CAIRO - An off-beat Personal view.

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A-Four
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CAIRO - An off-beat Personal view.

Post by A-Four » Fri Oct 05, 2012 5:58 pm

CAIRO - An off beat personel view.

Enough for a taxi to take you to either Cairo Tower (Zamalek), the Egyptian Museum or even Khan El Khalili. Always keep on you the hotel busness card, show it to any taxi drver and he will read the reverse side, whch will tell him in Arabic your hotel. Do not assume, like you do in Luxor that every taxi driver can speak English or know where your hotel is, MOST do not speak English.

Shopping in Downtown Cairo, for clothes, shoes etc is a disaster, most things you could buy cheaper and of a better quality in an average town market, even the Nike and Addidas stores stock second rate good, that did not pass the final inspection, O.K., the prices are a little less than say Europe, but do not think you are getting the best. The main shopping street in Downtown is Emelda Marcos Street, as it is known by the Westerners, for obvious reasons, but remember like everything on this very long street that starts at Grouppi's coffee shop in the South all the way to Orabi Square, is like Oxford Street in London,.....full of Crap. Again like Oxford Street, most of the quality shops are on streets off this, or paralell to this. Near Orabi Square are many street cafes and probably the best Egyptian restaurant in this area is Alfi Bey Restaurant, beware its not cheap, but neither is the food.

Many ex-pats in Egypt love to shop at either the Five Stars Centre, on the Airport Road, 35LE by taxi or the more open-air shopping centre on the Alex Desert Road 50LE, both offer very little for the average tourist. For example the last time I was at Five Stars, some years ago now, I was asked to pay the same price for a CD in the Virgin Store, as that in London's West End.

If you want to go to Sakkara, Dashur, Memphis, Beni Sur, etc, don't just get a cab outside your hotel, do not bother with the 'flies' that will hang around your hotel touting for business. The best advise I can give is to nip down to the Egyptian Museum,you will come across a number of taxi drivers who speak perfect english. Choose a driver who is middle aged, check that his car is good and comfortable. The next point is quite important, have a quick read to know which order of travel you will want to see each site. What I mean is that you should be able to tell the driver the order of travel, this tells him you are not a complete fool, it will also encourage him to show you perhaps a few special things, that I do not want to really tell you about, come on, I am not going to tell you all my secret places. Arrange to be picked-up the following, the driver MUST be him and his car. Often you will find, as in Luxor, a pre-arranged journey often gets 'sold off' to another driver. Ensure you fix the price, and perhaps there may be a little bachsheesh, if you get a good day, and perhaps see something special. If you really enjoy your day that tip should be about 20%.

If you are in Cairo in December, you need to start this journey by 10a.m. to be back at your hotel by dusk, 5p.m., Sakkara is a must, for me, 18 monthes ago I was for the very first time able to see the Tomb of the Two Brothers. For me this was very special, as I in the past had been given special access at Manchester University Museum to view items of this collection that are not on display, so it was like at last being able to read the last chapter of a wonderful book. For you there will be something else that will stun you about this place, there are so many, enjoy, Just away from this complex, on the right, as you leave, there is an open air restaurant that serves the most fantastic grilled chicken, not cheap but good quality

Dashur, Dashur is a dream, so few tourist come here, so I suppose this is an extra reason to visit, add to that the fact that even LivinginLuxor (Stan) says this is his favourite place, then it is a must. You can from this place, see for miles all around you. If you do visit this area in December, you might even be privileged to witness an electric storm which was so, when I was last there, over 18 monthes ago. What it is about Dahur that makes it so special I can not really put my finger on, after visiting perhaps you may express your thoughts, later on here to help others.

Beni Sur, this is quite a strange place, and best viewed just before dusk. The three pyramid complex, holds lots of hidden secrets, that you should read up on before getting there, the more you read, the greater will be your enjoyment of this place. On arrival at this complex, you will be told it is a closed site, and then be told by the guardians that it is $200 to visit, give them 20LE, and that all. They will not show you around so, you should enjoy more, but please read up on this remarkable place of pillage, but then again, they missed the best, some trully remarkable tombs.

