A 5000 Year Journey Back in Time… Featuring Cairo, Alexandria, and the Nile River: Intro

Photo of Egyptian camel at Giza pyramids by Curt Mekemson.
What better way to begin an Egyptian journey back in time than this ‘ship of the desert’? There was no lack of camels at the pyramids, or offers for camel rides, or camel photos— all for money, of course, preferably in dollars. The Egyptian pound had tanked and was worth three cents on the dollar. I caught this handsome face for free. The camel didn’t object and the owner was busy hustling someone else.

Peggy and I have just returned from our three week exploration of Egypt and invite you to join us as we explore the 25 million people mega-city of Cairo with its ancient pyramids, journey by riverboat up the Nile from Luxor to Aswan, and conclude by visiting the ancient city created by Alexander the Great. Along the way, we will wander through ancient temples, meet powerful gods and pharaohs, explore King Tut’s tomb, visit one of the most impressive mosques of Islam, stop by a factory where they pursue the ancient art of making papyrus, and have many, many more adventures. We were wowed by the history with its incredible temples, tombs and statues, impressed by the friendly reception of the Egyptians we met, captured by present day Egypt, and amused by the humorous stories our guide Sabaa shared along the way. Today’s post is an introduction, an appetizer if you will. The series will start in mid-April when I conclude our Rhine River trip. It wouldn’t do to confuse the rivers. Right? All of the photos in this post are by either Peggy or me unless otherwise noted.

