Egypt- Through the eyes of King Tutankhamun’s biggest fan!
My dream trip.
No, really. Since I was a child I have wanted to go to Egypt to see the pyramids, the tombs, and most importantly, my first love, King Tutankhamun. When I was 5 years old an Egyptian exhibit came to the American Museum of Natural History in New York. I begged my mom to take me because I thought Egypt sounded cool. As a person who has always enjoyed a spooky story, the concept of mummies was fascinating to me. Little did I know that the mummies would be that least important thing to me that day. I remember how I felt the first time I laid eyes on King Tutankhamun’s mask. Yes, the jewels were beautiful and the artisanship was breathtaking. But it was his face that captivated me (I told you he was my first love!). I was mesmerized. I went to visit him several more times before the exhibit left New York and vowed I would see him again. I made good on my promise 26 years later.
By then I had a husband in tow. He was a trooper. I had years to cultivate my interest in not only King Tutankhamun, but Egyptology as well. My husband sort of got pushed into it. As a person who loves beach vacations, the prospect of going somewhere without a beach in sight was not his idea of fun. But he went and was pleasantly surprised. He was also happy he did a little studying before getting there.
I worked with a travel agent to plan this trip, which was unusual for me but I am happy that I did. Arriving in the middle of the night on the other side of the world and not speaking the language or being able to read the signs in some cases was a little disorienting. I had sent our pictures to the travel agent ahead of time and had also looked up my agent’s image so we recognized each other within seconds. It was also nice not to have to worry about transportation from the airport, the concept of baksheesh (tipping), or customs and traditions on the first day. All I had to do was sit back and take in the sights as we drove from the airport to our hotel that was situated right across the road from the Pyramids at Giza. Imagine waking up to see the pyramids in all their splendor right out of your hotel room window… that was my view for 3 days. The travel agent helped me plan a trip that met my needs – not a pre-planned agenda. I saw everything I wanted to see and did everything I wanted to do. Navigating those interests would have been challenging to me, someone who does not speak or read Arabic and is largely unaware of the customs that govern dealings. If I could do it again, I would do it the same way, without question.
We didn’t waste any time – I think if they had let me tour the pyramids that first night I would have been game! We filled our 10 days in this magical land with trips to the Temple of Karnak, Kom Ombo, Philae, the Valley of the Kings, the Colossi of Memnon, and shopping in bazaars. We spent our days among the Pharaohs and in awe of them. There were several places that took my breath away, but here is a short list:
The Mummy Room in The Egyptian Museum
Prepare yourself to visit with royalty. Tuthmosis III, Amenhotep III, and perhaps the most famous mummy next to King Tutankhamun, Ramesses the Great lie in state in a room in the Egyptian Museum. The result of mummification can be seen in full splendor in the remains of these great rulers, further punctuating the advancements of these ancient people.
Ramesses the Great erected many monuments throughout Egypt during his reign, which lasted over 67 years, but no other was as visually stunning as Abu Simbel. Located on the West Bank of Lake Nasser in Nubia, Abu Simbel is an architectural dream. Two temples make up the complex – one for Ramesses and one for his wife, Nefertari.
The Pyramids at Giza is perhaps the most recognizable destination in Egypt, but images of the iconic pyramids pale in comparison to seeing them up close. In the presence of these great structures you will understand why the controversy surrounding how they came to be persists. Each stone stands almost the same height an average adult and weighs 3 tons.
Visit the Luxor Temple
Many Pharaohs contributed to its construction beginning in the 18th dynasty. Pylons, statues, shrines, and sanctuaries built by different pharaohs comprise this symbolic structure. As you look at the massive pylons, the detailed statues, the hieroglyphics recounting great battles, you will also see a curious building atop sandstone that looks more modern than the rest. Over time and after the area had stopped being used, desert sand covered the temple, completely hiding it from sight. The Abu Haggag mosque was built on top of the ruins of the temple of Luxor in the 14th century – you can see both now!
The people were kind and helpful. I learned a lot about current culture from the people I encountered at eateries (oh, the duck!) and shops. There is also something to be said about enjoying a conversation with someone from another part of the world (in my case it was myself from the US, a German woman, an Italian man, and an Egyptian man) over hibiscus tea as you cruise the Nile. These conversations alongside the sights and sounds of Egypt will stay with me for the rest of my life.
And yes, seeing my first love’s face again was everything I hoped it would be, and more!
If you are looking for a quick list of things to do, consider these:
• Take a cruise down the Nile
• Ride a train overnight from Cairo to Aswan
• Go to the light show at the Great Pyramid
• Go inside the Great Pyramid, which was the tomb of the 4th dynasty pharaoh Khufu
• Pay the extra amount for the Mummy room at the Egyptian Museum
• Take a horse drawn carriage around Luxor
• Visit the Luxor Museum
I wish I had gone to Saqqarra. I also wish I had taken a little extra time to enjoy the beauty of Sharm El Sheikh. But that’s what second visits are for!
(Read more of her works here)