My first trip to the Egyptian Pyramids was a complete waste of time and money.

The first time I came to Egypt (2000) was on a 7-night group cruise on the Nile with a lovely bunch of people.  I had no intention of going to Cairo or seeing the Pyramids.  I was on a tight spending budget.  Unfortunately, I listened to the guide on the cruise when he gave us little talks on the benefits of an optional extra trip to the Pyramids.

My first impression of Cairo

I couldn’t take it in at all.  The number of cars, the speed of the traffic, the pedestrians all over the place dodging traffic, the buildings, the colors, the smells—all amounted to sensory overload.  I wasn’t exactly an Irish country girl abroad for the first time, but how could anyone think we could survive the day they had sold us?

Pyramids of Giza – Cairo

We arrived at the Giza Plateau.   All I remember is that there were 5 of us.   I looked at the Great Pyramid, and honestly, my first thought was, “It’s just a pile of stones. What on earth is all the fuss about?”  Needless to say, now that I have been in it and done my homework on it, I no longer feel that way about the Great Pyramid!

Three of us absolutely refused to get out of the bus, much to the dismay of the guide.  We had gone to bed the previous night around midnight (yes, we should have known better, but we didn’t) and got up again at about 3 a.m., grabbed a packaged breakfast from the boat reception, and transferred to the airport to get the first flight to Cairo.  It seemed I had no sooner nodded off to sleep on the plane than I had to wake up again.

The drive from the airport to Giza took over an hour, and by the time we reached the pyramids, all the three of us wanted was to get to our hotel and sleep.  We were exhausted, and the heat outside the bus was more than we could face.

Two of our party went to one of the two smaller pyramids with the guide while three of us stayed in the bus; one of the two came back with the guide while the other, Patricia, had gotten lost, or so the guide thought.  Looking back on the whole experience, my regret is that the two who went into the smaller pyramid missed out because they really should have gone into the Great Pyramid, but the guide did not direct them to the Great Pyramid—perhaps because, even though we arrived early, the limited number of tickets they sold back then were already gone.

Patricia had not gotten lost at all, but she was really interested in Egyptian history and wanted to see the Sphinx.  I am so happy now that she had the courage to head off on her own and accomplish her personal mission.  She had not known at the time that the bus would have driven her down to the Sphinx as part of the tour, so she risked facing the wrath of our tour guide and headed off walking without telling anyone. 

Our guide was crying because her manager was screaming down the phone that she would be late arriving  at our next destination, and her crying intensified when she told him one of us was missing.  Of course, we didn’t know that the Egyptian tourist police were and are very strict about safeguarding tourists.  Nor were we aware that our arrival at every site we were going to visit was already logged with security police at those sites, so they were expecting us, and it would not go well for the guide if we were late, much less very late.

I don’t remember what we did next; maybe we went to the museum. I presume we ate lunch at some stage, but I have no recollection of it.   Maybe the guide gave up on some of us and dropped us off at the hotel—I really don’t know.  But the next thing I remember was going to bed in the Cosmopolitan Hotel (not a very good hotel back in the day, old and rather run-down, not very clean) without dinner.  I slept straight through the night, but the odd thing was that it was if I was not sleeping at all and I vividly remember that the Great Pyramid was directly outside our window (though of course it wasn’t!) and have no recollection of what we did the next day!  Perhaps I temporarily entered a parallel universe or something!

The moral of my true story

The trip to Cairo was totally wasted on me, and it cost me quite a bit of money.  My time would have been better spent relaxing on the last two days of the cruise, spending my money on something I liked, and returning home to Ireland refreshed, relaxed, satisfied, and ready to face the real world again after my fantastic cruise.

However, let me say that if the trip to Cairo had been better organized, taking into account that we could not lose half a night’s sleep and still be in good condition for a full day’s touring after a flight to Cairo, the experience would undoubtedly have been much more satisfying.

Some of my guests at Mara House want to get everything in on their trip to Egypt; it’s just not possible.  So plan well what you want to visit, and see those sites properly and in a relaxed way.  You will find a way to come back if the experience is enjoyable.  But if you experience days like I did those two days in Cairo, well, it’s a bit of a waste of time and money, isn’t it?  Enjoy a visit to the Pyramids of Giza with a great guide from Mara House.