I’ll bet all it takes is for me to say the word “Egypt” to create a clear mental picture in your mind, right? I am sure you are envisioning the looming sphinx and massive pyramids towering before a brilliant teal sky. It’s an awe-inspiring vision.
Yet I can tell you firsthand that it is hard to imagine the true awesomeness of Cairo until you have visited it yourself.
One of the things that struck me immediately when flying into the city of Cairo is how incredibly diverse it is. Yes, it is mostly a desert landscape. But it is dotted with spots of bright healthy green, especially along the banks of the Nile River.
While I was awaiting my taxi, I used the free WiFi at the airport to scope out a few facts about the country. Egypt is about four times the size of the state of Michigan with about eight times the number of people. Michigan is about 40% water, whereas Egypt is less than 1%. Thus, if you see water within the country, you can pretty much rest assured that it is the Nile.
While traveling from the Cairo International Airport to my hotel by taxi amidst quite a bit of traffic, I was surprised to see many billboards advertising products such as Aquafina bottled water and Coca-Cola. Since I didn’t want to drink the tap water, it was reassuring to see that the comforts of home would be available to me.
Another surprise came when I noticed that most of the road signs were written in both standard Arabic and English. While Arabic is the most commonly used language in Egypt, English is frequently used within government and commerce.
As in most highly populated cities, the homes are built “up” rather than “out.” The city is filled with tall apartment buildings, each dotted with numerous satellite dishes.
As I was inching along the highway in my taxi, I noticed the Great Pyramids of Giza set against the horizon. It creates such an amazing dichotomy: These landmarks that are literally thousands of years old are set in the background of a modern, and very busy, city.
Just as I sat admiring the pyramids in the distance, I noticed an interesting sign on the side of the road. It depicted a horn with the international “no” sign of a big red circle with a cross through it. I immediately understood it to mean “no honking.” Interesting, since there was definitely quite a bit of honking going on.
Like I said before, it’s really difficult to imagine the majesty of the Great Pyramids until you have witnessed them for yourself. They are the last surviving wonder of the Seven Wonders of the World, and it is incredible that they have survived for somewhere around 5,000 years.
From the city of Cairo, the pyramids are a quick taxi cab ride away. Or, if you prefer, you can take an air-conditioned micro bus. Once you’ve arrived at the pyramids, you can get around by foot, by buggy, or by my method of transportation, a camel ride. (Be prepared to pay a small fee if you would like to take photos of your camel.) It’s well worth a few bucks for this once-in-a-lifetime amazing experience.