Joseph and I just spend a wonderful nine days in Egypt. I implore you, PLEASE go to Egypt if you ever can! This was hands-down the most enriching trip we’ve ever taken; the people and the sites are all amazing.
We’d been planning this trip for a long time, and it exceeded our expectations. We even took an Egyptian architecture class two years ago in preparation!
It’s very difficult for me to put this into words; I’m not eloquent enough to give credit to this trip. I’m still amazed with how absolutely intact everything is. I’ve always loved visiting Rome, but you can’t get near the antiquities. Egypt allows you to rub your hands along etching made 5000 years ago. It can be very surreal, especially knowing there’s much more left to be discovered hiding under the earth.
A typical view from the car in Cairo. Our first day there (which consisted only of a drive from the airport and dinner in the hotel) was a bit overwhelming. I hadn’t thought about the poverty of the city. I also was alarmed at the driving! The cars are literally within inches of each other, crammed full of people with the windows rolled down and babies haphazardly sitting on the laps of motorcyclists. Our driver even bumped into a car, said “oh!,” and kept going. Also, sand, sand, sand everywhere! Obviously I knew the geography of Egypt, but it was strangely shocking!
Day 1: Cairo
A colossal statue of Ramses II discovered on the spot in Memphis
You can just make out the pyramids of Giza in the right background.
Saqqara step pyramid
Unlike Giza’s 2.5 ton stones, the step pyramid is made of smaller blocks
Part of a festival complex in Saqqara
A man working on a rug at a factory we toured
My new favorite photo of Joseph, in front of the Great Pyramid of Giza. We didn’t take any pictures closer to the pyramid, but you can see the size of the stones compared to the people in the right background. Notice the trolley pulled by a horse–that’s not only for tourists. We frequently saw donkeys, horses and sometimes even camels driving alongside cars.
The pyramids were actually the least interesting of the sites we visited!
Joseph coming out of the smaller pyramid. He took a step up right after I focused, so the focus is on his shoulder rather than his head.
Claustrophobia prevented my going inside–a long, unlit, narrow tunnel only about four feet high. It would have been uncomfortable but manageable at full height, but I couldn’t make myself crouch down for it. Joseph assured me the inside wasn’t worth it, as there was only one unadorned room. The tombs in Thebes are much more interesting!
Our tour guide Sammar made him do this!
Next we went on a 30-minute camel ride. I’m so glad we did this–it was so much fun and was definitely the highlight of the day! We paid $20/person, and that was well worth it (of course, he asked for $50 first–bargaining is a necessity in Egypt).
Joseph didn’t realize camels stand up by straightening their back legs first. I wish I’d snapped the photo a few seconds earlier–he was absolutely shocked! I know I should have given him a warning first, but I was looking forward to see his surprise.
The driver took us out and parked the camels in front of the six pyramids to take photos (there are three smaller ons to the side that I cropped out). Everyone was very accommodating to tourists–we rarely even had to ask our tour guides to take photos of us. They knew the photo-friendly spots and even had no problems handling my camera.
With new friends Romina and Franco. We were lucky to be put with great travel companions the entire week. I hope we’ll be able to get together again soon! We’re all expats too–they’re Argentinians living in China.
Joseph, me, Romina, and Franco with the man we bargained the camel price with. He was a friend of our tour guide (all our tour guides make a point to take us to their friends to buy things), so she wanted this photo.
Franco took this photo of me riding my camel.
I was surprised to learn that the Great Sphinx of Giza sits alarmingly close to the city–right across the street is a joint Pizza Hut and KFC!
That night, we flew to Aswan and spent the night in a hotel. Joseph’s name was spelled wrong on all his tickets, but no one seemed to care.
Day 2: Aswan
In the morning we met back up with Romina and Franco, who took a 12-hour night train. I’m glad we opted out of that–they were exhausted!
