Tours - Excursions
In fume-filled Cairo, there are few obvious walking tours on offer
and none in the blistering heat of the summer months. However, personalised
tours can be organised through some of Cairo’s cultural organisations
(see Culture section), or the Community Services Association
(telephone number: (02) 350 5284 or 376 8232) and the American
Research Center in Egypt (telephone number: (02) 354 8239
or 355 8683).
Official guides for individual tours can be organised through hotels
and tourist offices, at a fixed hourly rate and a tip. Unofficial
guides approach people in the street and range from the
to the very good. Personal judgement is all that can be used and
if unsure, visitors should
politely but firmly.
Any hotel will be able to offer the standard range of bus tours
for guests, generally
the highlights of the Egyptian
Museum, the Khan al-Khalili bazaar, the
Pyramids and the Sphinx. Alternatively,
a local travel agent, such as American Express
(telephone number: (02) 370 3411), Misr Travel
(telephone number: (02) 393 0010) or Thomas Cook (telephone
number: (02) 356 4650) can also arrange tours.
For a Half Day
Birqash Camel Market
The biggest camel market in Egypt takes place just outside the village
of Birqash, which is about 35 kilometres (22 miles) northwest of Cairo. Every
Monday and Friday morning, camel traders come from all over Egypt
and as far afield as the Sudan, to sell their beasts in a hubbub
of sounds, sights and smells. It is an
attraction too and visitors will be asked to pay an admission fee.
The most convenient way to make the 45 minute journey is to take
a taxi. Visitors should negotiate a waiting time and most drivers
will be happy to wait or come back at a pre-arranged time.
For a Whole Day
The Mediterranean port of Alexandria, named after Alexander the
Great, and the setting for Lawrence Durrell’s The
Alexandria Quartet, is a popular day trip from the city.
Locals make the 225 kilometres (140 mile) journey northwest to enjoy the main promenade, the
beaches and the cooler temperatures. The beaches
are nothing out of the ordinary and are packed however, there are other
attractions. The most recent addition is the Library
(Bibliotheque) of Alexandria,
in October 2002
at a cost of $200 million and ambitiously planned to become a world class
centre of knowledge. The Citadel of Qaitbai was
built in 1479
on the site of, and from the stones of,
the Lighthouse of Pharos, 1 of the 7 wonders
of the ancient world.
The museums worth visiting include:
The Graeco-Roman Museum
Royal Jewellery Museum
Fine Art Museum
Marine Life Museum
Beautiful palaces and mosques also make this a trip worth taking.
Trains from Cairo (3 a day) take 2 hours, buses take about 3 hours
and it is also possible to take a taxi from outside the Ramses train
station. There are also numerous flights a day on EgyptAir.
Memphis and Saqqara
These two historic sites are about 3 kilometres (2 miles) apart,
some 24 kilometres (15 miles) south of central Cairo, and easily reached
by bus, rented taxi, coach excursion or even by camel or horse.
However, a full day should be allowed as Saqqara alone extends for
a good 7 square kilometres (3 square miles).
This is where the 1st pharoahs
were buried, although they are now overshadowed in by the sites
of the Valleys of the Kings and Queens in
Luxor and the Great Pyramids. Several pyramids are here and, because much archaeological
work still remains to be done at Saqqara, it may even be that one
day it becomes Egypt’s most important historical site.
Saqqara was the
for the pharoahs when Memphis was the ancient capital. Memphis is the oldest known royal city
in the world, founded in 3100BC during the 1st Dynasty, it was the
royal capital for five hundred years and remained occupied in all
for a total of 4,000 years.
Unfortunately, not much remains today of what
was 1 of the grandest cities in the world however the small museum
and scattering of statues make a good appetiser for the more beautiful
remains at Saqqara.