History, pyramids, desert, camels, perfumed oils, sheesha, tea and yummy food you eat with your hands. Those are just a few of the amazing things Egypt has on offer. It is a land full of wonders, rich in history and holds a very real energy that one can feel almost pulsing out of the land.
As magical as it is, it can also be very full on. Egypt was my last stop in my solo trip across Africa which began in Cape Town, South Africa. By the time I arrived to Egypt I was very well seasoned to what to expect as a blonde hair, blued eyed solo female traveler in Africa. Or so I thought….
I came up through the South and one of my first stops was Luxor. For some reason to this day and before that visit when I think the word Luxor I think of Las Vegas and the luxor hotel there. That image is in bedded in my mind. I was SO excited and also extremely tired upon my arrival. It was a long trip getting to Egypt and I hadn’t slept in about 2 days while on route. So tired was an understatement.
The first thing I learned when looking for a hostel to stay at, is everything seems to be named after Bob Marley. Hotels, hostels, boats. So it only seemed fitting that I chose to stay at a place called The Bob Marley Hostel.
Even though I was totally exhausted when I arrived, I knew I had a limited time in Egypt as my return flight to Canada was only 2 weeks away, and I had extended it so many times over the course of a year and half that I could no longer extend it anymore. Two weeks for me is a ridiculously short period of time. This is coming from the women whom if she likes a place she will stay for a few months to get a real feel for the people and culture. Short time frames don’t always work for me. Seeing as how I had to wait for my room to be cleaned before I could check in, I figured I mine as well head out and do some sight seeing. After all, time was ticking.
I was warmly welcomed at the hostel, and offered a ride to and from the Luxor Temples from one of the guys there. Now usually when you are offered things like this in Africa, it is never free(something to be very well aware of), and many times people tried to charge you ridiculous prices for any assistance accepted solely because you are a foreigner. If you accept, they will do it, but then demand money after, and sometimes a very substantial amount. Trust me, I learned the hard way. But at the same token in a lot of these places it is survival of the fittest and they do what they can to make a few bucks to get by.
Now being on a very tight budget, I made sure to double check that they were in fact offering out of the kindness of their hearts and not going to surprise me with some large fee at the end. To my delight, they said they really just wanted to help me and be hospitable. Sounds good to me! I was in.
Of course as with all the other countries I visited in Africa, the attention from people was instantaneous. Although even a bit more then usual, as in Egypt the attention came not only from men, but from kids, and families.
I got dropped off to the Luxor Temples, which date back to 1400 BCE where I signed up for a tour, and even though I was exhausted, I was super excited to see my first historical site.
It was a fabulous way to start my Egypt trip, but the extreme lack of sleep started to kick in and had to go retire for the night. The next day I had booked a taxi to go and see some other sites.
Being alone and having already experienced a massive amount of attention the day prior, I made arrangements for the taxi to wait for me while I explored two different sights, Temple of Deir al-Bahri (Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple), and Valley Of The Kings, that way I wouldn’t be stranded or unsafe.
From the minute I was walking to the temples through the markets along side the road, I was having the men from the market stalls yelling things like Shakira, Claudia Schiffer(no complaints about those nicknames), and running up trying to offer me gifts and inviting me to their booths for tea. I kept telling them as I briskly walked past the stalls that I would be back after my visit to the temples so I had to go. It was pretty darn intense actually.
Once in the temples, I was being approached by people of all sorts wanting photos with me. Literally, kids, adults, families, and even police. So I posed with everyone whom approached me and asked for one. I actually felt like I was experiencing what it would be like to be famous.
The Temples were incredible!! Seriously unreal. Just to stand there and imagine the people whom have walked there, the events that took place, and the thousands of years that they have been there. Imagining things that long ago and in comparison to how life is today – total awe from my side.
Upon leaving I was already mentally preparing myself for that walk back through the markets. The nick names starting being called and the men were running to me offering me gifts and tea. I kept telling them I don’t have money for their gifts, and every single one of them responded to me saying ‘they are really gifts’, they don’t want my money and I can come pick whatever I like.
So stall after stall I kept getting to pick gifts, and I would try and have a sip of tea with each merchant out of respect also, and soon my pockets were so full of gifts I had to turn the rest of the merchants down. ‘Thank you so much but I can’t take anymore’ was the line of choice for the next 5 minutes, and possibly rushed sounding as there was a lot of them and I was high tailing it to my taxi. Which was more like my knight in shining armor at that point. I was pretty eager to just relax and enjoy a bit of solitude.
That was a full on, but pretty exceptionally awesome day, and I now had loads of souvenirs for my friends and family back home in Canada. Worked out perfectly as I was on a tight budget.
I was spoiled at the hostel in Luxor as the guys whom were running it invited me to breakfast everyday.
My new friends from the hostel also arranged for me to go on a Felucca trip, which is the term used for local wooden sail boats. They arranged it with a friend of theirs in the Southern town of Aswan so that I would not be bothered, taken advantage of physically or financially. It is always a great idea to make friends with locals, they know where to go, will help keep you safe, and can also help you not to get ripped off.
No surprise that the Felucca I was on was also called Bob Marley, although the captains name was Mohammad, as large majority of guys I met there were named Mohammad. Bob Marley & Mohammad, the two most popular names in Egypt.
I went for an over night trip and we had to sleep below deck in a very small area. There was only room for sitting and then sleeping. It was so fun though, we ate typical Egyptian food, exchanged cultural stories and were up at the crack of dawn to enjoy some more sailing. He even arranged for me to do some camel riding with his friends on an island.
Let me tell you getting up on a Camel is not easy! They have long legs, and its front legs go up first, so you have to push hard to keep yourself upright while they then get their back legs up. It feels like you are going to fall right off.
Being in the area of Aswan I had to make a trip to the temples of Abu Simbel. For many it is the highlight to their trip to Egypt. It was absolutely a highlight for me.
This area was absolutely awe – inspiring.
I even found the key of life.
From there I made my way up the country to Cairo where I met some other travelers at the hostel I checked into there. One of the best parts about staying at hostels, is that you will always immediately make new friends.
Of course in every country I visit, I love eating street food!
Something about eating with your hands really makes you feel more connected to the food you are putting in your body also.
Horseback riding through the desert, past the pyramids should be a MUST on everyone’s bucket list if you are in Cairo. Amazing!!
I am not just talking trotting along, I am talking full speed galloping!
I have never been on a horse at full speed before that point and I was hanging on for dear life. Seriously by time we got to the little shack in the dessert where we were due to have tea, the adrenaline in my body was pumping so much that my legs were shaking, hard, and I could barely walk.
And Yes, in the days to come I could still barely walk. Clearly my legs were latched on for life when I was on the horse. Trust me, there was no way I was falling off.
The view was incredible.
It’s amazing how small the Pyramids actually are. I always expected them to be huge, but they are not at all.
The view did get even more spectacular when I visited the pyramids up close and personal. Awe inspiring and majestic. They are hard to sum up in words. If you ever visit, you really need to make sure you are totally present in the moments and taking every second of it.
That view was so good I had to go back and see it by Camel. Of course it looks totally different then by horse.
I ended up heading North to Dahab and Sharm el Sheikh. Totally unplanned and spontaneous. When I went to the bus station in Cairo I asked where would be a good place to go, and they put me on a bus up North. So when I arrived in Sharm el Sheikh, I had no idea what to expect and no place booked to stay. Like I said, I was tight on money, so I was very surprised to see it is a resort town when I got there. Resort = Expensive. So do taxi’s. So I had to walk with all of my stuff for like 3 hours until I could find a place to stay.
I finally found a place that had huts for rent for $20 US a night. I was sold. Little did I know it was at the top of a mountain, that I had to hike up with all my stuff. Still struggling to walk from that horse riding excursion.
It was a painful experience getting up to my hut, every single step up came with me saying ‘OW’, very loudly in my head, right until I reached the top.
The hut was so cool. It was a grass hut and inside was a couple of single beds, a night stand, a fan, and a lamp. At least I thought it was cool until after the sand storm.
Upon arrival I put my stuff down and hobbled straight back down the mountain to the restaurant to have a well deserved beer. While I was there a sand storm hit, so I was stuck in the restaurant for a couple of hours. In that case I figured I should indulge in a few well deserved beers. When the storm subsided and I made my way back up to my hut, I was astonished at what I found.
I opened my door to the hut to find that EVERYTHING was covered in an inch blanket of sand. Literally, the bed, the tables, the floor, my backpack, everything. Yes of course, what else would you expect when the walls are made of grass.
I had to go in and start uncovering everything. Let me tell you, wiping off a blanket of sand is not easy.
What a sandy mission.
I was due to head out at 3am to go and hike up Mt. Sinai.
You know, where Moses read the 10 commandments. 6:30 am was sunrise so we needed to make it on time for that. My sleep was rough, it was as though there was sand in the air, and I woke up feeling as though there was sand in my lungs – and there most likely was.
Egypt is HOT, but when you hike up a mountain in the middle of the night it is a different story. It was freezing. Luckily a guy that worked at the resort I was staying at lent me a winter jacket.
At the top you can rent blankets for $20US, and get a hot chocolate for like $10US. It’s a pretty good business, as when your up there and freezing your ass off you will pretty much pay anything for warmth.
The sunrise was worth every penny.
We took turns warming up around the little gas stove.
There is the Monestary at the top as well.
Let’s not forget about the burning bush where god spoke to Moses through.
Ending my trip across Africa with such an over the top incredible trip across Egypt was like the cherry on top of a trip of a life time. I was spoiled, pampered, challenged, and got a taste of what fame would be like. I went with no expectations and left with my mind blown and my heart opened.
Egypt is one of those almost mystical places that you have to see to believe, and I will absolutely make it a point to return there one day.