We seem to have good timing when we travel. Last year we visited Damascus, Syria in February, just a month or so before the Arab Spring arrived in that country. Now, less than two weeks after returning from Cairo, that city is once again experiencing revolts, injuries and killing of protesters. When I mentioned this to our school counselor today, he called me “The Destroyer”. It would be funny if this wasn’t such serious business for the people in these countries.
It saddens us to watch the current events in Tahrir Square. Many of the pictures we see of that site could easily have been taken from the same hotel we stayed in while visiting Cairo and The Pyramids. We had a bird’s eye view of Tahrir Square, and actually witnessed one very small, short, and peaceful gathering one morning. We send our prayers to the people of Egypt.
What a city. It is much easier to romanticize this metropolis of 22 million from a distance and after a visit than it is while there. We were greeted by many friendly people who loved to welcome us to their country. We have found to be true in all the Middle Eastern countries we have visited. In Cairo this friendliness was, at least in part and at times, a guise to get us to go with them to their relative’s shop to spend, spend, spend. And once they convinced you to look, the pressure to buy was remarkable.
It wasn’t so much the vendors in the Khan el-Kahlili bazaar that got to us. The pressure from them was to be expected and at times was even humorous. It was the people on the street who offered to “help” us, AND then brought us to their shop so we could spend money. We had to work to not have this color our experience while there; not an easy task. We do understand that given the poverty found in this country, people are just trying to make a buck from the western tourists.
Even with all this, Cairo is a place that was worth visiting. It is the gateway to the Pyramids which we could visit again anytime. The city and its museum, bazaars, history, and strong Muslim identity make it a fascinating place to visit. As we advised in the blog on the Pyramids, having a guide is the best way to tour in this city. Again, we recommend Hesham.
We ended our visit to Cairo with an evening boat ride on the Nile. A buffet dinner, belly dancing and whirling dirvish dancing capped a great trip to the land of the Pharoahs.