Whenever there’s time and money, I travel. Solo yolo.
Yes, it’s very exciting, but the most challenging element of travelling, especially in the Mediterranean where English is scarcely used, is the idea of walking around and getting lost. Fun as it may seem, I don’t wish this to happen while I’m out and about in Egypt, barely four hours from Dubai.
The shifting sands…
Dodging mostly battered vehicles through crowded streets, the airport taxi runs past rows of seemingly untended buildings. Moderate winds stir up dust and fumes; the skyline seems to disappear.
Standing before a nondescript dusty grey apartment on a chilly morning in Downtown Cairo, I’m afraid I’m at the wrong address. Though I have scrupulously chosen the convenience of my living space, practically close to Tahrir Square (which isn’t really square), the Egyptian Museum and the metro, something is amiss. With a shaky, unlit lift and cramped musty quarters, the broken-down hotel looks like something straight out of my worst nightmare. What am I to do? Spice it up!
Tracing history back to thousands of years is not something you can get easily interested in, but Egypt’s enormous gallery of peerless antiques rouses everyone’s curiosity. I am sure to find deeper insights in the museum of excavated treasures in the heart of Cairo. The entrance fee is $10 inclusive of access to the priceless royal mummies, the golden death mask and other invaluable possessions of Tutankhamun (restricted areas for photos). Surprisingly, statues and hieroglyphs hardly tell their stories in text that I need to hire a guide to walk me through the prehistory and to unravel the relics of ancient civilization. Not only archaeology is informative about dating a site through artefacts but strong clues also determine exactly which period they are from.
I take pleasure in strolling through bustling city streets, albeit nerve-wracking. With few Asians around, I don’t stand out like a sore thumb and I don’t let the jumble turn me away; hence, I tread the narrow streets and alleyways of Khan Al Khalili’s charming shops selling just about anything. For one thing, I deliberately avoid getting tempted to eat a crisp falafel (fried ball of chickpeas for snack) for unintended consequences.
While catching the metro from Tahrir Square to Mar Girgis Station (Old Cairo), some commuters keep stealing sneaky glances at me. I keep my cool, without any pretence, until outside of the station, where people mill around. Remnants of the stronghold for Christianity, this arid site depicts an old-world charm of Coptic churches where a synagogue and a mosque coexist in harmony. Sadly, this religious minority is often shattered by hostilities and social stigma.
…the faded tombs for rulers…
The most beautiful view from first light to sunset, the distinct Pyramids of Giza and The Great Sphinx still stand the test of time. In fact, death-defying stunts of people surreptitiously climbing up the tops are definitely perilous all the while damaging to their already weathered state.
When the car hire from Cairo to Giza drops me at the horse-drawn carriages, it doesn’t take long to realize that my decent plan is not going the way I wanted it. The tourist’s entrance is nowhere in sight, the sweltering midday heat makes my skin scream in agony, and locals use all sorts of distracting horse riding methods to earn. I wish they’d stop following me, but, on the second thought, it doesn’t hurt to pay $15 for my riding comfort. Unaware for the most of it, the brunt of my blunder is the exhortation to give a tip, in any currency! The whole episode gets awkwardly heartbreaking to say the least.
After all, there’s a rather easy path for gentle walks. I let my urge consume myself to get close to the pyramids on foot. The new Grand Egyptian Museum, a GEM in Giza, where Tutankhamun’s worldly assets have recently been moved to, stands near the only surviving wonder of the ancient world.
… and somewhere in between.
Whichever is convenient, tourists can travel by train, fly outside greater Cairo or commute by public transport with the residents.
In the southern part of Egypt, the pleasing austerity of the Nile flows between Luxor, a city most-visited (after Cairo), on the east, and dedicated tombs for pharaohs and their wives called The Valleys of the Kings and Queens, on the west. Regarded as an open-air museum, this region is home to a plethora of grand monuments, noble temples, underground mausoleums and archaeological heritage.
The immense influx of Europeans makes a buzzing atmosphere for Sharm El Sheikh. A once perfect holiday destination now exudes a days-gone-by atmosphere. After the Metrojet disaster in Sinai in 2015, holidaymakers are still terrified about their safety, which collapses the tourism industry in the Red Sea resort.
A sweeping desolate desert flecked with biblical sites, the Sinai Peninsula has incredible hikes for those with no fear; however, it remains a particularly treacherous area which sparks attack rumors on security forces and civilians.
Political turmoil, violent protests and terror plots have greatly impacted Egypt’s tourism industry. What now?
Itinerary. Check. Security. Double check.
(This story does not try to defile anyone or anything in any way whatsoever. Any untoward circumstances may have been caused by a downturn in the economy exacerbated by its struggling tourism industry.)