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Early morning. Freshly (?) squeezed mango juice and strawberry juice! Oh. My. Goodness. So yum. It made the 5ish am start to the day bearable. Thank goodness for 5 star hotels!

After our delicious breaky we headed off to the airport and hopped onto our Egyptair plane. Oh dear. Firstly the flight attendants scared me. Smile people! And secondly they had a camera on the bottom of the plane giving us a great view of the dodgy tarmac. Hmmmm. Sounding like a whinging westerner here but whatever!

Up, up, up we went. Then, eventually the scary attendants served us a weird inflight meal: partially frozen muffin (which was actually quite yummy) and a cup-o-tea! It was a shortish trip to Luxor. And after we landed, the whole plane cheered! Fu-neeee. But it was all worth it. This place was incredible. Temples a-go-go! Hardly any tourists.

After a day of temple exploring we headed to our boat. Oh bliss! We had to walk through about six other luxurious floating hotels to get to ours. We found our room – just like the hotel we left in Cairo. This is the way to travel Egypt! (Cocky westerner now? Oh well.). Up to the deck we floated and sat there sipping some kind of drink overlooking the Nile! The Nile!!!!!

That night we headed back to Karak temple for an exciting (yawn) sound and (yawn) light show. Ooo sorry… flashbacks. It was freeeeeezing cold and the first ten minutes was creepy and exciting. But then it went on… and on… and on! And we both nearly fell asleep.

Next day was the flippin’ Valley of the Kings. This place rocked. The tombs were beautiful. The colours of the drawings/paintings were still brightly coloured and well preserved. We headed down into the bowels of the thing and checked out where the poor Egyptian was laid to rest. We heard tales of brains being sucked out the noses, grave robbers and the afterlife. Fascinating… and a bit gross.

Out we popped and off we went to one of my fav places: the temple of Queen Hatshepsut. This giant temple was built into the side of a mountain. It has a sad history. In 1997 62 people were shot by terrorists so it had an eerie feel about it. But it was also magnificent and awesome. For me, Egypt was full of ‘moments’. And this was one of them. Loved it!

After a full morning we headed back to the boat and set sail for Esna. Ah, this was the life. I felt for the poor adventurous tourists in Felucas (small sailing boats) with their lack of toilets or personal space. Imagine if you got the runs on board! Eeeeeeek.

The next few days were filled with Nile-side temples, jewellery purchasing (oh why didn’t I buy more? So cheap and lovely) and various interactions with various locals that made us feel a various range of emotions from annoyance to affection.

After reaching Aswan we went to a perfumery, had a dance on the ship with our tour guides and headed back to the airport to brave the scary flight attendants once again. Smile and nod. Smile and nod.

Hello Cairo with your crazy cars and your millions of people. Hello The Egyptian Museum with your amazing artefacts and floor filled with King Tut stuff. Hello Bazaar and Egyptian Restaurant. Hello taxi driver and hotel again. Hello… where had the Americans got to?

After we went to the restaurant our tour guide put us all in taxis (this was not part of the tour so no bus). We all made it safely and way too swiftly back to the hotel except the car-full of Americans. We feared the worst. It was a bad time to be an American in Egypt. Half an hour went by. One hour. Our tour guide was frothing at the mouth. He was furious.

Finally the little taxi ambled its way back to the giant hotel and everyone started to breathe again! Crazy times.

The tour was over. We said our fondest farewells to our lovely tour guide and prepared ourselves to become our own tour guides in Europe. In countries we had no idea about. In places we couldn’t speak the language. Driving on the wrong side of the road. Um. Yeah. We felt a little apprehensive. But that’s adventure, baby!

See you in Paris! Bye.

 

Picture this you’ve been awake for 30 hours straight, travelled 13 hours and spent 10 hours waiting in an airport in foggy London. Add to this 5 extra plane hours full of gurgly foul tummy motions and a single vomit and that’s how I arrived in Cairo!

We hopped off our BA flight to be met by our ‘tour guide’ (or WAS he?). Off he tottered with our passports, tickets and tour coupons as we stood dazed in the Cairo international airport. Ding dongs. The first rule of travelling is do not let go of your passport. But there you have it.

