I DREAM OF EGYPT
After spending two months in India, we flew from New Delhi into Cairo.
When I was a kid, my mom and dad went to Egypt for a holiday. They came back, brought me a book of beautifully illustrated images of old Egypt. It was more magical than the fairy tales I've read. My parents told me all these amazing stories of how ginormous the pyramids and beautiful the artefacts were. I knew I had to go and see it for myself.
A WEEK IN CAIRO
That day came in 2010, Leon and I arrived in Cairo. The bustling city of Cairo was jam packed with cars and motorbikes. Our cab driver was weaving through beautiful mosques and French styled apartments of five stories high. We stayed in a beautiful hostel with big, wide French louvred windows and 1920s lift was still operating.
After spending a few days chilling out in the city of Cairo, we took a cab to Giza, a mere twenty minutes ride. The Great Pyramid of Khufu is the one and only ancient Seven Wonders of the World. It was ginormous. Not kidding. Even more so, larger than life, than what you see on TV.
I remembered being scared of Cairo drivers. Trying to cross the road just to get to the Cairo Museum was a challenge. The trick we found out is to follow the locals. They are the pros. They will definitely get you across the road safely.
Egypt can get pretty hot during the day. And, that's when the city folks in Cairo would come out and play at night. I'm talking about midnight. 12 o'clock. It felt like there was a street carnival happening when it was just another late night.
Leon and I went out for dinner and before you know it, we were out on the street, eating yummy gelatos and delicious pastries with the locals. Everyone was happy, laughing and just having a good time.
I SMILE EVERYTIME...
An Egyptian says "Chicken" or "Chips". It sounded more like a "Sheeeecken" or "Sheeeepsy". And it just puts a smile on my face, everytime someone tries to sell Leon and I some yummy chips.
I love street food. The falafels in Egypt are of another planet. Crunchy layer on the outside. Once you have taken your first bite, the inside is just the fluffiest falafel in the prettiest lime green colour. Simply divine. I've never raved about falafels this much. Egyptian falafels, I dare say, are still the best I've ever eaten in my young life. I recommend getting everything into the pita bread - falafels, salad, thinly sliced hand cut chips, tomatoes and hummus.
Now, Koshari was something we have never eaten before and instantly became a favourite during our trip. It is a 19th century Egyptian dish - made of rice, macaroni and lentils. The yummy part of Koshari is the generous serving of spiced tomato sauce, sprinkled with chickpeas and crispy fried onions. Unfortunately, I did not have photos of it, I must have eaten them all up in a haste, haha!
BLUE HOUSES OF ABU SIMBEL
Okay, we took a crazy 14 hour train ride all the way to Aswan (an Egyptian town in the middle of nowhere), and hop on a mini van to the Southern most tip of Egypt, to see the infamous Abu Simbel rock temples carved out from rocks. It was apparently a "dangerous" route. All tourists transport must be escorted by army officers, as Abu Simbel is located near the border of Sudan.
But, what I found more exciting was hanging out on the other side of the river Nile, across from Aswan. Took a $1 ferry ride across to the west bank. Back then, we didn't know where we were going but I wanted to see the 'mysterious' hills for some reason caught my attention. We got a bit cheeky that day. There was a ticket officer at the entrance of the hills but we chose to walk around a big hill.
On the way, we stumbled upon this beautiful blue village, from what felt like a Star Wars movie set, but with real people living in it. The village was so blue and peaceful too. There were no tourists around. The locals were curious to see us. One thing I was impressed was that they have big beds in the sandy courtyard. What a lovely bedroom to have, overlooking the starry skies above! Years later, I found out it was called a Nubian village. Nubia was one of the earliest civilisation of African empires of old.
We ended that evening, perched on top of the hill I wanted to explore earlier (which I believed it was way past Museum hours), overlooking the Tombs of the Nobles (but back then, we had no idea) and the river Nile. I love the pretty pink and lilac skies on the River Nile when it is time for dusk. Travelling back in time, to the days of Pharaohs or travellers of ancient times. There was no career or mortgage to think about really.
THE VALLEY OF KINGS
Good old Thebes (the old name for Luxor in ancient times) was an ancient great capital of (Upper) Egypt during the New Kingdom. By now, we've seen a ba-zillion tombs, statues and sarcophagus. It was our last leg of the journey, ad we said to ourselves, "Why not?"
Luxor (locals pronounced it as "looks-sore") is one of my favourite places that I've visited. The Luxor Temple itself was impressive. With an impressive colonnade including a number of colossal statues of Amenhotep III to greet us as we entered the temple was itself, breathtaking.
It was actually a really fun week. We rented a bike for two days and just across the river Nile, we headed over the west bank where Valley Of The Kings are to be found. We rode for hours, exploring the limestone cliffs and valleys with hidden tombs.
It doesn't look like much from the photos we took but The Valley had at least 63 ancient burials from a thousand years ago. There were ruins and statues everywhere we go. And when the sun sets, we headed to the river Nile to enjoy what was left of the beautiful dusk, watching the Egyptian wooden boats, fellucas bobbing up and down the river. Egypt will always be magical, to Leon and I.