Two Weeks in Egypt - October 2012

Day Three: Cairo - Pyramids and Cemeteries

We flew from Dubai to Cairo and into the melee of that city. First we had to "purchase" an immigration visa on entry to the terminal building, costing $US20 and no other currency accepted, and this was stuck into our passports. Then on to immigration where they seemed surprised that we already had a visa. Through the crowds, found our bags - surprising to some that all the bags had arrived unopened - and then on to our tour bus for the long slow drive acros Cairo to our hotel next to the Pyramids. That took up the rest of Day 2. We spent two full days in Cairo, visiting the Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum, but also some of the old New Zealand Army sites and cemeteries.

Day 3 started by visiting the Pyramids and ended with the Pyramids again at night. In between we visited two Commonwealth cemeteries and the site of the old New Zealand Army camp at Maadi.

The Pyramids by day and night

We awoke the next morning to a clear, cloudless sky but the haze and smog of Cairo soon appeared. Outside our room stood the Pyramids, as gigantic and imposing as described by everybody who has seen them. Soon we were on the bus to examine them up close, and to be pestered to distraction by the inevitable hawkers and camel riders. And yes. I did get conned into sitting on a camel for my photograph and then having to pay the camel "owner" and "driver" for the privilege. But the views of the Pyramids were worth every dollar, and every aggravation of the hordes of locals.

A smaller plane to get to Cairo - A320
Our hotel close to the Pyramids.....
Yep, close enough from the window,
or the hotel car park.
After Security, you can walk right up to them.
Not many people - yet,
Not even many hawkers or traders
But they are there, waiting.....
You can climb up a look inside if you have time,
Or take a ride by cart....
Or camel
Yes, that's one of us
And that's me - conned into sitting on a camel.
Then off to see the other pyramids,
With the remains of smaller ones nearby.
Tourists thinking they are Bedoins....
Or trying to photograph them.
Still no tourists - too early and too risky?
Our group heads back to the bus
More tourists in the distance
The trinkets were rather disappointing
but were the expected kitch and junk.....
A final view with NO tourists
Cairo has disappeared under the smog already
Then another angle
with the Sphinx
And its broken nose (not by Napoleon they hasten to add).

The Pyramids by night

According to the tourist brochures, the sound and light show at the Pyramids is something not to be missed. But what they fail to tell you is the reason - the show is so old that it needs to be viewed as an antiquity in itself, complete with the voice of Richard Burton intoning the story of the Pharoahs and the Pyramids. Most of our tour group fell asleep, through jetlag and boredom. I managed to remain awake by taking photos. But really, it is time they brought the show into the 21 Century and updated the story with a few facts.

The Pyramids at night
are brilliantly lit up,
in lots of different colours.
It is probably better viewed
as colour images, that way you do not have to....
listen to the commentary...
from Richard Burton.
But they do a good job
of the lighting.
They have even added some weird animals.
I think these were lions.
A final view
of the largest pyramid
of Cheops.

The Old Cairo Cemetery

The old Cairo Cemetery contains 2054 First World War graves and 338 From the Second World War. Alongside these graves are those of many British residents from that time.

The gates to the well-tended cemetery,
Plots and plants in neat rows
The Cross of Sacrifice at the rear.
NZ graves of 22 Battalion men
that I was interested in finding.
A general view with the old British graves
at the rear.
A panorama of the whole cemetery.

Heliopolis Cemetery

Closer to the NZ camp at Maadi lies the Heliopolis Cemetery. Here lie 1830 graves, 138 being New Zealanders. One of the more famous New Zealanders lying here, but marked by a British regimental headstone, is John Mulgan. John became a well-known writer, but ended his life in Cairo late in the war. Heliopolis has a well-tended hedgerow of tall trees that form a tuneel and welcome shelter from the hot sun.

The entry portal at Heliopolis
And the gates with the local caretakers waiting for us
The Memorial stone at the entrance
Looking back at the gates and the square trees.
View through the square trees
The Cross
Sheltering from the sun
Another 22 Battalion grave.
And the grave of John Mulgan, a lonely corner of the world for such an important New Zealand author.
A panorama of Heliopolis.

Maadi Camp

Maadi became the home for thousands of New Zealand troops who apssed through here in both the First and Second World Wars. It was some distance out of cairo at the time, but not far enough to keep the troops out of trouble in the bars in Cairo. Today the site of Maadi and Helwan Camp has been largely built over, except for the dry and dusty Wadi Degla. This area housed the NZ punishment centre - known affectionately as "Rock College". We made a brief visit to the area, late in the day as the shadows lengthened and the sun set through the haze.

The entrance to Wadi Degla
The sign with "Helwan Attractions"
and the importance of the Wadi.
We climbed to the top of the hill
so we could look back down into the wadi
and the walls
That's our bus down there
further away is Cairo, sprawling out over Helwan
with a forest of apartment blocks and
an oil refinery in the distance.
The hill we climbed from the entrance
Our bus
One of the local dogs enjoying the last of the sun
A mass of thorns
And the sun, struggling through the haze of Cairo.

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Last updated: 02/07/2017