Tea in the Sahara

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My dancing roomie, Emma, at Abu Simbel

On Saturday, I met my tour group in downtown Cairo.  I am not crazy about organized tours partly because when 15 usually white English speakers get out of a van, it’s hard to blend in.

But after researching the experiences of other women traveling solo in Egypt, I thought my visit would be richer and and less stressful with a knowledgeable guide and some other travelers. I signed up for an 8-day G Adventures tour with a group of savvy travelers between the ages of 16 (Julian who tells stories about middle school politics at dinner and is curious about everything) and 70-something (Elizabeth who never walks a straight line to the bus because there are so many interesting people along the way).  And our tour guide, Mohammed — good-humored, savvy, caring Egyptologist, father of two, husband of Fatima the lawyer.

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The mask of King Tut, which had just been returned to the museum after restoration.

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One of my favorite of the more modest displays at the Egyptian Museum suggesting that Americans are actually a few years late to the diversity party

After a day of getting to know you at the pyramids and the Egyptian Museum, we boarded an overnight train to travel south along the Nile to Aswan. The accommodations were very basic and the breakfast involved a lot of white things wrapped in cellophane but everyone reported sleeping well.

After arriving, we spent the day walking through the souks and then traveled across the river to have dinner in a

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One of the two Nubian families who cooked us amazing dinners. The three generations of women who actually did the cooking are not in the photo, probably because many Muslim women are uncomfortable being photographed. And they were probably cleaning up after us.

a Nubian village with a local family.  Nubians are a distinct ethnic group of the upper Nile (upper is south when you talk about the Nile). We had an amazing meal of spicy lentil soup, Egyptian salad of cucumbers and tomatoes, moussaka, rice, homemade bread and roasted chicken.

Nubian houses are sometimes painted with playful symbols that are evocative of Egyptian hieroglyphs, which I love.

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The oblong shapes with the symbols inside are “cartouches”, which are signatures mostly used to depict gods and royalty commonly in temples and tombs.

The next day we traveled to Abu Simbel, which are the temples of Ramses II and Nefritari that were moved about half a mile across the river in the 1960s so the Aswan dam would not flood them. This basically involved dismantling thousands of priceless, multi-tonned stones contained in two mountains over the course of 8 years. DSCN1942 Tourists are not allowed to take photos inside the temples.  When I tried to take a photo inside the temple, my camera broke. The Curse of the Pharoahs.

G Adventures tours focus on doing rather than just seeing and a journey through Egypt would not be complete without a ride on a falucca. A falucca is a sail boat once used for transporting goods for trade up and down the river. Today they are used for transporting tourists up and down the river, in our case from Aswan toward Luxor.  IMG_0436

The first half of the day was perfect sailing but the afternoon wind was too strong so we got a tow from the Mother Ship, which was a sort of small dinner boat with an old diesel engine.  It was fun sleeping on the deck of the boat. Mostly.  No body snored but it was really cold!

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The flag of our falucca, “Moon Shadow,” depicts Bob Marley, which suggested the feeling on the boat.

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Sarah from Australia on the Moon Shadow who has a wonderful peaceful and deep spirit. Her fluency in Arabic made our adventures in the cities even more interesting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Egypt has so far been an amazing journey full of hospitality, caring and learning.  Putting the whole thing in some kind of context, here is the authoritative American commentary on one of Egypt’s most important discoveries of the 20th century. www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1Hr9VPnMNc

Happy Holidays!

6 comments

  1. Nice one!

    I think your extensive history of camera woes go way beyond the Curse of the Pharaohs. You must have insulted King Kodak in one f your past lives.

    Interestingly, your link to the video leads to the statement “The uploader has not made this video available in your country.” I assume it was supposed to play Steve Martin’s legendary King Tut dance, but who knows???

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