Egypt! Another Bucket List Trip Completed! 

Everyone has a “Bucket List”.   For some, the List may be in achievement, such as graduating with a Ph.D., or experiences such as swimming with dolphins or throwing three coins in the Trevi Fountain in Rome; and ideally, items are to be completed before the proverbial “kicking the bucket.”  When a person begins a bucket list is up for debate.  My bucket list started when I was in the eighth grade, while thumbing through our new social studies book.  I saw Egypt’s blue sky, bright orange sun, sparkling pyramids and the graceful camels.  I fell in love at that moment and vowed that I would go there “someday.”  “Someday” turned into last month along with several of my clients and friends.  I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to spend fifteen days in Egypt experiencing the “Secrets of the Nile River Cruise” arranged by AmaWaterways.

   We land in Cairo after a long flight of eleven hours and in baggage claim, see signs with our names. We immediately have our visas in our passports and clear Egyptian Customs within minutes.  We have transport to our hotel and our guide gives us area information.  We learn that the city of Cairo, alone, has a population of twenty-three million people.  The streets are crowded along with the road filled with cars and buses and which has no lines of demarcation.  That means that cars can pass on the right and the left and make U Turns at will.  Motorcycles and Tuk-tuks weave in and out and pedestrians cross streets with no benefit of traffic lights or crosswalks.   We check into our four-star hotel an hour later.  The Four Seasons Hotel in the Cairo, Giza area, is conveniently located near several attractions including the Cairo Zoo that is directly across the street. 

Our rooms are palatial in size, and we have a wonderful view of the Nile River from our windows!  (I will talk more about the Nile River later in the series.)   After unpacking, we make our way to the “Welcome Reception” complete with cocktails and piping hot hors d’oeuvres that were elegant and filling.   We meet our cruise manager, Wala, who will be with us for our entire land and cruise experience.  He acts as our interpreter, timekeeper, luggage manager, activity manager, sightseeing guide and all-around problem solver extraordinaire!

  Our first days’ exploration is jammed packed.  We meet our group’s Egyptologist, Dina.  She will be with us the entire trip. We learn immediately that she has over 25 years of experience and she reads hieroglyphics easily, somewhat like you and I read the newspaper. (She was so available after our tours for interpretation of any of the hieroglyphs we wanted read.) Our first tour brings us to the famous Egyptian Museum in Cairo that is home to some of the greatest antiquities ever found in Egypt including King Tut’s Funeral Mask.  Dina gives us insightful information and points out more items found in the initial opening of Tut’s tomb.  I see so many mummies and beautiful artifacts that I lose track of time.  

  Our next land days are filled with day trips that take us to more stops in Cairo and the ancient capital of Memphis.  We see and pose near the huge statue of Rameses II, and the necropolis of Sakkara, the site of the famous step pyramid of King Zoser.  Each day is topped with a lovely lunch such as the one at the Mena House, an historic palatial hotel in the shadow of the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx.  It was magical for my clients and me. 

On Day Four, we check out of the Four Seasons and take a one-hour Egyptian Air flight to Luxor.  This is where we embark on our Nile River experience aboard the beautiful ship, The AmaDahlia, and meet the experienced crew of the ship. 

     The AmaDahlia rebuilt in 2021, is beautiful.  It is 236 feet long, 43 feet wide, and five decks high. The top deck has a covered sitting area and a large swimming pool. With 36 staterooms the ship has a passenger capacity of 72 and crew of 62.  We had only 68 passengers on this trip so there was plenty of room. The crew ratio was almost 1:1. My room was spacious with a bedroom and a sitting room.  The bath was large and luxurious and generously stocked with exquisite Egyptian cotton towels.

We spend our first evening docked in Luxor and the following day visit the Valley of the Kings and Queens. Our first tour is King Tut’s Tomb.  We stand in line for a while and then step inside to a most breath-taking sight.  (You may remember, archaeologist Howard Carter, who in 1922 initially found the tomb largely intact, said, “I see wonderful things!”)  With my “Explorer’s Heart”, and feeling excited, I go through the tomb.  Surrounded by the still visible colored hieroglyphics, I see the mummy of King Tut.  He rests in a glass case with most of his body covered with linen cloth.  There are murals on the wall still visible after three thousand three hundred and forty-six years!  

    During that same day, we arrived in the Vally of the Queens to see the tomb Nefertari, wife of Ramses II. This tomb was very well preserved in that the murals and hieroglyphics still had vibrant colors.  The hues of blues, greens and oranges are still very vivid so that any photo taken would show evidence of the preservation.  

