In Islamic Cairo
The 4 weeks there was excellent with many interesting experiences, amazing places I saw, and some good people I met. I arrived in Cairo and by the time I got to the small hotel I was going to stay in Islamic Cairo it was well past dark. I had no plans or itinerary for the trip so I just made it up as I went along. I stayed for a few days in Cairo and walked a lot around Islamic Cairo, made a trip to Giza to see the Pyramids and the Sphinx, visited Coptic Cairo, and just walked a lot around the mad house of a city. After a few days I bought a ticket on the 13 hour sleeping train to Aswan. In Aswan I was lucky to meet a Japanese woman named Kazuko-san who was travelling alone and an Australian guy named Davis who was also on his own. We did a lot together over the next few days including a fantastic felucca ride on the Nile River just before sunset and a long trip to Abu Simbel to see the Temple of Ramses II and to Philae to see the Temple of Isis. A few days later when Davis moved on Kazuko-san and I took a ferry over to Elephantine Island and met a Nubian man named Mustaffa who spent the next couple of hours showing us around the two Nubian villages there. Then Kazuko-san moved on and I decided to stay in Aswan another day.
In Islamic Cairo
From Aswan I took the train north to Luxor, ancient Thebes. There was so much to see there that even with 5 days I didn't see it all. I saw a lot though and it was amazing! One of the many places was the Ramesseum Temple of Ramses II. The famous poem Ozymandias by Percy Bysshe Shelley was inspired by it:
I met a traveller from an antique land Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand, Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed. And on the pedestal these words appear: "My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, The lone and level sands stretch far away.
By now I had spent over 2 weeks travelling around Egypt so I was feeling in need of a break. Egypt makes you very tired. Rob, an Australian I met in Ecuador in 2005, recommended a place called Dahab in the Sinai on the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba as a good place to take it easy and relax. Sort of a laid back backpacker kind of place. From Luxor the only ways there were 1) a 16 hour bus ride, 2) a combination of multiple buses and a ferry taking 2 days, or 3) an airplane. I met a couple of 19-year olds who were taking the 16 hour bus, but I decided to go for the airplane. It only cost about US$80 and the flying time was just 50 minutes to Sharm El-Sheikh, but I still needed a bus to Dahab. It turns out that outside the Sharm El-Sheikh airport I found a man with a van who lives in Dahab and he offered me a ride there for about the same as a taxi to the bus station + bus ticket to Dahab. It was 1000% better because I didn't have to wait a couple of hours at the bus station and he took me right to the door of the hotel in Dahab instead of ending up at the Dahab bus station and needing another taxi. It was illegal so when we arrived he asked me to slip him the money very discreetly so no policemen would see it.
Dahab turned out to be just as Rob said so it was great to relax! Easy going, lots of places to eat, and my hotel was right next to the ocean. Since I was so close to Jordan and Israel I decided to go on a couple of short side trips from Dahab. One was to Petra, Jordan for a couple of days and another to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, Israel for a day and half (on the go and no sleep the whole time). It was sort of hard to leave Dahab behind after the week or so I was there, but I was ready to get back to Cairo to see a bunch of the things I didn't get to the first time and eventually I had to get back there anyway for my return flight to Japan. I took a bus for 9 hours from Dahab to Cairo and got back to the city, again, at night.
At night in Islamic Cairo
The last few days of the trip were in Cairo, but I went out to Giza again (late afternoon instead of morning to get different light) and rode a camel this time. Not new for me since I rode a camel in the Sahara in Morocco in 2006 and one in Tanzania too in 1993. I spent many hours everyday walking all around Cairo, especially Islamic Cairo and Coptic Cairo taking photos.
Well, that is just a brief rundown of my travels, but there was a whole lot more. :-)
Copyright Henry Richardson