NAOMI’S EGYPTIAN ADVENTURE

Where did you go and when? Have you been there before?
I went to Egypt for the first time at the end of August 2023.

Would you go at that time of year again, or a different time of year? How come?
It’s a trade-off.  I went during the Egyptian summertime, so it was really hot, but that results in less tourists – not none, but considerably less. Though the weather is more tolerable in January/February, the volume of people would irritate me more than the hairdryer like conditions currently.
It comes down to whether you dislike hordes of other travellers or inclement weather conditions more.  I personally would rather deal with hot weather than massive crowds,

There was a lovely family of travel agents from London on the boat with me and they kept marvelling at how uncrowded it was (this is not their first visit). I thought it was still pretty busy at some sites, but they assured me, it is much busier at other times of the year.

First impressions of destination?
Egypt was more modern and forward thinking than I thought it would be, and not as near as conservative as I thought. Forward-thinking as in they’re trying to implement a public healthcare system, currently it is user pays; as in they are trying to be environmentally friendly and manage the river and keep it clean for future generations; hydroelectricity from the Aswan Dam; building roads and infrastructure that is long overdue.

Cash is king, and tipping is very much relied on as a form of income. Having a ready supply of small denomination notes is key and you’ll go through the small notes very quickly. At the time I travelled 100 Egyptian pounds was about 1 Australian Dollar. I am very much a credit card / debit card person, so I struggle with cash, especially with limited motor function in my left hand as it’s harder to thumb through your cash one-handed.

The traffic is rubbish, and I couldn’t decipher the road rules, but better than I was expecting, especially in Cairo, a city of 20 million people (25 million including commuters).  The traffic is better than Delhi. Delhi is the yardstick against which I measure all traffic.

Cairo airport is more modern than I was expecting. I arranged an e-visa prior to arrival.  I would suggest printing that visa and keeping it with your passport when you go through immigration. The customs agent went through my entire passport and then demanded to know where my visa was.  I said “E-visa”, and she sighed and then checked her computer.

Wifi was great all over Egypt.

Why don’t the locals wear hats?  It’s extremely sunny and hot.

Did you have any expectations going in?
I thought I would be hounded as a blonde Caucasian woman on my own in the Middle East and this did NOT occur at all. There is a very noticeable tourist police presence. Egypt is aware that tourism brings in hard currency and the country is desperate for hard currency. Keeping tourists and travellers safe and happy keeps money coming into the country. Along that same theme, there is a noticeable security presence at all tourist/historical sites, though I found the security presence to be half-hearted at best.

Did it meet / exceed / underdeliver on your expectations?
I enjoyed everything I did and visited, even in the hot, HOT weather.  The Egyptian people were friendly and hospitable. I didn’t get hounded at tourist sites by hawkers and/or shop owners.

There was a LOT of walking involved, and up and down stairs everywhere. Big steps, small steps, deep steps, shallow steps – it’s all irregular.

What did you really enjoy?
My favourite historical sites were in the South at Philae, Luxor and Karnak.

What did you not like so much?
The floors at historical sites are quite uneven. You need to keep an eye on where you’re treading, or you may step in an unexpected hole and hurt your ankle. I kind of get it, some of these places are 5000 years old so wear and tear does occur and fixing the floors might take away from historical accuracy. Some sites have wooden floorboards over the floor (maybe to protect the site? Maybe to protect tourists?)

What did you think our travellers would think of the destination / product?
You’ll learn a lot about history and discover Hollywood really is quite inaccurate when it comes to history in movies, etc.
Egypt is information overload.  I would usually end up googling the sites I had seen when I got back to the hotel to reinforce what I had seen and learned that day.  Sometimes you need to read/hear it a second timer for it to sink in.

Is there anything you would change for our travellers based on your experience?
I was on the go the entire trip so I would add in rest days in between action days, especially if travelling in the Egyptian summer. The heat really knocks you about.

Pros and cons?
Hot weather vs less tourists.
Great weather vs HORDES of tourists.
What do you dislike more?  Crowds or heat?

What tips would you pass on?
Have a ready supply of small denomination notes for tipping/gratuities.
Print your e-visa that visa and keep it with your passport when you go through immigration.
Don’t forget your universal adapter!
Take a powerboard to charge multiple items at once

How much luggage did you take? Was it suitable? Is there anything you wish you’d taken with you?
15kgs and I probably could have taken a few less clothing items.

I did forget my universal adapter which was annoying. On this trip and my last two trips prior to covid, I took an Australian power board with me as I have a lot of gadgets (camera batteries, phone, watch) and they all need charging.

I’ve based this trip review on my travel diary, so you’ll read my thoughts and impressions as they occurred to me.

 

NAOMI’S EGYPTIAN ADVENTURE

27 Aug 2023
This was my first international trip post-Covid and post-health issues that put a major speedbump into my   last 3 years.

