Practical Travel Guide to Egypt

I just got back from a two week trip through Egypt. I want to tell you my experience in these 12 days traveling through this wonderful country and share my route with you. In these weeks I will give an answer to the typical questions that the one who travels to Egypt for the first time may have.

Let's start at the beginning, as it should. I woke up in the Athenian winter and woke up very early. I took a shower and after a typical Greek breakfast with yogurt, I went to the airport in the city of Athens. It could be easily reached from the city center by subway so it only needed time. It required almost an hour that trip. I arrived a little earlier than the schedule of my arrival. The flight was punctual at 1:30 p.m.

The measures to travel to the Arab world are very strict and on the screens of the plane, I stopped understanding what they were saying. The Arabic alphabet is impossible to understand. They seemed like hooks next to each other, impossible to decipher. I dismissed all those messages that I saw on the screens and I embarked in the reading of my companion of the trip the next days, the dear Lonely Planet.

The flight lasted two hours and we arrived in Cairo at 3:30 pm on a sunny and very hot day, despite being in the middle of winter. The airport of Cairo is immense, with an Arabic luxury that is mute. While I was waiting for my backpack to arrive, I changed my currency for a few Egyptian pounds.

I left the airport in Cairo and dodged with difficulty all the taxi drivers who are on the door of International Arrivals. It was all pretty chaotic. I took a bus from the airport to the city. The bus terminal was actually a large parking lot where buses with numbers in Arabic stopped. I had no idea what to take but luckily some airport employees helped me. I got on a bus with them and was the only tourist.

It was packed with people so the driver grabbed my backpack and tied it to the roof. I thought it was going to be the last time I was going to see her. They were all Arabs and I did not understand anything. I showed the driver the paper where I had written down the address of the hostel and I assumed that in Arabic he told me he would indicate where I had to go down.

It was crowded with people and everyone seemed to be analyzing me. A common tourist went by taxi from the airport, but of course, I was not a tourist. The trip to the center of the city lasted about an hour. The bus took so many laps through the streets of Cairo that I could no longer guide. A stewardess who got off told me in English that the bus finished its journey in the place where I had to get off, which reassured me.

It was impossible to get lost. We arrived after a long time to Tahar Ai Dil, in the center of Cairo and it was a real chaos of people coming and going. Hundreds of cars honk. A crowd of people goes from one place to another. But it was Cairo and in front of me was the hotel.

I did not know where to go. The streets had no name and only in some said something in Arabic that I assumed was the name. I knew that the hostel was on Ramses II, which was one of the main streets of the city, but I did not know what it was. The first impression I had this city was not the best. Cars everywhere, honk every moment. The streets are very difficult to cross. Luckily, a man from another hotel gave me some guidance, indicating which direction I should walk.

I crossed the great avenue without traffic lights which were a true adventure and I arrived at the building where the hostel was located. The reception had no door and there were several people living down there with boxes armed with cardboard and some badges. I was not encouraged to enter, I hesitated for a few moments.

By taking the elevator and arriving at the hostel luckily everything changed. The place was very nice and the people at the reception very friendly. The manager, quickly made an itinerary to enjoy my stay in Cairo and then with him I planned the rest of my trip around the country. Soon it was night, I saw the sunset from a window of the hostel in a room full of pillows and lamps. Then I went to dinner early.

I walked a few blocks around the hostel, bordering the Cairo Archeology Museum. I really wanted to wake up to start discovering this great city. The food stalls that were on the street did not inspire me too much to enter. And luckily I found a western ally in my travels (the local fried chicken that is all over the world). I was going to have time to eat local things. The neighborhood did not look very good. The Tahrir Square was deserted at night and was full of police with many weapons. Let's say that did not inspire much security. I returned to the hostel and after the shower and internet ritual, I went to sleep until three in the morning when the call to prayer of the mosque that was next to the hostel began to sound.

I was in Cairo and had so much to see that he did not know where to start. I decided to dedicate this day to tour the city and the next day to go to see the Pyramids in Giza, very close to Cairo. There was so much to see I wanted to know a little about the Egyptian culture and present to put myself in context and then see the pyramids. In conclusion, this was a day dedicated to walking.

I took the metro from the city. It was not from the hostel and it would take me to the neighborhood of the Copts. One detail: I never understood what the Coptic neighborhood was. I got off the subway at a station located in a part of the city called Ancient Egypt and there is the church of the Copts. The Copts are the orthodox Christians who define themselves as the true Egyptians.

Their churches have a cross with a very particular shape and in all of them, Arcangel San Gabriel occupies a very important place. The whole area surrounding the church is a pedestrian area which is accessed from the Mar Girgis metro area. There is a lot of security, if you enter through the police control that is on Salah Salem Street, you have to go through a metal detector.

Points of interest include the hanging church, from the 3rd century, with excellent sculptures from the eighth to the eighteenth century, the ancient fortress of the city of Babylon, a Roman fortification, the church of St. George, Greek Orthodox, and several other churches. The cemetery is also beautiful. It is a tourist district where there are not many typical places to eat, and the prices are higher. The Coptic buildings were built after the conquest of the country by the Muslims. Now, there is still 10% of the population that is Orthodox.

From the neighborhood of the Copts, I took a taxi to the other end of the city. It is something like the citadel, where there are the most important mosques in the city. This part of the city represents the other of the great popular religions in Egypt of Islam. When the Turks invaded Egypt, most of the country's population was Christian.

