Showing posts with label Cairo Marriott. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cairo Marriott. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Kicking down the cobblestones in Cairo, Egypt ~

. . .Just kicking down the cobble stones
Looking for fun and feelin' groovy. . .

-- 59th Street Bridge Song

We set out on foot – one of our favorite ways to explore any place -- but especially Cairo, Egypt where we spent three mid-December days.  Past the entryway Christmas tree that greeted guests at the Cairo Marriot Hotel -- cleverly built around the historic Gezira Palace –  we were off to revisit the Zamelik neighborhood in which the hotel is located.

Just past the guard house at the hotel’s entry gate  – with its armed officers and a leashed German Shepherd that check all arriving vehicles - we were greeted by a bevy of taxi cab drivers each offering ‘a good deal’ to the Pyramids and Sphinx or anywhere we might want to go.  They spoke English and didn’t badger once we explained we were going no further than our feet could take us.

Cairo Marriott Hotel entryway is part of the old palace

This is the second time we’ve used Cairo as a ‘gateway city’ from which to return to the United States after a stay at The Stone House on The Hill. So both times we’ve arrived here from our laid-back rural area of Greece and have been jarred by the sheer size of this city with a population hovering at 20 million. The sprawling megalopolis is often blanketed in morning smog, traffic is continuously horrendous, and yet it has such a charm that it keeps bringing us back.

Gezira, means island, and that's were we stayed in Cairo
Zamelik is one of two Cairo districts – the other Gezira -  on an island in the middle of The Nile River. It is one of the city’s more affluent areas and home to many ex pats. There’s an interesting mix of businesses on its bustling' 26 July Street'; some shops in brick and mortar buildings and others mere sidewalk displays. There seems to be a bookstore on every other corner, (our favorite, Diwa) and traditional coffee shops where men wearing long-white white gallibayas, (think long white shirt) and puffing on shishas, (the traditional water pipes) while away a few hours each day. It isn’t unusual to find a small eatery or two sporting a ‘Recommended by Trip Advisor’ certificate on the door.

Gezira island - Wikipedia photo
As for kicking back those cobblestones, a more accurate description is cautiously stepping around dips, rises, and uneven surfaces that make up the area’s rather challenging walkways. Those sidewalks and the never-ending traffic were the only ‘dangers’ encountered on our outing. Crossing a street, even with a green light beckoning us forth, felt more like  filming a “Survivor” television show segment than taking a stroll, especially when parked cars force long detours out into traffic before reaching the other sidewalk.

Can't always walk between parked cars in Cairo
We were delighted to find many of our favorite businesses still in operation.  They are typical neighborhood 'mom-and-pop' shops selling goods to locals, not dependent upon tourists like us.

The displays in this store are a work of art
One of the many fruit and vegetable markets that we pass on this route strikes me as a work of art. Its vendor always positioned just to the left of his displays, scanning the sidewalk for possible customers.  I think he was flattered, if not a bit perplexed, when I asked him if I could take a photo of his store.  I got a thumbs up and smile though when I showed him the photo above.

No doubt about what this store sells!
The businesses really do mean business here. And most, like the one above, left no one guessing as to what was for sale. 

Eateries tease with aromas and displays
The eateries are all miniscule in size but taunted the taste buds with many temptations.

A florist shop display extends into the street in Cairo's Zamelik district
Sidewalks are shared by pedestrians and vendors. Blankets and makeshift shelves displayed merchandise ranging from books and bread to produce and flowers. A carpet repair shop had several repair stations operating on the sidewalk. Florist displays cascade into the streets. Arabian bread is sold by the bag from street vendors found at regular intervals.

Roasted yam, anyone?

Bread and roasted yams brought a new meaning to ‘fast food’.

Bread for sale
Veering off the main drag we took a winding route back to the hotel, walking the residential area’s tree-lined streets.

A secret garden filled with flowers and statues
The district, one of the city’s most affluent is home to stately 19th century mansions and villas as well as high density apartment building complexes.

