CHOPTT - Part Two!
Updated: Dec 16, 2020
On the morning of day four of our trip we were joined by Wafika Borai, who would be our guide for the second half of our trip, for our transfer to CAI and the short flight to Luxor. The departure area at CAI wasn’t busy and announcements were made at regular intervals reminding passengers that masks were required to be worn at all times and everyone appeared to be compliant. The flight was full, but the aircraft was clean and we were provided with a small bottle of water, wipes and hand sanitizer for the short 70 minute flight. Wafika, is also one of the very best Egyptologists in the country. It was just a treat for us to have two such amazing guides for our trip, thanks to Big Five Tours & Expeditions. I have no idea how anyone can retain SO much information, and then be able to adapt the way they share it to keep the interest of anyone in the group, but both Manal and Wafika were brilliant at doing just that!
We arrived in Luxor in the early afternoon, and with so much to do, we quickly checked into our hotel, The Sofitel, Old Winter Palace, and prepared to leave again to visit Karnak Temple. It was just incredible, the columns had me mesmerized from the moment we entered through the Temple gates, and I could have spent several more hours here, unfortunately though it closed shortly after sunset so time was limited for this trip. However, the timing prior to the sun setting did allow for some wonderful photographic opportunities. From here we went to Luxor Temple, which again had me in awe of the columns and the stories told with the detailed hieroglyphics carved and colored in so much detail in all of these temples.
Our introduction to Luxor had been stunning, but I had no idea that these were just the “hors d’oeuvres” leading into an incredibly full day starting early the following morning with a boat ride across the Nile and the short bus journey to the Valley of the Kings.
During our time in Cairo, we had commented on many occasions at just how few visitors we had seen at the Pyramids and other historic sites visited, but for me this was further highlighted when we arrived in the Valley of the Kings, which is usually extremely busy. To see less than a dozen other visitors in the entire Valley was both incredible for us, but equally devastating, understanding what it means for the tourism industry and livelihoods of those who are so dependent on visitors to Egypt.
Having unlimited time in King Tutankhamun’s Tomb was both unbelievable and brilliant! The Tomb guard even climbed down into the Tomb room and took pictures with my camera of details I wouldn’t have been able to capture myself (see bottom right picture)!
After King Tut’s Tomb we visited the Tombs of King Ramses III and King Setnakht. We also visited the Al-Deir Al-Bahari Temple, the Medinet Habu Temple, the Ramesseum Temple and Ramose’s Tomb, but perhaps the highlight for me, after King Tut’s Tomb, was Deir el-Medina, an ancient Egyptian village which was home to the artisans who worked on the tombs in the Valley of the Kings during the 18th to 20th Dynasties of the New Kingdom of Egypt (ca. 1550–1080 BCE). Although much smaller than the Tombs of the Kings and Queens, the artisans own Tombs were beautifully decorated and the colors are still so bright even after all these years – it is quite astonishing to really consider how many years ago these were completed. Having taken more than 1,000 pictures on this trip, I have just included a few favorites of our day in Luxor, but would love to discuss the trip in more detail with you and share other pictures if you are interested in learning more about travel to Egypt.
After a long day exploring so many incredible sights we finished the day with a visit to the Luxor Egyptian Museum before returning to the hotel for a delicious dinner, which was only topped by a wonderful Egyptian breakfast the next morning before our onward drive to Aswan. The drive is about six hours, however our journey was divided into three parts, with our first stop at Edfu Temple which I will remember most for the incredible carvings into the walls of the stairwells. Of course this wasn't the first time we had seen such carvings during the trip, but just walking down these steps with the full size 'men' beside you created a strange sense of being surrounded!!
And for a little light entertainment we found carvings suggesting they may have been checking for WiFi signals and handing out Ice Cream Cones!!
Our second stop during our journey to Aswan was at Kom-Ombo Temple, which will definitely be one of the memories I will always have from this trip to Egypt for a couple of different reasons. This impressive temple is located directly on the river bank, and is perfectly symmetrical whereby one half is dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile-headed god of the Nile, and another to Horus, the falcon-headed god of Upper Egypt. Here I learned that the Eye of Horus is an ancient Egyptian symbol of protection, royal power and good health and is thought, by the Egyptians, to be where the Rx symbol for Prescription first originated. In an area of the temple there are carvings of the Eye of Horus and many surgical instruments which would support this. Having spent my 'first' career in clinical drug development this resonated with me as something I will remember for years to come. The second reason is one that I will share with my future clients heading to Egypt and Kom-Ombo Temple so that they have something unique to search out during their visit. Let me know when you're ready to plan your trip and you will learn my secret! Also located next to Kom-Ombo Temple is the Crocodile Museum, where they have a wonderful display of mummified crocodiles!
Late in the afternoon we arrived at our last hotel for the trip, and perhaps my favorite - although they were all wonderful! The Old Cataract in Aswan has so much history associated with it, including regular stays by Winston Churchill when he was a child and Dame Agatha Christie. Christie stayed at the hotel in 1937 for almost a year and it was here she wrote the novel Death on the Nile. The hotel, the service and the views across The Nile to Elephantine Island were just outstanding and my only regret that was I wasn't staying here for at least a week! Having checked in to the hotel, we made one final excursion for the day to a nearby Souk as we definitely wanted to purchase some of the amazing spices available in Egypt before returning to the US.
Our final day of exploring the sights of Egypt was another one filled with amazing places - we started at the Old Aswan Dam before going to the High Dam, learning from Wafika, the history of these dams and the tremendous importance of them for Egypt and their water source. (Side note: It was very interesting flying into Luxor to see so clearly how there was a an area of fertile land reaching out on either side of The Nile before quickly changing to parched desert land). We then took a short boat ride to the Philae Island which is situated in the Nile River between the Old Aswan Dam and the High Dam. We had gorgeous weather to enjoy our boat journey to the Island and enjoyed learning more about the Temples on the Island. The fascinating story of Philae is that the Temples were moved from nearby Agilkia Island as it would be flooded with the changes to the Nile by the High Dam. To stand in amongst the temples and realize that they were taken down rebuilt in the 1980's was mind-blowing!
On our way back to the hotel we visited the Unfinished Obelisk which provided the opportunity to learn more about just what an amazing engineering feat it was to have built the incredible sights we had visited during our time in Egypt. We ended our time in Aswan with a delightful and relaxing ride in a Felucca to Elphantine Island before returning to the hotel as the sun was setting to the hotel for a delicious Egyptian feast prepared for us at The Old Cataract.
I do hope that reading these two posts about my trip to Egypt in November 2020 has provided you with at least a glimpse of just how much Egypt has to offer the traveler. Of course if you are interested in Ancient History it really HAS to be on your "list", but even if you are not, I would encourage you to reach out to me to discuss a trip, because as someone who has traveled to more than 70 countries and didn't have a significant interest in visiting Egypt, I LOVED every minute of my trip and am just hoping that I have an opportunity to return. Call/text/WhatsApp me at +1 (910) 228-0536 or email at Charlotte@cavaticaluxurytravel.com to learn more about how I can assist you in planning a trip to Egypt or anywhere else in the World as you feel ready to travel again.