| Part 6: Abu Simbel,
Simbel -> Cairo
Hotel Barcelo Cairo
Pyramids, Cairo. Special offer of 33 Euro/night for a double room, but
this does not include the breakfast, relatively expensive at 100 EGP
(=13 Euro). The
Barcelo is in the Giza area, not far from the Pyramids and is probably
four stars. The room is high level, nice furniture, carpet on the
ground, A/C, heating, LCD TV, fridge, etc. - nothing missing.
Supposedly free WLAN in the rooms.
The only problem is that we have booked a non-smoking room and instead
they give us a smoking room with a very strong nicotine smell. Then
they are unable to move us to another room, because no other rooms are
Weather: as usual,
sunny, blue sky, fresh. Warmer in Abu Simbel than in Cairo.
I get up at 8am, then manage to be at the Abu Simbel temple before 9am.
I don't even dare to ask if I can reuse my ticket of yesterday and buy
a new one instead. The temple complex is now overcrowded with tourists.
These are the people who left Assuan at 4am and have been here since
By 9:45am most of these people have left (the convoy leaves at 10am)
and by 10am the place is now almost empty. I'm at the temple complex
until 10:25am, shooting hundreds of photos of the temples from
different angles and perspectives.
Then I walk back and find a taxi outside the temple complex, which for
10 EGP brings me back to the hotel. I pack my stuff, then ask the hotel
staff to call a taxi.
At 11:20am the taxi is there and we drive to the airport to catch the
12:40pm flight. The flight is delayed by two hours. Why am I not
But at least the Egyptair staff arranges that we are brought into a
hotel while waiting for the flight.
At 12pm finally the bus is here and brings us to the Seti hotel, the
most expensive hotel in Abu Simbel. This hotel is clearly an upper
range hotel, but looks quite old. There we are served a good,
multiple course lunch at
1:45pm. Finally after 3pm the Egyptair bus comes and picks us up. The
flight finally takes off at 4:25pm, with almost four hours of delay.
The plane is completely full. After a stop in Assuan, where it takes up
new passengers and disembarks others, it takes off again and lands in
Cairo at 7pm.
Then it takes a long time to retrieve the luggage. When we exit the
arrivals area, the hassle begins. There are two guys who insist that we
use their taxi, one is charging 140 EGP, the other (an oldish guy who
does not speak good English) 55 EGP.
walk to the ATM area to withdraw some cash. The first ATM just gives me
a receipt confirming the transaction, but no cash. I then call the
customer service of my bank in Germany and they tell me that they
cannot see any withdrawal from my account. So I withdraw cash from
another ATM. Later, back in Germany, I find out that 2000 EGP have been
withdrawn from my account for the first transaction. Apparently the
first ATM is defective.
After this I ask about the prices for taxi
trips at a couple of counters and settle for a limousine service for
120 EGP. It would have been great if the people had just left us alone,
instead of persistently bothering us. This hassle of choosing a taxi
really costs some nerves.
Anyway, it's 8:05pm when we finally leave the airport. We are in a
comfortable Hyundai H1 minivan, after having been transferred from
We reach the hotel around 9pm. Heavy noise in the lobby. Somebody is
getting married and there is a wedding party with very loud traditional
Egyptian music. Then there is the mess with the smokers room, which
makes us lose quite some time.
We only manage to leave the hotel at 9:45pm and walk to the nearby
Cairo mall. This is a, well, small and oldish mall, offering mostly
cheap products. We have a brief dinner in the Italian restaurant in the
ground floor, then shop around a bit. We are back in the hotel at
Hotel Barcelo Cairo
Weather: sunny, blue
sky, fresh. Partially overcast in the late afternoon.
Because the plan for today is just to visit the pyramids in Gizeh and
Sakkara we only leave the hotel at 11am. We immediately get adopted by
a guy who promises to show us around for the whole day for 300 EGP.
We accept the offer and get into his car. The car looked imposing from
the outside, but upon closer inspection it turns out to be a "stone
age" 4WD car which perhaps has been manufactured in the 1950s. The
space in the interior is limited and the suspensions are horrible -
every smallest unevenness of the road immediately goes into the
chairs. The car shakes even when driving on a smooth road.
On the positive side the driver, his name is Mohammed, is very
friendly, reliable and customer focused, always trying to do his best
to please us. If only he had a better car.
first stop is at 12:15pm at the Memphis site. This is an
area of perhaps 100m x 50m with some statues and other artefacts lying
around and a building housing a broken statue of Ramesses. The ticket
is overpriced at 35 EGP (adults, kids pay 20 EGP), given that
there is not that much to see.
