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The Pyramids of Giza in Egypt

Beautiful photos from the Pyramids of Giza in Cairo. By far one of the most awe-inspiring features I have ever seen in my whole life on this earth!

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Great Pyramid of Giza

I had been looking forward to this day for a very long time. The world famous 4,500 year old Pyramids of Giza are something that everyone studied at school and one of the subjects I enjoyed the most.

Cairo Pyramids

Pyramids of Giza

I wrote a post before we left for Egypt about my fears that Egypt and its amazing sights might not live up to the expectations I had floating around in the empty space I call my head.

So when Peter, our awesome Egyptologist and tour guide, said we were headed to the “Big 3” on the first day of our 10 day tour through Egypt, I was anxious to say the least. For 45 minutes we honked, bumped and zig-zagged our way through the madhouse traffic with the others passengers jabbering like excited howler monkeys.

I sat in stony silence.

My silent pondering was broken by a single word…

“Look!”

The Pyramids of Giza

That first view is a little mind-boggling. Here I was thinking that we would be driving through a sandy wasteland desert. Instead we were on the main-highway in the middle of Cairo and there were the Pyramids of Giza towering above tower blocks and homes less than 100m from their backyard fences.

Built 4,500 years ago in the middle of the desert Cairo has expanded at an alarming rate as 22 million people cram into the City centre. Land is at a premium and thus the closeness of the Pyramids.

King Cheops Pyramid Cairo

As we neared them we began to realise just how large they were. With approximately 2.3 million roughly hand-chipped and carved stone blocks, each weighing in around 2 – 3 tonnes, the Pyramids of Giza make an impressive sight. The orange stone reflects the bright sunlight in just the perfect way to create some amazing contrasts between the dazzling blue sky backdrop.

The three Pyramids were built in succession for the tombs of Cheops, his Son Khafre and his Grandson Menkaura.

The largest, the aptly named Great Pyramid built for Cheops, actually looks slightly smaller than Kharfre Pyramid. This is because King Khafre built his Pyramid at a much steeper angle creating the allusion that it is larger and thus dominates the dark blue skyline from all angles.

Khafre Pyramid in Cairo

In fact, there are actually over 120 Pyramids in Egypt but these are definitely the most well known. Pyramids were actually built originally to show-off each Kings wealth and “God-like” statuses. Unfortunately, having 146.5m high pyramids is also a beacon for grave robbers. Very quickly they were stripped off their wealth and the Egyptians learned to bury their dead in tombs underground such as in the Valley of the Kings.

Walking towards their bases the sun is quickly obscured and shadows stretch across the sun scorched earth. The usual touts and souvenir sellers hound you even here but I only have eyes for the Pyramids of Giza.

Great Pyramids of Egypt

Squinting into the sunlight as you look skywards each block reached at least chest to head high in size. Unfortunately they have now stopped letting tourists clamber all over them. Realistically this is actually a good thing so that we don’t ruin them forever and even being able to touch the smooth stones under your finger tips is incredible.

Wandering around the base of the Great Pyramid takes at least 15 minutes. While each pyramid is set several hundred metres apart. Near each pyramid there are also smaller pyramids, often referred to as the Queens Pyramids, that were built for the wives of each ruler. Contrary to popular belief they were not killed when each ruler died!

Camel Safari in Cairo

To get a better view we were all ushered onto the bus again and driven to the look-out point a short distance away. Here you also have the chance to jump on the back of a camel and ride back across the desert to the smallest of the three Pyramids of Giza.

Looking back across the desert towards the Pyramids staggered in a diagonal line with the city of Cairo spread out behind them is one sight that I will never forget.

And being up close and personal with such old history is a rare thing for a New Zealander as we only have a couple of hundred years of history compared to several thousands here in Egypt.

