By Sylvia Seschel
The plane landed in Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport. I looked at my watch. This was going to be close. It wasn’t the first time I felt like I was on The Amazing Race. Taking a bus from Terminal 2F to 2E, I thought I was home free until I followed the sign to gate 82. Oh no, I’m not there yet! On another bus again, I had a moments panic and had to ask “Am I on the right bus?” The driver nodded. Whew! I’m at the gate with half an hour to spare. I was on my way to Cairo.
The next night I met 14 others on my tour plus our Irish tour leader.
Ramadan didn’t put a damper on my trip. Places shut down around 2:30 in the afternoon for people to get home to their families. The fasting lasts all day until 5:00 p.m.
Bright and early the next day the first stop was the Egyptian Museum of more than 120,000 items displayed from jewelry, costumes to mummies. The toilet at the cafÃ© next door costs one Egyptian pound (EL). You get a small wad of toilet paper. I made sure I had plenty stashed in my pockets everywhere I went.
Cairo has sprawled you can almost touch it from the Pyramids. I had fun watching the police on camels chasing away the locals on camels who were trying to get us tourists to pay for a ride
Among the throng of crowds, I managed to snap a couple of pictures of the Sphinx, a lion’s body and human face. Known to early Arabs as Father of Terror, it was hard to pinpoint but archaeologists believe the Sphinx was carved 2558-2532 AD.
After supper, we were ready for the steward to prepare the beds on the train. I got the top bunk. Unfortunately our ladder rattled. My roommate and I tried everything to keep it quiet. I kept pressure with my foot. Nothing.
Droopy eyed, I managed to walk through what looked like a hurricane passed through Luxor station. Well, I guess in order to rebuild, wreck it.
At about 5:30 in the morning, we were on our MS Melodie riverboat for a four-night cruise. From the deck, I saw five balloons flying in the haze of Luxor.
Later the horses and carriages took us to Karnak Temple, which grew in stages over 1,500 years with new editions added by different pharaohs. A 3200-year-old statue of Remises II and his daughter was in front of the Second Pylon. I was in awe of the huge columns.
The debriefing about donkeys the night before made me nervous. I warned if I got knocked off forget it. I called my donkey Barney. We left 5:30 a.m. for the hour and a half ride witnessing an amazing sunrise toward the Valley of the Kings, Unfortunately, no pictures allowed in the tombs with well-preserved paintings of gods and goddesses of Egypt plus the hieroglyphics.
The higher we climbed one of the many hills surrounding the area, the hotter it got. The haze hung over the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens.
Time to go. I couldn’t tell which one was Barney, as a few others looked the same. I was about to grab one, the local shook his head, and brought over another donkey, I called Fred. I thoroughly enjoyed the morning.
My favourite thirst quencher on the riverboat was lemonade. Not out of a can or the frozen stuff. The bartender placed lemons, sugar and water in a blender. Delicious.
Another early morning we stopped in one of the best preserved in Egypt, Temple of Horus in Edfu. For centuries the area was covered by sand that protected it from the elements.
Relaxing on the cruise, watching the Egyptian world go by, we got a spectacular view of Kom Ombo as the riverboat approached the dock. After a visit to the ruins, I went to the bazaar a few minutes walk away. Some members of our group tried their hand on the sheesha (water pipe smoking), passing it around. I declined.
My roommate and I explored the vibrant and busy market in Aswan. Sites, sounds, and smells. I love walking among the locals as they do their daily shopping. It can get annoying when merchants pester you into their shop or come right up and try to put a scarf or something around me. Two Arabic words a must to know, la shukran (no thank you).
I expected the containers at the spice stalls to be bigger. At least that’s what pictured in guidebooks. As the merchant explained to us about the different spices, I backed off, not wanting him to get his hopes high for a sale.
My body was exhausted. Unfortunately, I missed the felucca excursion. In a way I’m glad I didn’t go. One other group member can’t swim like me. The felucca had only one life jacket I heard. Ummm. Heads of tails?
Every night I had a gorgeous entertainment in form of sunsets. The last night was no exception. I sat on the deck enjoying the ending of the day, bags ready to go before we had to depart to the train station.
What a nice surprise! We had the same cabin steward from our Cairo-Luxor. Though our ladder didn’t rattle like the first train ride, I had a sleepless night. I can’t believe the first leg of our trip is over.
Arriving at seven in the morning to our Santana Hotel in Cairo, our tour guide managed to get us our rooms otherwise we would have waited until noon or so. I said goodbye to most of the group. Our tour leader, two others and me were heading to Jordan in a couple of days.
Imaginative Traveller is part of Trek Holidays.