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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We were able to watch fishermen and farmers plying their trade in much the same way as they have for thousands of years.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Several feluccas were out enjoying the sunset in this photo which we took from an outdoor dining area of the Cataract Hotel in Aswan.
We were enjoying high tea at the hotel.
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.”
An evening bird watching tour on a small boat included numerous birds and a very enthusiastic bird expert.
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.
While at Aswan, we also visited the Philae temple…
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.
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.
Peggy climbed a short ways up the side of the Great Pyramid to demonstrate the size of the rocks used in building the pyramid…
And we both journeyed far under the pyramid of King Khafre, sometimes bent double because of the low ceilings.
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.