Little by little, the people began to embrace Islam and with the passage of time, they became less and less Christian. As we cross the city we pass through very poor neighborhoods that surround the center. The highways cross over the neighborhoods of ranches with yellowish walls. The desert is nearby and dust and sand cover everything in this city. Little by little I was immersed in the diversity of Egypt and it did not stop surprising me.

The Citadel of Cairo (Qala'at Salāḥ ad-Dīn) is a medieval Islamic fortification in the center of the city. It is located on the hill of Mokattan near the center of Cairo. The citadel was fortified by the ruler Salah al-Din (hence it is also known as the citadel of Saladin). It was built between 1176 and 1183 BC to protect it the treasures of the city of the crusaders. Its walls are immense.

You have to pay to enter and upon entering you get to the largest mosque in the city, the Mosque of Mohamed Ali, a magnificent and dazzling place. Never in my life had I entered a mosque and was captivated by so much beauty. The interior of the mosque is a huge hall surrounded by galleries and almost no furniture. There are only carpets that cover the entire floor, all beautifully crafted.

Hundreds of lamps hang at different heights in the ceiling. There is no altar, there are no benches, only carpets and people kneel there to pray. It is a different luxury, not sumptuous, that also by its austerity.

The tour of the Cairo Citadel was a great surprise. The Citadel is at the top of a small hill that rises above the domes of the buildings of the city. It allows me to see the surroundings in the middle of a strong cloud of dust. At the same time, I can see the desert and the shadow of the three most wonderful buildings in these lands: the pyramids.

I was walking around the balconies of the citadel looking at the city and almost without realizing it, I saw the pyramids. I could not believe that my eyes were contemplating that landscape. It was a true dream come true. I took several photos to try to immortalize that first image. But there is so much emotion in that look that the photo cannot capture the intensity of the image.

I left after the meeting in Cairo and went to visit the neighborhood that surrounds the citadel that is full of mosques. Each of them is huge and imposing. From a distance, these cement masses look majestic and up close they are immense, and the view is not enough to cover them in their entirety (and the lens of a camera, even less). I visited only one of them.

All have huge patios with a cistern, galleries with unreachable ceilings and monumental rooms dedicated to prayer. From there I wanted to walk to the famous Islamic neighborhood and I asked some police officers how to get there.It was very difficult to orientate myself especially because I could not understand the names of the streets (in my guide I had the names in Arabic but with their phonetics written with letters of the western alphabet and in the streets were the names written in Arabic).

I started walking and got into a real neighborhood of Cairo, outside the tourist circuit. A street descended steeply to the center of the city, full of stalls selling whatever, with the people of the neighborhood doing their daily life, selling and buying, full of animals that also came and went. I crossed a neighborhood fair. It was not a market of crafts for the tourist, but a market of common and current foods.

People looked at me, I smiled (the smile is understood in all languages) and every so often I took a picture. I had arrived in Cairo and I was enjoying it a lot, I felt like I was inside a movie, but it was a real life that surrounded me.

I continued down that same street and arrived at one of the most famous tourist spots in the city. Kal Khalili Market, the big bazaar of the city, crowded with tourists. It is an endless market, a true labyrinth. There are stalls selling millenary antiques, some real and lots of trout next to candy stand for tourists, Arab snacks, and many jewels.

Snake charmers, magicians, artists and everything you can imagine can be found in the aisles of this market. I walked a lot around here. This is where the animation never ends and where the Egyptians can be seen in action: with shouts and phrases in different languages, ​​they invite passersby to review and discover their products.

It is there, in the narrow streets of the market that an infinite variety of colors mix, the perfume of various types of tobacco and exotic spices. Here the haggling is an obligation and ends up paying off the initial price that the merchant offers to start his sale. It is a true art that exhausts bargaining, but it is the rule in Kal Kalili.

And, to end the day, what could be better than sitting in a cafe in Plaza el Azhár to smoke some of the enormous shisha pipes or have a tea enjoying the sun's fall. I had no idea where I was but looking at the map it seemed to me that the hostel was not that far away. I started walking, and it seemed to me that I had been in the city for a long time.

The atmosphere got a little more complicated as I moved away from the tourist area, the poverty of the city was evident but nobody bothered me. I walked a lot, perhaps more than I supposed, but the truth is that I can say that I traveled the city on foot and without any guide other than a simple simplified plan of the streets. They were about 70 blocks. It turned out that my map had only marked the avenues and not the four or five streets that separated each of them. I arrived exhausted.

As on any day that boasts of being memorable, I had to get up early. You had to leave Cairo early to get very early to the pyramids. Finally, I was going to know one of the places that most interested me in the world and for which, I believe, I have started to travel. It is difficult to describe what it feels like when one is on the way to Gizah.

Actually, the pyramids of the Egyptian desert are not only in Gizah but in several very ancient cities. Therefore, I left Cairo early, by car, to travel as many as possible. It might have been cheaper to go on a public bus, but I would have wasted time and if there was anything I needed this day it was time.

The first stop of the day with my personal driver (rare, but in Egypt, it is cheap to get around by taxi) was in the city of Gizah, just on the other side of the Nile, in front of the city of Cairo. It is reached by an immense road to an ancient village that surrounds the site of the pyramids. In the photos that are usually seen of the pyramids, it seems that they are in the middle of the desert but in reality, only behind them is the desert. On the front, the busy city of Gizah stretches, which every morning becomes a hotbed of tourists who come to tour the pyramids.

