Monday, April 29, 2013

Epic adventures in Egypt

If I do say so myself, my first solo trip was a smashing success. It took me 3 flights and 20+ hours to get there but it was totally worth it. Egypt was amazing! I got to see Cairo, the Pyramids of Giza and Saqqara, the Sphinx, Luxor Temple, the Valley of the Kings, Karnak Temple, the Egyptian museum and King Tutankhamon's treasure and ride on a camel, a felucca (sailboat) on the Nile and an overnight sleeper train (though sleeper train is really a misnomer. It's rather hard to sleep with all the shaking, jolting and squeaking going on. But they do give you 3 different kinds of rolls for breakfast, so maybe carbo train would be a better name).

My trip was through On The Go Tours, which I highly recommend. The other people in the tour group, 2 from South Africa and 2 from Australia, were really cool and we had a great guide, Hesham, who is an Egyptologist. He told us all about life in ancient Egypt as well as modern Egypt. He was honest about the problems facing Egypt today, but it was obvious that he loves his country. And the best way to see anything is through the eyes of someone who is passionate about it.

Driving in Cairo was fascinating to watch. There are no rules, no lanes, and crazy traffic. I saw a few stoplights but no one seemed to be heeding them. We rode past, on the one hand, sheep eating garbage in the street in front of a butcher shop where they would eventually end up on the menu, the City of the Dead (a cemetery where a million people live) and tons of unfinished and illegal apartment buildings and, on the other hand, The Four Seasons Residence Hotel, where you can drive your fancy expensive car into an elevator and up to your fancy expensive room.

Since the revolution in January 2011, tourism in Egypt has really decreased, which is sad because it's one of their main industries and sources of employment/income. But if you're a tourist, it's a great time to visit Egypt because there are no lines and you can have the pyramids and other tourist sites practically to yourself. Plus, when we went to the pyramids, we were accompanied by a man from the tourist police. It was like having our very own bodyguard, even though there was really nothing to guard us from. People seemed to be surprised that I was from the U.S. because apparently in the past few years Americans have been afraid to visit Egypt. It's such a shame because the country and its people are awesome. My fellow Americans, you are really missing out on some epic adventures. The other people in my group also told me I didn't have much of an American accent. I asked what typical Americans sound like and they said "more Texan," which I thought was hilarious.
Shopping in Egypt is quite the experience as well. Everywhere we went, people followed us around trying to sell us souvenirs. Some of them were very aggressive and didn't want to take no for an answer. I almost got scammed by a guy who overcharged me for postcards and stamps, but lucky for me Hesham got him to give me some money back. Hesham also taught us how to barter like an Egyptian. If you pay the price they initially quote you, you'll usually be overcharged, but if you walk away they will follow you and keep lowering the price or ask what you want to pay.

To be honest, I was a little apprehensive about solo travel, but going with a group I never felt alone. I'd still prefer to have a travel partner for future adventures, but if the choice is either go alone or stay home, I'm definitely going. This trip has only increased my insatiable wanderlust. After hearing all about South Africa and Australia from my travel mates, I totally want to experience those countries as well. My current cravings are for Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and going on a safari, but there are so many places I want to go it's hard to choose. I'm excited to go back to work so I can make more money for future trips!

Lyric of the moment: "I'm speeding out of reach. Oh, you're the one I had to meet...Wanderlust will carry us on..."

1 comment:

  1. Great Information about Epic adventures in Egypt, and congrats for your first solo trip. I would like to recommend you to visit Nepal once when you get time. It is one of the beautiful places to visit You will enjoy Trekking in Nepal. Thanks for sharing

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