11 things to know before you travel to Egypt – Guest post by George Gathima

Egypt is the place with one of the 7 wonders of the world. I tell you, the Great Pyramids are a wonder. Try as you might, you won’t comprehend how they were constructed, and that was over 5,000 years ago!

Egypt visit 1099

I loved my stay (but the demonstrations at Tahrir square which made me not to visit the Egyptian Museum, spoilt my plan..)

Moving on swiftly!

Things to know before you travel to Cairo

1. Know where you are going–and get an English speaking cab guy otherwise you will get so lost.

2. You will get many offers for tour guides– most of this people are not real guides,

do your research first and make sure they know English and not Egytinglish…which is what we can call Arabic with some seasoning of English.

3. The Airport is huge –Know your gate well- you need a cab from one gate to another.

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Great view of runway

Cairo from the skies above!

Cairo from the skies above!

Sun dunes of the Sahara Desert

Sun dunes of the Sahara Desert

4. Crazy traffic jams (never seen such before in my life- Kenya traffic ni shadow)- Plan your time three hours ahead always.

5. Once in the hotel room ask  someone write all your destinations in Arabic  ( If not, Enroll for Arabic classes 🙂

6. Use METERED taxis only.If you use the rest, you might be over charged.

Number plate

Number plate

7. Tahir square is in the heart of Cairo- beware of any demonstrations.

8. Friday is the prayer day — No work. Sunday is the Monday.

9. Visit the great pyramids and the Sphinx— it’s BREATHTAKING- makes sure your camera is well charged or you have spare battery.  I LOVED ALL THE TOMBS AND THE HISTORY – IT IS LOVELY

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Great view of the Pyramid of Khufu under the desert sun!!

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The Great Sphinx on guard behind is the great pyramid of Khafre

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The Great Pyramids of Khufu, Khafre and Mankaure (note the smaller queens pyramids and the sphinx)

Egypt visit 1302

The Great Pyramid of Khufu (google the details 🙂 )

Egypt visit 1262

Egypt visit 1248

See the Queens and Kings Mothers smaller pyramids

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Actual Tomb where a sarcophagus is laid

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Lovely King Tut’s painting on Papyrus

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Sarcophagus artifact

Hieroglyphics

Hieroglyphics

Boat pits next to the pyramids

Boat pits next to the pyramids

King Tuts Artifact

King Tuts Artifact

Damage to your pocket to see this great wonders of the world! (actually priceless to me :) )

Damage to your pocket to see this great wonders of the world! (actually priceless to me 🙂 )

10. Visit the great holy mosques – some are very ancient and very big

11. Visit the church where the HOLY FAMILY – Yes, Mary mother of Jesus, Joseph and Jesus stayed when they were in Egypt and where they prayed.

Holy Church where Jesus, Mary and Joseph prayed when in Egypt (Abu Serga Church)

Holy Church where Jesus, Mary and Joseph prayed when in Egypt (Abu Serga Church)

Holy Church where Jesus, Mary and Joseph prayed when in Egypt (Abu Serga Church)

Holy Church where Jesus, Mary and Joseph prayed when in Egypt (Abu Serga Church)

Journey taken by the Holy family to the church above

Journey taken by the Holy family to the church above

Original section of the church roof from Biblical times

Original section of the church roof from Biblical times

12. See the well from where the Holy Family drank from.

The well

The well

10. Go for a night cruise at night — see belly dancers do their thing.

Lights! Camera! Action! at the Action packed Nile Night cruise

Lights! Camera! Action! at the Action packed Nile Night cruise

Night cruise in the Nile

Night cruise in the Nile

Sumptuous food at the aboard the cruise

Sumptuous food at the aboard the cruise

11. If you have time and money– Go to Alexandria and Memphis cities.

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More photos from my trip below. See you on the next flight!

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Somewhere in Cairo

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Handmade bottles for Essence from a factory in Cairo

Handmade bottles for Essence from a factory in Cairo

Cairo by night

Cairo by night

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HORUS- the Egypt Air inflight Magazine—great cover pic!

 

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The 100 Day Challenge Meet Up #1

The 100 Day Challenge Meet Up #1

Said the event begins at 3. . Good.

No wait we said 2pm.

Oh look it’s 2 already.

Am part of the organizers and am late. Darn..  .

Now am cussing (just a bit).

A message drops in, Trezer, says something.  . yeah she’s running late too.

