On Saturday, most of the people in our study abroad program took a day trip to Cairo and Giza. We left at around 6:00 am from Alexandria, as it takes a good two and a half or three hours to get to Cairo. We went together with all of us with one van. We had a tour guide and an armed guard, which was really strange at first, but it is apparently standard issue for large groups of tourists.
Our first stop was Giza. I spent a good twenty minutes when I first started writing this entry trying to describe the pyramids, and didn’t get anywhere, so I will leave it at this: the pyramids are amazing. That is pretty much it. You know how awesome the pyramids are in your brain? Multiply that by 20 and you might come close to how incredible it is to be standing right next to them. I pretty much just skipped around like a giddy schoolgirl. The best part was that we were able to purchase tickets to go inside the second pyramid. You have to crouch over to hobble into a three-foot-tall tunnel and there's not really much inside (just a stone chamber, not that that isn't totally great on its own, but I think a lot of people expect there to be art or something), but it's still perfect. During the entire time I was in there, my internal monologue went something like this: "I'M IN A PYRAMID. I'M IN A PYRAMID. I. AM. IN. A. PYRAMID." We also saw the Sphinx, which, again, defies description. It's really strange, when you are looking right at the pyramids and the Sphinx it looks like the desert goes on forever, but if you turn around you can immediately see a Pizza Hut and a KFC. Egypt is a strange place.
Next, we visited the Saladin Citadel, which was built in the 12th century AD to protect the city from the Crusaders. Inside the walls of the citadel is the mosque of Mohamed Ali, built in the early 19th century. This mosque was easily one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever been in. The pictures I took of it simply do not do it justice. The mosque is rather interesting architecturally; Mohamed Ali was an Albanian who came to Egypt with the Turkish army, so the mosque is much more Ottoman in style than most Egyptian mosques.
We then visited the Egyptian Antiquities Museum, which I could easily devote the next five years of my life to walking around in. There's just so many things in there, and so many of . There's nothing quite like seeing a statue you've written a paper on or read about extensively right in front of your eyes. For me, the best parts where the manuscript room, and the two sphinxes and one statue head of Hatshepsut that I had the privilege of seeing. I also got to see Tutankhamen's burial mask, sarcophagi, and various burial effects, which was undeniably awesome. It was also really exciting to see a lot of the artifacts from the Amarna period.
Our final stop for the evening was the Khan El-Khalili market, which is an adventure in and of itself. It's extremely crowded and tiny, and you can't take a step without someone trying to usher you into their shop or make you an offer. I only ended up buying one thing. (Hint: Dad, it's for one of your collections, and I really really hope it will actually fit you!) I like the market here in Alexandria much better, it's not as frantic and you don't have to put as much energy into haggling with the vendors.
All in all, I had a great time in Cairo, but I think one day was enough for me. Cairo has lots of really interesting things to do and see, but it is also ridiculously hot and crowded. An aside to Grandpa: I'm sorry, but I didn't get to see the opera house. If I do another trip there I will be sure to stop by it.