Seeing the world, one country at the time

From Lower to Upper Egypt along the Nile

By the time we reached Egypt, we were exhausted and sick of traveling. We had absolutely no energy left to do anything or to take any initiative. We took off for Egypt with no clue where we would stay or what we would do. My Dad saved the day at the 11th hour by calling as we boarded our plane, to tell me that he had organized everything for our arrival in Egypt, including a stay at the Hilton, as an engagement gift. What a relief. When we landed, there was a gentleman waiting for us, who took us swiftly through customs, got our bags and packed us into a limo. We didn’t have to lift a finger.

At the Hilton we got a VIP reception and a nice room overlooking the Egyptian Museum, which holds the treasures of, among others, King Tut. My father happened to be good friends with the Hilton manager, from their days in Pakistan. We were so happy to be there, we didn’t want to leave. We stayed in our room or in the hotel for three full days minus a morning at the pyramids of Dhashour. We didn’t see the Pyramids of Giza this time, as we’d seen them before and they’re so crowded and expensive. The Hilton VIP treatment served us well and we recovered from our exhaustion to plan our next steps. We finally ventured out to the city to find a cheap hostel and some local food. We discovered that it was delicious and soon enthusiastically adopted the local eateries.

We stayed in the city a full week, mostly in our adopted hostel, considering whether we wanted to see any more of Egypt or if we should just go on to Israel. Everything was difficult. Making any kind of decision found us at an impasse. I wanted to see things, but I couldn’t bring myself to make a move, nor could I actually go through with the planning. I finally convinced Lars we should see SOMETHING since we were there, and we employed a tour agency to figure it out for us. That was the best decision we made. It may have cost more, but it was worth it. We took a four-day trip to Aswan, Luxor and Abu Simbel in Upper Egypt in the south (it’s confusing, I know, but the name refers to the source of the Nile). Cairo is in the Delta, in Lower Egypt. I wanted to take a souk up the Nile, but we opted for the train because we were out of money. We’ll save that for a time when we need a lazy vacation.

We took an overnight train to Aswan. There we saw the impressive tombs and temples at Abu Simbel, a three-hour bus ride away, and Aswan. Our next stop was the temples of Luxor, as well as the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, where the tombs of hundreds of pharaohs and other royalty have been uncovered. There are probably many more still undiscovered. We took a short trip on a souk and met lots of travelers, many of them Spaniards. Egypt seemed to be invaded by Spaniards.

When we returned to Cairo, we spent a day at the Egyptian Museum, which holds all the national treasures. I had wanted to see the Tutankhamun exhibit since I was in second grade, when it came to California. King Tut himself is in his tomb at the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, but his treasures, including the famous funeral mask are in Cairo. The contents of King Tut’s tomb were truly amazing. Where did those talented artisans go?

The next challenge was to find a bus to take us to Israel, which seemed nearly impossible. When Lars searched the city for travel agents, they all said “we know nothing about Israel.” They suddenly lost interest in taking our money and waved him off. He half expected them to say “Israel? Never heard of it. You must be delusional”. At the hostel they said there was a bus to the border, but that’s where the information ended. Our Israeli friends had to help us, working backward from Tel Aviv. There was one bus, but it was hard to reach the company by phone. Then one morning having breakfast, I overheard a traveler heading to Israel by bus. I interrogated him and found out there was a local bus, but we had to go buy tickets at the station. It would take us to a tourist resort just short of the Israeli border and we could cross there.

We quickly packed our bags and headed out early the next morning. I reached the street before noticing Lars was gone. I ran back in to find him lying face down on the floor, his face buried in his camera pack, his legs twisted up the stairs. I panicked, thinking the worst. He awoke and with the help of a guy, we picked him up and let him sit. He had lost consciousness and fallen down the stairs, but seemed okay. We decided to keep traveling. It was a long bus ride to the border, through the Suez Canal, which was heavily guarded by armed soldiers who peered down at us. That is one hotly contested piece of territory. Once at the border, we got off alone and wondered if we’d made a mistake. But it was a quiet and pretty area with nice hotels and manicured shrubbery, so we put on our packs and hiked to the Israeli border, saying goodbye to Egypt. This time I left with a much better and more informed opinion of this rich and historical land, despite my exhaustion.