Now am cussing (a lot). Well, not cussing cussing. . .

 

Finally Nairobi traffic drops me into the CBD.

I spot Maich.

Maureen is already at Cold Stone too. Thankfully, she’s no trouble spotting.

Some group is singing patriotic songs at a corner of the new Cold Stone joint in Nairobi – is it the waiters or the ice-cream lovers? Is it in praise of Kenya, or ice-cream? Everyone okay? We don’t wait to find out. Cold Stone cannot contain us – it is rather tiny, and Nairobians are taking over every inch.

You know that feeling that you’ve known someone for so long, yet you’ve never met? Social media has a way of breaking these walls. . especially for Team 100.

We go collecting Neema, who’s painting the town in a gorgeous red dress. Pascale is in tow too, I expect her to be in a wide brimmed hat, like the one she dones on Facebook. She is not. I expect to have some of those healthy foods stuffed in her bag for team100 members. She doesn’t. Sob, sob.

Then not too long after, Trezer and Poshia slide to their seats at our new hang out joint. I won’t say that one of these two ladies needed too many maps, eating up our airtime as we gave her directions to the joint – Tichinos.

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4While there, the hungry and not so hungry among us are fixated on one item on the menu – Pizza; but we quickly pass after the waiter’s dimensions of it, fail to match the dimensions in our minds; stomachs.

So we go for smoothies with names like – climbing Mt. Maria, Zero cholesterol the latter, which turns out to be a herbal ish, bitter ish kind of drink. I think it’s so bitter, it scares cholesterol out of you! Two of us are not so scared of cholesterol – they boldly order fries, insensitive that some members of the group are taking part in health journeys, tsk tsk,.

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In not long, Mercie sashays in, and then Brenda. Some loud aaahs, and ohhs for Brenda, when she introduces herself. She’s the one always supplying jokes to the group. Now everyone’s laughing.

 

We are loud!

 

Straight to agenda

We tell of our high and lows in the challenge – some highs include stories of members having received gifts from other people to aid their challenge. . Which is simply amazing.

Some 100 day challenge journeys although silent to the public, but were revealed to the rest of us at the meet up are so deep. I am in awe.

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Overall, The 100 Day challenge has become a home for us.

I could feel it as we slowly sipped our drinks; as we rocked into stupors of laughter when Trezer and Maich matched up for multiple battles of wits. I could feel it even through the threats from Mercie Poetess who promised to keep each one of us on toes so we can complete our challenges.

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Am told the last man and lady, stayed around late hoping to catch a glimpse of Veronique – who helped to start the 100 DC initiative.

All I know is am itching for the next challenge, and members’ masterpieces that will be typed out between then. And now.

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Photo credit | Trezer Oguda

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The 100 Day challenge is an open group on Facebook, whose members keep each other accountable in individual journeys of self improvement. Some of the bloggers who made it to the maiden meet up blog here: Mercie here and herePoshia; Trezer here and hereMaich; Neema and Maureen

The Bus Tour [Part II] and lessons for the young developer

This post spins from Part I here. Below, some house reviews.

1: Graceland Athi River

Unreal, they look too perfect.

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The good: Each of the 3 bedrooms comes en suite. The maisonettes sit on some well manicured compounds, in courts comprising of a dozen houses each making nyumba kumi a feasible project here.

The domestic quarters although tiny come with a bit of luxury especially in the bathroom/ cloak room glass partitions and the overall escape from a square block design for the quarters to something more unusual yet practical.

The bad: Small rooms, like Kitchen. Prohibitive prices.

2: [will remain unnamed]

I could tell that this estate was a joke right when I saw its brochures.

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The bad: Some angry-looking exterior painting, not only the choice of color but also the roughness. Colors overlap on the edges – something you would have to up close to notice.

Inside the maisonettes hide a cocktail of sub-standard fixtures. There are also lots of wood imitations for doors and shelves making the rooms stuffy.

Also, some mill in Athi-River made it seem like all its refuse combusted there, filling mornings and evenings with a foul stench according to some mason there. In contrast, nearby estates were devoid of this. Something clearly hadn’t quite worked for this developer.

The developer informed us that the houses were on some special offer. That each unit would have a huge price slash if we bought them quick (Price tag is 7m). That almost all the units had been bought. I concluded that those who had bought them were either in the diaspora (hope they remain there) or temporarily blind.

The good: Spacious.

