A Weekend Getaway – Turned Marathon: How to 24h at Giza Pyramids

selfie with the sphynx
selfie with the sphynx

The Pyramids. Such a high goal it seemed, in my early twenties…

On our first date, we went to that shady, smelly bar and talked about our plans to see the world, while sipping on warm beer. Well, I think it’s safe to say we’ve checked a lot (!)  of those boxes together.

One particular location was missing though: Egypt.

Well, to be fair,  I actually mean to say a very specific and well-known place in Egypt: The Giza Pyramids.

Because there’s just so much you can cover in a weekend away – in any country; so we chose our battle carefully and went bulls-eye with the pyramids.


 Where to stay

We chose the hotel for its location and price, but it turns out that Great Pyramid Inn is a  very comfortable apart-hotel, giving you the most value for your bucks.

The hotel is located in the heart of Giza, just a few hundred meters away from the Sphinx and Pyramids complex. And it costs 35 € / night!

It features a “rooftop” terrace – this sounds way fancier than it is, so just take it literally: a terrace on the roof, rather basic ( at least till they finish their constructions)

However, the terrace does gives you an awesomely unobstructed panoramic view over the pyramids, also saving you 30€ pp for enjoying the evening light show. The terrace also doubles as a breakfast/dinner space.

Breakfast at Great Pyramid Inn deserves special mention, as I am sure even the pickiest of travelers would find little to complain about! It was rich and varied, catering to all tastes, regardless of your sweet/savory preferences.

Complimentary Shuttle service is included: if you book at least two nights with Great Pyramid Inn, they offer free pick up from the airport, saving you another 40€.

The staff are very friendly and accommodating, we ended up booking a full day tour with private guide and 4×4 and were not disappointed.

Mind that the tour was on the expensive side, but we didn’t really bargain for a better price either, which I would recommend you at least try.

Booking with the hotel allowed us to be flexible in our already very tight schedule, so in the end, it was well worth its money.

A 24-Hour Travel Marathon

It was supposed to be a weekend away; which, between faulty airplanes, delayed then lost flights, and waiting in line to be rescheduled on the next available flight to Cairo, our trip to see the pyramids was cut down to 26 magnificent hours, from landing to take off.

I did get my money back for the unfortunate but unjustified flight delay and actually came out on the winning side. See how here.

But oh, the things we managed to squeeze into those 26 hours!

It has been a long while since we ran a weekend travel marathon like this, snapping pictures while striding to our next check in the box.

While I can’t exactly say I missed it, and I strongly suggest that you not do it if you’re the kind of traveler who likes to immerse – for us it was better than canceling the whole thing.

Here’s our schedule in a snapshot:

Saturday 4.30 AM: Arrival at Cairo international airport & waiting for our pick up.

The people at our accommodation, Great Pyramid Inn, were immensely helpful before our arrival, and very responsive at that early hour on WhatsApp, to ensure that we meet our driver for the pickup.

6.30 AM: Arrived at the hotel, where we were presented with our tour options, settled on our itinerary and booked our guide.

Even managed to sleep for one hour, before we had an amazingly refreshing breakfast overlooking the pyramids!

Giza pyramids view from our hotel
Giza pyramids – view from our hotel

8.30 AM: In a dusty but dignified  4×4, we set out to see what used to be the oldest pyramid in the world, Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara. We then went on to the Sphinx, Great Pyramid, and  Memphis, which meant for a packed morning!

1.00 PM: Lunch included, with the best kebab I’ve ever eaten, and the freshest figs! I didn’t know how much I’d love figs!

 the UpsideDown Pyramids

Side note : Even though Egypt boasts one-third of the antiquities of the world and the largest beaches on the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, the country has seen very tough times because of the terrorist threats, which mean European tourists are not flowing, but rather trickling in.

However, the number of Chinese visitors in Egypt doubled from 65000 to 135000 in 2015, and growing exponentially in 2016.

As the two of us were seated with our guide at a table large enough to accommodate 12 people, large groups of Chinese tourists were occupying over 80% of the restaurant, making the statistics very much real..

2.30 PM: Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, where we saw the infamous King Tut treasure, along with a plethora of artifacts of all ages. And of course: mummies.

King Tut’s treasure
My personal favorite of the whole tour was the Museum. We gave it a full 2 hours, but it’s easily worth an entire day, if you have the time.

The New Grand Egyptian Museum right next door is work in progress, plans are to open its doors towards the end of 2017 and it’ll contain the biggest and most complete collections and exhibitions of Egyptian artifacts.

Until then, definitely go here.

4.30 PM: Papyrus museum and the Perfume museum, ending with a stop at a local shop for some pomegranate juice, compliments of our guide.

These last two are not exactly museums, and they may initially seem like your typical touristy ripoff traps – which is exactly what went through my mind as I telling the guide to not stop there anymore. In hindsight, I am glad he insisted.

We ended up spending 1 hour there between both of them; they serve you hibiscus tea or Egyptian style coffee while they take their time showing you how papyrus used to be made in ancient times, how to distinguish between real and fake papyrus, and telling you a bit about the art of calligraphy that they are trying to revive through legit courses at the University.

Expectedly, you are invited to shop, but it’s done with a non-pushy attitude which I wasn’t expecting, as they keep repeating that you are not expected or obliged to buy anything.

Admittedly, I did shop, but it was for the kind of souvenirs I actually wanted, and we successfully avoided the kitschy markets in the process. So, double win.

6.00 PM:  Back at the hotel for a shower then dinner while enjoying the Lights show.

Good night and well-deserved rest as 4.00 AM the next day: driving back to the airport for our flight.

Can’t decide if Antonio here was acting shy or smug.

I loved the old smell cast to the entire (albeit short) trip, like from a strange blend of Casablanca and Arabian Nights; from the dusty look of our EgyptAir chairs (slept the entire 4 1/2 hours, so can’t really comment on their services) to the nostalgic plush couches in the Cairo business lounge to the golden age Japanese 4×4 with its beige leather interior.

One thing is certain: we’ll be back for a proper visit of these ancient and dazzling sites!

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