I had visited Egypt several times back during the 1980s when I was in the navy, so I had seen the sights arounds Cairo, like the pyramids, Sphinx and Egyptian Museum. After years of hearing my tales of foreign lands, my wife Faith, put her foot down and insisted I take her to see the sights I had previously enjoyed. I liked the idea, as I wanted to see the many interesting temples and tombs around Luxor and especially Abu Simbel, south of Aswan.
I really had no idea where to start, but after reading a laudatory account of a reporter‘s trip to Egypt in The Washington Post planned by Audley Travel, I decided to use their services, I was put in touch with the charming, jolly and hyper-competent Brigitte. I can‘t praise her enough. She managed to include everything I wanted to see, including the “off the beaten track“ temples of Abydos and Dendera. She always patiently answered my multitude of questions.
In Cairo, I especially enjoyed the Citadel of Saladin and the Khan-al-Khalili bazaar, where I fulfilled a long time goal of smoking shisha in the famous Al-Fishawy coffee house.The Egyptian Museum is still about as organized as your crazy aunt’s attic and just as fascinating. Seeing Faith’s face light up in awe when she first saw the pyramids is something I’ll never forget. Our guide, Nihal was charming and gracious, making sure we enjoyed ourselves and helping us eat despite our vegetarian diet, not an easy thing in Egypt. She even introduced us to the delicious local dish, koshari, consisting of pasta, rice, lentils and various spices and sauces.
In Luxor, one of the highlights was our guide Medhat, who was full of information and had opinions on everything under the sun, which he didn’t hesitate to share. By the end of our time there, we really thought of him as a friend and addressed him as “Baba Habibi“ (daddy dearest).
We arranged a balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings on our own, and I highly recommend it. Seeing the Temple Of Hatshetsut at dawn was something so dramatic it can never be forgotten, We also loved our day on the West Bank of The Nile. Some highlights were the tomb of Thutmose III and the less visited sight of Medinet Habu. Don‘t miss it! We really loved the Luxor Museum, and we were impressed with how organized it was.
Finally, on to the beautiful city of Aswan, where we were met by the sweet-tempered Osama, who happily took me to a traditional coffee house for more shisha and invited us to attend a Coptic wedding. Unfortunately, we were too tired, but it was a gracious gesture. We absolutely loved the Old Cataract Hotel. I cannot imagine any hotel in the world with a lovelier setting. There were few guests, so they upgraded us to a suite bigger than the house I grew up in.
The trip to Abu Simbel was another highlight. There‘s really nothing like it in the world. It has to be seen in person to be fully appreciated. Finally, another lovely guide named Fatima took us on a felluca ride to Elephantine island and to see the temple of Philae. The Aswan high dam and Nubian Museum are also worthy of mention. I especially enjoyed the pictures of moving the massive monuments of Abu Simbel and Philae at the museum.
It was truly the trip of a lifetime and I can‘t say enough about what a great job Audley did organizing it. Thank you Audley and most especially our Country Specialist, Brigitte!