Egypt – A Vacation For Mau and I
Egypt was on our travel list since September of last year. Mau and I traveled together back then to Cuba, Guatemala and Belize. I got an offer from one of the newspapers I worked for to travel to Egypt for 8 days on a 5 star cruise ship along the Nile. In addition to that, we would visit some astonishing temples.
How could I resist?? So I immediately invited Mau to come. I had some plans until April, so we decided to do the tour at the end of April. In this blog post I can’t wait to share with you my impressions of our trip.
Reunion with Mau
If you followed my blog for a while you know that I became acquainted with Mau in Bariloche nearly 2 years ago. Afterwards, we were hitchhiking through Patagonia then traveled to Mexico and other countries together. Mau is not only a friend to me, but also a partner in crime I can always rely on. This year we wanted to take on our next continent – Africa.
Not really taking on fully, since we have been only to Egypt now. But I can assure you that it was one of the best decisions we have made: to go on this Nile tour.
Cairo – Capital of Egypt
I arrived in Egypt one day before Mau and explored the capital by myself. First I got a sim-card and I used a motorbike uber to get around the city. I even walked more than 10km in the dry, hot, dirty and dusty city on my first day. This was just crazy, but not as insane as in India. If you don’t like noises, dust and dirt, I wouldn’t recommend you to walk long distances in Cairo.
The motorbike Uber was a fun experience I don’t regret. When the driver was navigating through Cairo, I was praying for my life the whole time, even though somehow the drivers are skilled enough to make it through the chaotic traffic jams. But I had a hell of a good time on the back of the motorbike, and I promise it is a ride you won’t forget.
I do think Cairo is worth a visit for a few days. For example, you could visit the Egyptian Museum, the main bazaar Chan el-Chalili, the Al Azhar Mosque, the al-Azhar Park and the beautiful Saladin Citadel. At the citadel – If you are looking young, pay the student price. They won’t even ask you for student ID.
I really do love the food in Egypt like falafels or koshari. Koshari is a very traditional Egyptian staple. It contains chick peas, pasta, and fried onions on a bed of rice and lentils and a zesty tomato sauce on top. Try this delicacy if you can.
The Start Of The Tour
I reckon our tour was well-organized except for some misfortunes with transportation, but it could happen anywhere. I usually never do a tour, I think Egypt might even be the second country in my life I didn’t organize anything by myself.
In Cairo, they booked for us a royal suite in a 5-star Hotel which is a luxury for me. Being a backpacker, I usually don’t get the luxury of a hotel. It was a sweet treat and I can tell you I used all the amenities available. We met Alaa, our tour guide on the first day and he reviewed with us the itinerary.
Itinerary For Egypt
First Until Third Day
Day 1: Arrival in Cairo and explore the city.
Day 2: Depart for a full-day guided tour of Giza. Here you can see the world famous pyramids of Cheops, Chephren and Mycrenos and their guardian – the Sphinx. One of the ancient 7 Wonders of the World, and the only one which still exists. Combine it with a visit to the Egyptian Museum to learn about the 4,000-year-old Egyptian civilization and the treasures of Tutankhamun. A night transfer to Luxor with the bus.
Day 3: In Luxor, we boarded a 5-Star Nile Cruise Ship. Then we headed to visit the world’s largest temple complex – the Karnak Temple to see the Temple of Amun and the Temple of Luxor in the evening. There is a courtyard and the granite statues of Ramses II. This temple was built by various pharaohs during different ages. There is an avenue of Sphinxes in the hypostyle hall, the obelisks of Queen Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis, the temple of Amun adorned with lotus and papyrus designs, the granite scarabeus of Amenophis III, and the Sacred Lake.
Fourth Until Sixth Day
Day 4: On this day, we visit the West Bank on the Nile where I could see the Valley of the Kings, the Colossi of Memnon and Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Temple.
The Valley of the Kings has 63 tombs and chambers ranging in size from a simple pit to a whole complex tomb with more than 120 chambers.
The Hatshepsut temple is considered as one of the most incomparable monuments of ancient Egypt located beneath the cliffs at Deir el Bahari.
The Colossi of Memnon are two massive stone statue of Pharaoh Amenhotep III. Then in the late afternoon, we set sail to Edfu and enjoy a nice Egyptian dinner on board.
Day 5: Visit the Edfu Temple. It is one of the best preserved temples in Egypt dedicated to the falcon god Horus (son of Isis and Osiris). In the afternoon, we set sail towards Kom Ombo. There, we visit the unique Kom Ombo Temple, which is shared by two Gods- Sobek (crocodile God) and Horus.
Day 6: A day in Aswan. Mau and I did Felucca sailing on the Nile and watched the sunset together.
The Last 2 Days
Day 7: A tour of Aswan. In the morning, we visit the High Dam of Aswan (which was more or less unspectacular for me). Then we got to see the largest known ancient unfinished obelisk with a height of 42m, located in the northern region of the stone quarries of ancient Egypt. And our final temple is the visit of the Temple of Philae. Which is devoted to the goddesses Isis and Hathor. At night, we took a train back to Cairo for 12 hours in a VIP train compartment.
Day 8: We got picked up at the train station and dropped off at the airport. I took a flight to Muscat, Oman and Mau got a flight to Athens, Greece.
