Amazed by Egypt
GeoEx Director of Global Sales Kim Keating traveled through Egypt for two weeks this March, from Cairo to Aswan and Luxor. Her trip to Egypt included a one-week cruise along the Nile River on a traditional dahabeya. We’re pleased to present some of the photos and impressions from her trip here.
Where History Comes to Life
History in Egypt is deeper and more layered than anywhere I’ve traveled before. And because the temples and historic monuments are often located within or just outside the major cities, there’s a fascinating conjunction of chronologies: You can look at the temples and see an entire modern skyline in the background, connecting the past and the present. A further point of connection: Some of these temples were still being lived in by Egyptians until as recently as 20 years ago, when the government relocated the people to preserve the monuments.
I found the temples in Egypt incredible. The precision of the building and the details in the hieroglyphs were mind-blowing. Also, I’m not really a museum person, so I loved wandering through the ruins because I could experience the history all around me; walking with our guide explaining the background and meaning of what we were seeing really brought Egypt’s past to life.
Cruising on the Nile River
Sailing on the Nile River had been one of my life bucket-list items, and I was thrilled with the entire week on the boat.
In the mornings, we would visit a temple or go into town before returning to the boat and cruising down the Nile River for the rest of the day. Talk about stepping back in time! I felt like an explorer sailing the Nile 100 years ago.
The views from the boat were gorgeous and fascinating. We passed lush green river banks filled with date palms. We saw farmers working in their fields, donkeys, cattle, and kids who would invariably wave at the boat, smile, and jump when they saw us.
I didn’t know what to expect from Egyptian food. I had never gone to an Egyptian restaurant in my life. So I was very happy to find that the food was fantastic! Our welcome dinner was at the home of an Egyptian family, and it introduced us to the whole spectrum of national specialties we would enjoy during our trip to Egypt: shawarma, falafel, kebab, hummus, and the national dish of koshary (lentils and pasta). Our farewell dinner was a feast I’ll never forget: we were guests at the house of our guide, and she must have spent all day preparing dozens of dishes. It was wonderful!
I also wasn’t sure what to expect from the Egyptian people, but they were very warm and friendly, and so excited to see tourists in their country. I also appreciated the fact that many of the visitors at the temples, monuments, and ruins were Egyptians on vacation, or schoolchildren on field trips; it was great to see that they were as interested in learning about their country’s rich history as we were—although in some places, it did seem that the schoolchildren were at least as interested in us as they were in the history!
We were greeted with friendly interest wherever we went. Everyone wanted to take a picture with us or strike up a conversation. It became a joke that our guide Randa was also part “handler” simply by necessity: If we stopped to talk to every single person, we would have never made it past the Giza Pyramids on day one.
I went to Egypt to see the sites, but what I returned with was also a lot of newly acquired personal treasures! There are large souks in all the major cities and they are filled to the brim with colorful clothes, aromatic spices, handwoven scarves, wooden carvings, jewelry, and carpets. I couldn’t resist no matter how hard I tried! Even though I’m normally not a big shopper, I bought silk scarves hand-loomed by local Nubian women, a beautiful gold necklace inscribed with the protective Eye of Horus, alabaster vases, papyrus art, a hand-woven wall display rug, and coriander, saffron, and cumin.
On one especially memorable outing in Luxor, we visited an alabaster factory and showroom. My great grandparents visited Egypt in 1975, and in my room I have one of their souvenirs—a bust of Nefertiti. I wanted to find a matching piece, so Randa took us to a special showroom. The owner brought out an alabaster bust and told me his initial price. Like many Egyptians, Randa loves to bargain, and she immediately leapt into the fray. I tried my best to keep a straight face as she haggled, but I cracked and started laughing when she told the man I was a travel agent and that I would never send another client to his shop again if he didn’t lower his price. After a long round of spirited back and forth bargaining, she and the owner ended up laughing and having tea—and I ended up buying the bust.
Randa was a wonderful guide, teacher, and companion in all ways. Egyptians start studying their history in kindergarten and then continue all the way through high school; Egyptologists such as Randa then continue their studies in college and beyond.
Randa's wealth of knowledge about Egypt’s long history was astounding, and she was equally excited to share tips about the best contemporary shops and restaurants with us. Meeting her—and seeing Egypt with her—was one of the greatest treasures of the trip.
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To find out more about customized travel in Egypt, reach out to Kim or another of GeoEx's travel specialists at 888-570-7108.