Cairo Chaos!

One of busiest cities in world. and definitely the busiest city I’ve ever visited. With a population of almost 22 million in Cairo and the outskirts, no wonder!

The history of the City is almost 4500 years old, and there’s a lot of it, and it’s fascinating. But, 24 hours was more than enough time for us in this bustling city.

After a four and a half hour flight from London we landed In Cairo. You can get your visa when you land. Just turn to the right after you’ve taken your luggage through and there’s a currency exchange kiosk where they do both. You need to pay cash. Either $25 or Egyptian pound equivalent. Quick and easy. Don’t waste your time getting it online. I spent twelve times the amount of time trying the online visa system last week than I did from start to finish at the airport.

We didn’t have any taxi pre booked on our arrival as our hotel, Hilton Heliopolis, was only a 5 minute drive away so we thought it would be easy to pick one up. However, we were approached by loads of men offering their taxi services. As always my other half (OH) ever polite, stops to chat, tell them his reason for being etc etc and I keep walking until I find the ‘official’ stand and then he shrugs his shoulders when there’s no deal to be had as if to say, ‘sorry, she’s the rude one’ which may or may not be true! On our return journey back through Cairo airport from Sharm El Sheik, my OH did ignore me and stopped to chat and agree a deal with one of these men and 20 minutes later, with a slightly higher cost than agreed, after a walk to the opposite end of beyond, a ‘luxury’ car pulled up. And to be fair, we did arrive safely at the hotel.

There isn’t a rank as such but a man with a lanyard round his neck who shouts at everyone to see if they want a taxi. We said yes and 5 minutes later one arrived.

A chaotic city on first glance, though we did arrive at 6pm which we thought was rush hour, but as we later discovered, rush hour is every minute of every day! The traffic is incessant with lots of stop starts, lasting all day. I don’t think there were any traffic lights that we saw, and also few roundabouts, it seemed to be a case of get on the main road from the side road, and just put your foot down and hope for the best. The best is that you move more than 1 mile in 20 minutes! The cars are so close to each other you couldn’t even slip a piece of paper between them, and forget about indicating or staying in your lane.

I wouldn’t recommend driving here unless you’re an advanced driver with nerves of steel and a car that’s been written off and isn’t roadworthy. The main road has 7 lanes and there are lots of horns beeping. The last time I experienced driving like that was in India, but there were no cows in the road here although it was dark when we arrived. (We soon realised that there were in fact camels having a wee, galloping horses and sad dogs as well as people in the roads).

And because there are no traffic lights, there are no zebra crossings. So people just cross, doesn’t matter where they are or how much traffic there is, or how old they are, they just cross. The video of the photo here is very scary!And at no speed, they just saunter across with their hands out, hoping cars will stop. Imagine crossing the M25 at around 5pm!

The Hilton hotel is an old one but a glitzy one, gold and bronze fittings everywhere with almost a desert like atmosphere. The lifts were glitzy. The staff were delightful and can’t do enough for you. The rooms typical city Hilton style, clean and functional and make sure whatever hotel you stay in you ask for a non-smoking room. These are rare. Everybody smokes. Indoors and out. In restaurants and lifts!

The weather in January averages 14 – 22 degrees and is mostly sunny. The coldest place was the cars with aircon on full blast. Egypt seemed to have English as well as European sockets so I’d take both.

As is often with our travels, we only had 24 hours here so no sooner had we dropped our luggage and had a quick drink at the bar, with waiters in tails, and Harry Connick Jr, George Michael and Maria Carey still singing their Christmas hits, we headed out to our reserved restaurant.

I later discovered the reason for the Christmas music, which is always a good reason for me to leave any space that’s playing it. Egypt has many Coptic Christians in it’s population who celebrate Christmas on January 7th. This explained the music and also the Christmas lighting everywhere we went, including our next destination.

A few restaurants had been recommended from my travel group The Worldwide Luxury Chic Budget Boutique Club on Facebook. Only a few were mentioned and I was warned that no restaurant in Egypt is excellent we chose one of the more sprauncey looking ones (is that even a real word?) which was part of a chain from Dubai. Called Sachi, it was Asian fusion style and absolutely delicious. We stuck with sush and some delicious crispy parmesany fry things, it’s what we fancied and we were near the water! I highly recommend it. Or any of the restaurants in the Baky Hospitality Group. And probably one of the best meals of the trip, but it wasn’t hard to get that award as there weren’t many good ones!

On our taxi ride there I got excited, I thought there were loads of dodgems and street fairs with rides and stalls. But no, this was just the normal street lighting, and they take exterior lighting to a whole new level. My other half would be kept in business until he died if he lived there and there’s definitely no energy crisis.

The buildings were either palatial style or run down. All mixed together. The cars were mostly rickety and clunky so if you want a nice ride you’d be better off hiring a limousine style car from the hotel rather than getting a taxi. Both are relatively cheap. Our taxi driver didn’t know where he was going and wasn’t interested in looking at our phone for directions on a map! Instead he kept stopping in the road and getting out to ask random people. But we got there in the end. He offered to wait and return (last time we were offered this was in Mumbai). Cost us a total of £200 Egyptian pounds, which was around £5 for a 30 minute wait and return round trip.

We used Lady Egypt tours as our tour guide for the day. Recommended by a friend who knew her only from Instagram our guide was excellent, picked us up from the hotel in a minibus, and at the end of the day took us to the airport (for an extra charge) to get our flight on to Sharm El Sheik.

We managed the Egyptian Museum, the Pyramids and Sphynx and also a trip round the Khan El Khalili market/bazaar. We window shopped, very difficult, but my OH had an excellent line for the local men who try to sell their stuff. When asked ‘what are you looking for Mr’ he would reply ‘love’! and that shut them up instantly. It wouldn’t work for me obviously otherwise I may have got more than I bargained for. All of the historical sites we visited were jaw dropping and full of history which I no longer have the brain power to remember.

If you want to stay close to the pyramids the one hotel there is the Mena House Hotel, a Marriot. We were around 45 minutes away at the above Hilton but there are others closer. And the pyramids were, well, they were the pyramids. So glad to have seen them in person and the only original wonder of the world that still exists. So one to tick off the bucket list and a few more to go.

Our favourite part of the trip, sitting in the market with our guide at one of his local coffee shops, listening to the music being played with the locals singing along and just enjoying the market vibe! Conclusion on Cairo: Go if you can, but don’t stay long!

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