"May you always find new roads to travel; new horizons to explore; new dreams to call your own."

Egypt

Egypt

 

Egypt. Yes, Egypt. Everyone wants to go, but most never do. Everyone wants to see the pyramids, but think Egypt is unsafe. Let me say this… Egypt is no more safe or unsafe than the United States. You can’t let the fear of something happening keep you from doing something you’ve always dreamed of. Things happen here in the states every single day. 

Egypt was always on my list. I knew I had to go. But it was also on my dad’s list. Traveling is my thing, and my dad always watched my adventures from home. Him and my mom actually take me to the airport every trip to see me off. Then one day he started toying around with the idea of going to see the pyramids. They were a bucket list item for him. However, my dad has claustrophobia, so he didn’t think he could get on a plane to go, but he was determined.

So, I made the official decision to go to Egypt. I told him I was going - with or without him. I said… you have one life, and if you don’t do it now, you never will. I said, “If you don’t go, one of two things can happen. I can go and get taken (I know I’m horrible for using this card), and you’ll regret it the rest of your life; or I can go and have the time of my life, and you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.” I wasn’t messing around! I came back from Bali, and I told him I was booking Egypt the following Saturday, so he better be there and be ready. I basically forced him to book it lol. He was nervous, but he was excited. I knew he was for real when he texted me to tell me he bought his desert hat. But to be honest, I didn’t know if he was going to go through with it until the day of. And he did. And he did just fine on the plane! Like a pro. And this time my mom was dropping me AND my dad off at the airport.

There are certain places in the world that I go to on an organized tour because you just see more, and it’s better to be with a local guide. So, this trip I was on a Trafalgar tour. It was a real treat and much different than my other two tours with Trafalgar. There were only 8 of us total, and 3 of the people had been on a trip to Egypt just a month before. They opted out of a lot of the excursions. So really, it was just five of us most of the time. Six of us if you count our amazing local guide - Mohamed. Mohamed has a Masters in Egyptology and Archeology from Alexandria University. He was not only incredibly smart, but he was amazing at teaching us the history through story telling using us as the people. It was so easy to follow along, pay attention and be interested in what he was teaching us at every sight.

The three others that made up our little group of five were all single travelers from New York. Earthia, Diana, and Carl. Man. I can’t even begin explain this crew. Especially Diana - she needs her own TV show. She’s originally from Poland. She has been traveling like crazy this year to celebrate her 65th birthday. She is a feisty ball of energy. Earthia, the beautiful Puerto Rican Queen, was celebrating her 40th birthday. She doesn’t look a day over 30. I really love this woman, and we are already planning our next adventure together. And Carl. Carl had been traveling for almost a month already before meeting us in Egypt. Carl was my fellow photography lover. These three New Yorkers were the best travel buddies. Best of all - they LOVE taking photos too. And were all about me getting my best shot lol.

Egypt reminded me a lot of India. For those of you that don’t know - I lived in India for a month in the summer of 2014. However, Egypt felt less populated and less polluted. Mohamed told us that the current president has worked to get and keep the country clean. It definitely reminded me of India though. Especially on the backroads in Giza with all of the little rickshaws running around, the crazy streets and people just walking across the road whenever. Also, the lines on the road… decoration as Mohamed called them. Better yet - the lines were just a suggestion. To anyone that’s never experienced this before it would be a total culture shock. My dad was laughing his ass off and in real shock at the sight of this at first. 

 

CAIRO


Egyptian Museum & Giza Plateau (Part I)

You could spend a whole day in the Egyptian Museum looking at things. My favorite artifact that I saw was King Tutankhamun's Death Mask. It was actually on his mummy when he was discovered. When I was in school, either high school or middle school, I remember the mask being on the cover of my textbook. It was such a weird, crazy feeling staring at the mask face to face in person. No photos were allowed, so I just stared at it. It was like looking into his soul. They are soon opening a new, bigger Grand Egyptian Museum close to the pyramids in Giza.

Just a little note about safety and dress code in Egypt...

As far as safety in Egypt - I felt incredibly safe. Of course anytime you travel you want to take safety precautions. Like I already mentioned, there are the same dangers there that there are anywhere else in the world. And I can't even tell you how many times I went through security on this trip. Twice at every airport (at least) and at least once at every single historical sight as well. If you have any other questions regarding safety - please ask.

