Family Travel in Egypt
We have just returned from an amazing two weeks in Egypt. A true eye opener for all of us and very worthwhile. Byron summed it up one day …. “Mummy, I know why you are taking us to all these places. We are so lucky we have what we have, aren’t we!”
We had booked a tour through a company and were so grateful we did. They picked us up and took us to all the amazing sights. The guides were all just lovely, with incredible knowledge of Egyptology (years and years of study) and were able to give us a fabulous insight into past and present Egyptian culture. The loveliest people. So very kind with the boys and so appreciative of tourists. They took such great care of us.
We woke up on the first morning, opened the curtains and there were three pyramids! The pyramids of Giza are such phenomenal structures. I have always been fascinated by them from looking at books and photos. But to stand near them, their immense size and the fact that they were built 1000’s and 1000’s of years ago is amazing. I don’t believe any of our architectural feats of today display such skill, nor will stand the test of time like these ancient structures have.
Hawkers were everywhere, which was new for the boys. It was difficult for Byron not to stop and touch everything! The tunnels and chamber in the large pyramid at Giza are incredible. The precision in cutting the stones to fit so perfectly, mind-blowing, especially since it was all hand made with very basic tools.
We were so lucky on our first day in Cairo in the fact that we had some visibility. It was freezing and raining, which the boys found a bit funny as they thought Egypt was a “desert”! We visited the Sphinx, Memphis, Saqqara and went on a camel ride (even though Myles was somewhat unsure of that experience!). They are still finding treasures buried beneath the city. A farmer recently ploughed up the most massive, stunning sculpture of Ramses II and many other artefacts in a field.
The Cairo museum holds many of the stunning treasures of the Pharaonic period. I found it interesting that today we still use so many of the ancient designs in clothing, furniture and jewellery.
I am not sure what I expected and was somewhat overwhelmed by what our experience offered. I was very fortunate as a child to have been exposed to many different cultures, to have travelled and seen many different parts of the world, but I still found parts of our trip very confronting.
We found Cairo to be an exceedingly dirty, chaotic city, housing a population larger than Australia in the one city. It appears not to have fully recovered from the revolution in 2011, with buildings remaining ruined or in disrepair. The air is acrid and the smog oppressive. Recycling appears non-existent since the revolution and rubbish is thrown in the streets or canals. Extreme poverty is very evident and subsistence living is a way of life for many. Driving here to a foreigner would appear crazy. No obvious road rules or lanes, and lots of honking, but it seems to work. There are many donkeys or horse and carts on the street moving produce or wares.
From Cairo, we visited the Aswan High Dam that stops the annual flooding of the Nile. It was interesting to learn that sixty years on, Egypt is now suffering from its construction. The fertile silt that used to be brought with the floods no longer exists, the soil is losing fertility and now needs irrigation and fertiliser to produce crops, and the river is silting up, causing all different issues. It is such a catch twenty-two dilemma.
The quarry where the Ancient Egyptians excavated granite for statues and obelisks was very interesting. To understand how they hand made these impressive monuments, cutting them out of the rock faces and floating them down the Nile is phenomenal. The round, diorite stones they used as grinding and polishing tools still lay strewn on the ground. To hold them in your hand and image who had held them in ancient times was impressive. The Philae temple opposite the Nubian village was also impressive.
The cruise down the Nile for four days, stopping at sites was very relaxing. Watching the scenery pass, the farming land, subsistence living and towns. We visited temples at Kom Ombo, Edfu and Luxor. Incredible structures that were all once coloured with vivid colours.
We were very fortunate the weather permitted us to take an exciting Hot Air Balloon ride in Luxor over the Valley of the Kings and the Hatshepsut Temple. We got to experience stunning views of the super green Nile plains and the desert, and had a rough landing which was a highlight for the boys.
From Luxor, we drove through many villages and the desert to Hurghada on the Red Sea, a town that has been built purely for tourism. The resort was predominantly full of Europeans – Russians and Germans escaping the cold winter for sunshine and warmth. It’s interesting how different nationalities act and are perceived on mass. It made me contemplate how Australians must often be thought of in Asia and at the Oktoberfest in Munich!
Byron loved snorkelling off the boat and did a super job for his first time. The afternoon was spent playing in the sand at Paradise, a beautiful beach on a remote island.
After Hurghada, we flew back to Cairo to visit the Alabaster Mosque and wander through the Khan El Khalili bazaar. So many beautiful lamps and artworks that, unfortunately, would not fit into our suitcases!
So appreciative of the people that we met, their generosity and hospitality. What is happening in the world at present is having such a negative impact on tourism to this region, which subsequently affects the lives of so many innocent people, trying to make an income to survive.
We never once felt unsafe and were treated so well, learnt so much about Ancient and Modern Egyptian life and different cultures and religions. This trip reminded us how fortunate we are in Australia.