As the decision to go to Egypt was made the same day as I went there, I had nothing planned and no idea what there was to see in the gigantic capital. All together there were more than fifteen million people living in the city center of Cairo and will an additional five million going there to work every day, the traffic and chaos was almost in the same level as you would find in Northern Indian cities.
The whole first day was spent touring the Egyptian pyramids. The second and third day I had planned on visiting the famous Egyptian museum and then walking around exploring the different neighborhoods by foot. My plan was cut short a day as I went to the Egyptian museum just to discover that it was really just a lot of statues and Egyptian artifacts being put on a floor, most with no labels or information on them. Also by walking a full day I had already met so many hustlers tricking me to go by their shops in the most creative ways. Watching the news that day seeing that sixteen people were killed by fire bombs in a nightclub that day I felt that it was time to get out, to get back to Israel.
At first when arriving in Egypt, I thought that the pyramids were all centered around Giza, which would have made it easy to just catch a train from Cairo and see it all from there. The truth is that they are spread out over three areas, and getting taxis in between each is not wise as they are few and therefore have hard bargaining power towards those who are stuck on one of the sites. I haggled a full day, eight hour taxi down to 25 Euro and when splitting this by me and a Chinese lady who I just met it was reasonable enough. Each site charged an additional 4-8 Euro entrance, but with a student card I got all that for half price.
First stop was the most famous one, Giza, where you find five pyramids and one sphinx. These were by far the most impressing and picturesque ones, but also the ones where there were most people. Still, just like at Petra most of the people were locals and not tourists.
Our second stop, around a half an hour drive from Giza was Egypt’s oldest pyramid at Sakkhara. Here there were also some royal tombs and statues to be seen, but still it was the most boring of the three. Both at the second and third stop there were less than ten tourists all together, which shows how much more attention the pyramids in Giza get compares to the others.
At the third stop we got to see the bent pyramid (bent by mistake) and the red pyramid which was the only pyramid which was allowed to enter free of charge/ that was included in the ticket. To enter you had to go hundreds of steps down a narrow tunnel, which was built that way in order for people having to bow for the royals sleeping there as they entered. Inside there was not much space either, but just small chambers that were connected through each other through more tunnels and filled with mumies and treasures for the dead to bring with them to their next life.
The red pyramid from the inside. People were supposed to walk bent to show respect to the royals resting there
The ferry from Aqaba to Nuweiba was a mess. People were climbing over seats, pushing each others and shouting to get into the boat, to get their passports stamped inside the boat and again when departing the boat. Almost everyone were men (Egyptian migrant workers) and the few women who were there were with their husbands who did all the elbowing for them. The only other tourist I spotted on the boat was a small retired Chinese lady who spoke no English at all and I felt obliged to help. Having someone to share the taxi and room costs with was great, but I did not know then that she would follow me absolutely everywhere the next five days.
When we arrived Dahab we had almost a full day to kill, so we went into the tourist town to have a look around, but as we got there the city was completely empty. They were going into high season and all shops, dive schools and restaurants were open but they did not have any customers at all and when we got there the shop owners were almost dragging us into their shops, which showed how desperate they really were. Ever since nearly all governments put out travel warnings for Sinai and Russian airplane went down, so has the number of tourists.
It was interesting to visit the city during these times to see all construction being put on a hold and streets that were empty, buy other than diving the Blue Hole in Dahab I had no interest in staying overnight in the city, with or without tourists.
*This is purely a practical post for those looking for answers to how the border crossings are between these countries as of December 2015. Situations change fast and I was not able to find updated information online before I went, but if you’re not looking for these answers then don’t bother reading on*
The information I found online about traveling from Aqaba in Jordan to anywhere in Egypt was confusing, but in short there seemed to be three options available:
Fast ferry from Aqaba (Jordan) to Taba(Egypt):
This was definitely the quickest and easiest option taking only an hour, but the problem was that as of Dec 2015 they were still not issuing Egyptian visas on arrival. A visa had to be gotten in advance from an embassy which would take time and cost more than the 25U$ visa in arrival. Also the Jordanian government had enforced a law saying that you had to buy a return ticket within one week of departing Jordan which cost a hundred us dollars, so this option was quickly ruled out.
Slow ferry from Aqaba (Jordan) to Nuweiba (Egypt):
This was an extremely chaotic and unreliable ferry which should have taken me one hour but ended up taking eight. However it was the cheapest and easiest costing around 60 euros where I could get the Egyptian visa on arrival. Also it saved me a night of accommodation and was great arriving in the morning when I had plenty of time for onwards travel. A taxi from Nuweiba down to Dahab (40mins) set me back 15 euros and the bus ticket from Dahab to Cairo (11hrs) costed 11 euros.
Eilat (Israel) to Taba (Egypt) overland crossing:
I went this route on my way back from Cairo to Israel, and found it to be the most comfortable of all three options. The only reason why I did not use this way to Egypt was that the Taba border did not issue visas or arrival as of December 2005. Due to the security situation in North Sinai the government does no longer allow foreigners to travel with the minibuses that cross this area. Instead I had to take a nine hour bus ride from Cairo down to Sharm El Sheikh which cost 11 euros and then another bus up to the border town of Taba which took three hours and cost 5 euros. Just like when traveling to Cairo, the police checkpoints along the way were many and made thoroughly, where they woke you up to look through all your stuff and your passport. In the middle of the night the desert was freezing cold, but I guess it was all for the good and our own safety.
Entering Israel from Jordan I had numerous rounds of questioning and the SIX HOURS of waiting in the immigration afterwards. The border towns of Aqaba(Jordan), Taba (Egypt) and Eilat (Israel) are just a five minute taxi ride apart, so once across the border station it was quick to get into town.
The last kilometers of driving from the Egypt side has beautiful blue water on one side and tall sandy mountains on the other