After passing through the Suez Canal the next port was El Sokhna for Cairo 4 hours away by coach.
Cairo is one of the world’s great megacities. As beautiful as it is crazy, and as rich in historic finery as it is half dilapidated, Cairo tends to be a city that travelers love and hate in equal measures. Its sheer noise, pollution, and confounding traffic are an assault on your senses, but look beyond the modern hubbub, and you’ll find a history that spans centuries. Full of vigor, Cairo is where you really get a feel for Egyptian street life. No trip to Egypt is complete without a stay in the city Arabs call Umm al-Dunya (The Mother of the World).
The Pyramids of Giza are Cairo’s number one half-day trip and a must-do attraction on everyone’s itinerary. Right on the edge of the city, these fourth dynasty funerary temples have been wowing travelers for centuries and continue to be one of the country’s major highlights. Despite the heat, the dust, and the tourist hustle, you can’t miss a trip here.
The Pyramid of Cheops (also called the Great Pyramid or Pyramid of Khufu) is the largest pyramid of the Giza group, and its interior of narrow passages can be explored, although there isn’t much to see, except a plain tomb chamber with an empty sarcophagus. Directly behind the Great Pyramid is the Solar Boat Museum, which displays one of the ceremonial solar barques unearthed in the area that has been painstakingly restored to its original glory. Further south on the plateau is the Pyramid of Chephren (also known as the Pyramid of Khefre), which has an internal tunnel area that can be entered, and the smaller Pyramid of Mycerinus (Pyramid of Menkaure). Guarding these mortuary temples is the lion-bodied and pharaoh-faced Sphinx; one of the ancient world’s iconic monuments.
The absolutely staggering collection of antiquities displayed in Cairo’s Egyptian Museum makes it one of the world’s great museums. You would need a lifetime to see everything on show. The museum was founded in 1857 by French Egyptologist August Mariette and moved to its current home – in the distinctive powder-pink mansion in Downtown Cairo – in 1897. Yes, the collection is poorly labeled and not well set out due to limits of space (and only a fraction of its total holdings are actually on display), but you still can’t help being impressed by the sheer majesty of the exhibits.
If you’re pressed for time, make a beeline straight for the Tutankhamun Galleries. The treasures displayed here were all found in the tomb of Tutankhamun; son-in-law and successor of Amenophis IV (later Akhenaten), who died at the age of 18. The tomb, discovered by Howard Carter in the Valley of the Kings in 1922, contained the largest and richest assemblage of grave goods ever found intact in an Egyptian tomb. Highlights include Tutankhamun’s death mask and sarcophagi (Room 3), the pharaoh’s lion throne (Room 35) and his fascinating wardrobe collection (Room 9). Afterwards, don’t miss a wander through the Egyptian Jewellery collection (Room 4), which contains more bling than you’ll ever see again in one lifetime, and finish off by viewing the Royal Mummies Collection (Room 56 & 46) where you can say hello to Hatshepsut, Tuthmosis II, Ramses II, and Seti I in person.