Cole is one half of New Zealand's leading adventure travel blogging couple who have been wearing out their jandals around the world since 2009. He loves any adventure activities and anything to do with the water whether it is Surfing, Diving, Swimming, Snorkeling or just lounging nearby on the beach. You can follow Cole on Google+. Or consider following us via RSS Feed, Twitter, Facebook and subscribe to our Newsletter.

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Africa

Bwaise Slum Tours in Kampala, Uganda

Find out what it’s like to go on one of the Slum Tours in Kampala, and how it has made a big impact on me.

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Local school in Bwaise Slum Uganda

When our Oasis Overland tour leader offered us a slum tour through Bwaise slums in Uganda, I wasn’t sure how comfortable I felt about it. Not only would we be wandering through the resident’s private villages and homes, but no doubt we would also be snapping away with our cameras at every sign of poverty. It seemed so wrong.

I very nearly decided not to go along.

Uganda Slum Tour

Locals relaxing in Bwaise Slum

However, I am so glad that I did decide to visit the slums in Uganda, as it has led to a small change in my life.

Bwaise Slum Tours in Kampala, Uganda

Catching a matatatu (local taxi) through the traffic-choked streets of Kampala, the capital of Uganda, is an experience in itself. Add 12 muzungu’s (white tourists) like myself, and you become the main attraction. As we crawled through the streets, we were reminded that the residents of the slum we were visiting, Bwaise slum, live well below the poverty line, but we had nothing to fear about being robbed as a guard would guide us.

AFFCAD Bwaise Slum Tour in Uganda

AFFCAD Bwaise Slum Tours in Uganda

Arriving in Bwaise Slum, we met our AFFCAD (Action for Fundamental Change for Development) tour guides, who explained where we would be going and who we would meet over the next 2 hours.

AFFCAD is a non-profit community-based organization with offices in Bwaise slums in Kampala. It was formed in 2009 by four youths to mitigate the impacts of HIV/AID and Poverty in the slum areas of Kampala, Uganda.  They now run tours and offer various volunteering options, from 1 day to several months.

As we learned more about the AFFCAD organization, children’s faces began to peer through the wooden windows at us. Their faces broke into shy grins every time they caught our eyes, or we offered a wave.

Local school in Bwaise Slum - Uganda

Walking out onto the streets of Bwaise slum, I quickly felt a tug at my hand as it dangled at my side. Glancing down, I spotted a grubby little hand clasped around my fingers. The ear-to-ear grin split her face as she looked at me, and my heart melted.

Bwaise Slum Tour - Children

Within seconds everyone had at least one kid grasping both hands as we began our slum tour. And in most cases, two or three kids would be hanging off our fingers.

Visiting the local school where 40 kids crammed into a shoebox of a room with dirt floors was eye-opening. Brightly painted pictures plastered the wooden walls, and wooden desks lined the room. Another of the classes was wholly flooded with a foot of water sloshing between the walls due to the rainy season.

Bwaise Slum Tour - Local School

When the floods arrive, several weeks of the year, there is nothing to be done but send the kids back home. It sucks as all they want to do is learn and play.

We were continuing the slum tour. We were taken through a maze of winding streets of dilapidated homes. Each houses several generations of family members with no electricity or running water.

Bwaise Slum - School

The water they collect often bubbles up from natural springs littered with rubbish.

A queue of tiny kids carries plastic containers waiting to be filled for their once daily (if lucky) meal of plain rice. Education about boiling the water before consuming it is the only way to keep them from getting sick.

Drinking water in Bwaise Slum

Long canals choked with rubbish criss-cross through the slums. The locals stand waist-deep in them, pulling trash out of the water to see if anything has washed down from neighboring communities that is worth keeping or selling.

Nearly everything can be reused, and each item is meticulously poured over to calculate its value.

Bwaise Slum Tour in Uganda - Canals

Wandering more profound into the slum, we are told to switch off our cameras.

The locals are primarily prostitutes in the slum earning little more than $1 an hour, yet this is more than most. It is a lucrative business for someone with no other options. And while AFFCAD is trying to stamp it out, they know they are fighting a losing battle.

