Updated: Aug 6
…Situated at the north eastern tip of the African continent graced by the Red Sea to its east and the Mediterranean to its north. A land full of ancient wonder to be explored, and of course, the main reason for my trip, to visit the astonishing pyramids of Giza, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
I booked my return flight myself but to get the maximum from this trip, I needed an agent and guide that could put together a well organised travel itinerary for me. I became digital friends with a lady I’d met on Instagram back in 2020, her name is Fatma Bayomi, an Egyptian tour guide who just happens to live in Giza itself. I’d always promised her that she’d be the first person I contacted when I was ready to make this trip, so now I was ready, and I did. Through her company #itsmyegypt Fatma truly went out of her way to impress. Not only was Fatma my personal guide and lecturer on all things regarding the ancient Egyptian findings, but she was also my travel agent who drew up an itinerary which was perfect in every way.
It included a top hotel stay in Cairo, entry to all the main sites across Egypt, all with a personal tour guide and air conditioned vehicles, a very generous quad biking session across the desert, bashing the dunes with the pyramids as the main backdrop, internal flights, lunches at authentic Egyptian eateries plus the very nice 9 lounge pyramids restaurant with fabulous panoramic views of the pyramids, and the suggestion and booking of the most amazing four night Nile river cruise on the MS Concerto II.
Each guide would add their own personal touches which added to my experience. Fatma also gifted me a very memorable camel 🐪 ride around the pyramids. The itinerary allowed for the option of hot air ballooning over the valley of the kings and a trip to the Nubian village. I did them both and I’m so happy I took the opportunity.
Oh, and I must add, all of Fatma’s team are women, single mothers working hard to provide for their children as well as having to shine bright in a predominantly male environment. Fatma is not only a decent human being, she’s supporting the cause and making a real difference in the lives of these families!!
So now that I’ve touched down in Cairo, I’m sure that I had excitement written all over my face. Not only was it my first time in this city, but it was also my very first time on the African continent. I Can’t actually believe it’s taken me this long. I elected to obtain my entry visa on arrival at Cairo airport. Not to much of a palaver I’m happy to say. Actual best thing was exchanging pounds Stirling for Egyptian pounds. No where in my search in the UK could I find an outlet that could provide me with the currency plus the rates, if I could get them, were rubbish, 16 to 18 Egyptian pounds to the Stirling. Well at Cairo airport, I got 24 for 1. In fact, any ATM in Egypt would give you that very competitive rate, so bare this in mind when travelling here.
I love it when I arrive in a new city for the first time. This one is especially noisy!! 🗣📣Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country and I’ve landed in the middle of Ramadan, so the call for prayer ringing out from speakers 🔊 strategically positioned all over the city is actually a beautiful sound to behold especially if you’re not accustom to it. Taking a walk around Cairo and trying to negotiate the crossings for the first time is no mean feat. Pedestrians here don’t wait to be let across the road, they just venture out in between speeding vehicles with horns honking everywhere and seem to make it every time. 😳🥺😳🤭 I knew that if I wanted to get ahead here, I had to learn to walk like an Egyptian, but it wasn’t going to be easy! 🤦🏾🤦🏾 😁
Heavily armed police seemed to be eerily perched on every street corner with big beat up old police wagons right there with them. Not the greatest sight, but at least I was assured that I’d be safe walking around. I’ve always wanted to come here to Cairo, so the actual fact that I was now here absorbing all the sights and sounds, totally out shone anything else. I was on the search for some food, a nice restaurant that I could sit in, preferably by a window so I could people watch, but for the life of me I couldn’t find one. Plus I kept being distracted by individuals wanting to get my attention to sell me something. I didn’t know it yet, but this was going to be a lasting memory of my entire time here in Egypt.
After my first nights sleep on African soil, I went down for a hearty breakfast that would sustain me for the day ahead. I was meeting my friend Fatma who was going to take me to visit the tombs and step pyramids of Saqqara, then on to Giza to finally come face to face with what I primarily came to Egypt for in the first place, to spend a moment in time with the Great Pyramid of Giza, which houses the tomb of the 4th dynasty pharaoh, Khufu and of course, the Great Sphinx, which is believed to be the oldest monumental sculpture in the whole of Egypt as well as being the most recognisable statue in the world. I’ve always been quite fascinated by both these structures and feel rather blessed that I was able to be there in person to see them for myself. I have never believed the theory of the pyramids being built by aliens. To much have been discovered on the inside to quash such outlandish claims plus the story of how they were actually erected over that thirty year period is much more pleasing to the ear.