There are several possible incomes. I entered the sector called the Sphinx. I arranged with the taxi that we would meet there in a few hours and I walked, as soon as I opened the premises. It was great to arrive so early because there were very few people and the place, with all its immensity, could be enjoyed much more. I took hundreds of photos, first to the Sphinx, then to the great pyramid of Cheops and then Kefren. I was as bewildered by such wonder. The day also accompanied me with a perfect sky blue and the contrast with the desert sand was great.

Little by little the buses began to arrive with tourists from Cairo and the landscape of the place changed. I spent almost three hours touring the peripheral sector of each of the pyramids and they were enough to be more than satisfied. The pyramid of greater size is the well-known like Pyramid of Cheops, with 146 meters of original height and a base of 230 meters on each side.

It was built in honor of the pharaoh Jufu and was the work of the architect Hemiunu, finishing its construction in 2570 BC. The Pyramid of Cheops is the only one of the Seven Wonders of Antiquity that today is conserved. In its epoch of maximum splendor, it was covered by white limestone, which fell off after an earthquake in the fourteenth century.

This limestone began to be used in the construction of houses in Cairo, but we can still see it on the cusp of the neighboring Pyramid of Khafre (the central pyramid). The third is the Pyramid of Mycerinus. These are only three of the more than one hundred pyramids of Egypt, to which we must add another fifty existing in Sudan.

The figures that surround the pyramids are impossible to think about. It is said that about two and a half million stone blocks were used for the construction of the Pyramid of Cheops, weighing between 2 and 60 tons each. To them, we would have to add about twenty-five thousand blocks of white limestone. Inside, it has three rooms, the King's Chamber, the Queen's Chamber and an underground Chamber. We must also highlight the Grand Gallery that has a length of 48 meters.

After touring the pyramids of Gizah, I went to the city of Saggara. During the time when Memphis was the capital of the old kingdom, the royalty and nobility of Egypt lived in Saggara. The name Saggara or Sakara comes from the name of Sakar, the god of death. Here was found the most dazzling treasure in Egyptian history: the treasure of Tutankhamun. There is a small museum that tells the history of the site and has some mummies of the Ptolemaic dynasty.

The largest memorial in Saggara is the funerary site of King Zoser, where the first pyramid that has been built in Egypt (supposedly dating to the 27th century BC) is located. The pyramid of Zoser is currently about 60 meters high and around it, there are several tombs. Also in Saggara is the pyramid of Tethys,

While touring this archaeological site, the driver of the car in which he had arrived went to make his prayers, as do all Muslims 5 times a day. It was 13 o'clock and I had to go to the mosque to pray so I waited for a long time. While waiting, I met a Colombian guy who was terrified by her driver every time she asked her questions. He came with me and together we went to see another group of pyramids, this time in the city of Dahshur (Daiur). Dahshur is awesome.

The pyramids are in a military zone so there is much control to get to them. There are two pyramids: one of them we saw from far away in the other we could enter. We entered the Red pyramid after climbing it by one of its sides and began to descend into the interior by a ramp that was lost in the depths of the mass of cement. It was majestic and terrifying to be there. Going out, that is, going up, cost a lot but the experience of going inside a pyramid is unforgettable.

We returned to Cairo in the afternoon and took a walk through the Kal Khalili market. We had lunch because with the whole tour that day we did not stop to eat and then we went to a market sector that I had not visited. It is surrounded by gigantic mosques. It is the oldest part of the market and with the sunset lights, it was an ideal scenario to take hundreds of photos.

We wanted to take a taxi to return to the area of ​​our hostels but the communication with the taxi driver became very complicated. The police helped me and I supposedly got into a taxi for tourists in which the driver spoke English or something like that. But in reality, when we went up what the driver did was call a cell phone to someone who spoke English and handed us the phone. We explained to this person where we were going and then on the phone, he explained to the taxi driver. In short, we reached our destination.

Yesterday had been exhausting and exciting with the visit to the pyramids, for which I hoped to end my passage through Cairo a little more calmly. I took advantage of the morning to visit the Museum of Archeology in Cairo, the museum where the great treasures of the ancient world are kept. It is true that a museum is not enough to house the richness of this civilization's past. The Cairo museum has extraordinary dimensions. A full day is not enough to see it even when what is displayed is only part of the lavish collection that fills the basements from the museum.

The Archeology Museum of Cairo is in the center of the city, very close to the Tahrir Square, and a few meters from the hostel where I was stopping. It is a very old and monumental building in which it is located and supposedly cannot be entered with cameras but well. let's say that the control is not so strict. The museum is over 100 years old and is entered through a monumental portal.

The collection is fantastic: it has images, paintings, chests, crafts, sarcophagi, mummies and everything one can think of. The images of the gods Isis, Horus or Amón and the immortalized faces of the pharaohs Kefren, Amenophis or Ramses II or the beautiful queen Hatshepsut accumulate in gigantic showcases that cover every centimeter of the museum.

Let's also say that the museum is not very well organized. All objects are exposed and full of dust. The windows are open without any protection which is why smog of the city enters all the time, there are not many indicative signs or references. The treasures that are kept in this museum are immeasurable and care is scarce. I do not know if you have studied the impact that soil and pollution have on the conservation of ancient pieces, but I am sure that they are not a good combination.

