Travel Memoir | Egypt 2009 | Part 1 | Written 29-01-2013 Baron’s Home
My itchy feet wanted to go somewhere different from my previous travelling experiences. I was torn between booking a trip to Brazil or Egypt but the land of the ancient pyramids and pharaohs top-billed my chart (I would still love to go to Brazil one day).
For just above two hundred quid (£200) I booked a return flight from London to Cairo via Zurich with Swiss Air. I’ve been to a lot of places already but Egypt was the only country where I decided to join a tour group (believe me, this was not the same as the city-tour groups you see with the guide holding an umbrella, this is for your own safety). Thank heavens I did and I sincerely advise those who are planning an Egyptian adventure to please join a group and choose a good travel agency (trust me). I booked my 10-day itinerary with Gecko’s Adventures for about £1000 (more or less). Price depends on the season you are going – this was a cheaper package since I booked it during the hottest time of the Egyptian calendar and I was so naïve of how 52°C in Africa would feel like!
Deep-fried-to-death and Vodka
On top of pre-travelling preps like getting a comprehensive travel insurance and applying for the visa on time, my friends who’d been to Egypt advised me to –
1) Only eat foods that are deep-fried-to-death, never ever eat anything fresh (like salad with tomatoes as they’ve been improperly washed and only washed in the Nile – the only source of water in Egypt and the river’s existence can be traced as early as the old testament, meaning to say, thousands of years old); so therefore, do not drink water from the tap or any bottled water from an unknown brand; and
2) Bring VODKA and take a shot after each meal to kill whatever bacteria the food might carry (vodka’s for hygiene purposes! lol). Sounds disgusting and ridiculous but I did. My fellow adventurers thought I was an alcoholic as I take shots religiously every after meal but I was the only one in the group who didn’t have a stomach disorder during the trip!
I arrived at Cairo airport and took a taxi to the hotel. I forgot how much I paid but I won’t forget how chaotic the roads were. There seemed to be no pedestrian lane, people were just walking in between smoke-belching vehicles on the main roads, and imagine – Cairo’s population that time was over 17M!
OK, there I arrived in the hotel where I met the other people who were part of the tour, most of them were from the western part of the land down under (Perth, Australia) and within my age bracket. During the day, some decided to go to the market but some of us decided to just walk around the nearby area. I was extremely scared walking on the streets as men gave uncomfortable look and comments to women (no matter how much we covered up) so I decided to go back to the hotel room instead (after a quick visit in an art gallery nearby where I bought three papyrus artworks. I think I overpaid because according to our guide, when the owner offered you food and drinks after buying from them, it means that they’ve ripped you off. But anyways, a holiday is not a holiday until you’ve been ripped off, lol).
The tour officially started the following day when we visited few landmarks nearby. I wore a colourful beaded necklace from Accessorize over an orangey cotton t-shirt (sunblock’s a must) with a pair of linen trousers and beige sandals from Monsoon. I brought a simple sling bag for safety reasons (no Prada and Chanel) but of all things, I forgot to bring sunglasses (yes, this was already added to my travel mistake list)!
Please repeat after me, “Ancient”
First stop was Cairo’s National Museum, the home of the ancient Egyptian antiques such as the treasures of ancient pharaohs, including King Tutankhamen’s clothes, toys and other priceless possessions amazingly kept and preserved. There was also a hall for the royal mummies housing kings and queens of the ancient civilisation. I was mesmerized by the ancient and gigantic statues and praying they won’t come alive like what I saw in The Mummy. Camera was not allowed inside the museum so I wasn’t able to take photos but definitely this was a good starting point to get familiarised with the ancient world (how many times have I used the word ‘ancient’ in this paragraph?!). The tour agency already sorted our entry tickets so we didn’t have to queue at the ticketing booth.
After the museum, visit to a souvenir shop nearby and eating only the falafel’s deep-fried-to-death part with Nestle’s bottled water and shot of vodka for lunch, our group headed to oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, The Great Pyramid of Giza (a.k.a. Pyramid of Khurfu or Pyramid of Cheops). I thought it would take hours to get to the pyramids but I was wrong, it was very close to where we were and my heart kept on beating with excitement as we approached these magnificent man-made structures built almost four thousand years ago. When we arrived, the feeling was so surreal! Aside from those alien and giant theories like you’ve probably heard elsewhere, our guide explained that the pyramids were believed to be covered with gold but these were stolen and taken by Arabs during the ancient times.
Even without the gold, what made the experience even more unforgettable was when I actually went inside this ancient Egyptian architecture purposely built as a royal tomb. I was bit paranoid as it’s very stuffy or suffocating or I’d been thinking of ridiculous things such as a mummy resurrecting from the underworld (lol) but going in between the stones into the chambers and getting out alive and breathing made the whole experience really worth-it.
The largest and most famous sphinx, The Great Sphinx of Giza, was just few minutes ride away. A sphinx has a body of a lion with wings and a face of a woman. This limestone monolith statue wasn’t as big as I expect it to be but it was another surreal experience.
From El Giza, you’ll also get a view of Cairo (see photo below taken from my pink Sony cybershot, that’s not fog but dust from the city’s polluted air. Wish I already had a good camera that time and regretfully, I forgot to bring my camera charger – another item added to the travel mistake list!).
Tip: Don’t let local men asking, “how many camels for the woman?” or those coercively selling you locally made souvenir items ruin your day. Just smile and politely decline unwanted offers. If it didn’t work, just avoid and stay away from these pushy men and stick with your group. It’s part of the journey.
It was a long but remarkable day. We headed back to the hotel to collect our bags (and to shower, oh yes please!) as we were about to board the overnight train from El Giza to Aswan. More places to exlore, more adventures awaited us…
(Part Two: Aswan, Abu Simbel, Nile Cruise plus Part Three: Luxor and Alexandria – coming soon….)