- “How doth the little crocodile
- Improve his shining tail
- And pour the waters of the Nile
- On every golden scale!
- How cheerfully he seems to grin
- How neatly spreads his claws
- And welcomes little fishes in
- With gently smiling jaws!”
- Alice in Wonderland
Egypt, I have arrived. After a ridiculously early wakeup for a flight from Nairobi (a theme of my time in Egypt you will soon see), I arrived in Cairo and was whisked through this massive city to my hotel where I locked myself in for a day to catch up on life, which it turns out is quite difficult when you do non stop travel. A quick trip to Alexandria to see the Mediterranean and the sites of the Lighthouse of Alexandrea and the Library of Alexandria, now occupied by a fort and the new, quite impressive, Library of Alexandria. The highlight of the day was sitting in a cafe with my guide and driver, playing dominoes and talking with the other diners. I am finding more and more that my favorite times of these trips are just sitting and talking with people from around the world.
The following day, I ran into three other women from my group, three women with an adventurous spirit. We headed off into the 195 degree heat with no plan or map, with the Nile and the Cairo Tower as our landmarks. First stop, the subway. Everything was in Arabic so we paid our 1 Egyptian pound (about $.11) and picked a train. We knew the day would be good when we walked out of the randomly selected station into Tahrir Square. From there we walked around, stopping in a papyrus, oil and jewelry store where we spent the next two hours chatting with the employees (mostly because I nearly passed out and had to lay down in the shop for a wee bit- darn heat) and then headed to a restaurant where, despite a menu that listed tons of dishes, only two were available!
Day Three and time to start the official tour. I got what would be the last full night of sleep for many, many days and we headed to these little things called the Pyramids of Giza. The temperature was a tepid 185 degrees so it was quite a lovely day (exaggeration alert). To say this Wonder of the Ancient World was amazing would be a ridiculous understatement so I began my campaign to convince everyone that Ancient Egypt was populated by aliens and the pyramids were, in fact, their work. This endeavor continues today. After viewing them up close, we hopped on some camels for a walk around them. Dandy and I bonded quickly although she refused to pick up the pace when prompted by me. Mental note to learn camel commands in Arabic before I visit again. After our transportation pooped out, we went to see the Sphinx. From the wrong angle, it looks as large or larger than the biggest of the nine pyramids. I suspect aliens had a little something to do with this as well. By this time, it was 235 degrees outside, so we headed to the Cairo Museum to enjoy the air conditioning. Alas, we were fooled. The only room in the museum that is air conditioned is the one that contains a small sample of King Tut’s treasures. Needless to say, there are sixteen people that know A LOT about these treasures! We also popped in to see some really old mummies, which are not quite a gross as you might imagine. Since we were then, nice a sweaty, we boarded an overnight train for a ride to Aswan. Thank goodness we had a train car to ourselves as we regressed to age 12 as soon as we boarded, which was made better or worse by the fact that we had stopped for wine, beer and whiskey along the way.
After twenty minutes of sleep (only a minor exaggeration this time), we arrived to 265 degree heat and immediately headed to the Philae Temple. As this was our first temple, we were super excited. I have now seen enough temples to last me a long while. By the time we made it to the unfinished obelisk, we were spent. It was much like the Grand Canyon scene in Vacation. We climbed the quarry, took one look at the obelisk and headed to the comfort of the air conditioned van. Fortunately, naps and showers were next on the agenda and then an absolutely lovely dinner with a local Nubian family, complete with henna tattoos. Advice for future travelers- if you decide to get a henna tattoo, please think twice if you have been sweating for 36 straight hours. The ink runs and merges and forms blobs rather than designs!
Since I got so much sleep the night before, I was super excited to get up long before the crack of dawn to join a convoy out to Abu Simbel, the temple that was moved when the dam was built. We meet all of the other pilgrims making the three hour trek at 4:00 AM to form a convoy there and back. I soon learned that Egyptian convoys maintain formation for exactly 3.67 minutes. After that, we couldn’t see another car for miles. Abu Simbel was an enormous temple that was cut into pieces and moved when threatened by flood when the dam was built on the Nile. It was an amazing temple, filled with symbols that clearly prove my theory that aliens lived in Ancient Egypt. On the way back, we stopped at a Perfume Museum that involved, lunch, tea and a lecture on essential oils that included plenty of opportunity to purchase. Stay tuned for more “museum” stories. The night ended with a trip through the Aswan Market and tea an backgammon at a cafe. I learned the Egyptian way to play so I am pretty sure at this point, people are just assuming I am Egyptian.
The next day was a sleep in day!!! Contrary to popular belief, I am in introvert and truly treasure my time alone, especially because I can’t sit still or stop talking when I am in a group. For those keeping track, I have slept a total of three hours and twenty minutes at this point. After a late breakfast, we boarded some feluccas (flat bottomed boats) to sail the Nile. We sailed the morning, stopped for lunch and a swim IN THE NILE. We were assured that the crocs were on the other side of the dam. I can’t be certain and it is a much better story if they were in fact swimming with us. Then we headed back out. We had a lovely sail. For about thirty minutes. Then the brilliant idea of reenacting the King of the World scene from Titanic appeared. So, with “My Heart Will Go On” playing in the background, several of us headed to the front of the boat for the photos. At that exact moment, the sail tore and the wind gusted and we headed straight into the woods where we would spend the next hour waiting to be pulled out and then towed. The beauty in the moment was in the fact that the music continued to play as we crashed into the bushes and dodged branches and thorns, all while laughing like hyenas. The tow rope broke and we headed right back into the woods. Another hour, plenty of snacks and wine later, we were towed to meet our other boat where we would spend the night on the deck, under the stars. During this adventure, the idea of our own travel company came was formed, with our firm belief in aliens as the cornerstone. It could have been the wine.
And so continues Egypt. Stay tuned for the morning after the Egyptian Titanic.