12 – And finally…the Pyramids
10th Dec, 2030hrs, Boomerang Hotel, Luxor (this entry is backdated)
And finally, on Day 12, I visit the Pyramids of Giza, but first, I’ll talk about more interesting stuff. If there was an award for Cairo’s most prolific walker I would probably win it hands down. Over the past couple days, I have done a prodigous amount of walking. I actually like walking; you see things, you get time to think, and you burn some calories. So let’s see how much I did. Discounting the previous day’s jaunt into Islamic Cairo (3.5km), i did about 4.5km in the morning that day, and another 6km in the evening. In sandals. Yes, i think I’m crazy too.
I started the day making my way down to Ramses train station to book my ticket to Luxor (165 EGP, 1st class). They tell me it’s the same price from Cairo to Luxor as well as Cairo to Aswan. Sounds a bit dubious, and daft, since the distance to Aswan is 3 hours longer than Luxor.
Next, the order of the day is to go back to the Sudan embassy. Got back my passport, with the Sudan visa =). Then I thought, hey why not go down to the Eritrea embassy and get their visa now, since I have a couple days in Cairo. So off I went on foot, across Downtown, eastwards, cutting through Zamalek and into Mohindessin districts. Which on this paper doesn’t sound like much, but is actually a heck of a long distance along the busy highway (4.5km). I collected soot and carbon along the way. Spent another half hour wandering around the preported Eritrean embassy, before realizing Lonely Planet marked the wrong location (hooray for cartoony tourist brochure). At the embassy, the staff told me that I need to fill up the application form, include 2 photos, and introduction letter from my embassy and 260 EGP. It will take 2 to 3 days…Two things do not agree with me. One, I didn’t expect an LoI would be needed (no research I did mentioned this) and two, I don’t have 2 to 3 days to wait in Cairo. Thus, the staff told me I should get it in Sudan instead if I am planning to enter Eritrea from Sudan. So that was that. Anyway the info gained would help for anyone interested to apply for the visa in Cairo, I hope.
A little disappointed, I will need to go back to the Singapore embassy in Cairo the next day to get a Letter for Eritrea visa. Later that night, I would email the guys from the embassy and request for both Letters of Introduction into Eritrea and Somaliland, just in case.
Next, determined not to waste the rest of the day (it was around 1pm), I flagged a metered taxi (these are less of a hassle, and there is no chance of me paying prices like 50 EGP for a cab ride back when I was a newbie in Egypt). I didn’t take the buses, or microbuses, cos I just didn’t understand them or the complex hand-signals the locals used to indicate where they want to go. For example, a raised palm rotated “television Kumar’s banana hello” in Alex indicates I want to go to the bus terminal. I’ve also seen “cat tickling” , “3 finger ok” indicating some other place. And the hand signals are not limited to bus hailing either. Asking for the bill is a T shape with a cutting motion. Another one is pursing all your fingers in one hand together and point upwards, reminiscent of the “italian ?caso?”. I have a hunch it means the same thing too. =P.
Back to the taxi. A half hour ride from Mohandinsen to the Giza Pyramids is 25.75 EGP. Tipped the driver since he put me right in front of the quieter of the two entrances into the site, away from the touts. Surprisingly not that many tourists as i expected. Maybe because it was late afternoon, or because the place was big enough to accomodate the busloads. I looped around Cheops and Khefu, lingering at the Sphinx. And avoided the constant camel ride men with their “where are you from” and “you know how much?”. Accosted by camel guy who was probably more alarmed when I gave a distressed look after he attempted to put on his kuffiya on me for a picture.
On the way back, got redirected by the police to the entrance without the public buses. Not sure why, but I ended up walking the whole stretch of Al-Ahram Road (Pyramids Road). That’s about 6km eastwards. I had time, so just walked through the Giza suburbs, checking out the hotels and department stores along the way. Eventually I would reach the Giza metro station. From there, its easy to get back from. Alternatively, instead of walking, the price to take any of the buses on that stretch is 1 EGP, just as for Giza square / metro. I think all the buses go straight till there.
Came back near the hotel. Caught part of Al-Ahly vs Zamalek, the local derby match where all the Cairenes sit and watch (its like Pool vs Everton etc). I washed up; I was covered in sand and soot.