Walk Like An Egyptian: My Journey (Part 1)

There are many popular destinations in the world that families flock to once their vacation commences. More specifically, places that are famous for their white, sandy beaches and waves. My family, however, has always managed to stray from such areas and found more unique places to travel to – where age-old history and culture have existed for millennia.

Two years ago, my parents had decided that our two-week winter break would be spent exploring the ancient sights of Egypt. I was all too enthusiastic about the upcoming trip because ever since I was younger, I had always been fascinated by Egypt to the point where, one year, I begged my parents to stay in the Luxor Hotel and Casino when we visited Las Vegas. For those of you who don’t know this hotel, it is shaped like one of the great pyramids and its theme is, well, Egyptian. As we can see, I was a girl, obsessed.

Fast-forward a few months, we have arrived in Cairo via Egypt Air, and have just stepped off the 11-hour flight. Exhausted, we are eager to move through customs and receive our luggage, so we can get to the hotel and settle in. Walking through the airport, towards the exit, we are greeted by hundreds of workers asking to help us with luggage. They swarm toward all the passengers who are leaving as well. My parents told my sisters and I to politely ignore their services.

Once we are out of the airport, we all pack into a car that will bring us to the hotel. I observe all the cars on the road and their complete disregard of the lines that mark the borders of lanes. I couldn’t believe that a normal highway with four lanes had miraculously become six lanes. Trying to stay calm, while our driver zipped through traffic, I turned my focus to the surrounding areas.

Building upon buildings stacked so close together, barely leaving room in between for windows or alleyways. Must be to conserve space, I think to myself. I look closer and see that these buildings look rather unfinished. Steel framing sticks out the top of every single one. That’s not the weird part; situated atop these seemingly unfinished buildings, are satellite dishes for TVs.

I ask our driver why there were already satellite dishes on buildings if they weren’t completed. He responded by saying that due to high taxes on all buildings, people avoid paying them by keeping their buildings unfinished. That way they are technically not a building yet, according to the law. He continued to say that these unfinished buildings are actually inhabited and the residents can’t live without their TV. My family and I break out laughing. We are in disbelief that such a scam can go unnoticed for so long.

We have finally arrived at the hotel, and we are immediately greeted at the door with bellhops and two women holding trays of silver cups. Inside the cups is a special hibiscus flower drink that is sweet and delicious. After our quick refreshment, we head up to our room and turn in for the night. There’s a long day ahead of us, and we are only staying in this hotel tonight, before we catch yet another flight at the break of dawn. We will be flying to Luxor, and will board the Nile River cruise that we will call home for the next five days, and four nights.

After waking up at three in the morning, we make our way to the airport, once more, for our 5:30 am flight. Much shorter than the first, we make it to Luxor in a mere one hour. We are picked up by the cruise attendants and are brought to the boat. As we board, I notice the name, in green letters outlined with gold, on the outside of the boat – Oberoi Philae.

We are shown to our rooms and told to freshen up and head over to the common room for afternoon tea and lunch. My family and I immediately begin to explore the boat and find the common room. There, we are seated and served a range of teas and finger sandwiches – my favorite.

Shortly after, we leave the boat and take a tour of the Luxor and Karnak Temples. Both are in the city of Luxor and are within 10 minutes of each other. Only after we visit these temples, will the boat leave the dock and begin its journey down the Nile.

Each temple was very grand, and even though they are thousands of years old, they have managed to stand time. The guides tell us that there used to be paintings all over the walls, but due to sun exposure and weathering over thousands of years, the paint has faded leaving only the impressions in the stone. Only certain areas, sheltered from too much sun, we can see the remnants of the colors used. Intricate designs were seen on almost every space available on the walls, as well as the ceilings. Staring up, in disbelief, we see all the hieroglyphics etched into the stone. Each symbol, more complex than the last, and beautifully placed together in order to tell a story.

These were just two of the many ancient temples that we would see on our journey, and we could only imagine what lay ahead.