Instead, they would educate the sex workers about HIV/AIDS and how to protect themselves over the long term.

As we wrap up the tour, we are invited into a local restaurant to devour a traditional meal of Ugali (a type of rice and maize mixture) with a stew of tender beef. All cost less than $2.

I am waving goodbye to the kids. I make the straightforward decision that as soon as I return to New Zealand, I will be organizing the sponsorship of one of the children. For just $40 a month, I can make a massive impact in their lives with three daily meals, school supplies, and medicine to help them out.

Children of Bwaise SlumLaughing children in Bwaise Slum

What is ridiculous and weighs on me heavily is that I can quite easily spend that on one night out drinking. It makes me sick just thinking about it.

Reader Questions: Do you sponsor a child or donate to a worthy charity? Do you recommend any for me to research?

To learn more about what AFFCAD is doing in the Bwaise slum or how you might help them, please check out their website.

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Africa

Basic Arabic Words for Travel to Egypt

Use our quick language guide to learn the key basic Arabic words that we used when travelling through Egypt and the Middle East.

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Basic Arabic Words

We knew very little about the Egyptian language before we visited earlier this year. All we knew was that they spoke Arabic. And to be honest, to my untrained and ignorant eyes, the written Arabic language looks a lot like squiggly lines.

We are not talking about ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics either, which would make me feel like an idiot if I had to translate them!

Essential Arabic Words To Get By In Egypt

Egyptian Hieroglyphics

We always pride ourselves on learning a few essential words and phrases to help us communicate when traveling in foreign countries. The locals always seem to appreciate it, and it makes us feel as if we are immersing ourselves in the culture, which is why we love to travel.

So whether you are just visiting the numerous Red Sea all-inclusive vacations or the Great Pyramids of Giza, use our list of essential Arabic words and phrases below to help you out on your next travel adventure through Egypt and the Middle East.

Keep in mind that there are loads of different ways to greet someone or be polite, etc. But by using the essential Arabic words below daily when strolling through the markets or stopping to eat Egyptian street food.

Street food in Egypt Falafel

Essential Arabic Words and Phrases

Marhaba = Hello.

Shukran = Thank you (although we usually used “la shukran,” which is no “thank you” when being offered another 100 camels for Adela).

Tatakallam ‘English? = Do you speak English?

Ya-Allah = Let’s go.

Naam = Yes.

La =No.

Min fad like = Please.

Kam? = How much?

Afwan = Excuse me.

Ilal-liqa = I’ll see you later.

‘Ayna… = Where is…

…al-Hammaam? = …the rest room?

WaaHid = One

‘Ithnayn = Two

Thalaatha = Three

‘Arbaxa = Four

Khamsa = Five

As always practice makes perfect and there is no easier way to learn a language than trying it out in every day situations so don’t be afraid to have a go. Your pronunciation might be a bit off the first few times but like we said above, most locals will appreciate you trying and correct you.

Reader question: Do you have any tips or additional words that we didn’t include that you think we should?

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Adventure Travel

Review: 10 Day Egypt Explorer Tour with Expat Explore

A comprehensive review of Expat Explores 10 Day Explorer Tour through the stunning country of Egypt.

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Expat Explore Group in Egypt

We have wanted to visit Egypt for a while now, so when the opportunity to get away over the Christmas and New Year period arose, we knew we needed to head there for a break. We joined Expat Explore on their 10 Day Explorer Tour through Egypt, taking in the sights of Cairo, Aswan, Luxor, and Hurghada.

Expat Explore Group Photo

Expat Explore Ten Day Egypt Explorer Tour Review

We chose Expat Explore because they were the cheapest with all the same sights and in the end, we were happy with our choice.

Pre-departure, they emailed us our itinerary with the optional excursions and additional costs for entry fees, including budgeting appropriately. As well as following up with our pre-trip questions regarding flights, insurance, and health and safety advice.

