Trip Start Aug 27, 2007
34Trip End Sep 17, 2011
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After years of dreaming I finally put my A into G and before I knew it Laurent and I were jetting off the land of Ancient wonders. I think to some extent I was somewhat naive, I was expecting desert fields and crystal blue sky, a country rich for all the money bought in from tourism so when we landed into Cairo and was greeted with a thick layer of grey smog and the cacophony of a million horns all participating in what I can only describe as a chorus of honking I was somewhat shocked
We wound our way through the maze of traffic and even after Turkey and Tunisia it still amazed me how people have no concept of indicating and rely solely on leaning on horns to communicate just about everything. I’m turning, honk, move your in my way, honk, im braking, honk and last but not least the I just feel like honking honk. Ah the communication. Much to my surprise we arrived at our hotel in one piece. We were staying at a 4 star hotel so to be greeted by several donkeys and rabid dogs at the hotel entrance gave me the final clue that I wasn’t in Kansas in anymore.
We had a meeting with our tour guides an Australian Egyptian and his son who gave us strict instructions not to eat or drink anything local. It wasn’t that he was trying to put us off mingling with the local culture or that the water was bad in fact it was the opposite, too clean and that it would affect our untamed western stomachs. He warned that the mountains of Imodium we had each brought would be ineffective and for anything let him know and they would buy us local medicine.
It was at this point that I had a lesson on the Egyptian Medical System which still fascinates me
We settled in for the night ready to begin our weeklong tour of Egypt the next morning. Sunrise came and at what felt like ridiculous o’clock we were heading off to see the Pyramids and the Sphinx. I was expecting to travel for ages but it turns out the Pyramids are city centre. All the typical tourist shots you see of the pyramids with the desert background are all aimed in one direction turn around and you are met with one of the most amazing cityscapes. I can only describe the experience as surreal; to see these massive pyramids I had seen so often in pictures and studied at school were looming over me was just amazing.
It was here on this very first morning that I came to understand I had seriously under budgeted for this trip. I had been expecting this trip to be relatively cheap as we had booked on a tour but boy was I wrong. Everything in Egypt comes with a price if not two
After a photo shoot trying to take the classic photos touching the pyramids (along with thousands of others with the same idea) we headed off to see the Sphinx. Very impressive. We had the chance to take a camel ride after and you guessed it I paid for this too and convinced Laurent to do the same. It was awesome though, I would like to say they were nice placid creatures but mine spat at me. In the camel’s defence if someone tried to sit on my back and ride me I’d spit at them too.
The following day we visited the Egyptian Museum to see the famous Death mask of Tutankhamen, it was smaller than imagined but the detail on it was amazing, so intricate and the colours so bold..my paper mache mask all those years ago just didn’t do the artefact justice
We took a boat out to view the Elephantine and Kitchener Islands home to the Philae temple. In order to get to the dock we passed a small market where the usual pouncing on tourists began. I am pleased to say that my value in Camels has increased since Tunisia.
That night we were supposed to take the train to the south of the country but due to recent train accidents it was deemed unsafe and so we boarded a bus for our overnight journey. I’m sure you can imagine from my earlier description just how excited I was at the prospect of being trapped in a bus for over 8 hours on Egyptian roads. Needless to say I didn’t get much sleep.
We stopped at about 2 in the morning in town called Hurghada…until this point id never heard of the town but after arriving I was soon to discover that the town that never sleeps lives up to its slogan of ’prostitute capital of the world’
The following day was a very early and painful morning rise to drive to see Abu Simbel, one of the main reasons I wanted to go to Egypt. I wish I could put into words the feeling of your heart stopping and breath being knocked out of you that takes place when you round the corner of a cliff and get your first view of this incredible structure. The only other time I have had the wind knocked out of me in quite the same way was when I got my first glimpse of Petra.
The Temple was just incredible however somehow a bit of the magic was lost once I realised that Abu Simbel was not in the same location it was built but had actually been moved and repaired in the 70’s
After Abu Simbel it was time to head back to Cairo, after a few stops along the way we arrived back in the smoggy city for our last two days in Egypt. For me the rest of the day was spent sipping cocktails by the poolside and making up for the lack of sleep from the night before.
The following day we had the chance to explore Cairo in more depth, we visited several churches in the Coptic old part of the city and viewed some Greek Orthodox churches as well, it was unusual to see such a blend in cultures. Whilst the churches were fascinating for me it was all about the shopping as it was our chance to visit the famous Khan El-Khalili bazaar to find the perfect souvenir. After a lot of humming and harring I settled on a large black and blue papyrus. Much to Laurent’s annoyance I paid about half price for something twice the size than the one he had earlier bought for himself at a souvenir store.
To me the markets were just magical a colourful mix of pashmina’s and spice piles as far as the eye can see. Laurent was over the heckling after about 2 minutes of arriving but to me it all just made up part of the atmosphere
The market was my final taste of Egyptian cultural and whilst the country was the complete opposite of what I was expecting, I loved every minute and every aspect of it. All the interesting and unique quirks just made the whole experience and even now I find it hard to comprehend that I have actually been to such an amazing place that I dreamed of for so long as a little girl.
Don’t get me wrong I was happy to return to my creature comforts but Egypt was an adventure I most certainly will not be forgetting any time soon.