Travelling-The World Is Your Oyster 3 ----------------------Jaw Dropping

It does not matter how much you read about a place or how much you see on TV concerning the place until you visit it. The smells, the feel, the sights and the temperature nothing compares. This was so true when I visited Egypt.

I was due to have an operation and was not sure how it would go. I had never had a major operation in my life and though I was relatively well, given the choice, I opted for the operation, unknowingly saving my life. But that is another really interesting story you've got to hear sometime. Watch this space!

I booked a Nile Cruise, for two, at £450.00 each with A1. The deal included return flights, pick up and drop off at the airport, full board i.e. cabin and meals on a cruise liner for 8 days and tickets to ten historic sites worth £50.00. Of course, we recognised later that there was a catch but neither of us had been to Egypt and, with all the horror stories one hears of kidnapping etc, it looked like a good deal at the time and it served the purpose for the visit.

We left Heathrow at 10am and 3 hours later arrived in Luxor. The first impression was the heat and Arabic writings everywhere. Of course there were English translations but the Arabic writing brought home the fact that we were in another country. At 38 degrees we were already sweating before we left the airport. The vehicle was air conditioned and we realised this had to be the order of the day here. We arrived at the ship and as we had never been on a cruise before we were quite excited by it all.

Among the various activities were the obvious visits to the tombs in the Valley of the Kings and Queens. Then there was the visit to the museum in Luxor but that did not tickle me much. For that reason, on my return, I went to visit the British Museum and found there was more about Egypt there than in the museum in Luxor. Call me naive but I wondered why this was so.

Besides the visits to the tombs and temples, the Felucca ride, on the great Nile, to the Nubian village which was not included in the price was quite revealing. Me? On the Nile? Wow! Of course it was all orchestrated for tourists with a camel ride that nearly killed me. They say you should try anything once. But that camel ride was my first and last white knuckled ride. I thought I would not make it to the end of the 100 yard ride. It did not help that my companion, travelling like a native, on his camel, in front of me, decided to feed my camel with a twig he'd pulled off a tree. I was beside myself. I imagined the camel would not concentrate on the ride and walking precariously on the edge of a dune would slip and throw me off. He seemed a good few yards off the ground. I aged in that 15 minute-going-on-one-hour ride. Never again!

To get to the Nubian village you had to go past the Elephantine with amazing rocks of natural formations that look like elephants clustered in one place. Imagine that! One of the pleasures I indulge in, on my travels, is observing the different flora and fauna, and often I visit botanical gardens. So the walk through the Lord Kitchener Botanical Garden of palm trees across from the Elephantine was a treat.

Back to the Nubian village, so distinct from the surrounding Egyptian architecture and lifestyle. That was an experience! I had made a few very interesting observations. In the village was so typical of unsophisticated and unspoilt villages in third world countries. Amidst the small tables piled up with spices, was a young teenage girl (dressed in an apparel customary with Muslim ladies) working on a laptop. This was progress and shows that the world can go through you but you do not need to go through the world. Things could be made to work.

I was fascinated by the pet crocodile kept in a glass tank as you would with fish in a fish tank in the home we visited. I was even more fascinated because there were symbols of crocodiles on many of the walls in the tombs and temples we had visited. I was sure there was a reverence that these Nubian people gave the crocodiles. Our guide had said that the crocs were picked as babies from the Aswan Dam, where they were in plentiful, and fed till adulthood then returned to the dam. I thought that was really weird and sweet. Why would they want to do that? If anything they needed to keep the population in check. I asked our guide who replied. "For conservation purposes.” Fair enough but what about the risks to children in the household? What about the risk of transporting a huge croc to the dam? This was not the case as we were informed by one of the natives.

I can see through the shows re-enacting life in the days of the pharaohs and the play on lightings and sounds. That generally does nothing for me, and the price was ridiculous. The visits to the temples with the various relics of the days gone by, was for me the most breath-taking and awesome. It was jaw dropping every time. At the age of five, I had read fascinating stories from the books in the Old Testament namely about Jacob, Moses etc. I had flirted with learning to write using hieroglyphics, when I was seven, and so to walk in the footsteps of the pharaohs was more than I had ever imagined would happen in my lifetime. You can imagine my excitement.

Travelling with a companion revealed aspects about it that I did not know. He was so knowledgeable and could have taken the place of a guide given the opportunity. He gave the guide a run for his money and I imagined that guide going back to check his notes to be sure of his facts. The enjoyment of my companion’s stifled thrill as he saw all that he had read and heard about all those years ago, in the flesh, in real life, manifesting before him, was entirely mine. I went as a blank sheet. Unlike other tourists I had not read as much as I could have about Egypt. I was pleasantly surprised and kept the engrossed. Everything was fresh, exhilarating and stimulating.

Although it was an eight day cruise we discovered that the journey from Luxor to Aswan would only take three hours by car. That pretty much sounds like a con. We had spent a lot of time swaying from side to side in the ship literally in one spot but we are much wiser now. The journey served its purpose and we were safe. Though we did not see the pyramids in Cairo the whole experience was nothing short of amazing. Take it from me, I have visited many countries and what I say to my kids is ‘make sure you visit Egypt before you die.’ I try to make each trip special by doing something different and for me I look forward to the day when I will return to Egypt as I have the unfinished business of the pyramids to do.

Do yourself a favour-travel to Egypt. Believe me the memories stay with you. And if you can see Egypt before you die, it is nothing short of jaw dropping.





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