I had planned on going to a mall to check out and witness the vastness of indoor shopping and experience how people go about their day in this part of the world. From Zamalek, it took 40 minutes by taxi to get to the Mall of Arabia, which is in 6th of October city. I went there during what I thought was non rush hour time so it was a bit cheaper (100 LE). This is not the only mall in Egypt- there is the Mall of Egypt not far from Mall of Arabia and City Stars that is close to the airport.
On the way there, I noticed the same types of buildings I’ve noticed since I arrived. Traffic seemed to be busy all the time, though it did open up a bit after leaving the busier parts of Cairo, judging by the speed of the taxi.
As we neared the mall, I saw improvements in buildings and strip malls were prominent including McDonald’s. The Nile University was not far from the mall.
The mall is huge and it claims to be the largest mall in Egypt housing hundreds of stores with some yet to open, like IKEA. It is huge but it’s not pretentious and I can walk without feeling intimidated by stores selling overpriced purses or clothes. While there are designer stores, they are actually bearable to look at, even if only window shopping.
Outside the mall near the food court, is an open area that has a fountain show (though it was not operating when I went). It probably is beautiful to watch in the evening or when it’s a bit cooler outside. The food court has a few selection local foods and plenty of western selections such as KFC, Mcdonalds, and Arby’s. I tried KFC just to see what it’s like and the fries were not the same as in the US but the chicken was similar. Instead of a biscuit they give you a roll – nothing special – and I did not eat the coleslaw.
I spent about 2 hours in the mall before heading back. There isn’t a place, per se, to get a taxi that is waiting but find gate 23 and walk to your right. A nice young man from the mall security secured a taxi for me back to Zamalek.
On the way back, I noticed these date palm trees on the road. These trees were also seen yesterday during my travels to Memphis, Saqqara, and Dashur.
A few things before I start packing so I can be in my way back to the US:
On this trip, I didn’t venture much to search for street or local foods and I think that’s partly due to a few things: 1: it was a frustrating and confusing process using a taxi until a day and a half later when I figured that getting one from inside the hotel as the taxi drops off a guest is the way to go and the easiest. The hotel personnel can help negotiate and converse with the driver prior to you agreeing to anything. 2. I utilized the lounge at the hotel, which offered some local foods like the Egyptian pie, pastries, and lamb meatballs, variety of rice dishes, and veal. 3. It was maddening to watch people try to cross the streets because the cars travel so fast and weave in and out of lanes with only a honk or two to alert another car or person. Yikes!
I am disappointed I didn’t put a dent on my food list but I’ll try better next time.
The US dollar goes a long way here, I think. For $100, I’ve been able to get back 1,665 LE on average at the Alex Bank in the hotel. The highest expenditure has been on taxi and tipping every person imaginable. The tipping of those who help you can eat at your budget because giving 10 LE only equals to about 0.90c in the US. And, what could you buy for 0.90c? Plus, I’ve learned that if a local, while you are in a tourist place, offers you advice to take a photo from this or that angle, they’d expect a tip. I tip the person who secured a taxi for me. I tip the taxi driver. I tip those who really needed to be tipped.
It is hot in Egypt and no one ever told me it isn’t going to be. Local people have advised me not to go here or there at this or that time because of the heat. Well, I’m on vacation and was prepared for the heat. So, be prepared and hydrate and take lots of breaks. Listen to the advise but take it with a grain of salt.
I try respect and follow customs and traditions so I dressed accordingly and conservatively, even when I’m sweating like a mad woman. Men need to wear long pants going into mosques and women can cover their head (hijab) but not required. Wear comfortable shoes, too.
Tours and Places of Interest:
I like to do DIY, but I think the reason why guided tours are so popular and apparent here is because, in my opinion, the streets are tricky to navigate and communication among the locals can also be challenging. In my trekking, I didn’t see tourists who are doing Cairo by themselves carry maps or tour books to help them get here or there. I did observe a few people with a hired tour guide and I know those kinds of tours are becoming more popular. But, challenge yourself and do a DIY. REMEMBER, ask someone to write destinations in Arabic; it is so helpful.
I would recommend a guided tour when visiting Saqqara, Dashur, and Memphis. Even visiting Giza would be worth being in a tour. All others, do it yourself. It’s more fun that way.
I think the people are familiar with the English language but like I mentioned in my previous post, understanding and comprehension can be a bit of a challenge. However, this is untrue in places such as hotels where the people or staff might have more experience with English. Even then, ask your questions in different ways if you feel it wasn’t answered the first time. Be patient.
If you DIY, consider using Uber or taxi but again, get inside help from your hotel with taxis. Read my posts about my daily experience with using taxis. Uber has been a pretty common suggestion, but I didn’t use it because while I have WiFi from the hotel I have no way of getting into my app when I get to my destination. Hence, I can’t pay the driver. But, I’ll check into this more when I travel next time.
I would recommend reserving an airport shuttle to/from the airport for ease of travel.
It’s a safe place. While I was timid about coming here, reading people’s thoughts who have recently traveled here really appeased my mind. You are no more safer here than you are in your hometown. The tourist police really dominates the area, particularly highly visited places. Police with appropriate gear can be seen in certain parts of the city and also outside of the city. Security is in place in most places, where they check your bags and you go through a metal detector just like the airport.
Be careful if you have to cross streets, or don’t cross at all unless you know it’s safe. Watching drivers drive is crazy but you get used to it. They are the experts and I’m just the careful observer. I try not to judge their way of driving.
I’ve observed calmness and generosity in various ways here in Egypt. Calmness seems to emanate from the people here particularly when driving cars. During what I think a stressful time, not once did I hear a driver say an exasperated sound out loud or say something unpleasant about another driver. I witnessed this yesterday in the car when the driver hit someone else’s side mirror – no one yelled or cursed at anybody. No one rolled their window and give an unpleasant gesture. My driver simply rolled his windows down to fix the side mirror. And he calmly explained to the tour guide sitting next to him what had happened.
I witnessed generosity from the people of Egypt – tour drivers stop to give money to the people who keep the roads of Giza clean or to a man walking in the heat while guiding his horse full of things. They stop to help by offering money.
Incredible generosity and calmness!
So, that’s it. Cairo, Egypt is done and I’m happy to head home. I was satisfied with all the things I’ve seen and done here and felt very safe. I’d consider coming back here and visiting other places such as Alexandria and Luxor. More pyramids, sarcophagus, and tombs are in my future.