One thing to say, wow.
This morning I flew back from Cairo to Athens, so yes I did make it through Egypt. What a week though, by far the most different part of the trip yet.
We arrived in Cairo last Wednesday afternoon (I never mentioned before that people applauded when our plane landed – I wonder what type of a landing doesn’t receive an applause) and were instantly met by the craziness that is Cairo. I was pulled out of the customs line into a little room where I shat myself for several minutes and armed Egyptian guards typed my details into a computer, eyed me up and down for a while, then stamped my passport and sent me on my merry way without explanation. Weird!
Then came the traffic. Traffic lights mean nothing, if they’re even working. Nor do headlights, nobody uses them. Nor does anyone use lanes. Talk about organised chaos. Yet we made it a week without an accident.
We made it to our hotel and were cleared through the metal detector before being allowed into our rooms where we had around an hour before our Nile dinner cruise. This was a really great night with music, singing and dancing and, of course, the Nile.
The following morning we headed for the Egyptian Museum in Cairo where our guide explained the mummification process and the customs surrounding the mummies and their tombs. We also saw the Tutankhamen display and several preserved mummies. You can’t really describe in words what it’s like to be looking at 3000 year old artifacts, it’s just something that has to be experienced for yourself.
Our next excursion was lunch at the Pyramids, literally. We were eating and they were just there. And after lunch it was time to explore them. They are breathtaking. The single blocks that make them up are taller than a person; it’s unfathomable how they moved the blocks into place. Not to miss any Egyptian experience I decided to climb into the burial chamber of the middle Pyramid, through a 1 x 1 metre tunnel. Bad idea I thought as I got about 10 metres in, but quickly overcame my claustrophobia and was treated by another amazing sight.
Having done the Pyramids, we headed down to the Sphinx to compete with the Japanese tourists for some photos.
That night was our 14 hour overnight train from Cairo to Aswan. We arrived in Aswan in the late afternoon to 40ºC heat. We had time for a quick rest before heading to the Nile for a boat trip to our sunset camel ride. I think we may have used every form of transport by the time we left Egypt. The camel ride was great fun, wandering off into the desert at sunset. We stayed there for a while for photos before heading back to the hotel for dinner.
After dinner (circa 10:00 PM) we jumped in a horse and buggy (driven by a 15 year old kid) and headed for the night markets. These were an experience to say the least. There are merchants everywhere and they just bug the hell out of you. It was near impossible to make a purchase as you didn’t have time to look at or think about what you might want to buy. But it certainly was an experience, especially being offered 20 million camels for a girl in my group and, of course, the offer of pot (just come out the back of my shop).
We made it out alive and went back to the hotel to get a few hours sleep before another early morning.
We had to catch a plane from Aswan to Abu Simbel to visit the Abu Simbel temple. This temple is incredible. I’ll get photos of it up soon. Interestingly, it had been moved several decades ago to higher ground after the valley it originally resided in was flooded by a dam. After a plane flight back to Aswan we spent the afternoon by the pool before heading to Luxor by train.
Luxor was another early night as, the following morning, we had to get up for a sunrise hot air balloon ride. It was my first balloon ride and I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect setting. As we sailed over the Valley of the Kings and Queens we watched the sunrise and saw the villages below waking up to another hot Egyptian day. Most of the homes don’t have roofs due to the fact that it never rains in Luxor. The last time it rained was in 1995. So you can literally see people getting up for the morning, talk about privacy!
Later that morning we went to see the Valley of the Kings and Queens and I got to see King Tutankhamen’s tomb. I hadn’t really realised that it was available for the public to explore, so going into the place I had studied in school nearly a decade ago was fairly surreal. Tutankhamen’s tomb was not as grand or beautifully decorated as the others but still compelled you to stay for some time to take it all in. You knew you were there, but it didn’t feel real.
After the Valley of the Kings and Queens we set off for our night in a little resort town called Hurghada on the Red Sea. The hotel was pretty nice; again we ate by the pool, this time to a bit of dance music which was fun. That night we had a room party before setting off on the Red Sea cruise.
The cruise was amazing. I would rate it as good as the time I went out on the Great Barrier Reef, and that day was perfect. The water was crystal clear turquoise, the sun was shining, we couldn’t have asked for a better day.
We cruised for 30 minutes before grabbing out snorkels and jumping overboard to explore the coral reef. It was so clear and there was an abundance of techni-colour fish to swim with (that was the part that was better than the Barrier Reef; although the coral there was more spectacular, the fish in the Red Sea won hands down).
Soon after, lunch was served. We sat up on deck, lounging in the sun; it was great! The rest of the afternoon flowed in the same manner with several more swimming stops.
Later in the afternoon it was time to finish our time in Egypt up with a police accompanied convoy trip back to Cairo. I was a bit sad to leave. Though it was a pretty crazy and dirty place, and though the merchants could be annoying, I thoroughly loved my time and a week went by far too quickly.
I loved Egypt. When we were at the Pyramids one of the annoying merchants stopped Bianca and I saying, “Australian? Tell all your friends to come to Egypt, it’s a very safe place.” At the time I thought, “If I get out of here alive, I’ll be sure to tell them to come along.”
Well, I felt very safe in Egypt. Sure there were reminders that terrorism was a threat, such as the metal detectors and armed guards at the entrance to every building. But, as you know, I’m a fairly paranoid guy and even I very soon forgot about my concerns. If you’re thinking of going, do it! If you’re worried about your ability to do it on your own get on a tour. But, in my opinion, it is a place not to be missed!