Cairo Day 1: Gabalaya Aquarium and Cairo Tower

After a night of rest in our new locale, we woke around 11 am and went to check out the free breakfast.  Breakfast consisted of bread stick type rolls with jam and butter along with some cheese and coffee or juice.  While I appreciated the free meal, that was prepared and served to us with no effort on our part, after a few days of this every morning, I many never eat bread again, much less for breakfast.  The breakfast room was pretty nice, everyone sits on pillows on the floor which was way more laid back and relaxed than having a dining table to sit at.

Our first trip out involved taking the metro over a few stops to a small island in the Nile where the Gabalaya Park was as well as the Cairo Tower.  Managing the metro wasn't very challenging, the only hard part was figuring out which exit tunnel would be best.  All of the metros had at least two exits and some had as many as 4 or 6.  So getting our orientation after exiting the metro was a constant battle.  The metro was always pretty busy and unfortunately this lead to some pretty poor behavior when getting on and off the metro.  The technique seemed to be to push your way on the train with no concern for anyone else.  We even saw a man pull a woman out of his way so that he could get on the metro.  That just completely shocked me that someone would have so little respect or concern for someone else.

It took a fair bit of walking and getting lost before we found the park/aquarium.  We had some Google maps that I had printed from the internet, but since most of the street names on the map were in Arabic, they were only useful to an extent.  After finding the park, we found out the entry fee was about 10x more than expected.  It was still only going to be about $8 to get in, which isn't bad at all for two people, but feeling blindsided by the increase irked me.

The park was awkwardly fun, but also frustrating for both of us.  The aquarium aspect was significantly lacking, which I had read online, but despite the lack of fish, a man still insisted on showing us all of the ones they did have.  Most of them were Tilapia, which is a bit underwhelming, but he also insisted on pointing out each of the male and female fish in each tank.  We're pretty sure he was just trying to convince us to tip him for this extra personal service.  It seemed like the overall mindset in Cairo was to guilt you into tipping for a service regardless of whether you asked for it or not!  All of this unwanted attention was really starting to grate on me, and on more than one occasion while in Cairo I just wished people would leave us alone.

I was almost in culture shock to see couples walking around the park holding hands and sitting together in the grass.  After the conservative environment of Saudi, even holding hands seems to be a big deal.  The weather was also shockingly nice.  There was almost no humidity and the temperatures were much cooler than those we left in Saudi.

So Steve told you a little bit about the fish we saw when we posted from Egypt, but here are some pictures to support his fine details.

Taxidermied animals anyone?

Fish in a jar.  This does not make for a good aquarium.

Poor shark needs some moisturizer.

Almost all of the trees were painted white like this, we never found out why.

 Our next stop was the Cairo Tower, and after all of the walking and getting lost when getting to the park, we decided to take a taxi to the tower.  Overall, I wasn't really impressed with the tower.  I thought it was kind of ugly, the tickets were overpriced, and the view was underwhelming.  There's a lot of smog/fog over Cairo so the view was pretty limited and I feel like once you've seen one cityscape, you've probably seen them all.

We ate dinner at a restaurant near the tower, which was pretty nice.  The service however was pretty darn bad.  That seemed to be the case in almost all of the restaurants we ate at. It didn't help that they automatically add 12% to your bill as a 'service' charge, so maybe that impacted the low level of service.

By this time it was completely dark and it was only 6pm.  I really think Daylight Savings Time would do wonders in the Middle East.  It gets dark so early here.  We tried to find the Museum of Modern Egyptian Art, but had no luck wandering around in the dark.  We ended up getting pretty lost and walking quite a ways back to the hostel.

Catch up on the rest of our trip:
Holy Mother of Chaos
Cairo Day 0