Our kids have been learning about pyramids in school since kindergarten. Of course, Egypt was one of our stops in our world travels! Unfortunately, we planned only 5 days there. However, if you have a chance you should dedicate more time to this country. It has lots to offer, also outside Cairo.
Arrival in Egypt
Our arrival in Egypt was a bit stressful. In order to enter Egypt, you need a visa, which we had applied for online 3 weeks in advance. The process is very easy and quick. However, for some reason, we all received our visas except Cosimo. I asked for assistance by phone, since our flight was imminent. They confirmed that his visa had been issued. We did not need to worry about it, just let the immigration know on arrival by showing our application.
Once we were at immigration I did as I was told and they invited me to go pay again! I got very frustrated because they didn’t want to listen to me but simply kept on telling me to pay. In the end, Mass intervened by explaining everything again and they let us in with no problem. Unfortunately, this is one of those countries where it is better if my husband speaks if we want thinks to be solved quickly!
How we organized our tours
Since our time in Cairo was very limited, we wanted to make sure we made the best of it. This is why we booked a hotel in the center of town. We decided to simply ask their travel desk for a car to drive us to the main sights. It was hot and we didn’t feel comfortable just wondering around on our own. Our driver was great, he spoke English, enjoyed our kid’s loudness, and also introduced us to a traditional Egyptian drink!
This is what we visited during our 5 days in Cairo.
Dinner on the Nile
At 5:30 pm we decided to book a dinner cruise on the Nile on Andrea Nile Peking Boat! When you go on an evening cruise you have dinner while enjoying a show. They started with live music. Followed by a belly dancer performance and finally, the highlight of the show was the famous Sufi dance!
What is the sufi dance? It is a form of physically active meditation which originated among Sufis. It is still practiced by the Sufi Dervishes of the Mevlevi order. The Mevlevi practice gave rise to an Egyptian form, tanoura, distinguished by the use of a multicolored skirt. This has also developed into a performance dance by non-Sufis, including dancers outside the Islamic world.
The Sufi dancer interacted with all of us. Giving some of the people, as well as our kids, the chance to try twirling with the skirt on. It is not that easy keeping your balance for so long as they do while twirling very fast! We all had a wonderful time!
Visiting the Giza Pyramids
This is was we came for in the first place. It is definitely a day trip and a memorable one!
On the way to Giza, we learned that where now you see buildings and more buildings, 20 years ago there used to be only farmland. Progress has hit every country in a way or another. We finally had a chance to explore a place that many only see on books, but we had to try to imagine what it looked like centuries ago when there weren’t all the houses around it. It must have been stunning!
We made our way into the desert to experience these amazing structures by riding 2 horses and 2 camels! It was Luca’s 3rd birthday and this is what he wished to do! Many mysteries still today surround some of the aspects of the construction as well as the preservation of objects and bodies in the tomb. I was in awe the whole time. It is so hard to even imagine today the hard work that has taken to build these pyramids. They didn’t have all the technology and machinery that we have for construction. Unfortunately, also many lives have been lost in the process.
Exploring other Saqqara Pyramids
Saqqara served as a necropolis to the ancient capital of Egypt, Memphis. In this area, there are numerous pyramids, including the world-famous Step pyramid of Djoser. This is also known as the Step Tomb due to its rectangular base, as well as a number of mastabas, built during the Third Dynasty. It is the oldest complete stone building complex known in history. Another 16 Egyptian kings built pyramids at Saqqara, which are now in various states of preservation or dilapidation.
At Saqqara, we also had a chance to go inside a tomb. Of course, they are empty now, but the walls are still decorated and well preserved. Luca had no problem at all to get in and out, for us it was a bit more of a challenge due to the height!
At just a 10-minute drive from Saqqara, there in Memphis. This is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Memphis was the first capital of Egypt, founded by king Meni, who united Upper and Lower Egypt. It used to be a cosmopolitan city with temples, settlements, and palaces. It occupied a strategic position at the mouth of the Nile, which explained the bustling activity. The port had many workshops, factories, and warehouses that distributed food and merchandise throughout the ancient kingdom. It thrived as a regional centre for commerce, trade, and religion.
Little remains from the ruins of ancient Memphis, except a few monuments from the New Kingdom and later periods. Today, in Memphis, you can visit this historical Open Air Museum, which amongst other artifacts exhibits a limestone colossus of King Ramses II. This enormous statue, carved in limestone, (and missing the King’s feet) is about 10m (33.8ft) long. You can also see a giant alabaster Sphinx, weighing more than 80 tons, which once stood outside the massive temple of the god Ptah. While there, you can also experience the sight of the remains of granite statues, showcasing Ramses II, as well as granite coffins and commemorative tablets from later periods.
Navigating the Nile by day
Did you know that the Nile River is the longest river in the world? It has a length of about 6,695 kilometers (4,160 miles). It originates in Burundi, south of the equator, and flows northward through northeastern Africa, eventually flowing through Egypt and finally draining into the Mediterranean Sea. You cannot go to Egypt and not navigate the Nile also in the daytime!
We took a traditional boat in Cairo and enjoyed 2 hours on the river with music, some crazy dancing and good company. Awesome way to end our time here in Egypt!
Learn more about Egypt at the Egyptian Museum
After exploring Cairo downtown and the pyramids, the Egyptian Museum is a must-do! This is one of the world’s most important collections of Egyptian ancient artifacts. There is so much to learn just by walking through the different rooms.
Inside you will experience a jump in the past through Tutankhamun treasures and other great pharaohs. You will have a chance to see mummies, sarcophagus, jewelry, pieces of furniture, statues and so much more. You could spend hours checking out every single piece.
If you do try to visit it with a toddler, be aware that he will try to climb on everything! Luckily Luca did not knock anything down!
A walk-in Old town and Khan el-Khalili
We were told that a must-do in Cairo is walking around Khan el-Khalili. This is is a famous bazaar and souq in the historic center of Cairo. If you love shopping, this is definitely a stop you will want to make! This is home to many Egyptian artisans and workshops involved in the production of traditional crafts and souvenirs. We loved wandering around this area, check out all the little shops and chat with the people that were trying to sell us everything!
Visit the Citadel
We visited the beautiful Cairo Citadel, also known as the Citadel of Saladin. This is a medieval Islamic fortification built by Salah ad-Din and further developed and completed by other Egyptian rulers. It was the seat of government in Egypt and the residence of its rulers for nearly 700 years from the 13th to the 19th centuries.
What remains today is a collection of three very different mosques, several palaces, and a couple of terraces. We had the chance to visit the beautiful Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha which sits on the summit of the citadel. It is an Ottoman mosque, the largest to be built in the first half of the 19th century and it is the most visible mosque in Cairo. It was built in memory of Tusun Pasha, Muhammad Ali’s oldest son, who died in 1816.
Admire the city view at the Citadel
The citadel is located on a promontory near the center of Cairo, whcih of course at a time was a strategic position overlooking the city and dominating its skyline. Toady it is a stunning place to enjoy a full view over the city and on a clear day you’ll see Giza’s Pyramids poking up in the far distance.
We had 5 very busy days here in Cairo. They were full of centuries of history everywhere we went. The biggest thrill for our kids was to experience and see first hand these enormous pyramids which they had only imagined by seeing them on books or on TV. However keep in mind that there is so much more to see in Egypt, Cairo will give you only a taste. Now we need to plan our trip back!
Click here to see more of our posts from our travels in Egypt!!!
Check out the hotel we stayed at Pyramisa Suites Hotel Cairo!!!