First days in Cairo

To be honest, Cairo has been the biggest disappointment for us so far.  The ancient Egyptian sights are awesome, but (as most recent visitors will already know) are set in a startling backdrop of a haze of pollution and surrounded by trash and chaotic vehicular traffic (with a few camels, mules and horses thrown in for good measure).  The best thing for us, if not the local economy, is that the recent turmoil in Egypt has eviscerated the tourist industry and there are negligible crowds.  I should also note that our guide, Rany Mostafa has been a real treat – he adjusted his suggested itinerary “on-the-fly” so our kids didn’t get overwhelmed and as an Egyptologist, his knowledge (and his English) has been great.  I can highly recommend Rany’s services to anyone traveling to Cairo.

Yesterday, I was under the weather, and Janell and the kids didn’t venture far.  Today however, all of us went to Giza to view the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx, and then to the Egyptian Museum, home to 120,000 antiquities.

Both locations are very tired.  The latter, which includes most of the famous King Tut relics, has limited visible security, outdated displays, and shelf after shelf crowded with sarcophagi, mummies and items buried with the ancient Egyptian royals. Statues filled every corner and corridor, but are poorly protected from wandering tourists and many show evidence of discoloration from the caresses of many thousands of hands.  Walls are decorated with original papyrus scrolls exposed to the natural light (while visitors are prohibited from taking photographs). Rany, our guide explained that during the 2011 ouster of Hosni Mubarak, vandals not only burned down his party headquarters next door, but also indiscriminately made off with over 40 items from the lower museum galleries and the Egyptian Museum has only recovered a handful so far.  Not that we are experts or even well-informed on these subjects, but what we’ve seen in Greece and Egypt have made us appreciate more the care with which the British, French and American museums treat the antiquities under their care and a little less sympathetic to the repatriation efforts of some of the current governments around the Mediterranean region.  I’m not defending the plundering of the ancient sites, but perhaps some good came of that in terms of preservation and knowledge.

Here are some images from our Giza trip today (most are edited to reduce the haze which stings our eyes and obscures the view):

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