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The day had been spent speeding (and tumbling in my case) down enormous sand dunes on questionable snowboards, a pastime that filled one's head with sand and spirit with unending exhilaration. We had swum in hot springs and very cold springs, taken our meals of locally grown cucumbers, tomatoes and cheese on a blanket in the shade of a palm tree, and held on for our dear lives as our Toyota Land Cruiser raced mercilessly across the dunes. As the sun set over the dunes, however, we all began to feel the calm of night. Two of my friends sit below the dunes enjoying a moment to themselves, shared only with Mother Nature.
When you find yourself in the middle of a desert trying to flag down a camel caravan for help, you’re obviously in a bit of a predicament. That’s the situation my wife and I found ourselves in when our guide’s Land Cruiser broke down in a rather remote part of Western Egypt’s White Desert. We were several miles west of the only road between Bahariya and Farafra oases. After futilely trying to jump start the loaded-down vehicle in the thick sand, we settled in for a wait until someone spotted the caravan. But even with help of two camel guides, our group of six could not push fast enough to get it started. Fortunately, our situation was just a fiasco, not a matter of life and death. Our guide and driver had satellite phones that could get a signal from the top of nearby peaks. We also had enough food and water in case it took all day for them to swallow their pride and use the phones. Finally, they did so, and we were rescued within a few hours. But not before teaching Ramadan and Hemada how to play gin rummy. The guys didn’t know how to play cards, but caught on quickly and wanted to play for money in no time. Being stuck was a bonding experience—and there was no better place to be stranded than in the fascinating alien landscape of the White Desert. The surreal rock outcroppings that look like outsized mushrooms, kneeling camels, ducks, and other fantastical figures provided great shade while we settled in, played cards, and drank Bedouin tea.
I was fortunate enough to stay at the Old Cataract Hotel by the River Nile a wonderful experience in itself. But the stay would not have been complete without a very restful trip in one of these lovely old wooden sailing craft. Just the sounds of the breeze wafting through the sail and the water breaking over the bow.
Bab Zuwayla was part of the original walls of Cairo built in 1092. The Zuwayla gate is one of the most well known landmarks in the city and is also one of three remaining gates of the Fatimid dynasty. This historic gate contains twin towers, each with a minaret. Originally these towers were used by soldiers to keep watch over the southern countryside, however today they provide some of the best views of Cairo. For a small fee, you can climb to the top of each tower and get a glimpse of the surrounding buildings, streets, and daily life. I felt on top of the world as I gazed downward at the opposing tower of Bab Zuwayla and took in the scenery of this ancient city.
At Nasser’s stables, I hoist myself up into the saddle of a mottled Arabian mare. She’s small, but spirited, and we canter for a while into the dark gray void that appears abruptly at the edge of Giza and doesn’t end until it spills into the Atlantic Ocean three thousand miles to the west. Here the Sahara is fine grit and jagged rock, no gently rolling white sand dunes. After a quarter of a mile kicking dust, Nasser reins his mare in at the base of a hundred-foot up-thrust of rock. “Up there you will get the best view,” he says. “I’ll wait with the horses. If you see any camel riders, stay down. It is the police.” “I thought you knew them all.” He laughs. “I do. That’s why you should stay down.” Scrambling to the top of the butte, I watch a gradually widening band of lighter gray on the horizon as the aten—a blood red solar disc—rises. And with the morning light comes khamussin—the Saharan wind. Airborne sand draws a curtain across the plain of Giza, slowly diffusing, then erasing the three distinct shapes breaking the horizon to the north like much-too-perfect mountain peaks. They are like nothing I have ever seen in my life, like nothing else on the face of the Earth. Battered for at least five millennia by the elements, pillaged by generations of by soulless marauders and avaricious monarchs, probed by scores of archeologists and armies of thieving diggers, the pyramids of Giza still beggar the imagination.
Cairo's Khan El Khalili bazaar brings to life for me the stories from the Arabian Nights that I used to read as a kid. The bazaar is a narrow chaotic maze of large and tiny shops selling anything and everything from wall hangings, to spices, to hookahs, to articles so covered in dust you feel like you are purchasing something that is really antique! Emerging from the bazaar made me feel like I was coming out of another world. Tip: bargaining is a must, when you are about to walk away they will follow you and continue to bargain.
Without the crowds busling through, we have access to compose some phenomenal shots and take advantage of the perfect light. Here, at Medinet Habu, Temple of Ramses III, we captured the detailed reliefs and vibrant color remaining on the columns in Peristyle Hall.