Memphis, if you must see it, then do so, but for me, when I last came here over 18 monthes ago, I was so shocked being I had not been there since thirty years previous. Imagine, if you will, visiting the West Bank, Luxor then returning thirty years later, yes you can still get to the Noble's Tombs, but on either side of the road, and all around you, as far as the eye can see, is domestic rubbish pilled four to six feet high,- that is what this ancient city has become. All that remains is a small railed off area that represents this once great city.

Back in Cairo town, Cairo Tower is best visited one hour before dusk, where you will benefit from seeing greater Cairo and Giza by day, and the illuminated lights that beam up into the night sky from the old city.On leaving here walk along the river side, towards north of this island known as Zamalek. Many of the perminantly moored boats here offer good quality food, at a fair price. Zamalek is the Kensington and Chelsea of Cairo, its main street offers many shops, however, like Chelsea the quality places are on the many streets off the main road, fine quality clothes, antique shops, etc, etc. On one street is a very fine English pub, called Pub 28, often frequented by the international press corr, you might even come across a famous British one, I know, certainly likes a drink, when off duty, sells good food also, there are also a few other typical British style pubs in that area. As a rule, I do not recommend places eat or drink, but five star hotels are such dreadful places for people trying their best to be something they are not, if you get my drift.

The Citadel is really self explained arrive by taxi, 15LE usually enough from any where in cental Cairo. While there look down into the Old City, you will see two huge dark stone buildings. These places are the spiritual home of the Mamlukes, Al Rifai Mosque built in 1819, but not finished until 1912 by the British, it is an almost exact copy of its neighbour, which ofcourse is much,much older, both worth visiting and you could be quite amazed, buried here is the last Shah of Iran and the last King of Egypt, one wonders.......will Mubarak end up in there. Not far from here is a building that was the world's first hospital for the mentally ill. Near here is a road way that leads through to the old city, that was a tourist route before the 1990's earthquake that devastered this area, this old route is littered with wonderful old buildings, many though still show the scars of that dreadful day.there is a blue mosque along this road, the only one outside Turkey. This half hour steady walk eventually leads you to the Old City wall, where you enter through a huge gate way. Beyond here you will see fine old buildings, carefully restored, and beautifully illuminated at night. Once this route is re-opened this will be spectacular, but at the moment, so few know of it. You are now entering an area called Khan El Khalili, this great market is best seen in the evening for its dramatic colour and life. In the main square you will come across many open-air cafe's ignore these, ask for one called Fish-arr-wee's. This old place is an institution, famous throughout the Eastern World, do not think for one moment that the passing street sellers are targetting just you, but take interest of some of these item, that pass, many make excellent presents, and a fraction of the price you would pay in the Souk, all this while you relax, and drink fantatic coffee,..........they do Nescafe, if you wish.

With reference to British style bars, there are few, away from the international hotels and Zamalek, with the exception to one 'joint' known either by the name of The Windsor Hotel. This place is in an ally way off Attabar (a main Cairo square, with a huge statue of Mohammad Ali Pasha, inc horse.), and home of the old opera house. This 1920's hotel has a bar that has remained the same since those days. It was used to billet British army officers during World War ll. Many old soldiers, wanting to re-trace their lives stayed here on their holidays upto the 1980's. As you enter this hotel, you'll come face to face with the reception, ignore them, take the lift, Oh God yes, the journey in this is quite hysterical in its self, should you get to the floor you require, you enter directly into the main bar, yes it ain't been touched since the 1920's, the staff are of a simular nature, Have a beer or a gin and tonic, but as you look around and discover that wonderful place, you will realise it has a restaurant, no, please do not bother, no matter how much they plead with you to eat there DO NOT. Sad to say this place has not seen a coat of paint since it was built, which in a way adds to the charactor of the bar/lounge area, believe me, you would not want to stay there which incidently is still charged on the $ rate, what a joke.

