It was barely 4.30am when I found myself in a bus thudding along the dusty road towards a remote Nubian village.
It was day two of our trip to Egypt and we were on our way to the Abu Simbel temples. With four colossal statues of Rameses II hewed into the mountainside, the monument is a sight to behold.
Visiting the land of pyramids had been a lifelong dream for my family of history buffs, its rich history being the main enticement.
We took a 10-day tour package that included accommodation, meals, transportation and return flights onboard Oman Air – there are no direct flights from Malaysia to Cairo.
Egypt is a Mediterranean country and most of its vegetation lies along the Nile river. Arabic is widely spoken but with the influx of tourists, English and even Mandarin are spoken in several tourist areas.
The country is blessed with the title “Cradle of Civilisation”. Be it the pyramids or hieroglyph-lined temples and tombs, there are plenty of historical sites to be visited there.
I highly recommend having an experienced tour guide or doing some research on sites prior to visiting Egypt.
No trip to Egypt would be complete without cruising down the Nile; we had to take a domestic flight to Aswan for that. The relaxing cruise took us up the scenic river towards Luxor, covering many world-renowned open-air museums along our way.
These also included many temples (think Luxor and Karnak temples) and a burial ground called Valley of the Kings. Statues, obelisks and hieroglyph carvings at these sites are very well preserved. Some are suggestively eerie, adding an aura of mystery that had long shrouded the land.
One surreal incident happened while visiting a perfume room at Edfu Temple. Meant to store perfume thousands of years ago, the room was completely covered with hieroglyphs that were inscribed with remarkable precision. These recipes (to make perfume) are allegedly used in premium brands today. Upon our second visit, my parents and I caught a pleasant whiff of fragrance. Perhaps it was a sniff of the past!
Visitors are free to roam about at these sites and we had a delightful time exploring. Do remember to wear good walking shoes as the ground is often uneven.
Arriving in Cairo after putting up on a sleeper train from Luxor, we toured the historical sites in the capital which includes the photo-worthy pyramids and the Sphinx.
If you plan to visit this year then you’re in luck as a new museum near the Pyramids of Giza will be launched so that tourists can have a full day of historical discovery.
For us, we went to the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities and it was not short of being a treasure trove. We managed to see the mask of Tutankhamun up close. Viewing mummies in the two royal mummy rooms was a breathtaking experience.
We also went to the port town of Alexandria, located strategically beside the Mediterranean Sea. The town is known for being a stop for Alexander the Great during his world conquest.
There are several Greco-Roman ruins to check out at the town but do visit King Montazah’s Palace to enjoy the ocean breeze along with the locals who regularly have picnics there.
We spent our last hours in Egypt walking through the local bazaar shopping for souvenirs, soaking in the culture. The local coffee, which was fragrantly infused with spices, did not disappoint, but the bitter aftertaste was a tough one to swallow.
The wonderful moments of the trip still exhilarate me. A holiday in Egypt may not be everyone’s cup of tea but if the past does appeal to you, this country is sure to take you on a journey back in time.