Returning to our ship, we have a sumptuous dinner, local entertainment, and set sail on the Nile River on our way to Aswan.

Part II

   I wanted dive right back into the second part of my “Bucket List Trip” that I started last month.  It is so kind of you to “armchair travel” with me.  You are just wonderful!  In Egypt you would have been called “Hubibies.”  That word means darling, or sweetheart in Arabic and that is the language spoken in Egypt, Egyptian Arabic.  There is also a smattering of French interspersed occasionally as you will remember, the French occupied Egypt in the 18th century.  So, it was not surprising to hear the French “oui” meaning yes in English quite often. 

  Continuing with the day six in Edfu, we visit the Temple of Horus located on the west Bank of the Nile.  (Horus was an ancient Egyptian sky god with the body of a human and the head of a falcon and controls the weather, storms and protection in the time of war and is depicted numerous times through all the temples.)  This temple is the most well preserved of all the temples in Egypt.  All stones are still in place and inside some very vivid colors visible and there is no desecration of the hieroglyphs.  We end our day slightly earlier than usual because we have a special party this evening aboard the AmaDahlia.    It’s called the Galabia party! 

   Our Galabia party was so much fun!  Everyone on our cruise dressed up in our long-decorated garb and we looked great.  Some of the women adept at doing make up, helped some of us less able with ours so that we would have just the right Egyptian look.  We feel Egyptian at least for the next few hours.  Feasting on wonderful hors oeuvres, listening to music and yes, dancing, we play Egyptian games.  Quite a lot of fun with everyone posing for photos with our new friends.  We received the photos the following morning so you can imagine what it was like at breakfast!

   After breakfast, we board our buses at nine and a short time later, arrive at the airport to fly to Aswan to Abu Simbel, a World Heritage site and it’s the closest we come to the border of Sudan. 

  Abu Simbel is a UNESCO World Heritage site dedicated to Ramses II, one of the more active pharaohs, along with the smaller temple dedicated to his chief wife Queen Nefertari.   The front of the main temple has four gargantuan statues of Ramses II on his throne measuring 70 feet high and discovered in 1813 half buried in the sand.  It was one of the most memorable temples so far in the visit.  We fly back, board our lovely ship and have a sumptuous lunch.  At midday, we take a leisurely felucca cruise on the Nile.  (The felucca is sailboat like with a very large billowing sail.)  We stop at the “Old Cataract” Hotel, perched high on a hill, and a favorite haunt of the very famous mystery writer, Agatha Christie, who wrote part of her novel Murder on the Nile while overlooking the breathtaking view of the river.   I am tickled to think that I may be sitting in the same chair, enjoying the same view, and all the while enjoying a splendid High Tea, maybe just like Agatha.  (A postscript on this, I don’t want you to think that I didn’t take a photo or two of me standing near the large Agatha Christie portrait hanging on the wall, because I certainly did!) 

 The next day we tour the very famous Philae Temple complex that boast some of the most stunningly preserved hieroglyphs in Egypt and is dedicated to the goddess Isis, the mother of Horus. This day we also visit the temple of Sobek the Crocodile god and the Crocodile Museum.   This museum was much more interesting than it sounds.  This museum displays many mummified crocodiles that were revered by the ancient Egyptians.  Some of the interesting points were how to mummify crocodiles and how to embalm them, which was done with the same precision that is followed when embalming human beings.    

  Our final day is learning about the art of papyrus making.  Papyrus is that special plant that is abundant in the Egyptian Delta and the Nile River Valley.  It is known as the paper plant but is also used to make sails, cloth, mats, cords. In ancient times, papyrus is the main writing material in Egypt  Greece and Rome.  On this papyrus manufacturing tour, we see artists copying some of the most famous scenes from different temples.  Our Egyptologist, Dina, surprises us all with a gift of a papyrus scroll with our names written in hieroglyphics!  It was beautiful!  Another surprise and delight!

Sunrise in Luxor

   The following morning, saying goodbye to our fellow shipmates, we leave Egypt with all our treasures and memories bound for the very long trip home.  It takes us approximately 27 hours before our key goes in the door.

My conclusion in the end:  I loved the Egypt that I found in books, but books are flat. I loved Egypt more when I met her in person a she took on a personality, a smell, a taste, a vibe.   With such a deep impression and vivid memories, I know that I can close my eyes and visit her again, and again. Now that’s a bucket list trip— completed!

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