If any reader plans a tour with Beauty of Egypt, I’d definitely recommend upgrading to flights and five-star hotels. It is well worth the very slight price increase. Keep in mind Egyptian five-star hotels aren’t the same as in the US or Europe! I will comment more on the travel agency in my next post.
The Aswan High Dam
My family there in 1993! Sorry for the photo quality; my parents’ scanner is broken, so they took photos of prints for me. I’m on the left at 4 Â½ years old.
Sandy mountains are so different than the Dolomites I’m accustomed to.
We took a boat to the island where Philae Temple is located; it was underwater for a while but was moved by UNESCO about 50 years ago.
Our driver. He looks extremely excited, doesn’t he?
I tried to recreate some of the photos taken on my first visit 17 years ago (which I don’t at all remember). When I got the pictures, I didn’t know where they had been taken, so I had a lot of fun keeping my eye out for familiar places.
We had a bit of a hiccup in Aswan; set to start our cruise the next day, we found out there were no rooms on any of the ships our agency had planned on, and all hotels in Aswan were booked. So for a while we had nowhere to sleep, but the agency wrangled and found us room on the Movenpick Royal Lotus, which is much nicer than what we paid for! So thanks for the mix-up, Beauty of Egypt!
While waiting to sort things out, Ahmed took us to a cafe…
Where we all had a go at a shisha! Joseph and I have never smoked, but we figured it’s part of the culture.
Joseph handled it very gracefully, unlike me…
The more I cough, the bigger Joseph’s smile goes.
Credit goes to Franco for snapping these!
Romina–what a pro!
We then transferred to our beautiful cruise ship, the Movenpick Royal Lotus. The crew was very accommodating and attentive, and the food was incredible.
Day 3: Abu Simbel & Kom Ombo
At 2AM we had to wake up for a four-hour drive to Abu Simbel in a crowded “armored two-driver caravan convoy.” I’m not sure why the security is enforced, but it’s the only way to get there. It was strange driving around Aswan as we picked up people from other hotels. The streets were brightly lit up with children playing–at 3AM!
I wasn’t expecting such warm weather–I can’t imagine how miserable it must be in the summer. We were very hot this day, even at 6AM.
The day’s outfit: floppy hat, J. Crew tank, black capris, and Frye mary-jane heels. While sight-seeing I trade in the heels for Converse (the Converse Premier shoes are so comfortable–I always rely on my two pairs when walking all day).
After two hours at Abu Simbel and another three hours on the bus, we returned to our boat and began sailing, making a stop at Kom Ombo Temple.
Again, 1993. It was a lot of fun trying to spot where my family had taken photos before!
Besides a few broken parts, the main loss of the temples is color. Originally they were completely covered with paint, but now it only remains in hard-to-reach spots like the top of columns.
A few groups of Egyptians asked to take photos with us; a guide later explained that they like tourists since the country is so reliant on tourism. But I think these girls had crush on Joseph! They took three different photos with him and then giggled and whispered every time we came near. I finally decided to ask for a picture with them because I wanted to capture the way Joseph’s face was flushed! Then they pulled out yet another camera and took their own. I love how they’re all looking at their own camera, with Joseph’s sly glance to mine!
Ping-pong on the ship deck
Sailing along the Nile is incredibly beautiful
Most Nile cruises have a Galabia Party one night. I’m glad ours was on the second night because it ended up as an ice-breaker! Everything was so much more lively and talkative than the previous day.
Franco’s picture. I had no idea that man was back there! It is perfect!
I volunteered Joseph for a game where they tied a potato attached to a string around his waist, and he was supposed to hit another potato with it. He lost very badly. I think they tied the string too high because he didn’t hit it once! He will be supremely embarrassed to see I’ve posted this photo.
Joseph got back at me by making me play a game too. It was like musical chairs with spoons–when the music stopped we had to pick one up. It got pretty violent. I love the photo on the right (taken by Franco).
I won! The fruity drink was my prize.
We were absolutely exhausted–remember, we woke up at 2AM that “morning!”