Travel Blog

Cynthia & Gary’s

Journey to Egypt

Day 1 - CAIRO

Sleeping and eating was the theme for our first day in Egypt, having been in transit for the last 24 hours. We arrived at the pool to feel the warm balmy breezes of this massive desert and after a long layover in Munich, it felt like we skipped ahead by a day or two. Changing to the local currency was straight forward at the hotel's bank and we felt energized and ready for the days ahead. 

Dinner at the Mezzeh featured a lamb stew baked in pottery topped with dough and it was the presentation of this local dish that made it special as the waitress tapped all around the top to loosen the baked on pastry. Early to bed but too excited to sleep when the alarm sounded at 3:30am.

Day 2 - ASWAN
An early flight from Cairo to Aswan, we found ourselves on the water in a sort of bumper boat ride with vendors on both sides of the dock selling their wares. Boats made of metal, with small tires as buoys the operators aggressively nudged their way into the lake bouncing off each other as they left for the island and returned. We had a boat to ourselves with Mostafa and the boat operator looked like he was 110 but well equipped with a cell phone. 
We are on our way to see the Temple of Philea on the island of Agilika. We visited the High Dam initially that doubles as a bridge across the Nile, completed in 1964 by President Nasser who had the insight to see the potential of the Nile to produce electricity. Lake Nasser is huge!

Unfortunately it meant that several archeological sites were threatened with flooding and a method of removal of these precious temples was needed. An amazing feat with the help from UNESCO was carried out to deconstruct the Temple of Philea and reconstruct it on higher ground, the island we are visiting. They tediously cut the temple into pieces, stored it and moved it to the present location after years of reconstruction. 

Temple of Philae was our first taste of ancient ruins so we listened intently while Mostafa told the stories and how they were depicted in stone carved symbols on the walls and pillars. Completely exposed, the pillars towered above and made an impression on these weary travellers.

The main Temple of Isis and its monuments were built between the 26th-dynasty and the Roman period. God Isis was the wife of God Osiris, head of the Abydos' Triad. She was the mother of God Horus, seen with a hawk's head and one of the most famous of all Egyptian Gods. Hathor Goddess of love, music and happiness with the ears of a cow tops these pillars upon approach to the open courtyard.

The Philea Temple was built for Isis, shown as a woman with a throne on her head. She was the Goddess of Love and Motherhood, usually connected with Hathour.

Driving through Aswan was heart wrenching with slum like conditions but it gave us a taste of what Egyptian life was like for the outlying communities. Stray dogs and cats, garbage everywhere, tiny shops with tacky wears, cars racing past each other with horns beeping. We noticed there were lines on the highways but no one seems to stay within them. They just beep their horns to let others know they want to pass. 

Mostafa took us to an Aromatherapy Academy where a glass blower showed us how he made oil containers and burners. Little did I know that we were going to get an education in essential oils and despite telling him I sell essential oils, he led us into the trap and we left $105US less thinking that black cumin might be a good digestive aid. How could we say no to these beautiful women sharing their craft and selling their wares? I loved every minute of it. We were fading fast and wanted to get out of there as soon as we could. 

We were to climb a dusty looking hill in the middle of Aswan to see the incomplete obelisk but I just didn’t have it in me. I figured I would faint if I had to spend any more time in the heat. Please take me to my resting place!

The harbour proved to be quite entertaining with huge sailboats, small powerboats and tourist like party boats. Beautiful sunset from our cruise ship, we stayed in dock for one night so we could see the sights scheduled here in Aswan. 
Sleep was good for me and back to normal for Gary but the alarm to start the day came early at 4:30am. Private car waiting we zipped through Aswan as the bustling city awakened under the desert sun. We have a 3 hour drive ahead of us which ended up being closer to 4 so almost 8 hours in the car to see the magnificent Abu Simbel. It was worth the drive, one of those iconic places you don’t want to miss and we were able to close our eyes periodically along the way. 

Not much to see in the desert until we stopped for a break and the excitement in the women’s washroom woke everyone up. The cafe was adobe style with colorful cloth hangings, wooden chairs and a friendly vibe, an oasis really. The roof was thatched and as I made my way to the women’s washroom line up I paid the $5EP to use the facilities and get my share of tp, several buses full of tourists were doing the same. The woman behind me in line offered up her share of tp as she brought her own roll and we laughed at the idea of having to do this.