Photo of Egypt's Nile River and Cairo Tower by Peggy Mekemson.
Our tour company, Uniworld Boutique, put us up in the Ritz Carlton overlooking the Nile River while we were in Cairo. Peggy and I arrived a couple of days early and stayed a couple of days afterwords. This was the view from our window. We spent a lot of time watching the river traffic. No surprise. You are looking at the Cairo Tower on the left. It’s a major Cairo landmark with an amusing CIA story connected to it that I will relate later.
Photo of Egyptian Museum by photographer Curt Mekemson.
The Cairo Egyptian Museum was out the back door of the Ritz, a five minute walk away. We did our first tour there and will take you inside. BTW, see the raised figure above the two heads…
Photo of Cleopatra by photographer Curt Mekemson.
It’s of a rather voluptuous Cleopatra, the last ruler of the Ptolemaic reign in Egypt who had a child by Julius Cesar and a tragic love affair with Mark Anthony. She’s holding a lotus flower, a symbol of Upper Egypt. Focus guys.
Among the thousands of treasures inside were these canopic jars made from alabaster to contain the lungs, intestine, stomach and liver of people being mummified.They wanted them on hand to use later. Alabaster, Sabaa, told us, is great for preserving organs. I’ll keep that in mind.
Tahir Square was also located just behind the Ritz. Peggy and I walked over to check out the Obelisk. Plain-clothed police stopped us from entering the square. They were located at every entrance. It turns out that Tahir Square is the go-to place for Egyptians wanting to start a revolution. The police were there to discourage such activity. Nobody— but nobody— was going to make their way onto the square and start shouting slogans, including curious visitors.
Cairo is a city of attractive mosques and the Alabaster Mosque is a jewel among them. I’ll do a full post on the Mosque.
The inside is even more beautiful than the outside.
We discovered this ultra-skinny cat outside vociferously warning a large dog to leave its few scraps of food alone. The dog wisely decided his dinner was located elsewhere. Who wouldn’t? The cat was obviously a descendent of Bastet, the cat god of ancient Egypt. Not someone to trifle with.
From Cairo, we flew to Luxor where our riverboat, Uniword’s Tosca, was waiting for us to board.
Our Upper Egypt trip both started and ended at Luxor. A week, or a month, could easily be spent exploring the area. On arriving, we visited the Temple of Karnak…
The Temple of Luxor at night. It was opened specifically for Uniworld guests. Translate: We had it all to ourselves. Usually, we had to work to take tourist-free photos.
The Pharoah Ramses II.
We were greeted by a huge statue of Rameses II who was one of the most important pharaohs of ancient Egypt. That’s a cobra on his forehead.
Several Pharaohs have their tombs in the Valley of the Kings outside of Luxor. Peggy is pointing toward the pyramid like mountain that was an important factor in the kings’ selection of the valley. BTW, the tomb of King Tutankhamun, where so many treasures were found, is at the base of the mountain. Peggy and I will take you into the tomb where King Tut’s mummy still resides. I’ll even show you King Tut’s toes. I’ll bet you can’t wait for that? They aren’t pretty. There’s a chance I might have to face the revenge of the mummy for displaying them.
The folks on the Tosca, both our fellow travelers and the staff, were special. This is a photo of Steve and Carol Jones with our excellent guide, Sabaa at the Valley of the Kings. Steve and Carol, like so many of the followers of this blog, are world travelers. Both engineers, they quit their jobs at 45 and have been wandering the world for the past 20 years.
Photo of Valley of the Kings Tomb by Curtis Mekemson.
A photo inside of one of the tombs we visited in Valley of Kings (not King Tut’s.) It was packed with hieroglyphs designed to guide and protect the dead pharaoh on his dangerous journey.
The temple of Queen Hatshetsup, one of ancient Egypt’s most powerful Pharoahs, is located near the Valley of the Kings.
Photo of Queen Hatshepsut from the Egyptian Museum by Peggy Mekemson.
Beards were an extremely important part of a pharaoh’s look, as all the statues, paintings and reliefs show. Even Queen Hatshepsut had one, as this bust from the Egyptian Museum in Cairo shows. It was fake news, but a beard none-the-less.
Nile photo by photographer Curt Mekemson.
A significant part of our journey was our riverboat trip up the Nile from Luxor to Aswan and back.
Along the way, our journey took us past numerous villages and towns, all with their mosques and minarets, from which Muslims are called to prayer five times a day.
Photo of Nile River fisherman by photographer by Curt Mekemson.
We were able to watch fishermen and farmers plying their trade in much the same way as they have for thousands of years.
Photo of Nile River and desert by Curt Mekemson.
And enjoy the scenery. This photo serves as a reminder that just beyond the narrow strip of rich farmland beside the Nile lies the Sahara Desert that stretches for 2000 miles to the west. The ripples are being made by our riverboat, the Tosca.
Photo of mummified crocodile at Kom Ombo by photographer Curt Mekemson.
On our trip up and down the Nile we stopped at temples. One was at Kom Ombo, the temple of Sobek the crocodile god and Horus, the falcon god. A museum there, features mummified crocodiles. Sobek was responsible for fertility and the creation of the Nile, among other things. Gods had several responsibilities— and forms.
Photo of Dendera Temple by photographer Curt Mekemson.
One of the most beautiful temples we visited along the Nile was the Greco-Roman temple of Dendera. Both the Greeks and Romans played important roles in the latter days of ancient Egypt. Among other things, this temple featured signs of the Zodiac on its ceiling. I’m thinking Taurus above.
Photo of Peggy Mekemson on a felucca by Curt Mekemson.
One of the must-dos in Aswan, was to go on a Felucca ride, a sailboat dating back to ancient times on the Nile. Peggy had to get her hands on the rudder. I noticed that the boatman didn’t take his hands off of it, however. Grin.
Photo of feluccas in Aswan by photographer Curt Mekemson.
Several feluccas were out enjoying the sunset in this photo which we took from an outdoor dining area of the Cataract Hotel in Aswan.
Photo of hight tea at the Cataract Hotel by photographer Curt Mekemson.
We were enjoying high tea at the hotel.
Photo of Peggy Mekemson in Old Cataract Hotel by Curt Mekemson.
Peggy, being a great fan of Agatha Christie, had to have her photo taken in the Old-Catarack hotel, which was featured in Christie’s novel, “Death on the Nile.”
Photo of Blue Heron at Aswan Egypt by Peggy Mekemson.
An evening bird watching tour on a small boat included numerous birds and a very enthusiastic bird expert.
Photo of spices in Aswan market by Curt Mekemson.
A walk through Aswan’s large local market featured, among many other things, spices. The top three baskets on the right are buds for making jasmine tea.
Photo of Philae temple by Peggy Mekemson
While at Aswan, we also visited the Philae temple…
Photo of Abu Symbel by Peggy Mekemson.
And flew up to the border between Egypt and Sudan to see the temples of Ramses II and his beautiful wife, Nefertari at Abu Simbel shown above. Abu Simbel was threatened to be buried under rising waters of the Aswan Dam and was saved by a world-wide effort by moving it rock by rock to a level above the water line.
Sphinx photo by photographer Curt Mekemson.
We finished off our Egypt tour with a visit to the city of ancient Memphis and to the pyramids at Giza. This features the Sphinx and the Great pyramid of King Khufu.
Photo of Peggy Mekemson on the Great Pyramid by Curt Mekemson.
Peggy climbed a short ways up the side of the Great Pyramid to demonstrate the size of the rocks used in building the pyramid…
Photo of tunnel under pyramid of King Khafre by photographer Curt Mekemson.
And we both journeyed far under the pyramid of King Khafre, sometimes bent double because of the low ceilings.
Photo of tomb guardians in Alexandria, Egypt by photographer Curt Mekemson.
One of our major stops in Alexandria was at Greco-Roman era catacombs. This gruesome twosome, a crowned snake on the bottom and Medusa on the top, were guarding the major tomb against grave robbers.

I know this has been long for an introduction, but believe me when I say it hardly touches on our experience. On Monday, Peggy and I will take you back to our fall trip around North America, this time featuring Grand Teton National Park, where the description ‘grand’ hardly covers the mountain range.