Always avoid useing a bus in Cairo, its not the done thing, however the Underground system is easy to understand, cheap and Cairo people are very helpful especially if you are seeking out places most tourist do not bother to see. One important tourist place that is easy to get to by this network is Mar Girgis,1LE, yes one LE from Downtown by metro. As you come out of the Mar Girgis Station, you are in the heart of this area. If you are Christian, you may be quite moved by this warren of church's of the early Coptic Church, (second only to the first Church of Chrisemdom, the Ethihopian) Take special notice of the architecture of some of these places, one church has collumns, that were previously Roman, Greek and even Ancient Egyptian all holding up the roof of one church. In truth this whole area is more of a labarinth, than that of which you find at St Catherine's in Sinai, however my study of the Chritian Church benefited much from the knowledge I gained at Mar Girgis.

The new Coptic Museum, unlike the previous one, is very modern, with its glass and lighting, however it lacks the very detail that its predecessor gave into the true history and origin of the faith, perhaps there were special conditions attached to the very generous grant given by the U.S.A., who knows. Up until this time the Coptic Church has never been afraid to show its origins.

To conclude, Cairo like any other city, the more you learn, the more you will like the place, you might one day love it, like I do, but I agree with most people see what you want to,.........then get out

If other members have a good knowledge of Cairo, and can add to the above, this would help other members and guests on this site to discover more about this great city,........who knows, it might become a sticky. :wi

A-Four.



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Re: CAIRO - An off-beat Personal view.

Post by Maakari » Fri Oct 05, 2012 11:15 pm

Thanks A Four, I really enjoyed your post!
It is always good to see the merits of a city viewed through another pair of eyes, and pick little nuggets of knowledge from your experience.
Like you said, I should imagine quite a few people, epecially Cairo "virgins" might be a bit wary of planning a good itinarary, and just see the usual bits and then get out.
This post will encourage enjoying Cairo in a more planned, and therefore more enjoyable experience, way.
Thanks again for a great read!
I love having a few days nosying around the more out the way sites, never get "cultured" out. We always manage to find a good Taxi man, and as you say, when you tell him what you want to get out of the time there, he can be invauable. Love finding new eating places, we have got a little black book on these so's we can find em when we return!
Your post has got me feet itching to go a'wandering in Cairo very soon!

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Re: CAIRO - An off-beat Personal view.

Post by Chocolate Eclair » Sat Oct 06, 2012 5:35 am

Brilliant overview, prices in Zamalak now are around 20-25 le for a Stella, getting to be expensive like most capital Cities.

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Re: CAIRO - An off-beat Personal view.

Post by LivinginLuxor » Sat Oct 06, 2012 8:30 am

We stayed at the Movenpick Giza, the last time I was in Cairo - as we wanted to go to Saqqara, and the journey there is considerably less hectic from Giza. The advice that A4 gives about not taking one of the hotel taxis is totally correct. We walked a few hundred yards from the hotel, and hailed one. His price for the trip was considerably lower than the other taxis, but as we had arranged the trip for the next morning, he did tell us that he couldn't park outside the hotel while he waited for us, and could we walk to where we met him the day before? No problem - he even had a cold box in the boot, with bottles of water in it! Excellent service.

Agreed about the Tomb of the Two Brothers also!
I might agree with you, but then we'd both be wrong!
Stan

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Re: CAIRO - An off-beat Personal view.

Post by A-Four » Sat Oct 06, 2012 9:50 am

LivinginLuxor wrote:We stayed at the Movenpick Giza, the last time I was in Cairo - as we wanted to go to Saqqara, and the journey there is considerably less hectic from Giza.
This is true as Stan writes here, but once you get pass the main city hubs, the elevated road South are empty, as traffic is coming into the city in the morning. If possible do this journey on a Friday as the roads are empty in the morning.

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Re: CAIRO - An off-beat Personal view.

Post by Luxormad » Sat Oct 06, 2012 9:21 pm

Many many thanks for the post A-Four :up
Can't wait to get to Cairo and see Saqqara , even more so now.
Do you know how much a taxi would cost for the day, would like to see Dahshur , Saqqara ,and Giza.
I don't know Beni sur but will look it up , also is Abusir worth a visit ?
Sorry too many questions :ni:
But once again, thankyou for your post :br
Brian

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Re: CAIRO - An off-beat Personal view.