I was standing at the entrance and there were about 8 women in front of me and all of a sudden there was water pouring in through the thatched roof right into where the toilets where. It was not a gentle stream but more like a firehouse size and pressure and soon the floor was soaked and women screaming and aghast in disbelief. There were a brief few moments where we all nervously laughed it off, half expecting something to be done about it. Is this the way they clean them? When I tiptoed through the water to make my way into the stall I could see a man up there just hanging out. What the heck? I’m glad I was not 3 minutes earlier or it would have been me getting soaked from above.

It was truly amazing to walk the path to the 4 Gods carved in stone. Again this temple along with the smaller one for his wife was deconstructed from it’s original home and built here on higher ground.They meticulously placed the temple in the exact direction needed to reflect the morning sun every year on Oct 23. As we were only a few days early, late in the day, it shone on the statues in the back but not directly as it would at sunrise. Chambers within and pillars towering toward the decorated ceiling, it was beyond impressive to imagine the work required to relocate it, but also to think about the life they lived during the time it was originally built. 

The two Temples of Abu Simbel, with their unique style, are considered to be the masterpieces of ancient Egypt. The Temple of Ramsses II was dedicated to the four universal Gods Ptah, Re-Her-Akhtey, Amun-Re, and to Ramsses II himself. The great Abu Simbel temple is also called The Sun Temple of Ramsses II.
The 2nd structure is the temple of Queen Nefertari, also Called Temple of Hathor who was the wife of the Sun God. 

Everyone there was in complete awe and we politely toured the chambers while taking pictures and videos. No guides allowed in as it would have been chaotic. It was crazy hot for us but a lovely fall day for locals. We were thankful to get back to the lakeside cafe for a cold drink and rest. 

Of course the exit took us through stalls of vendors each with their own line to get you in. Only $1 and then they change their story when they figure out what you want. Back on the road by 11ish we bumped and jolted for the next few hours and the desert sun showed a mirage across the sand just like in the movies. 

We closed our eyes off and on for the trip back and arrived at the ship just in time to launch with a handful of ships ready to experience the Nile. The harbour was busy with sailboats, motorboats, fishing boats and colourful row boats. It felt exciting in the balmy breeze from the top deck as we took a quick dip in the pool just before setting sail. It was cool and refreshing after a hot day in the desert.

We start to see beautiful palm trees along the shore of the Nile with farmlands and mosques dotting the tiny villages along the way. Kids sometimes yelling from the shore and the occasional cow could be heard, fires burning, and the prayer chants filled the night air on an otherwise peaceful cruise. 

The day was not over yet as the tour included a visit to Kom Ombo just down the river. Standing on high ground overlooking the Nile, the Temple of Kom Ombo differs from other temples because of its double entrance, each one is dedicated to divinity: Haroeris with his falcon head and Sobek with his crocodile head. 

We could see the original colour of blue and red still evident on some of the columns as the planet Jupiter shone in the night sky above. I loved that we were able to see this at night as everything seemed to pop in gold and silver tones. Kom Ombo's importance lies in its huge sugar-cane production.

After a quick run through of the Crocodile Museum we eagerly returned to the ship for dinner and we found ourselves relaxing on the deck chugging down the Nile in the warm night air. 


Sailed to Edfu overnight waking to many cruise ships docked side by side sometimes 6 boats deep along the shore. We rode in a horse and buggy to the temple of Horus and given Friday is a day off here, the streets were quiet compared to the bustling activities of other days with shops all closed and very little traffic at 7am. 
On it’s approach you can see a wall of mud brick that were once homes built over time as the temple was ignored and eventually covered with centuries of life. 

Edfu Temple was dedicated to the worship of the God Horus. With a hawk’s head, Horus was the son of the God Osiris and the Goddess Isis and the husband of Hathor. Pretty amazing temple with it’s typical courtyard area surrounded with columns of stone. 

Small Horus statues were in various stages of decay and welcomed you at the entrance. The walkway around the temple walls displayed large pictures of battle and the King’s intention to carry his possessions into the afterlife. 

