A teenage-hood dream of visiting the Ancient ruins of Kemet (Ancient Egypt) had finally been realised at the end of an exciting and eventful summer 2012. I won’t drag out too much detail in my post, as I will let the photos show what my words will fail to express.
As the plane came into land at Cairo, there was nothing outside the window except for a vast desert of nothingness. A taxi was waiting for me to take me to downtown Cairo amongst the heat, pollution and congestion. As I gazed outside the window, I immediately came to dislike what I saw. It was simply far to chaotic for my peaceful mind. I came to Egypt to relax and explore, not take my life into my own hands (literally) each time I had to cross the road. On my first night, I swapped the madness for a dinner cruise on the Nile, which featured traditional Sufi and Belly dancing. It was a welcome offset. The next day I traveled to Giza and rode a camel like a merchant bringing gifts to the kings of ages. I took time to write a poem, and meditate before the pyramids. I also learnt how Papyrus paintings are made, then traveled to Sakkara to visited the step pyramid of zoser, designed by Imothep (noted as the world’s first architect/designer) amongst other titles. I finished my day with a trip to Memphis (first city of the ancient world) and visited a local carpet school to see how Egyptian handmade carpets were put together. My last day in Cairo allowed me to walk around downtown slowly and spoke with Nubian from Aswan before spending hours at the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities to drool over artifacts stretching over all periods of Kemet. My highlights were the sections dedicated to the Armana period of Akhenaten and Nerfertiti, and of course Tutanhkamun’s golden treasures, including his golden death mask.
Cairo Positives: Close to the great Pyramids of Giza, easy access to excursions for Alexandria, Sinai, Red Sea, and several deserts and oases. It also has the awesome museum as mentioned above, and nobody bothers you.
Cairo Negatives: Too busy and crowded, awful underground/subway service, filthy, chaotic, high pollution, and nowhere decent to chill out. Dangerous for street crossing. Not recommended for children!
Checked in: Egyptian Night Hotel
After visiting the museum and relaxing I boarded the sleeper train (which is certainly not worth $60 dollars due to its horrible food, disgusting toilets, and filthy cabin rooms) en route to Aswan. I shared my cabin with a young Japanese guy, which was cool, as we spoke in both English and Japanese.
Aswan felt far hotter than Cairo upon arrival, but I felt delighted to be in a place more relaxing than the capital. I checked in, relaxed and then took a slow walk along the Nile (far more beautiful here) to visit the Nubian Museum. I actually rested and fell asleep inside the museum due to slight fatigue. Insightful museum which also includes a garden, and a cave with real Nubian cave drawings. On the way back, I walked through the markets and then boarded a motorboat across the Nile to the Oldest Nubian village for a stroll and a visit of a local school and house for tea and snacks. The next morning, I arose at 3am to do the trip to Abu Simbel to visit the gigantic Rameses ll temple settled near Lake Naser, at which point I bumped into my Japanese cabin friend again. On the way back I witnessed arguments over petrol, and had a police with a machine gun accompany all of us in the mini-van… Errm, awesome, I think. Once, getting back to Aswan, I had a quick lunch and was then off to visit Philae (Isis) temple (bumped into 2 Australians and a Swiss) before boarding a falucca (traditional Egyptian boat) to sail the Nile at night and sleep under the stars (insert poem/description). I just made it back in time to board my train to Luxor.
Aswan Positives: Charming, best view of the Nile, stocked in history, and good for excursions elsewhere.
Aswan Negatives: Not much to do, dirty/dusty and underdeveloped like most places, everybody wants baksheesh (a tip), you always get hassled to buy something, take a tour, ride a horse, etc. literally to the point of which you want to throw everybody into the Nile.
Checked in: Nubia Nile Hotel, Falucca with Captain Falucca, assisted by the wonderful Ahmed Gaber (Amigo Tours).
