We have arrived in Cairo without any fuss, and our taxi driver whisks (weaves, ducks, nearly-sideswipes) us through the city to our hotel. My first impression is of dust-swept apartment blocks populated by millions of satellite dishes seemingly more numerous than pigeons, of towering minarets blasting out ‘Allah Ahkbar’, and of people. Lots and lots of people.
We don’t have long to relax at our hotel before we’re introduced to the rest of the Oasis Overland group and swept off for our first taste of Egypt: a sound and light show at the Pyramids of Giza. Even though it’s dark there are a few squeals as the pyramids come into sight – and I’m not let down by how immense they feel.
The light show feels like something out of another era – I’m not sure whether that’s because it is narrated by the dulcet tones of Omar Sharif or because I’m sure lasers went out of fashion two decades ago, but although my brain feels too fried to take in what the guy from Lawrence of Arabia is telling me, I still feel awed by the sight. It is definitely a bit out-of-body to think that yesterday I was finishing up at work and today I’m staring at an ancient wonder of the world.
On our transfer back, the news breaks about the death of the Egyptian Coptic pope, Pope Shenouda III. Our tour guide sends messages of condolence to his Christian friends. He worries a little more now about Security as the death of such a prominent religious figure could be destabilising. But we have only one day in Cairo, and the excitement is still high (if sobered).
Dinner is mixed grill at a local Syrian restaurant. Delicious – and only £8 for the two of us. Bargain. I could get used to this.
This is maybe something that only my friend Sarah will understand (she and I travelled Africa for three months, alone and with oasis) but it feels amazing to be back in Africa – even if it’s very different from Kenya and Southern Africa. Just something about it still makes me feel at home, and I can’t wait to explore more.