This majestic temple dedicated to Horus is considered by most to be the best preserved cult temple in Egypt. According to the Egyptian myths, it was the place where the falcon-headed god Horus revenged the murder of his father Osiris by killing Seth.

Sailing to Luxor was entertaining with vendors offering scarfs and colourful tablecloths from their blue rowboats they attached with ropes to the cruise ships. They would yell at the passengers to show them what they have and if they bartered a price, would come closer to get paid. 

We had returned to our room for a few minutes and in the time it took for Gary to go into the other room, I opened the balcony door to watch and I had 2 tablecloths thrown up to me. He was begging me to give him a price but the stitching was cheap and cost was high so I stuffed it back through the balcony and closed the door. They do not take no for an answer very well. 

Navigating the canal system took awhile and then it was another 3 hours sail to Luxor. We would visit Luxor Temple after docking tonight and then Karnak before we fly out tomorrow, back to Cairo for a few days. The small blue boats were incredibly entertaining as was the canal system and all the other cruise ships coming and going both ways. Made me realize that Egypt is highly dependent on tourism however, the pollution to the Nile is sad to see. We appreciate the beauty going by and the people working to feed their families.

Short breaks between the temple visits was the only way I could keep up. This was an especially lovely afternoon feeling very relaxed and well rested.

Stepping out of the cruise ship onto the sidewalks of Luxor seemed incredibly clean compared to what we saw in other communities. Polished marble and beautiful walkway along the Nile, we felt like we had stepped into another world. 


Luxor Temple was only 5 minutes away by car and you could see it easily from the boat like a beacon of light. Mostafa always seemed to get us to the head of the line with tickets so we got in quickly even though a crowd was gathering. There was always tour buses and traffic backed up in the parking lots. It was only open until 8pm so we quickly went in, not to miss anything. 

Again the lights and the night sky with Jupiter clearly in view with most pictures we took was so special. Avenue of the Sphinxes connected this and the Karnak Temple with a 3 km pathway lined with broken and imperfect sphinxes. 67 Sphinxes on each side of the pathway were meticulously uncovered after many years of Egyptian homes being built over top, having no regard for the temple. It wasn't until the arrival of the French that it's significance would be uncovered.

So many years of development, decay and reconstruction can be seen at this site with the mosque built on top of the church using the temple wall for it's construction. 3 changes of religion over time with many kings in between brings an incredible mix of Roman, Greek and Christian architecture to this temple. 

King Ramsses II completed the outside courtyard with 4 statues of himself in military stance and as you move into each section of the temple, the different religions are represented with Roman arches, Christian church design and the reuse of temple blocks with Egyptian wall carvings placed upside down. 

Flowers carved into the tops of the columns revealed from what reign each was from with open or closed papyrus flowers from ancient Egyptian kings and Greek columns bearing lotus. Depictions of the festival celebrating the completion of the temple can be found closer to the entrance with statues, Roman arches and Christian altar built on top of the other.

The 22 metre Obelisk cut from one piece of Aswan quarry red granite was shipped here on 3 boats during the flood of the Nile. With the help of sand, wood, animals and strong rope, it was erected with the names of kings and their accomplishments, wife, sons and daughters and the God Amon Ra - god of the sun.  The 4 sided carved obelisk was topped with a pyramid shaped gold covered cap symbolizing the connection to this god.

After the Rosetta stone was found by Napoleon Bonaparte in the late 1700's, the mysteries of ancient Egyptian text became easier to decipher with Coptic and Greek languages found on the same tablet as Egyptian symbols. This certainly was the temple that represented so many years of regime change.


Early to bed with another early morning to ensure we got our tours in before catching the flight back to Cairo. We traveled into the farmlands with green green fields and off in the distance you could see the hot air balloon enthusiasts. It was an option for us but we decided we’d rather spend time at the temples. I thank them for a beautiful photo opportunity.

We arrived to Valley of the Kings pretty much first in line! So glad we opted for this with hardly anyone around until we were leaving. We visited 3 King’s tombs which were amazing with the colourful depictions of afterlife intentions. So much colour - absolutely beautiful! Hard to believe they are thousands of years old with the colour and detail beyond what I expected.