Mansions and villas lined some streets

Other streets had high density housing
A number of you have commented that while you’d like to visit Cairo you do have concerns about your safety there. While I am addressing that topic next week in a bit more detail, I did want to assure you that we do have certain ‘safety rules’ we follow when setting off on foot to explore any new foreign city:
*First, is to be educated about where we are. We read up on the place in advance of our arrival.  Novels set in the area provide a bit of history and contemporary color, guidebooks, travel blogs and on-line articles and traveler’s reviews are all part of the pre-travel research we do. We heed the advice of others. There are Cairo neighborhoods we wouldn’t explore on foot - just like there are places in Miami, Chicago and Seattle we’d avoid.
*We get a city map from the hotel concierge, discuss where the hotel is located on the map and where we are thinking of walking. We heed his/her recommendations and warnings.
*We dress conservatively and try not to call attention to ourselves. In Cairo that meant wearing long dark pants, not jeans, and shirts with sleeves.  I wear or carry a scarf just in case I need one to cover my head and shoulders to enter a mosque. As much as we love our sports teams back in the Northwest, we would never wear sports logo clothing when traveling abroad. Nothing targets you more as  “American”  than a bright colored tee-shirt with a sports logo emblazoned on it.
*We carry local currency in small denominations in case we do need to catch a taxi back to the hotel. If the map doesn’t have the hotel’s name and address on it written in the local language we carry a business card with it on it on the off chance we find ourselves needing to ask directions.
*As much as I want to snap photos, I limit the times I pull out the camera or phone.  That is another act, that screams out "tourist". And I ask permission if a person might be identified in the photo.  Besides being considerate of the individual, this saves embarrassing moments as I’ve encountered some who say yes to a photo but want to be paid for having their photo taken. . .I don’t pay for photos.
The Nile from the Marriott hotel
So far Cairo has never let us down. We’ve returned from our outings having met someone or learned something about the neighborhood, or the city, that we’d have missed had we opted to take a tour bus or taxi.

That’s it for this week. This is our last post of the year for 2016.  We thank you for joining us on our adventures this year and look forward to new destinations and experiences next year.  The time you spend with us is always appreciated! Our wishes for a happy and healthy New Year ~

Linking up this week with:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Travel Inspiration

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Trip to Cairo, Egypt ~ Silly or Safe

Seeing the bomb sniffing dog coming out of the Egypt Airlines plane we were about to board in Athens Sunday bound for Cairo, turned my knees to rubber. However, The Scout said he’d found the sight reassuring.

Guess the question of silly or safe is one that each traveler needs to answer on his/her own.

Tour boats have returned to the Nile in greater numbers than last year
The dog and its handler came out of the plane while we were being held in the bus that had  transported us to the plane from the terminal. (A normal way of getting to aircraft around here). Uniformed officials were setting up a security checkpoint at the top of the stairway at the plane’s door to check all our hand carry bags and everything inside them moments before entering the aircraft. (Not a normal way of boarding a flight.)

Street scene Cairo 

As I told you last week, our journey back to the United States from Greece is via Cairo – partly because of the great airfare from here to Seattle and partly because this city is simply a fabulous place to visit! Spending a few days here is an exotic – yet, easily managed -  treat unmatched by other gateway cities on this side of the Atlantic. We’ve been here twice and have flown Egypt Air twice as well. . .without problems!

P1020563 (1)
Street vendor bouquets - Cairo
But, back to Sunday. . .We didn’t realize at the time that we were flying on Mohammed’s birthday – a holiday and time of great celebration here.  It was also the day that a suicide bomber killed 23 and injured 40 more in a Christian church in Cairo. We learned Monday that the Pope of the Coptic church cut his trip to Greece short and returned to Cairo on Sunday –  which leads us to believe he was on our flight, as the airline only has one each day from Athens. All of which probably explains the increased and very heavy security measures. The kind that turn a 'white knuckler's' knees to rubber.