We then drive to the Sakkara site (pricey ticket of 60 EGP for an adult
and 30 EGP for a child). In reality Sakkara is not one site, it's an
area spreading over many km to the southwest of Cairo, about 15km from
Gizeh. But apparently only a small section of this area is accessible
We are there at 1pm and the first thing we visit are some tombs
(Mereruka, Kagemni). Some of the tombs have nice painted bas-reliefs.
Discussion with the local staff who expect a tip for showing you
around, even if it is perfectly possible to visit the site without any
guidance. But it's a popular sport in Egypt to offer useless services
in exchange for some bakshish.
At 1:30pm we are done visiting these tombs and get to the next place.
This is very close to the first place and consists of more tombs and
the stepped pyramid, which is undergoing restoration (there is
some scaffolding). We end up spending quite some time here and only
leave at 2:20pm.
Now it becomes clear that we will have to skip lunch, because we have
to rush back to Gizeh for the pyramids. The car we have is not the
fastest one and the traffic is also quite messy. As a result we only
reach the pyramids site in Gizeh at 3:30pm, and are in the compound
What we do not know is that the local staff starts throwing out
tourists at 4pm. In fact shortly after 4pm, when we are at the panorama
point, a local police guy tells us to leave the place. This means that
we only have 30 minutes on the site. Not too terrible for me, because
this is the third time for me at the pyramids, but Sara now does not
have the chance to properly visit the site. We should have visited the
pyramids in Gizeh first, before driving to Sakkara.
Anyway, we are still in the site until after 4:30pm, then drive into
town. The ladies ask for a cookie shop where to buy Egyptian cookies
and the driver finds one not too far away from the hotel.
Then we have a dinner in the Wang Fu Chinese restaurant near the hotel.
The food is not too terrible, but is not original Chinese either.
Apparently this has been adapted to the local Egyptian tastes. The
dishes are quite pricey for Egyptian standards.
In the evening Sara drives to the airport to catch her flight to
Home, sweet home.
Weather: sunny, blue
sky, fresh in Cairo.
We check out of the hotel at 11am. The plan is to charter a taxi, put
all luggage inside it and drive to the City Stars mall in Cairo, which
supposedly is the most splashy and modern mall Cairo has. While the
luggage is in the car, visit the mall and then at 3pm drive to the
airport. The City Stars shopping mall is in Heliopolis, which lies
quite close to the airport.
The driver of yesterday is outside the hotel waiting for customers (and
perhaps us), but I'm not too keen to sit again in that old car with the
broken suspensions. So we ask for a taxi in the hotel and get one for
285 EGP. A trip to the airport should not cost more than 100-120 EGP,
the extra amount is due to the fact that the driver is waiting for us
and guarding our bags while we are in the mall.
Leaving at 11:20am it takes a bit over an hour to reach the mall in
Heliopolis. This is because of the heavy traffic on the streets.
Lots of cars everywhere, most are Korean and Japanese cars, but also
Chinese cars. Which is quite interesting, because the Chinese have only
recently started making cars. Apparently they are expanding first to
less sophisticated markets such as Egypt, where the car price is the
most important factor. According to the driver, you can buy a Chinese
made car for just 30000 EGP.
The Heliopolis mall is a bit less huge than I had imagined. It is much
better than the Cairo mall, but far less sophisticated than the best
malls of Dubai. There is security personnel everywhere. At some gates
you are only allowed to enter. When getting in, you have to put your
bags into an X-ray scanner.
The mall has an offering ranging from branded western goods to
but high end products. There are several restaurants and more than one
food court. There is also an indoor fun fair for children which has the
A/C on despite the fact that it is winter and is cold enough.
We are in the mall until 3pm, having lunch, shopping around a bit and
letting the kids play in the fun fair. Then we catch the taxi and drive
to the airport.
Again heavy traffic on the street. People walking on the street
offering all sorts of stuff. Either these people are desperate, or you
can indeed make good money selling goods like this.
At 3:30pm we reach terminal 3 of the airport, a modern and new
terminal. You have to pass a passport and ticket control to be allowed
into the airport.
You must arrive with a printout of the electronic ticket.
The luggage has to pass through an X-ray scanner and some guy insists
that he will put my bags into the scanner. I'm perfectly able to do it
myself, but the guy insists to do it for me and then asks for a tip.
This is typical for Egypt: people offering completely useless services
and then asking for tips. Like in a museum or an archaeological site
where people immediately join you, explain you the obvious and then ask
for bakshish for having been your guide.
Anyway, we get in, check in, change the remaining Egyptian money into
Euro and go through immigration and then to the gate.
The Lufthansa plane leaves almost on time at 5:10pm. The plane is
almost completely full. It lands on time in Munich and we are home