Post by LivinginLuxor » Sun Oct 07, 2012 7:48 am

The last time I was there, the trip to Saqqara - full day was 200LE + lunch. Dahsur is not too far away, so both could be visited in a day.
I might agree with you, but then we'd both be wrong!
Stan

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Re: CAIRO - An off-beat Personal view.

Post by A-Four » Sun Oct 07, 2012 1:17 pm

I agree with Stan here on price, but remember the tip, and tell the driver this will be so if you have an enjoyable day, that sort of put you in control more, from the start, rather than your driver.

From what I can see, Stan's group were staying near the pyramids, so I suspect they did this another day, to do real justice to Giza complex you need to set aside half a day. The Boat Museum is a must, really study the engineering of this thing, its quite un-believable, for this age.

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Re: CAIRO - An off-beat Personal view.

Post by A-Four » Sun Oct 07, 2012 1:18 pm

I agree with Stan here on price, but remember the tip, and tell the driver this will be so if you have an enjoyable day, that sort of put you in control more, from the start, rather than your driver.

From what I can see, Stan's group were staying near the pyramids, so I suspect they did this another day, to do real justice to this complex you need to set aside half a day. The Boat Museum is a must, really study the engineering of this thing, its quite un-believable, for this age.

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Re: CAIRO - An off-beat Personal view.

Post by A-Four » Thu Oct 11, 2012 11:32 am

Error.

Thanks to Luxormad who sent me a PM. -Where I have written Beni-sur, this is wrong, and should be ABUSIR, sorry about this.

Before any one makes a comment, I never drink while writing an essay, and as rule always check the work, but then again, we all make mistakes :oops: .

I know a number of people in the future will only read the original essay without perhaps reading the comments, therefore is it possible for the moderator to adjust this essay.

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Re: CAIRO - An off-beat Personal view.

Post by LivinginLuxor » Fri Oct 12, 2012 7:45 am

I've seen the boat and was mightily impressed! But, the last time I was at the Pyramids, we spent the majority of the time exploring the tomb fields behind the Great Pyramid. Quite fascinating.
I might agree with you, but then we'd both be wrong!
Stan

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Re: CAIRO - An off-beat Personal view.

Post by Luxormad » Fri Oct 12, 2012 10:54 pm

I can't wait till i get there in december , and i think i have found far too much to do in the three days i'm there :bp:
Thankyou all so much for your comments , and i'll let you know how i got on when i get back :br
Brian

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Re: CAIRO - An off-beat Personal view.

Post by Kaiserbernese » Sun Oct 14, 2012 8:56 pm

A-Four,

This post couldn't have been more timely for me as I've just booked my overnight Cairo trip for January. I am staying in a hotel on Tahrir Square and have already booked my guide for Saqqara/Memphis, although having read this, I might change it a bit!

I was a bit concerned about being a lone female wandering about at night, but having now realised that's seems to be the best time in Cairo I think I will take the plunge. I have been before, six years ago, and did the Citadel and Mohammed Ali mosque so I am glad to learn about the tower and the river walk. I always like to find something new to see, so many thanks for taking the time to write this essay, it's much appreciated!

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Re: CAIRO - An off-beat Personal view.

Post by Winged Isis » Mon Oct 15, 2012 9:36 am

I have seen the boat every time I am in Cairo as it is so beautiful, simple yet complicated.

KB, make sure you do the Imhotep Museum at Saqqara; excellent design and some beautiful pieces.
Carpe diem! :le:

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Re: CAIRO - An off-beat Personal view.

Post by A-Four » Tue Oct 16, 2012 11:38 am

Winged Isis wrote: KB, make sure you do the Imhotep Museum at Saqqara; excellent design and some beautiful pieces.
I am a little worried about this, as Winged Isis says, excellent designed museum, but I understand during the troubles, certain items were stolen. The centre-piece of this place is a very small statue of Imhotep. I wonder is it still there?

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