My friend arranged for me to have the most amazing camel 🐪 ride experience fulfilling a long time dream of mine to ride a desert camel 🐪 around the pyramids of Giza. Introducing Bob Marley, my friend for the occasion. He took my weight with considerable ease as he strode through the thick sand so I could marvel at one of the most intriguing and oldest wonders of the ancient world, 🌍 then on up to the nine lounge pyramids restaurant where we enjoyed a lovely lunch with the most awesome panoramic views of the area.
On leaving the pyramid site, we drove out to a little village where all the horses and camels are fed, watered and kept overnight for the next day’s work. It was from there that I was able to pick up an ATV (quad bike), ride through the village and back out into the desert for a truly memorable ride on the sand dunes and around the pyramids. This was all done in the evening after the closure to the public of the pyramid site. If I never ride one of those quads again, it’s all good. I mean, it couldn’t really get anymore epic than that!
After an hour or so drive from Giza back to Cairo, I was looking forward to the most amazing shower 🚿 that would de-sand me ( is that even a word 🤔) and reenergise my batteries. That was a full on long day and I had an early 6am domestic flight to Luxor where it’ll be all go again. Blessings for good health! 🙏🏾✨💫
With so much to see and do on an historical Egyptian tour, I’m just going to touch on a couple of the more outstanding temples for this blog.
I definitely wanted to visit the mortuary temple of queen Hatshepsut because twenty five years ago (1997), I can remember Luxor, Egypt as being one of the top places to visit in the world, then all of a sudden, it wasn’t! That was because of the horrific massacre of 58 foreign tourist in the deadly terrorist attack which took place at the temple one November morning of that year.
I can remember at the time being scared and never ever wanting to go to Egypt as tourist were being seemingly singled out for mass execution. That feeling was further enforced a few years later (2005), with the Sharm El Sheikh terrorist attack which took further foreign lives.
However, I can also remember being intrigued by why all those people were at the temple in the first place, so I dug up as much information as I could read about the place, and as it turned out, the Hatshepsut temple became a must see place for me, although it would take twenty five years to do so.
Queen Hatshepsut became the fifth pharaoh of Egypt following the death of her husband Thutmose II who incidentally just so happened to be her half brother. She reigned as queen for twenty one years (c1479-1458bc) in the eighteenth dynasty of Egypt.
Briefly, Hatshepsut was a beautiful and powerful woman known for her peaceful foreign policies, and bringing great wealth to ancient Egypt, and not forgetting her great expeditions to the land of Punt, known today as Somalia 🇸🇴 where she is believed to be the first to safely transport and transplant 31 frankincense trees taken from the rich soil of Punt into the harsh climate of Egypt. These trees were particularly associated with its frankincense resin which then were turned into oils and perfumes which was used to purify the mind, body and soul. Hatshepsut is also believed to have been highly instrumental in the construction of many buildings which on completion were said to be way in advance of its time, notably the construction of her mortuary temple which is widely considered as her architectural masterpiece carved into the rock cliffs of Deir el-Bahari on Luxor’s West Bank and facing Luxor city.
It is said that many pharaohs who followed in line, tried to emulate the grandeur of her constructions with their own.
Actually walking around this site gives an immense feeling of being somewhere with great historical value. It kind of feels special to be here.
As with tradition in all the mortuary temples, the story of all the ruling kings and queens lives are depicted on the walls and ceilings in amazing hieroglyphics and paintings, this was the same for Hatshepsut, but sometime after her death at 50 (25 years), those depictions of her life along with monuments in her tomb, were both defaced and destroyed. This can clearly be seen as you walk around the temple. My guide told the story of Hatshepsut’s jealous stepson, Thutmose III being the person who did this because he felt that Hatshepsut had usurped her place on the throne in his place, but modern day historians believe it more likely to have been Thutmose III’s son and successor, Amenhotep II who on becoming the seventh pharaoh of the kingdom, and during his reign, claimed most of Hatshepsut’s achievements for himself including what was defaced. It’s all such a fascinating story which adds to the pleasure of actually being amongst what is left to marvel at.
I was fortunate enough to hot air balloon over the West Bank and have an aerial view of this said masterpiece along with the very impressive excavation site of the valley of the kings which lies in very close proximity.
To say I was tired is an understatement! After a 6am flight ✈️ into Luxor from Cairo, I was greeted by my guide for the next four days with an air conditioned van and whisked straight off to this tour which actually began with visiting the Karnak temple. Now it was time to get back to the east side of the Nile to board my boat, the MS Concerto II. I’ll be overnighting on here then we’ll set sail south to Aswan tomorrow afternoon. This trip is epic already! 💪🏾
So it was a 3am alarm call for me this morning. Who on earth would get up at this ungodly hour on vacation? Anyone who wanted to experience an Egyptian a hot air balloon flight over Luxor is who. 🤪 The actual whole process is a vibe. A cool 150 people or so all boarding small boats on the East Bank of the river Nile to make the ten minute crossing over to the West Bank of the river. Coffee and biscuits served to fully awaken any sleep which may still be lingering. I was fully awake though as I was excited with anticipation. Once we’d all made the crossing, we boarded designated buses that would take us to the launch site. A short ride, but one where you could hear the sound of gas canisters blowing hot air into the balloons as we approached. As we were all led off the busses, we were greeted with the most beautiful spectacle of vibrant light, fire and colour with balloons taking off, people boarding their baskets with half filled balloons taking in its final bit of air before rising from the ground. It’s all so professionally organised.