Sometimes the merchants in the bazaars will bug you and try to get you to buy things. My advice is to either say no and keep walking or just keep walking. Because if you show any interest - they will follow lol. If you do want to buy something - never accept the first, second, or third offer. Maybe the fourth, just maybe ;)

As I have been posting photos on Facebook and Instagram from Egypt a select few people have commented on what I was wearing. They question whether showing that much skin is allowed or culturally acceptable in Egypt. Some comments have been very negative. Let me make it clear - women in Egypt can wear what they want, and there are no laws regarding that. Be smart and be sensitive. There are obviously areas where you want to wear more and areas where it’s okay to wear less. I would suggest to always bring a coverup whenever you go out too. The only crazy experience I had when I showed skin was at the pyramids. I was surrounded by local kids that wanted to take a selfie with me lol. 

The first thing I noticed about the pyramids was how big the blocks actually are. I never would've known had I not seen them in person. This day - a dream came true for everyone. We all experienced the same surreal feeling together.

My dad and I

Face to face with the most famous feline in the world... The Great Sphinx of Giza. With the head of a Pharaoh and the body of a lion, the Sphinx was built to guard the entrance to the Giza Plateau. The nose and beard are thought to be missing because of an attack years later. Or possibly target practice for Napoleon OR because those parts that stick out are just more easily damaged. The world may never truly know.

The sweet kids on the plateau that I mentioned above. 

We were supposed to go back to OUR hotel for dinner. However, the five of us convinced Mohamed to take us to the one of the nicest hotels in the Cairo and Giza area for dinner - The Mena House Hotel.

Shot by Carl

 

ABU SIMBEL

Temple of Ramses II

After a flight from Cairo to Aswan, then from Aswan to Abu Simbel - we arrived at the Temple of Ramses II. A massive rock temple on the side of a cliff. It was moved completely to save it from going under water. You can see the temple from the plane. It looks so out of place, but King Ramses II wanted it that way - to make a statement.

 

ASWAN

Nile Cruise, Philae Temple & High Dam

Sunset felucca ride - shot by Earthia.

We sailed on a cruise ship on the Nile for three nights. I've never seen a sunset more beautiful. The food was incredible, the views were incredible. I ate SOOO much. My dad kept saying, "You're hungry again?!" LOL. I really thought Aswan itself was stunning too. We traveled from Aswan to Luxor on the ship.

Carl with the baby croc that was on the felucca.

Below: Aswan High Dam

Philae Temple on Philae Island was one of my favorite places I visited in Egypt. We took a motorboat to get there.

Truth is, the odd carvings on these temple ruins that you see to the left are from when other groups of people came to the temple after the Egyptians and destroyed the Egyptian's stories on the walls. You see this in many places throughout Philae Temple.

EDFU & KOM OMBO

Temple of Edfu aka Temple of Horus

Temple of Kom Ombo

LUXOR

Luxor Temple, Karnak Temple, Temple of Hatshepsut & Valley of the Kings

Luxor Temple

Luxor Temple

I was beyond excited for the Valley of the Kings. If you don't know - this valley is where all the Kings of Egypt's tombs are located. So far, there have been 63 tombs discovered. King Tut's was KV62.

Valley of the Kings

The photo inside of a tomb above is not King Tutankhamen's, but I did get to see his. There were no photos allowed. His mummy was so small. You can see how little the 19-year-old King really was. You can see all his teeth and all his toes. Rest in peace, young King. You're going to think I'm crazy or making things up, but the energy in his tomb was so strong. My stomach had butterflies. When I came back up the stairs and out of the tomb, my legs felt weak and a little shaky. It was something, a feeling, I will remember for a lifetime.

Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut. The woman Pharaoh. She wore a fake beard just like the men that ruled Egypt. This temple was built for her to show the people that she was a god - that she had power and that she could rule.

Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut. The woman Pharaoh. She wore a fake beard just like the men that ruled Egypt. This temple was built for her to show the people that she was a god - that she had power and that she could rule.

Statues of Hatshepsut atop her temple.

The last stop in Luxor was Karnak Temple. I couldn't wait to see it because I knew Hatshepsut had two obelisks there. An obelisk, in ancient Egyptian, history is a stone pillar that symbolizes a connection to the gods. It was like a finger pointing into the sky as Mohamed said. Karnak Temple is so impressive that it's beyond hard to explain in just words and photos.

There are 134 columns at Karnak Temple. 122 of them are 10 meters tall, and 12 of them are 21 meters tall.

