Our visit to Egypt was like a whirlwind. Three days in Cairo at Le Meridien to get acclimated, 12 days in the South Sinai Peninsula (Dahab) at the Red C Villas, 3 days in Luxor at Mara House and 3 final days in Cairo at Giza. Our Giza Airbnb dwelling was literally a few blocks away from and faced the pyramids! On our first day back in Cairo, we rode horses (even Grace had her own horse) around the pyramids and drank Bedouin tea at sunset marveling at the incredible desert landscape all arranged by our Airbnb host (Ashi) he even joined us on the ride. We hired 6 horses and there was a surprise guest a four month old colt. Nearing the end of the ride the girls asked the colt’s name and the owner said he hadn’t named it and would they like to chose a name. The name chosen was Charlie after our friends’ Great Dane they are about the same size. The girls had fun posing for photographs against the awesome pyramids in the background with our horseback guide who also joked that he was a ‘professional photographer’.
We spent three very full days with an excellent tour guide visiting the temples and tombs in and around Luxor. The tour guide was arranged thru Mara House where we stayed in Luxor (firstname.lastname@example.org). We met an interesting pair of fervent travelers from Melbourne, Australia that were also staying in the guesthouse (John and Nicole). They are teachers on an extended summer vacation leave. We found them to be very pleasant and interesting people. They also have a travel blog (a bit more polished than ours that you may want to check out (bontakstravels.com). We had many interesting conversations with John & Nicole enroute to our ancient destinations in and around Luxor which also included a relaxing evening short felucca (boat) trip on the Nile. The first day of the tour was to the Valley of Kings. A very desolate but strangely peaceful place where 64 tombs have been discovered to date, including the tomb of probably the best known pharaoh (at least to westerners) of Tutankahmun. This tomb was discovered with all of the pharaohs afterlife treasures intact. Our tour guide, Mohammed, explained that the tomb was actually dug into the rock below another tomb and went undiscovered by the looters who managed to plunder the treasures in most of the other tombs thru the ages. The fascination maybe even obsession that the ancient Egyptians had with the afterlife is hard to put into words. The dedication to their task of recording every detail about their beloved pharoahs lives and preparation for the ‘afterlife’ in hieroglyphics meticulously carved into granite is certainly remarkable. Every surface of the massive stone columns and walls in the temples even the ceilings are covered with hieroglyphics. I asked our tour guide if he was able to ‘read’ hieroglyphics and he explained that it was indeed part of their extensive study to become a tour guide. I asked Mohammed if he worked any other jobs when he does not have any bookings for his services as a tour guide (I ask a lot of questions). He explained that working multiple jobs is strictly forbidden in Egypt. A tour guide can only be a tour guide. Opting for another career or occupation would require him to relinquish his license. Egypt has high unemployment and I assume this is the reason for such a draconian law.
One can certainly read about all of the enigmatic places in ancient Egypt and watch documentaries but they really are worth experiencing in person. As a structural engineer, I admit that I was awestruck at the sheer magnitude of these architectural works that have survived for over 4000 years and marvel at their construction. How did they quarry the massive stones from Aswan (some 200 kilometers away) and send them down the Nile? I am sure that they didn’t have carbide drill bits, diamond tipped bandsaws or dynamite which are commonly used in modern quarrying operations. Ok, somehow the massive blocks made it to the temple (or tomb) site. How did they stack, align and level the stones so precisely? I looked but could find virtually no gaps in the stone joints (and no mortar). I also couldn’t help but imagine just the logistical challenge of directing the craftsman who were charged with the arduous task of carving the thousands upon thousands of complicated hieroglyphics into the hard stone to complete the project.
I am certainly grateful to the people of Egypt who have become such good caretakers of their ancient archeological wonders. At the same time, I have to admit that it was a bit unnerving to see so many armed military personnel at practically every one of the sites that we visited in Luxor and Cairo. There were armed guards at numerous check points on the roads and at every monument entrance. I was wondering if their presence was really to thwart any potential attacks on tourists or just to keep unruly tourists in line (I did not see any). I sensed that Egyptians are very much used to the overbearing military presence and consider it normal to their way of life in the 21st century.
I also did not understand the ban on cameras in many of the temples and tombs. These are 5000 year old carved stone edifices which I don’t think would be harmed in the least by a cellphone camera. I asked our tour guide about this policy, I did not receive a satisfactory answer.
I have had a long fascination with the pyramids that probably started when I first read the book ‘Pyramid Power’ (published in 1973). I was 20 when I read it along with several other books that were published shortly after. I built scale model pyramids out of glass, metal and wood so that I could do some of the ‘pyramid power experiments’ outlined in the book. I have always been interested in the esoteric subject of ‘sacred geometry’ and for me, the pyramids belong in this category at well.
Our ‘Pyramid and Sphinx’ day was spectacular. The weather was perfect, a dappled partly cloudy sky and very agreeable temperature. Our Airbnb host had just acquired his guide license’ a week ago and offered to arrange transportation and to accompany us this day. Fatma also accompanied us. (Tiffany and Scarlet first met Fatma last March on their previous mother-daughter trip to Egypt). We were unrushed and spent several hours at the pyramid. We all went inside the Kings Chamber (even Grace) in the largest pyramid at Giza (which requires an extra ticket in addition to the general entrance admission). (Although other rooms have been found, I think that the Kings Chamber is the only area accessible to the public.). If you are claustrophobic, I probably would not recommend this. We were fortunate enough to be in the Kings Chamber alone with our family and just one friendly security guard. I can’t say that I had any visions or other paranormal experience while in the solitude of the massive stone crypt but it was an amazing experience nonetheless.
We ended the day with a tour of the Sphinx. A very strange creature carved out of one gigantic block of sandstone that to me seems strangely out of place here. Our tour guide explained that the Sphinx is much older than the pyramids. (I have read that there is a no clear consensus by the ‘experts’ as to when the pyramids were built, much less as to how they were built.).
We decided to leave our Airbnb early and spend the last day in a hotel nearer to the airport. Our next big trip is to Hong Kong and we wanted to get plenty of rest for the almost 13 hours of travel ahead! Stay tuned for more travel adventure updates.
A special thanks and mahalo to all of our dear friends and family and the new friends that we have made along the way that are keeping up with us on our journey.
Bernie & Tiffany