Last Revised: : 1.60 : 2008/04/23 22:00:19 -
a report from Andreas Haack
This was a project I was part of in 2006 and 2007. I spend all together almost six month in Cairo, Egypt. I experienced the usually friendly Egyptian people , the hassle of the beggars and the almost worn down taxis, the dirt and incredible noise originated from permanetly horn cars and the hot and nice sunny weather.
Update April 2008: My friend Mohamed told me that prices rose dramaticly. A combo meal at MC Donal used to cost 11 EGP now it is 28. A big bottle oil from 10 to 22 EGP and even a ton of steal form 3000 to 6000 50g fertalizer form 180 to 300-400. Only bread and petrol is kept constant at 1.4 EGP per liter 95 Oktan.
The Mena House And Oberoi Hotel Next To The Pyramids In Cairo - Aug 2006
It was originally a royal lodge used by Khedive Ismail, the King of Egypt, as a house for himself and his guests while on hunting trips in the desert or during visits to the Pyramids of Giza. With the opening of the Suez Canal, he enlarged the guesthouse to receive international and royal guests visiting the Pyramids. Empress Eugenie was one of them as was Albert, Prince of Wales.
In the 1880s, the guesthouse was bought by Fredrick Head who named it "Mena House" after the first of the 76 kings on the famous "Tablet of Abydos". It was once again sold to an English couple, who turned it into a luxurious hotel. Although the fittings, architecture and decorations remained oriental in style, some English touches began to appear. At a time when balconies were unknown in hotels, the owners decided that every room should have an open balcony overlooking the Pyramids.
In the 1970s The Oberoi Group took over the management of The Mena House, adding it to their worldwide chain. The hotel was meticulously renovated and expansions incorporated. Under the Oberoi management, the hotel matched the highest standards of international hoteldom and became a member of "The Leading Hotels of the World".
One of the joys of staying at The Mena House Oberoi is that so many of Egypt's magnificent treasures are just a stone's throw away. The Sphinx is literally on the other side of the golf course, and the site of the step Pyramid of Zoser and the legendary Tomb of Ti, only a little further away.
Famous royal personalities and notable politicians who stayed at The Mena House Oberoi include Sir Winston Churchill, General Montgomery (Suites 623 & 706 are named after them), President Roosevelt, the Agha Khan and his Begum, King Mohammed, King Umberto, King Gustav (Suite 1014 is named after him), Presidents Nixon and Carter, General Moshe Dayan, Dr. Henry Kissinger and King Juan Carlos.
The Mena House Oberoi Hotel and Casino has also played host to some of the most famous cinema stars including Charlie Chaplin, Cecil B. DeMille, Robert Taylor, Omar Sharif, Barbara Hutton, Mia Farrow, David Niven, Peter Ustinov and the cast of Agatha Christie's "Death on the Nile".
The Mena House Oberoi was witness to one of the pivotal events in the history of Egypt. All peace negotiations after the 1973 Ramadan War between Egypt and Israel were conducted at The Mena House Oberoi.
The Gezira Palace and Marriot Hotel in Zamalk, Cairo - 2006
The wife of Napoleon the III Empress Eugine of France was the guest of honor at the opening ceremony if the Suez Canal in 1869. AS she was a respected high profile figure the Gezira Palace was consturcted to accomodate her. The sleeping quaters where a identical copy of ther bedroomin France. In 1982 the Gezira Palace bacame the larges Hotel in the Middle East, the Cairo Marriot Hotel.
Smart Village, Cairo - 2006 and 2007
The Sphinx and the Pyramids In Giza, Cairo - 2005 und 2006
Ramadan in Cairo - Sep 2006
The holy fasting month of Ramadan is a religious and social occasion. One might thing Ramadan is a very sad month but that is not the case. The holy fasting month of Ramadan is unique because if the wonderful spirit of sharing and generosity and its traditions. In fact it is a month of celebration and a time of high consumption in Egypt, more like we celebrate Christmas or New Year in European countries.
There is a great atmosphere and people and companies are decorating their offices and homes and streets with Ramadan symbols and Fawenees the traditional tin Ramadan lantern.
Soon after the call to sunset prayer at dusk the people go for the fast breaking meal, the Iftar. According an article people eat phenomenal amounts of expensive food and spend more then twice as much money on food a in the other month.
For the poor and people that can not get home for the fast breaking meal, like police man and bus drivers, rich people have organized charity tables where they can get a free meal. They are everywhere under bridges in the streets and places. People gather together about a quarter of an hour before sunset talk and wait with their meals in front of them. Short after the meal the leave. The biggest in Cairo is organized by a Sheik and feeds 3000 people.
Special treats are served in Ramadan such as Konafa and Atayef, both Oriental desserts and the entire routine of every day is different then in the other month.
Egyptian news papers also call it the lazy month. Workday ends and shops close at 14:30h to allow people to go home for the fast breaking. Even the view hours they work, staff spend chatting and relaxing. "In their wildest dreams companies would not plan any real activity on those 30 days" I could read in the article, supplemented by a cartoon showing a manager in front of a sky high production growth chart that was undertitled "Unfortunately this shows employee productivity for personal business".
Therefore people have a lot of time and and seem to spend it watching TV. Every producer is keen to have their soap opera ready for Ramadan and their was even one actress which tried to do suicide when she learned that her series will not be aired in Ramadan.
The day starts quite early around 4:00 when the Al-mesaharatti walks through the streets in urban districts, baning his drum to wake up people for their Sohour, the last meal before they resume fasting at dawn.
Final big celebration is a the three day holiday Eid al-Fitr (Lesser Bairam) marking the en d of the Ramadan.