From the start, they were very professional. Landing in Cairo, we were personally greeted the day before our tour and transported to our City center hotel. That drive was an eye-opener to Egypt with crazy lane changes, honking, swerving, and flashing lights with animals, people, and vehicles everywhere.

El Tonsy Hotel is your base for your arrival and last night. Luckily we didn’t expect much as our door didn’t lock, which was a bit dodgy, and the rooms were cold with a broken heater and only one blanket. You wouldn’t think you would need heat in Egypt, but it was the middle of winter, chilly at night. No complaints with the location, though, as we could see the Pyramids in the distance and were only 5 minutes walk from the Nile and 15 minutes to Tahir Square (perfectly safe, by the way). Plus, they have a little bar/restaurant with cheap food and free Wi-Fi. Just buy your snacks and water from the supermarket across the road, and you will get on fine.

El Tonsy Hotel View of Pyramids

It’s pretty hard to break down a whole trip into one post but here goes:

Day One

Your tour starts with the best in my opinion by touring some sights of Cairo. The steeply angled Step Pyramid, the mind-blowing Pyramids of Giza, and the smaller than expected Sphinx. This day was the highlight.

Pyramids of Giza

That night is spent aboard the train for 10-12 hours to Aswan. I highly recommend the Sleeper train for an extra £50 per person. Others who caught the standard train froze their butts off while we had a toasty sleep with dinner and breakfast. Unfortunately, Expat Explore never told us about the provided food, so we ate before we got on board but what we could fit in was delicious.

Day Two in Egypt

The tour splits in Aswan as one group embarks on a River Cruise aboard a 5-star ship while the others spend time in hotels and on a Felucca. No surprise that we went with the cheaper option aboard the Felucca, so the next few days are from that point of view.

The afternoon is yours at Sara Hotel on the banks above the Nile. We lapped up the beautiful rays of the sun and managed to turn our pasty white bodies a more fitting, slightly white shade. The Hotel was great until the toilet next door erupted, sending a river of smelly waste across our bedroom floor (throw your toilet paper in the bin, not the loo)! Luckily we woke in time to rescue our bags from the watery mess! Not the fault of Expat Explore, and we didn’t blame the Hotel either, as shit happens.

Day Three on the Nile River

Your day begins by visiting the monstrous High Dam for 10 minutes (reasonably boring) and driving past the Unfinished Obelisk. At the same time, the highlight is the Philae Temple. It is pretty magical when the sunsets across the Nile reflect off the stonework.

Philae Temple Sunset

The evening ended with an optional dinner in a traditional Nubian family’s house. The food was delicious, and you better bring your singing and dancing shoes.

Day Four on the Felucca

The following day and night are spent relaxing aboard the Felucca for a sail up the Nile for several hours. Sleeping no more than eight people, you will be snug if you bring your sleeping bag like us. The rest of our crew was jealous as it did get quite chilly in the evening. However, blankets were provided.

With delicious pita bread and falafel cooked on the boat, you will not be disappointed with the food either.

The day ends with a bonfire on the Nile shoreline as you sing and dance with the crazy fun Nubian crews. This was one of the highlights of the entire trip for us.

Travel Tip: Don’t be put off by doing your “business” amongst the reeds of the Nile. Just enjoy the view and remember to bring your toilet paper (which you need everywhere in Egypt anyway).

Felucca on the Nile

By all accounts, from the other tour members, the River Cruise is just as great, with three nights onboard in comfortable accommodation, a pool, and buffets morning, noon, and night.

Day Five Temple Exploring

Waking to a sunrise breaking the morning chill is a glorious way to start a new day. Unfortunately, there is little time for relaxation before you are off the Felucca and on a bus to Kom Ombu and Edfu Temples. The transportation was more than adequate, with toilets on the buses and room enough for everyone. It’s lucky because you spend most of the time being driven around.

The Lotus Hotel in Luxor was probably the pick of them all. It was situated on the Nile bank with a swimming pool and a tasty buffet breakfast.

