A week after returning from our London/Spain trip, my husband called me from work “Do you want to go to Egypt?” He asked. “Well…I guess” was my response. Six weeks later, we were on a guided journey that would prove to test my patience and scare me more than anywhere else I had ever been to or would ever go. We spent two nights in Cairo and four nights on a Nile River cruise between Aswan and Luxor.
As with all our journeys, our trip began with the interesting experience that is the Adana Airport. There was a security checkpoint at the front door, then a separate one for people going on flights, which took off at gates that were within a hundred feet of the entrance anyway. The bathrooms boasted a few “Turkish toilets,” and of course as we were heading onto the jetway we made sure to point out our luggage and watch as the baggage handlers placed it on the plane. The meals were typical strange airplane meals-we got a sandwich with a slice of goat cheese, a thin slice of meat, 2 slices of tomato and cucumber…and a small sesame seed bread roll. Our flight took us up through Istanbul on our way to Cairo, where we changed our money into Egyptian pounds and boarded our bus to the hotel.
Prior to going to Egypt, I had been taken aback by the litter in Turkey and by the careless driving. As we drove to our hotel, my immediate first thought was how clean, safe, and organized Turkey was compared to Egypt. Our bus had an armed guard (with an AK-47) on it at all times, even though our tour guide assured us that because of the Islamic religion Egypt was one of the safest places in the world-HA! We arrived at our hotel, a dark building in a dark corner of town, which, as it turned out, was the nice area. It was all a bit sketchy and we were wondering what we had gotten ourselves into when we walked into the hotel and stopped in our tracks. The lobby was stunning! Floor to ceiling marble mosaics and huge chandeliers sparkling from the ceiling. We were greeted with beverages and some very gracious staff. I only wish we had had time to make use of the amazing pool.
After dropping off our baggage in our rooms, we left to tour the Egyptian museum. WOW. I am not much for museums, but the Egyptian museum is a must-see. I remember as a child, the Smithsonian Egyptian exhibit coming to town. I LOVE Egyptian artifacts. I loved learning about Roman and Greek history when I was younger, but it was nothing compared to my fascination with everything Egyptian. The museum was my heaven. It was beautiful. The relics, some of the most ancient findings in the world were right there…RIGHT THERE! What were my favorite exhibits? I had watched all of the History Channel and Discovery Channel shows about Egypt that there were-this made the ENTIRE museum was the best part.
After a nondescript lunch, we were whisked away to see something I never imagined I would: the Pyramids. Our group took a camel ride around the pyramids then had free time to walk around. It was interesting to see, but I was surprised and disappointed to see them basically in the middle of the city. There are a couple of angles to take photographs where they look like they are in the middle of nowhere. Nope. Rising behind the pyramids was the city smog. That aside, it was here we had our first encounters with the rudeness and scam attempts from locals. A travel tip: it doesn’t matter how nice you are to them, they will always try to scam you or blatantly steal from you…so only say what you absolutely need to in order to get by. Otherwise, you could be a victim. We had several more encounters over the course of our trip that reinforced this, sadly. We also saw the sphinx and embalming chambers, which was really cool. The necklace I am wearing in the photos is called a cartouche. It is an oval shape with a name written in the middle and a small line on the bottom of the oval. Cartouches are found on several things in Egypt-carvings in architecture, paintings, and sarcophaguses. Cartouches symbolize royalty. I recommend getting a cartouche with your name in hieroglyphs as a souvenir!
*Please don’t wear white tennis shoes if you are touring. Find comfortable grey, black, or brown shoes. White looks quite tacky!
A quick shower back at the hotel and we were off on a Nile dinner cruise through Cairo, where we were delighted by some “international” food, traditional music and dancing. I am pretty sure everyone in our group got up walked to the top deck when the belly dancer started performing…it was just weird. Later, a singer performed some American classics to make us all feel comfortable and at home. The large group of Asian tourists seemed to enjoy it, but hearing an Egyptian sing “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini” was a little bit over the top. The singer did not know 1/2 the words and could not pronounce the other half. We all spent that evening laughing and just enjoying it.