Published: May 15th 2012May 13th 2012
The layer of dust lined my skin, which glistened in the sun against the sheen of sweat; the combination resulted in a gritty exfoliation, a treatment available only in Egypt.
We were greeted with a barely manageable heat, seeing as we arrived in the late afternoon we knew we were in store for foreboding temperatures over the next two weeks.
After introductions to the rest of the group and tour leaders we had a quick wander in our area of Cairo and promptly returned to the hotel. Cairo is a filthy city, the streets are lined with litter, excrement, stray animals and dare I say... stray men.
Doing your best to ignore the pedlars at Giza took self-control, which was easily lost with the almost abusive sales pitch and aggressive upselling. The locals were relentless and would follow you all day, this in-your-face approach with the dry heat and sand in your eyes was a test of patience.
I bought coke to find flat refilled cola with cracked glass on the inside neck, this was just one example of Cairo’s dodginess; the city was full of dirty tricks by dirty people. This was a shame as the
people unfortunately took away from the appreciation of standing in the pyramids awesome presence. When you could manage to escape the madness and take in the incredible man-made structures, you were awed.
Sitting on the ‘first class’ carriage for our 13 hour journey certainly gave us all a laugh, Andy and I had paired with a Aussie and Kiwi and the jokes were loud and mostly crass. The laughter subsided when we were evacuated of the train 9 hours into our ride, apparently there were protest at the station ahead and for safety we waited on the side of the road in the stifling heat for a bus to take us to Aswan.
We arrived at the beginning of a sand storm, as a result all the tours for the day were cancelled, and I have to admit I was relieved, I was tired, hungry and if you can believe, dirty. We boarded the small cruise boat that we would spend the next 3 nights on.
Deciding to brave the sand we hailed a ‘taxi’ and hung on tightly as the horse pulled our carriage; we wandered from bazar to bazar and worked on perfecting our bartering
skills. Upon returning Andy must have seemed a tasty treat as our unthankful horse leaned in and bit Andy on her upper arm. I was horrified and also highly amused. Poor Andy with tears down her face and swelling arm ran back on the boat. I would be safe to presume she will not step so close to another horse in the future.
Whilst sailing up the Nile towards Luxor we stopped at Edfu and visited the temples at 6am to beat the heat, the temples of Egypt are massive and hold intricate and fascinating decorations which are just a taste into the wealth the era must have experienced.
I was unfortunate enough to drop a camera into the Nile whist walking the gang way one morning, not only did I have to replace the camera that I had borrowed, but I also had to tip the steward a halves day wage to retrieve the now- paper weight, not a lucky day.
We arrived in Luxor to visit the Kings Valley, the day was particularly hot and I felt every sun ray screaming into my skin, it was only 8am. The tombs offered a cool
retreat, walking in from the belly of the desert. I was amazed at the detailed art which adorned the tomb, it is hard to imagine that these statues, murals and the like have lasted thousands of years, the tombs have preserved the art, cool and hidden away from the elements. I took in the bright colours and detailed stories dancing across the walls with delight. The hieroglyphics were art in itself; each character carefully chiselled into the rock walls boasted a stunning collage of a secret unspoken language – to me anyway.
By this stage we our group had teamed back with the main group (who had opted for the Felucca over the cruise… fools) Hapshitsu Temple was a decent drive from Luxor, this temple once belonged to the only female King in Egyptian history, she somehow managed to ‘prove’ that she was a male inside a woman’s body, ancient time transgender issues if you ask me.
Back in Luxor I met a young boy called Mohammed, I was very fond of the child and would meet him for lunch and dinner each day, soon enough he had bought his mate Shaggy and the three of us made
a tight little team with only laughter as our common language. I can’t explain the warmth I felt when I would see little Mohammed running towards me with arms wide each day I stepped out of the hotel.
On my final night Mohammed and I took a motorbike ride with his cousin, zipping in an out of the night streets of Luxor made me feel alive, having Mohammed’s arms wrapped around me filled me with happiness. We went to a local wedding, which was such a cultural treat, the bride was adored with diamantes and looked stunning, a local band played on the street and the men danced and kissed each other. It was fabulous to watch.
Leaving Luxor was a sad day as I bid the boys farewell, they had truly touched my heart and I can honestly say I felt love for the two. Once again we boarded the gruelling 13 hour train back to Cairo, this time making the entire journey. Our tour leader and I came head to head when he felt I had been inappropriate to start a friendship with the two young boys, that he saw the ‘evil’ in them. I was
furious, the boys were 9 and 11 years of age, and although they were street kids, they still maintained the beautiful innocence that only a child can possess. The tour leader was frustrated with my unwillingness to conform to his ridiculous rules and we spent a good 40 minutes arguing. In the end I was given an ultimatum, promise to not speak to anyone other than the tour participants and himself, otherwise he would walk from our group. I wished him farewell.
My family and another couple continued on to Dahab (with our new guide) little did we know this was a 9 hour bus journey, a journey where we all clung to the arms rest and prayed to our respective gods. The driver was the worst I have experienced, which is a big call seeing as I have bussed throughout South East Asia and also been a passenger with my Mother, at one point, the couple screamed for the driver to slow down, a request he listened to for a mere 10 minutes before turning up his radio and pushing his foot to the floor. On the up side, we arrived almost two hours early.
on the red sea, was a small yet beautiful coastal town with rocky mountain ranges in the backdrop. A popular diving site the atmosphere was much different to what we had seen so far in Egypt, the pace was much slower, the locals relaxed and friendly. Along the water lay restaurant after restaurant with cushions thrown across the floor and an array of tourist lazily smoking shisha pipes and drinking local beer.
I used the time to unwind and soak up the rays, I must admit I did not do much with my time in Dahab other than eat and read. On the odd occasion I decided to venture past my deck chair I enjoyed wandering the esplanade and even fancied a horse ride one afternoon, a ride which was much more of an adventure than I anticipated. Note to self: when asked in a 3rd
world country if you can ride – being a tad overconfident and requesting a fast horse is perhaps not the best idea where safety is not a concern. My horse, Oscar, was quite the frisky bastard and controlling him was not an option, squeezing your thighs tight, hanging on and ye-hahing as he
ran wildly across the sand was the only choice. I do admit I was a tad frightened, especially when the reins snapped in my hand after a feeble attempt to slow him down, what can you do in this situation? Luckily for me (and Oscar) I only metaphorically shit myself and managed to lean forward and force him to stop after grabbing his harness in true cowgirl style.
Before leaving Dahab I decided I should make an attempt at some sort of exercise, and hiking Mount Sinai offered the perfect challenge. Impressively, Andy decided to join me, so at midnight one evening we caught another death defying bus ride and started the 2- 4 hour hike in the dark. We were led by a local Bodian guide, as finding your own way in the dark would have been a difficult task. I am pleased to say that we charged though that hike and we reached the base to the steps in great time, looking up at the 750 uneven rocky steps we were both ready and although our legs trembled and muscles groaned we were greatly pleased that we had finished the hike in just 1 hour and 45
We sat up together wrapped in rugs that smelt of camel and watched the sun rise together, sipping on Egyptian tea to keep us warm. It was a magical moment we shared and I felt particularly closer than usual with Andy at that moment. Most people hike the mountain as a pilgrimage to where Moses received the 10 commandments, they Jews, Christians and Jews come to feel the spiritual connection with their God, even though I do not have a God to feel spiritual, I had my sister wrapped in my arms and the love I felt was all I needed.
Leaving Dahab with a glowing tan, we headed back to Cairo with our small group and then ventured off to a 5 star resort for our final night; we all agreed that after the peacefulness of Dahab, no one wanted to return to the noise and grime of the city. We relaxed by the pool, drank cocktails, chatted with interesting guests and slept in luscious beds.
The holiday was over and heading to the airport I felt mixed emotions about Egypt. There were some amazing sights to witness, and the sea side was incredible, but
the grime, dust, and general sleaziness of the people really angered me. The small group of lovely people I met were honestly the highlights of my trip; however these people were easily overshadowed by the foul. At times I was unable to relax and enjoy myself due to the constant harassment Andy and I received, by the end of the holiday I had grown a bitter view of the people and could not simply ignore their constant rude remarks and gestures.
I am sad and almost ashamed to say, Egypt would be better, without the Egyptians.