I bet you didn't realise that Cairo is big on Call Centres did you? Well it is. In fact the Egyptian government actively sponsors the industry. And that's how I ended up out there. I only ever really go anywhere with work!
Cairo is a great place to visit for these reasons:
1. It is only 4.5 hours on a plane
2. It is only between 1 and 2 hour time difference from the UK (depending on time of year)
3. You are guaranteed warm sunny weather all year round (there's a reason why most of it is desert you know!)
4. It's cheap as long as you don't let yourself get scammed.
I have been there a number of times now, and the flight generally lands late at night. The airport is not as developed as a European or North American airport but not a hut like the Indian airport was. The first chance you get to weigh up a country is the process of getting to your car and on to your hotel. In this instance, imagine my surprise when I was met by a guy BEFORE I went through customs. You can get a tourist visa for about £10 apparently but he grabbed my passport (ahhh!) got the visa for me by jumping to the front of a queue of (now annoyed) tourists and then he dragged me to the front of the queue for the customs booth. Within minutes of landing and getting off the bus I was through and heading to the car. Wow! What an experience.
The car was nice enough. The roads were quite clear at that time in the morning and seemed well maintained. There were clear road markings and a separation between both sides of the road. As a result the cars were driving at speed. I wished I had put on a more supportive bra because although on the surface they looked good, when driven along at speed the roads were somewhat bumpy!
As we drove through Cairo the traffic was more like I was expecting with loads of cars jammed onto the roads jockeying for position.I was visiting a place called 6th October City which was an hour outside of Cairo and close to Giza with the pyramids. Once outside of town it was very scary. We were driving at speed along unlit roads at night with no lights on! As in India, lights and horns were used to let other cars know you are there or to yell at them, not, as I would expect, to light the way. I also soon discovered that it was foolish of me to think the lines on the road were lanes - they seemed to be there more to help you drive in a straight line and see (as you had no headlights on!) The further out we got, the more the sand had formed drifts on the roads as it was blown in from the desert.
Fast car + night time + no light + sand drift = Ahhhhhhh scared
On another trip there was an unusual weather phenomenan - fog. They rarely had fog so had no idea how to drive. It took 2 hours to do a 15 minute journey due to accidents in the fog. When the driver asked how we dealt with it we said "erm, we put our fog lights on and keep a bigger distance between us and the car in front" - This was an alien concept!
The infrastructure is more robust there than in India. No power cuts and lovely modern offices. The people are absolutely lovely and there appears to be a far better cultural alignment between them and the British. For example, they get sarcasm instantly. Let me give you a coffee based example. As well as their own coffee chains they also have Costa Coffee and, since my last visit, Starbucks there. These places serve the same drinks but work differently to ours in that you do not queue for your drinks. You sit down and a waiter/waitress comes over. So we all sat down and soon a waiter came over. As part of ordering the waiter asked after a Cappuccino and Latte order "Would you like any flavourings in that?" The guy I worked with was very good at sarcasm and replied "Yes, coffee" with a smile. The waiter immediately 'got it' and smiled back. That would never have happened in India. They would have probably tried to explain to this numnut that it was already coffee flavoured!
Anyway, I have already told my camel story on a previous blog post so won't bore you with that again so let me tell you about a couple of other things. I did the total tour of Cairo in one afternoon with my own car and Tour Guide. We saw the Pyramids, a Papyrus and Jewellery place and the Egyptian museum as well as being given the running commentary as I travelled between them (including having to explain to them why we used windscreen wipers on a car - bless!). So here goes:
1. The pyramids & Sphynx : Smaller than I expected. More impressive construction. I come from Wales where it took 100's of years to not finish most of the castles. These pyramids were built in 20 years by floating the blocks down in the rainy season only!
2. Jewellery and Papyrus : Making papyrus is like looking after a baby - you have to tend to it every few hours. A really sweet guy gave me a couple of paintings on papyrus when I was visiting one time. I spoke to him one day and then next he brought them in. Lovely people as I say. I bought a Cartouche for myself and a couple of friends. I have never spent to much on jewellery before!
3. The Egyptian museum : Over a million exhibits including Tutenkhamuns headpiece, mummies etc. I did it in 30 minutes and that was fine ( I have the attention span of a Gnat!). Amazingly you can't take cameras in with you so no piccies from that one!
The Nile is gorgeous and I ate a couple of times in a boat on the Nile. One of our highlights was a trip to see a Japanese Belly Dancer (yes, I mean Japanese, not Egyptian) at the top of one of the big hotels in Cairo. We had a lovely meal but unfortunately it was her night off!
In summary, I love Cairo and I love the people. I would go back any time I got the chance and one of the guys I work with out there is someone I now class as a good friend.