Home of the Ancient Egyptian Music School

Silly or Safe

I posted a report on Facebook about the prelude to our 1.5 hour flight – which was absolutely uneventful after we got airborne -- and was grateful for the many who wrote messages. What somewhat surprised us is though is how many seem to think we are in some horribly unsafe part of the world (unlike Brussels, Paris, Fort Lauderdale, Istanbul, San Bernadino. . .).

Street cat in Cairo (there was a food dish on the sidewalk not far from this one)
“They don’t like Americans’' wrote one friend.  Well, there probably are some who don’t like us, but in a city of more than 18 million, we’ve not encountered them. Those who we have met are some very warm and welcoming folks. 

We are staying in the Zamalek district - an island in the Nile
We used the same company this year as we did last year for the transportation between the airport and our hotel. The same young man who greeted us on our first arrival was back again holding a sign with our names on it Sunday night.  He was the first to extend warm greeting and he remembered us from our previous visit (an advantage of a dip in tourism, I guess).  Yesterday morning the same hotel staff member, Mona, who had wrapped me in a bear hug saying goodbye last year, wrapped me in her arms again to welcome me back. The Scout returned today to a barbershop he’d gone to last year – the barber, who had inquired last year about where we were from and told us he was Coptic Christian, wished us a heartfelt Marry Christmas and greeted us enthusiastically.

Traffic is the real danger in Cairo
We are staying in the city’s island district, Zamalek, a place so full of history that we wander its streets on our own with no particular destination in mind, shopping in stores housed in marvelous old buildings; simply soaking up everyday scenes.  I can assure you the only danger here is from the uneven sidewalks and crazy drivers.  We don’t feel threatened.

The Marriott hotel is built around a palace in Cairo
Our Marriott hotel incorporates the island’s historic Gezira Palace, to see more about it, click here. A standard room here is $106US before taxes - less than some Courtyard by Marriott’s we’ve stayed in in the states.  The Egyptian pound recently devalued and one US dollar is equal to 18LE. 

The Palace entry and one happy traveler
I’ve got more to tell you about Egypt but that will have to wait for another week.  There’s a lot more exploring to be done before we leave . . . and it really would be silly to not see as much as possible! 

Thanks for being with us – we appreciate your time, especially at this busy time of the year.  Enjoy your travels. Be safe.

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Travel Inspiration

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

One ‘Suite’ Stay in Cairo

We didn’t sleep in tents. Nor did we burn camel dung to stay warm at night.

Camels are a reason to visit the Middle East and North Africa
Yet, when we talk of our desires to return to Cairo, Egypt, we often get the furrowed-brow, less-than-enthused response, 'You really liked it there?'  The kind that we know was prompted by images of us sitting in a tent with sand blowing about. . .roughing it in a barren landscape a la Lawrence of Arabia.

While I hate to burst the worry-bubble of well-meaning friends, let me just say, ‘Au contraire. . .

Hotel chandelier - Cairo, Egypt
The reality is that we’ve had a rather ‘suite’ time in Cairo on both of our visits to the city. As result of their drop in tourism in recent years, very nice hotels come at very nice prices.

Athens is but a short flight from Cairo

Those of you regulars here know that since we’ve begun ‘commuting’ between Seattle and Athens, we have found that flying from that side of the Atlantic is much less expensive than starting in Seattle. That means 'Somewhere-Seattle-Somewhere' is cheaper than 'Seattle-Somewhere-Seattle'.  And one of the best departure cities we’ve found is Cairo, because it is inexpensive, its exciting and it is only a short flight away from Athens. Even with that short flight, we’ve saved big bucks by using Cairo as a hub city.

Morning traffic Cairo en route to our hotel there
But Cairo, with a population of more than 9 million, is so large a city that you want to stay near the airport if you have an early morning flight. (Or set out for the airport at 3 a.m.)

