We started our 11-day Egyptian adventure with two whirlwind days in Cairo - the first we spent exploring the city of Cairo, and the second we immersed ourselves in ancient Egypt, on the outskirts of Giza and inside the Great Pyramid itself. We hired a private guide both days to understand the important historical contexts and also to maximize our short time amongst the mind-boggling sites and locations.
Egyptian Museum: Currently in the process of being moved to Giza, the Egyptian Museum contains mummies, sarcophagi, jewels and thousand of relics from the epic history of Egypt. The unwrapped mummies are shocking and a little creepy, but fascinating to see.
Koshary - Abou Tarek: We learned about the local Egyptian meal from Anthony Bourdain, and wanted to check it out in person. Koshary contains pasta, rice, lentils and fried onions, topped with tomato sauce, chili sauce and garlic vinegar. Super cheap and simple, but delicious and filling, we recommend this local spot for an interesting cultural experience.
Mosque and Citadel: A medieval Islamic fortress and the Ottoman-style Mohamed Ali Mosque provided great views across Cairo and a hauntingly beautiful experience when visiting during the call to prayer.
Gayer-Anderson Museum: We found interior design inspiration at this museum house, which is one of the best preserved examples of 17th-century domestic architecture left in Egypt. The Bond movie "The Spy Who Loved Me" was filmed here.
Khan el Khalili Souk: Bazaar in central Cairo, with historical and atmospheric surroundings. Our guide recommended limiting the shopping here, as many of the goods are imported. Also, be prepared to be approached frequently, and, if you want to make a purchase, negotiate.
Bab el Nil at the Fairmont Hotel: We took a taxi from our hotel for dinner, but arrived too early for the evening musical entertainment. Dinner of Egyptian tapas allowed us to taste lots of new dishes.
Cairo Marriott Hotel & Omar Khayyam: Originally the palace of an 1800's viceroy, the central wing of the hotel contains grand rooms and courtyards.
Pyramids at Giza: We waited at the gates and were the first to enter the area, heading straight for the towering Great Pyramid. We entered the narrow shaft and were the only tourists inside. We gave the guard a small tip, and explored the sarcophagus inside the King's Chamber.
Inside the King's Chamber within the Great Pyramid.
Solar Boat Museum: The museum at the base of the pyramids houses an intact full-size ship that was buried in a pit in the Giza pyramid complex around 2500 BC.
Sphinx: Despite the crowds vying for a shot of themselves kissing the Sphinx, views from the base framed by the pyramids are some of the best of our trip.
Local Lunch at Felfela: Falafel, fava beans, grape leaves and other mezzes with views of the Giza plateau.
Pyramids at Saqqara and Dashur: We visited the red pyramid and bent pyramidsto understand the historical evolution of these famous structures. In Saqqara, we ventured down a narrow shaft beneath the bent pyramid to spacious subterranean structures. Since these are a bit further out, there are fewer crowds.
Marriott Mena House: The hotel overlooks the Pyamids of Giza, which are lit up as party of a nightly show. We enjoyed a very expensive dinner by the pools and the most modern accommodations of our trip.
Hire a Guide - you can find one for as little as $50/day per group, and can customize an itinerary based upon your interests. We recommend Mostafa (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Dress: Apart from the Mosque, there is no need for women to cover their heads. Otherwise, recommended to wear sleeves and a long skirt or pants, though we saw many tourists not following this guidance.
Food/Drink: Drink and brush your teeth with bottled water. The local wine was good, and the Egyptian mezzes are delicious (fava, falafel, hummus, etc.).
Check out our Travel film: All Alone Inside the Great Pyramid
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