I haven’t even made it to check in yet and I’m trying to keep it together and not cry (happy, excited tears).

Yay for being so ridiculously early (7am for a 10.30am flight) and living not so far from the airport because for the first time EVER, I forgot my wallet. I’ve never ever forgotten to take my wallet on a trip.

Also, 7.30am on Sunday morning at BNE international airport is really busy, whereas 8.30 was much calmer, quieter and civilised.

It’s really real once you get to that departures gate at Brisbane International Airport!

Are you really on holiday if you don’t post this obligatory photo to your social media?

The Qantas flight up to Singapore was delayed with no departure time given because they don’t know how long it’s going to take. Some unhappy person is here riling up other travellers by whinging and moaning about “it’s just not good enough, blah blah blah”.

Go on have a whinge at the ground staff, it’s not going to change a thing other than them telling the cabin crew you’ve been difficult and forewarning the cabin crew that you’re difficult (that’s a direct quote from experienced cabin crew).

RECOMMENDATION: Don’t be that person.

You know what? I’d rather the plane not fall out of the sky, so I’m OK with a delay. I had an 8 hour stop in Singapore anyway. We ended up boarding 2 hours late in Briabane, but still boarded!

Jewel at Changi airport is a pleasant diversion, very humid and full of water, water features and plants. To my personal taste, I found it borderline kitsch, though I was also hot and tired by this stage which might have coloured my overall impressions.

For the city dwellers of Singapore though, I can understand why they love it.

There was a pretty choreographed light show tonight featuring Disney movie theme tunes. The sound projection in there is excellent.

28 Aug 2023
Dubai airport we meet again. Last time I visited you (March 2020) was when the world was about to stop turning and countries were closing their borders left right and centre, including Australia, and I had to come home early. That time you smelled very strongly of disinfectant. Today you smell like duty free perfume, and coffee, glorious coffee!

Oh ho, extreme judgement level unlocked!

A new and extra step incorporated into my pre-flight routine is to inject myself with a blood thinner a few hours prior to a long flight. I didn’t think stabbing myself at the departure gate in front of 200-300 other travellers would be appropriate, so I headed for the lady’s room. The toilets in Dubai state there is a sharps/medical waste bin in the washrooms; it was not so easy to find because it’s not just some big obnoxious yellow plastic container like here in Australia. The look on the cleaner’s face when I asked where the sharps bin was located was priceless.

28 Aug 2023:
I finally arrived and was beyond exhausted after 36 hours. I was pretty good up until 15mins prior to landing and then fatigue kicked me in the face HARD.

29 Aug 2023

I completed a bucket list item today!!

I had a private tour with my own Egyptologist/historian, Rania. She was excellent and extremely knowledgeable. I particularly liked the thoughtful touch of pairing me, the solo female traveller with a female guide.

The latest theory is that the pyramids were not built by slaves, but rather by workers who were well paid, housed and fed, all by the pharaoh Khufu (also known as Cheops). In the last 10-20 years, there have been tombs of nobles and notable citizens (project managers and foremen) uncovered on the Giza Plateau. In their tombs texts were found detailing their accomplishments. It’s explained better in this article if you’re interested.

The great Pyramid
Looking up at the great pyramid of Khufu (or Cheops as the Greeks called him)
View from a camel – very touristy, but a fantastic view!
The cameleer told me my camel’s name is Michael Douglas so called because he’s a handsome camel.

Lunch view – the Sphinx! In prime position in front of the Sphinx are a KFC and a Pizza Hut.  I did NOT eat at either of those establishments, but rather at an Egyptian restaurant next door, also with a fantastic view.

29 Aug 2023
There was a downside to today. I did NOT make it up to the burial chamber. A combination of heat (35 degrees Celsius) and lack of fitness did me in.

No crawling was required though you are bent over at 90 degrees for some of it. You do need to watch your head as there are protruding pieces of stone.

There was a downside to today. I did NOT make it up to the burial chamber. A combination of heat (35 degrees Celsius) and lack of fitness did me in.

Not surprising really considering I’ve done very little cardio fitness in the last three years. Most of the therapy I’ve been doing is reforging neural pathways, strength, and reteaching muscles. I wasn’t disappointed, but I knew I was at my limit, so I thought it smarter to cut my losses and walk out under my own steam rather than pass out and create an incident.

Many, many thanks to the group of Spanish doctors who were walking past me just as I was making my decision to turn around. They were too concerned to leave me on my own and escorted me out and back to my guide. What a bunch of legends!

Incidentally, I think I heard more Spanish than Arabic when I was in Egypt. To be fair I was visiting every historical monument I could visit.

