After an uncomfortable overnight bus ride from Hurghada, we arrived at the Oasis Hotel, the first hotel on the tour, at around 7am. I went straight to my room and fell asleep for a few hours before our tour of UNESCO World Heritage listed Historic Cairo. The group met in the lobby at 9am and were gathered together by Bishoy, the same guide who took me to Dahshur adnd Memphis.
Our first stop for the day was a perfume shop for yet another “demonstration”. I was sick of these “demonstrations” by now, but the owner of the shop was actually entertaining. I sat and watched while everyone finished their shopping.
Next, we went to one of the highlights of the tour, the Egyptian Museum at Tahrir Square. This is where thousands upon thousands of Egyptian antiquities are on display for the public. It was here where my trip to Egypt came full circle – finally seeing treasures and mummies from all of the places I had visited on the tour.
The museum itself is housed in a very fine pink building built in 1900. The gardens in front of the entrance are a pleasant place to walk around. No photos are allowed inside the museum, so it is best to leave your cameras in your vehicle.
Of course, the crown jewel of the museum is the collection of King Tutankhamon. The mask and jewelry and artifacts on display were beyond my imagination. Also interesting is the mummy room, where I was able to come face to face with several Egyptian pharaohs. For me, looking at Ramses II was amazing. His hair was still intact and he looked just as intimidating in death as I’m sure he did in life.
We headed off to lunch at a “traditional” Egyptian restaurant. There was nothing traditional about it. It was no different than the crappy food we got at the resort in Hurghada. As lunch was finishing up, Ana, the Colombian in the group, lost her passport. We searched the restaurant and vehicle up and down, but no luck.
We decided as a group to skip our visit to the Citadel and head back to the Egyptian Museum for another passport search there. We waited and waited. The passport wasn’t at the museum, so Bishoy called the hotel to have someone search her room. A good 45 minutes went by when we got the good news – they found her passport in a bag in her hotel room. Tension aside, drama over, we headed to Coptic Cairo for a tour of the Hanging Church.
Our final stop of the day was the famous Khan el-Khalili bazaar. Well, sort of. We didn’t actually go into the bazaar, but rather a side street where locals shop. I helped some of the group get some bargains on scarves and a hookah, and then we sat down at a cafe in the shadow of the Sayyidna al-Hussein Mosque to smoke some hookah and have some fruit drinks.
The Sayyidna al-Hussein Mosque is the holiest mosque in Egypt. It holds the head of Al-Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad. The original mosque was built in 1154 but this one was built in 1870. Non-Muslims are not allowed inside.
In the distance, I was able to spot a part of the Al-Azhar Mosque and the smaller Abu Dahab Mosque. Al-Azhar was the first mosque established in Cairo in 972, although much of it has been rebuilt over the years. Its attached university is the most prestigious in the Islamic world regarding Sunni theology and Islamic law. It’s also the second oldest continuously run university in the world behind the University of Al-Karaouine in Fes, Morocco. The Abu Dahab Mosque next door was built in 1774.
After a stressful yet enjoyable day, we made a quick stop at McDonald’s for the group to grab some food before going back to the hotel.
The next morning, I packed up, said my goodbyes to the rest of the group, and got a transfer to the airport. My trip to Egypt was officially over, and I was ready to get back to Istanbul. What a trip it was.