Friday, November 21, 2008

Cairo and Giza - Egypt

Well for us this port of call was the most important, seeing the great pyramids. The ship docked in Port Said which is a 3 hour drive from Cairo. We booked a ship's tour which included motor coach transport to Cairo, a visit to the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, a visit to the Pyramids and the Sphinx.

We got up at 0500 and had to meet at 0630 in the Casino to go to our bus. Believe it or not there were 120 motor coaches going on this tour on this day so a logistical nightmare for the ship, the port and the Egyptian authorities. They value tourism as a natural resource and it is extremely important to them as a source of income for the national economy so when you have 120 tour buses travelling in motorcade for 3 hours to Cairo, the military escort the motorcade all the way. Seeing people with machine guns was a little frightening but apparently it was for our safety.

We waited on board our bus for what seemed like ages (1 hour) so that all the 120 buses could be loaded as they all had to travel together.

We travelled for 3 hours to Cairo with very little air conditioning so it was hot and uncomfortable. Princess insists on air conditioned coaches and inspects them all prior to departure when our driver had it on but during the trip he turned it off, probably to conserve fuel. We were then told not to use toilet paper in the on board toilet and it did not flush so take a guess what that meant - cross your legs!!

We got to Cairo finally and arrived at the Museum. Imagine over 1000 people converging on the museum at once plus the people who were already there!! Anyway we had around 45 minutes in the museum and we were rushed through it with our guide yelling, "faster, faster", Imagine all these elderly people (most of the passengers on this trip are retired, there are some younger people but not many for this itinerary) trying to scurry around. Anyway we saw very little. We did manage to get a glimpse of Tutankhamen's famous gold mask that was found in his tomb along with many other treasures. His mask is made of solid gold and weighs over 11kg. I would show you a photo but that was not allowed.

After the museum we went to lunch at the Intercontinental Hotel were they put on a huge buffet for all 120 coach loads of passengers in their banquet room. Of course we were warned about eating/drinking certain things in Egypt as you can get sick not being used to their water etc. Last cruise apparently over 400 passengers got sick. You ask me why? If you saw the rubbish in the Nile you would understand. The Nile is the lifeline, no other source of fresh water around and it is polluted, dirty and even has sewage in it!! Imagine washing you veggies in it!!

Anyway we stayed away from certain foods and still had a nice lunch. Then rush rush to the next location, Giza for the Pyramids. We crossed the Nile to go to the Giza area which believe it or not is just on the outskirts of Cairo. You don't see that in the movies!!

We had 30 minutes at the Pyramids and between walking to and from them, we had a few minutes only to get pictures, another disappointment about this tour.

The Egyptian hawkers are really pushy. They make it really difficult to enjoy the place.

The sandstorm made these photos a little odd but we can still prove we went there!!!!

We then all piled in to the 120 coaches and set back for Port Said another 3.5 hours away with no air conditioning and no toilet!!

All the buses arrived at the port at around 2000 and the ship and port authority did little to arrange our re-entry, it was a free for all with 1000+ passengers trying to get through gates and into the ship. There was only chaos and we had to pick Michael up or he would have got trampled. Everyone was very tired by this stage, a 12+ hour tour!!

It was a real pity by my view of it all was that the tour company was far too ambitious to fit all this in one day and the result was a very rushed, uncomfortable tour. We went, we took our photos and left but had little time to soak it all in. The next day the line at the complaints desk on the ship was very long needless to say!!

The next day we visited Alexandria also in Egypt. A very important city if you are a history buff. This is where Cleopatra and Mark Anthony spent a lot of time, a very important port, the biggest for Egypt (excluding trade through the Suez Canal).

We loved the Pyramids and Sphinx, pity for the lack of time.

Egyptian Vodafone

Egyptian KFC

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