EGYPT: WAKING UP NEXT TO THE GREAT PYRAMIDS OF GIZA.

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WHY EGYPT?

Why would you not! I feel pretty confident in saying that Egypt depicts the bucket list of bucket lists!

In truth, Egypt was a fairly last minute decision for us. We hummed and haa’ed trying to dissect the mixed reviews about travel in Egypt with kids (safety, political tensions, and cost), and weigh them up against our bucket-list dreams of seeing the most famous man-made structures in the world! In the end, we decided to compromise, and allocated the majority of our time to other Middle Eastern countries, meaning we only had 5 days to spare. We started looking in to whether this would be enough time to stay in Cairo, visit the pyramids and see the mummies at the museum… We decided to go for it!


Cairo: what we loved most…

The Great Pyramids of Giza

5000 years of history is a lot to digest!

Spectacular by day, but if you get to stay close to Giza, the night show and ‘words’ of the Sphinx are brilliant to listen to.

No amount of magazine or internet pictures could quite have readied us for being in front of the most famous wonders of world in person.

A first glimpse up close.
Walking past the Pyramids of Queens
The causeway from Khafre’s valley temple towards his pyramid.

We spent the day exploring the Giza pyramid complex; we walked around, we rode camels with a guide that was a friend of our host family, and we literally just marvelled at the fact we were really there.


Saqqara

We took a half day trip to Saqqara, with our host Mohammed and a driver.

It was really interesting to drive with them and chat as we went; we learnt so much about life in Cairo that it felt like a privilege to have that chance to just simply talk with them.

Saqqara covers a huge cemetery of ancient Memphis, and was an active burial ground for more than 3500 years. Nowadays it is officially Egypts largest archaeological site. 

Saqqara itself is magical, and far less touristy than Giza and the great pyramids.


Our host family and a local lunch

Foremost in all of our travel memories is the people that we meet. They can definitely make or break the memories of a place, and for us, (pyramids aside) Egypt will always be special because of the time we spent with our AirBnB host and family. It was not the easiest of discussions on the first day, to try and explain that we really didn’t need a tour that included the fanciest of tourist restaurants for lunch, and that we wanted something local. I think it took trust from both sides, for Mohammed to agree to take us to one of their favourite little Koshari restaurants, where lunch cost $1.25USD per person(!), and not to the usual touted tourist restaurant that advertised Western style food without locals. But we were confident, and knew that for us, this was something that was really important to us.

Understandably, he worried we might not like the food, or might not find the setting flash enough or up to the standards that we ‘were used to’, and what if we wrote something awful as a review about the standard of restaurant he chose?

It turned out to be our best day out!!

Koshari is an Egyptian dish made of rice, macaroni, and lentils mixed together, topped with a spiced tomato sauce and garlic vinegar and garnished with chickpeas and crispy fried onions. Delicious! And not even on offer in the couple of touted Western-style tourist places we went first! One of our most memorable experiences from Egypt.


Where we stayed:

I have to share about the great accommodation and host we found ourselves with – AND to show that even accommodation to visit the most famous of the wonders of the world doesn’t have to break the budget! 

Nothing prepared us for walking out onto the balcony where we were staying, and seeing the three biggest pyramids of Giza.

This is the incredible view from the AirBnB we stayed in, in Cairo – and we reckon it was the best decision we made for safe travel in the most famous Egyptian city of pyramids!

[It was just over $110NZD ($69USD) per night, for a basic apartment – Egyptian-style, simply furnished and spacious 3BDRM apartment (which would comfortably sleep six) and we sat each evening watching the sunset over the pyramids; from our own balcony!].

We always hope for a personable and genuine experience of culture and country when we look for somewhere to stay, and here we definitely found that. Media portrayals of Egypt do not depict it to be the easiest of places to travel, and day tours to the pyramids do cost a bit, but Cairo turned out to be a good experience for us, with a guide and host family, that made us feel welcomed, safe, and very happy we stayed where we did.

Cairo: AirBnB in Giza.


One thing that challenged us…

Having both grown up riding horses, arriving in Cairo was exciting, as there are horses everywhere – working, training, tied in the streets, pulling carts, and taking tourists around. And like most places, they are in all different states and conditions. We saw some of the most beautiful purebred Arab horses we have ever seen; well cared for and healthy, stabled in studs just out of the pyramid complex. And also horses that are tired, and thin, but also desperately required to be in work for the family that owns them. 

We are used to horses and can make a judgement call we feel confident in there, but how do you tell a healthy and well treated camel? Even as far as gauging the age of the camel man, there is lots to consider.

[I know from a previous trip to India that there are often kids who are working with camels, taking tourists, and making money instead of being in school, and rates of illiteracy are high. I know, because I was one of those tourists taken for a ride by a young boy]. Camels are domesticated, so it is not like taking an elephant ride, but as not to make the same mistake twice, we asked our host for someone he knew, and tried our best to check out the camels based on our horse knowledge and common sense. 

It turned out to be an awesome experience; camels are incredible, amazing animals. And for the most part it is nice to see the relationship between the camel man and his camels, and to support the families that rely on tourism for their business; hopefully, in a respectful way.


Cairo and Giza, truthfully…

I think Egypt depicts the bucket-list of bucket-list destinations. It is incredible in the grandness of its history and culture, and the influence it has had on the modern world. We have had an amazing time! 

BUT IS IT ‘SAFE’? And would I recommend it as a current family-travel destination?

With a reputable tour or guide, then YES. 

It isn’t a country known for political stability, but the current tension is unmistakeable. [Given, not every county on our list has been mainstream, OR easy; but Egypt was the first country we genuinely, and immediately, questioned our safety in]. The military and police presence is everywhere, and in Giza and Old Cairo, streets and corners are patrolled and stationed by heavily armed and active security. 

BUT, we were escorted each day by our host plus a driver, and driven from sight to sight, and did feel safe with them. Inside the pyramid complex felt safer in a streetwise sense; with the biggest worry there about touts or scammers (we’re less attached to the camera than the kids!). Outside we were strongly warned against wandering too far, and heeded that warning. Travel risks are definitely different with children.

Are we glad we came?

On reflection, yes! Very. And we are safely on now. We enjoyed the iconic sights of Cairo, learnt a LOT, and feel very lucky to have been partnered with another amazing host family. It turned out to be the perfect place to stay! We didn’t explore further than Cairo this time, but my thoughts are that Egypt is an incredible place to visit; and the rest of it looks to be even more so. Egypt with kids can totally be done. BUT, I would definitely recommend organising a reputable tour guide or company, to make it more relaxing and enjoyable.

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