We were lucky. Our smiling guide strode back with all our things in hand and we were whisked past eager taxi drivers to our minivan. We were off. It was a tense time in the Middle East. Bombs had just started to drop on Egypt’s next-door-neighbour, Iraq the day we arrived and we were not sure what reception us Westerners were going to get.

We arrived at our fancy pants hotel and found ourselves staring at a king sized bed, wondering what the dickens it was… ah yes… a bed! We took a quick glance out our window at the glistening Nile and fell into a deep sleep. In the morning we arose with a spring in our step… sort of. We had a down day at the hotel and it was here we met our first Egyptians.

The cleaner came in around umpteen o’clock with a smile on his face. I swear  I could see dollar signs reflected in his eyes. We soon realised that a lot of Egyptians thought Westerners = cash! How wrong could they be!? The poor fella tried everything from us teaching him a little bit of English, he teaching us Arabic to gifts of sandy pyramids and other impractical travelling the world, can’t take home prezzies. Then he brought a friend along for some more English lessons and that’s when we called it a day. We had learnt our lesson. The door gently slammed shut on that chapter.

The following day we met our real tour guide and our other fearless fellow travellers. Poor Egypt. Instead of having a full tour of 30 people, our group was down to 8, which was good for us. People were just plain scared to come to the Middle East with bombs and such. Not us!

Off we toddled to our first couple of  sites: The Pyramids at Saqqara and the ancient city of Memphis. For this part of the tour we had our very own bodyguard with an impressive looking weapon. And this was the moment I embraced the travelling thing and  decided to (pardon the Egyptian pun) live in denial (de Nile!?!).  I love history so I was not going to cancel this tour, unless something major happened… and it didn’t!

After this we headed to … wait for it… The Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx (pronounced Spinx in American). This was bloody amazing. Beautiful, old, tall, strong structures. It was awe-inspiring. You have to go! But I must say, the Nile does not flow past the pyramids – that’s just a Hollywood thing peeps. The Sphinx was so special. It was a moment in life I will never forget.

Back we went to the hotel. And, to tell you the truth, I would have been happy with just that day cos it rocked. But we had 9 days ahead of us… Stay tuned to see what other Egyptian adventures we had. Watch this space…

Egypt is a fascinating land. There’s so much to explore and learn about ancient history. Love it. When we were there in ’03 we toured the pyramids, travelled down to Luxor and sailed the Nile on to Aswan.

We loved the people and their fascinating history. When visiting the Valley of the Kings, our tour guide claimed that archeologists have only found a fraction of what is hidden in this great land. He claimed that the Pyramids and Valley are nothing compared to what is yet to be found in the land between Cairo and Luxor.

But this part of Egypt is a dangerous place. It is no place for westerners. For some reason fundamentalist Egyptians guard this land with violence. Why? It tickles my curiosity nerve. What is out there to be found? Fascinating isn’t it? What could be more impressive that the great pyramids? Or in better shape than the temples at Luxor?

I did find one tour operator that visited some sites between Cairo and Luxor but there was nothing too special in the itinerary and they admitted that there are not many that take this trip. It makes you think, what is out there? Why is this region so heavily guarded? Could there be more Biblical remnants or more Islamic sites?

It is so fascinating to think that we only have a small portion of Egyptian history. This is a place that fascinates most of us. We love to glamourise Egypt but now, with political upheaval, what is going to happen to our Middle Eastern brothers and sisters? And will we ever have the full picture of what makes Egypt tick?

Eight years ago  I was standing on Waikiki Beach staring at the sunset while hubby swam with the turtles. Ah bliss. This was the end of a mammoth 5 month tour of the world including places like: Egypt, France, Spain, Italy, Ireland, England, USA and Canada.

It was an interesting time to travel. When we were in Cairo, the bombs were starting to fall in Iraq. We had violent protests moving up towards our hotel and even lost (and later found) a few Americans which was quite scary. While we travelled, protests for peace, ‘pace’  dominated nearly every city we visited. It was like a common theme running through our trip.

