Written By: Danny (with words from kaylin)
Up until this point, all of my travels have been within my home country of Canada.
However, I made a decision to go International. So, I set my sights on Egypt.
When Kaylin and I told people we were going to Egypt, we got responses on both ends of the spectrum.
Some would say, “But, why?! It’s not safe!”
Others would say, “Oh my God! That’s going to be a trip of a lifetime!”
What I’ve come to find is that this day in age is people are going to find reasons not to do things, or find something that makes them feel unsafe. It doesn’t matter if it’s America, the Middle East, Asia, etc, there’s going be something stopping people from doing what they want. That’s why we have to push beyond that fear and just do it!
Kaylin and I are glad we did because this trip was incredible, and not once did either of us feel unsafe.
After an 18 hour trip from Nova Scotia, Canada, we arrived in Cairo, Egypt.
We were definitely not in Kansas anymore, and it wasn’t hard to tell.
Being from a province that has less than 1million people in total, and having just arrived in city that has 19+ million… we were in for some big changes.
As soon as we landed in Cairo and made it through Security and Customs, we emerged into the main lobby of the Cairo airport. This is where the culture shock began. We were bombarded with people shoving brochures in our face, “Ma’am, Sir? Do you need taxi? Cheap Taxi? Do you need? Take my taxi!”
NO. I don’t want your taxi!
Before arriving, we were told by our AirBnb Host that we should use Uber instead of Taxi drivers to get around, but not having used Uber before, and having no idea where anything was at this airport, we spent 45 minutes walking around trying to find where our Uber was going to pick us up from. No luck. Eventually, Kaylin gave up and said we should just take a Taxi…
Our driver didn’t know the area we were going to, didn’t speak much English, and we don’t speak Arabic. The result? Spending 2 hours in the taxi before we made it to our Airbnb.
Luckily though, because Egyptians are so kind and determined to be of help, our driver pulled over every 10 minutes asking someone new for directions, until one guy gave us his phone’s hotspot so we could get our hosts phone number, which he called, jumped in the taxi with us, and directed us to our destination. What a guy.
Once we settled in, we got some much needed sleep.
We visited so many places:
When we were driving from our AirBnb to the Pyramids, our Tour Guide told us to look in the distance.
When we did, we could see the tops of the pyramids peaking out over the buildings of the city.
It was an absolutely incredible sight to see.
During the first couple of days here, we noticed that Egyptians are so care free. They drive however they want, and walk down the street just to talk to their neighbours.
They never seem to have a destination, they just take life in.
To an outsider, the city can be confusing. It’s hectic and overwhelming, but even with so many people there, they make it work. Honestly, I felt right at home within their organized chaos.
We went to the Egyptian Museum where we saw tons of statues, boats, weapons, carriages, sarcophagus’, tombs, temple walls, and of course, King Tut’s Golden Mask.
(We weren’t allowed to bring our cameras in to see King Tut, though.)
After being there until they closed, we went to the Al Azhar Park, which happened to be having 5+ weddings at the time. Everyone looked incredible, and the scenery around them was equally so. It was a great place to walk and see the sights of Cairo from above all the hustle and bustle of the city.
When we got there, we realized that no matter where we went, we would have a lot of eyes on us.
In this case, it was probably because Kaylin had short, fiery red hair and an incredibly pale complexion.
We also saw a lot of men holding hands with their male friends. Being from Canada, we see this a lot, but in a romantic way. It was nice to see that straight men can hold each other’s hands as well.
Our day started with our Uber driver bringing us to the Cairo Airport for our flight down to Luxor.
The driver stopped at a convenient store on the way to the airport to pick up 3 juice packs (one for each of us) and two bottles of water (for our flight). How cute is that?
Once we got to Luxor, we instantly felt like we were in a different world entirely.
Everything was lush and colourful green with palm trees everywhere you looked.
Our hotel arranged for our driver to meet us at the airport. After a short drive, we had to jump into a motorboat to cross the Nile to get the rest of the way to our hotel.
I’m going to say that again, ’cause that was a little lacklustre…
To get to our hotel, we had to CROSS THE NILE. How awesome!!
Once we got in to the hotel, we dropped off our bags in our room, and made our way to the open rooftop for some brunch, and to plan our tours with our host.
I took in the sights while laying in a hammock that had a great view of the Nile.
(The photo below, doesn’t really show it, but you can imagine.)
After we got all our plans made for the three days we’d be in Luxor, we settled in and got ready for our adventure to the Karnak and Luxor temples.
We were in complete awe of how big these temples were, how much time would’ve been put into building them, and how much history there could be in one place.
Rise and Shine!
This was our longest day yet. Bear with us, cause there’s a TON to say about it.
(Don’t worry, there’s lots of pictures)
We had to get up around 5am to get to the Hot Air Balloon ‘airport’ to watch the sunrise from the sky.
We’ve never seen one of these things up close before, and man are they big!