By 7am we were scouting out Ramses IX with a long passageway to the very end. Every square inch of this temple was decorated with colour and design and I imagined the people that created this shrine to their beloved.

Merenptah was next with slightly muted tones and more yellow. It was a steep walk down pretty far but so enlightening along the way. Stars on the ceiling looked like starfish. An attendant insisted on taking my camera behind the barricade for under the tomb pictures and all around the back and then practically took 60 pounds from Gary’s wallet when he tipped him. 

We passed by the unimpressive King Tut Ankh Amun as he was a boy king who died suddenly - the treasure huge and recently excavated the room is now empty and small. The next one we went into was Ramesses III. They all had their special uniqueness about them and this one seemed very vivid in colour and detail. This is Anubis, the jackal despite looking white from it's usual black, the paint peeling away with time. God of the underworld, death and rebirth he was the one that placed your heart on the scale to weigh it against a feather. One must have a good heart with life well lived to pass into a good afterlife. 

People were starting to come in quickly in the open air hop on carts that transported us so we headed out after this wonderful visit with a deeper understanding of the connection with afterlife.


Next stop is the Temple of Hatshepsut a woman who made herself King. I read about her before we came so I was delighted she was next to visit. Quite the story where her husband King was killed and she was involved enough in the royal activities that she took control and made it legal to have a female king. I'm starting to see the strength of Egyptian women in ancient times and I imagine what it would have been like for her to do this. It was unheard of! 

Hatshepsut at Deir el Bahari was the Egyptian King Thutmose I and his wife queen Ahmose only child, she was one of the greatest queens and the second who ruled ancient Egypt. She was the fifth pharaoh of the eighteenth dynasty of ancient Egypt taking over the rule of Egypt in 1478 BC. When Hatshepsut's stepson became of age he erased all images of her from the stonework and she was essentially eliminated from any herstory.

Much of this temple was exposed to the elements and there was some excavation work going on all around with huge labeled stones sitting to the side. Incredible the volume of artifacts that may be under all this sand! However so much now exposed to the elements, you wonder how long it will all last.

We stopped at an artisan plant where they make all kinds of statues, dishes and souvenirs made from alabaster, onyx, basalt and other rock mined from the local hillsides.

Beautiful deep pink flowers lined the streets along the road and we made our way back to Luxor with plans to visit Colossi of Memnon and Karnak Temple, then fly back to Cairo. We were packed and ready to go with everything in the back of the van.


A quick stop at the Colossi of Memnon revealed 2 very large statues in the middle of a bare lot. We could see Hatshesput's temple in the mountains behind and both statues loomed over the neighbourhood like ghosts from the past. These are from the 18th Dynasty, Pharaoh Amenhotep III originally designed to guard his mortuary temple. 


Temple of Karnak covers huge acreage and is believed to be the biggest temple in the world. Connected to Luxor Temple with the avenue of the sphinxes of King Ramses 2nd, this is the biggest hypostyle (pillars) room in the world with 134 columns, obelisks, and the largest swimming pool lake of ancient Egypt. 

The afternoon sun was hot as we gathered in the shade of the huge pillars to hear what this was all about. Holding many tombs, this site just kept going and going into individual courtyards with even bigger pillars than the last. There was some reconstruction of the artwork on the pillars supposedly carried out better by women and you could see them high on the scaffolding in their light weight burkas blowing in the breeze.

Through the airport to catch our flight was a little bit rough with the new guide not really moving at the speed we would have liked. Heading back to Cairo after a sweet cruise down the Nile seemed to be like getting back to reality when we encountered daytime traffic back to the hotel room. 10 millions cars in Cairo and they all seemed to be beeping their horns consistently making their way around this pollution filled city.

Just a few minutes from Cairo, the Giza plateau was on today's schedule and we quickly ate our breakfast in the hotel Terrace Cafe with dozens of other tourists readying for their day ahead. Radwa was our new guide and she quickly become our source of information as we mapped out the rest of the week. We initially thought we might take a day to relax and regenerate but in the end we scheduled every day with an additional tour. I'm so glad we rescheduled the great pyramids to today as I was feeling the best ever, well rested and excited to visit the Giza Plateau, Khufu's complex. This is the star of the show!