Tips:

  • Even for an untrained eye, poor quality is easy to spot
  • Neither will good advertising nor discounted prices rescue a bad product
  • A show room with no furnishings is more excusable than one with ill-dressed and poor quality furniture

3: Lapfund Gardens Athi-River

The thing with reviewing multiple houses is that your mind gets fuzzy, and you start walking through the rooms quickly like some routine, before moving to the next house. But there are houses that can make you pause in awe. This estate did just that. In fact, it’s like time stopped the moment we stepped into the showroom.

We were so mind-blown, that the lounge instantly became one massive studio – camera lights, selfies, (no groundies though) . . . like we all wanted to pretend we live here, hehe. Me I don’t do that kind of stuff anyway :D.

If indeed this is as a result of civil servants’ retirement fund monies, I admit that it has been put in some very good use. The 9.5m+ price tag in fact feels fair here.

The good: Spacious in every way; bursts of creativity in each room; adorably different in siting of balconies and other seemingly tiny architectural details. Quality is written all over Lapfund Gardens. For security are some CCTV propped somewhere on the solar powered street lights. Some spacious play area for kids too.

The bad: Dull exterior painting, although this is more than compensated by bright interiors.

4: Sunset Boulevard

There couldn’t be a worser day to receive potential buyers than that Saturday: a furious Athi River had burst its streams encroaching into the estate and quashed any to-die-for impressions earlier seen on the website.

If that gets sorted, the up to 6 storey buildings look like fascinating places to live in. in my opinion, this is  the kind of place to live with housemates – housemates you don’t mind sharing a cloakroom with. Because bedrooms are all in a linear plane like hotel rooms, quite unusual for ordinary houses. In essence, the flats are one big house with many rooms.

The good: Affordable to rent, with ranges stretching from 15k–35k for 1Br to an extended 3Br, respectively. Its slogan is appropriate – High life, low price.

Also, the Boulevard apartments took the price for ‘most creative use of space’. the flats are artistically combined into an interesting jigsaw of 1br, 2br and 3, something a camera would not quite capture. You have to be right up to see it for yourself.

The landscaping too is one to die for, with outdoor seats located on just the right spots.

The bad: Small sized units; the flats are quite populous, if you mind; a rogue Athi-River which if uncontained could make you swim all the way to your flat

Smart tip (for an entrepreneur)

  • With a population of about 1,000+, some good use for your money would also be to purchase/ rent a shop in such an estate. You would hardly go wrong tapping into such numbers.

5: Oasis

They are pricey, and the apartments don’t give two hoots about that. Of such superior quality, they don’t struggle to shine.

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The good: Spacious, very spacious; a pair of balconies; clean and sweet interiors. The solid design makes maximum use of natural daylight. Some extravagant compound space too.

The bad: Pricey. When you have a 1br here selling for about 4.5m, it is probably for a well-heeled bachelor.

6: Sidai

I expected this to be the show stopper, but sadly it was not.

They include a tiny kitchen, but American kitchen. So you can see who’s cooking, and what they’re up to. The lounge, dining and kitchen really are almost seamless.

The good: Ample garden area; serene – the kind of place you’d want to bring up your children in. With electric fences on half-raised perimeter court wall, it also feels safe to be here.

The bad: A defective wooden floor met me at the show house. It reached out for me and whispered doubt about the overall quality of more ordinary houses in the estate.

Smart tip

  • Showroom impressions have a voice. It’s louder than that of any marketer, agent or advertisement .

7: Bonito Serene Homes

If ever there was a house, I wanted to marry and have its babies, it would be a Bonito.

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The good: It’s like space is the last concern on the developer’s mind. She lavishes you with it, throws in a Jacuzzi, and confuses you with one of the most relaxed-looking of breezy balconies.

The 3 Br and 4 Br maissonetes cost 10.5 m and over, but I would rate them as fairly priced for the quality. In fact, you might get so madly in love that for a moment do anything to purchase a unit.The interior/ exterior has been made with such an eye for detail, it makes your heart ache.

There’s even a private bridge for residents across Athi-River nearby. Who does that?!!

The bad: I can’t think of any yet.  . .

Smart tips:

  • Unless you have completed units available for viewing, do not accept potential buyer visits too early when construction is still in the early stages. Only finesse saved the day for Bonito
  • A team of smart, enthusiastic and suave marketers will more than make you score any day.

Rent: 45-55k

8:  Fountain view estate
Plain Jane 3-bedroomed bungalows.

