Travel to Egypt – There is No Place Like Egypt

categories: africa travel

The question travel bloggers hate is “what is your favorite country?” When pressed, the country I am most likely to name is Egypt. The first Amateur Traveler tour was a photo tour of Egypt. Egypt is a complex, chaotic, colorful, And culturally rich country.

Chaos

There were definitely moments that Egypt took us out of our comfort zone. My wife and I arrived alone at the Cairo airport at nearly midnight. The process for getting our entry visas was not straightforward. As we walked into the night a jovial stranger greeted us and offered to procure a cab for us. We soon found ourselves heading into the darkness following a man we didn’t know who was carrying both our suitcases. True to his word he led us to a cabdriver and after a brief conversation that we didn’t understand we were launched into Cairo traffic. Our cabdriver darted and weaved past other cars, past foolhardy pedestrians and slow-moving donkey carts. I closed my eyes more than once. Even it nearly 1 AM the city was very much alive. It only took stopping twice to ask another stranger for directions before our cab driver crossed the busy city and delivered us to our hotel.

Sphinx and Great Pyramid

The Great Pyramid

As a lover of history, trying to understand how old the Great Pyramid is challenges me. Our guide, an egyptologist, told us the pyramid was built during the Old Kingdom. It was built so long ago that the name of the invaders who toppled the old Kingdom have been lost to the mists of time. They had a technological edge over the Egyptians of that time. They had the wheel and chariots. Standing at the only remain remaining wonder of the seven wonders of the ancient world took my breath away. The Great Pyramid was already over 2000 years old when that list was created in the 1st century.

boats at Temple of Isis, Philae

Upper Egypt

We took a boat out to the temple to Isis and Philae. I had to wonder if the designers of Disneyland jungle cruise ride had seen these boats as they looked eerily familiar. As we got off the bus to get on the boats a crowd of vendors descended on our guide who had the omnipotent power to choose a few of them to accompany us on the boat ride and have exclusive access to our attention.

 

hieroglyphics

Our guide deciphered the hieroglyphics on the temple for us. But the hieroglyphics don’t change that much from one temple to another. Here is our good pharaoh (fill in the blank with Pharaoh’s name). See how the gods smile on him. See how they gave him life. You should listen to this guy. The pharaoh might be one of the 11 named Ramesses from the New Kingdom or one of 14 name Ptolemy but the message was basically the same. I got to the point where I could pick out the cartouche for Ramesses or Ptolomy on the temples from sheer repetition.

camel smiling

Nubian Village

In the early light of dawn we boarded a boat and sailed up the Nile to where boys and men on camels greeted us at the beach. Now I know a camel ride sounds like the ultimate tourist service thing to do, but I swear to you my wife will still get giddy if you mention her camel from Egypt. Each of the camels seem to have their own personality as Joan’s camel nuzzled with the person in front of her in our caravan.  I swear my camel smiled and mugged for the camera when I went to take his picture. This the fine sand along the shores of the Nile made advantage of a camel ride obvious even for a quarter of a mile. Walking up the hill of sand was a chore for us but our faithful ships of the desert handled the task with ease.

spices and dyes

The Nubian people are a beautiful people and with their dark skin I was reminded of my trip to sub-Saharan Africa. Spices and dyes added to the color palette of the scene.

Valley of the Kings

Most of the tombs of the pharaohs from the New Kingdom were hidden in the Valley of the Kings. Most were discovered and looted centuries ago. Tutankhamun’s tomb is notable not for size, its grandeur or the uniqueness of its treasure but for being undiscovered for so long and therefore intact when discovered in the 1800s. The tomb itself was claustrophobic. It is surprisingly small in size when you consider how many of the riches in the Cairo Museum came from this one tomb. Photographs from the opening of the tomb show a ramshackle pile of treasure that would rival the worst garage of your pack-rat neighbor. With amazing timing we just happened to be in the tomb of Tutankhamun when egyptologists opened the outer sarcophagus to check on it’s contents. You could come back for decades and not have so rare and encounter with history. Some of the other tombs for the more major pharaohs were stunning. The art on the walls was still colorful millennia after the tomb was built. Arrive as early in the day as you can to avoid the crowds.

Abu Simbel temple of queen Nefertari

These are just some of the highlights of our trip. Our pictures only capture part of the trip. World War II battlefields, quiet beaches, noisy marketplaces, horse drawn carriage rides, temples, churches, mosques, monasteries, desert landscapes and the life giving Nile all await you in this amazing land.

For tours to Egypt check out our sponsor Monarch budget holidays

Share this:

by Chris Christensen

I am the host of the Amateur Traveler. The Amateur Traveler is an online travel show that focuses primarily on travel destinations and what are the best places to travel to. It includes both a weekly audio podcast, a video podcast, and a blog.

5 Responses to “Travel to Egypt – There is No Place Like Egypt”

Wes Yuckin

Says:

Hi Chris, I enjoy reading your articles and listening to your program. I have been to Egypt twice. One of my favorite places to go. My wife and I last went in 2011 and spent 9 weeks there. It was a trip of a life time.

Reading your article I noticed several mistakes with the history. The Ramsesses lived during the New Kingdom not the Middle Kingdom. The Ptolemys lived during the Ptolemy period. Also the pharaohs burried in the Valley of the Kings lived during the New Kingdom.

It is easy to get time periods mixed up with Egyptian history due to the approx 3,000 years of it.

Keep up the good work! I enjoy your program.

chris2x

Says:

Wes, thanks for the correction. I sometimes have problems with Egyptian History because the New Kingdom was so darn long ago. 🙂

Doris Denton

Says:

My sister and I are considering Egypt as my ultimate bucket list bday trip for sometime next yr. Do you still consider it safe? Are the pyramids in the region that now requires isolation upon return?

chris2x

Says:

I am not sure what the situation on the ground is right now. I have not heard negative news in a bit. Cairo is thousands of miles from where the Ebola outbreak is.

Jeff Perkins

Says:

Ebola wouldn’t be a reason for avoiding Egypt out the moment – internal issues are what need to be taken into account.

I would consider the Sinai peninsula to be a no-go area at the moment. 30 Egyptian troops were killed there in an incident last week.

The Giza pyramids are in outer Cairo, well away from the Sinai as are the other prominent sites around Luxor/Aswan.

The current Egyptian government has been very heavy handed in dealing with protestors, opposition and journalists and does not seem reluctant to employ deadly force- this means there will always be the possibility of internal politics creating danger, especially in central Cairo. You will need to use your own judgement in this matter. The danger would seem to be low for the Nile and Cairo at the moment – but it might not take much to change this and your personal levels of risk-averseness need to be applied.

We were planning on Egypt late last year when things looked more risky and ended up in Spain instead. Keeping an eye on the situation with a view now of hopefully in 2016, possibly in 2015 if things look particularly stable (have to head back home to Australia this year as it has been a while.)

I would recommend holding off on committing to travel to Egypt as long as possible and only booking at the last possible minute even if this means paying a little more, having a back-up destination in mind that you can change to at the last minute (easy to get bookings for, not needing visas well in advance) and keeping an eye on the news coming out of there.

Leave a Reply

Tags: