Published: July 2nd 2012November 1st 2011
Visiting Egypt was like a childhood dream come true! I grew up watching Egypt documentaries on the Discovery channel with my whole family on the weekends, it was sort of a "family time activity". So for me Egypt was more than just the ideal place to visit... it became an obsession. I tried for years to make it happen with no luck! I just had to get there some how, but I didn't know where to begin.
Just as I chose my route to Egypt and started planning it, everything came crumbling down with the news that Egypt was going through a revolution, and that there was going to be political unrest there for a while. The Egyptians had an uprising against the government and their president Mubarek and even though they did it peacefully most of the time, there were also moments that were violent and dangerous. The red flag was when The United States even put a ban on traveling there at all! I literally started to cry, thinking this must be a sign I’m not supposed to go. Seeing how sad I was, my husband said we should just book the trip anyway and get travel insurance
so if things get worse we could easily cancel. I checked CNN.com and other message boards religiously to hear what other travelers had to say about the conditions in Cairo at the time. It was still kind of risky to go, but we felt confident that the excursion we were taking would keep us safe if things got bad all of a sudden. That was probably a crazy move on our part, but we just went for it!
November 1st 2011, we arrived in Alexandria, Egypt. This was my first time on the continent of Africa. It was a beautiful sunny day. We took a 3 hour bus ride to Cairo. On the way there our tour guide spent a lot of time talking about safety, what not to do, and about what we were going to see: The Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, a dinner cruise on the famous Nile River, the Mosque of Mohammed Ali, and then the Papyrus museum. Our tour guide was the sweetest Egyptian girl in her late 20s named Hanna, and she spoke English perfectly. She was really open about discussing the conflicts in Egypt and the culture. She even discussed why women
in Egypt wear veils that cover their heads, and sometimes even their face. It was very interesting.
When we arrived in Cairo it was a little crazy and not exactly what I expected. There are two sides to Egypt, there's the magical places you see on the Discovery channel and then there's the harsh life of todays modern Egypt, which includes a lot poverty. You cant avoid the bad on the way to the good. To start, the traffic and driving here is the worst that I'd ever seen. There were many times I was scared we'd crash. I don’t know how, but some Egyptians brave crossing the dangerous roads and barely miss getting hit.
The grounds are covered in trash and it's very dirty here. According to our guide, the trash clean up crews quit their jobs because they weren't getting paid at all. There were houses that were left unfinished with no roofs. According to our guide the Egyptians don’t complete building their homes so that they can avoid paying high house taxes imposed by the old government they revoluted against. Another thing is the amount of pollution and dust in the air, bring eye drops!
The Pyramids visit would have been perfect without the people selling you stuff. I learned to say "La shukran" which means "No, Thank you" in Arabic. You have to ignore them the best that you can or they will hassle you until you buy, and the guys selling camel rides are the worst... they will tell you it cost cheap to ride their camel but as soon as you're on you will be charged double just to come down. My biggest advice is dont give your camera to anyone except a tourist, the Egyptians will charge you, that's why they want to "take your picture so badly" at the pyramids. Our tour guide even told us to hang on to our belongings or something might get snatched.
Despite some of the negatives we incountered, seeing those ancient Pyramids was just unbelievable... so unbelievable I forgot those negatives in a flash! Everything that had to do with ancient Egypt like the Sphynx and whats in the museums made me feel so happy and lucky to be there. The history here goes beyond our understanding. This place is even mentioned in the bible....it was deffinitly worth the visit!
it came time for dinner, we went to the famous Nile River. We hopped on the little cruise boat, designed in a way similar to what the Egyptians had in ancient times. We ate from an elegant buffet style dinner and watched some entertaining performances, such as belly dancing. I’m shocked they even allow belly dancing since this country is so conservative when it comes to clothes. I danced with a funny egyptian performer and it was a fun experience (I uploaded a video of the funny dance at the top of this page.)
On our way to the Mohammed Mosque, we passed Tahrir Square where the revolution broke out and it's the place where the Egyptians generally get violent during demonstrations. I got chills thinking of what we avoided by coming on a peaceful day like today. We saw one of the major government buildings burned by the people during the revolution.
The Mohamed Mosque is just gorgeous inside and out. The best part about this mosque is the Turkish style lamp that decorates the inside. Another great thing is the view you get of all of Cairo from the citadel, although the pollution obstructs the view
a lot. There's not much inside the mosque to make room for all the daily worshippers that come here to pray. The Egyptians are mainly Muslim and they pray to Allah and their profit Mohamed. When they pray it's loud, and echoes throughout Cairo by loudspeakers. Someone goes on a megaphone and prays the adman and everyone stops what they are doing and prays too, 5 times a day. We heard it once or twice while in Cairo, and I thought it was amazing.
The last thing we did was visit the Papyrus Museum which makes legitimate papyrus paper the way the Egyptians did in ancient times. This is the only papyrus institute certified under the government, all other papyrus you buy in the street could be made out of banana leaf which turns yellow and gets damaged after a couple weeks. We watched a demonstration of how its made, and Victor and I decided to buy an art piece made of Papyrus which signified love and had our names written on it in ancient Egyptian. We also had our names in scripted (in ancient Egyptian) on two gold pieces of jewelry, I have a necklace that says Victor,
We purchased this true papyrus paper with art that means unity in love, and on each side is our name in ancient egyption words
and Victor has a man's bracelet that says Jennifer.
After all we did on day one, we were exhausted. We took the 3 hour bus ride back to Alexandria where we were going to stay for one more day. We couldn't wait to wash all the dust from the desert and pollution off, and most of all rest from all we had seen and done in Cairo. Day two in Alexandria we spent relaxing and purchasing souvenirs. You have to haggle with prices so it's a lot of work.
This was a once in a life time experience both my husband and I will never forget. It had its ups and a lot of downs, but I wouldn't take it back for a second. I hope that one day our children will see where we have been and become passionate about their own travels as well, especially accomplishing that dream trip they never thought could happen. Like a verse from my favorite Jack Johnson song,
Don't let your dreams, be dreams...
There are more photos below