Inside the great pyramid – looking up toward the burial chamber

30 Aug 2023

My legs and backside were pretty sore today after yesterday’s pyramid exploits, which made getting in and out of the van harder as the day progressed. I’ll be tipping my driver Mahmoud big time. He’s by far the best driver I’ve had in any country anywhere. It’s like magic! The van slides into gaps everywhere, and there’s not as mark on it!

Traffic here is insane but seems to flow very well, nonetheless. The only rule seems to be driving on the right-hand side of the road. Otherwise, anything goes. But no road rage displayed anywhere. I’ve nearly had kittens multiple times as people just walk out in front of traffic willy nilly, even on an 8-lane highway. I think drivers here are much more observant and have quicker reactions than in Australia.

A friend mentioned to me his impressions of Egypt were shaped by “The Prince of Egypt”. My impressions are more shaped by the Charlton Heston epic “The Ten Commandments “where he plays Moses. Also, Elizabeth Taylor has a lot to answer for. Apparently, Cleopatra wasn’t beautiful, but very plain and super smart; she wasn’t even Egyptian, but Greek! I feel Hollywood has done me wrong.

I visited the current Egyptian Museum which will become passé when they eventually open the new one which has had its opening delayed 3 times already. I think without a guide the museum would be overwhelming because there is something like 20,000 pieces in it. The new museum will display all 5,300 pieces from king Tut’s tomb, some of which have never been displayed before. The 5300 pieces are just the ones that Egypt got to keep after Howard Carter took his share. It was a truly gargantuan haul of artefacts.

This is Queen Hatshepsut in sphinx form, one of the few queens to rule in her own right with the same kind of authority as a man.
3500-year-old papyrus with original ink. Not touched up or restored.
A jackal from Tutankhamun’s tomb. The crowd behind it is supposedly not huge as I was there in Egypt in summertime which does not coincide with peak tourist period.

31 Aug 2023

Today was a 2am alarm for 4am pick up for a 6.30 am flight from Cairo to Aswan.

I checked out the Aswan high dam and then boated over to the Philae temple complex on an island in the Nile River. The temple was relocated 400m away from its original position to higher ground during the construction of the Aswan High Dam by cutting it in 14,000 pieces and reconstructing the massive puzzle.

Next up, was Hatshepsut’s unfinished obelisk and quarry. When they were cutting the stone for a 14-tonne obelisk, they discovered a crack in the rock, so they gave up and didn’t finish the obelisk. Fair enough.

Philae Temple complex, Aswan – Pre hat hair and pre red face
Philae Temple Complex
The king/pharaoh offering lotus flowers to I can’t remember who.
Not a surface left untouched/unadorned
What the number markers on each piece look like. 209 of 14,000.

31 Aug 2023

No wonder I was sweaty and red faced!!! Gallivanting around Aswan was interesting and hot! More glamorous hat pics to come!

My physio was delighted. It’s the first time I’ve cracked 10,000 steps in a day since pre-stroke! The other days here I’ve come close, but not quite cracked it.

It beats me why the locals don’t wear hats? I was telling my guide in Cairo about “no hat, no play” and she thought that was mean to the kids until I explained why it’s a policy in Queensland schools.

The sun in Egypt doesn’t have the same bite to it as here in Queensland – surprisingly I didn’t even gain much of a tan, but then again, I wore a hat every time I was outside as well as sunscreen.

Nile river lunch view at the Movenpick Aswan Resort.
Moussaka tagine and rice. Yuuuuum!
Lemon with mint! Very refreshing to drink in the heat!
Movenpick tower, a part of this resort where I’m staying. Apparently great for sundowners, but I didn’t make it to sunset after a 2am wake up this morning.

02 Sep 2023
Sitting in Aswan airport waiting for a flight to Abu Simbel in my Back Track shirt to see another of my bucket list sites! I would not be so cool and fresh-looking later in the day!

There is an option to drive 300kms each way through the desert and the heat, but I opted to fly which in my opinion is a much better option.  Check out today’s forecast!

 

Abu Simbel. WOW.

It’s a temple complex constructed by Ramses II for himself and his favourite wife Nefertari.

The Abu Simbel temple was constructed as a place for people to worship Pharaoh Ramses II as a god following his death, as well as to be a show of power toward the recently conquered territory of Nubia.

Like Petra in Jordan, it was originally carved from the rock of the mountain, statues, hieroglyphics, and all. It’s much older than Petra though. The Egyptian Government in conjunction with UNESCO relocated it 200m higher than its original location to save it from the waters of the Aswan Dam, a 4-year undertaking.

Nefertari’s temple, Abu Simbel. Ramses II’s favourite wife got a temple dedicated to her.
Looking toward the holy chamber in Nefertari’s temple
Ramses II’s temple. The entry

Ramses II temple façade.

I made it up the tower for sunset tonight. The Mövenpick Resort is on an island (Elphantine Island) in the middle of the Nile River.

The view from the Tower for Sundowners.

