Review / Report
My advice to you is do not travel to Cairo (for a matter of fact any Islamic country) during Ramadan. But if you really would like too, then there are also many advantages to it. However you need to be really prepared.
For example, you should know that most of the food joints will be closed during the day. Secondly, availability of alcohol will be close to non-existent. Perhaps only in 5 star hotels. Although, I am not sure as I didn’t try that. But advantage is that many of the tourist places will be empty. You will have them for yourself.
I was just on a short weekend trip to Cairo. I had a tricked (flyertalk.com term) ticket, and I had a one-way flight booked out of Cairo. I just had to book one-way ticket to Cairo and I was set. I used my KLM miles to book a cheap one-way into Cairo. I could have booked the direct KLM flight, but that arrives in the night. My principle is that, if possible, not to arrive in any strange country late at night. To overcome this I booked an one-way via Rome, combining KLM and Alitalia. However, last year Rome airport had a big fire and after a year they are still struggling with reinstating their original schedule. To say the least my flight with KLM from AMS to FCO was canceled the day before my departure. KLM without even consulting me put on the late night flight. I called them, and told me thats not fine with me. They were quite friendly and told me make a choice of the airline I want to fly and they will put me on it. I love lufthansa and their flight via Frankfurt arrives around 2pm. I chose that.
Luckily, my award ticket became a revenue ticket and I was able to earn Turkish Airlines miles on this trip. And to top that, Lufthansa even upgraded me to their business class from AMS to FRA. Being star gold sometimes do help.
I was quite excited to visit Cairo. 2 years ago I had a ticket to Cairo but had to cancel it in the last minute due to protests in Cairo. I always wanted to see the Pyramids and this was my chance. I think, apart from the Mexican Pyramids I have visited all the wonders of the World – from Taj Mahal to Christ the Reedemer.
Although, I visited Cairo during the Ramadan and many of the restaurants were closed during the day time I still loved my trip. Firstly, I had most of the attractions to myself. I didnt have to push my way through to take a snap. You wont believe that the HUGE pyramid complex was shared by me and perhaps a handful more tourist. The privacy and the exclusivity really felt great. I am not sure that the lack of tourists on these spots was only due to Ramadan, or perhaps it may have been due to security concerns resulting from the ongoing Egyptian internal conflict. Although, I enjoyed my privacy I somewhat felt sorry for the locals whose livelihood depended on tourism. You know, every tourist attraction I went was practically empty. Perhaps June is not the most touristic time in Egypt.
Personally, I feel Cairo and Egypt should be on everyone’s to do list. I have never seen a richer history than any other country in the World. The historical artifacts they have in Egypt are mind-blowing. I can bet even with modern technology, we will not be able to build the great Pyramid of Giza today. It is not just that it is a mammoth structure, but the attention to details is staggering. According to the Wikipedia, “The accuracy of the pyramid’s workmanship is such that the four sides of the base have an average error of only 58 millimetres in length. The base is horizontal and flat to within ±15 mm (0.6 in). The sides of the square base are closely aligned to the four cardinal compass points (within four minutes of arc) based on true north.” Imagine that degree of accuracy for a mass of 5.9 million tonnes.I was bowled over by the Pyramids and the only thing that can surpass this degree of precision and grandness are the artifacts found in the Tutankhamen room of the Cairo Egyptian Museum.
I am usually not a museum guy, but I just could not believe my eye when I was at the Tutankhamen room. The jewelry and artifacts are 5000 years old but the intricacy and level of detail is mind blowing. The access to technology at that point in time must simply be superb. And even 5000 years later these artifacts shine and make an impression on you. I loved these artifacts, but was not impressed with the Museum. It must be the museum with the richest collection of artifacts in the World, but with the poorest displays and management ever. They should send the Dutch to improve this situation. The beauty of the Dutch people is that they can present so little in such magnanimous way. I can bet, if the Dutch takes control of the management of the Egyptian Museum, they will make it the TOP tourist destination in the World. And trust me, given the spectacular artifacts this museum houses it is not gonna be difficult.
Lets talk about the people. I found Egyptians genuinely friendly. What I admired most about them is that in the June heat they went without water and food all day long. It was truly admirable. In the evening (right before the sunset) when I was walking back to my hostel, I saw that many people were distributing free water bottles along the streets to passerby or car drivers as it was close to sun-set. I just loved that kindness, that people gave water to me. I just did not have the heart to tell them that I have a water bottle in my backpack and I was drinking all day long. Given my looks, I easily passed as a local guy. I said Shukran and moved along.
On the other hand, I would have loved some beer. I have never been so desperately looking for a beer, ever in my life, than in Egypt. Imagine after a long sunny tourist day, the only thing you need is a COLD beer in the evening. But that was not so. All the beer shops were closed for the Ramadan. My thought at that time was screw freedom and democracy, if I cannot get beer when I want, whats the use of all this. Anyways, if you cant get it, you cant get it. I survived.
I stayed at Freedom Hostel. It is a nice place quite close to the Nile and the Museum. The people operating the place are quite friendly too. Egypt is blessed with Nile. The bridges over the Nile, really add to Cairo’s beauty. The best way to see the city would be to take a cruise on the Nile.
I would like to re-visit Egypt. I am impressed by the history of this place. But next time I would like to visit Luxor and Alexandria. I am sure they are impressive. Good thing is that I pass as an Egyptian and felt right at home. But anyways, I saw that Egyptians love Indians. Especially, Amitabh and Dharmendra, but not the new ones. A couple of Egyptians, did not stop talking about these guys. They adore Bollywood there. Thanks to Bollywood, Indians will feel truly welcome there but the problem for Indians will be the food. As far as I saw there are not too many Indian restaurants here. And Egyptian food is not very vegetarian friendly, it is quite meat-heavy.
Food-wise this was a very strange trip for me. Usually, wherever I go I eat the local cuisine. But on this trip, I have eaten mostly at KFC and Mcdonalds. These were the only thing that were open during the day, at the time of Ramadan. I had my quota of fast food for an entire year, in these 4 days.