A welcome on our room's television screen in Cairo (it was promoting Kuwait City)
That’s why we’ve spent our night-before-the-flight from Cairo at the five-star J. W. Marriott, near the airport. The cost for a night there isn’t much more than we are paying this summer at the decidedly more basic Fairfield Inn and Suites here in Washington State.

PicMonkey Collage
J.W. Marriott - Cairo, Egypt
A plus of the J.W. is its free shuttle to and from the airport. A hotel representative met us in baggage claim and ushered us through the immigration/visa checkpoints.  A most welcome service after 20+ hours of flights and layovers.

While the entry and hotel exterior is rather plain looking, it is what awaits inside that makes for the treat! It simply feels like entering a palace.

Lobby J.W. Marriott - December 2015
In fairness, I must mention hotel security. Many of the large hotels we’ve stayed at on the other side of the Atlantic (not just in Cairo) do have strict security measures in place.

Often before the taxi or shuttle pulls onto the hotel grounds armed guards check the vehicle with the assistance of bomb-sniffing dogs. They open trunks and look under the vehicle. 

They also have x-ray machines for hand carry bags at the lobby entry.  At the J.W. Cairo our large suitcases were run through a separate x-ray machine. 

Early on in our travels, I’ll admit I found it a bit unnerving, but now – especially now -- I see it as rather comforting and mention it only because it is part of the reality of today’s travel, no matter how luxurious the hotel might be.

The Suite Life

PicMonkey Collage
Our 'suite' J.W. Marriott - Cairo, Egypt - December 2015
We booked ‘a room with a king bed’ on each of our stays. In December we arrived at our room and found we'd be staying in a suite with a bathroom alone as big as a hotel room!

Marble elevators - J.W. Marriott, Cairo, Egypt
And did I mention the interior of the hotel elevators were marble from top to bottom?

Our return leg of our round-trip ticket (Cairo-Seattle-Cairo) brought us back in March. We’d had a flight delay in Paris – one of their annoying hour-long airport strikes – which made our arrival in Cairo very late. We figured we’d be lucky to get any room and didn’t expect another ‘suite’ stay. 

PicMonkey Collage

Once again, that genie must have rubbed the magic lamp because this time not only did we have a suite, we had a two-story suite! (I didn’t know they even had such accommodations in hotels!) It was so late and we were so jet-lagged tired that we didn’t get a chance to luxuriate for very long. Early the next morning we were up and off to Athens.

Still, our stays there make for 'suite' memories. . .

You would sit here to get your shoes shined at the J.W. - Cairo, Egypt
As I said last week, we are in the midst of travel planning season so it is time to think about booking flights back to the States, even though we haven't yet headed back to Greece.

And I’ll bet it wouldn’t surprise you, if I said Cairo is tempting us again. . .of course, there’ll be that matter of getting there from Abu Dhabi, but I’m leaving those details up to The Scout.  I’ll just tell you about them after he figures them out!

That’s it for this week.  Hope your summer has been filled with adventures and fun travels.  Tell us about them in the comments below.  And hope to see you next week – bring some friends along! As always, thanks for joining us~we appreciate your time and hope we are inspiring you to stretch the comfort zone a bit, just as we’ve been doing.

I suppose I should add a disclaimer to this one: We pay the same prices at the hotels as you would, we are not 'comp’ed' for these stays nor are we paid for writing reviews of them. We are members of Marriott's rewards/loyalty program and therefore qualify for room upgrades if available -- a pretty 'suite' perk!

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Cairo, Egypt ~ Such Colors and Contrasts

“What are its colors?” my artist friend Christine asked last spring about a place I was describing over dinner.

Loved the front of this building housing a number of international schools - Zamalek district
Colors? Hmmm,. . . I hadn’t really thought about that for any place we’d visited.

The old newspaper reporter mind of mine has been on auto-focus: ‘Just the facts, Ma’am’, approach to photos and the notes I take while traveling. I’d think more about the scene’s story than its colors. But the question was a good one and has niggled my brain all year. Christine has me refocusing and thinking about how integral colors are to a ‘sense of place’ and its narrative.