The taller obelisk is Hatshepsut's. The other one that matches it fell over. I was able to touch the top of it :)

Alexandria

City view from Pompey's Pillar.

In Alexandria we saw Pompey's Pillar and the Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa. I know that everyone hears "Alexandria" and thinks that it's the most beautiful city... and it is beautiful because of the colors and the water... but other than that, I didn't find much interest in the history there. Maybe it was because it was more Greek/Roman history, and I had just spent a week walking through hieroglyphic-filled Egyptian temples so I wasn't really awed. But what I did love was the city views and the great hummus and baba ganoush.  

Carl, Earthia, Diana and I were all sitting having dinner in Alexandria on our second to last night - just talking. My dad had a little first time traveler’s sickness going on. So, it was just the four of us. When you share the love of something with other people, in our case traveling, the connection is unreal. I don’t even think you always get that with people that share your passion - we just got lucky. Diana said at one point, “Isn’t it funny how we all have similar views.” Or something to that effect. Not the same views on politics or food or simple things, but on life, on love and on travel. I think we just feel the same. We have the same energy. The same light. We are all different, but we clicked. I would go anywhere with them. If any of you are reading this right now I want you to know how much meeting you changed my life and how much you’ve inspired me. I love you guys. I usually have a “soul touching” moment on every trip. And it wasn’t at the pyramids or on the Nile - it was that dinner with you three.

 

THE PYRAMIDS (Part II)

On the last day of the trip - Carl, Diana, my dad and I wanted to go back to the Pyramids for a second time. We just had to. So, after a little convincing, we got Mohamed and the bus to drop us off on the street in Giza. We walked the streets until we made it to the entrance. Carl and I wanted “THE SHOT” of the pyramids. You know… the one that you see everywhere. The one with the three in the frame all at once. We had to get it. So we walked around every pyramid. We hiked up and down the mounds of dust, dirt and stone. Then we walked a little further, and the shot came into picture. We found it! And we celebrated. It was hot, but the wind was blowing, and the pyramids looked so beautiful in all their glory. 

IMG_3006.JPG

 

We walked and hiked probably 5 miles around the Giza Plateau that day. I was proud of my dad. He was so happy. I was so happy. Diana - the beautiful woman and young spirit that she is, was on the adventure with us the whole time too.

After we walked around the pyramids once more trying to find our way out and after Diana’s unsuccessful plea to the police officer to give us a ride in the police van (I’m still laughing out loud. I have so many stories about her. She is one of a kind) - we got out back onto the streets of Giza. We needed a taxi, but of course you have to bargain! We got one guy down to 300 EGP. Then Carl goes… “500”. We were dying laughing. He didn’t realize we had already bargained down. He was bargaining up!

We finally got a good taxi and off we went to Cairo. What was cool about this drive back was that we took backroads most of the time. I grew very nostalgic because it reminded me so much of India. The music was playing, the dust was flying through the windows, the streets were crowded and the sun was setting. It was a beautiful ending to the trip. 

Once we got back to the hotel, Mohamed and Earthia joined us for dinner and drinks downstairs. Everyone was laughing, singing, smiling…it was bittersweet because we knew in the blink of an eye the trip was over.

This trip was so special to me. Not just because of the great people that I met, but because my dad got to go on this adventure with me. I think now he understands why I do what I do - why I spend all the money I have just to book another trip. I think that this trip really changed his life too. You know once you travel and your eyes are opened to other cultures and other people that are different than your own, you start to see that we really are all the same. “We are all just people trying to get by and trying to provide.” As my dad said. To live. We are one. There is nothing to fear. And it humbles you when you experience this. And I believe this trip opened my dad’s eyes to so much. And I’m proud of him. And I’m also proud to say that he took 90% of the photos of me from Egypt - and he KILLED IT. I told him he needs to be my personal photographer and go on all my trips. This trip will be something special that we share and talk about for a lifetime.

To anyone that is considering travel to Egypt - DO IT. I fell in love with this country. I feel so lucky to have had this amazing experience there. I had even more experiences I couldn't fit into this post - like visiting a monastery and meeting a monk. Feel free to ask me anything, and I will do my best to answer. I can’t even express how beautiful and rich in history Egypt is. To walk where the ancient Egyptians walked, to see what they built so many years ago… it’s breathtaking. I know I will be back one day. Maybe I’ll even take my own son or daughter.

 

To see more follow me @elsfaye on Instagram.

 

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