Egypt : Memories Carved in Stone
Totally enchanting while providing the traveller with so much history, culture and diversity.
Quite often the journey is as interesting as the destination and I'd have to say that travelling in Egypt is no exception. Keep an open mind, be prepared to negotiate and most of all, pack a good sense of humour and I guarantee you will have the journey of a lifetime!
From the minute your feet touch the ground in Cairo, there is a real sense of excitement. The vibrations felt deep in your soul during the call to prayer, the apple and cinnamon shisha flooding the air and then the contrast of absolute chaos, crowded streets, constant hissing sounds of "baksheesh, baksheesh" along with the ever present honking of horns.
Some of the treasures to be found in Cairo:
The Pyramids of Giza, the only survivors of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World - The surprising realisation that they aren't in the middle of nowhere. Quite surreal standing beneath the masses of stone peaking through the desert, the desert that Cairo's sprawling suburbia and pollution is well and truly encroaching on, certainly something everyone should witness before they disappear completely.
Exploring the many passages and alleyways of Cairo's famous Khan il-Kahlili Bazaar, breathing in the heady scents of cumin and saffron while dodging the touts as they try and reign you in to see their wares.
The Egyptian Museum packed with ancient artefacts, the most impressive being King Tut's Tomb & treasures which take up over two wings on the second floor. Also worth paying an extra admission fee is the Royal Mummies Room, housing the likes of famous mummies Ramses II and Queen Nefertari.
Then beyond the city:
Visit the many ancient sites including the Valley of the Kings & Queens, Abu Simbel, Luxor & Karnak Temples, each one more impressive than the last, although I would have to say that the Temple of Isis stands out as a favourite of mine, just by sheer fact of it's unique feminine appeal in contrast to the others.
Learn to appreciate the early morning wake up calls, as they are imperative to beat the crowds and the heat of the day. It can be hard being woken at 5.00am in the morning, but it really helps to keep in the back of your mind that there is plenty of time in the afternoon for a snooze by the pool.
Take the overnight train from Cairo to Aswan, a comfortable ride in the company of friendly cabin staff and the highlight being that you wake up to the sun gleaming over the yellow landscape and the Nile valley with it's lush riverside greenery.
Ask your local guide to buy you some Koshari for lunch (if the guide buys it, it will be half the price of what you would pay as a tourist).
Nothing compares to the decadence of cruising the Nile, sitting up on the top deck with cocktail in hand and witnessing the amazing scenery as you float on by. Nile cruises are popular because nearly all the cultural and historical sites of Ancient Egypt are found along the banks of the river. A definite highlight of any Nile cruise is taking part in a Galabeya Party on board.
Take a camel or desert safari, dive in the world famous Red Sea or perhaps enjoy a Hot Air Balloon Ride at sunrise over the Luxor Valley.
The Land of the Pharaohs is definitely one place in this world no-one should ever miss out on visiting, as it has so much to offer the intrepid traveller!
Baksheeshis otherwise known as tipping in western society and it is more often than not, relied upon by the Egyptians as a supplement to their extremely low income, particularly in the case of bell boys and drivers. However you do have to keep your wits about you, as you will encounter some who request "baksheesh" for services you have not asked for.
Shishais the term used for fruit scented tobacco, smoked through Arabian water pipes otherwise known as a 'hookah' pipe. Smoking of Shisha forms the basis of much of the Egyptian way of life and is perfectly legal.
Koshariis a dish of macaroni, noodles, chickpeas, lentil beans, tomato and spices. A little difficult to explain, but absolutely delicious.
Galabeyais a tunic worn by Egyptian men and women (usually in a rural area). The 'Galabeya' is the traditional garment of Egypt and men usually wear it with a silk scarf around the shoulders.
About the author:
Sue Hile is the founder of Adventurous Women and currently lives in Perth, Western Australia along with the three most important men in her life, hubby Brad and their two boys Jordan & Dylan.