The balloon ride itself is hard to explain, but here’s how Kaylin put it:
“I have no idea how to tell you what I experienced other than I felt so much peace and contentment. The higher you got, the more peaceful you felt. It was like you were in another world, floating above the locals just starting their day, watching packs of stray dogs freak out because you are flying a little too close, and having bikers and kids chase after you and drop what they are doing, just hoping that a flyer will wave hello.”
When we landed, we ended up in a sugar cane field across the Nile. We were greeted by two older man, ten children and one donkey. They were mesmerized by the tourists, like most.
One of the locals brought a sugar cane stalk over to our pilot. He peeled it with his teeth and then gave each of us a bit to try. To those of you who just went, “Ew… he peeled it with his teeth, and you ATE IT?”
Yes. Yes we did. Live a little!
Once our van caught up to where we were, we hopped out of the balloon, and loaded up.
The local children that were there started playfully hitting the van with sugar cane sticks.
The tour guides did not like that at all. They got out and started yelling at the kids in Arabic.
So, I have no idea what was said, but it was effective.
After grabbing some breakfast at the hotel, we took off to the Valley of the Kings and Queens where we got to walk down into the tombs that were carved inside the earth.
It ended up being ~28ºC, and we were coming from winter in Canada, so we were really hot when we got back to ground level.
We went to the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut, as well as visited King Tut’s Tomb and saw his incredibly preserved mummy.
We also had the privilege of heading to the Alabaster stone factory. We learned how vases, bowls, and statues are made from alabaster, granite, basalt, lapis lazuli, etc.
The owner wrapped scarves around our heads, and dubbed me as Mustafa; the Most Handsome Egyptian, while Kaylin was dubbed a Beautiful Queen.
Once they showed us how everything was made, we went inside to look around.
We found quite a few pieces that we really liked, but if we got everything we wanted, we would’ve had no money left, so… as it turns out, I can barter. Who knew.
We left there with some sculptures of Horus, Anubis, two cats, small scarabs that you can make into necklaces, and a large scarab sculpture that’s over 350 years old.
We went back to the Nile to spend our last hour of daylight sailing.
The captain let me steer the boat while he made some hibiscus tea, and we sailed along until sunset.
It was an incredibly relaxing end to a very busy day.
Please note: If you’re drinking water in Egypt, make sure it is bottled.
Up to this point, everything had been, so we assumed the water used for this tea would’ve been as well.
Turns out, not so much, but I didn’t know that until the following evening.
I won’t get into detail, but trust me, it was not pretty.
Off to Aswan!
It took us two hours to get there, so we had to get up early to make the most of it.
On the drive down, our driver stopped so we could try some fresh sugar cane juice.
What they do is take a full sugar cane stick, feed it through what looks like a very large coffee brewer, so the juice gets squeezed out, and pours into your glass.
As you can imagine, pure sugar cane straight from the stick was sweet as hell.
Our driver downed his in no time, whereas Kaylin and I were struggling to even drink half of ours.
We couldn’t drink it on the drive, either, because they don’t give you a ‘take out’ cup, but rather a glass mug you’d drink beer from. They wanted their cups back.
All in all, we couldn’t finish it.
We felt bad, but our stomaches just could not handle that much sugar all at once.
Once we got to Aswan, our first stop was the Edfu temple. Just like the Karnak and Luxor temples, and really everything in Egypt, it was massive.
When we finished up at the Edfu Temple, we sailed over to the Philae Temple, which was moved to a new island, because the original one ended up flooding.
I can only imagine how long it took to dismantle, transport, and reassemble the entire temple.
Aswan was very similar to the Greek/Roman style of architecture, compared to the more southern areas of Egypt. You can tell by looking at the different style of the pillars, as these are more decorative, and are designed to resemble the lotus flower.
On our way back to Luxor, we had to pull over to a Security Checkpoint for a little more than an hour while we waited for someone to ‘escort’ us back to Luxor. This is due to a policy stating, “tourists travelling between ‘x’ and ‘y’ must be accompanied by a security vehicle from added safety.”
It was a little weird at the checkpoint, because it was loaded with Military men and their rifles.
But, again, they do it for the tourists safety, so no worries there.
Unfortunately for me, though, at this point, my stomach started to turn from the water I drank on the felucca the night before. So, while we waited, my belly grumbled, and I didn’t know how long until it turned into something else…
Eventually we followed the Military vehicle back to Luxor and got back to our hotel.
This is when things went even more downhill for me…
After being sick all night from the polluted water, we had to jump on a flight first thing in the morning to get back to Cairo. Luckily, though, I was feeling better by the time we had to leave.
After a short flight, we were back in Cairo grabbing an Uber and heading to our new AirBnb in Maadi.
It was definitely a much smoother experience than the first time we landed in Cairo.
We relaxed all day with our new host’s kitty, Calvin. He was the sweetest, and he comforted us during our last couple days in Egypt. We were missing our kitties from back home, so this was a nice treat.
We were also introduced to an app that allows you to order online for delivery from the the restaurants in your area. It was awesome. They even delivered ice cream by putting it in a cooler and strapping it to the back of a bike. How great is that?
Our host was away for the day, and we caught up on some much needed sleep and relaxation.
