My husband and I returned from our big Egypt adventure on Thanksgiving Day.✈️🦃 I discussed our motivation for the trip in my blog last week. If you missed it and would like a quick catch-up, CLICK HERE. We flew out on Sunday, November 13 on an indirect path to Cairo via Paris. 🌠🗼 My husband has never been off the continent and the prospect of being stuck inside an aluminum tube for 9 hours was not an activity he took lightly. We did some breathing, ate some food, and promptly fell asleep. We woke up in Paris and had 11 hours to kill. I’d done a bit of homework ahead of time and determined the logical approach to Paris-in-11 hours was to master the public train system.🎄🚆 A 40 min train ride was required before we needed to do our first train transfer enroute to the Eiffel Tower. Before hopping onto the next leg of the train ride we wandered above ground for a restroom break and found ourselves in the loveliest little neighborhood! Local shops were just opening and an outdoor market selling fresh breads and pastries, dried fruits, cheeses, nougats, etc. was just starting to emerge for the day. We chose to grab breakfast at a quaint side street café before grabbing a fresh crepe from a local street vendor. Pastries and fruits were purchased before catching the next train to the Eiffel Tower. 🥖 🍓 The Eiffel Tower scene consisted of a mix of every kind of tourist from every place in the world collectively trying to capture the absolute perfect picture of themselves and the Eiffel Tower; and that included us. Capturing the perfect picture involved standing in the middle of the street, cars going by on each side, photographer laying in the street to catch just the right angle of their subject and the tower. And yes; that included us as well.
We caught the train back to the airport with plenty of time to hop onto our 4-hour flight to Cairo. 🛃🛫
We arrived in Cairo at midnight on who-knows-what day. Never were we so grateful to have decided to pre-hire a driver to transport us from the airport to our hotel. Negotiating the chaos that was the Cairo airport experience at midnight, 34 hours after our departure was not something I anticipated we were equipped to do; and I was correct!
As you read in my initial blog post, our decision to take this trip was made in a rather rash fashion. However, once we had our flights booked, I did my homework. I took out a “travel Egypt” book from the library that was written in 2019. The book covered Egyptian history, geography, politics, as well as pertinent travel information. I read it cover to cover.📜🏺
I also found a podcast on Spotify called, “Egypt Travel Podcast” which is a spinoff from the author’s original blog called egypttravelblog.com. The show is done by an American Egyptologist who obviously has a passion for Egypt, moved to Egypt, and has been running an Egyptian tour company for years.
This podcast was gold! It really helped answer so many questions we had. Is Egypt safe to visit? (yes). Do you really need a guide for Egypt? (yes). Should you rent a car in Egypt? (hell no!). What is a realistic itinerary based off one’s trip length regarding what sites one can reasonably see in a day, and travel distance/means between cities, etc.? 🔑🦺
My husband and I are not “tour group people.” We prefer to cultivate experiences that organically unfold when we travel. My husband refers to it as the “Fancy/Tonnie magic.” We tend to rent cars, avoid chain restaurants in preference for local establishments, and avoid touristy crap.
But by diligently doing my Egypt travel homework, it became apparent that Egypt just wasn’t going to be the place for us to “wing it.” But we also didn’t want to buy an “Egypt in 10 days” travel package online where we’d end up trapped on a huge tourist bus, being shuffled around with 25 other people.🚌❤️
Of course, the podcast dude had customized options available through his company for $6000-$10,000 per person. It seemed like we should be able to find something in the middle.
My husband reached out to a friend who had been to Egypt earlier this year. She was part of a tour group and had retained a friendship with the guide of that group. She was able to put us in direct contact with that guide, Sobhy Ibrahim Ibrahim.🦮😎
We let Sobhy know our timeframe and what we wanted to see and experience, and he proceeded to give us options. He was able to customize a trip for us that we wanted at a fraction of the price of the fancy, schmancy, tour companies!
Sobhy met us in the hotel lobby the next day. He had arranged a separate driver for us that day so he could just focus on talking and educating us on what we were about to see, while the driver navigated the insanity that is the Egyptian driving experience.🏨🚸
Twenty-two million people live in Cairo. There are no stop signs or stop lights. The highways contain cars, buses packed full of people, donkeys pulling a cart, 5 people on a single motorbike, rikshaws, and regular bikes. There are painted lanes on the road, however, no one observes them. Passing, merging, turning, and last-minute highway exiting appears to the unseasoned visitor as a combination of dangerous and miraculous. Horn honking is constant.