I must admit I was not the world’s best tourist. Pretty soon I was sick of hostels where you had to share a bathroom. Sometimes I just wanted a long toilet session in the peace and quiet of my own room. That’s not too much to ask is it? I found myself stressing at the silliest things like taking the wrong turn. Not because I was cranky with hubby-boy but with myself. I think my perfectionist streak came out big time over the weeks and months that followed.

The travelling experience was like being in a bubble. All that mattered was the next meal and the next bed. Home was so far away that we barely gave it any attention, except when I pathetically missed my little black cat… and my bathroom. Sigh. I loved getting to a new place or finding a small ancient town that we hadn’t really planned on visiting. It was like digging for treasure and you cannot lose when in Europe.

We were certainly on a whirlwind tour of the world. A man in France laughed at us Aussies who seemed to take a fast-forward tour of Europe, cos we live so far away. I was proud to be a typical Aussie, though. Those spoilt Europeans can afford to meander through each little town, but we just wanted a general taste of everything. And that’s just what we did.

From Hong Kong to Egypt, Europe to America/Canada, we saw pyramids, mountains, summer snow, wild animals, ancient monuments, castles, strange and exotic food and muchos vino. We ate gross vinegary tuna with tinned corn and carrot which really got old after the second week. Our European snacks included giant strawberries, garlic baguette chips, wine, fresh bread, cheese and lots of yummy coffee (only in Italy).

We videoed ourselves singing the same song in every country so that we could splice it together and revisit the whole time in only a couple of minutes (good idea hus of the band). We walked the Brooklyn Bridge, rode a camel near the pyramids, relaxed in a gondola in Venice, slept in a 400 year old Gite in France, walked the Cinque Terre with some awesome friends, camped in the semi-wilds of Canada with bears, saw a show on Broadway, in Las Vegas and Hawaii and flew 19 flights in 19 weeks.

We fought, we cried, we sneezed, we giggled with delight. It was the trip of a lifetime, something we will never be able to replicate. It was hard and fun and satisfying. But the biggest and best adventure is happening right now. As much as I loved travelling and learning and experiencing the world, nothing compares to my family.

The little whispers of my kids with their lovely stinky breath and cute boring stories. Their art that takes up all the room in my drawers, under the bed and in the office. Their cuddles, their giggles, their love for stories. I wouldn’t want to miss a moment for anything.

 

Hi Egypt! Remember me? Remember those heady days in 2003, when we were just getting to know each other? I remember the fear in the air as bombs were dropped on your cousin, Iraq and you were trembling in your ancient boots! We wondered together, what was going to come of you?

And now you’re all grown up! You’ve kicked out that bully boss and you’re on your own, flying solo, free as a bird and a little bit scared, I’d imagine. How are you doing now? Freedom can be terrifying, which is why so many stay with abusive people, better the devil you know and all that! But now that you’ve stood up and made yourself known, what comes next?

Looking back at our time together, do you remember the Nile, that dirty, historic piece of water? How we laughed when I was too scared to put my dainty fingers into that slop! The spray off the felucca held terror for me as I imagined all those bugs and worms finding their way into my organs in years to come.

I found myself wanting to be a part of you, to be Egyptian with all your dramatic history and culture. With my darkish skin and hair I almost had you fooled! I loved walking around those ruins in my sensible clothes, hair flying in the soft, cool breeze! The weather was fantastic, not too hot nor too cold, thanks for that!

I loved your humour: the local man selling his wares, mimicking the Aussie accent, the man at the sculpture store haggling with my husband for my hand in marriage “100 camels!!”. You certainly love your drama. Remember the time you got those American tourists lost? We were so scared that the crazy part of you had taken over and whisked them away forever. But na, you were just playing with our minds. You’re not too scary.

Except for the protests marches down our street and the guard on our bus with the machine gun and the child labour going on in the rug stores. Those were a bit scary. But, Egypt, you have a good heart. It’s just a bit angry and a bit deluded sometimes. But know that we miss you, we love you heart and soul and hope that this new day finds you smiling and truly free.

image by Ramy Raoof

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