Within the first ten minutes of getting settled in, though, Kaylin made a mess…
She went to the bathroom and tried flushing the toilet. However, there was no obvious handle to flush, so she guessed… bad idea.
She came into the bedroom laughing her ass off, and I had no idea why.
She then went on to tell me to just go to the bathroom and see for myself.
I had no idea what to expect. I mean, it’s no secret that Kaylin is not graceful, lol. She’s like Bambi on ice.
Anyway, I walked into the bathroom, and there was water everywhere.
The floor, the walls, the mirrors, were all soaked with toilet water…
Turns out she bent over the toilet and cranked the bidet valve all the way up, nearly blinding herself with the stream. She didn’t come out of it unscathed though; her right side was also hit by the powerful force that we know as the “mighty bidet”.
We were supposed to go on our City tour to see the Mosques and such, but there was a miscommunication with our guides and we ended up rescheduling for the next day.
So, instead, we went to the market, bought some groceries, caught up on editing, hung out with Calvin, and got some more rest for our last tour in Egypt.
We headed into the city to visit both the Mosque of Muhammad Ali, and the Sultan Hassan Mosque, as well as the Khan el-Khalili Bazaar.
Again, like everything in Egypt, the Mosques were huge and filled with history.
Our guide told us about the Islamic culture and some of the rules for being inside the building.
It was nice walking around in our sock feet, as it made me feel more connected to everything.
Going to the bazaar, I was a little worried because I was expecting it to be packed. However, we went around noon, and luckily for us, not many people are out and about at that time on a Saturday.
It was really cool seeing all their trinkets glistening in the sun. Also, bartering is an interesting thing, and although I did it in Luxor at the Alabaster shop, I still wasn’t used to it.
We bought a few things for our families, and continued on our way.
At the end of the day, right before we were about to leave in our van, a group of school girls on a field trip from a village outside of Cairo, spotted us. It was like we were celebrities. They were screaming, surrounding us with their phones, blowing kisses, telling us they loved us, and insisting on getting their photos taken with us.
Their chaperone kept apologizing to us but we just laughed and said it wasn’t a problem. After that he shook my hand and continued to thank us for making the girls happy by allowing them to take photos with us. What a simple thing to do to put a smile on their faces.
Initially I was a little uneasy with all the attention, but after a while, I loosened up and became comfortable with having my picture taken. Eventually, I put my hand on one of the girls’ shoulders for a photo, and she and the group of them screamed like a bunch of ‘fan girls’.
Side Note: During our trip, none of the men came in physical contact with Kaylin in any way, so I hope I didn’t overstep any boundaries. No one said anything to me about it, so I’m hoping it’s all good.
The whole ordeal was rather overwhelming at first, as I’m sure you can imagine, but in a strange way, it was kind of nice, too. When you’re in a new land, it’s easy to feel a little out of place, but having these ladies look at us the way they did, it really made us feel special.
Something like that has never happened to either of us before, and it made me feel as though I was being welcomed by a group of friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. That might sound weird, but it’s a difficult thing to explain. Simply put, all feelings of being ‘out of place’ were replaced with a feeling of contentment and belonging.
Our last day in Egypt…
We packed everything we could, early on, so we could enjoy the rest of the day doing whatever it was we decided to do. We hung out in our AirBnb for the most part, taking a few walks around the town, every now and again, just to take it all in.
After we cleaned up our room, and had everything ready to go, we decided to head back over to the Papyrus Paper Museum to grab one last painting that I’d been debating on getting. Why not, right?
While we waited for our Uber to take us back to our AirBnb, we took in the sights and sounds of the city. It was sunset when we made it over to Giza, which made the Pyramids peaking through the buildings even more daunting. It was a great last moment for reflection and realizing how incredibly impressive these structures really are.
It made it really difficult to want to leave…
Homeward bound. We began our 20 hour trip back to Canada.
There’s not much to say about this part of the trip, really. It was a long-haul, and incredibly bittersweet.
All in all, visiting Egypt was truly an incredible experience.
Obviously there is a culture shock and need to get used to things, like bartering and not feeling bad about saying “no” to people trying to sell you things.
But, honestly, this was a trip of a lifetime, and anyone who wants to go, should absolutely do it.
We never felt unsafe, (even when we were lost in our Taxi straight out of the airport.)
We were treated so well, and were respected everywhere we went.
We won’t remember all the fine details of the history, or things we did, but we will remember the feeling of being there with all the sights, sounds, smells; everything.
See you again Egypt, we cannot wait for round two.
Thank you for taking the time to read this post.
Sometimes words fall short, but we hope we managed to give you an idea of what this trip was like for us.
If this gives even one person the initiative to go somewhere new,
or do something they haven’t done, we’ll be happy.
Based on what you just read, you can tell there were a few things that took some getting used to.
Here’s our list of “Must Knows” when travelling to Egypt:
With all of that said, just have fun and don’t stress. It is incredible if you let yourself indulge in the culture and really see Egypt for what it is, and not what the media portrays it to be.
if you need help with anything, LET US KNOW.
© freedom travel hack | 2018