The night I spent in Egypt’s White Desert, the moon shone so brightly that the rocks towering over our campsite cast shadows on the sand. The White Desert is known for its stunning rock formations, made of pure-white “chalk rock” that the wind and sand have sculpted into an incredible array of shapes. A trip here is like an afternoon of cloud-gazing. (There’s a mushroom! And that one’s a chicken!) In pre-historic times, a sea covered the area, and you can still find fossilized sea shells imbedded in the rocks. In the evening, a serenity settles over the sands. After a gourmet dinner cooked over an open fire, and we sat for hours, enjoying the cool air and each other’s company. I went for a barefoot midnight stroll and then curled up on my mattress under the stars. The only way to see the desert is in a 4x4 and preferably with a Bedouin guide who knows how to navigate the terrain. Most guides are based out of the nearby Bahariya Oasis, and many of them can arrange to pick you up in Cairo, a four-hour drive away. I highly recommend waking up early enough for a sunrise hike. Perch yourself atop your favorite rock and watch the sunlight break over the wave-like sands and silhouette the sculpted rocks. You might even catch a glimpse of the nocturnal desert fox heading home after a hard night’s work.
Traveling from Alexandria to Abu Simbel gives you an astonishing sense of Egypt and it's ancient treasures. Pyramids, tombs, and heiroglyphics are set on a burning hot backdrop of smoggy cities, tour busses, and one salesman after the next chanting "I give you good price". After being blown away on the final day of our trip at Abu Simbel, we drove back to Aswan in our police convoy and at sunset pulled over to the side of the road. Thinking someone had a flat tire, we got out to stretch our legs and before us was a golden expanse of desert so vast and flat, where no tourist trail feet had walked. Silence and light were the real wonders to be taken in, and we felt cleansed from 10 days in a country that balances chaos and magic on a single grain of sand.
I can't describe the feeling that I got when we arrived at the Pyramids for our Farewell party. It was incredible.
Cairo Tower, also known as El Gezira Tower or Borg Al Kahira, is considered one of the most prominent features of the Egyptian capital. Its partially open lattice-work design is intended to evoke a lotus plant. Visit the tower at night, where you can take photos of the beautiful panoramic view.
This temple (Madinat Habu) was far less touristy and much more colorful than the other main temples in the area. Go in the morning or else, like much of Egypt, prepare to feel the fire of 1,000 suns. Even in the morning it's quite hot in June. This temple is much smaller than the the others and will not take as long to visit due to its size, however you will not see color like this anywhere. This temple is still my favorite temple I visited in Egypt because of the colorful hieroglyphs, lack of tourists, and interesting views
Walking in deepening twilight past a towering obelisk, and then through the Hypostyle Hall and colonnade of 134 massive pillars—10-12 meters tall—capped with stylized papyrus and calyx, into a broad solar court, I was able to envision only the most subtle blush of the 18th Dynasty’s unparalleled magnificence. Through the lotus capitals, across the Nile’s western bank, an oblate sun disc was setting beyond the Valley of the Kings, where so many of the Tuthmosid clan’s buried secrets were revealed. We’ve come to understand just how prominently the support of Amun-Re’s priests—as political partners, co-regents, corporate executives, lovers, and nemeses—figured in this epoch of Egypt’s golden age. At Karnak and Luxor, Pharaonic Egypt reached a powerful zenith—a politically balanced symbiosis of the sacred and secular. And it was here that the consort of Thutmosis II—Hatshepsut—rose to become the longest-reigning Egyptian woman in history.
While riding out to the pyramids this character posed perfect for a shot with a pyramid under his chin. His branding was extensive as he has had many owners.
Go back to the time of the Pharaohs and discover the enchanting pharaonic history the spectacular Sound and Light Show at Giza Pyramids of Cheops, Chefren and Mykerinus. The show starts with the story of the Sphinx who has been the vigilant guardian of the city of the dead for five thousand years
Memphis, located 24 km south of Cairo, was an ancient pharaonic capital city of Egypt during the Old Kingdom. Menes is said to have been the founder of Memphis in the early 3rd millennium B.C. In the New Kingdom, Memphis served as a second, northern capital city for Egypt, when Thebes was capital in the south. In 322 B.C., Alexander the Great headquartered in Memphis while in Egypt. Giza and Saqqara are west of Memphis.
I think it was the Greeks who invented columns but in my opinion, it was the Egyptians who gave them beauty. I saw this stunning set at Philae which is an archeological site located on an island in Lake Nassar in Egypt. Philae is located just a short distance from Aswan. From the mainland, you can negotiate with any of the ferry operators to take you to the island and back. It’s a small site but very much worth a visit.
The Pharaohs may be gone, but their treasures and stories can still be found at the amazing Egyptian Museum in the heart of Cairo. Over 120,000 artefacts are on display including huge statues of the pharaohs and the gods they worshipped, jewels, scrolls of papyrus, coffins inlaid with semi-precious stones and gold leaves and ancient mummified remains. Although it would take months to admire each and every relic, your expert guide will help you discover some of the most famous objects such as the golden treasures from Tuthankhamun’s Tomb. Marvel at King Tuthankhamun’s intricate coffin, the seemingly infinite jewels and his world-famous solid gold funerary mask. Other amazing artefacts include the statue of Khafre, the Fayoum Portraits and the Nubian funerary cache.
