Cairo in a Day

pyramid cairo

It seemed impossible at first, even though my boyfriend assured me that people do it all the time. I mean, granted, we live in Turkey, just across the Mediterranean from Egypt, but it doesn’t change the fact that Africa is a completely different continent. Surely it’s not possible to go to Cairo in the morning and be back by the evening. But my boyfriend shrugged and said, “That’s the tour they’re offering, one day in Cairo, there and back, no overnight stay. Do you want to do it or not?”

Of course I did. I simply had to see how this was going to work. And I’d never been to Egypt before, so this was really going to be an adventure.

It turned out that when they said day trip, they literally meant it. From the time we left our house to the time we got back was just shy of 24 hours. The flight left before dawn, which meant that we had to check in at 3:00 in the morning. We didn’t want to pay the exorbitant after-midnight taxi prices to the airport, so we had to catch the last bus the night before, which was at 8:00 in the evening. We brought plenty of snacks and reading materials, and actually the wait passed pretty quickly once we figured out that the easiest thing to do was sleep.

The flight to Cairo was amazingly fast — just under 90 minutes. I had no idea Africa was so easy to get to from our house! I was shocked at how laid-back everything was. There was no hassle or red tape getting through passport control or customs, and because we were in a tour group they barely even glanced at the stack of passports before they let us through.

The first stop of the morning was the Great Pyramids. We piled onto the tour buses and headed down through the city. Egyptian traffic was crazy, even more so than it is in Turkey. Lanes have no meaning whatsoever, and you see all manner of vehicles sharing the road. We were zipping along at top speed on a three-lane highway, and at one point we passed a man in a motorized wheelchair, who was actually using the far right lane. Pedestrians were darting in and out between cars, trying to cross the road in small increments. Oddly enough, there was a weird kind of magic to the traffic, almost artistic in its flow.

When we got to the site of the Pyramids, I’ll admit I was a bit surprised. All my life, people have gone on and on about how utterly huge these structures are, so much so that I got the idea they must be unfathomably gigantic. I expected that when I stood next to one, I wouldn’t be able to see the top. So when we drove up to the site and I actually saw them for the first time, I thought, that’s it? I wondered if these were scale models or something. We got out and looked around for about an hour, during which time I never quite got over how much smaller everything was than I expected. When we headed down to the Sphinx, it was even smaller. Photographers are really creative with angles, it seems.

After the sightseeing, it was time for lunch. Like cattle, they herded us back onto the bus, and people were whispering, “Did you know the Pyramids were going to be that small?” Turns out I wasn’t the only one who had imagined something much larger than the reality.

Then, after a lovely meal at an open buffet, it was time to hit the Egyptian Museum. This was where I really started to enjoy myself. I’m normally not a fan of museums, but this was no ordinary collection. Half the stuff in there is so ubiquitously famous that it was sort of like wandering through the pages of every National Geographic issue in history. Around every corner was another instantly recognizable artifact, and eventually we came to the grand prize, the tomb of King Tutankhamen. I could have stood and looked at it all day, but sadly we had to hurry back to the airport.

It may seem like everything rushed by in a blur, and indeed it was very much like that. We arrived back in Turkey around 8:00 in the evening, exactly one day after we had left our house, and all I could do was stop for a moment and finally take a chance to breathe. Once we got home, my boyfriend and I agreed that although next time we’d prefer to spend a week or so really exploring Cairo and the surrounding area, we still enjoyed our small taste of Egypt. Even a quick trip for a single day can hold marvelous experiences, and I’d definitely recommend a day trip if you’re on the other side of the Med and you’re at all curious about North Africa. It’s a non-stop day of thrills, and it was certainly worth it.

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