This month, in about five days from now, I would have boarded a plane to Cairo if it weren’t for the Covid pandemic. I had decided earlier in the year that this was the right time to cross off one of my bucket list items, for a variety of reasons. I had always wanted to go to Egypt, and I decided that there is no time like the present. I did a great deal of research but was conflicted about going on my trip this month. I also was unsure whether it was a good time for me to go or to wait until later in the year when the new Grand Egyptian Museum was slated to open near the pyramids. This new museum is going to be huge, as it is planned to house the full collection of Tutankhamen artifacts for the first time because of the greater space available. This museum will be located right near the pyramids, will showcase over fifty thousand artifacts, and will occupy one hundred and twenty acres of land with an anticipated five million visitors per year (as estimated prior to the pandemic). Construction started on the new museum in 2002 but was delayed for a variety of reasons.
I had planned on staying at the historic Marriott Mena House with a pyramid facing balcony room for a few nights. This historic hotel is only about a half a mile away from the pyramids and has a fascinating back story. Originally built in 1869 as a hunting lodge, it is the site of the first swimming pool in Egypt in 1890. While the original house is still on the premises and is currently being renovated, there is a newer more modern section of the hotel on the property as well. Prince Albert of England, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Winston Churchill, Richard Nixon, Charlie Chaplin, Frank Sinatra, and Agatha Christie are among the many esteemed guests who have stayed at this hotel in the past. From there, I could have walked to the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, but for safety concerns, I was going to have a private tour arranged to take me there and into the Khan el-Khaliki bazaar, or souk, in Cairo, which dates back to the fourteenth century. I was thinking I might bring a lantern or two back from Egypt to hang in my tree near the pool at home. I decided I would also go to the current Cairo Museum of Antiquities as well, but really wanted to see the new Grand Egyptian Museum, had it been already opened, instead. Life is full of trade-offs.
I had also planned on going aboard a Nile River Cruise aboard the MS Esplanade, stopping in Luxor to see the Luxor Temple and the Karnak Temple (the largest religious building ever constructed). I chose the MS Esplanade, in part, because of the wonderful daybeds on the top sun deck that would allow me to relax and keep cool along the journey down the Nile. After Luxor, we would have sailed to Aswan to see the Temple of Horus at Edfu, a Nubian village, the Temple of Philae (dedicated to the worship of the Godess Isis), and the High Dam. A final stop on the itinerary included a visit to the Valley of Kings.
I remember seeing a fragment of the Karnak Temple as a young girl in the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, along with a sarcophagus and knew the moment I saw them I wanted to go to Egypt some day. It was so exciting to think I would actually walk in the Karnak Temple in May when I was researching my trip to Egypt earlier this year. Trip to Egypt. Goal Set. Trip to Egypt. Goal would have been met.
As part of my research, I learned that the only travel advisory in Egypt, prior to the Corona pandemic, was regarding the Sinai Peninsula and the Western Desert, two areas I had planned to avoid because of the greater possibility of terrorist activity. I knew I needed to be alert and aware of my surroundings in Egypt otherwise, which is something I normally am during any trip. I also had planned to avoid any mosque, church, or temple to keep my trip a little safer.
I learned a few things in my research that surprised me. There are very few crocodiles (maybe not any at all) in the Egyptian Nile any longer, despite them being worshipped in Ancient Egypt. Evidently the construction of the High Dam pushed them closer to Lake Nassar instead. Also, I found it very interesting, albeit disappointing, that there are no hippopotamuses in this section of the Nile either, as they are extinct in this region even though they were present there in ancient times. Hippo hunting and drying of the region has led to their extinction here in more modern times.
I am very disappointed that my trip has been postponed because of the pandemic, but I try to look on the bright side, even for this trip. I was hard pressed to decide whether to go to Egypt in the spring or to wait until the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo later in the year. It seemed the best option at the time to go in the spring of this year, as the political climate was a bit more settled than it had been in recent years since the Arab Spring in 2011 and the ouster of President Mubarek in the aftermath. The economy in Egypt had improved a bit last year, yet the American dollar was still strong. Incidents of terrorism were reduced in and around Cairo and the Nile valley than they had been in years, too. Tourists were beginning to return to Egypt in greater numbers, and it was finally a good time to return to Egypt again before the pandemic. However, at this time, flights have been recently suspended into and out of Egypt for the time being, so I am grateful I was not stuck in Egypt had I traveled there. Being quarantined and having difficulty returning home to the States would have definitely been difficult.
When I will head to Egypt is still up in the air, but one thing is certain. That is, I will get there, and it is only a matter of time. I have my heart set on riding a camel there, too. It’s all about the photo op, right? Maybe I might add in a layover somewhere special along the way, too. Swimming in the Dead Sea might be fun in Hurghada, which isn’t part of the Sinai Peninsula. Guess that’s the upside as well.
Life is good. Look forward to something you were planning before the Covid pandemic hit and start planning it all over again for sometime in the near future. Make it happen. Goal set; goal met soon.
There is always tomorrow to look forward to; carpe diem, friends………….
(I was going to book my trip through Memphis Tours, as they have been in operation for a very long time in Egypt and have great reviews. Another company, Liberty Travel Egypt is worth taking a look at as well. )