Many of you know I took a trip to Egypt this month to celebrate my mom’s 55th birthday! All I can say is , Wow! I really did not know what to expect from Africa and this trip opened my eyes. Egypt is one of the most beautiful countries I have visited. It has everything from beaches, to mountains, deserts and more. In this post I will discuss my trip and hopefully you will see Egypt through my lens.
What I have learned on this journey is that Covid is a business! In this Covid economy the testing process is making a lot of money for all countries involved. To get in to Egypt, I needed a PCR test. Turns out there are several different types of Covid tests available and I did not have the right one. I went to a local office to get a “Covid test” to find out the one they had available was not the one required to get in to Egypt. So after taking and paying for their test, I found a place to get a fast PCR test and paid a premium to get it! I am thankful it came back negative so I was able to board the plane on time. At this point I started having doubts about the trip because nothing was going my way. So when we got to the airport my cousin was turned away because her test results would expire before we land in Egypt. She had to take the next flight which meant I had to fly alone.
Unexpected Turn of Events
OMG I booked flights with long layovers because we wanted to get off the plane and sightsee in different countries. Well, I was not able to go in to any of the countries because I hold a US passport. Go figure. In Amsterdam I was told I needed a European passport to exit the airport. Needless to say I was disappointed but at this point I just wanted to get to Egypt so I complied and waited patiently. My cousin arrived in Amsterdam a couple hours after me and we just hung out together until the next flight.
We got to Cairo a little after midnight and went through the process of obtaining visas and going through customs. The airport was packed because all international flights seems to have arrived at the same time. There were people everywhere. After about an hour, I finally headed out the airport and my magical trip began. There she was my mom, who I had not seen since last August! Once I was close all I could do was grab her and we hugged and held up traffic for a while. LOL I was excited and relieved to be in her arms again. My cousin captured the moment on video and I am happy she did because filming was the last thing on my mind at the time. After the hugs and kisses, we went to our van and headed to the hotel. The view along the way was amazing. I didn’t know what to expect. There was neon lights, modern billboards, city lights and mad traffic. I got NYC feels as we made our way to the hotel. On a side note, there are no rules in driving there. I am not sure why they have street lines LOL. I was comforted by our driver because he assured us he would get us there safely, so I closed my eyes and prayed.
Our hotel was absolutely beautiful. At 1:30AM the lobby was bustling with people checking in and the staff was standing by to assist. We had a beautiful suite with a Nile view to die for. It was on the 14th floor so we were able to see the fabulous skyline and city lights that went on beyond the horizon. When I say Cairo is huge, I mean it. 23 million people live there and the average residential building was at least 10 stories high. It was busy, noisy yet relaxing at the same time. I felt safe there and just happy to be in Africa for the first time.
The Cairo Program
The next morning we woke up and the program began. We had an exquisite breakfast which we started late, but the staff went out of their way to make sure we were comfortable and fed well. After, we jumped in to our van and made our way toward the Pyramids of Giza. We had a professional guide, which is a must. Along the way he pointed out many interesting sights and let us in on the history of each. Like most big cities Cairo has its beautiful parts, then there is the area across the bridge. It was older but still in good shape and there was construction going on everywhere. What struck me as odd was the occasional donkey driven cart, a person on horseback, small tuk tuks (3 wheeled vehicles), and herds of livestock making there way to their destinations on the highway filled with traffic! I guess its a lifestyle LOL. The people there were completely unfazed and seemed happy to just be doing what they want. I found peace in the chaos.
It’s really difficult to put in to words how I felt when we arrived at Pyramid park. I think I was speechless. The pyramids are the most majestic man made structures I have ever seen. Each block of limestone and granite used to build them was brought to Cairo from Aswan by boat. The guide told us 2.3 million blocks were used to build them, now let that sink in. Now keep in mind, the Nile river actually flowed right in front of the building site at that time, but still how did they put the blocks in place? It was just amazing to see. I actually placed my hand on the largest pyramid to connect with my ancestors. It was magical! The Giza Pyramid Necropolis is a large park where 9 pyramids sit. From the pyramids we took a horse and carriage up to the panorama where we were able to see all of the pyramids in one view. It was breathtaking. I could not believe we were standing in the desert looking at it all taking it all in. I had so many questions. How did people walk through the desert, how long did it take to get there, did they really ride camels that far? I mean its hard to wrap your head around how people lived during the time the pyramids were being built. Let’s just say the park is huge! From the panorama we took the carriage over to the Sphinx which is also one of the 7 wonders of the world. In addition to being beautiful and majestic, you cant help but notice his nose was cut off. There are many stories as to why, but the how is documented in history as it being blown off by Napoleon’s soldiers. We all know why! While making my way to the Sphinx for a close up shot, I stopped an purchased a really cute blue and white scarf from a sweet lady. She helped me wrap it Bedouin style and I rocked it the rest of the day.
