Matthew’s Visit to Cairo

As part of our work in Africa we were lucky enough to host a briefing session in Cairo.  I'd never been to Egypt before but my curiosity was aroused when I watched the recent "Walking the Nile" TV program.  I hadn't realised the extent that tourism had been impacted by the two uprisings in Egypt but at a lecture, given by Levison Wood (the man who did the walking in the named program) last week, he underlined the impact the estimated 400,000 lost jobs in tourism has had.  One of his slides showed a cruise liner that, before the problems, used to take many tourists up and down the Nile.  Now, beached and rotting, it served as a symbolic representation of the state of the industry and, perhaps, a modern monument to those jobs that have been lost.

     First glimpse of the Nile

Interesting then that the regional briefing, attended by around 60 people, was on the whole up beat about the investment potential.  STR Global's Philip Wooller showed how rates had stabilized and occupancy in most areas, where getting stronger.  A good time to invest then, but only as Ben Martin from Aecom mentioned, if things remain stable...

     Egypt Tourism Investment Briefing

In the evening we took a walk from the hotel across the Nile.  As there was 4 of us this didn't feel too threatening but there was certainly an eye being kept on us.  However, being on the main roads most of the attention was directed at the ladies.  You've got to give it to the Egyptian men they don't hold back on the staring.  We actually ended up going to a restaurant at another hotel (at the Sofitel) - a kebab place on the Nile.  Fantastic location and with great food.

                                                                         Enjoying the night life and kebabs!

Typically I don't take advantage of my trips.  I tend to go into the city, do what ever business needs to be done, and get back.  However this time, prompted by the team, I was urged to take advantage of the situation and go and see the pyramids.  This experience was well worth it and I am glad I stayed for the extra day.

     Amazing to think these are 4500 years old and still standing

The first thing to do, if you're going to see the pyramids, is leave early.  This not only gets you to them before the crowds start building up but also means you can avoid (in part) the traffic.  Our expert, funny, guide kept us entertained all the way - with some great facts and a genuine passionate energy regarding the history of the city.  After we arrived and had tried our best to take in as much of the pyramids from the outside we moved inside and, after paying a small fee, were able to walk to the tomb area of the pyramid.  At times this got a little cramped and claustrophobic but on the whole it was a fun and quite surreal experience.  When reaching the tomb area, after passing what seemed to be around 100 Japanese tourists on their way back down, it was quite mystical to think that you were stood in the heart of a pyramid - a structure that has stood for over 4500 years.  Such a huge accomplishment of any time and, as our guide told us, these structure's were the highest man made structure on earth up until the Eiffel tower was completed.

                                      Jennifer squeezing through the tunnels

After the pyramids we took a trip to the museum to view the Tutankhamun artifacts.  As a kid I loved the mystery of this particular story.  Last week I was asked to give a short presentation of my travels to my daughter's class of 6 year olds.  Tutankhamun's curse was definitely the highlight of this talk with lots of questions about the manner of deaths and how many people died....  It was a great reminder for me about how curious I was as a kid and it was fabulous to finally fuel all my childhood intrigue by being at the museum.

     Tutankhamun's casket.

                                                    Strictly prohibited to take photos - I hope I'm not cursed!!!

Ironically perhaps, during the museum visit, we received a call from a concerned colleague...  There had been a terrorist attack in Cairo.  Another unfortunate and debilitating attack but, as usual, media tends to distort.  Cairo is about 300 square miles and with around 12 million people in it.  The shocks of these attacks weren't felt locally at all - but internationally.

On leaving the museum we were reminded of the struggles within the city as an old, burnt out, Government building loomed over our exit.  The guide told us that the culprits are debatable but it is understood to have been started by the Government - keen to burn documents and evidence of wrong doings.  No one really knows.

The final hours in Cairo were spent either in back to back traffic wanting to get to the airport or, when the traffic broke, fearing for your life with the driving and wanting to be in back to back traffic so to make it stop.

                                                                                  The typical duality of Africa...  And I love it.