It was my first time ever in a hot air balloon.
Ain’t gonna lie, I was pooping 💩 myself. I mean, we weren’t even strapped in for goodness sake…I mussy need a phensic!! 😁 Anyway, it turned out ok and I actually began to enjoy the experience after I’d settled down. 🤗 We flew over the mountains of Luxor and the valley of the kings. That was pretty awesome, I have to say. The highlight for me though was how beautiful it all looked in the darkness of the early morning as the balloons were lit up by the 🔥🔥🔥 that would launch them into the dawn sky. An amazing spectacle to witness. We were only airborne for around forty five minutes to an hour, but it was more than enough time to really enjoy the ride, and for me personally, I was more than happy to be descending to the safety of land. 😁
Before I knew it, I was back on the small boat making the short crossing back over the Nile to the East Bank and back on Concerto II for breakfast and a much deserved chill before my Luxor temple tour. My itinerary is packed, so every chance I get for a bit of relaxation I grasp with open arms.
A definite must do if you’re heading out to Egypt on an epic ancient temple tour, is a Nile river cruise. Luxor, south to Aswan in my opinion is the preferred way to go as visiting Abu Simbel and the colossal rock statues of Rameses II at the end has to be your lasting memory. I travelled on MS Concerto II all inclusively. I don’t think I could’ve chosen any better! When my friend Fatma suggested I should do a Nile cruise, I went onto YouTube and looked at just about every video I could find on all the different boats to choose from. MS Concerto II stood out for me and so I chose her for my four night cruise.
My cabin was really plush with its own balcony and stocked mini bar. Luckily, I was on the starboard side of the boat which meant that for the entire cruise, my views were of the West Bank of the river Nile which afforded wonderful views of the mountains and great sunsets. Amazing 360 degree views were always available on the top deck where afternoon tea was served every day under a very nice shaded area. Ample sun lounges and a fab size swimming pool was also on the top deck.
Below the top deck was the boat’s lounge and bar area where cocktails and alcohol were readily available considering we were in a Muslim country. At the very bottom of the boat you would find a very impressive buffet restaurant. Breakfast, lunch and dinner was served all inclusively to guests travelling on the boat. With dinner, it was a different theme every evening and very delicious too.
After dinner, I liked to go upstairs on the top deck with a nice drink, a cigar, and just the nicest chill watching the stars in the warm night air and dense black sky. This really was the way to travel through Egypt.
A truly tranquil boat crossing from the city of Aswan over to the Elephantine island and Nubian village which sits on it is a must if you can. The island, as we approached, is so pleasing on the eye as all the buildings are beautifully painted in an array of bright colours. I couldn’t wait to get off the boat.
It was also a chance for me to take a dip in the river Nile, but the water was so damn cold and I’m such a wimp that I’m afraid it wasn’t happening. 🥶😁 I did manage to go in up to my knees though. I mean, if I couldn’t take a swim in it, at the very least I could have a wade through it, albeit fleeting.
I found it really interesting walking through the village conversing with and watching the locals go about their business in their natural habitat. Some great little shops dotted around selling mainly incense and perfume oils, spices, paintings and island made clothing and scarves. Tourists visit everyday in their droves, so this really is their main source of income and I added to the economy by purchasing a lovely scarf for wifey at home.
The Nubians travelled to southern ancient Egypt, Aswan, over four thousand years ago from their original homes in Sudan, north Eastern Africa, to make new homes on the West Bank of the river Nile and work the land as farmers. They have their own language (Nuba) and traditions and are extremely friendly and hospitable.
My guide was able to arrange for us to join a local Nubian family in their home for a traditional mint tea. As it was also Ramadan, we were invited to stay on for a hearty breakfast after final prayers for the day. I say breakfast as it simply means breaking their dawn to dusk fasting period. I felt so welcomed! Before we knew it, night had fallen and it was time to boat it back over to the East Bank and Aswan city. So glad I made it over to spend that small time in the village.
