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EGYPT: PHOTOS AND TRIP REPORT
Here below some of the most
fascinating photos from Egypt. Together with the photogallery, you will find a funny
and interesting trip report full of info and anecdotes describing the whole travel itinerary.
If you haven't read them yet, check out all travel info and precise itinerary here: www.wildtrips.net/egypt.htm.
EGYPT TRIP REPORT AND PHOTOS
Christmas was coming, also in that 2009, and I was struck by the idea of spending
my holidays in Egypt. Such desire didn't grow while thinking about the pyramids or
the Red Sea: it was a picture of the White Desert to push me.That place was so absurd I had to go.
There are of course many other fascinating places in
Egypt, but when I see something extremely bizarre
I just can't resist. We must follow the craziness, and
not the crowdedness, to do the right thing. With this rule
in mind, my girlfriend and I booked the flight to
Cairo for December the 23rd, return on the 30th (the classic
Christmas lunch with the family could easily be celebrated
on the 20th). Additionally, we booked a return flight from Cairo to Luxor,
a B&B in the city of temples and a three-day trip in the
desert (the latter through the agency Select Egypt, that we found on the
Internet: it didn't seem reliable at all, but the low price convinced us). So, as planned in our travel itinerary,
on the 23rd of December Alitalia and Egypt Air brought us to Luxor.
We had dinner at the Beit Sabee hotel (a double room for
40 euros per night) and we went to sleep. The breakfast on the
terrace of the guesthouse was the first thrilling moment of
vacation , not for the scarce buffet with jams, bread and flies,
but for the spectacular views over the red mountains around Luxor.
Our taxi driver / guide that we had booked for the day (50 euros per person including all tickets
and lunch) took us to Medinat Habu temple, to the famous temples of
Karnak and Luxor, and to the Valley of the Kings.
A travel itinerary in which the grandeur of buildings
and columns and ruins meshed with the harsh beauty of the bare landscape, creating
breathtaking views. To me, a lover of exotic foods (especially
if bizarre, crazy and/or stupid), also the lunch with typical
Arabic food was a pleasure.
In the evening my girlfriend and I decided to
have a walk in the center of Luxor. A run-down taxi picked us up at the hotel. We reached the Nile, where a shady man
invited us to climb on his small boat. We accepted immediately
and, by gestures, we asked the taxi driver to meet us there at 11PM, and to the boatman to
make us cross the Nile in the opposite direction just before 11. Honestly, we doubted
that those arrangements could work, but we were sure that someone else would be ready to help us for little money.
a beautiful sunset over the Nile, we dined outdoors in a restaurant on the river.
The food was excellent. We walked around the city,
admiring that strange mix of huge ancient monuments,
modern tourist facilities and smashed slums. It was
the 24th of December, but there was no sign of Christmas but
some waiters wearing a Santa Claus hat in the most touristy area of the town.
Anyway, we didn't miss Chirstmas: it was good to be
in a warm climate, far from the frenzy of compulsive shopping and from the
bright lights of the traffic and the shops.
The return to
the hotel was a demonstration of the efficient system of agreements,
friendships and bakshish (tips) between Egyptians and tourists. At 11
PM, as planned, we arrived on the Nile, where we met our boatman, who was waiting for us.
Without saying a word, he carried us across the river.
On this other shore our taxi driver was waiting: we got on the car
and, with the lights off (to save gasoline), we reached the hotel.
For all these trasports, wee spent a couple of euros each.
after, at dawn, our taxi driver took us to the airport, from which we flew to Cairo.
At the arrivals there was a man
holding a sign with my name. In silence, without providing any information, he
guided us to a SUV. We were half asleep, and that long, straight and monotone road
that led into the desert didn't help us stay awake. As we watched those
endless expanses of sand and stones we were wondering if we were being kidnapped. I asked it to our
driver, in English, but he didn't understand. We were likely going to get lost in the desert.
After a while we decided that it to be a kidnap: after all, we had paid that
three-day tour 140 euros each, including sleeping, eating,
drinking, driver, guide, jeep, entrance fees to parks, etc... really
too little to be true. We had lunch in a
service station for truckers. The bar was in
poor conditions, but the bathrooms were worse. We left again. After a while we stopped in the middle of nowhere.
"So now it's time
for the real kidnapping," we said. Instead,
the driver opened the hood, threw some punches to
the engine and set off again. Applied mechanics. We arrived at the oasis
of Baharyia at lunchtime. It was amazing to see
the palm groves and houses suddenly rise from the middle of that
flat sandy nothing.
The town was dusty and looked like it was
falling apart, but it was fascinating. The driver, still silent, left us in a nice hotel
where other tourists were waiting to go to the White Desert. Our guide
arrived shortly after. He was a typically Bedouin
guy, with his tunic and his turban, grown up in Baharyia. His English was very limited, but we noticed that
we had booked an English speacking guide, he insisted that his English was
perfect. My girlfriend,
the guide and I jumped on a beautiful Toyota 4x4; the driver was very nice and vaguely crazy. We left
and we headed again to the desert. However, it was no longer the monotonous flatness
that we had seen in the morning, but a fascinating alternation of colors,
rocks, hills and dunes.
We stopped in an area of dark ground
(the Black Desert), then on a long sand dune, and then we continued our organised travel itinerary
through the extraordinary Akabat Mountains,
where we drank mint tea in a scenic location.
The two Bedouins were crazy about two things: the tea, which they filled with sugar,
and the shisha, that is the water pipe through which they smoked tobacco.
