Getting to know Egypt was a dream postponed several times due to terrorist attacks, explosions and recently the Arab Spring.
The dream was bigger than fear so I decided it was time to visit it!
A trip to Egypt on your own is very risky, local police clearance is required to enter several places, many people only speak Arabic and communication is very difficult, all 4 taxi drivers I picked up did not speak English, at McDonald's I had to order in Arabic (Warda Big Mac) ! I definitely advise to go on a group tour or with some friend who is fluent in Arabic and knows the region well! Traveling backpacking style with friends or just a couple without mastering the Arabic language is almost a suicide!
Ideally, you should spend at least 4 days for tours in Cairo, and if the purpose of the trip is to study dance, 4 extra apart from the days dedicated to the festivals.
The arrival and departure at Cairo scares a little, the airport is small, crowded, disorganized and people smoke a lot indoors (including the police and security guards!). You need to pay attention to the strollers and luggage because thefts are frequent! A bearded gentleman, long tunic took my friend's suitcase and just walked away, I took the suitcase from his hand by force, and that was pretty scary! The people are rude and pull your empty cart, it was necessary to make a human line around the bags to ensure security, the luggage belt is small and your luggage keep on falling amid the small crowd that surrounds it.
At the airport the visa is checked and we met the Egyptian guide who speaks Portuguese! At the airport we bought a prepaid cell phone chip with internet package ( the internet is very good and works even in the desert! ) On the way to the hotel we can see the city of Cairo with its mosques and its chaotic traffic!
Mena House Hotel is wonderful. It was built in 1869 by King Isma'il Pasha and has an incredible view of the pyramids. I went during the biggest belly dance festival in the world, ahlan wo sahaln (welcome) held annually at the hotel. In this festival, women from all over the world meet for studies, competitions and belly dance shows. The beauty of Mena House is in the details, wonderful chandeliers, antique furniture, a true museum-palace.
Having a delicious breakfast with the pyramids in the background and the sound of Om Kultoum (main Egyptian singer) is well worth the trip!
The Open gala show of the festival has the main dance stars. Each one has their own orchestra with more than 10 musicians, a show to thrill all lovers of Arab culture. For 100 dollars (oh my wallet!) you can watch the show and attend the dinner with a wide variety of Egyptian food (you have to be smart because the buffet ends quickly and the replacement is not the most efficient)! Alcoholic drinks are extremely expensive, $ 12 a beer! A soft drink in the hotel costs about 8 dollars!
To learn more about other attractions I visited in Egypt click on:
Cairo: Cairo Museum, Papyrus Factory, Citadel and others.
This text was a kind contribution of physiotherapist, dancer and Belly Dance teacher Mahara Shams.
Visit the page of Mahara Shams Studio situated in Belo Horizonte, MG.
Inquire about the dance studio, the courses and schedules available.
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