The good: There is a sense of security in this estate; most spacious individual compounds I saw that day.

The bad: Traditional architecture. Using an architect for house plans, would probably have made a huge difference in adding comfort and class; no solar heating; no street lights; at 6.5m these units are overpriced.

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Rent 30k.

9: One World Apartments

From the view outside, I was really billing on these to succeed.

The good: secure compound

The bad: Failed on the quality test – door knobs were coming off right at the showroom, plus the partitions at the kitchen/ dining area looked cheap. With these things in mind, I found the units absurdly overpriced.

 

10: New Mugaa Court

Hell, who needs brochures when you have this? The 10 units more than sell themselves! With a price tag of 10.5m, these units are worth the whole lot.

The good: Every bell and whistle in place, this estate is the real deal; spacious, and the stairway takes you to a breath-taking gigantic window, which not only lets in maximum sunlight, but is just as impressive from outside. As for the master bedroom, it’s another house by itself made to completely dynamite your mind.

New Mugaa Court is also also one of those estates you feel really secure in.

The bad: Estate is fairly small and is tucked quite some distance from the main road.

Smart tip: when potential buyers are visiting, at least have a caretaker nearby.

11: Kisaju-Aiden Housing Estate

You wouldn’t immediately know that the units are not made of conventional stone blocks. The technology used to put up this estate is the future.

The EPS (Expanded Polystrene Styrofoam) is like foam reinforced by galvanized steel and then covered by concrete to produce a house with thin walls.

The good: Although I had my doubts at the beginning, this is one formidable structure. . . Units are bullet proof | Sound proof | Fire proof | inexpensive | quick to construct

The developers here assured us that it takes only 3 days to raise a 3 Br skeleton, and then about 3 months to finish up its interior. The slender looking walls they said, would last for more than 60 years.

Also, massive cuts in costs (by about half) is a plus.

The bad: This particular estate is tucked far from the main road, in the middle of nowhere. Generally, the EPS technology mIght take a while to be fully adopted because it is unconventional. Also it requires a skilled fundi to do this thing thing.

But saying it in black and white to the young developer, this is the future.

Mark my words.

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*[Purely as experienced].

The Bus Tour [Part I]

I could see right through the phony.

The slender lady with a large denim bag – an interior decorator without a doubt, with her paraphernalia stuffed inside, she was certainly here to fish for new designs; I also spotted the regular speculator in his regular spectacles – posing with a group of his kind. Young professionals, like me, were here too hoping for a slim chance of owning a slice of their dreams if at all.

We were at KICC on a chilly Saturday morning. While some stood trapped in their little worlds, others keenly leafed through a variety of brochures. But we raised our eyes at almost timed intervals eyeing each other, and then leveled them down just as fast. Hell, weren’t we just a bunch of phonies? We knew it, but we acted like we had it all together.

Not so for the group on my left though. Some diaspora looking chaps, who according to Njoki are wealthy. They casually chatted, wafting some delicate mannerisms.

We were (im)patiently waiting to enter into our selected route buses, and ride straight into our dream houses.

The event: KCB Dream House Bus Tour. The trips: A total of 4, each seemingly categorized into places of affluence and oblivion. Not really . . . but I chose Route 2: Athi-River/ Kitengela/ Kisaju; because it was a rough assortment of estates that you cannot possibly put in a box – a rainbow of the different colors of the middle class. Their hues varying from where ‘my’ group stood that day, and where the diaspora chaps stood, but it would take more than just a few steps to cross that line.

The deal: Pay 500bob and saunter into a variety of decent and fashionably constructed estates asking questions like a boss. Lunch would be a delicious thigh – of a chicken – born and bred at Galito’s, along with some symmetrically chopped fries and toppings of salad. Several in-between-refreshments would keep us hydrated.

In plain English, this was a free tour!

Actual trip was tweaked slightly on the D-day to more manageable estates

Actual trip tweaked slightly on the D-day for a better experience . . . i like to imagine

The first estate on the list nauseated my dreams though. It was crafted in elegance, swinging to the tunes of 9.5 million bob upwards, made me wonder what prices in more serious routes would make me feel. So with my fast-paceD dreams taking a stroll, I was left there with my pen, notebook and a group of about 30 phonies who made for fantastic company.

I decided to review the houses, and probably save you some trouble if you ever decided to take a walk down Mombasa road, in search of a house . . .

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Visit again for photos, part II runs tomorrow!