Incredible – Spectacular – Fascinating – Mysterious – UN FRICKIN’ BELIEVABLE!
When you visit Egypt, these are the words that bounce around in your head and that you hear a lot in conversation among travel friends that are with you. Recently, a group of about 12 of us from the USA traveled to Egypt on a trip that was filled with wonder and amazement.
On our first day, we did a walking tour of Cairo and visited the Citadel area, home to Egypt’s rulers for almost 700 years, then went to several beautiful Muslim mosques, Christian churches, and yes even Jewish synagogues! Cairo has a harmonious multi-faith atmosphere about it. With spectacular views over the city, we also ate lunch on top of the Cairo Tower, then took a ramble through Cairo’s large medieval bazaar and marketplace.
The next day, with much anticipation, we explored the only surviving member of the original 7 ancient wonders of the world! The pyramids at Giza are beyond imagination. Nearly 2.3 million blocks of stone, each weighing approximately 2 tons, comprise the great pyramid. When you stand next to the first row of stones at the base you really get a sense of the enormous scale of these structures. Like me, you might not comprehend how the ancient Egyptians could have built these – you might justify it by thinking that indeed ancient aliens came to earth and constructed them – you might even ask your expert Egyptologist guide if ancient aliens built them (oh yep I did). Well our expert Egyptologist guide Randa was very patient and thorough in her explanation of debunking the ancient alien theory and explained to us how they have uncovered ancient records on papyrus of daily activities of the ancient Egyptian workers, who were normal people, with job titles and descriptions, and even reasons for not being able to go to work on certain days such as feeling ill, or family in town visiting etc. All very normal human stuff like we go through today in our jobs and in our lives. (I’m not saying however that we humans are the only life out there in the universe.)
The great sphinx at Giza is near the pyramids and you can’t help to wonder all the events and history it has laid witness to over the millennia. If you get a chance, go to the evening light and sound show at the great pyramids / sphinx site, it’s an hour show featuring state-of-the-art-lasers, dramatic music and voice-over actors depicting scenes of the history of the pyramids and the ancient peoples. While a little campy at times (the Egyptian actor Omar Sharif is the lead narrator using a very Shakespearean British accent), it sets the mood for a kind of spiritual embrace of Egypt and its rich history.
The next day, after a short 1-hour flight on Egypt Air from Cairo down south to Aswan we embarked on a 4-night Nile River cruise up to Luxor. Many of the best-preserved ancient temples and tombs are located in this part of Egypt.
Experiencing Luxor, Karnak and The Valley of the Kings and Queens is ideal on a river cruise since so many of these ancient sites are located just off the banks of the Nile River. The ancient Egyptians prized and venerated the Nile. It was their umbilical cord. The sunsets and sunrises are magnificent as you sail along, and a peaceful feeling exudes from the banks of the Nile. It’s very relaxing as you watch local life and villages go by as you sail along. One evening we had a special party on the ship where we all dressed in traditional Galibaya outfits and danced. It was quite touristy, but we had a lot of fun with a belly dancer and a whirling dervish perform for us.
Walking through some of the 2,000 plus year-old ancient temples along the banks of the river Nile is indeed like walking through time. It almost transforms you back through history. Every temple was unique and was dedicated to a god or goddess (or sometimes to multiple gods/goddesses) and he and/or she was worshipped there by the temple priests and the pharaoh.
The ancient Egyptians believed that life on earth was only part of an eternal journey which ended, not in death, but in everlasting joy in the afterlife. In the Valley of the Kings and Queens, a literal necropolis (“city of the dead”) we got to descend into some of the pharaohs’ incredible burial tombs, which were the gateway to their afterlife; and see the colorful and decorated walls and ceilings, some in vivid colors that have lasted thousands of years. (Most of the treasures inside the tombs, and the mummies of the pharaohs themselves are housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo to see up close, so don’t miss going to that museum when in Cairo. (Allow at least 2 hours.) However; the mummy of King Tut has been left in his tomb at the Valley of the Kings (no pictures allowed of him though, and the hundreds of items found in his tomb are housed up in the Egyptian museum in Cairo to behold.)
After our main tour of Egypt’s ancient landmarks and sites, it was time for most of us to slow our pace down a little and head to a resort on the fabled Red Sea of Egypt. The Red Sea is a paradise of warm, clear waters that make it one of the top diving and snorkeling destinations in the world. We went to the beach resort area of El Gouna in greater Hurghada for a few days of snorkeling, riding in a submarine and pampering spa services. It was the perfect way to end our very full itinerary in Egypt.
Feeling refreshed and revived, we headed back to Cairo for our international flights back home. We had some time to visit with some of my old Egyptian friends at the new Heliopolis Sporting Club in Shorouk City. The activities of this world class club include water polo, swimming, diving, squash, tennis, soccer, handball, basketball and volleyball. And much more! It was a very impressive complex indeed.
In fellowship we ate a nice dinner together at the club and celebrated the end of a marvelous tour of Egypt and me seeing my local friends for the first time in about 25 years. As we were getting ready to slice a beautiful cake made for our group with a picture of all of us at the pyramids on top, I couldn’t help but to remember one of the main reasons that I organize these worldwide group adventures with Active World Journeys: cross-cultural immersion and understanding. When you travel a lot, you realize that most people everywhere in the world are warm and friendly, and their countries are safer to travel to than you might have thought. We sometimes get scared by the media into thinking otherwise. I live in Los Angeles, I didn’t feel any less safe anywhere in Egypt than I do here where I live in America. It’s a lesson to not let politicians and the fear-based media intimidate us from traveling and experiencing the world and other cultures and expanding our horizons. There’s so much mutual human heritage and culturally rich and diverse sites to discover and explore out there. It’s our world, all of ours together, and as the good people and travelers of our world; in solidarity, we are at the front lines to help bridge that gap between fear & xenophobia and acceptance and openness between countries and all people of this beautiful planet Earth.
Whoever you are, wherever you live now, I’ll buy you a drink in the afterlife!
To learn more about future tours of Egypt departing from the USA that you can be a part of, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org