One of the most important treasures of the Museum are the relics found in the tomb of the pharaoh Tutanj Amon. It is not the complete trousseau that was in its tomb since this one was looted previously like so many others. For many years, particularly in the 19th century, Europeans razed Egypt for treasures. Much of what they found today is part of private collections or adorns glass cases in the British Museum or the Louvre, among others. In 1835, the Service des Antiquities de l'Egypte was founded to protect the old treasures and thus the museum that we know today was started.

Touring this museum is a journey into the past of this incredible civilization, a past full of stories, myths, and legends that are repeated today. Tourists go around and around the museum but there is something that always attracts and conglomerates them. It is the gold shine of Tutank Amun's treasure is impressive. Every detail carved in each object generates sighs and admiration. Pharaoh's treasure is difficult to explain for its sumptuousness and magnificence.

After touring the Museum with a German traveler who stopped at the hostel, we walk along the Nile coast trying to get to Mohamed Ali Palace. But the truth is that we lost our way and we had to go back when it started to get dark. I had to return to the hostel because tonight I was leaving Cairo, I was going to travel by train to the south. Many people travel Egypt on a cruise on the Nile but the costs of these activities exceed my budget several times so the best option I had was the train.

I would have to travel all night by train to the south to get to Aswan. Of all the trains leaving Cairo, only some of them can be taken by foreigners for security reasons and even so, the train was in military custody. Getting to the train was quite a feat, in the middle of a sea of ​​people loaded with countless packages, cars and anything to transport whatever.

The Cairo station is luxurious and chaotic at the same time. The tourist train stands out from the others because it is clearly of better quality and is cleaner, at least from the outside. To get there, you have to overcome several military controls. The trip to Aswan lasted 12 hours so, in this long night, the best thing I could do was sleep.

The train journey went quite fast. I woke up sometimes in the night to hear some discussions in Arabic and then every time the military ran over the roof of the train. The train stopped several times in the desert every time they saw some strange movement between the dunes and the military custody of the train illuminated the area with powerful light bulbs.

We continued the march without difficulties except at a time when some shots were heard and a military officer came to inform us that they had identified some traffickers but that there will be no problem. Obviously after a message like that one could not continue sleeping. Therefore I took advantage of reading until my eyes were closed of fatigue.

At dawn, we could appreciate the landscape we were crossing. Although the region is desert, all the villages are located on the banks of the Nile River, in the Nubia region. The Nile and its fresh water is the source of life for all the inhabitants of this area so that all the villages are around the water and beyond them, you can only see the immensity of the great desert. Somewhere I read a while ago that a very high percentage of the population of Egypt lives right on the margin of the Nile. The Nile is for the Egyptians, life itself.

The train seemed to empty in Luxor but in reality, distributed among a large number of wagons in the convoy, there were enough people, and as expected, other Argentines. While I was reading a bit about Aswan, a couple came up to ask me something in English but with one detail: they were drinking mate.

We continue our journey to Aswam and arrive earlier than scheduled, as at 8:30 in the morning. The truth is that with my American travel companion we were a little scared. Supposedly the two of us would be waiting for us at the train station but we got off the train and there was no one. It was almost obvious! We went to the station hall and there were hundreds of people offering lodging, taxis and a lot of chaos about everything.

Through the very dirty windows of the train station (full of the sand of the desert that flew up there), it was seen that we were in a very poor place. Finally, a man appeared in a rather worn, dark tunic with posters with our names. The hotel we went to was not very far, barely a block and a half. It was a 2 or 3-star hotel and all the tourists that came from Cairo ended up there.

I took a break and went to walk along the Corniche which is what they call the waterfront here. The view of the Nile River from there was beautiful. The crystal clear water, the dunes of the desert beyond and in the middle, the Elephantine Island, full of feluccas moored on the dock and full of palm trees. I walked a long time and tried to enjoy the place to the fullest.

I went back to the hotel and went on the first excursion that included a pass through the great Aswan Dam. The Dam, as the dam is known here, has changed the reality of the area. It was a monumental engineering work to achieve the water supply of the population of Egypt and for this, they had to create an artificial lake, Lake Nasser, which is the largest artificial lake in the world. The creation of this lake and the dam implied changing the course of the Nile and that almost 800,000 people were transferred to other regions of the country. We visited the dike of the new dam and the power generating plant.

We went down to the lake to go to the island or rather the new island of Philae because the real one was under the waters of the dam. The lake with crystal clear water, the rocky islands that emerge, the boats that come and go and the monumental temple of Isis is a marvel.

The cult of Isis is the one that has had the greatest extension in antiquity in Egypt. She was the wife of Osiris and has been entrusted since time immemorial to teach women the domestic chores. She was in charge of anointing the remains of her husband Osiris when Seth dispersed them in 40 pieces throughout the kingdom. She asked for help from the magic of his son Horus, and when the pharaohs identified themselves as Horus, Isis was considered the Queen Mother, the mother goddess of all gods and nature. Thus her cult spread throughout the Mediterranean and is often associated even with the role of the Virgin Mary.

