor on the top floor. I opened a random door which looked like it would lead to outside on the roof, and it did! There we were stood on the roof of the 5* pyramid hotel with stunning views of the pyramids and Cairo. Unfortunately we had missed most of the sunrise, but still, it was still beautiful.
It was already 8am and time to enter the pyramids. We brushed our teeth in the sparkly-clean toilets downstairs and quickly popped onto the free WiFi to message our parents.
Walking up the road to the pyramids was a nightmare. We were stopped countless times by hawkers trying to get us to ride their camels and were even tricked by them and the guards into going to the wrong area. They told us it was the entrance to the pyramids, although quite clearly it wasn't as it smelt like camel pee, was covered in camel pee and was also filled with camels.
Eventually we found the ticket booth and managed to buy a student ticket for only 40 EGP. We had our bags searched several times and finally passed security. I was nervous at staying too long at the check points because of what had happened on Friday - 6 people had been killed in a bomb attack near the pyramids entrance.
We marched straight to the largest pyramid although were stopped by a man asking to see our tickets. He took them off us and then asked us to follow him down a path... strange. We kept repeating that we didn't want a tour and that we weren't giving tips. Little this did and he just replied he worked their and wanted no money, yet, refused to give our tickets back.
After him taking some ridiculous and tacky pictures of us with the large pyramid he bought us to his camel - of course, this was all part of his plan. We said no, and the guess what? ... He asked for money - typical.
We continued to take photos and walk to each pyramid, all the time getting constantly approached by horse riders selling cola and hawkers offering camel or horse rides. We were on a tight time schedule as we had a bus to catch at 12:00 and didn't have time to explain to every hawker that we wanted to see the pyramids in peace and not by camel or horse. So we made the decision to literally run around the pyramids. We must have looked like absolute lunatics! We were the only people on foot and probably the only people ever to have decided to run laps around the pyramids taking photographs.
We noticed that there was a view point by the road where many people were gathering, although it didn't look like it would have the view that we wanted. Up ahead, west of the pyramids was a higher up point, so we decided to head over there. Sure enough, it was the famous view of the pyramids that we had seen all over the internet.
It was already 9:30am and we still had the Sphinx to see.. so we ran down the road, again looking like absolute lunatics, passing a bus full of Chinese who were all pointing and laughing at us. We had actually ran a whole lap around the pyramids.
We left the pyramids and got a taxi for 20 EGP to take us to the Sphinx - oh how silly we are! The Sphinx is in the same site as the Pyramids!
Just as we were leaving the Sphinx and Pyramid site a group of school girls came up to me asking for photo - Sure! I said.... Bad idea...5 children had turned into 100 children. I was surrounded by screaming excited girls who were taking photos of me like I was a world famous celebrity. It all got too much as they began fighting over me and grabbing my chin to forcibly look at their camera. I was glad when a local had spotted me amongst the ginormous crowd and quite literally pulled me out.
Back out onto the main road it was now the conundrum of making our way to the city center of Cairo! We hopped onto one of the white minibuses who said they were going to the center, paid 1 EGP and then dropped us off in the middle of nowhere - Great! We were in a place where no one spoke any English and the worst part was we had no idea where we were. We jumped into another, and another and another until eventually we had had given away all our small change and had gotten no where.
Eventually we found a man who could speak English who told us we needed to say we were going to Tahira Square. Once we had solved this mystery we were finally on a minibus heading to the place we wanted to be. It had taken us 1 1/2 hours to reach it and we now had 20 minutes to find where the GoBus was departing from and buy tickets to Hurghada. So back to sprinting again like lunatics, this time through the city center and across busy roads - we must have looked hilarious to all the locals!
I was so relieved when we found the GoBus just behind the museum, but unfortunately after all that running around we still had to wait until 1pm for the bus.