There were many people lined up to enter the pyramid but we decided to walk around and see the site and walked right into the middle of the camels and horses and buggies which gave it a unique feel as we made our way around the back and past the 2nd and 3rd pyramid. This complex had more than 20 pyramids, each one made of limestone with granite in the passageways.

It was magical seeing the 3 across the dry desert sand and we lingered here awhile and I pulled out the crystals I brought with me to recharge. During the Roman times they dismantled the covering of the pyramid, once covered with shining limestone. There are many theories of who built the pyramids and how and over the years, they make new discoveries that place doubt in what was previously thought. 

The approach to the Sphinx was just as I had imagined it with the light colour sand and blue sky behind, a little bit of scaffolding from present day excavation and of course a tour through the temple uncovered more just recently.

I read later that the Sphinx faces exactly east thought to originally be a lion that lines up with the Leo constellation thousands of years prior to the current dating of it. What to believe? 


The beautiful architecture of this old building was a perfect sort of eerie design for antiquities found over the years. Mummies, statues, busts of pharaohs and kings as well as King Tut's amazing treasures, this museum contains many important pieces of ancient Egyptian history and houses the world’s largest collection of Pharaonic antiquities. We purchased a book with exquisite pictures of the museum contents after spending hours walking through in awe. We were back to the hotel for an early dinner and we planned the next day's activities before leaving our guide for the night. 

A crazy drive through traffic to Old Cairo to visit the largest citadel of the Islamic world, the famous Salah El Din citadel. Originally built in 642 AD, the original structure was the first mosque ever built in Egypt, and by extension, the first mosque on the continent of Africa. 

Intricate detail of both the massive Mamluk era mosque and Madrassa located near the Citadel and the tour through the citadel itself was amazing. I had a hard time not taking pictures of every part of this complex. 

We removed our shoes to navigate the outdoor courtyard and inner sanctuary of this amazing structure. Our guide talked freely of her religion and sat us down on the red carpet to discuss where King Mohammed Ali once walked and whose tomb was located behind the carved wooden barricades. 

A quick drive and we were delivered to the Christian Hanging Church, so called because it was built on the Roman Tower of the fortress of Babylon. After visiting the church, we were lead down into the tunnels where the holy family would hide while in Egypt. We saw the famous crypt where they stayed beneath the church of Abu Serga and the well from which they drank. Huge steel doors and many chambers, they were well looked after by others that kept up a front to keep them safe.

We were ready for a late lunch and came upon a beautiful place where we sat by the Nile. Lovely little dishes of my favourite middle eastern food with some fries thrown in. We attended the Sound and Light show at the Giza Pyramids in the evening and I found it loud and windy and cold. I wished I was lying in my warm bed back at the hotel resting for tomorrow.
A beautiful drive through the countryside with roadside wagons overflowing with their harvest of dates, we drove into a local street to seek out a pharmacy for Gary and the driver came back with hot from the oven rolls and green patties tasty with spice and hitting the spot for me. I decided this was something I would look for again. 


There was hardly anyone around at this out of the way Saqqara necropolis archeological site. The Red pyramid was open to explore and because there was no line up and only a handful of people around, it looked like a good place to check out. It was challenging to walk with back bent while sliding to each wooden plank pretending to be stairs. It finally opened up so we could stand up and look around within the chamber. We walked around the Bent Pyramid and explored the area for quite some time.These were from the 4th Dynasty.


We were driven to the Step Pyramid not too far away and spent the next 45 minutes or so walking around and poking into all the nooks and crannies. There were many tombs here all discovered and labeled throughout. So many ancient peoples with intentions to keep riding into the afterlife with all their worldly possessions.

We realized we were right in the front of a pyramid with the current lunar eclipse happening any minute. I know I looked at it too many times but I did capture a piece of the sun missing. The clouds seemed to help shade out the bright light and I was delighted to experience the new moon eclipse in the courtyard of a temple made to connect with the heavens. 

An entertaining ride home to the hotel and we decided to check out the top floor restaurant overlooking the Nile - Opia. It was fun to sit overlooking the busy street below and we felt very fortunate to be healthy and able to do this trip.


