Cairo in a day

We had got into Cairo around midnight from London, so it was straight to bed that night, then up next morning at the crack of dawn to hit Cairo's tourist trail - we had been to Cairo and Luxor 5 years previously from the Star Flyer, but whilst you do not forget the pyramids, the Sphinx or the Cairo Museum, what you do forget is the assault on your senses by the change of culture. Men, women and children desparate to sell you trinkets for "one dollar", postcards (in a world using much fewer postcards) or whatever. The crush of humanity on the streets of Cairo. There had been riots in Tahrir Square before we arrived, and they broke out again a week after we left - travel is a bit of a lottery as to whether you hit or miss trouble.

Although we had seen the Pyramids before, the boys had not, and they were quite in awe of the scale of both the pyramids and the Sphinx. It also enabled them to get passing tourists to take photos of them on location for their albums. One of the original, and only surviving, Seven Wonders of the World, the Pyramid of Cheops is comprised of 2.3-million stone blocks, each weighing 2.5 tons. Exactly how the ancient Egyptians were able to construct these architectural wonders remains a mystery to this day. The inscrutable Sphinx, with the body of a lion and the face of a man, was carved from a single block of stone. This massive, 72-foot-high, 164-foot-long feline structure faces east, greeting the rising sun each day.

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From the Pyramids of Giza to the Citadel and Mohamed Ali Mosque , which is also referred to as the Alabaster Mosque due to the extensive use of that stone on some of the exterior walls and other surfaces. The mosque, built during the first half of the 19th century, is more impressive at a distance than close up. Though its artistic merit is questionable, the mosque is an unparalleled contribution to the Cairo skyline. Situated on the summit of the Citadel high atop the Citadel grounds, its great dome and towering minarets are the first features that catch your eye at the fortress.

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  Chris with some new friends Note our guard with an Uzi under his jacket  
    The inside of the mosque From our hotel balcony

Back to the Pyramids area for a lunch at the Mena House Hotel we stayed at before, in the shadow of the Pyramids - vitually impossible to serve a civilised lunch to 500 cruise passengers in one sitting but they did a reasonable job.

The afternoon took us to The Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, a very tired museum (it was tired 5 years ago, and after the troubles in Egypt is even more tired today) Its main attraction is the fabulous treasure of the young King Tutankhamen, whose Luxor tomb escaped the ravages of grave robbers, and was subsequently discovered and excavated in 1922.

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You can explore the halls of the museum for hours - the exhibits are badly marked and impossible to follow, in a way there is too much and some should be removed to enable visitors to see the wood rather than the trees. But say what one may, the reason people visit the museum is to see the head of King Tut and very impressive that is too.

A somewhat mediocre buffet in the Intercontinental hotel where we were staying rounded off the evening. We had a good room overlooking the Nile, and could sit on our balcony watching traffic on the river. Next morning the Nile was still there, but difficult to see with the haze! Our room was right out on the edge of the hotel, which meant we were closer to the Nile, but an awful long way from the elevators. Life is full of compromises. They have free wifi in the reception area, but you have to pay for it in the room - something that always annoys me with expensive hotels with this policy. The one really bad point was the dinner they served our group. The choice of three or four main course were served out of buckets, and looked most unsavoury/unappetising, a bit like an army canteen. We found some brown bread and gravad lax, and enjoyed that instead. You could do worse in Cairo than stay here, but check the prices to get good value for money

Our Holiday from Cairo to India on SS Voyager