My Cairo adventure continued with a visit to the Cairo Museum. I was really impressed with the number of artifacts they had in this two story structure. The lower level contained ancient treasures from the Old Kingdom while the upper level covered the New Kingdom. My mind was blown by the amount of information we never learned in school. An entire history of us ruling the 1st-5th dynasties was never revealed. I think if our kids really knew how rich and honorable their history was, they would walk differently. We really were kings and queens and we built massive cities, were fathers of invention and just created the baseline for which everything in life operates. That’s huge. It’s a much better narrative than slavery that I will make sure my kids understand. I was struck by the likeness of many of the statues to family members of mine. The lips, the cheekbones, the hair texture all clearly show we are related. Even the stories of their lives tell of the humanity of our people that still exists today. Sometimes I wish we were not so nice, because we would not have let others take advantage of us. Never-the-less, the museum is a must see attraction and I really enjoyed the history lesson.
A visit to Cairo would not be complete without visiting the Khan El Khalili. It is a massive marketplace where artisans sell goods and services. You can get everything from jewelry to clothing to henna tattoos. It is quite a spectacle and is a good place to brush up your bartering skills. Everything is negotiable there. It is truly beautiful and the people were really friendly and kind. I highly recommend visiting the marketplace and purchasing some items to help support the local economy. While in the market we had lunch at a very well known café and oh my goodness it did not disappoint. The food was freshly prepared and seasoned to perfection, the décor was royal and the service was top notch. My meal there was hands down one of the best I have had.
Luxor (Ancient Thebes) is the stark opposite of Cairo. Cairo is a large noisy busy city whereas Luxor is a hidden gem. It is the ultimate tale of two cities where the East bank side of the Nile houses the city and the West bank side of the Nile houses the villages. Luxor is in the Nile valley nestled between two huge mountain ranges which are very visible all over the city. History is everywhere as the city is built up around ruins, temples and green areas, and the west bank villages are build upon the graves of the ancestors and is known as the city of the dead. I know that sounds spooky, but the villages are very much alive and filled with beautiful people, livestock, farms and architecturally magnificent houses. The beauty of the city is hard to explain because it’s so different than what we normally think villages are. The communities start at the base of the mountain and stretch to the Nile river banks. My mom lives in Luxor at the base of the mountain right in from of the valley of the queens. From her roof top we were able to enjoy the night breeze and marvel at the beauty of the lighted mountains. It’s really such a beautiful view and I am happy she is able to look out at it from every vantage point in her home.
While in Luxor I had the opportunity to visit the memorial temple of Queen Nefatari. She a was considered one of Egypt’s most beautiful women and was the favorite wife of Rameses II. Our tour guide Hasan said I look just like her! The tomb was very colorful and well kept. Its hard to imagine after thousands of years the colors are still in tact. They leave no doubt in anyone’s mind who the people were ruling the kingdom of Egypt at that time. We also visited Habu temple which is the memorial temple for Ramses III. The temple told the story of how he defeated the sea people and showed how much of a boss he really was! That man had no mercy!! LOL One other interesting thing about Habu temple is, it is walkable from my mom’s house and is the 2nd largest temple in Egypt behind Karnak temple.
The reason for my trip was to celebrate my mom’s 55th birthday. So we did in style with a fantastic cookout at her house looking out at the Theban mountains on her roof top. I am so happy she has such a beautiful place to live and has made many friends. I am proud of her. She took a huge step to move to Africa and now she has exposed me to a world I am not sure I would have even considered visiting. The slow pace, high quality of life and pure peace she experiences is very inspirational to me. I am definitely taking my family there to visit often. Egypt is now my second home and its located in the motherland!
Hanging Out in Hurghada
OMG Hurghada is the Miami of Egypt! It is a tropical paradise right on the Red Sea. I never knew Egypt had such beautiful beaches. We stayed at an all inclusive resort that is designed to help you relax and party all in one place. My mom did a great job picking it because it checked off all my boxes. The grounds were green with palm trees everywhere. It had multiple pools and beaches with cabanas available for everyone. It had several theme restaurants as well as a very nice main dining area. We were able to eat and drink until our hearts were content. I just cant express how really impressive it was. We celebrated my mom’s actual birthday at the resort and they did a good job making sure she felt special.
All in all Egypt is a must see destination and should be added to your bucket list. I really loved the time I spent there and look forward to going back soon. I plan to take Disaya (my 13 year old ) during her winter break. We will be doing a 4 city visit at that time to include Aswan (Nubia). If you want to go to Egypt, please contact my mom. She has a tour agency called Easy Egypt Tours and will make sure you see Egypt in style. Like I said many times, Egypt is not the place to book a flight and pop up. You want to go with someone who knows what we want, will make sure you are secure and will give you the best at an affordable price. I will be going with a group next summer, so if you want to come with me, let me know.
What are your thoughts on Egypt? Is it a place you would visit? Let me know in the comments.