been getting ready to go for months Ė years, actually. Iíve been
buying odds and ends as I think of them, little 3 oz bottles, new
underwear (as you donít want customs officials to see your old
underwear), a sunhat, travel clock, and all the other weird gear
listed in the travel agencyís ďmust haveĒ list. Iím going to Egypt to see the
pyramids, the trip of a lifetime.
Since I will be
going on an international trip in a few months, I've been reading some
travel tips about packing light, what to take, and such. One of the
tips I came across regarding international travel was a bit surprising
"Try not to look like an American."
couldn't believe it when I saw the list --- all those shots just to be
able to travel? Some of these diseases have been eradicated for half a
century. I was looking at the CDC website which recommends various
immunizations needed for traveling outside the country. The list for Egypt is so extensive that
it cracked my glasses to read it.
The time was here for the big event, our adventure
tour to Egypt. Day one was lost somewhere in a time warp due to the
eight hour difference in time between the U.S. and Egypt. Before the
warp, most of the day was spent wandering around JRK airport in New
York trying to find Egypt Air.
My first impression of Egypt is from the mini-bus we
take from the airport, all of us in the tour group packed inside like
kids in a school bus with our luggage piled on top. Somehow I had
imagined that Cairo would be in the middle of the dessert with
rippling sand dunes all around like in the movie Lawrence of Arabia,
but all I see is dirt. Dirt is everywhere -- on the trees, in the air, on cars, on streets,
on everything moving or still.
start our trip to Egypt at the logical place to begin, the pyramids. I
somehow got the idea that there are three pyramids. That's what
I always see in pictures. However, can you believe it? There are
hundreds, and they come in various sizes. We visited the Great Pyramid
of Egypt, a massive construction over 4600 years old and an awesome
monument to behold.
I was warned about traffic in Cairo, I thought in terms of Chicago or
Atlanta. But the traffic in Cairo gives a whole new meaning to rush
hour. There are often no white lines in the streets and cars rush
about in a haphazard way, out bluffing each other. To wait or take
turns is unheard of, and even pedestrians are not given the right of
way but cross streets at their own peril.
we are going on what is billed as a spiritual tour where we visit the
oldest section of the city where some of the old churches of
Cairo are, including the landmark Citadel. Egypt is
ninety percent Muslim and about ten percent Coptic Christian, with a
small scattering of other religions. We visit a very old Christian
church, a synagogue and a mosque.
flight to Aswan is uneventful except for being questioned by security
about a mirror in my purse. They also want to take my camera out of
the bag and look at it. Honey, who probably fits some terrorist
profile due to his beard, is searched at nearly every security stop.
Strange that we are afraid extremist Muslims will blow up our planes
and they are afraid Americans will blow up theirs.
Wow! What a day. We get up before the crack of dawn for breakfast and a three
hour ride to see the ancient temples at Abu Simbel, probably the highlight of
the trip as far as I'm concerned. On the way we stop to see dawn crack as the
sun rises on the Sahara Dessert. Another time we stop to look at a mirage which
appears to be water in the distance, but is only a reflection in the sun's heat.
Abu Simbel is actually two temples build by Ramses II in honor of Queen
is the exciting much anticipated day of the camel. We are to ride to
an ancient monastery. Naturally, we have to take a boat across the
river to get to the camels. Regardless of which side of the river you
are on, you always have to cross it and walk the plank to get to shore
where you climb the required three flights of steps to get to whatever
it is that you are going to.
In the afternoon we went on yet another boat, a traditional sailboat called a
felucca, which is a type of boat used for thousands of years. We sailed over to
an island on our own wind speed, but coming back the wind died and we had to use
a tow from a motorboat that was on standby just in case. The sailboat was
interesting, but a bit scary as I've heard that they turn over easily.
Temple of Horus is supposed to be the second largest of the ancient
temples and the best preserved. It appears much like the other temples
-- or maybe I'm seeing so many Egyptian temples that they are all
beginning to look alike. I know the scarf and bead vendors are all
starting to look alike.
and more temples, Egypt is all about ancient temples. Karnack is
actually a complex of temples but you can only tour one temple. It is
larger than other temples, but smaller than I expected. It looked so
big in the pictures. This is the temple with a long rows of sphinxes
with ram heads, often seen in pictures. It has several tall spheres
that are unique, but other than that, is much like the other temples.
After a while, they all begin to blend into a blur of columns,
sphinxes, and cartouches. It will probably be difficult to tell them
apart in the pictures I am taking, I think, and later I will find I
One of†the stops on our unending trip is at an Egyptian farmhouse where ten people live in the small flat-roofed concrete and mud brick home. The grandmother is the head of the household , but an older son talks to us about their life, while his young children run around playing with sticks in the dirt and the grandmother builds a fire in an outside oven. The son speaks excellent English.
are off to the Valley of the Kings running as fast as they can run
with honey ahead by a nose. I overslept this morning and have to jump
into the clothes I wore yesterday and go without makeup. Meanwhile,
honey is chomping at the bit and raring to go -- to eat breakfast,
had a question and answer session one evening on the cruise and were
free to ask the difficult questions -- and did. We were surprised that
our Egyptian guide was willing to freely answer our questions,
however, he was. While some cultural bias was probably unavoidable, he
was in tune to American attitudes, having lived in the US as an
exchange student, and from working with American tourists
professionally. We felt that he tried to answer honestly and to the
best of his ability, even when the questions were tough ones.
is probably the prettiest city we have seen. Cairo is dirty and ugly
with its stacks and stacks of unfinished houses. Aswan is prettier,
but still has obvious poverty. Luxor has a glamorous feel with lights
along the avenues in the trees, like white Christmas lights. There are
spotlights on the temple at night and horses and carriages carry
tourists sightseeing on cobblestone streets along the Nile River .
like the Nile River. It is a beautiful and scenic river and as blue as
the ocean. Rural women wash clothes on the riverbank, children paddle
a rowboats in the river, and cattle drink from it. The river is the
source of all water and all life in Egypt and the people, the culture,
and the Nile all interact with each other.