The Cairo Museum, Local lunch, & our Welcome Dinner

In the morning, we wandered over to the included (for us) hotel breakfast buffet. There were plenty of options for all tastes and since all I really require in the mornings is coffee, I was suitably fortified in no time. Once we all gathered at the required meeting place, we loaded onto our bus and set out on the streets of Cairo to our first stop, the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, otherwise known as the Cairo Museum.

This is the old Cairo Museum. There is a new museum being built, and we did see the site at one point, but it is not open yet, so we are here. This building is old, and has no A/C so it is hot. But the collections housed here are unbelievable and it is worth every hot, sweaty minute. Also as a note: cell phone cameras are fine to use without an extra fee, but actual cameras require the purchase of a “photo pass” in order to even be brought inside the museum. I opted for my cell phone.

Of course it is very crowded and loud. We used the whisper style headphones so that we could hear Mohamed (our tour guide). This museum is a bit chaotic. There is really just a basic organization of the artifacts, and it can get really confusing. This is where a good guide is invaluable. The ground floor of the museum houses 42 separate rooms with artifacts from ancient dynasties through the New Kingdom, up to about 1069 BC.

The Narmer Palette – dated circa 3200-3000 BC
Menkaure and the Godesses Hathor & Bat – Circa 2500 BC
Mentuhotep II – 1st Pharaoh of the Middle Kingdom – circa 2030-2000 BC
Thutmose IV and his mother Tiaa – circa 1380-1350 BC

We then moved to the upper level, where all the really famous stuff is housed. This level has artifacts from the final two dynasties of Egypt, several intact tombs, artifacts found in the Valley of the Kings, and mummies.

Of course, the big draw here is King Tutankhamun; but there are several other big names in Egyptian history up here.

Akhenaten – 10th ruler of the 18th dynasty – circa 1350-1330 BC

Amenhotep IV (later Akhenaten) is pretty famous for a couple of reasons. One, he tried to change the religion of Egypt from poly- to monotheism. That move lasted as long as he was alive, then subsequent rulers moved back to their traditional religious practice, going so far as to destroy his monuments and exclude his name from the list of rulers of Egypt.

Next, he had a pretty famous wife: Nefertiti. Some believe that she was in fact acting a Pharaoh during at least some of her husbands reign, In any case, she was widely regarded as one of the most beautiful women in the world at the time and her profile is certainly still famous today.

Lastly, his son, Tutankhamun. One of the most famous names in Egyptian history. There’s plenty of stuff about him coming up.

Statue of Tutankhamen – circa 1325 BC

Tutankhamen was only 8 or 9 years old when he became Pharaoh, and he was dead by 19 years old. The artifacts found in his tomb are among the most famous in the world.

The gilded throne & footstool found in the tomb – circa 1327 BC
Canopic jars – crafted to hold the major organs removed during embalming – circa 1325 BC
The tomb of Tutankhamun – circa 1325 BC
The gold Funerary Mask of Tutankhamen – circa 1325 BC

The one area where cameras of any kind are prohibited is the Funerary room. There are guards patrolling the room and if they see you take pictures, they make you show them while you delete them. I DID NOT take this picture…in fact, you can see me in the picture behind the mask in pink pants! But here it is. 22 inches tall, made of gold and precious stones. 22.6 pounds, bearing the cobra and the vulture to signify ruling both Upper and Lower Egypt. The back is inscribed with a protective spell.
So here’s the possible “scoop” on the mask: You see, King Tutankhamun died when he was 19 or so…pretty young, even for that time. Masks take time to make and this one is artistically exquisite so it is certainly not something one just “throws” together when needed. Some Egyptologist have theorized that this mask was meant for someone else, and only adapted for the young pharaoh. The ears are pierced, usually only for queens, And inside the mask, a cartouche with someone else’s (a queen) name. Hey, I get it. You don’t expect the 19 year old to drop dead, and in ancient Egypt they spent years getting stuff ready for their death.

But getting back to other famous folks on this floor…and mummies!

Coffin of Yuya – Grandfather of Tutankhamen

This coffin is cracked open and the mummy of Yuya is visible inside, complete with his still white hair! Our guide told us that it was bad form to take pics of the mummies so I had to make sure I didn’t get grandpa in the picture. It was pretty cool though!

Grandma Thuya and Grandpa Yuya…and me!

At this point we were given free time to wander around the museum. Mom and I moseyed around, poked into some rooms, found the ladies room, and then headed out to the meeting point, which of course ensured a walk through the gift shop. We looked around a bit, then just decided to find a (relatively) cool place to sit and wait for everyone else.

Before too long, we were all accounted for, and headed to a local restaurant for lunch.

The restaurant. Eish + Malh (Bread + Salt)

On the way over, we were asked to choose our entree. Our choices were meat lasagna or musaka. My general plan when we had only a couple of options, was to get whichever one Mom did not…I have no idea which of us ordered what, but we had one of each between us. In addition, we had:

Spinach Salad
The lasagna. Pretty good considering.
The musaka – Excellent.

We also had a choice of ice creams for dessert, perfect for the hot day. They had the usual flavors, chocolate/vanilla, etc. But what caught my attention was the sesame flavor…It was unlike anything I had ever tasted, and it was AMAZING! Overall, this is a great little restaurant.

Our waiter…and lots of water!

Cool industrial vibe, decent A/C and FREE Wi-Fi!! Always a bonus when you are 6,000 miles from home.

Back at the hotel, we had some free time until we all were supposed to meet for our speaker for our “Life in Contemporary Egypt” discussion. I took advantage of the patio seating under the umbrellas log into work and check in there. Then we all gathered in the conference room for our lecture. In addition, this day we had to sign up for the hot air balloon ride over the Valley of Kings. I had been back and forth on doing this but in the end, Mom offered to pay for me to do it. Oh My Goodness, I am so glad I went! That’s another day though. Back to our lecture.

This lecture was about life in Egypt from the 1950’s through today. It was super interesting and highlighted the many differences between living in the US and living elsewhere. It lasted about an hour and then we were on to our Welcome Dinner.

Dinner was in a private room at the hotel and, much like our Welcome Dinner in Jordan, was primarily Western style food.

Sneaky strong drink!

They gave each of us one of these fruity cocktails, I’m not entirely sure what was in it, but it had chopped apples floating in it. It was kind of strange, but good. However, several people were not fans of it, so it was left to me to finish all of the drinks! Hey, you gotta stay hydrated in the heat…and apples!

I had a filet, which was okay, potatoes and veggies.

Beef filet, mashed potatoes, steamed veggies, and au jus.

So the beef was not bad, but think about it. Egypt is not known for its rolling fields of grass where cattle can graze all day long. So they do not serve beef all that often. Still, it was fairly medium rare, and the au jus was tasty so overall, not too bad at all. Then desserts!

Chocolate torte with caramel sauce
A selection of local pastries

The chocolate dessert was good, rich and decadent. The pastries were awesome! So the moral of the story is…eat local food. Its always better!

After the lovely meal, we found out our schedule for tomorrow…Giza Plateau!! The reason people come to Egypt! It is gonna be big day!

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