The Sand Dance
Updated: Jun 14
I LOVED arriving in Cairo.
Really, I did.
While it was sad to be leaving Tanzania, Egypt was exactly the exhilarating remedy I needed and was looking for. As much as I fully enjoyed ALL of my time spent in Eastern Africa, I had grown a little tired of the daily struggles. I was in desperate need of some pampering.
I needed a wee bit of easy.
Even though I am predominantly a solo traveler, every now and then I crave a tour environment. To a certain extent, anyway.
I do this to;
See more of the area than I might if I were on my own.
Learn more about the country, the history, the locals... etc....
Take a break from 'thinking.'
Let someone else take care of all the gory details involved while I just lay back.
And last, but definitely not least... of course... to meet people.
Yes, true... I meet loads of people during solo travel, but there is something about being tossed together in a big bus melting pot of misfits that really brings people together.
A man named Paul met me at the airport and he did absolutely everything for me. He sorted my Egyptian Visa out, filled out all my paperwork, grabbed my luggage, CARRIED my luggage, led me through the airport and even arranged my taxi shuttle to whisk me away into the city.
All part of the tour I'd paid for.
I didn’t have to do a damn thing… except follow behind and try to keep up.
I can do that!
The assistance was more than appreciated. I'd been traveling for 24 hours straight and I was feeling fairly beat up. From bus to plane... through three countries... and with a little bit of Visa stress thrown in for entertainment value.
My tour reservation for the first evening was at a place called the Oasis Hotel, in Giz, and about 45 minutes from the airport. It was ok... meh... but I don’t think I would ever describe it as 5-star. It probably strived to be in that posh category... but they just did it in a more round-a- bout, budget-style manner. As soon as we pulled through the main gates and up to the foyer, the song, 'Midnight at the Oasis' hit my head and it decided not to leave...
🎶 Midnight at the Oasis... 🎶
🎶 Send your camel to bed... 🎶
I had chosen a 9-day Essential Egypt tour, through a company called Travel Talk. Hailey, from my Uganda Nomad tour, had recommended them, so I figured I would check them out. It was difficult enough to find something reasonably priced, let alone a tour that catered to solo travelers. Us singles usually end up paying exorbitant tour single supplements. Travel Talk was good and bunched singles together... so I was set to have a roommate...
When I checked into the room, the front desk let me know that she was already here.
Who was this woman?
Would I like her?
Life and much experience has taught me that I normally get stuck with the interesting people on the tour. By interesting, I mean downright odd.
As much as I pleaded, the front desk staff refused to give me a key. Their 'policy' was 'one key per room' and 'no exceptions.'
They kept telling me to get my friend to let me in...
The stranger I had not yet met... that was somewhere in Cairo... with the only key to the room...?
I had no idea who this woman was... and I was tired.
The concierge kept phoning the room, but after the 6th or 7th attempt, even I figured out she wasn't there.
Definitely not a 5-star hotel.
Anyway, finally one of the staff accompanied me down to my room and opened the door for me. I crawled into bed and immediately crashed... exhausted. I woke up when Allison came into the room.
She's American and slightly older than myself. I think she's 58, from what information I could gather without coming right out and blatantly asking her age. Her hair is so incredibly white that it's difficult to tell if it's bleached blonde or stark grey.
This roommate is no exception to the rule. She's... quirky... but a good quirky. Often she putters around the room, muttering to herself, like she's hosting her own commentary. I think much of my humour is lost on her, and her literal comprehension blocks her from registering sarcasm immediately. My incredible wit has died a few embarrassing deaths with her over the past few days. But... she's nice and she means no harm to anyone. I quite like her.
Once we were all at the hotel, our tour guides called a meeting in the lobby, in order to go over the ins and outs of everything we would be encountering over the next 8/9 days. Our guide is Mo... short for Mustafa... and he seems nice enough. I think there are about 37 people on our tour... and we're on one of those big buses.
Everyone seems nice... the ones I've spoken to anyway.
There was a cruise on the Nile on the first evening, but I was beat and opted to stay put. I just needed some me-time and a little extra time to recharge. Plus, it was set to be an early morning. Up & gone by 7am.
I was almost euphoric when I walked into the buffet breakfast in the morning.
Seriously... gone are the days of rice, beans, avocado and pineapple.
I'd finally landed in Mediterranean cuisine and nothing could have made me happier. This hotel scmorgasboard topped them all! There was a cheese STATION... with a variety of about 10-15 different cheeses. Imagine! There was hummus... tahini... Baba Ganoush... falafel... pita... olives... you name it! If it was delicious, it was there for me to devour! I seriously LOADED my plate... TWICE... and even made myself a sandwich for later on in the afternoon.