Mosque of Ibn Tulun is one of the largest and oldest mosques in Cairo, Egypt. Vistors are required to wear protective covers over their feet and women are required to wear head scarfs.
A tourist floating up the Nile in Southern Egypt in a felucca (traditional sailboat) is full of wonder: What discoveries will the temples at Abu Simbel bring? The Temple of Isis? What is life like onboard the huge (and expensive) cruise boats that leave us in their wake? The tall, lateen-rigged felucca sails are quite the sight when they’re maneuvered to duck under bridges—but when and why were these adjustable rigs originally used on this river? …And what if we just kept going south, past Aswan, past Abu Simbel, into Sudan? How far could we go before the river became impassable in this wooden boat? But what does Captain Yaheya wonder about on his daily commute? Drifting along the Nile each day, transporting tourists, does he give a second thought to the river’s historic significance or his country’s ancient temples? What is his take on the cruisers and their/his rich passengers? Does he ever see Egypt’s wonders through their eyes? What is his view on the country’s future and the revolution’s impact upon his livelihood? How does he feel about the place of minority Nubians—his people—in the new Egypt? Does he wonder, "Are we there yet?"
This photograph from my trip to Egypt has always been one of my favorites. The visible line of the "old world" existing alongside modern day culture is very powerful, and is commonly evident in Cairo. The image was taken in a part of town which is often referred to as Fatimid Cairo or Islamic Cairo. It is an area rich with Egyptian culture and is overflowing with impressive historical sites from Fatimid dynasty. The Zuwayla gate, with its twin minaret towers, is one of the most well-known landmarks. Originally the towers were used by soldiers to keep watch over the southern countryside, however today they provide some of the best views of the city. In Fatimid Cairo, I also enjoyed visiting the Al-Azhar Mosque and would consider it a must see for its stunning architecture and scale. If you enjoy a busy market, be sure to check out the nearby Khan el-Khalili. It’s an ideal place to meet the locals, people watch, and pick up a few souvenirs.
this bridge called by kaser EL Neil Cairo connect the island between two cities in Cairo and Giza Cairo east bank the Nile and Giza west bank the river Nile this bridge built 1898 during the king ismali this bridge decoration with two lion form west and two lion from east side they brought from France its really land mark Cairo.
Traveling six hours by bus from Cairo may not seem like a big deal, but once you leave the sprawling, yellow city, the only thing you see is sprawling, yellow desert. Miles and miles of it. At the end of the journey is the Bahriyah Oasis, and when you see it, you feel as Bedouins must have through the ages when coming upon it in camel caravans. One of the måin reasons to come to the Bahriyah Oasis is to go back out to the desert, but it's not like the desert you just came from. It's the White Desert. The name comes from puffy rock formations that jut out of the yellow sand. Most of the tours include overnight camping with a traditional Bedouin tea service.
This was the beautiful tent that awaited us when we arrived for the closing party at Afar Experiences Cairo, along with musicians and champagne, high on the Giza plateau overlooking the Pyramids.
I arrived in Cairo at night, in a blur of hectic traffic punctuated by blaring horns and blinking lights. The chaos ended as we drove through the gates of the Mena House Hotel, where I was whisked into one of the most opulent lobbies I'd ever seen. My luggage and I were chauffeured by golf cart to my spacious room. I had little time to look around before I tumbled into my bed. It wasn’t until the next morning, as I drew back the curtains to my private balcony, I saw a view that was unmistakeably Egypt. There, looming before me, were the Great Pyramids. The hotel was once home to royalty, and I felt like a queen, strolling through the opulent common rooms and sipping drinks in the golden Sultan Lounge. Visitors can choose from Egyptian, Italian, and Indian restaurants, as well as 24-hour room service featuring European and Egyptian dishes. Relax in the garden spa, float in the pool, or just sit and admire the view. Alison Cornford-Matheson traveled to Egypt courtesy of the Egypt Tourism Authority and Abercrombie & Kent. Her highlights are part of AFAR's partnership with The United States Tour Operator Association (USTOA), whose members provide travelers with unparalleled access, insider knowledge, peace-of-mind, value, and freedom to enjoy destinations across the entire globe. See more about Alison's trip at the USTOA blog.
Having recently been to Egypt and having the chance to see the great pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx I realize how much you can get out of using a professional local guide, especially when they can get you exclusive access. Looking back at my photos of my trip, I appreciate the special opportunity to be in between the paws of the Sphinx. Incredible!
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