by Kara Segedin
It’s hard to say just when the culture shock set in.
It could have been coming into land at Cairo Airport watching the desert below turn into the biggest, most sprawling city I’ve ever seen.
Or maybe it was the chaotic roads where you’re as likely to see horse drawn carts and people walking on motorways as cars and you really can say a lot with flashing lights and beeping horns.
Whether it was the farm animals, the hawkers, the security checks, or simply the incredible sights and welcoming people Egypt is a destination like no other!
Before we’d even made it to passport control we were greeted by our Topdeck Representative.
An energetic young local, he helped us buy our landing visas (approximately $10 US dollars each) and walked us through to luggage claim where we met a few of our fellow travellers – two bubbly Brits, a Canadian, a Columbian and a group of Antipodean travellers.
From there we were whisked to the waiting Topdeck van and driven to our hotels.
My first journey to a non-English speaking or European country, there was no doubt in my mind that this trip to Egypt was going to be a real eye opener.
We approached our hotel to find inner city streets lined with goats, cows and the occasional horse.
The animals seemed oblivious to the vehicles whizzing past and swerving to miss them.
We soon learned we were in town on the eve of the Muslim feast Eid al-Adha and the animals roaming outside our hotel would shortly find themselves on family dinner tables!
Once settled into our hotel it was time for the meet and greet with our Trip Leader Rafik.
A native of Cairo, from here on in Rafik was going to take care of everything including buying tickets, meal times, accommodation and transport leaving us to sit back, relax and enjoy our holiday.
We were up bright and early for the first day of our trip – Egyptian Museum here we come!
It soon became obvious we were a novelty to the locals with many surprised stares and cries of “Welcome to Egypt!” whenever we were out and about.
One thing that’s certain – Egyptians are very proud of their homeland.
Since the revolution in January 2011 there has been a lot of upheaval in the country, but the Egyptian people are enthusiastic and optimistic about their country’s future.
The museum holds an impressive collection of over 120,000 ancient artefacts and our guide for the day, Medo, gave us a quick run through of the key exhibits before leaving us to explore on our own.
Thanks to my love of all things morbid and creepy I had only one destination in mind - the Royal Mummy Room! The room contains nine royal mummies including Ramses II and III and Queen Hatshepsut and for 100 Egyptian Pounds (approximately £10) it’s well worth the extra charge.
After our little history lesson it was time to get out into the field as we made our way to one of the World’s Seven Wonders - the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Words can’t describe the first time you lay eyes on these magnificent ancient tombs. You’ve seen them all your life in books, on TV, in films and suddenly here they are right in front of you!
Putting our explorer hats on several of us headed deep into the heart of the second pyramid, Khafre (25 Egyptian Pounds). The passage to the burial chamber gets pretty tight at points and there was plenty of ducking involved, but despite being hot and sweaty after our journey nothing beats being able to say you’ve actually been inside one of the Great Pyramids!
We weren’t finished at Giza just yet as we joined the crowds at the Great Sphinx. Again, I really struggle to describe how it feels to see these majestic sights up close.
I thought I had an idea of what Cairo would be like, but my expectations didn’t even come close to reality!
It’s louder, busier, more colourful, vibrant and full of history than I ever imagined.
And this was only the start of my Egyptian adventure.