A highlight of my entire trip to Egypt was visiting the great temples of Abu Simbel built by King Rameses II in 1213-1279bc. Rameses II was the third pharaoh of the 19th dynasty and considered the greatest king of the ancient Egyptian kingdom. In his reign, he led an Egyptian army of well in excess of 100,000 men, and fought and was victorious in many great battles. Rameses brought great prosperity to Egypt including his architectural prowess in the construction of many buildings and mortuary temples which of course culminated in these two magnificent structures. The story of this amazing man is a beautiful one, and a great one to end my epic trip here.
Today though, It’s actually quite astonishing to think that where the temples now sit was not its original site. Back in 1960, and due to the rising waters of lake Nasser, the temples were in extreme danger of being permanently submerged, so at the request of the Egyptian government, the international community came together in a bold attempt to salvage this cultural heritage site led by UNESCOE. This amazing feat of engineering ingenuity began in 1964 with the dismantling of the two temples by cutting them into approximately 1100 large blocks, moving them 200 metres northwest to a new position 65 metres higher, then painstakingly reassembling each block to recreate the masterpiece we see today.
Each temple has its own concrete dome which is covered by sand and rocks to give the authentic original appearance of being carved into the mountainside as was in the beginning. Especially beautiful and situated north of the great temple is what is known as the small temple which Rameses II built and dedicated to his wife, Queen Nefertari and the beautiful goddess, Hathor, the goddess of motherhood, love, fertility and music, and who is immortalised in a hall inside the temple by six pillars representing her kind ever smiling face. They all face to the centre of the temple.
Queen Nefertari’s sixteen metre high colossal statue was made in equal size to Rameses’ as he wanted to demonstrate his undying love and respect for her.
This mammoth task was finally completed four years later in 1968 and was reopened to the public in the September of that year.
As with any major tourist attraction, an early start is always recommended, and visiting Abu Simbel was no exception. With a three and a half hour drive from Aswan to reach this world heritage site, we set off at 4am so we could be one of the first to be there, but just about everyone and their aunt seemed to have the same idea, 🤪 so it was still very much busy by 7:30am.
The temples of Abu Simbel, re carved beautifully into the cliff face facing eastward over the very impressive Nasser lake, the largest man made lake in the world, are undeniably, the Egyptian’s most spectacular ancient monument with its four very imposing 20 metre high colossal sitting statues of king Rameses II.
Rising at 3am in the morning whilst on vacation to make the trek out there was worth every ounce of lack of sleep. In my opinion, to travel to Egypt and not make this memorable stop could only be considered, sacrilege. 😁😁
Well, with a flight back to the UK in the evening, there was one more tour on the itinerary. A trip over to the Mosque of Mohammed Ali Pasha, the Citadel. Didn’t really know what to expect, but was totally blown away by it all. It’s funny, because when we arrived, we were dropped off at a point where there was still a bit of a walk to reach it. I can remember thinking I didn’t really have the energy for anymore walks and would’ve been happy to turn around and just head for the airport. But I soldiered on, not only that but I couldn’t tell my guide I was knackered from everything I’d done this week. I would’ve looked stupid. 😁😁 Anyway, so glad I put my big boys pants on and got on with it. It was an amazing place to visit. I loved that I had to remove my shoes before I could venture deeper into its depth.
I was enthralled with the story of how on March 1st 1811, Muhammad Ali, in order to have a concrete foothold of power over Egypt, invited around 500 or so of his fiercest enemies, the Mamelukes, to a gathering at the citadel in honour of his son. They were greeted warmly with coffee and polite chit chat while awaiting the start of the procession. Once given the all clear that proceedings were about to get underway, the Mameluke leaders were led along a narrow high walled corridor in single file. When all were in, gates at either ends of the corridor were slammed shut, and as Muhammad Ali looked on, his men opened fire from above killing them all. The soldiers were then sent out to round up every other Mameluke that could be found and they too were executed which in turn led to the end of the Mameluke rule in Egypt. I really was captivated by it all as it reminded me of the brilliant red wedding massacre scene from Game of Thrones.
From the mosque we headed back into the heart of Cairo to visit the Egyptian museum to see Tutankhamen’s awesome gold coffin and other artefacts associated with the boy king. Unfortunately, any form of photography was strictly forbidden, so it’s just what I have in my own memory bank. What I can share though is how beautifully maintained it is for something so, so old. To be honest, I was totally toured out now and couldn’t really do much more of the museum, even if I wanted to.
This has been an amazing journey from start to what is now the finish. I never forget any of my trips, and this one will always be at the forefront when I think of all the places I’ve had the pleasure of travelling to.
If you happen to be reading this blog before your impending trip to Egypt, I highly recommend you look up my friend, Fatma via #itsmyegypt Let her take all your booking stresses away. It’ll be one of the best decisions you make if it’s this type of trip to Egypt you’re looking at going on. Have a fabulous time. I certainly did!! ☮️💜☯️