It has been a while since I sat down to write about my travels and share my experiences. And more than a quarter of 2019 is already over!
So before I embark on another journey, I wanted to take some time looking back at my last travel of 2018. It was my first visit to a new continent, Africa and the country I chose to start with was Egypt. It is a dream destination for most of us and has been on my ‘to travel’ list since years.
I started my journey in Cairo and visited the famous Great Pyramids of Giza, saw the gigantic Sphinx and marvelled at the treasures of the Egyptian museum. The huge size of the Great Pyramids is to be seen and experienced to understand it’s vastness. No image can do justice to these monuments.
The Egyptian Museum of Antiquities is a treasure trove displaying relics dating back to 4000 BC, including the treasures of Tutankhamun’s tomb. The treasures of Tutankhamun in the museum was a treat to the eyes in every sense. I had seen some of these at the Tutankhamun exhibition in London in 2008. At that time, I never even dreamt that one day I will be viewing these, including Tutankhamun’s famous mask, standing inside the Egyptian museum in Cairo. So when I finally landed in Cairo, I had to visit the Egyptian museum and see all these treasures.
In Cairo, I also visited the Al Azhar mosque which is Cairo’s oldest mosque and also an university. It is a huge complex and has some beautiful carvings and chandeliers
From Cairo, I flew to Luxor. Luxor is famous for the Karnak Temple and the Luxor Temple.
The Karnak Temple, built over 1500 years is on the east bank of the Nile is a huge complex with pylons, courtyards, and halls. The most famous part of Karnak Temple is it’s Hypostyle hall, which has 134 columns, which are about 23 metres high and 15 metres in diameter. All you can do is look up, wonder and admire the beauty of the monuments.
The Luxor Temple complex, was constructed approximately 1400 BC, is a similar one and equally impressive.
What I did next was for me, the best part of my Egyptian journey. In Luxor, I boarded a cruise boat and travelled upstream on the Nile towards Aswan in Upper Egypt. I have never been on a cruise before, so used this opportunity to sail on a boat in one of the famous rivers of the world, The Nile. This was a totally new experience for me and I enjoyed it thoroughly.
The relaxing part of the cruise are the sunset times as they are really beautiful and serene and it is also a nice experience to enjoy the landscape along the way.
On the way towards Aswan, the first stop was the a visit to the Valley of the Kings on the west bank of the Nile. This famous valley contains tombs of over 62 Pharaohs, including Tutankhamun, Ramses III and IV.
Very small entrances on the hillside leads underground where a series of corridors and ante-chambers leads to the burial chamber and sarcophagus of the pharoahs. The walls of the tombs are covered in beautiful painted images and hieroglyphs. Tutankhamun’s tomb can also be entered using a very narrow passage going down. His sarcophagus is kept inside the tomb.
Near the Valley of the Kings on the west bank of the Nile is the Temple of Hatshepsut. Built for the pharaoh Hatshepsut, it is located beneath the cliffs at Deir el-Bahari.
Next I visited the temples of Edfu, famous for its roofed inner temples and huge Pylon, and the temple of Kom Ombo, next to the Nile near Aswan, constructed during the Ptolemaic dynasty, 180–47 BC. The temple of Kom Ombo glowing in the light of the setting sun was a fascinating sight.
After I reached Aswan, I transferred to a hotel in the Elephantine island. The view from the room was spectacular with the Blue Nile and the desert sands. Next morning, I enjoyed a felucca ride on the Nile. The felucca is a traditional Egyptian sailing boat. It is one of the best ways to enjoy the tranquility of the Nile
In the afternoon, I visited the Philae Temple. In the 70s, the Philae Temple was relocated to Aglika Island after it became evident that the temple would get submerged after the Aswan High Dam gets completed.
Another temple which was also famously saved was Abu Simbel. It is quite a long way from Aswan, but definitely worth the visit. Driving through the Nubian desert area after a very early morning start, I reached Abu Simbel around 8 am and watched the morning sun glowing on the temple.
Abu Simbel was built by Ramses II and the two temples, one to the sun Gods and the other for Nefertari, are just spectacular. The four colossal statues of Ramses II at the temple entrance look east towards the rising sun. Inside the temple, the sunlight hits the face of Rameses II on 2 days of the year, Feb 22 and Oct 22, when the sun rays enter the whole length of the temple to the inner sanctum.
Originally situated on the banks of the Nile, the temples had to be moved as the waters from Lake Nasser rose due to the Aswan High Dam. The temples were disassembled, moved to high ground and reconstructed above the lake in the late 60s.
On my last day in Aswan, I visited the St. Simone Monastery. It is a small trek on the desert sands to reach the monastery or a camel ride is recommended. I also visited the Aswan Dam, which is a marvel of engineering.
And the highlight of my last day in Egypt was a boat ride on the Nile to a Nubian Village. I had the privilege of enjoying Hibiscus and Mint tea in a Nubian villager’s home who were very friendly and hospitable. Talking with the family to understand their way of simple life was an eye opener.
- Be ready to haggle for anything and everything
- Tips or baksheesh is a way of life, so keeping some change with you is recommended
- USD, GBP, EUR Notes are accepted almost everywhere, even as tips! You can also pay for local tours in these currencies
- There are extra charges for photography almost everywhere and cash is the only method of payment
- Valley of the Kings – One ticket allows to visit three tombs.
- You must wear long sleeve tops and trousers when entering all mosques. Women will also need to cover their hair with a scarf and are given a long skirt which can be worn on top of your trousers
- The Nubian Museum in Aswan is an interesting one and the museum displays the history and culture of the Nubian people.
- For the history and archeology lovers, you can extend your trip by including Alexandria. For those who love sea side, Hurghada or Sharm-el-Sheikh are pleasant and relaxing extensions to end your holiday. You can fly from Aswan to Hurghada or Sharm-el-Sheikh
- Safety is paramount specially when you are in and around Cairo. So best to be in smaller groups and with a local guide always
Looking forward to my next travel soon and hoping to visit a few more of my dream destinations in 2019!!
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