It doesn’t matter how much of a seasoned traveller you are, arriving into a new country at night where you don’t speak the language, much less recognise the writing, can be unnerving. Especially in this particular instance bearing in mind Egypt’s ups and downs during the Arab Spring. However before I had even gone through passport control there was a friendly face with a sign saying Exotik Tours – KEYTER.
We had to buy visas for entry into Egypt ($15 per visa). Our guide took charge of all of this. He put us in the line up and took the required USD30 for two visas and then dashed off to buy them and stick them into our passports for us. Once we arrived in the baggage area he was there to help us find our luggage and take us through customs – all very smooth and very welcoming.
Wow – Cairo is some city. 20 million people live here and they love to socialise. It was a Friday night and families were out en masse, little kids of 2 and 3 happily skipping around at 11 o’clock at night. Several brides were out in the streets against scenic backdrops such as water fountains – or that famous Nile and it was interesting to see that they all favoured the Western style white dress. Maybe they get Say Yes to the Dress in this part of the world too.
Finally getting to our hotel – the beautiful Fairmont on the Nile – we realised that despite the days of travelling and not sleeping we were far too excited to go to bed and needed a snack and a nightcap. We found our way to the open air terrace overlooking the Nile. The Nile is beautiful but the people were far more fascinating. Again lots of families, most women wearing the hajib, lots of little kids and everyone (well except the kids) seemed to be enjoying the speciality Sheesha pipes. These elaborate water pipes were at every table and were tended by special staff carrying around large metal bowls of hot coals to keep the Sheesh hot. You can choose many flavours – even cappuccino (there was a whole list on the menu) – who knew? I asked our guide Ramez if it was less dangerous that cigarettes – “Oh no,” he replied. “More more dangerous. Not only does one Sheesh equal 10 cigarettes but there is a lot of water damage to the lungs because you inhale the water too.” Well I am all for trying anything once but I think I will give that one a miss.
Waking up this morning with the sun slowly rising over the Nile and the city coming to life and am excited for the next step on our journey – our flight down to Luxor to see the Upper Nile.