|Luxor Temple - Spring 2015|
|View of the Nile from our hotel room in Cairo|
|Tahrir Square - site of the 2011 Arab Spring - was a rather empty, non-descript area|
|Stepping into history - Pyramids at Giza|
And waiting until a destination is ‘safe’ these days, well, . . sadly, as daily headlines remind us, may be a very unrealistic approach.
|Downtown Cairo - 'Paris on the Nile'|
That same Khevide Isma’il (the one I introduced you to last week in the “palace” post) was so taken by Europe’s grand cities that he sought out a Parisean city planner, Baron Haussman, to lay the framework for this core district. It does have the feel of a European city’s layout.
|Street scenes taken while shopping in Cairo's core district|
“Improving Egypt’s tourism sector depends on improving the view of the country’s domestic situation, as many countries believe that Egypt has no security or stability for the time being,” Elhamy el-Zayat, chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Federation, said last September in announcing a new marketing campaign. “The biggest challenge for Egypt is to shift this perspective, especially since Egypt is the heart of the Arab world, which has now become a source of news of violence in the world.” -
|Cairo Marriott and Omar Khayyam Casion on the Nile River|
Our Cairo Marriott Hotel’s location, on an island in the middle of the Nile River, put us in walking distance of the Egyptian Museum, Tahrir Square and the Cairo Tower. We used taxis a couple of times to get to and from the downtown area, had a private car/driver/guide tour of the Pyramids, and arranged private transfers from the airport to hotel,and between the Marriott and the JWMarriott for our last night’s stay.
“I often get asked ‘is it safe to go to Egypt?’ and I say ‘a weekend in Paris isn’t exactly safe.’ . . . None of us can guarantee our safety on planet earth – it all has to be put into context.” -- Professor Joanne Fletcher, BBC’s Chief Egyptologist, who has completed a four-part documentary on Egypt, now airing in England.
|Cairo traffic - this roundabout to the bridge was a maze of merging cars|
Frankly, the most danger we faced was in crossing the street. Cars don’t stop, nor are there pedestrian crossing lights.
Our Lonely Planet Egypt guidebook warned of the traffic and suggested that crossing a street with locals; having them act as a sort of buffer for you might be the best way to cross. “Never, ever hesitate or turn back once you’ve stepped off the sidewalk, and cross as if you own the road. But do it fast!” it advised.
|The calm Nile a contrast to the traffic next to it in Cairo|
Warm and Welcoming
What happened next is an example of the warm and welcoming people we encountered in Cairo. As I was about to start whining, “I can’t do it!” a man hustled toward us through the traffic from across the street, and asked in perfect English, “Where do you want to go?” My rather lame answer, “Just across the street.” prompted him to motioned for us to follow him into the traffic – this time he stretched his arms in traffic guard fashion to slow the oncoming vehicles. After he got us across the street he jogged back to his parked taxi where he’d apparently been watched our antics.
Tourism in Egypt has dropped from 17 million to 9 million,
according to Egypt’s Tourism Authority.
|Crowds? None - on this morning visit to the Pyramids|
Our visit, the week before Christmas and during Prophet Mohammed’s December 23rd birthday holiday, usually ranks as the busiest tourist week of the year. But it wasn’t. Terrorism seems to have struck a harsh blow to the already dwindling number of visitors since Arab Spring. Even during this usually-busy week we found the ‘crowds’ sparce at key tourist attractions like the Pyramids and the famous Egyptian Museum. Good for us who enjoyed the space and freedom to roam, but definitely bad for Egypt’s economy. Those crowds, we’d read and heard about, simply were not there. The only large groups at the Pyramids and the Sphinx during our mid-morning weekday visit were bus loads of Egyptian school children.
And how glad were we as we photographed from inches away King Tut's mask, stood transfixed at the Sphinx or stepped up onto the Pyramids that we hadn't let 'fear of possibility' keep us from visiting. How about you? Have you ever let the fear of possibility keep you from traveling somewhere?
You've told us that you want more about Cairo which is good because like Scheherazade, we do have more tales to tell. Hope you’ll be back for more of our adventures in this Land of the Pharaohs. . .
A big Happy New Year and wishes for great adventures and safe travels to you and yours in the coming year ~ Our sincere thanks for being with us in 2015! A big welcome to those who’ve just happened upon TravelnWrite for the first time. Hope you'll stop by often~
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