It wasn't a healthy life, but for those three days we did like them: we can't deny it, it was a nice life.
It was dark when we arrived in the
middle of the White Desert, so initially we could
only imagine its beauty. The Bedouins prepared the
camping gear and began cooking, while my
girlfriend and I looked around. There were white
limestone formations, a lot of sand and many stars. The portable camp
was built with a tent for us two and a carpet for dinner,
around which the Bedouins created a shelter for the wind.
We sat down on the carpet and we watched them slicing vegetables and meat that they threw in a big pot.
The result was a delicious chicken stew. Meanwhile, we chatted (as far as possible
given the language differences) and we sang.
A few hundred
meters from us there was another mobile campsite
for the tourists carried by of three or four other jeeps. Together with the Bedouins
we reached them and then we talked and laughed with the tourists and the
other guides. Someone played the bongo, others danced and smoked shisha. It was a wonderful evening under the clearer
sky that you could imagine, a wild paradise worth much more than the few euros we had spent.
Surely it was better than an iPhone, for example. (Here is a useless polemic: sometimes people tell me that
they don't have money to travel, but they own a iPhone or a Moncler jacket or a nice car; so maybe
the problem isn't money, but different priorities... which is perfectly fine, but I would like
to point out that some people travel without any money at all. So let's embrace our different ways of thinking and living,
but let's keep in mind that sometimes we give up some amazing things just because we are stuck to
objects or habits that don't bring any good).
After a quiet night in the sleeping bags (the temperature at night dropped
to 7-8 degrees Celsius) we woke up at dawn to
finally admire the spectacular White Desert under the light of the sun.
We walked through those senseless rock formations
while the Bedouins prepared breakfast and packed the tents and everything else. Back on the jeep, we continued our travel itinerary along sandy treks that crossed that spectacular scenery. We had lunch under
the shade of the trees of a little oasis (the only vegetables
over an area of kilometers). In the evening, we camped in the middle of
nothing and we had grilled meat.
The next day, the adventurous travel itinerary by jeep continued.
The driver was going at 65 miles
per hour along the dirt roads in the desert; in the meanwhile he listened to loud Arabic dance music shaking his body:
we were unsure if to die with laughter or fear.
But we survived this experience too, so we arrived back to
Baharyia. We were sorry to greet the two friendly Bedouins. Another
driver picked us up on his van and took us to Cairo ,
in the city center, where we had booked a private room in a
hostel. We went out for dinner,
finding a good restaurant near the gigantic Tahrir Square. The town looked safe, lively and attractive.
The next morning we hired a taxi for the day (20 euros), contacted
by the hostel. The driver had lived in Genoa for years and
spoke perfect Italian. So he was also our guide: we were grateful, even if he tried some of
the typical techniques used in the Arab countries to earn some extra money (for example stopping in
shops and restaurants that gave him a percentage). By taxi we reached
the outskirts of Cairo, where there was the entrance to the
Pyramids of Giza. Here
we hired a dromedary, on top of which we visited the area.
As famous as it is,
the view of the Pyramids in the desert is amazing, even if it's disappointing to see
that they are just a few hundred meters from the ugliest
apartments of Cairo. But the Pyramids are the Pyramids, absurd and gigantic and mysterious buildings.
In those moments,
I decided that when I die I will ask to spread my ashes,
in order to avoid unnecessary troubles to so many slaves.
Then we saw the Sphinx, which was smaller and much less impressive than we had imagined.
In addition to the Pyramids of Giza, there were other similar sites around Cairo.
These less famous Pyramids are almost as impressive as the ones of Giza, equally insane, but much less crowded. So, our driver
took us to Saqqara and then Dahshur. In the latter
site, we were able to climb the steps of the Red Pyramid of Snefru and
then to enter into the heart of the pyramid through a
narrow and steep staircase. We could not see anything, but we could
imagine that it was the burial chamber. Above us
a hundred meters of oppressive stones. The air was stale,
3000 years old. Of course, this reassured us on
the resistance of the structure.
In the afternoon we concluded the trip. Then we wandered alone through the center of
Cairo, where we fell in love with a shop of delicious and sugar-loaded
sweets. I loved in particular the bakhlava (a heavy mix of
honey, nuts and other goodies). In the evening, by showing our Italian passport we could
enter the complex of buildings of the Italian consulate, where there was a restaurant that served pizza, pasta
and other typical Italian dishes. The Egyptian
food was great, but we found the idea of having dinner at the consulate quite fascinating.
It was too stupid not to do it. In fact, when we
entered the restaurant it seemed to be in Italy.
Only difference, the pizza-maker was Italian and not Egyptian...
hahaha. We dedicated our
last day of vacation to visit the center of Cairo.
We walked to the lively souk, stopping for lunch
at a little bar with two terraces. The place looked
as clean as dirty pigsty, but the tables in the middle
of the souk and of the crowds passing by were priceless. Surprisingly, also the food turned out great: tasty salads and
the best falafels I had ever had - and I had already eaten
at least in three or four occasions.
Aside from the crazy traffic, visiting Cairo was simple and safe. The monumental
center, with the alleys and the mosques, was really fascinating.
At dinner we enjoyed
the last Arab dishes of our holiday as our travel itinerary ended. The following morning
we returned to the airport and then to Italy and the journey was over and sadness caught us. From those sunny 25 degrees
to the cold and the rain. So bad. Finishing
the holiday was like finishing a falafel, with the disappointment and the irrepressible desire
for some more, or at least for a bakhlava.
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