On day one of our Egyptian adventure, we visited the Pyramids of Giza. There are 118 pyramids in Egypt, the most famous being the pyramids of Giza. As you drive up to the parking areas you see the Great Pyramid right in front of you. This is the pyramid of the Pharaoh Khufu. The size of this structure is difficult to describe. The Great Pyramid of Giza was the tallest structure in the world for more than 4000 years. All the pyramids of Egypt were constructed during the Old Kingdom period lasting from 2700BC to 2200BC. The pyramids of Giza were built in the early part of the Old Kingdom, around 2600BC. This tomb (and all Egyptian pyramids are tombs) is nearly 5000 years old, and for the price of admission, you can touch it, climb on it, and for a small charge, go inside. After viewing the Great Pyramid, you will drive to another area to view the other two main pyramids of Giza. These were built by Pharaoh Khufu’s son and grandson. The son’s pyramid is slightly shorter but is built on a rise, so it appears to be taller. The third pyramid is clearly smaller but still magnificent. Standing at the base of these giant structures will fill you with awe and wonder. Here is where you will have a chance to purchase a ride on a camel. We did this, and let me tell you, these animals are tall! Be flexible as the camel rises from its kneeling position, and hang on! While riding the camel, its owner will guide it so you can concentrate on the sights, and of course, on taking pictures. Be prepared to tip your guide after the ride, as that is expected.
After visiting the three famous pyramids, you will ride over to another famous sight in Giza, the Sphinx. The name implies that this is the only sphinx in Egypt, but this is not the case. The sphinx at Giza is the largest sphinx and clearly the most famous. This is a great place for pictures and locals will offer to help you. They will have you pose in different ways, like having you hold your hands so that with the Sphinx in the background, it looks like you are holding its nose, or it looks like you are kissing it. We had fun taking these pictures and got some amusing photos, but once again, be prepared to tip for this as tipping is expected here. Also, the kids (and the helpers are mostly kids) will just jump in to help without asking. Be ready for this and know before you go whether you want to take these fun photos.
One of the most amazing things that we paid extra for was the light show at the Sphinx that night after our tour of Giza. We were sitting in the viewing area waiting for the show and the sun was setting behind the pyramids. From our vantage point, we had a view of the Sphinx in the foreground and the three pyramids behind it with the setting sun behind them all. We just could not believe we were gazing upon this sight that men and women and seen for nearly 5000 years, and we were filled with awe thinking about the power that made these magnificent tombs.
We flew to Luxor on our second day and toured the temples there. The temples of Luxor are magnificently restored (not completely as they were constructed around 1400BC) with many rebuilt columns and walkways. Some of the paint is still visible on these columns after more than 3000 years of exposure to the Egyptian sun and sand. The Egyptians certainly built things to last! The temple of Luxor was dedicated to the rejuvenation of the kingdom making it unique in Egypt, as the other temples in Thebes (the ancient name of Luxor) were dedicated to a cult god or deceased pharaoh. This temple is also known as the Southern Temple because it is connected to the Temple of Kanak. This was a very sacred site during the Old Kingdom. The two temples are connected by a road lined with hundreds of sphinxes in a perfectly straight line for over a mile. The precision needed for this construction is impressive. Half of the sphinxes are human-headed with lion bodies and half are ram-headed with lion bodies. Just an awesome sight to see.
On the third day we went to the Valley of the Kings. This is where the pharaohs of the middle kingdom (from 1950BC to 1640BC) were buried. The most famous pharaohs of Egypt are from this period, Ramses being the most famous. This was also the time of Moses and the freeing of the Israelites in the Bible. The pharaohs of the middle kingdom didn’t construct pyramids for their tombs, they were buried in tombs carved underground. Your entrance fee to the Valley of the Kings gets you access to 18 of the tombs that have been discovered. Many do not allow tourists. There are three open tombs that you must purchase additional tickets to enter; the tomb of Seti I, Ramesses V and VI, and the most famous pharaoh in our time, Tutankhamun. You can visit this site and only see the tombs that are included in your ticket and see amazing wall paintings and impressive sarcophagus, but of course, the tombs that are extra will have more and better-preserved paintings, larger rooms, and more famous pharaohs. Once again, we were amazed that these paintings made 3000+ years ago were still colorful and vibrant. Your time here will be limited, so if your tour guide gives your group the option to get an early start so you can get to the valley before the crowds get too aggressive, take him up on it. We started the drive out to the valley of the kings at 6AM and were glad we did as we saw the crowds as we left. We then drove to the Temple of Hatshepsut. This temple is dedicated to a queen of Egypt, one of the few queens that succeeded in reigning long enough to be remembered. Her temple was gorgeous and very impressive. The painting and decoration, the vibrant colors, and the quality and quantity of the paintings in the Valley of the Kings just took our breath away. We could not believe how beautiful the colors looked after more than 30 centuries.
Every day of this trip was busy. We had very little down time, because if you’re going to Egypt to see the sites and really want to experience the country, there is a lot to do and see. We did have one relaxing afternoon when we were sailing down the Nile toward Aswan, the southernmost point of our trip. We had time for a bit of rest, time to swim, sit in a hot tub, or just have a beverage on the sundeck of the riverboat. As we sailed down the Nile, we were overcome by the fact that we were sailing on this famous river in this unbelievably ancient land.
What is your favorite trip? We are asked this regularly. We can’t really say because all our trips have been special; we have learned about ancient cultures, seen exotic endangered species and walked in remote lands. Cruising the Nile was incredible. Humans have lived on its shores farming, raising families, and building a magnificent culture, and for that one afternoon we were filled with awe that we could do what countless people have done for 5000+ years, sail the Nile.