But, let’s rewind, shall we? Rewind back four years to a younger, less wrinkled David and I and two tiny (but just as cute) versions of E and B. We were planning this crazy dream trip around the world. At that time, the itinerary included quite a number of days in Egypt, a few days in Jordan and a few days in Syria.
You see, I have wanted to go to Egypt since I was a child. You know those kids that love, eat and breathe dinosaurs (like my brother as a child, or my friend, Isaac)? I was like that with Egypt and all things Egyptian. I don’t know why. Seeing Tutankhamen’s treasures at Expo 86 was a memorable time in my childhood (as was all of Expo – getting my passport stamped for each country seriously made me want to travel around the world and experience that for real).
But I digress…Fast forward to 2014 and David and I are making up our itinerary and we make the decision to eliminate Egypt and Syria because of safety. We added extra days to Jordan to make up for it and I went onto a couple of travel forums to ask for advice when deciding where to go. I received a private message from an American man who had just returned from Egypt and wanted me to know that Egypt didn't needed to be scratched off our itinerary. He suggested I look into some travel forums for Cairo and Luxor and I would find that the situation was quite stable in those areas. That, in fact, it was a great time to be visiting Egypt.
So I did what I love to do. Research trip information! Everywhere I looked there were people coming back from trips saying the same thing; Egypt was becoming a stable country again. David and I knew we couldn't do a long trip to Egypt, this time. With most of our planning done, it wouldn't work. But we could carve out two days to see the Pyramids, the Sphinx, the Egyptian Museum and the Khan el-Khalili Market Bazaar. We knew we wanted it to be as stress free as possible and we wanted to have a guide and driver from the beginning to the end. So I did some more research and we asked Emo Tours if they would help us. They promptly replied and we set it all up. After that, we told no one, thinking we would just worry people unnecessarily. If things looked bad, we would cancel and reschedule our plane ticket. We had to have faith though. As they say in Jordan and Egypt, Insha'Allah (God willing) we would be in Egypt. The longer we travel, the more we learn that the world is a whole lot safer than we are led to believe.
We certainly left Jordan at the right time. Madaba was getting ready for snow! Aside from the idea of snow, Jordan was an amazing country. Definitely one of our favourites. It’s full of beautiful history, friendly people and a feeling of safety which are all things we look for in a country. We highly recommend it although it definitely isn’t a budget country especially against our Canadian dollar.
Our flight was uneventful and we cleared customs to find our Emo Tours guide (and now, friend) Reda Elgendy (or Rody). We could tell that there was a problem when we looked out the windows of the airport and when we talked to Rody. Cairo was experiencing a sandstorm. During winter, it rains and they have sandstorms but they last a day at most. This sandstorm had lasted two days. The day before, the wind was blowing the sand so hard that it was impossible to see the pyramids. But we didn’t intend to see the pyramids until the next morning so ‘Insha'Allah (as Rody said) the weather would clear and our dreams would come true’. We braced against the wind and sand as Rody led us to the bus to meet our fantastic driver, Sayid. What a kind man and a safe driver. We have had many drivers over these many months and Sayid is one of the best.
We drove to the Khan el-Khalili Market Bazaar to take a look around. It is a warren of little alleys and streets with pretty much anything you would like to buy. Of course, we can’t buy souvenirs (our bags are far too small) but we can look and soak up the atmosphere. Rody had us laughing with his tips on how to bargain. We have learned to bargain a bit for tuk tuks and cabs but definitely are not anywhere near this league. To be honest, I love just walking and saying hello as we go by, smiling and saying how beautiful things are. Although I would've dearly loved to buy some large silver lamps.
We went to bed hoping, "God willing", that it would be good weather tomorrow.
You can tell the difference between the two large pyramids because not only is Cheops larger, but it also has it's top missing. It was cased in gold originally and the gold was stolen as well as the blocks underneath it. There is only a rod underneath now. The middle pyramid of Chephren has a smooth top still intact. Rody said that a man climbed that pyramid and got stuck. It was too slick to come down. He spent the night there and needed to be rescued by helicopter - I bet that was a big bill! We climbed up on Cheop's pyramid but didn't climb up very high. I guess a British couple made it up in a half hour or so the other day. An Egyptian man goes up every morning and it takes him around six minutes!
I really wish we'd taken photos of other tourists having their photos taken here...
Is anybody home?
You reach a chamber that was there to trick you into thinking the tomb had been robbed so don’t try looking further.But, of course, those robbers did, and you descend a shorter tunnel into the actual tomb. It housed the Queen’s sarcophagus, some furniture and other things that we saw later at the Egyptian Museum. It was all completely empty though except for us and another family (I think they were Syrian).
The Egyptian Museum
I so wish I could share some photos with you! We saw so many beautiful things. (If you want to look at some of King Tutankhamen's Collection, click here and scroll to "The Tutankhamen Collection". They have lots of photos.)
On our way to the airport, we were stuck in Cairo traffic and Rody got out, ran across the roundabout, got everyone Egyptian Falafel (which wasn't falafel, it was falicious!), and got back in the bus by the time we made it around the roundabout. It was great. The day before, I had mentioned we had Falafel in Jordan and Rody looked at me and said, “But that wouldn’t be Egyptian Falafel…” The gauntlet was thrown. We had to try it. And he was right. I risk offending a nation by saying we all liked Egyptian Falafel better. But we loved Jordan’s Schwarma, so hopefully that makes up for it. Eskedar felt sad we were leaving Egypt and only had Falafel once. I can’t count how many times we ate Shawarma. Each country seems to have a food that we eat way too much of and then we have to leave and it seems we will never have that food again.
True to form, Rody and Sayid of EMO Tours, delivered us right to the airport. Rody carried my bag and he helped us through to our gate. We can’t say enough great things about them and about Egypt. We are so glad we went. As someone with a Masters degree and dreams of a PhD, working as a tour guide, supporting his family, Rody told us how hard it has been since 2011. But things are so much better and we hope tourism is starting to turn around. We saw many groups of (mostly Asian) tourists and quite a number of independent European tourists as well. One day, we will go back and go to Luxor. Hopefully with Rody. But we are so thankful we were able to take two days and see one of the Ancient Wonders of the World. It was everything I hoped it would be and more.
Thanks so much for reading! We are on our way to Rome and then tomorrow morning we are off to Palermo, Sicily. Honest! No more surprises. J