Egypt on a small tour and my first solo trip!
Egypt fulfilled something that I didn't even know I was craving and set the tone for the next 9 years of my life. My journal reads: "My heart is racing, though I feel home. . . weird." I was on my way to Cairo at that moment eating chips and salsa with a Corona at the JFK airport.
My first note about Egypt was that it was brown, the second was that there were very few women in the streets, and the third was that "a smile goes a long way". Here's a picture of what I meant by Cairo being brown.
Cairo to me was like a whole different world. The reason behind the brown landscape which still stands true today, is issue with permit approval and the unfinished construction which also meant exemption from taxes. The brown buildings are unfinished construction and still provides a place to live for many. Then you find something familiar like. . .
That was a great fast food meal on my first night, the famous McArabia!!! I was on a small group tour with Contiki, people of age 18 to 35. I believe there were 25 of us total and thankfully everyone was awesome! On the 1st official day we jetted to the Gyza Pyramids. It was just incredible. And to think that just 2 days before I was sitting on my patio staring at a man-made lake . . . more like a bath tub really.
The Pyramids of Giza are one of the most famous monuments in the world. I remember the wind blowing while I was camel riding, and humming because it just felt good for me to do so.
The Pyramids of Giza consists of three pyramids, Khufu (largest at 480 ft high), Khafra (mid), and Menkaure (smallest). They were built to honor Pharaohs of the fourth ruling dynasty of Egypt during a period known as the Old Kingdom. The Old Kingdom was the first great era of Egyptian civilization and lasted from 2686 to 2181 BCE. The pyramid complex at Giza also holds the famous Sphinx statue. The site is located just outside of Cairo. Pyramids size has to do with each Pharaoh's power. Their bodies were mummified and entombed in the pyramid or in a tomb next to it. Always laid to rest with their valuable earthly possessions. The Pharaohs were believed to be among the Gods in the afterlife.
The Giza Pyramids were certainly a highlight but that was just the beginning. We then boarded the train to Aswan. This was good to see the local life. The segmentation between men and women is crazy and you must be respectful. In Aswan, after we did a Felucca Sailing on the Love Boot (LOL) we boarded an incredible Nile Cruise for 3 nights.
The ship was absolutely incredible. It seemed cheap and old from the outside, but inside it was all beautiful dark cherry wood, including the rooms and the food was to die for.
While on the Nile Cruise, most of us added on Abu Simbel. This was absolutely overwhelming. We boarded a plane (like a 20 seat plane that was literally falling apart) from Aswan. After a 45-minute flight where literally every single person threw up, we arrived at this sacred site in Nubia, Upper Egypt, near the border with Sudan. We walked quite a bit to the entrance in what felt like 120 Fahrenheit weather, I almost fainted. The complex is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Nubian Monuments , which runs from Abu Simbel downriver to Philae (near Aswan). The twin temples were originally carved out of the mountainside in the 13th century BC, during the 19th dynasty reign of the Pharaoh Ramesses II. They serve as a lasting monument to the king and his queen Nefertari, and commemorate his victory at the Battle of Kadesh.
During the cruise we stopped at a few ancient sites, the Botanical Garden, parked at a couple of small ports to visit some local markets and perfume stores (city of Edfu). This is where I noticed sitting on the shuttle bus that there were a line of men sitting on the sidewalk staring at me. I didn't think anything of it. That was until the tour guide pulled me aside and said that I had an uncanny resemblance to Nefertiti. I had no idea who she was at that point and looked her up to find no resemblance. But hey, I'll take the compliment! Nefertiti, whose name means "a beautiful woman has come," was the queen of Egypt and wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten during the 14th century B.C. She and her husband established the cult of Aten, the sun god.
We descended the cruise in Luxor where we visited the Avenue of the Sphinxes, an epic lineup of human headed sphinxes extending almost 2 miles. This was where you stopped and reflected. Quiet and beautiful.
Still in Luxor, one of the most magnificent visits was to the Valley of the Kings (City of the Dead). We visited about 20 tombs out of 63. Unfortunately, no photos were allowed there. King Tut's tomb is what stayed with me the most. It was a powerful presence you could feel while there. Here's a little something to give you an idea.
During this short 10 day small group tour to Egypt, we saw a lot more sites. Egypt has some beautiful sites as well as some terrifying ones. I saw a man smack a woman twice in the face in the middle of the street, a mother grab her kid and smack the child too in public, kids that could barely speak or walk already beg for money and more poverty than many of us have ever seen. I learned that back then, one child was born every 23 seconds and I wondered what the mortality rate was. Our guide, Hazeem, said that the Muslims are in constant conflict with their religion and everyday life, and I thought what torture that must be! The population is not keen on condoms, they don't believe in birth control because they believe their God Ra will always take care of them regardless of the precarious condition.
Being there during the Ramadan was a privilege. The streets started singing at 4.30 pm til 6 pm and then again from 5 to 6 am. I am so thankful that this was my first solo trip and I got to experience something so unique. On my way back home, I remember I could barely hold my tears. This was the first of many travel experiences where I truly absorbed the culture, listened intently, observed and learned. This was the beginning of a whole new way to see life.
Make sure to check out Instagram and Pinterest for more photos of this exquisite journey.