by Nina Sabin - Travel
Blog #8 Welcome back to our adventures through Egypt.
As I mentioned in my last blog, we saw Egypt in style by taxi, train, cruise ship, sail boat, horse, camel, and on foot.
On our 5th day, our self-guided tour ended in Cairo and we started our guided tour with South Sinai Travel. We boarded our five- star sleeper train at 8:00 PM to overnight us to Luxor by 5:30 AM the next morning. We figured the kids would love to have the experience of sleeping on a train rather than flying again. Also, John and Nina had not been overnight on a train since childhood. The cabin included a sink, our own bathroom, and bunk beds for the four of us. When entering the train there were men with machine guns, but after arriving at the airport in Saudi we were over the initial shock of seeing guns in public locations. Also, in the middle of the night we stopped, we heard yelling in Arabic. John peaked out of our car to see the men in machine guns going down the corridor. We think someone was on the train that did not belong there. Overall the train adventure went well, however, there were times that it was hard to steer the train from our beds! It was quite a bumpy ride.
On Day 6, we left the train, we were transferred to our Nile Cruise ship. During the next several days, we sailed on the Shehrayar, a luxurious cruise ship, from port to port visiting old ruins and temples of the gods of the Pharos.
There was only one family one the cruise ship with us. Normally the ship holds 90 – 96 people. However, due to the tourism being low from the September 11, 2001 incident, there were only eight people on the ship. The cruise ship was great – a huge stateroom for our cabin, four and five course meals and lots to see and do as we meandered down the Nile sitting on the deck watching the date and palm trees go by occasionally seeing some native farmers.
Ancient Egyptians had over 4,000 gods. In quiet reflection and after visiting several of these temples, we realized that the Egyptians were more interested in the afterlife and appeasing the various gods’ commands then they were with actual living. Actually, as soon as a King was empowered, the people would begin building his tomb. These tombs are full with hieroglyphs all for the purpose of appeasing the gods or protection from the gods.
What is amazing is how much these kings lived in fear always trying to measure up and meet the standards of the gods – after death their hearts had to be lighter than a feather to become deity themselves. The 1000s of hours (maybe millions) spent worshiping and building great temples for gods that never existed…. what a great privilege it is to know Jesus, that he has called us out of darkness, that we measure up because of Him and that there is no fear in death. Visiting Egypt helped us appreciate what Jesus has done for us.
The Nile runs south to north as the southern part is higher than the northern part. Hence, the reason the southern part of Egypt is called “Upper Egypt” and the northern part, “Lower Egypt”.
As we went down the Nile we stopped in Luxor. In Luxor, we visited the Luxor and Karnack Temples. We then sailed to the West Bank of the Nile to Thebes where we visited the Valley of the Queens and the Valley of the Kings – where the queens and kings of that era were buried. This is a must see if you want to see beautiful art of hieroglyphics, many of which are still in vibrant colors.. The ancient hieroglyphs in Karnak and Luxor Temple were fascinating. We were amazed with the magnificent statues and that they were mostly still intact. At one location, the town had everyone step to the side as people were carrying a wrapped body down the street to send into the ocean. This appears to be there ritual when someone dies. It was also a little scary to be standing in the Valley of the Kings where the militants took out 60+ tourists in 1997 .
We also visited the Temple of Hatshepsut, the Colossi of Memmon. From there we sailed to the cities of Esna and to Edfu. While in Edfu the post Ramadan party continued by the locals with everyone out on the corniche (the road next to the boat) with people partying and making noise most of the night. It was very interesting to see all the lights and festivities. Even all of the mosques were lit up – the girls thought they looked like Christmas trees… We found after living in Saudi, that it is very common to decorate for Ramadan and Eid by putting up lights for the celebration.
The next day, more temples for more gods….the Temple of Horus in Edfu and the Kom Ombo temple to worship the alligator and falcon. Great architecture and stone carving work. The stories that our guide told us during all of these tours were very interesting in interpreting the hieroglyphics.
We continued our journey south to Aswan. There, we departed the boat and stayed in the Basma hotel, again directly on the Nile. We visited the High and Old Dams in Aswan. The High Dam is an amazing engineering project – the third largest dam in the world built by the Russians for the Egyptians.
On our last day in Aswan, we probably had one of the best days of our trip. We, along with our tour guide, took a private felucca (native sailboat) from Aswan to the West Bank. The sailboat meandered up the Nile according to the winds. It was very relaxing. We stopped first to visit St. Simeons Monastery by camel. We rode two camels up a long path and over sand dunes to the St. Simeons Monastery. This was the first of many camel rides. The Monastery was used until the 5th Century by Roman monks until it is said that the Nile shifted and eliminated their ability to grow crops effectively.
Back on the sailboat to visit the Agha Khan memorial, Kitchener’s Island with its wonderful gardens and Elephantine Island. Elephantine Island was quite interesting as our tour guide brought us to meet a Northern African tribe, the Nubians, who speak their own language, but no written language exists. A very interesting people and culture right outside of Aswan – it was like a mini trip to Africa.
We then departed Aswan by the overnight sleeper train back to Cairo and home to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. Our first adventure from Saudi increased our traveling bug itch and it wasn’t long after before we were on our next trip. More about that in our next blog, along with what the experience was like returning back to Saudi.