Well two days done so far in Cairo and it has been a whirlwind of information, sights and experiences. Monday we spent three and a half hours at the Cairo Museum and it was not nearly enough time to see all of it. I think I would need about two days in there to even scratch the surface. Our tour guide, Mohamad, took us through his favorites as well as the Tutankhamen collection. And yes the burial mask was sitting in the center of the jewelry room in all of its restored glory. Absolutely no sign of the epoxy and it was a sight to behold. You could walk right up to the case and stand inches from it. Nancy says this is much closer than you could be when it toured the USA. After that we headed to the mummy room and for $100.00 Egyptian pounds you could go inside so of course we did. There were 9 or 10 mummies in the room including Ramesses the Great. It was something out of National Geographic. Sadly Mohamed told us we had to leave as we had other places to go and we headed to lunch. We went to a place that was a chain famous for its falafels, which are made from Fava beans in Egypt. Lunch was very good and from there we headed to the Citadel of Salah Al-Din which has a mosque built by Mohammad Ali and is his final resting place. After the citadel we headed back to the hotel for dinner and where told to get into bed early because we had to be on the bus at 5:40 am the next day for our tour of the pyramids and by the end of today I am so happy we went early.
This morning we got up at 4 am and it was excitement that got me through it. We were going to the pyramids at 6 am because it was private access given to our tour. So no one else was there, just our group. No tourist, no vendors and instead of one chamber that is open to the general public, all three were open to us. We entered the great pyramid via the thieve's entrance as the main entrance was closed to the public. I was right behind Mohamad as we went in and the scope of the pyramid up close was intense. Nancy and I had just been to the tallest building in the world but it didn't impose the same grandeur that Khufu's pyramid did. The thieve's tunnel that connected to the main tunnel was carved right out of the stone. It was amazing to be in it and all of us were touching the walls and smiling at each other. The climb to the top chamber was steep but determination and excitement kept be going as my breathing was not happy about the old thin air. But I made it and we entered the burial chamber. It was very large with huge smooth stones and hot. Not a lot of ventilation inside the pyramid. But we all made it inside and after Mohamed gave us information about the construction we were able to head out to the queen's chamber and the unfinished chamber which was 300 ft down from the thieve's entrance. It did not look that steep from the top but by the bottom you were feeling it and you had to hunch over or crawl to get into the chamber. It was beautiful even unfinished, but we were out of time and had to get back to the bus. After an endless climb back up and a brief chance to sit while our group re gathered we had to hurry on to the Sphinx where Dr. Zahi Hawass was waiting for us. All in all we were about 20 minutes late to meet Dr. Hawass and filthy but when he learned that many of the group had climbed down to the unfinished chamber he perked up and asked us how we liked it. We met Dr. Hawass between the paws of the Sphinx and it was still before normal Giza Plateau hours, so not only were we able to go to where the public is not allowed but it was quiet and still so that we could listen to Dr. Hawass speak with no interruptions. He talked about the plateau's history for about an hour, took a few pictures with everyone and then it was back on the bus. And really at this point I could have been headed to the airport and I would have been happy and this would have been a great trip. But no, it was back on the bus and back to the Great Pyramid. By the time we arrived back to Khufu's pyramid it was open to the general public and it was overrun with vendors, camel and horse rides and tourists. Suddenly the four am wake up call seemed worth it. We spent another hour and a half around the great pyramid before going on to a viewing area and a quarry by the second pyramid. After some great information, a chance to see the largest boat found and some lovely photos it was off to lunch. Now I have always heard that the Sphinx looks directly at a Pizza Hut and that is true but we were next door to Pizza Hut at a Egyptian restaurant with a view of a lifetime. After lunch we went quickly to the hotel to drop off those who didn't want to go on the optional trip which included the Cairo Bazaar. Nancy and I were on our way again. We started with the Hanging Church and the oldest synagogue in Cairo. Both of these sites reminded you how long Egypt's History is and how many cultures passed through Egypt at some point. Last event of the evening was the Cairo market. It is a market spanning miles with many vendors calling out for your attention. Everyone knows I love an open air market however most of the shops sold items that could have come from Oriental Trading. I would have loved to have been able to buy some locally made wares but sadly this was not the case. Still being in the hustle and bustle was a lot of fun. We arrived back at the hotel at about 7 pm which makes for a very long day. It was everything I came to Egypt to do and where I am super excited for the rest of the trip I can officially remove an item from my bucket list.