The temple of Isis is a magical place. Preceded by galleries with Roman columns, huge murals of Isis that tell their mythological history and the life of Horus and Osiris, really impress. The carved walls allow you to walk through the story of the goddess and all her mythology. Along with the temple of Isis, on the small island are also the temples of Hathos and Ar, a true marvel of ancient architecture. The main temple, that of Isis, rises up to the sky from the sand and took about three centuries to complete its construction.

The temple of the Island of Philae is one of the temples that best is preserved along with that of Edfu. We enter the temple through the Nectanebus door and after it, there is an extensive colonnade that has signs of having been built for about 800 years. There are several towers and murals. The first is the tower of Ptolemy. Beyond it, there are a couple of granite obelisks and battle murals and offerings for Hathor, Horus, Isis and Unneffer.

There are murals that narrate with images the offerings that the priests of ancient Egypt made to the gods. Within each of the towers, there are chapels dedicated to the different gods, one more sumptuous than the other. Then a path leads to the main temple with its vestibule and the sanctuary of the goddess. There are many images of Isis, and one is impressive where she finds herself breastfeeding Horus, the child.

The day started very early. To visit the temples of Abu Simbel we have to leave in a caravan of vehicles that transport tourists well in the early morning. For reasons of security, and with fear of the attacks, given the proximity of Abu Simbel to the border of Sudan, a conflict zone) it is only possible to leave for the area at dawn and the time does not go far ahead.

At three-thirty in the morning, we began to look for hotels. When the caravan was ready, we went on a trip to the south, almost 40 km from the border of Egypt-Sudan. In my group just included a soldier from Peru who was in the peace forces operating in Sudan and was now on vacation. We chatted a lot in the truck about the role that the United Nations is playing in this hot region of Africa. But of course, the sleep and fatigue of the accumulated travel days overcame me. I woke up when we were arriving at Abu Simbel and it had already dawned.

The great temple of the Sun of Abu Simbel was one of the most fabulous constructions of the New Reign. It was erected by Ramses II to show his greatness after achieving the conquest of Nubia. The majestic temple was built oriented directly towards the sunrise to let this illuminate the inner sanctuary on the day of the birth of Ramses II and that of his coronation. The idea of ​​Ramses II was to demonstrate his power and his alliance with the Sun.

The facade of the temple is one of the most famous images of Egypt. It is made up of four colossal statues of Ramses II of about 20 meters high each. Only one of them has collapsed due to an earthquake that occurred in the year 27 BC. His feet and legs are carved without much detail but the torsos and faces have a much more careful work. Between each one of the colossal statues, there are small carved figures also of the relatives of Ramses II. There is Mutty, the mother of the pharaoh, Tuya, the queen Nefertiti and the princess Amun.

Upon entering the temple there is a "Hypostyle Hall" with dozens of columns and statues about 10 meters high by Ramses II personifying Osiris, the great God. On the walls, the carved drawings refer to the battles waged in Syria and Nuria and that brought triumph to Pharaoh. There are several side chapels that were probably used to store the objects of worship and had small altars.

The drawings that decorate each of the walls show the glorious army of Ramses II marching. Crossing the entire central hall of the great columns, we arrive at the main sanctuary. It was originally bathed in gold, which receives the natural illumination of the sun only twice a year (the day of the birth of Ramses II and that of his coronation).

In Abu Simbel, there is another temple consecrated to Hathor, built by Queen Nefertiti. The goddess Hathor was the wife of the Sun God during the day and her mother during the Night. At the entrance, there are huge statues of Ramses II and Nefertiti that seem to emerge from the rock of the mountain itself. Huge cobras protect the delivery to the temple that is simpler than the previous one but also finely decorated. The sanctuary dedicated to Hathor represents her as a cow holding a disk between her horns.

We toured both temples and then returned with the caravan to Abu Simbel. I went to see the Church of the Coptic Christians in the center of Aswan and the Nubian Museum, one of the best archeology in southern Egypt. Truly the museum was fascinating and showed the conquest of Nubia made by the great pharaohs of Egypt. In the evening, walking back to the hostel where I was staying, I passed by the Ancient Muslim Cemetery of Aswam.

It was going to be a few days dedicated to walking in a felucca on the Nile. The problem was that I was not sure what the feluccas were. For a moment I thought it was these huge ships full of tourists that were moored in the port of Aswam. But of course, that has another name: it's called a cruise. And I was going to travel in a felucca that was something else. The feluccas are small sailboats that come and go by the mere energy generated by the wind and a small helmsman. Slowly they move along the Nile and the truth that sailing in them is a wonderful relaxing experience.

At 1:00 pm they picked me up to go to the sailboat. My fellow passengers would be two New Zealanders and one Malay. We all had different ideas about what would be next days (and of course now I can say that we were all wrong). We left to sail almost at two in the afternoon and the felucca advanced zigzagging by the river of a border to the other, pushed by the wind, that to that hour was calm. In the felucca, there were some mattresses that we used to lie down in the prow and enjoy the landscape.

I took advantage of this tranquility to write a long time when I did not hang up looking at the landscape of the desert and the valley of the Nile that surrounded us.

Very early, at four o'clock in the afternoon, we stopped to eat and took the opportunity to stretch our legs a little as we approached the coast. One of the assistants of the sailor who took us prepared a fire and made typical Arab sandwiches with rice and bread (falafel) and then we continued sailing. As the sun was banging, the cold was making us put more down a few blankets.

