Today we took a trip to Port Said to see the Suez Canal. The hotel wanted US$60 each for a car and driver which we thought was too much, so early this morning we headed off to the bus station and bought tickets on a bus to Port Said. The bus was air conditioned and three hours later we arrived in Port Said and arranged a taxi to take us to see the canal. The driver spoke good English and was very friendly, the car was a wreck! I sat in the back seat behind the driver and the back of the driver's seat rested on my lap. One good thing was that the car wouldn't go above 30km/hr! It coughed and spluttered but it got us there without breaking down. He showed us the canal and took us on the ferry across to Port Faud, we also visited the beaches on both the Port Faud and Port Said side of the canal. Like all beaches we've seen over here, they were very dirty with rubbish everywhere - not a patch on what we have at home. After all this it was time for lunch and the driver took us to a restaurant for lunch. We had asked him to take us somewhere the locals go and the restaurant was not a tourist trap at all. We had a delicious lunch of fish, plus rice, babaganoush, tahini, peppers and bread, all for 50EGP (around $10) for the two of us.
Then it was time to catch the bus back. Fortunately, on the driver's advice we had bought our return tickets in the morning and it was just as well we did as the bus was full. I was a bit disappointed that we didn't see many ships on the canal in Port Said, but on the drive back to Cairo the road runs alongside the canal and there were lots of ships on the move. It was strange to see ships sailing through the desert, or that's what it looked like from the road!
Back in Cairo we hailed a taxi back to our hotel. A lot of Egyptian roads have no lane markings and Egyptian drivers are a bit crazy and tend to drive where they fit - in most cases this is a very tight fit! They also do not turn on their headlights at night! Our taxi driver on the way home was one of the craziest I have seen yet, driving at high speed and we had a few near misses. He also didn't know the way and had to keep stopping to ask directions. Fortunately we had negotiated the price before we got in so he couldn't add any extra .
Back at the hotel by 7pm, we headed up to the rooftop bar (again!) for a beer and light meal.
Tomorrow we are going to try and find the Coptic Christian area of Cairo. It apparently used to be called Babylon and pre dates the coming of Islam to Egypt. Not sure how to get there, the Lonely Planet says to take the metro and get out at Mar Girgis station - as long as it's not written in Arabic we should be OK.
We meet the rest of the group tomorrow afternoon and I think we are all heading out to the Khan al-Khalili Bazaar after the group meeting - sounds like fun.