Recently opened Ritz-Carlton between Tahrir Square and the Egyptian Museum
And so many of you have remarked on the modern buildings in Cairo, saying the city didn’t look like what you’d envisioned. Colors and contrasts – no where are they more apparent than in Cairo; we just needed to let our mind’s eyes roam freely. We’ll ultimately get to some of those famous tourist destinations but today - with no particular destination in mind -- let us show you some of Cairo’s colors and contrasts:

PicMonkey Collage
On a clear day in Cairo you can see. . .
One of the disheartening contrasts is the impact of the early morning smog on what could be a 24/7 beautiful cityscape. These photos were taken within a few hours of each other from the deck of our room at the Cairo Marriott Hotel. The smog was worse on other mornings.  In a city of nearly 24 million people driving an estimated 8 million cars, smog is inevitable. Air pollution is so bad that tour companies advise scheduling trips to the Pyramids (which are surrounded by suburbia) in the mid- to late-morning. An early morning visit could find them obscured by smog.

Building housing the Ancient Egyptian Music School - Zamalek district
The city’s architecture is a kaledescope of contrasts.  Strolling through ‘our’ Zamalek neighborhood we happened upon this stunning building just a few blocks from our hotel; home to the Ancient Egyptian Music School.  What a contrast with the recently opened Saudi Arabian Embassy Tower a few kilometers away.

PicMonkey Collage
Saudi Arabian Embassy Tower - Cairo
The 32-story Embassy Tower which opened in Sept. 2014  is the largest foreign embassy in the city.

Residential high rise towers - Giza

Residential high rise towers – most a stark tan or gray color thanks to a coating of dust and smog - line roadways like tunnel walls. The two pictured above are in Giza, the Cairo suburb that is home to the Pyramids.  (In fact, the suburbs encircle the Pyramids that we so often envision as being out in some vast desert along the Nile.)

PicMonkey Collage
Shops in the Zamalek district - Cairo
Setting out on foot, as we often did, you’ll find all sorts of colors in the displays of small vendors and shops that line the streets.  These photos are of a few of the many small stores in our Zamalek neighborhood, about a mile’s walk from our hotel.

PicMonkey Collage
Scarves, flowers and bread added color to the Cairo street scene
No matter what street you explored there was color and contrasts to be found. That photo on the lower right shows their famous Arab bread still puffy and hot from the oven, pita, we would likely call it. . .some of the best bread we’ve ever eaten. The vendor carried his display on his shoulder and set it up for sales on a street corner.

A colorful encounter at the Sphinx
And the people also sport a wonderful mix of colors, as these school girls show. I think we often have notions of how women in this part of the world dress and it is good to be reminded that you can’t make blanket judgements about people and places. These girls not only brightened the landscape with their colors but their smiles as well. These girls were on a school outing at the Sphinx and several of them raced over to ask me to pose for ‘selfies’ with them. Our guide wanted to shoo them away. But I found it an enchanting experience and agreed to pose only if they would pose with me. And yes, these teens in Egypt have cell phones!

Floral display Ritz Carlton lobby- Cairo
Some of the most colorful and posh places in Cairo were the elegant hotel interiors and the flowers and arrangements that filled their lobbies with color.  This is taken in the Ritz Carlton Hotel, where its common areas where in full bloom with magnificent floral displays (and a large Christmas tree surrounded by toy soldiers as well).

PicMonkey Collage
A scene from Arabian nights - JW Marriott Cairo
We happened upon a scene right out of Sheherazade’s Arabian Nights at the JW Marriott Hotel, where we spent our last night. Hotel staff had been busy all day setting up for this wedding celebration and turned a conference meeting room into a fantasy setting fit for a Pharaoh. . .