We sailed until eight o'clock at night and both sailors tied the felucca on the coast and put together a kind of tent on the bow of the boat. We ate again, a little Thai-style chicken, and the problems started because the carafe with which we had to warm up a bit did not work. While I kept writing, despite the cold ... early we were all sleeping and soon the lights of the few candles that lit us went out.

I woke up several times in the night, I guess because of the cold I was doing. We all had breakfast together around seven in the morning around a small campfire. We sailed a little more and supposedly got to a point where we would meet with a car or something that never came. We had to get to the ruins of Kobombo. We went walking along the route and found the van that came to pick us up. It was only 15 minutes of travel and we arrived at the ruins.

Kom Ombo is 30 km from Aswam, in the arid hills of the Eastern Desert, right on the edge of the Nile. Today this small town is famous for being the place where the feluccas are made that run the river incessantly. In antiquity, the temple of Haroeris and Sobe was built in this place. The most striking feature of this temple is that it contains two sanctuaries.

The left side is dedicated to Horoeris, the good doctor, a form of manifestation of Horus and his consort Ta-Sent-Nefer, the good sister, represented by Hathor. The right side is dedicated to the crocodile-headed god, Sobek. There are impressive engravings on the walls and columns but above all, the giant drawings. An authentic wonder. Here a Ptolemaic temple and a Roman one were built.

Then we continue traveling in a truck about 60 km further north to reach another important temple: the Edfu temple. The Edfu is one of the best-preserved temples of ancient Egypt and is dedicated to the falcon-headed god, Horus. It was built in Ptolemaic times but respects the parameters of the typical Pharaonic architecture. Horus was originally the god of the sky in the Nile Valley, shaped like a hawk and was assimilated as the son of Isis and Osiris. The pharaohs claimed to be the incarnation of Horus and reaffirmed their divine origin in the coronation festival.

The first thing that catches your attention when you get to the temple of Horus is its size. It is a monumental construction. It is gigantic. It is the largest of the temples that I have visited so far. Upon entering, gigantic guardians and paintings preside over the portico. The "pylon" (entrance walls) were erected by Ptolemy IX. before being thrown out of power by his brother Alexander (Magno).

You enter the temple through a hall of offerings and then there is a huge hall with huge columns and small chapels surrounding the enclosure. The dim lighting makes it seem that we are walking towards the same antiquity as we enter the temple. There is a chapel for consecrations and an ancient library for the sacred books. The walls have large carved drawings that show the rituals of the consecration of Horus as a deity. The outer corridors are also majestic. This place is magical.

We left here on our way to Luxor. It was a trip of about an hour. In the middle, the driver had problems with the police and we had to change drivers so we arrived at about three in the afternoon. We stopped to get into a hotel and went to lunch and dinner with an American girl whom I had met some days ago on the island of Phlo. I was walking along the waterfront for a while until it was sunset time and then went to sleep. The next day there was a lot to do.

The city of Luxor, to put it somehow, is not wonderful but it has its own for some walks. There is a waterfront with beautiful views of the Nile and beyond the sea of ​​sand that culminates in the Valley of Kings. There is the zócalo (intense place in commercial life) and the small streets full of bars (and hashish). I walked around the street for a long time taking some photos and enjoying the river that always feels very close.

On this day I was going to visit one of the great temples of ancient Egypt: the temple of Luxor. Actually, the set of Luxor temples stands on the eastern bank of the Nile. It is very close to the ancient city of Thebes, the capital of Upper Egypt and the entire country during the New Kingdom. It was during which this huge complex was built. The temples are formed by two complexes united by an avenue flanked by sphinxes that were recently discovered.

Walking through this place is wonderful. It is the oldest religious center known throughout the world and was probably the most important of Egypt in antiquity. It is the symbol of the union between political and religious power through the figure of the pharaoh. The Egyptian temple was the house of God and therefore should be indestructible, as its immortal dweller. This explains why the first temples probably made of adobe and wood houses and palaces, were replaced by others made of stone. It was more durable and in fact, are the only ones that survive to this day.

Walking through Luxor is a wonderful sensation. Its giant columns, its patios, its bas-reliefs, the obelisks, the carved silhouettes of Ramses and his predecessors, the huge tiles, all speak of an unprecedented grandeur. One of the most impressive parts is its perimeter walls, called "pylon" or something like that. These were built by Ramses II and in them, through low reliefs of sidereal dimensions, his battle against the Hittites is related.

Opposite this monumental entrance were 2 obelisks, but one of them was moved to the Place de la Concorde in Paris in 1836, as a gift from Mohamed Ali to France. The other, about 25 meters high, is currently in its original location. The obelisk is decorated with a scene in which Ramses II appears worshiping Amun. There are several strips of hieroglyphics in which the royal protocol is described.

There is a formula of praise to the constructions and victories of Pharaoh and the duration of his reign. Behind them stand two huge statues of Ramses II, decorated with images of prisoners representing the nine towns conquered by Egypt. Then, entering the main enclosure begins a succession of courtyards with giant columns and the main shrine formed by three chapels dedicated to Amón (the central one), Mut - his wife (the left) and Jonsu - his son (the right).