Day Six at the tombs

One more day, one more busy schedule. Rushing to beat the crowds at the Valley of the Kings, it’s another 8 am start. You are only allowed to visit three tombs, and we recommend the guide picks: Ramses II, IV, and IX.

Travel Tip: You are NOT allowed to take your camera with you off the bus. Please don’t ruin it for everyone by taking photos, as you will be charged by security when caught.

We also squeezed in the crowded rock-carved Hatshepsut Temple but only drove past Luxor Temple as we ran out of time as you need to go 6 hours to reach Hurghada that night.

Day Seven and Eight at the Red Sea

The following two days at the Red Sea are yours to do whatever you like, so use them wisely. We joined most of our group for a spot of snorkeling and diving. The dive and the staff were great, but the whole day seemed a little rushed, which was a shame. Keep an eye out for our post on our diving experience in Hurghada.

Diving in Hurghada on the Red Sea

So nice being able to relax on a beach and read a book after such a hectic schedule. It’s hard to leave, and the 6 – 8 hour bus ride back to Cairo is challenging.

Travel Tip: If you plan to do the tour over New Year’s Eve, you will have to depart Hurghada half a day early, which sucked as it meant celebrating the New Year at the Hotel in Cairo. Bit of a letdown, but when hasn’t New Year’s Eve been!

Day Nine in Cairo

Your final day of sightseeing is spent around Cairo. Our favorite part of the day was the Cairo Museum with an excellent tour guide. It fits perfectly at the end by seeing all the history close-up after learning about it over the last eight days.

By the time we hit the old area of Cairo and the Coptic Hanging Church, we were spent on history, but our guide made a reasonable effort at keeping us entertained.

The last group activity is free time for an hour or so at the Khan El Khalili souk markets, where the touts try to prise your cash from you for the last time from every nook and cranny.

Day Ten is the end

With the tour over, it’s time to head home. Our flight was late the following night, so we walked around the city and Souks on our own for the day. Expat Explore provides transport back to the airport, which was great.

The Negatives of Egypt Travel

The trip was fantastic, but we think it’s important to note the little things that could make a massive difference to the overall experience:

  • It felt like we were always hungry. Maybe it is just Kiwis and Aussies that eat all the time, but it seriously felt like we were constantly starving, with lunches being served usually after 4 pm and dinner at 9 pm onwards. It might be the Egyptian way to eat at those times, but not for us. Travel Tip: Buy lots of snacks for the road which are very cheap at supermarkets.
  • There was sometimes a lack of direction in what seemed to be happening. Everything is done in Egyptian time, so be patient.
  • We were often delayed or behind schedule with little to no guidance on how long it would take to get from place to place. A little knowledge goes a long way as then we can plan.
  • More free time would be great to explore places independently rather than have our hands held everywhere.

The Positives of traveling in Egypt:

As we said above, the trip was excellent, and the little positive things far outweighed the negatives, which helped make it a memorable trip.

  • Pre-departure information and care were excellent.
  • The tour was exceptional value for money, and it was the cheapest tour we could find even though we still saw all the same sights the other groups did.
  • The guides were incredibly knowledgeable and never failed to answer any questions we had. The insight into the daily lives of the people around us was a nice break from all the history. They also ensured you never felt unsafe or uncomfortable.
  • The Felucca trip was better than expected, and overall, so were the accommodation and transport options.

We highly recommend you book with Expat Explore if you are considering a trip through Egypt.

Make sure you subscribe now and come back soon so you can enjoy reading our new posts, which will cover everything else in more detail.

Disclaimer: Expat Explore provided us with a discount for our ten-day tour of Egypt; however, our thoughts are always our own.

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Meet Cole and Adela

Cole and AdelaWe have been wearing out our jandals (Kiwi for flip-flops) on our travel adventures around the world since 2009. We think our blog is thought provoking and a little witty. But we have been proven wrong before. Find out more about us here...

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