Luxor is where it’s happening, it’s also the place I came closest to dealing someone a buddha palm to the chest for not leaving me alone. Everyday since my arrival in Aswan and into Luxor I had been bothered uncountable times to buy or ride something. It was so annoying and unbelievably mentally draining that it was a real challenge of my Earthing period and usual calm persona. I felt like returning home until I checked in at the Bob Marley House hostel where I felt truly relaxed, and welcomed for being a traveler and not some supposedly rich tourist. On the same night, I took a stroll to view Luxor temple lit up in all its splendour. The next day, I took another epic trip to visit the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Hatshepsut’s temple, a workers village and two statues of Rameses ll. I met with a fellow Englishman, which was a great pleasure and most certainly raised my Egyptian spirits, and an Australian lady who was amazed at my calmness at each site we visited when being hounded by hustlers. One even followed me to the mini-van staring at me through the window, and another, pulled my arm back, but the worst of all was when I was trying to take a photo and this person just stood in front of me. I had to give this guy the Jamaican mother stare and serious words. Apart from that, the day was beautiful and the tombs absolutely magnificent, jaw dropping in fact, especially the children one’s in the Valley of the Queens. I returned to eat dinner with the hostel staff and their friends. My fellow countryman liked my hostel so much that he switched to mine.
To top my time off in Luxor, what better than to wake up early the next day to take a hot-air ballon ride to see the sunrise milking its way out across the fields, deserts and temples. It was breathtaking! I returned to the hostel to sleep before waking up at noon to walk to Karnak temple with my new friend, Chris. We traced the old route of the gods/goddess mut and Amun lined by broken sphinxs. Karnak temple was definitely the highlight of my trip. Columns still featured vibrant colours, which sent our imaginations flying across the dynasties of Kemet. We found a quiet space and rested for 1-2 hours talking about history, life and our travel experiences. Karnak, truly does rival everything else in Egypt. We returned to listen to reggae music and played chess on the iPad, as well as keep up to date with the news back home. I left that evening to board the sleeper train back to Cairo.
Luxor Positives: Best location to be based in Egypt, as there is plenty to do with easy excursions to Aswan and Cairo/Giza.
Luxor Negatives: Too much hassle from locals to buy things
Checked in: Bob Marley House Hostel (awesome place!)
On the way back to Cairo I shared the infamously clean cabin (haha!) with David from Barcelona. His two beautiful Catalonian female friends, Marta and Silvia were in the cabin next to us and so we were able to open the adjoining door and talk into the night full of fun and adventure. They certainly have fueled my interest for wanting to visit Barcelona. I returned to the Egyptian Night Hotel to have a 5 hour siesta/nap. I connected with my Catalonian friends and arranged to meet up for dinner, sheesha, a night stroll and ice-cream in downtown Cairo! The next day, I adopted an ultra slow pace and made the mistake of boarding the stifling hot and smelly metro towards Islamic Cairo. I walked amongst the markets, looked at the mosques and decided not to venture on the metro back and instead opted to walk. I later rested in front of the Egyptian museum to read and watch others wander by in tourist delight.
People: I met very few Egyptians that were generally nice. Speaking or asking for directions ultimately result in those wanting money in return. It becomes hard to know who to trust. This is not an isolated situation to me only as every other traveler I met, both solo and groups felt the same. The Nubians seemed to be the most relaxed and friendly.
Monuments: All the monuments in Egypt are truly amazing and most definitely worth seeing, especially if you have a deep interest in Kemet like I do. I was shocked however, to see how poorly they were preserved and appreciated. Tourists are allowed to touch, rest and climb upon these beautiful artifacts. I was even offered by the security guards the opportunity to take photos inside the tombs with flash, and open locked chambers for a tip. In fact I was literally being forced on occasion to touch these monuments for a tip. Naturally, I declined at every approach. But it was saddening and shocking. Ancient Egypt is all mythology to the modern Egyptians and is only seen as source of making money. I wish something more would be done to protect these treasures.
Will I visit Egypt again: Perhaps not! Once was truly enough, and I have plenty of mental and photographic memories of my time there. But who knows what the future will bring.
- Put money aside for tips… Up to ￡100 depending on how generous you are and how long you’re staying
- Do carry toilet paper around with you
- Do only drink bottled water and eat plenty of yoghurt and banana
- Purchase a Lonely Planet or Rough Guide book and study every single page in depth before heading out
- Do wear sunglasses to avoid eye contact
- Drink tap water or glass water at restaurants
- Speak to the hasslers as it only further fuels their passion to talk to you
- Don’t smile at the hasslers
- Don’t keep tip money and spending money in the same pocket
Finaly, Egypt is a very safe country and I truly hope that tourism picks up again, as it seems to be a bit of a struggle at the moment, but also meant I could view the monuments better.