I owe a lot to Egypt. No, I really do. The whole reason I studied Art History and Archaeology was because of my trip to Egypt. I understand that things are quite different since I visited (which was in 2006) and it’s perhaps not the best place to visit for a holiday right now but when you do get chance to go… it’s amazing. Firstly, the flight is only 5 and a half hours, which really isn’t bad considering the utter difference in culture/weather/history. I stayed a few nights in Cairo, then went on a cruise down the Nile, then stayed in Sharm El Sheikh to relax.
So in Cairo I stayed in the Intercontinental Cairo Semiramis, a gorgeous hotel in the heart of the city. The hotel was full of business men and women and always seemed to be welcoming new guests in and out each day. We were given a room with a large balcony space which was great for looking over the city at night. It also had a rooftop pool which was needed after walking in the sweltering heat!
Now they say New York is the city that never sleeps, but really I believe Cairo is. All night you heard horns honking, people singing, men shouting etc etc, it never stopped! From my first night I could see what a lively place Cairo was going to be. In Cairo we decided to do the main tourist hotspot of the Pyramids at Giza, about 40 minutes away from our hotel. They’re beautiful I admit, but things later on in the trip proved to me these are kinda overrated as other spots are far interesting with less tourists. I went into one of the pyramids to explore and was slightly disappointed with the plain walls and empty space, which compared to Valley of the Kings seemed lifeless and still. I recommend people to go visit themselves because they may appeal more to others, but I couldn’t say I was that impressed with them myself.
Cairo itself was interesting.. especially as a female tourist. I was told by a hotel co-ordinator that Egyptians often assumed that Western women were promiscuous and were therefore quite cautious of us. I learnt this the hard way whilst I walked down the street in denim shorts and many men rudely walked into me and muttered words. Eventually I had to have my dad walk in front of me in the street because all of the men seemed to walk into myself and other female family relatives. I left Cairo unimpressed, and nervous about how the rest of the trip would go. However I was to be pleasantly surprised on the next part of my trip…
The River Nile Cruise/RA II:
Ah RA II. A boat that we later found out was actually made in my hometown Hull! This trip was much like going back in time. The rooms reminded me like something in an Agatha Christie Novel.. I kind of felt we were in the book ‘Death on the Nile’. The rooms were wonderful, spacious for a small boat. They had little balcony terraces on them which meant you could sit on them at night time and watch the landscapes of Cairo sail past, or watch Cows roam into the water to cool down in a morning. This cruise had so many things right with it. Not only the rooms and decor, but the food and guidance offered by staff. I’d been warned about Egyptian tummy but was told my staff members to keep drinking room temperature water and everything would be fine. They also frequently offered us hibiscus tea which I believe helped! In order to create a relaxed environment they help events most evenings which entertained all on board. These also ensured that everyone mixed together and created social games to introduce everyone to each other. My favourite of which was the Egyptian evening when they told us to dress up in traditional Egyptian costume and took us shopping in order to look the part. This evening involved dancing, traditional games and food!
The days were occupied by excursions to places throughout historical Egypt and these included the Temple at Dendera, The Valley of the Kings and Hatshepsut Temple. On our first day trip to Dendera we met our Egyptologist Omar who came to be one of the most interesting and inspiring people I have ever met in my life.
He took us to the Temple at Dendera, believed to have been built in the eighteenth dynasty (ca 1500BC) by Pharoah Pepi I. The temple is dedicated to Hathor- an Egyptian Goddess who personifies Motherhood and fertility. Omar explained to us how she was worshipped by all ancient Egyptians as they believed she welcomed them into the afterlife. This is one of the most beautifully preserved (and recently restored) temples in all of Egypt. Definitely worth a visit.
I couldn’t sum up the Valley of the Kings if I tried so I will just try to give some helpful advice… Yes Tutankhamen is the most famous Pharaoh because of his grave… but his grave to me was the least interesting. You have to pay extra to see it and I don’t actually think it’s worth it.. most of what was in there is now in the Cairo Museum- now moved next to Giza. Go there instead! Enjoy the wonders of the other tombs! They’re all huge and so cleverly built next to each other, overlapping and integrating next to each other.
Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut or ‘hotchickensoup’ as Omar called it!
They say women in power is often fatal, Hatshepsut is the exception. Cleverly dressing as a man most of her life- the first crossdresser in History, she successfully managed the throne of Egypt for 22 years. Unfortunately, unhappy with the way history had depicted her as a successful ruler rather than a doting mother, Thutmose III and his son Amenhotep II attempted to erase historical record of her as a ruler and when exploring this temple you will see many images of her have been chipped off the wall. Nevertheless, her contribution towards architecture and art history throughout history can be found all over the place, from small wall carvings to large fallen obelisks. She really is one of the most fascinating characters in Egyptian History.
(Hatshepsut shown here as the dominate figure on the right- whilst Thutmose III the lesser figure on the left)
I think I shall cover Sharm El Sheik in a seperate posting as it’s a little more of a beach holiday!
Thanks for reading,