Khan El Khalele Souk Cairo - Sep 2007
Riding the few metro lines is quite strait forward. It is more the Russian model, or Paris model if you like, with every five minutes a metro departing. You pay 1 EGP for the ticket at the nearby counters. It is quit peaceful compared to the unbearable concert of horns on the streets. The time the doors are open seems to be fixed so people try to get in and out the same time - Egyptian style. The first three cars are reserved for women. The rest is mixed.
Sleeping Train From Cairo To Luxor - Sep 2007
One can go with the sleeping car to Luxor or even to Aswan. Trains depart at 20:10 h from the Giza train station which is near the pyramids. They arrive at 5:45 h at Luxor. The return trip departs at 21:30 h and arrives at 8:30. You can by them only (?) at the Ramsis central train station in the Sleeping Car Office. They are 80 USD for a one way trip in a single sleeping cabin and 60 USD pp for an two person cabin. You can only pay in US dollar and for credit card they charge two dollars extra.
As it was off season I could reserve same day. I get down from central Cario to Giza with a black and white taxi for 20 EGP. I am located in the lucky car 13, the last one. I had to walk through the cars as the platform is three cars short.
There train is 70 style soviet plastic design and almost clean. After all it is all right nothing disgusting. It has as a sink and a Mirror and of course the tap is out of order.
The one way flight from Cairo to Aswan is 1067 EGP. The two way flight from Aswan to Abu Simple is 640 EGP. There is a Bus which are only four foreigners allowed which costs 20 EGP one way. Traffic is restricted and excludes taxis and leaves you with minibuses. Most Tourists stay only a few hours there because the only thing to see in the tiny village is are the magnificent statures and make no use of the five expensive Hotels.
The trip included a unidentifiable chip dinner and breakfast plastic style backed bread and a coffee. I had a chat with the lady next cabin. I slept well for the circumstances.
Luxor - Sep 2007
Season is at the cooler part of the year from October to April where it is pleasant 30C about 86F. Low season is in Summer where it is well above 40C, that is 104F.
A photographer's advised me last year that the train arrives just at sunrise and one can walk just ten minutes and make nice photos from the temple.
Karnak Sound and Light Show - Sep 2007
The official ticket for the light show is 75 EGP. All agencies selling you the event for 120 EGP. As the Karnak temples are not more then two kilometers from Luxor dowmtown one could easily get a taxi for 5 EGP per ride and save some of money.
We where two couples and me going for the light show with the agency minibus which was said to be gorgeous.
The stories was played from tape and accordingly some parts of the excavations where lite up.
It took about one hour and I would agree with the man next to me saying at the end of the light show "It was absolutely lousy and not worth a penny" although several easy minded persons I met fount it cool.
Trip To Luxors Westbank - Sep 2007
Gliding In A Felucca On The Nil - Sep 2007
I went to the Nil and Bes offer me an one hour trip in his Felucca. It is called Stella. I finally aggree on 30 EGP for a one hour trip for just myself. A boy was helping him with the handling of the ship. It was about 20 minutes from sunset and it is absolutely wonderful to riding over the Nil and expreriance the cool BRISE and the BERUHGENDES PLAETSCHEN of the Nil. Bes is very friendly and kind person. He speaks quite good English.
Travel agencies offer a 1 to 2 hour trip in the Feluccas, these conventional sail boats, for 40 to 60 pounds. The boat carry then up to six persons.
I ask him if he had ever seen a crocodile in the Nil. "They are only south of Aswan" he replied. The wind is not so well today. The sun finally sets. "You tell me when you went to turn" he said. Finally, after an hour we return. The docking maneuver is not so simple without engine power and involves bouncing from a cruise ship, RUDERN and a bit of a tow from a bypassing motor ship. As I mentioned hot air balloon trips he made contact for a trip for on the next morning for 200 EGP plus 25 EGP commotion for him.
Hot Air Balloon Flight Over Luxor - Sep 2007
I got called by Ahmed called me to confirm the pickup time at 4:20 in the night. The trip starts on time and we crossed the Nil in a Motor boat, get some coffee and a piece of cake for breakfast and some safety and landing instructions from Captain Ahmed Mohamed. When we arrive at the side and around sun rise a relatively strong BRISE came up. You need thousand hours of flying experiance, the captain explains, to get a license for these are big hot air balloons which can carry up to 20-36 people.
I meet Stacy and Bill from Austin, Texas and we have a lovely chat. He did a long trip visiting southern Africa and Madagascar for a couple of month. Stacy joint him for the final leg of the trip and and excursion to the Red Sea and Luxor.
We wait two hours until 6:40 until conditions where fine and departed in the air. It is a lovely ride and we quickly reach 3000 feet. The captain coordinates with the air traffic control.
It is a marvelous view here and we can overlook some historic sides like the temple of Habu.
The wind drifting us towards the Nil. At a lower altitude we could see the magnificent geometrical figuresr the the corn fields form. Then we passed over to the residential area. Like everywhere here they never finish the last floor of their houses so they can build one on top if the family grew. But they put up a bed there and use this for sleeping in the hot Egyptian nights. Many of the houses are very poor condition and incredibly UNORDDENTLICH and dirty.
Finlay we crossed the Nil and have a soft and smooth landing. With over an hour, the flight was very long and we had a clear day due to the the wind clearing out the dust. Not every flight is crossing the Nil the captain says.
Gliding through the air and having this magnificent and unusual view overlooking the area was pretty impressive and certainly a life time experience. The captain made a very professional impression of handling it.
It seems that the hot air balloon trip cost 200 EGP for the operator including transport from and to the hotel, breakfast and the ride and a certificate. The rest is commission for the agency or organizer. They start from 250 with Sindbad offered in Mercure Inn Hotel, but agencies have usually prices from 300 to 350 EGP. You can get a better deal if you contact the operators themself.
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