Looking north over the resort
G&T for sundowners – excellent in the heat!
Looking toward the Sahara over the Nile River
Looking toward Aswan city and the Nile River

04 Sep 2023

My guide/Egyptologist Michael and I visited the valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple, the valley of the Queens and Habu temple. All of that would all usually be covered in 2 days, but we smashed it all in 1 day.

I walked my backside off today in 37, sunny degrees. Once I was full of sugar (how good is Coke!) and had cooled down in the hotel AC, I could certainly feel it in my hips and legs. I had been up and down stairs and monuments and tombs, and up and down into the minivan all day.

I chugged down a Hydralyte at lunch and I’d like to congratulate myself for that stroke of brilliance = no headache later in the day after sweating out the 2 litres of water I drank this morning inside the very stuffy airless tombs we visited.

Dry, dusty Valley of the Kings
Tomb of Ramses III
Entry to KV8, Tomb of Merenptah
Tutankhamun’s mummy. Tomb KV63
Queen Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple

Queen Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple. Obligatory tacky tourist pose. Osiris does this pose, and he guards the gates to paradise, so in homage to him to allow entry into paradise, pharaohs imitated him in their statues and poses.

Habu temple. That original paintwork is over 3500 years old.
Mortuary temple of Amenhotep III, what’s left of the entry – the Colossi of Memnon.
For comparison, The Colossi during the 1964 Nile River flood. The Colossi are about 3km from the river as the crow flies.
To give you an idea of where today’s adventure took place.
10.5km in sunny, windless 37 degrees is HARD WORK!
Karnak temple by night

05 Sep 2023

Today’s adventure: I boarded the MS Darakum (the reason I came to Egypt), and my next 6 nights are on this boat on the Nile River. The boat has had a big refurb this year 2023, quite a Moroccan feel to it now and that bathroom still smelled of glue and sealant. The staff and service on board were faultless. For me, the only negative was the coffee at breakfast – it was dreadful, but the coffee in the lounge on the top deck where I spent most of my time was excellent! The AC was always outstanding.

After lunch we spent a few hours at Karnak temple and then Luxor temple.

I’m slightly obsessed with the lemon and mint drink. I’m pretty sure my drinks bill will consist solely of it. I’m also pretty sure each drink contains your recommended weekly sugar intake.

View out my window
MS Darakum
I never ran into any of the housekeeping staff on the boat, but they made their presence known. Today’s towel creation – a crocodile.
Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor
Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor
Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor
Karnak Temple Complex in Luxor
Luxor temple

The Mosque of Abu Haggag is a mosque in Luxor, Egypt. It is integrated into the structure of Luxor Temple, an Ancient Egyptian centre of worship, making it one of the oldest continuously used temples in the world, dating back to the reign of Pharaoh Amenhotep III in the 14th century BC.

Luxor Temple
Sundowners from the top deck of the MS Darakum

06 Sep 2023

Morning Nile River cruising from Luxor to Qena. Some local kidlets enjoying a morning swim. Based on their noise, I reckon they’re having a great time! There are no crocs in the river below the Aswan dam.

Example daily schedule

Sohag sunset – still hot!!

There were a few times this happened to me on this trip, mainly due to unusual pronunciations of some words or being just out of earshot of the guide.

Abydos Temple

Another day, another temple, another selfie!

Abydos temple is unusual in all of Egypt because it’s dedicated to 7 gods rather than the usual one or the trinity (father, mother, son). Parts of the temple are as old as the great Pyramid.

I think I’m templed out.

There is sooo much info they’re trying to get across and so many carvings of note that’s it’s like being in chemistry with the teacher droning on and me not paying attention anymore.

Osirion, Abydos. The architectural design is almost without precedent in Egypt, the closest likeness is the Valley Temple at Giza which predates the Osirion by close to 1500 years. Its purpose is unknown

08 Sep 2023

I found out today that the Nile River has locks!! I think the Panama Canal is more efficient and quicker, but it works and achieved the goal of moving us to the lower river level. No sweaty red face today!

11 Sep 2023

There is a massive security presence here, but it’s pretty half-hearted in my opinion. All your bags go through the X-ray at the entry to hotels, malls, museums, attractions, and you walk through a metal detector which beeps because your phone is in your pocket, but it doesn’t matter. Just walk on through and collect your bag.

Exhibit A at the mall just now.

I’ve never been more ready to go home from a trip. It’s got to be because it’s my first BIG international trip post stroke and I’m exhausted. It’s a strange sensation.

For next trip, I need to build in more rest days – this trip has been on the go the entire time, Even at 100% health, it would have been a hard trip.

24 Sep 2023

I’m ho-ome!

For the first time in 20-something years of travelling, I encountered customs agents that were smiling and cracking jokes and it’s midnight!! It’s such a pleasant change!! And it’s just soooo much cooler at 16 degrees.

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