Two of our intrepid Wildland travelers recently returned from our "Great Sites of Egypt by Dahabeya," an in-depth exploration of this mythical country and the most iconic sites. As the seasoned travelers they are, they came back to the US with far more than photos of pyramids and tombs. They fully absorbed what this trip – ultimately what all travel - is all about! Read on:
"This trip was more than pyramids and ruins and desert. It was a journey through time and civilizations, of Pharaohs and kings, of Gods and Goddesses, both pharaonic and Greek. It was about Osirus and Isis and the journey to the underworld. The Book of the Dead and the true sitting pharaoh at the time of the Exodus (it wasn't Ramses). Moses, Mary, and Baby Jesus hiding from the Romans. The influence of the Greeks upon Egyptian society and art. Cleopatra, Mark Anthony, and Caesar. The Nubians, the Coptic Christians and the arrival of the Muslims. They're all here, and many more. Our guide, Mr. Galal, wove the stories and the history together like a fine Egyptian tapestry as we traveled through time visiting these sites, gaining a greater understanding of how it all ties together."
"I can't say enough positive things about our leader Mohamed Essa and our exceptional guide Mr. Moawd Galal, who has advanced degrees in Egyptology and tourism. His depth and breadth of knowledge was extensive. He was very open about his Muslim faith. I confessed my ignorance. He said we could ask him anything and we did, including women's role in Muslim faith and Egyptian society. His wife sounds amazing, a well-educated woman raising two daughters. I highly recommend them as guides and I trusted them implicitly. They were so knowledgeable and so very attentive to our needs and interests. They were proud Egyptians that wanted us to experience their country with them, not just schlep us around from point A to point B on an itinerary. The driver, Mr. Essa, and Galal were also very aware of security and safety, but it was carried out in such a way that it did not cause us any additional anxiety or concern. All the ground personnel, guides, and our primary driver in Cairo were so very professional, and personal too. It was so nice to have them procure the visa prior to our arrival at the airport in Cairo. Especially after such a long flight for us. And they knew the airport so well we were all the way through passport control before the bulk of the other passengers from our flight began to appear."
"The Four Seasons Residence Inn was very comfortable and had the feel of a boutique hotel. The lobby footprint was small, which made the hotel more intimate. The hotel was quiet and it was very clean and in good repair. The staff was very friendly and helpful and remembered our names. The food in the dining room was excellent, including afternoon tea and the staff in the dining room remembered that I took milk in my coffee. There are several restaurants/ food options available in the hotel and as part of the attached shopping complex. We had to arrange boxed "to-go" breakfasts on 2 different mornings and they were very good. I have stayed at other "boutique" hotels that were far less friendly and accommodating. The hotel also felt very secure. We thought the location and amenities were perfect for our needs."
"It was very nice chatting with the family who hosted dinner in their home on our third night in Cairo. It was a feast of traditional Egyptian food, homemade from scratch. Dina (the wife and hostess - pictured above) spoke some English, but Mr. Essa and Mr. Galal were there to help interpret." (Read more about Dinner with Dina)
"Of all the ancient sites we visited on this tour, Giza is the most iconic, but also the most chaotic. It is a touristy circus with it's pluses and minuses but one has to visit the Giza pyramids. There are so many other more historically enriching sites to see though."
"At the Egyptian Museum we got the bonus of being one of the first people inside since Mr. Galal had done some of his studies in the museum. We took back stairs and were able to vist King Tut's exhibit totally undisturbed by others. We met a 19 year old art student at the Egyptian museum. He draws some of the more iconic objects. Picture: We are holding his drawing of King Khufu (Great Pyramid of Giza)."
"We added a custom extension to the pyramids of Dashur and Sakkara and it was the perfect introduction into ancient Egypt and should be included in any itinerary. It takes you back to the very beginning, as we learned about the early dynasties of the pharaonic period. We first encounter the story of Imhotep, a high architect under king Djoser of the Third Dynasty and saw Imhotep's first attempts at pyramid monuments, which evolved into the Giza pyramids. If we would have had another day, I would have done even more exploration on these older sites and structures near Cairo."
"The Dahabeya was unique and charming. It was small, with only 7 passenger cabins, and with guests and guides, probably never has more than 6 or 8 passengers. The cabins are small, but clean and adequate and you really don't spend a lot of time in your cabin. The cabins had air conditioning, which we were grateful for, not only for cooling down after a long hot day and sleeping, but the AC did seem to also filtered much of the dust and smoke in the air. One afternoon at tea the staff and passengers started talking about where we all were from. Everyone pulled out cell phones and we visited each other's homes via Google Earth, and then shared more photos on the phones of family and friends."
"I can't tell you how much we appreciated the entire boat crew. The few members assigned to interact with the passengers always seemed to materialize out of nowhere if you were out of your cabin. On a couple of occasions, we had to disembark very early and there was always coffee, tea and sufficient cold food assortment to get us on our way, plus a staff member in case we needed anything."
"There are dozens of tourist river cruise boats on the Nile (pictured left).They run a faster tour and run at night. They are very loud, large, and emit a stinky black exhaust out the back. Note the scant sun cover of the top deck and scant space for all of the passengers. Litter blows off the top deck of these ships and I've heard the food is like airplane food. I'm so thankful I wasn't on one of these!"
"The hot air balloon experience required a very early start to the day since there are 2 launches and it is best to be on the first one. The balloon basket was large and held 20-24 passengers, in addition to the pilot. For me, the best part of the experience was the launch, watching the other balloons glow in the predawn light."
"We moored at Luxor and visited Luxor Temple at night. It was so beautiful and a very different and memorable experience. We went during dinner hour so there were fewer people at the site, which also made it special. It was also cooler as the sun had set."
"The next afternoon we enjoyed afternoon tea at the Winter Palace Hotel, then strolled the beautifully landscaped grounds. This was especially nice as there are very few green spaces in the cities. The Winter Palace hotel was built in 1886 by British explorers and was once a winter retreat for the Egyptian royal family. Agatha Christie wrote her famed 1937 novel Death on the Nile here."
"This was a life changing trip, I learned so much. Not just of the history but meeting all the wonderful people. They are indeed so much like us, just trying to raise their families and get along in the world. We have so much more in common than we have different." - Wildland Alumni
See more photos from their trip in the slideshow below: