Egypt is all that you imagine, and more. An incredible blend of ancient and modern and home to one of the truly great civilisations. Unless you see it for yourself, it is hard to imagine the scale and splendour of it all. And it’s safe.
We were lucky enough to see Egypt through the guidance of Sue and Helal, who live in the outskirts of Cairo overlooking the Pyramids of Giza. To see the pyramids when you wake and again when the sun sets, and again when the sound and light show cranks up every night, was enough in itself.
But this was just a beginning. We did all the other things we had dreamed of doing in Egypt, and a whole lot more. In nine action-packed days we soaked up much of what the cradle of civilisation has to offer:
- The Cairo Museum, packed to the rafters with ancient historical objects, including the priceless treasures of Tutankhamun, mummies, artefacts and 1000’s of other wondrous items
- The Islamic area of Cairo, the Christian or Coptic area, the Citadel including the Mohammad Ali Mosque and the Military Museum
- We drove through the chaos of Cairo, a city that matches the population of Australia and saw the melding of cars, trucks, buses, sheep, pedestrians and donkeys and surprisingly weren’t able to witness a single accident. They even park, fish and set up stalls on the massive bridge across the Nile!
- We marvelled at the sights in Memphis, the old capital, and nearby Saqqara and were able to access rarely visited areas, thanks to Sue and some ‘baksheesh’ or bribe money, which lubricates the suffering economy
- And we crossed the desert sands by camel early one morning, through the ‘back entrance,’ beating the limited tourists and having the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx to ourselves. It was a magical experience!
We flew down to Aswan, site of the massive dam across the Nile River. There we saw the dam and the unfinished obelisk. But the two highlights were definitely the Nubian Village and the Temple of Philae.
For both of these we travelled by small boat with a guide. The temple is remarkably well preserved, especially as it was moved stone by stone to higher ground by UNESCO, to avoid the flooding from the dam. Unfortunately on the return journey, the outboard engine on the boat caught fire. It was doused by the Nubian boatman, which prevented us having to jump into the heavily polluted water close to the shore.
Many of the Nubian people have also been relocated because of the dam and to visit one of their villages was a real pleasure. The people were hospitable and their shops and houses were colourful and enchanting. They shared food and drinks with us and happily posed for photos. On the way there a young lad in a flimsy sinking boat hooked on to our boat and serenaded us in many languages. He was, of course, rewarded for his efforts.
There was also an encounter with a 13 year old felucca boatman with a well-developed sales pitch. In his efforts to acquire money from the foreigners he told of how tough things were. He had two wives, and four children, two of whom were sick. We are not sure if he even knew what he was saying, but it was an impressive speech delivered with conviction. No doubt he will soon become a wealthy man.
Life is never dull in Egypt.