Pigeon is a favourite dish in Egypt and we finally see how a farmer might house them. Giant mud and straw cones with perches dot the farmland on our 3 to 4 hour drive to Alexandria. We stopped for a break about halfway there and we were promised a seafood lunch on the Mediterranean. I was pretty excited about that!

Our first stop was the Catacombs of Kom El Shuqafa, located smack in the middle of a residential part of Alexandria. It was surrounded by apartments that were pretty rough looking, some with laundry hanging out the window. I noticed the sky was blue and the air smelled clean, quite a difference from Cairo and I thoroughly enjoyed breathing it in. We went down, deep down into the very depths of where they brought the dead to rest deep below in pockets carved out of the dirt. This site housed Alexandrian tombs, statues and other objects and is quite unique in it's blend of Roman, Greek and Egyptian influence. This gigantic hole was where they lowered the body down into the tomb.

Next stop was an open area where you could see remnants of stone benches, huge carvings, bath areas, an open theatre and structures for children's education, Pompey's Pillar. It was erected along with a statue now gone of the roman emperor Diocletian as a triumphant column after a successful siege. This is where the infamous library with centuries of written history went up in flames. All that was left was the hollowed out shelves made of walls of stone.

Next is the Ancient Roman Theatre where a very small version of Rome's great theatre had a sweet spot that amplified your voice marked with a round stone well worn. We each tried it out with our sample speaker voice and it reverberated back clear and loud.

We finally drove to the edge of the city where it meets the waters of the Mediterranean and we were hit with awe of the crisp blue, it was like a jewel on the horizon. We bumped through traffic and came upon our lunch destination and were quickly lead to our seat on the 2nd floor overlooking this vast and beautiful water. Boats bobbed and white caps formed as the water pushed in from the break-walls. I realized it was my painted Mediterranean village scene that I had left behind on my vision board. A local chooses his lunch from a fresh display of today's catch while we enjoy the calamari, grilled fish, bread and tapas that filled our table. 

Next up was the Citadel of Qaitbay, just a short drive along the water. Once the place of protection, a fortress for defence, this is now open to the public and provides a lovely walk with a view of the harbour and the modern world behind. We had an exceptionally beautiful day for this visit and we had a hard time leaving Alexandria knowing that the traffic and Cairo pollution were waiting for us there.  

Day 10 - Egyptian Museum of Civilization

Immaculate modern grounds surround the Egyptian Museum of Civilization and across the city we can see the mosque we visited this week in Coptic Cairo. A couple of minutes taking pictures and then we were on our way into this modern, spacious display of so many beautiful things. From the beginning of Egyptian times all the tools and everyday way of life were on display as well as how the royal families through the generations lived amongst their exotic treasures.

The design of this mosaic caught my eye and we can see all the little pieces that make up this floor once tread upon by kings and queens.

Solid gold jewellery must have weighed a lot and you can see the greek influence in the design of the crown and bracelets as well as the formed necklace pieces.

In the Tapestry section it was fun to see the chart of colour used to dye their cotton and linen clothes. Dying with natural plants has become quite a popular craft these days, in fact we tried it last year with various flowers, leaves and twigs but we didn't use bugs.

We finished just before lunch and ended up in a traditionally decorated restaurant. Unfortunately we had to step over garbage to enter the front door. This I don't understand why they don't clean up their streets from litter and garbage.


The next stop on this last day of tours is Khan el-Khalili bazaar, one of Cairo's must see with it's doors to the city arches dating back to the 10th century this market evolved from the 1300's onward. Here a man fans his tiny fire to roast corn for a market treat and 2 local woman visit while they shop. 

There were so many vendors with food, drink, clothing, jewellery, henna artists, hookahs and ornaments that it was quite overwhelming. We already bought what we wanted so we purchased very little. There were bikes, cars, carts and vendors moving through the market at great pace and with sites and sounds that kept us entertained. 

Our goal was to experience a Turkish coffee at the infamous El Fishawy Cafe which was tucked away on a secondary alley in the busy market, people constantly walking through the centre of it all. That coffee kept me going all night long as we waited patiently in the airport knowing we had to endure many hours of travel. I think that's the trick! Turkish coffee! Glad to be home many hours later, this trip has really made an impact on my perspective. So grateful to see this part of the world and meet the people living this lifestyle.