I temporarily lost my sense of humor in Cairo. The cultural shock was challenging… Although I’ve acclimated to other Muslim cities, like Istanbul, Cairo was tough. The Adhan (Muslim call to prayer) is especially prominent there. It wakes you up every morning, and is broadcast throughout the day, even inside restaurants and businesses.
Egyptian Food and Coffee
Food was difficult for me, and I had to eat the same things over and over or try food I really didn’t enjoy, just to get nourishment. In Cairo, most restaurants don’t open until early evening (6:00 p.m.), and continue serving customers all night long. It took a few days to get into the swing of local life.
Since I was staying in a hotel without a restaurant, and not an apartment with a small kitchen, I had to search to find food for breakfast or lunch – coffee, etc. Fruit and juice were readily available. Arabic (Egyptian) coffee is similar to Turkish coffee – served black and made with special, finely-ground, powder-like coffee. The main difference is that Arabic coffee contains cardamom. This coffee is not a favorite, but when there was no other possibility, I drank it. It’s similar to Bosnian coffee, which I posted about from Sarajevo, during my 2019 travels.
If you’re diligent enough, you can find espresso, but Google Maps doesn’t work well in Cairo. One of my current projects is finding “normal coffee” for the mocha pot.
“Luxor Egypt is considered the capital of Arab culture”.
I rarely eat American pancakes, but developed a craving for them in Egypt – of course, nowhere to be found :o). Still having pedestrian carbo- heaven dreams about pancakes slathered in syrup.
Language Differences and Cash Only
Unfortunately, life in Cairo was more complicated because of the significant language barrier. The majority of people speak Arabic only. Just the same, I’m glad to have lived the adventure and “rolled with the punches” to experience a small part of Cairo. One of the funniest things I saw was a group of wide-eyed, shell-shocked tourists huddled together near central square clutching backpacks closely to their chests!
Another difficult thing (for me) was not being able to use debit or credit cards. Both provide an easy way to track expenses and are safer than carrying cash. In Egypt, for most services, restaurants, and retail purchases, cash is king. With few exceptions, credit or debit cards are not accepted. I think it has something to do with Egypt not having more electronic card-reading capabilities – unsure of the reason why.
Egyptian ATMs work, but the exchange rate for USD to Egyptian Pounds (EGP) leaves you with a boatload of bills to tuck away! Also, the amount you’re allowed to withdraw at most ATMs is minuscule, so you have to keep withdrawing to pay for anything other than food or small incidentals. Thankfully, my bank reimburses ATM fees, which are hefty in Egypt.
Cairo Traffic Gridlock
The streets of Cairo and its massive 10+ million population (22+ million metro area) is FULL OF CARS – mostly “old clunkers“. Traffic seems even worse than Istanbul (if that’s possible), and the gritty, black, noxious exhaust fumes constantly emitted are debilitating – to an extent unimaginable to most Americans. Extensive air pollution aside, there’s all-day, bumper-to-bumper traffic gridlock throughout Cairo. One memory I’m trying to erase is the never-ending sound of angry, gridlocked drivers continually blasting their horns in frustration. That constant noise pollution can make you crazy.
Thankfully, I escaped Cairo relatively unscathed and am now in the countryside on Luxor’s West Bank. Tip for anyone anticipating a trip to Cairo – Zamalek is by far the best neighborhood. Skip Giza altogether, except for touring the pyramids. I tried to find a small apartment in Zamalek, but everything was booked – now I know why.
New Luxor Apartment
My pleasant apartment in Luxor is quiet and a bit isolated in an area inhabited by many local artists. It looks out on banana plantations and green fields. The only audible noise is birds singing :o). There are lots of windows, and every morning, I watch small birds fly into them, not injuring themselves, but curiously pecking away at the glass? They’re probably reacting to their image reflected in the window. The weather is supposed to heat up over the next few days and climb into the 80s. I’m looking forward to some heat, and there’s a swimming pool!
Luxor has exceptional archaeological attractions, and I’m contemplating which to visit and how to best spend my time. This blog post is part of the research. With help, it might be possible to extend a tourist visa in Egypt, so depending on how things go, I might do that. I need to stay in one place for a few months, as constant moving is exhausting.
“Egypt is a combination of the past and present. There’s no place in Luxor without a trace of Egypt’s ancient greatness from thousands of years ago.”
Monuments and attractions are divided between the East and West Bank of the Nile River. In addition to tombs and monuments, there are religious sites, including mosques and monasteries. Some of Luxor’s most impressive monuments include:
- Luxor Temple
- Karnak Temple
- Luxor Museum
- Tombs of the Valley of the Kings
- Valley of the Queens Funerary Temples
- Tombs of the Nobles
- Colossi of Memnon
- Memorial Temples Deir el-Bahari and Ramesseum
- Valley of the Artisans Deir el-Medina
- Temple of Seti I
- Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut
- Medinet Habu Temple of Ramses III
- Nakht Tomb
- Menna Tomb
- Mummification Museum
- Cemetery of El Muaalla
- Temple of Dendera
- Greco-Roman Temples of Goddess Hathor
Dendera Temple Ceiling – World History Encyclopedia
“Luxor is a city with many titles, the city of – a thousand gates, the sun, the light, and city of the Sceptre. Arabs call it the gathering place for the beginning of the Islamic conquest of Egypt.”
There are over 800 archaeological sites and shrines in Luxor. The city has renovated many of its monuments and museums. Queen Hatshepsut Temple and Hor Moheb cemetery – most important tomb in the Valley of the Kings – have reopened after restoration.
I will need help from a local guide to effectively explore Luxor’s archeological sites. Ahmed, brother-in-law of the apartment owner, has offered. He seems a fun and knowledgeable person, but I have to decide which temples and monuments are of most interest. It would be exhausting and impossible to try to visit them all. Less heady activities, like desert camping and sailing in a felucca on the Nile are at the top of my list. Hot-air ballooning is also popular with tourists seeking relief from “temple overload“. Luxor hot air balloon rides are more reasonably priced than the one I enjoyed in Cappadocia Turkey years ago.
“What was once a small village in Qena Province Upper Egypt, is now Luxor, a great, independent, and prosperous city of approximately 400,000 inhabitants.” Egyptopia
The owners of my Luxor apartment live part of the year in Amsterdam. A local Egyptian family lives on site and manages the property. They’re very kind, but don’t speak much English. Today, I went shopping on the back of a motorcycle – no helmets. It’s about a mile+ walk into town and back. The ride was reminiscent of my August 2022 starting point in Hanoi, especially with the backdrop of banana plantations! Driving in Egypt would be a risky, foolhardy tourist endeavor – not recommended.