Megan Freese, our Operations manager, had been to Egypt as a child and the memories of it encouraged her to return earlier this year. Here are some of her highlights from her trip:
At the age of nine I was lucky enough to be taken to Egypt by my dad, who was and still is, completely fascinated by the country. My memories from that trip are surprisingly vivid and this early taste of what seemed like another world probably goes some way to explaining my love of travel and adventure. So 21 years later I thought I should repay the favour and I took my dad, along with some friends, back to Egypt. These are a few of my favourite moments…
Swimming in the Nile
It was our last morning on the felucca and we decided that we could not leave Egypt without swimming in the Nile. Our crew had moored the night before at an ideal spot. We were told to stick close to the boat and not get caught in the current. One by one we got in, it was surprisingly cold so some inched their way in while others dived head first. We left the shore and swam round the boat but we quickly felt the strength of the Nile and had to make some effort to get back to the shore. The crew didn’t hide their amusement at the sight of the pasty English group doing small laps around their boat.
Camel racing to St Simeon’s
It became clear, early on in the trip that everyone was raring to get on a camel and head, Lawrence of Arabia style, into the desert. There had been a lot of banter about being the first to reach the Monastery, however it turned out my camel really didn’t like to go faster than a slow plod so I embraced being last and took the time to perfect my cross legged riding pose and talk to my cameleteer Mo about his life and what it was like looking after camels.
We could see St Simeon’s from a distance and it was hard to imagine that this was once a bustling monastery, the sand coloured stone melds with the desert and it feels barren and inhospitable. That is until you get inside and meet Hanni (need to check spelling). He was our guide through the monastery and although his English was limited to a few words his acting ability more than made up for it and he brought the place to life. He showed us around the monastery complex which is in surprisingly good condition considering it was abandoned at the end of the 13th Century. He pointed out where the monks would have slept, eat, made wine and where they tied their hair to the ceiling so they would not fall asleep and so could pray continuously. We then remounted our camels and headed back to the Nile.
A visit to a Nubian House
We took a boat across the Nile to one of the Nubian village on the West bank. We were met by our host Mohamed and taken through the crisscrossing alleyways of the village to a house painted pale blue with a single small wooden door. We were invited inside and after taking our shoes off we entered a large courtyard. We sat on the brushed sand in the simple, peaceful courtyard of that traditional Nubian house listening to stories of weddings and funerals as the stars came out. It was magic.
The Temple at Karnak is one of my clearest memories – I remember running around its hall of giant columns – all 134 of them. I am much bigger now but the columns still feel massive and the temple still has an other-worldly feel to it. We took some kaleshes to the gate of the temple. Taso started our tour, giving us the background and some much needed historical info and then we had some free time to walk around and soak it up. A few of us did the obligatory circling around the large scarab beetle seven times in order to get good luck although there was a bit of confusion when a german group started to circle in the opposite direction and there was a lot of debate about who was getting the good luck!
We then spent a couple of hours as the sun started to go down, taking pictures, telling stories and exploring - finding hieroglyphs that looked like they had been carved yesterday or reading the graffiti scratched in the stone from tourists and soldiers dating back 300 years of all the temples we saw this is the one that stands out and makes me smile while I am typing this.
Talking to Taso
One of the most interesting and important parts of the tour for me was talking to Taso our tour leader. The events of the last 18 months have obviously had a massive impact on Egypt and its people. The impact on tourism is plain to see when you are walking around some of the most amazing historical sites in the world with only a handful of people . It is a strange dichotomy that as a tourist it is the perfect time to go to Egypt and to get to see these places without hundreds of other people but for those living and relying on tourism it is a difficult time. He gave the group a real insight into what life was like at the moment. How people felt and what was really happening behind the news stories and images on the television. I think this really struck everyone.
Other highlights include:
Watching the sun rise whilst in my sleeping bag on the felucca, walking through the botanical gardens in Aswan and being accosted by local children who were all keen to practice their English.
Megan went on the Nile Felucca Sailing Trek, it's a fantastic trip with dates available throughout the year. What are you waiting for?