On many occasions we gasped outload and closed our eyes while Sobhy rambled on as if nothing out the ordinary had just occurred. Believe it or not, very few accidents actually occur. The one redeeming factor is that there is a meridian separating traffic driving in opposite directions, which is an improvement over the chaos that occurs in India. I digress…..👹☠️
Our first stop was at The Unknown Soldier Memorial, which is shaped like a pyramid. Its construction was ordered by Anwar Sadat in 1974 in honor of Egyptians who lost their lives in the 1973 October war. Ironically, it also ended up being chosen as the site of Sadat’s tomb, as he was assassinated across the street 11 years later. My husband had flashbacks of seeing this site on the news from when he was a kid!We moved onto the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization (NMEC). There are two main museums in Cairo: NMEC and Egyptian Museum (EM), aka, Museum of Antiquities. Given our timeframe and all the other places we wanted to see, visiting both museums didn’t make sense.🖼️⛯
EM is older, bigger, and has many more artifacts and exhibits, however, NMEC does a better job at displaying exhibits of greater historical and intrinsic value and also represents the entire Egyptian historical timeline…..through its fabulous mummy collection!
A direct quote from NMEC website; “Considered the crown jewel of the museum, the royal Mummies’ Hall is specially designed to display the mummies of the ancient Kings and Queens of Egypt. The design aims to give the visitor the feeling of strolling down the Valley of the Kings, where most of these mummies were originally resting. The hall includes 20 royal mummies, 18 Kings, and 2 Queens, from the 17th-20th dynasty. The most famous mummies are Hatshepsut, Thutmose 111, Seqenera Taa 11.”🎄👑
No guides are allowed to do any educating in the mummy hall, but thankfully each display was written in both Arabic and English. Each mummy is displayed in historical order, moving the observer through ancient Egyptian history via its rulers. Talk about juicy history!
We ended our first day with a Nile dinner boat cruise featuring belly dancing and a Tanoura performance. Tanoura is a traditional national dance in Egypt performed only by men. The Arabic roots of “tanoura” is skirt. The dancer wears multi-layered skirts that can weigh up to 40 lbs! There is lots of twirling and showmanship as the dancer maneuvers the colorful skirts around to infectious, festive music! 💃🏞️
The belly dancing boat was quite the party! Every language and nationality under the sun was represented. Despite the skillful dance performances, the most entertaining portion of the evening involved the cliché lounge singer belting out his version of classic hits by 80’s acts such as Air Supply, Barry Manilow, Journey, etc. It doesn’t matter what part of the world one comes from or what language one speaks; it seems every culture is deeply passionate about the song “I Will Survive!”.
Day 2 of our great Egyptian adventure involved visiting the Great Pyramid of Giza!!! Apparently, one cannot ‘do the Pyramids’ sans proper attire which minimally involves a headdress traditionally worn by the Bedouin “desert people”, called a keffiyeh.❤️🏝️
Of course, I’m joking about the requirement of any kind of attire, but it seems every working tour guide in Cairo has some kind of connection to the local Egyptian cotton retailer.
We MUST visit the cotton retailer, spend way too much money on adornments which will help us capture the perfect picture of ourselves while riding the camel and visiting the Pyramids, and will surely signal to every Pyramid scam artist under the sun that we are, indeed, tourists!👕🐪
Hey, it’s part of the game and everybody needs to make a buck, right?!
In “Do It Now; Part 1”, I lay out how important visiting the Great Pyramid is to my husband and his family. It was a big day! A common question we’ve been asked, “are the Pyramid’s really as big as they look in pictures?”. Yes. Bigger, actually.🎪🎡
The traditional theory proposes that Pharaoh Khufu began the first Giza pyramid project, circa 2550 B.C. His Great Pyramid is the largest in Giza and towers 481 feet above the plateau. It’s estimated 2.3 million stone blocks each weigh an average of 2.5-15 tons. This pyramid is referred to as Khufu. The pyramids of Kafre (471 feet) and Menkaure (213 feet) sit next to Khufu and these 3 are collectively known as the Great Pyramids of Giza.The problem is that none of the explanations provided for how the pyramids were built make any sense. Do we know, for sure, that they are the age they are, were built by who we think they were built by, and the purpose for why they were built? No. We don't really know, for sure. So, it remains a mystery.👁️🗨️🏗️
I will acknowledge that my questions are heavily influenced by a book I’m reading by Graham Hancock and Robert Bauval, “The Message of the Sphinx.”
The authors postulate that the Pyramids are much older than we think, were already there when the Egyptians arrived, and were possibly built by humans that existed prior to the ice age that possibly possessed knowledge and skillsets that we don’t have.🧊🔧
It’s a wonderful topic to discuss that usually ends with my husband rolling his eyes at me.
My most favorite activity we did at the Pyramids was camel rides! We went for a long slow ride out into the middle of the desert. The saddle sat right on top of the camel’s hump. Getting off the camel seemed more challenging than getting on the camel. My camel’s name was Bob Marley. 🐫🌵
The 4th main attraction at the Pyramids is the Sphinx. The Sphinx sits in front of the Pyramid of Kafre and has been attributed to being built by Kafre the ruler. The Sphinx, of course, has the body of a lion and the head of a man, specifically Kafre. Again, lots of theories about the history of the Sphinx that I’ll refrain from getting into here.
Ok, so clearly this particular blog topic is officially turning into a series. So, stay tuned to “Do It Now; Part 3” where I’ll continue to write about our Great Egyptian Adventure!🪡👍🏼✨
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I hope everyone is having a super awesome week!