I don't know if the buffet was as impressive as I figured it was, or if I had just been so culinary-deprived that I was over the moon at the sight of an olive... and some cheese. It probably just showed how gluttenouse I'd become. When I mentioned how thrilled I was with the spread, I was only met with puzzled looks.
I guess not everyone had dined Sawa Sawa style for over a month.
Our first stop on the tour was Saqqara, the Pyramid of Djoser. At 4,700 years old, this is one of Egypt’s richest archaeological sites and the oldest, complete stone building. Crazy.
It's also the original stairway to heaven.
We had the opportunity to go in and have a look around, but as soon as I was inside, I regretted my decision. I'm only slightly claustrophobic, but I can definitely feel the queasy take over my body when I'm in cramped conditions.
Mo is an Egyptologist, so not only is he educated in all of ancient history, he's also passionate about it. Man, can he talk. It's ok most of the time, because a lot of what he says is quite fascinating... but when it goes on and on and on, you tend to tune him out. I did, anyway.
Next stop... the Pyramids.
This was big.
We had all seen them, driving to and from our hotel in Giza, but actually driving UP to them was on a completely new playing field. It's the reason so many people flock to this magical country. I was shaking with excitement...
The Pyramids of Giza are Egypt’s top attraction and at one point, they were the tallest man-made structures in the entire world. Not sure what topped them, but I'm sure there are a few new buildings out there. The Pyramids are part of a cluster of ancient monuments, and a UNESCO Heritage Sites, as well as the only remaining Wonder of the Ancient World.
14.7 million visitors per year... and I was one of them.
Fun pyramid facts for everyone:
~ There are over 130 pyramids in Egypt.
~ The pyramids are each aligned to the four cardinal directions - North, South, East and West. No one is really quite sure how the ancient Egyptians achieved this level of accuracy, but way to go! The ancient astronomers were spot on!
One of the big theories is that aliens built the pyramids.
Nope. No aliens.
No slaves either.
These impressive and massive monuments took a workforce of 20,000-40,000 people, including engineers, architects, builders, stonemasons and labourers. They all worked for daily wages and food.
*I think it's imperative that I let you all know that I did not necessarily retain these facts through the tour... I had to look them up afterwards!
Someone told me that as much as I thought the vendors in East Africa were too pushy and annoying, "wait till you get to Egypt..."
Yes... granted... a great deal of irritation here as well, but not sure if I've seen the worst yet though. They were everywhere... trying to sell scarves and sarongs and camel rides... but they were ignorable. Some of them, anyway. Some of them just kept hounding and yelling after you... kinda like flies.... just waiting to be swatted.
The worst are the ones that want to take a photo for you... or show you something really, really important that no one else knows about. Anything for a buck... and NOTHING is for free.
You could see some of the people on the tour getting quite aggitated... and at one point, I thought the older Aussie gentleman was going to clock someone!
No... I did NOT ride a camel.
To be honest, I have in the past... but that was in Marrakesh... and 24 years ago. I won't do it again. I tend to try and veer away from things like that now. We all saw the blatant mistreatment of the horses, camels and donkeys. Whipping has become a regular part of their existence. Sure, camels carry a lot of weight, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they should. You can see their discomfort, as they're constantly overloaded and hauling our fat asses up and down and around the sand all day.
So no camel rides for me.
Next stop... the Sphinx.
I remember doing a report, in elementary school, on the Spinx. I even remember drawing it for the front cover. I will bet that if I scoured through old school documents, I might even find it. Probably should've done this before coming to see it, and read up on all my encyclopedia knowledge.
Basically the Sphinx is the head of a human, the body of a lion and supposedly with the wings of an eagle. I didn't see any wings though. It's 4,500 years old and the world's oldest monumental sculpture.
This is the crazy part... It's carved out of ONE single slab of limestone. I can't even begin to imagine how they got the slab to where they wanted it. Or was it just there and they started to carve? Must look that one up...
Apparently at one time, it was quite colourful, but time has taken the hue away. Along with the colour, the nose is gone... and the beard.
Popular legend blames Napoleon and his troops for having shot the nose off the Great Sphinx, but apparently it is just not true. The British are to blame for the missing beard, and that is all true. It's not really missing... It's in the British museum. Also a touchy subject.
There were so many incredible photo opportunities and I must have taken about 800 photos. You can't really tell so much, but we were smack dab in the middle of a horrendous sandstorm.
The sand got everywhere. It was worse than a day at the beach.
Back at the Oasis hotel, Mo managed to secure us 4 rooms for showering.
I think we must have clogged up the hotel drainage system with the amount of sand that we all had on us.
BUT... we had to get ready for our big sleeper train experience!
This was almost as exhilarating for all of us as the Great Pyramids had been!
A 12 hour sleeper train from Cairo to Luxor... what could be better than that?
... well... we were all about to find out...