I arrived at the Cairo airport early in the morning, and after a bit of dispute with passport control for having no exit flight out of the country, I got a visa, a stamp, and was on my way.
I had arranged for my hostel to pick me up from the airport, as I didn’t feel like bartering for taxis right off the bat in a country I knew nothing about. We met, walked to the car, I piled in my rucksack and we were soon speeding our way into the city.
Not entirely sure what I was expecting, I was surprised by the colours of everything – more yellows and golds than I had ever seen in my life. The landscape, architecture, and people were surreal – whizzing past on motorcycles, going about their days. After a long drive from the airport, and a brief drive through a tunnel, we arrived into downtown Cairo.
I was staying at a place called Dina’s hostel. A wonderful place, of which I’ve been meaning to write a review of for a while now. While difficult to identify as a hostel from the street, a caged elevator and a grand staircase leads you into this stunning apartment-style abode, and my home for the week.
I was greeted by a friendly host, given a warm welcome, and tips for my stay in Egypt. I flung my backpack onto my bed and immediately checked out the view from my window of the bustling street below. One thing I didn’t expect was the noise. Cairo is loud. There is constantly a buzz of vehicles, honking, people yelling, and all the other noises you’d expect out of a city. While it was certainly a shock at first, I gradually phased it out.
Sleeping Away The Jet Lag
I fell asleep with the window open and received some of the worst mosquito bites in my life – my left arm was twice the size of my right. May I recommend bug spray to future travellers; Egyptian mosquitos are not to be reckoned with. After sleeping off the jet-lag, I figured it was time to explore the city. My first stop, the Egyptian museum.
I’d like to write that I found the place without difficulty, but I truly did stumble upon it by accident. Upon my arrival, I discovered that it wouldn’t be opening for another 45 minutes, so I did what any traveller-at-heart would do and went exploring on my own. After a 5 minute’s walk past street markets and rubble, I happened upon the Nile. Filled with Felucas (Egyptian sailboats) and people, this river is the stuff of history. I sat on the bank and admired it for a while, and then made my way back to the museum for some history and education.
The Egyptian Museum
I would have to say my biggest mistakes were not purchasing a tour, and not paying extra to see the mummies. I definitely regret those decisions – so if you’re in the area, make sure to do just that. The rest of the museum was not, however, a let down in any sense. Ancient artifacts, and historical items filled each room from floor to ceiling. Everywhere you look has a place in history, and you feel humbled by observing it all.
Even with the stunning artifacts, after an hour and a half I had my fill. It was time to make my way back to the hostel to get something to eat. I calculated that I had made a wrong turn on my way to the museum, so instead of heading back in the direction I came, I made off for the direction I thought the hostel was in. It was here that I made my first mistake.
Overwhelmed by the whizzing traffic, sights and smells of a foreign place, I walked much further than I should have, and eventually happened upon Tahir square, the place of the recent revolution. The looks I was receiving went from inquisitive to intrusive, and I knew I was in a place I wasn’t supposed to be. I made for a cross-street which I hoped would take me back to the hostel, and made a few more turns as the street didn’t carry all the way through. A right, a left, a semi-right, another right, and I was lost. I’ve been lost before, but never in a country where I can’t speak somewhat of the language. I knew two words in Arabic; none of them would help me now.
I eventually found a metro station, and started asking around if anyone spoke English. I mostly got ignored, and some people even gave me dirty looks. Luckily, I had packed a flyer for the hostel in my day pack, so I got it out and started wildly gesturing to it. A lovely lady stopped to help me out, and eventually pointed me in the right direction. Though we shared no common language, once again, the international language of pointing saved the day.
I started making my way off in the direction she had indicated when I discovered a food stall. To this day I have no idea what I ate, but it was absolutely delicious. I must have been walking for about 15 minutes, and just about to give up again, when I happened upon a familiar street. Right around the corner I saw the hostel, and a wave of relief fell over me. I had lived to explore another day.
I climbed the stairs, sank into my bed, and did the first thing any 21st century traveller would do… posted a Facebook status about it.