One comment. The Sphinx was smaller than I had imagined. But otherwise my expectations were met.
Fifty years ago my father visited Egypt and went to Giza and rode a camel. My son went with me on this trip and my father told him he should ride a camel. We tried to re-create the scene.
Back into Cairo. Cairo had really bad smog. A city of over 20 million people. Big noisy smoggy dirty. But not as dirty as I expected. Actually, pretty clean. No open sewers, no piles of trash, no stench. Quite nice, really. In the evening I met up with an old friend I hadn’t seen in ages. He has lived in Cairo for 40 years and loves it. I have to admit, I’m a bit jealous. If you haven’t been there, I highly recommend it. I think I need to go back sometime…
That morning on our way to Giza, we stopped in a parking lot across from the Pyramids to rendez-vous with a physician. He diligently swabbed all of us and went off to do our Covid tests. This was required for us to re-enter the USA. Later that afternoon I received an email with my official document, photo and all, proclaiming I did not have Covid. That was a relief. On the way out of Egypt, the airlines did check to see I had the document but on returning to the homeland, nobody even mentioned it. All they looked at was my passport.
Over a year ago we were well into the Covid pandemic. Things were starting to look up with the vaccine on the horizon. There was light at the end of the tunnel. I booked a trip to to Egypt for the following year and crossed my fingers. I was due to leave January 9, 2022.
In July, things started to open up and four friends of mine went to Egypt between then and September. Then Omicron hit. I weighed it all and decided to move forward. I would be ready to go but if it got canceled, I would be okay with that, too. I got my visa, my plane tickets, my vaccination docs. About two weeks before I was to go, I started hearing about all the flight cancellations. I was scared my flight would be cancelled or delayed and I would miss my connection in New York. So I decided to leave a day earlier and spend the night, just to be sure. My final itinerary arrived from the tour company. It looked like all systems were go.
The only Covid related requirement for entry was proof of full vaccination. I needed to set up the proof with a QR code on my phone. That was easily done. Getting back into the USA was a little more complicated. But more about that later.
I left my house on a Monday at 4 am to catch a 7 am flight. It was minus 4 degrees F, winter in Minnesota. My plane left on time. The following day I had to check out of my hotel and go to the airport very early. The flight was to leave at 6:30 pm and I was there about noon. There was no place to sit. I found a railing to lean against and finally checked in about 3 pm. I was on my way, double masked and excited.
We arrived in Cairo at about 11:00 am the next day but we didn’t arrive at our hotel until about 3 pm. There was so much red tape. We needed permission to leave the airport, we needed to have a tourist police body guard, etc etc. That evening, after a short bus tour of the city, we went to dinner at Feleyfel for mixed grill and hummus and baba ghanoush and other delights. It had been a long day. The food was good.
The sight seeing began early the next morning with a visit to the Egyptian Museum. It was crowded with Russians who had come over on a day tour from Hurghada on the Red Sea. They go to the seaside resorts to get away from winter cold and do day trips by bus to Cairo and Luxor. The Egyptians have built a new museum near the Pyramids and are in the process of transitioning items out of the Egyptian museum. It was still full of artifacts. They have so much stuff and are still discovering things all the time. The mummies had been moved to the Civilization Museum and so we only saw one or two. King Tut’s mask and other items were in a special room where you could not take photos. Our guide pointed out a few treasures and we wandered around for a while trying to take it all in.
That afternoon we wandered through the open market and then headed to the Citadel. Sultan Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi (Saladin) ordered the construction of a fortress on the Muzattam Hills overlooking Cairo in 1176 AD. It was completed by his successor Sultan Kamel ibn al-Adel in 1207 AD. Monuments were added to the area as well as a large Mosque which dominates the compound. The Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha. There are other smaller mosques and museums that can be visited. The day we were there, they were getting the mosque ready for a wedding.
Day three we had to get up at four in the morning to catch and early flight to Aswan. From the airport in Aswan, we boarded a bus and went directly to Aswan Dam and Lake Nasser, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. Returning down river, we got onto a motorboat and crossed the river to Philae Island to tour the Temple of Isis. The temple was built during Egypt’s Greco-Roman period around 280 BC. It is hard to wrap your head around how old everything is. The obelisks from the front of the temple were taken by British Consul Henry Salt and are now in Dorset, England.
Our next stop was a quarry where an attempt to cut out a very large obelisk from the rock had failed since it had a large crack in it. They would dig out the rock around the shape they wanted to extract and use water to separate it. Yeah, I didn’t fully absorb the engineering angle but apparently it worked. Except for this time, anyway. From there we finally checked into our cruise ship and had some lunch. It was like 2 pm. And it wasn’t over yet.
After lunch we all precariously made our way onto a felucca, a small sailboat. We sailed down river to a Nubian village where we were to take tea with some Nubian villagers. A dirt pathway surrounded by garbage took us up a hill where there was was a large pile of garbage, and on top of the pile were three goats and a cat munching away.
We turned the corner and were led by a man into a house. After climbing high steps we found ourselves in a very pleasant open air room with colorful paintings on the walls. The woman of the house was very welcoming and made tea for us. Our guide told us he had a surprise for us. The man we had seen earlier brought out a large white bucket. Inside the bucket was a baby crocodile. Lovely.
On our way out of the village we came across a man weaving. He was making beautiful scarves in a room with a loom and shelves of his finished products. He made several sales that day. Interestingly enough we saw a poster of the very weaver at the airport. Apparently he had been recognized for something or other. By the way, there are lots of stray dogs and cats in Egypt. One of my tour companions kept wanting to feed them.
Back on the felucca, we made our way zig zagging back to our cruise ship.
Day four was another early day, we had to catch a flight to Abu Simbel.