Remember that we spent the night at the Fairmont Nile City Cairo as part of the Ramses Tour package. (See my review).
Our days started out late and without breakfast as you know. (See my story in Day 8) We met Mohamed at almost 9am even though we said 7:30am for breakfast. He still waited and was not at all fazed by our tardiness. In fact, he became furious when he found out the wakeup call did not work and he was the one who initiated the conversation with the manager. He was pretty harsh at them but it is his tour company’s reputation and our valuable time wasted. Either way, it is another testament to Ramses Tours commitment to customer service. After getting back to the van, he assured us that we would still keep our itinerary and said that luckily, because we are in a private tour, hiccups like this can easily be absorbed without loss.
Right before our visit to the Citadel of Saladin, he stopped at a local restaurant and gave us these breakfast falafels that were apparently vegetarian patty within pita bread. SUPER DELICIOUS and he said that it was going to be the compliment of Ramses Tours since we missed our breakfast. The beautiful Citadel built by the Saracen King Saladin during the times of the Crusade sits well preserved. The Mosque built by the Ottoman Empire some years later, is in pristine condition. A visit within the Mosque was included. Just remember that strict dress codes are enforced. No shoulders or knees showing at any time. You MUST take off your shoes before entering the Mosque so make sure you bring yourself a pair of socks in your pack if you are a bit squeamish of walking bare foot. However, don’t be too alarmed if you don’t. The interior of the Mosque is super clean, polished and dustless. The reason is that it is a strict rule of Islam that the floors of all Mosques must be clean so that during prayer time, all Muslims can kneel and touch their foreheads on the ground without getting it dirty. In fact, if the floor is dirty during prayer, the prayer itself is null and void and will not be accepted as one of 5 prayers a good Muslim must do during the day.
The more I learn about the Muslim religion, culture and the people of Islam, the more I am impressed. The religion of Islam is not based on beliefs most Westerners fear. In fact, if you really look into the true believers of Islam, you will find many of their core beliefs are the same to all good religions. Don’t steal, don’t kill, love your brothers and sisters, protect the innocent and so on. All these must sound familiar does it not?
Our next visit was one of the most anticipated… the National Archeological Museum in Cairo where over 200,000 pieces of Ancient Egyptian artifacts are stored on display. The entire collection of Tutankhamen including the golden mask, his tomb and ornate sarcophagus are all there lying to be seen as well as other most interesting artifacts. I warn you that this Museum gets VERY busy so get there as early as possible and be patient because there will be hundreds of people there. One thing that was a disappointment was that you cannot take photos in the Museum itself. In fact, they force you to check your cameras in while you enter through a metal detector so this is why there are no photos attached.
Our next stop was the small town of Sakkara where one of the first pyramids like tomb was first created. It wasn’t a true pyramid but more like step like platforms in increasingly shrinking area until it is a point at the top. The actual pyramid use to be surrounding by a menacing 30 feet protective wall surrounded by many falls doors. Of course, most of the walls have since disappeared but a piece of the wall surrounding the entrance still stands.
Afterwards, we saw the fairly intact, giant statue of Ramses II lying on its back. The statue was enormous. The matching pair (still fully intact) is actually standing today in the Giza Plateau where a new museum will be built around it. They expect completion of the new museum in about 3 or 4 years though our guide though that was a bit optimistic given the economy.
Our final stop was lunch which was a restaurant picked by Mohammed right outside the pyramid of Saqqara. Grilled chicken and some grilled meatballs were oh so delicious. Even a better meal than the day before.
The drive back to the ship was uneventful and even though traffic was bad, we got back to the ship at exactly 6pm.
Ramses Tours was all they said they are. The tours were private, the guide was knowledgeable and the itinerary was spectacular and best of all, on-time.