41 thoughts on “A 5000 Year Journey Back in Time… Featuring Cairo, Alexandria, and the Nile River: Intro

  1. Memories! I loved this introduction, Curt. You two must have had the most marvelous time. ❤ Great stops and gorgeous photos. You saw more than Kellen and I did when we cruised the Nile. Also, the water looks cleaner than in 2010 – did your guides say anything about that? Yup, when we were there was exactly one year before the Arab Spring, when Tahrir Square erupted. I've been so curious to see what has changed since then: it looks like police at the square is one thing. Were you allowed to take photos in the Valley of the Kings? I was not. At the point where you captured Peggy with the mountain behind was the final place for cameras, and there was a barricade lined with police right there. I remember noticing all the layers of police: state, city, regional, at every stop, burdened with their automatic rifles at the ready. However, I felt safe around them all, and they did step in and help out Kellen and me once, being chased by an overly exuberant salesperson! I am so eager to see all the rest of your photos and re-live my long ago journey. Kellen and I came to the conclusion that Ramses II was the most pompous Pharoah ever. Was he the most important? He was! Just ask him…

    • Thanks, Crystal. It was an incredible experience, everything we were hoping for and much more.
      Egypt was quite open about photos. We were allowed to take photos throughout the Valley and Its tombs, as we were everywhere except at the Mummy Museum and in the in the King Tut room of the National Museum in Cairo.
      Soldiers and police with automatic weapons everywhere. They didn’t hassle us in any way. I managed a couple of photos of them but was quite careful.
      The Nile, for the most part, was pretty clean, although we could see a fair amount of trash in it at certain places.
      Rameses was pompous, which I think meant that he had more money to proclaim his glory than any of the other Pharaohs. LOL.

    • You are quite welcome, Steve. You and Carol were a special part of the trip! You wouldn’t have happened to get Sabaa’s contact information? Some how we missed it and I promised him I’d let him know when our first post went up. If so, could you please send it to me at my Email: cvmekemson@gmail.com. Thanks.

  2. Egypt is in my blood. I did my masters degree at the University of Cairo in the 1970s. Back then, Cairo’s population was about 12 million. I’ve been back multiple times—most recently in 2009—so most of your pics capture scenes that are familiar to me. It’s a wonderful overview.

  3. It’s wonderful to go along with you through your posts. Alie and I lost our chance [and deposit] in 1990 when she fell ill at the last minute and now the heat is too much for her.
    I imagine Egyptians are extremely happy to see tourists again after Covid and other disruptions.

  4. In the midst of so many new and unfamiliar — though beautiful! — sights, one thing made me laugh out loud: your mention of the Temple of Karnak. Of all the things I expected to be reminded of, Johnny Carson and Karnak the Magnificent wasn’t on my bingo card!

    The photo of the temple at night is magnificent; what an opportunity that was. And those just slightly creepy alabaster jars brought to mind the line from one of our American songs: “thine alabaster cities gleam…” And of course I love the photos from the river, and those of the boats. I’m somehow surprised at how peaceful and clean everything seems: or, perhaps better, how ‘non-touristy.’ I suspect part of that might be due to whichever group had organized your tour. It looks like Egypt today is different in several ways from what I imagined. I’m looking forward to more posts.

  5. A great post bringing back memories of a trip I took to Cairo in 1962. It was already a huge and busy city with car horns on automatic nonstop. For many years I had a fez and a tiny piece of pyramid rock which I secreted into my pocket. The obligatory camel ride was already then in good use.

    • 1962 was a while ago, Gerard. 🙂 But I can guarantee that car horns, like camels, are still very much present! Darn, I wish we would have grabbed a piece of pyramid rock. What was I thinking.

  6. Curt, what an excellent intro and fantastic adventure, Curt and Peggy. Your photos really bring it all (back) to life. As you know, we love that part of the world and can’t wait for your upcoming series. By the way, good use of “focus guys.” 🙂 ~Terri

    • Thanks, Terri. Peggy and I were awed by the history and beauty. I’ve always been a fan of mythology, so that was fascinating as well. The Nile had been on my ‘bucket list’ for a long, long time. As for ‘focus guys,’ a little humor never hurts. 🙂 –Curt

  7. I’m looking forward to all your Egypt photos – they fill in the gaps in my photos from our Nile Cruise and stay in Cairo. We were there when someone was taking potshots at American tourists. On our daytrips to sights near Cairo we were followed by an armed guard because two of our fellow travelers were American. If it had just been us Canadians, we would not have been guarded. Not sure of the logic in that…

  8. Wow. What an experience! I had no idea that the tombs and temples are in such good condition (at least the ones you featured). They’re magnificent. And the Alabaster Mosque is gorgeous. I’m looking forward to your in-depth descriptions and photos. It sounds like you had an amazing time.

    • We felt the same way about the temples D. As our guide explained to us, many of them were buried under sand. You could easily see the difference between the portions that were and the portions that weren’t. I’m excited about creating the posts on ancient Egypt. There is so much. An amazing thing is that new discoveries are made every day. Thanks. –Curt

  9. Looks like a magnificent three weeks, Curt. I just got back yesterday from three weeks in Southeast Asia and should not be thinking about the next one, but … this looks pretty awesome!

    • Always good to think about the next one Lexi! Glad to see that you are out and about traveling again. Peggy and I are thinking about a trip to Southeast Asia next year. 🙂

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