I Made It to the Land of the Pharaohs!
Yunan-o-Misr-o-Roma Sab Mit Gaye Jahan Se, Kuchh Baat Hai Ke Hasti Mit’ti Nahin Hamari
I have always been the odd tourist who avoids touristy places as such and would prefer to plan more of a thought-themed holiday, which essentially means that the thought of the holiday should first excite a part of my consciousness and urge me to explore further.
What a decision it was! Egypt, for the lack of a better word, is mysterious. It opens up to you from the moment you set your foot on it but there is hesitation regarding revealing it all at once. It unfolds in phases.
Our journey started from Aswan where we boarded the Nile cruise. Now as for the cruises go, these are anything but overrated. Our cruise from Aswan sailed for three days and dropped us at Luxor, which is another prominent city of Egypt.
Over these three days, we covered significant sites such as the very popular Aswan High Dam, Philae Temple, Abu Simbel, Kom Embo Temple and Edfu Temple. The Philae temple complex, in particular, is extremely magnificent, even though it is no longer at its original site. Most of the surviving structures were built during the Ptolemaic era.
Further, down the Nile, we visited Edfu Temple (the temple of Horus) which is on the west bank and is arguably one of the best-preserved monuments in Egypt. The time of the visit and the lighting-scheme were so well coordinated that one could feel going back in time.
Luxor, however, was the surprise for which we take such trips. There are insta-worthy temples and picturesque landscapes but one site that stayed stuck with us was the Valley of Kings including Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple. The valley stands on the West Bank of the Nile and hosts 63 tombs (or shall we call them underground pyramids).
You can visit many tombs and there is just one exclamation for what you witness - Out of the World! The carvings, now accentuated and preserved, are so exquisite that you would doubt them for being from before 1000 BC. And knowing a bit about the lineage of kings definitely helps.
Cairo is the centre of all the commercial action in Egypt while also being the source of tourism. Its streets and structures are full of history, that in no time one will become a part of the civilisation that was. While there are many local tours, there is primarily one reason why every tourist has Egypt in his or her bucket list - the Great Pyramids of Giza.
There are several highly rated monuments across the world that will disappoint when we actually see them. The Pyramids at Giza are definitely not amongst those. They stand tall, guarding the city (together with the Sphinx), magnificent in every way you would have imagined, and still overwhelm you when you get close to them.
Yes, it is possible to go under the pyramids by paying a small fee and the experience is a good mix of thrill and discovery. The slightly taller folks like me may have to bend a bit more uncomfortably and at least twice, I thought of returning while halfway inside the pyramid. Also, while reviews will be mixed, do make it a point to return in the evening for the Light and Sound Show near the Sphinx site and do pay extra to sit in the first row. It is well worth the extra buck.
I think Egypt is a place that one should visit only if the genre excites him or her. And this is the place that lets you soul search as you are lying down across the deck of your cruise as it sails through the Nile, sipping on cocktails or when you are scaling down the remains of civilisations which once believed that they will remain forever but could not even survive a flood. Egypt, of all the places I have visited, made me realise that how insignificant our own individual contribution to the world is but is so important. That summarises my trip in a way.
P.S. - Do read River God by Wilbur Smith before visiting the country. You would have already arrived in Egypt before setting your foot in its soil. #ProTip