An Egyptian dream

An Egyptian dream
I always wanted to visit Egypt. As a child, I loved reading National Geographic magazines about the country and learning about pharaohs, pyramids and Egyptian gods.

So visiting Egypt as an adult was like fulfilling a childhood dream. I got to run my fingers over hieroglyphs carved on temple walls. I listened as my guide turned the symbols of an eye, an eagle and a snake into vowels, sentences and stories of the past. I dipped my hand into the waters of the Nile and spoke with Egyptians who told me of their ancient past and turbulent present. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I travelled with a women-only group.  On our first evening, we went for a cruise and dinner on the Nile, featuring performances by a belly dancer and a ‘tanoura’ show. It was mesmerising to watch the dancer in his bright patterned skirt twirl to the quick beat of Sufi music.

We kicked off the next morning with a visit to the Great Pyramids. It’s one thing to read about the pyramids and completely another to stand at the base and gaze up at them; the immensity is overwhelming! We also clambered up the huge stone steps into the heart of the pyramid itself to see the tomb of the pharaoh. Then we visited the Sphinx, a testament to a mighty dynasty swept away by the sands of time.

Afterwards, we went to Fagnoon art village, where we tried our hands at carving our names in wood using a mallet, chisel and our strength. We visited a beautiful papyrus shop where we were shown how it was made and then purchased papyrus paintings.

The day ended with us walking around downtown Egypt, past beautiful Coptic churches, mosques, palaces and street sellers, our 5 senses assailed by the colour and movement of the area. We also walked through the Khan-el-Khalili bazaar, which, with its beautiful glass lamps, old antiques and colourful trinkets, felt straight out of the Arabian Nights.
Surely, Egypt had more in store for us. We flew to Aswan and drove through the desert to visit Abu Simbel.

Built by arguably the most egomaniacal pharaoh in Egyptian history, Ramses II, the temples features 4 colossal statues of Ramses himself. Even today, you can feel the full might of the pharaoh-god, not only because of the sheer size of these gigantic structures, but also by the intense feeling of power you get as you walk through the temple covered in hieroglyphics. This was one of my favourite memories from the trip.

The next day, we set off on a Nile cruise aboard a luxury cruise ship. Over these 3 days, we relaxed onboard, enjoying watching the countryside roll by. We disembarked to visit ancient temples, including the Temple of Philae, Kom Ombo, Edfu, Karnak and Luxor along the way — each unique in design, purpose and scandalous stories.

We drove to see the Valley of the Kings. It is very beautiful inside the tombs. Murals tell stories from Egyptian legends of the time, showing men with animal heads, and birds, flowers, and snakes, painted in bright colours of gold, red and blue. How could such beauty be created by people thousands of years ago? It is truly extraordinary.

We also visited the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, the only woman to rule as pharaoh. Flowing back from Luxor to Cairo, we attended a cooking class. We learnt how to make ‘koshari’, a delicious dish, out of lentils and chickpeas, layered in a bowl with rice, macaroni and crunchy caramelised onion. On our last day, we visited the Egyptian museum which houses pharaonic antiquities.

The highlight here was getting to gaze at the iconic golden funeral mask of Tutankhamen. Soon after, it was time to leave. Initially I was apprehensive with a new group, but I returned from Egypt with a great tan, a suitcase of souvenirs, a collection of memories and most importantly, a new set of friends.

(The author can be contacted on pavi@byond.travel)

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