We arrived at dawn and our riverboat was not ready for boarding until noon. But there was a felucca man willing to sail us over the Nile River to Banana Island. Happy to have the fare, he offered us mint tea, which in the Arab world as sign of utmost hospitality, we could not refuse. The island is a hidden gem. I saw people go about their daily lives the same way for thousands of years. Living on mud brick houses, tending fields with wooden plows and carrying produce on donkeys. They were oblivious to the observer that I merely was.
Imagine sitting on the top deck of a riverboat, watching 5,000 years of Egyptian culture slowly drift by you, and watching the same sunset that the pharaohs laid their eyes on. With that cruise down the Nile from Luxor to Aswan surrounded by history grander than any history books I could ever read, I came to understand that the Egyptians have always loved the Nile. It is their life, their water, their source of income. Without this magnificent river, there will be no Egypt.
I remember riding the bus into Cairo and thinking how amazingly exotic everything was. The distant pyramids with the sun setting against it. The chaotic scene of people and mania of cars on the road all contribute to delirious traffic. The cacophony of sounds from Mosques’ calls to prayer to drivers honking to people chanting and yelling. Everything felt vibrant, fascinating and mysterious. It was an all out assault to my senses that I could not help but realize that travel is truly a privilege.
This open air market is one of the major souks in the world. Maneuvering around a thousand stalls which are connected by tight alleyways, it is easy to forget your bearings and easier to get lost. That happened to me and it was pretty scary. Haggling is a tradition and be prepared to be followed by vendors should you decide to walk away. To say that these sellers are persistent is a major understatement. They will pull up alongside your bus or taxi with their wares just to make an honest buck.
PYRAMIDS OF GIZA
Astonished. That was what I felt at my first sight of the Great Pyramids rising in the dessert while riding a camel. It was one of the most extraordinary experiences I ever had in my life. Never mind the scorching heat and the perceived danger, this stunning country is a must visit. These pyramids outside of Cairo are what Egypt is all about, and a fulfillment of a girlhood dream to see in person. It is truly an extraordinary country full of once in a lifetime experiences.
Written by Faith Azul-Evia. Faith is an avid flashpacker (a slightly older version of a backpacker with a bigger budget but still wants to avoid a packaged version of a destination) and believes that her travels start as soon as she steps out of her NY apartment building. She is in constant search of new places to explore, eat, drink, sleep, spa, run, hike and yoga. She has been to more than 50 countries on 6 continents and dreams of going to Antarctica someday. Follow her @faithflashpacks on Instagram.