It may not have been on my list a few years back. Egypt somehow never reeled me in. I always skipped it. Here on my ninth visit to the African continent would be the first time I would even land in Egypt. The nearest I got prior to this moment was back on 26th September 2013, the night I celebrated being 10 years away from my native Northern Ireland. That night I five bordered life, when sat watching a Jordanian sunset in the seaside resort of Aqaba.
It was the only night of my life that I five country bordered it. How five borders? Here’s how…
1.I was in Aqaba, JORDAN.
2.From our hotel balcony in Aqaba, we could see EGYPT, the city of Taba.
4.Aqaba borders into Eilat, ISRAEL.
5.Swim across the Dead Sea and you will be in PALESTINE.
Now finally in 2019, I backpacked Egypt adding it to my country visited list. But why so long? And if so long, why even visit it at all?
It was a number of factors for me to backpack Egypt.
1.Apart from Albania and Syria, it was the nearest FIFA country to my flat (in Warszawa, Poland) that was unbackpacked.
2.Magdi Abdelghani’s classic pelanty about 30 years too late.
3.I was told the evisa process was ‘easy’! (* this didn’t prove to be the case but sowed the seeds. I was rejected first time and accepted second time).
4.The flights were cheaper than to any other nearby unbackpacked country, except Abkhazia.
5.In 2018, I lived with an Egyptian lad in Warszawa called Momen.
6.In 2019, I became friends with a Poland based Egyptian photographer, Harvey.
7.The time was right. I still wanted to see the pyramids of Giza, the bustling markets of Cairo abd the Sphinx. The tourist in me didn’t wane despite depression caused by liars in a well documented period of despair, desolation and suicidal thoughts.
So yes, a number of factors influenced how Egypt became country 182 on my journey. I have a dream to backpack 200 countries by the 29th March 2021. 18 left, who knows if this is really possible, or not…
In Egypt, I booked in to the excellent Australian Backpackers Hostel in Cairo, then it was time to go out on tour. And to tick off some age old monuments missing from my lieftime of wacaday tourism.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the 7 wonders of the world and a new country all in one, off I went. This post, my routes, my tours and my new approach to backpacking could well shock those of you who remember my nomadic days. Those days are gone I’m happy to say. I don’t and won’t put on my backpack and go homeless, aimless and nomadicly spontaneous for months on end backpacking new countries, cities, bars and rivers. No chance. That’s the young man’s game. Even I started late, so I can slow down early and get away with it.
This blog didn’t even start until 2007, when I was already 27 and 25 countries dense into my journey. I’d say the subsequent 9 years were backpacking at its wacaday finest. As R.E.M. once professed, they were my finest hour, my finest worksong. But now, I do things faster, quicker, easier and to hell with the glory days of money saving. Plus I had a limited amount of time to see all these sights so I crammed Giza, Cairo, Memphis and Saqqara into an intense day, but NOT on public transport or by walking…
Getting to the Pyramids of Giza
I booked a tour this time and took the easiest and best option. I booked a tour from my hostel. The tour cost $35 US for the private driver and tour for the day. I paid all my own entry fees to the three UNESCO sites I visited that day (Giza, Saqqara, Memphis). My driver was Mostafa and he waited for me outside each heritage site I visited.
I was staying in downtown Cairo, not from from the river Nile. The drive from my hostel to the Pyramids and Sphinx of Giza takes around 35 – 40 minutes. Yes that is it. It is that close!
You can of course go there yourself either by renting a car, booking a bus tour, taking a taxi or using the metro to the end of the Cairo line and then a cheap local minibus. I was forfeiting money for time here and have no qualms doing that any more.
Arrival at the Pyramids of Giza
We arrive at 7.55 a.m. This in my opinion is the perfect time! It opens at 8 a.m. and I kid you not – I was the FIRST person inside. I witnessed them opening it for me. The entry cost is 200 Egyptian pounds (normal) and 100 Egyptian pounds (student/concession).
The entrance gate is opposite an unusual (yet genuine) pizza hut! It looks so out of place. The entrance gate itself is also weird – no signposting to say what it is – it is just a door through a wall with a quick ticket and security check. There was nobody else about!
What to see and do at the Pyramids of Giza
This time, I took my Lonely Planet book inside with me and used it as a guide. It was that simple. I didn’t want to pay for a guide, or a camel or be hounded by locals. So while I spent more money getting there, once inside, I walked everything myself.
There are nine pyramids here in total. They are the only surviving wonder allegedly from the “ancient world” and are over 4000 years old, still sitting pretty and strong. Three of them are the most visited and the most impressive in my opinion so nab that hat-trick of pyramids.
The biggest pyramid here is the Great Pyramid of Khufu, also known as the Great Pyramid of Cheops but also just as The Great Pyramid. This beast is 146.5 metres high.
It was here that I met fellow tourist Shane from Thailand and we decided to tour together and help each other take photos and ignore the ifiot locals trying to get us to constantly buy things (it gets annoying).
The second biggest pyramid is called the Pyramid of Khafre or the Pyramid of Chephren. We again took it in turns to photograph this one, which actually has a less eroded and clearer peak than the Great Pyramid.
The third biggest pyramid is called the Pyramid of Menkaure or the Pyramid of Mycerinus. This is miniscule compared to the previous brace but we still checked it out.
The Sphinx at Giza (Father of Terror)
As well as the nine pyramids, don’t miss the Sphinx that sits in front of them, the centrepiece of this area. The face and overall shape was much less clear than I expected – it is old and worn but then again isn’t that the beauty of the beast? I mean it is ancient so it has survived well in reality! In Arabic, it is known as Abu Al-Hol – the Father of Terror.
To book the same trip as me
To book exactly the same trip as me, firstly book into the Australian Hostel in Cairo and then organise a tour from their list. If you are short on time, don’t care about saving too much money and just want a quick in and out to see the pyramids of Giza (which is really all you need – to see them once and admire them) then this is for you.
Here are some videos from my time backpacking the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt :