I gotta be honest, when I decided to visit Egypt, all I really wanted to do was see the Pyramids! However, there is actually a lot more to Cairo than just the Pyramids of Giza.
I am not sure why this came as such a surprise to me, especially considering that Cairo is so big! Greater Cario consists of at least more than 20 million people, with some estimates suggesting that the actual population is closer to 24 million! To put that in perspective, Australia’s ENTIRE population sits at 24.13 million people!
In such an enormous city, and there truly is a tonne to see, do and explore.
The Egyptian Museum
A great place to start is the Egyptian Museum, which is home to a ridiculously large number of ancient Egyptian artefacts. Entrance costs 60 EGP (approx $4) and it is worth noting that you will have to pay extra for the privilege of using your camera. Oh, and don’t even try to bring in a tripod! I had mine in my backpack in anticipation of shooting outdoors later in the day, and it was very quickly confiscated! I got it back once I left, but it was a little bit of a hassle.
Once inside the museum, the sheer quantity of artifacts is truly overwhelming. If you are the kind of person who likes to read every single information point, you’d likely need to spend a couple of weeks doing so!
The layout of the museum is not exactly amazing, and there is an obvious shortfall of space. I actually saw artifacts piled up in corners because there was nowhere else to put them – mental!
Of the thousands upon thousands of ancient Egyptian artifacts that my eyes fell upon in the museum – the canopic jars were my favourites. I remember learning about these jars in school (around the same time I thought I wanted to be a coroner when I grew up – y’know, normal aspirations for an 8 year old) and the concept of putting organs in special jars was just fascinating to me!
Located approximately 20 kilometres south of Giza, today the ancient city of Memphis is preserved as a sort of open air museum.
I must admit, the ‘open air’ area of the tiny museum wasn’t overly thrilling for me (how could it be after I had already seen the Pyramids?) but the enormous statue of Rameses II was undeniably impressive. It is still in incredible condition, especially when you think about it being over 3000 years old!
An added bonus: it is an easy place to come across a friendly face!
Saqqara (also written as Sakkara or Saccara) was probably one of my favourite places in Cairo. This area is home to a handful of much smaller (and much less touristy) pyramids, and honestly, they are absolutely stunning.
In ancient times, the area was used as a burial ground and as the necropolis for the Ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis.
The area is famous for being home to a bunch of interesting pyramids, but especially for being home to Djoser – which is more commonly known as the ‘step pyramid’.
Entrance to this site is on the steeper side at 80 EGP, which is approximately $6 AUD. But despite the relatively hefty ticket price, it is a place in Cairo that I’d highly recommend you visit.
The Pyramids of Dahsur
Not too far from Memphis lies the site Dahsur (also written as Dahshur) which is home to a few more Egyptian pyramids.
Arguably the most well preserved of these pyramids is the ‘Red Pyramid’. Named for the hue of its red limestone stones, this pyramid is not just the largest in Dahsur, but it is also the third largest pyramid in all of Egypt.
It was an extremely windy day on the day I visited Dahsur, and as a result, there was a tonne of dust and debris getting thrown around in the air. I spent my day just dealing with watery peepers, but I spotted a Chinese tourist who may have looked hilarious, but I bet he had no crap getting in his eyes…
…definitely the most creative use for a snorkel mask that I’ve ever seen!
This pyramid is one of the few that you can venture inside without paying extra money, but like just about every pyramid in Egypt, taking photos once inside is frowned upon, so I am afraid that I have no travel snaps to share from the inside; but take my word for it, it is worth the steep descent!
From the Red Pyramid, there are a few more pyramids that you can see off in the distance.
There is the now ruined ‘Black Pyramid’…
…and also the oddly shaped ‘Bent Pyramid’!
Entrance to Dahsur is 40 EGP (approx $3 AUD) and the site is located about 40km south of Cairo.
The best way to see all of these sites (especially if you are short on time) is to hire a taxi driver for the day. These costs can be negotiated, but be prepared to pay at least $30 for the day – potentially more if your haggling skills aren’t up to scratch.
Seeing these ‘alternative pyramids’ might not be what you had in mind when you imagined your Egyptian adventure, but I guarantee that they are well worth the visit.
As always, happy solo travelling! xx
Getting to these Pyramids: From downtown Cairo, bargain with a cab driver to drive you for the day
Saqqara and Dahsur: A single entrance ticket costs 80 EGP and 40 EGP respectively
Meramees Hostel: A comfortable and well located hostel – dorms start at $7/night
Camera: Images captured with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 in conjunction with M.Zuiko 12-40mm f2/8 lens
Remember: Sunglasses aren’t a bad idea, the wind can be brutal!