Built by Hatshepsut and Thutmose III and later decorated by Ramses II, they served as a storehouse for the sacred boats. After them, there are other courtyards and other temples, with more and more columns, rooms and halls. One of the most finely decorated places is the Hall of Offerings, which has bas-reliefs in honor of Amun and Min. It consists of a sanctuary made by Amenhotep III. In this room, Alexander the Great, who appears represented before Amón, built a deposit of boats for the annual procession.

Today I had to get up early because it would be a day full of trips to travel the Valley of the Kings. First, we would go to the west side of the Nile and to the east side in the afternoon, and then at night, I had to take the bus that would take me to Sharm el-Sheikh. It was a lot to do in a single day and it was obvious that something was going to be left out of this whole plan.

At eight o'clock they already picked me up with a combi for the hotel along with my other fellow travelers for this day, a couple of Australians and two Chinese. We went first to the route to cross to the other side of the Nile to see the Valley of Kings. It's not really far from Luxor, it's right across the river, but we had to go all the way around to get to the bridge where I could cross the truck. After a good time walking, we arrived at the Valley of the Kings.

In the Valley of the Kings, the great rulers of the new Egyptian kingdom have built their tombs. In reality, those tombs replaced the pyramids of the pharaohs who preceded them in the old reign. The new kings chose to dig their tombs on the mountain so that they are not desecrated as easily as the pyramids and at the same time, guard their treasures for eternity. In reality, the pyramid format was not lost as the new kings chose mountains with a pyramidal shape to reach the sky.

Each pharaoh began to build his tomb the same day he began his reign and continued with this work until the day of death. Those pharaohs who reigned for many years, had giant tombs, with tunnels of 200 or 300 meters carved finely, with all the history of his reign and the gods that escorted them. Not all the tombs are open to the public and in a visit to the Valley of Kings, it is common to enter three tombs.

If one wants to enter the tomb of Tutankhamun must pay 100 extra pounds and if you want to enter the Nefertiti, about 20,000 Egyptian pounds (a small fortune). In our case, we visited the tombs of Ramses I, Ramses IX and another more than I never understood who he was. All these tombs are now completely empty and the best of them are the bas-reliefs carved and painted on their walls.

Then we continued the trip and went to the temple Deir El Bahri. It is a temple with imposing terraces dedicated to Queen Hatshepsut. She is the only woman who reigned Egypt as Pharaoh and did it for about thirty years. The story of Hatshepsut is terrible. She was the daughter of Thutmose. She was widowed before giving birth to her son. Then she had it and was co-regent.

During the reign of Thutmose III (her son), he was imprisoned in the palace and she concentrated all the power. To legitimize her authority she acquired a masculine appearance. When Thutmose III managed to escape her captivity, she succeeded him in power and had his name erased from all sides. The temple of Hatshepsut is really magnificent. She has named it Djeser Djeseru (the splendor of splendor). It is supposed that in antiquity she had an avenue of sphinxes to the coast.

The next stop on our tour of the Valley of Kings was in the Colossus of Memnon, a gigantic pair of statues of just over 18 meters high that was originally on the entrance to the mortuary temple of Amenophis III. Both statues were damaged by an earthquake in the year 27 BC but are preserved to this day in good condition. Legend has it that sounds are heard inside, perhaps because of particles that continue to move after the earthquake. This has attracted many visitors since antiquity. Mennon was an archer whom Achilles killed at the gate of Troy.

We reached the Nile after a while and took a ferry to cross to the other shore again and stopped for lunch in a bar with exquisite Arabic food buffet! Then we continue to the east side of the river to visit the Karnak temple, the largest in the Nile valley. It was something really majestic.

The Karnak temple was one of the most wonderful places I have visited on my trip through Egypt. It's monumental and immense and it's hard to describe its gigantic dimensions in words. We arrived in Karnak after a whole day touring the Valley of the Kings and it was, without a doubt, an unforgettable visit.

The great temple dedicated to Amon is built by a long succession of courtyards, sphinxes, colonnades, obelisks, and colossi. It has been built by several generations of pharaohs of the new reign for Amun Re (the supreme creator), Amun Min (the fertile) and his wife Mut, the supreme deities of Thebes.

Upon entering the Karnak site there is a gallery built by sphinxes. It leads to the gigantic door that is guarded by a colossus of Ramses II that receives the visitor after crossing the entrance courtyard and the avenue of the sphinxes. If one keeps walking, then one is amazed by the greater glory of Karna, the Great Hypostyle Hall, a courtyard with titanic columns that is capable of containing a structure similar to the Cathedral of St. Peter in the Vatican twice.

There are 12 columns 23 meters high and 15 meters wide. It takes 6 people to embrace each of them. then there are 122 smaller columns finely carved with scenes from the kings of antiquity making offerings to the deities of Thebes.

The guide explained that the temples in ancient Egypt sought to represent the newly created universe. The Karnak is meant to represent the primordial hill that, with creation, emerged from the waters of the Nun, the chaotic primordial ocean. Hence, in Karnak, the enormous twelve-meter-high wall that surrounds the sacred space, 550 by 523 meters, is made not with horizontal rows of adobe bricks but forming waves.

In this way, it was symbolized that the chaos (the waters of the Nun, represented by the waves) was outside the sacred area. Another important space in Karnak is the sacred lake. It is about 130 meters long by 80 wide and was made by order of Pharaoh Taharqa (690-664 BC). The lake was to serve as a stage for many different ceremonies, rather than for the priests to perform their ablutions.