With that, we’ll close for this week. Thanks to all of you for the time you take joining us on these armchair adventures via TravelnWrite. We welcome our new ‘subscribers’ who receive our posts in email form (for free) and new followers. 

Next week we are off to the Pyramids and the Sphinx. . .but first. . .

A BIT OF HOUSEKEEPING: for those who follow TravelnWrite on Google Friend Connect.  Google recently announced changes that could impact your ability to receive the blog – and we don’t want to lose touch so take a quick look at the Blogger announcement below  (this doesn’t affect those of you receiving the blog in email format in your in boxes):
“[Beginning] January 11, we’ll remove the ability for people with Twitter, Yahoo, Orkut or other OpenId providers to sign in to Google Friend Connect and follow blogs. At the same time, we’ll remove non-Google Account profiles. . .[these] changes that will eventually require readers to have a Google Account to sign into Friend Connect and follow blogs.”
Bottom line:  We noted two profile have been lost, but you’ve still been able to write comments (I think).  If TravelnWrite, has disappeared from your reading list, you may need to sign up for a Google Account, and re-follow our blog in order to get the blog.  OR skip the ‘following’ and sign up to ‘receive the blog by email’ Put your email address in the box on the right-hand column of the home page. Feedburner will send an email asking you to to verify that you want to receive emails from us, confirm you do and posts will arrive in your inbox.
Linking this week with:
 Mosaic Monday – 
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Egypt: Tourism vs.Terrorism

It wasn’t a question of whether we would visit Cairo, Egypt as it’s been on our bucket list for a long time.

Luxor Temple - Spring 2015
It was simply a question of when. A question that surfaced more frequently after our cruise through the Middle East last spring gave us a appetizer-sized introduction of Egypt. That two-day snapshot whetted our appetites for a larger serving of this amazing country tucked into the northeast corner of the African continent.

View of the Nile from our hotel room in Cairo
Your responses back in November to the news of our return to Egypt; specifically, Cairo, were a mixed bag: a surprising number told us of your own recent travels there and offered suggestions of things to do, places to see ~ others sent well-wishes to be safe.

Tahrir Square - site of the 2011 Arab Spring - was a rather empty, non-descript area
As we booked the trip, I have to admit that visions of Pyramids and Antiquities competed with scenes of Tahrir Square during the 2011 Egyption Arab Spring revolution and the October 2015 Russian plane crash in Egypt’s Sinai – its cause, perhaps the result of an act of terrorism.

Stepping into history - Pyramids at Giza
So, we could have kept Cairo on our ‘someday’ list. . .but in reality, when intrepid travelers reach their 60’s – even with good health and can-do  attitudes like us – they have to be honest with themselves. In our case that included asking: ‘How much longer do you wait to do those things you’ve always had on the bucket list? How long will you be able to climb those pyramids?’

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'
So the adventure began Saturday before Christmas we were on an Egypt Air flight (less than two hours from Athens, ticket cost: $175 each)  from Athens bound for “Paris on the Nile”, as Cairo, Egypt was once known.

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.

PicMonkey Collage
Street scenes taken while shopping in Cairo's core district 
With traffic circles and building facades, Cairo’s downtown definitely felt European but it also felt a bit crusty. Buildings are dirty and power-washing is long overdue. Smog from some eight million cars can do that to the best of buildings, I guess. While not the showstopper it could be with a bit of cleanup, we felt safe and comfortable everywhere we explored.
“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
The bottom line is: we felt safe everywhere we went in Cairo, whether on foot, by taxi or by private transfer or tour.

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
The Real Danger in Cairo

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
That sounded reasonable, until put to the test. We set out for Tahrir Square and strolled from our hotel along the serene Nile River to a point it became necessary to cross six lanes of traffic.  Twice I stepped off the curb, took a step or two, then hastily retreated back to its safety when I saw the cars barreling towards us, four lanes from the left and two from the right. (Might I add The Scout, was becoming somewhat frustrated with me at that point.)

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.

PicMonkey Collage
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. . .

Map picture

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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