If you have never been to Cairo be warned! The roads are crazy! A 3 lane motorway suddenly becomes 5 with a donkey and trap mixed up somewhere in between! Were there any driving laws? If so, did anyone obey them? I think I had one hand clinging to the seat and the other hand over my eyes….but needless to say we got to the hotel safely!
I awoke on my first morning at about 5.30am to the call to prayer. Having never been to a Middle Eastern country before I was totally mesmerised by the sound. I really felt like I was a million miles away from home. I couldn’t go back to sleep with excitement of the day ahead – we were off the Pyramids and Egyptian Museum!
After a busy day in Cairo visiting the Pyramids and Museum we caught the overnight train to Luxor where we would join our cruise boat. The overnight train was comfortable, we had a nice supper and the seats folded down into beds. Each cabin was for 2 people but it had a door (with a lock) that could open to the next cabin if you had friends the other side – which we did. We all went to the bar on the train for a quick night cap and then we had a comfortable night’s sleep and awoke at about 6am in Luxor for a very short transfer to the cruise boat.
After an amazing day taking a horse and carriage to Karnak Temple and exploring the bustling bazaars of Luxor we woke early the next morning for a donkey ride to the Valley of the Kings. What an experience! The Nile was so quiet and it appeared that we were the only ones up, taking a quick crossing to the west bank where we were met by our group of friendly donkeys. I was tired with the early start but I was sure this experience would wake me up – and boy, did it do just that! I don’t think I have laughed so much in my life!! We travelled for 8 miles on ‘donkey back’. It was as if the donkeys were all racing each other – some of them got angry if another over took….The whole journey was about an hour and we arrived at the Valley of the Kings with very sore bottoms!! But the early start and journey was worth it – we were the first group there! The temples were incredible and I could have spent so much longer taking in the markings and the stories behind each of them. By the time we left, the Valley of the Kings was beginning to heat up and the crowds were arriving in their masses on big coaches! Nothing like our experience…
The cabins were clean and a decent size, all with ensuite facilities. My highlight was opening up the curtains and realizing that the other side of the Nile was the Valley of the Kings – what a wonderful sight with the sun beginning to rise. For three days we sailed down the Nile, enjoying the wonderful company of the guests, staff and tour leaders and enjoying the FANTASTIC food and entertainment. We stopped at Kom Ombo and Edfu temples – both amazing experiences, each temple was different and each one told a unique story!
The final highlight was stopping in Aswan. I took an additional excursion which was a camel ride across the Sinai desert past the Simeon Monastery. It was incredible – the trip lasted about three hours. Every camel had its own guide so you felt safe. We saw Nubian villages in the distance and it really felt like we were off the beaten track, experiencing what I had imagined the real Egypt to be like…. I then spent the afternoon experiencing the beautiful city of Aswan.
The following day we awoke for a 3am start for a visit to Abu Simbel. We all got on the coach with our pillows for a 3 hour ‘shut-eye’ for the journey. Again, when we arrived, the early start was well worth it as we were the first there – the coffee shops hadn’t even opened! But we were first through the door and the first to experience the amazing wonder of Abu Simbel in peace and quiet. We were back to the boat by lunchtime where we had an amazing lunch and the afternoon free to experience Aswan and get some last minute gifts, or just simply laze on the boat with a good book and taking a plunge in the dip pool!
1. Karnak Temple – my favourite of all the temples in Egypt.
2. Donkey ride to the Valley of the Kings.
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