The best thing about Karnak is walking, and getting lost in its corridors and temples. There are so many that it seems impossible to go through everything. Chapels, pillars, altars, hieroglyphs, bas-reliefs. It is a wonderful place where you can spend hours and hours and it does not end.

Back to Luxor in the afternoon, with the Australians, we take the same bus towards Sharm el Sheik, in the Red Sea. They were about 17 hours of travel, in a micro half-cell with rather precarious characteristics. But well, the trip itself to the Red Sea was worth it. Luckily I was able to buy something to drink because I was very thirsty and the trip was long. I traveled with a Canadian. We chatted a good time and then went to sleep. We had to cross much of Egypt to reach the Suez Canal.

We arrived in Sharm el Sheik at nine in the morning. With my Australian fellow travelers, we took a bus to the airport exit to get to Naama Bay. Actually, we did linger a while and a van took us in the trunk to the entrance of Naama Bay. From there we took the taxi because our hostel was on the other side of the city.

The truth is that the hotels in Naama Bay are impressive. One is better than the other, each with dozens and dozens of facilities for tourists, especially with a lot of money. This city does not have the target backpacker in itself. Each hotel has usurped a part of the beach for their select guests and they are hyper-strict in the income for security reasons. In the hostel, the accommodation conditions were wonderful too. There was a room with balcony, air conditioning, TV, a bathroom larger than the house. In reality, it was not a hostel!

I left things out there and went to the beach. It was the only destination in all of Egypt where I did not find Argentines or by chance. They were all European, one more blond than others. I never felt so strange in one place. Everyone, absolutely everyone, had a lot of money and one truck bigger than another. Anyway, I went to the beach. The red sea is impressively transparent. I stayed all day in the sea until the sunset I went for a walk around the city.

The night in Naama Bay deserves a separate paragraph. The pedestrian fills with dichroic and all the people turn to the little bars in the coastal avenue and the beach. The number of people and the number of bars is impressive, certainly one more expensive than another. There are restaurants that offer free food for 200 Egyptian pounds. Luckily they are the big international chains that allow cheapening a bit the costs in these exclusive bars. There are people everywhere, mostly lying on pillows drinking expensive whiskey and smoking hashish, between bizarre and cheesy.

The other two days that I spent here were more or less with the same dynamism. I take breakfast early. I spend all morning on the beach until it was cloudy. There was a storm in the sea and the water was half upset. They were days of rest after so much walking crossing ruins and temples. I also took the opportunity to read and relax on the beach.

I could not enjoy the sea very much because the storm was on top and the water looked like a shaker. I went to the city center to get the ticket to Cairo and returned to the hostel to enjoy the park and use a little computer. I went to take the bus at 11 at night. People come and go from here by plane but this was out of my budget. At 12 I took the bus that would take me back to Cairo after 15 days.

I traveled all night and the truth is that I slept a lot. I was awakened by soldiers in the middle of the night to ask for my passport. But beyond that moment, the rest of the night was quiet. At dawn, we arrived in Cairo and luckily, a boy who was traveling in the bus helped me to decide in which of all the terminals to go down. I had a hostel card.

So when I got off the bus I stopped a taxi and I gave him the card written in Arabic and after a few minutes, he was already there again in my hostel in Cairo. Arriving in Cairo was a relief in a way because it was a known place and where I had allowed myself to spend it well. I threw myself into bed for a while, washed all the clothes and as it was very early, I went to the train station again to travel to Alexandria.

To get to Alexandria the trip is one hour from Cairo, with a train leaving the Ramses Station. The train crosses several cities, very poor by the way, and with many dumps around the tracks. We arrived in Alexandria at one o'clock in the afternoon and the sun beat hard. In Alexandria, there are two stations but it is convenient to get off at the second one because it is closer to the center.

This city I liked a lot from the beginning: old buildings, book stalls everywhere, a large waterfront and the Mediterranean Sea. Moreover, I was so overwhelmed by Alexandria. I forgot that one of the most beautiful things you have is that the Mediterranean bathes its beaches. I arrived at the waterfront with full sun and take the opportunity to walk a lot.

The best thing of the day was to visit the new Library of Alexandria. It cost millions of dollars but the truth is that it is a true work of art. It was a joint work of several Islamic countries and it took decades to finish it but today it achieves an amazing design. On the front, there are letters in all the languages ​​that existed or exist. One can not help but turn around looking up like a zombie to see every written graphic. It is a place that overflows with culture (and also with people).

To enter the library you have to cross a huge courtyard, a band played there and then there is a sculpture room of all times but it is the library that dazzles. It is a majestic, incredible structure, with several levels and columns that imitate a pharaonic construction but with a complete glass roof.

As part of the tour of the guided tour, I was in a 3D presentation on nine screens that tells the history of culture in the world, something formidable. The library has a huge seven-story reading room staggered with a single ceiling composed of thousands of colored panels that regulate the entry of sunlight during the day. The books kept here exceed half a million and the library is investing a fortune in digitizing its entire collection.

I walked back to the waterfront to enjoy the sunny afternoon. While taking some photos I met a diving guide from Sharm el-Sheikh with whom I was chatting for a while. With him, I went through the area of ​​the mosques and the lighthouse and then I made my way back to the terminal because at six o'clock the train left for Cairo. It was a good afternoon. I learned a lot about Islamic culture but I had to leave.

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