I really love and admire all the temples I visited in this short time. My favourite one is definitely Karnak Temple. It was my first temple in Egypt, but at the same time, I was amazed by its humongous complex and architecture. Standing in this temple, you really feel like a time traveler and dwarf. Totally mesmerized by the immense size of the columns and statues of this temple, I was speechless.
I enjoyed very much the visit to Edfu Temple and the Philae Temple, too. The last one is very special because it is located on an island and you can only access it by boat. If you are short on time, I would definitely recommend you to visit the Karnak Temple.
Valley of the Kings was also imposing, but they will try to squeeze the money out of you wherever you go. There, you can have a look in Tutankhamun’s tomb, which was discovered by Howard Carter, who became famous overnight for it. For me, it is of course a highlight to visit the Valley of the Kings, but it is not as charming and striking as the temples mentioned above.
Sunset and Nile Cruise Ship
I think this time, I was for sure not backpacking, but instead just having a great vacation in Egypt.
The same goes for Mau. You can’t tell me you are working when you are on a 5-star cruise ship sailing down the Nile while sipping your Mojito on a sundeck and enjoying the most beautiful sunsets in Egypt. It kind of feels like I’m in 1001 Nights.
The food they served onboard was so delicious, I couldn’t stop devouring everyday millions of different cakes offered at the buffet. They also had some entertainment on board like Arabian belly dancing and an Egyptian theme party night. I had a good time on board for sure.
In Aswan, I got the chance to sail with a Felucca around sunset. This is what I call ‘modern romance’. Unfortunately, there was no wind, so we got stuck in the middle of nowhere on the nile river, and had to row back but couldn’t move even a metre.
Just imagine that. I tried to navigate while Mau helped the 2 guys with rowing, but nothing worked out. After an hour, a motorboat came by and towed us back to the river bank. It was quite funny actually. Or am I just too easy-going to take it seriously? What is life without some small adventures along the way?
Improvement Of Myself
I had nights on the sundeck of the cruise ship when I thought about myself and my personality. And somehow I would like to improve much more, and become a better person. For example, not to judge someone quickly, but in reality it is always easier said than done. I was really annoyed by many people working in tourism in Egypt, just like anywhere else in the world. On the other side, I know they depend so much on tourism and that’s how they feed their families.
Maybe I am just too sensitive, but I also had problems when they just talked about basic daily topics in Arabic. The problem is that the pronunciation sounds so harsh and aggressive to me (believe me in my ear, German sounds like a lullaby compared to it).
And I made some observations how some authorities like security guards and police would exercise too much power over other people (our group and guide included). Just an example, on the last day we had to go to the airport quickly since 4 of us were flying back to Cairo. But security stopped us before entering the airport. The man was asking us if we were terrorists. Our guide, Alaa, was saying that we are in rush and please look into the eyes of this group, none of us are terrorists.
In what followed, the security man went nuts and was enraged that we would accuse him of being a liar. The discussion went on until our guide apologized a million times in order to move on so that our friends didn’t miss their flight. It was just so ridiculously silly. To me, it looked like a scene out of a bad movie when two guys are about to start a dumb fight over nothing. And this was just one out of few situations I observed.
Please don’t be deterred by me to visit Egypt. BECAUSE now I really want to share with you some true kindness I got to know, which is still overwhelming me. Everywhere in this world you travel, there will be good and bad people – don’t forget it.
The key is not to let yourself get pulled down from the negative experiences or idiots who are lacking in self-confidence and are dragging down other people.
One night I went out to get water and I couldn’t find a supermarket. I asked a man to help me and he went with me to a supermarket. We chit-chatted a little bit and as soon as I wanted to pay for the water, he just paid the cashier quickly and welcomed me to Egypt. He smiled at me, hugged me and left me standing totally in surprise of his kindness.
On my last day on the train to Cairo, I lost my train ticket. I don’t know until today how I could have lost it. I left it on my seat, organized my backpack and later the ticket was gone. And I searched my seat and my backpack for the ticket but I just couldn’t find it.
The conductor came and I promised him that I had the ticket but just lost it. I even had evidence because I took a picture of my train ticket. I showed him the picture but he didn’t accept it. He wanted me to leave the train or pay for a new ticket. Then everyone around me started to search for my ticket for more than one hour!! Can you imagine that? Everyone was searching with me. They tried to take my chair apart because they thought my ticket might have gotten lost somewhere between the seats.
I have never seen anyone search so crazily for a train ticket like those people. They tried their best to help me and I could see how sincere they were. Actually, I wanted to give up but they kept searching for this ticket. Not only that, they tried to convince the conductor that I did have the ticket and just lost it. I was incredibly touched by the actions of everyone on my train compartmen. Because they are more than committed to help me, even though I was just a stranger to them.
In the end, the conductor showed some compassion, so I only had to pay half of the ticket price.
I do think kindness is everywhere as long as you have an open heart and let kindness approach you.
Always give the chance to people around you to show you their kindness. And I know that taking doesn’t make you content, but giving does.
Goodbye Egypt – Hello, Oman
I have to say that Egypt was a delight for my soul and I learned a lot during this short time. About myself, about life and much more. I highly recommend you guys to visit this beautiful country. Give it a chance to show you how amazing it can be.
My next country is Oman, and I am excited to share with you what I will experience in this small and mostly unknown country.