I pose a question to you: What is the first thing that pops into your head when you hear someone mention Egypt? Perhaps an image of the Pyramids flash before your eyes, or the legendary boy king, Tutankhamen – one of the most famous Egyptian Kings ever to be rediscovered. Maybe you think of the longest river in the world, the Nile or even the vast expansive Sahara Desert? What ever your idea of Egypt is, I hope that I can share my experiences of this great country and its vast historical riches with all of you over the course of the next 3-weeks.
As you are reading this message I should be well into the second hour of my flight from Minneapolis-Saint Paul to Amsterdam. The flight from Amsterdam to Cairo actually departs after a 10-hour layover in Amsterdam (which I will be meeting Joost and Laetitia in the city center for lunch and a drink), finally arriving in Cairo at 2:15 in the morning. Total flying time is 13- hours.
I never formally create some kind of itinerary, as I like to be flexible and have room for spontaneity. I do have a few places that I really have to see and experience while I am in Egypt & Jordan.
My proposed plan is to spend the first 3-days in and around the ancient city of Cairo. A vast, sprawling metropolis of over 17.3 million people. One of the many treasures afforded by this city include the Egyptian Museum, home to the largest collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts. It is said that there are so many artifacts in this museum that it would take a person, spending only 2-minutes looking at each artifact, 5-days without interruption in order to see them all. Talk about Antiquity Fatigue. Then there are the most iconic structures in the entire world, the Great Pyramids of Giza; built during the 4th Dynasty by the kings Khufu (largest), Khafre (the only pyramid on the plateau which still has part of the original casing stones — look to the top) and Menkaure (the smallest). Also on the Giza Plateau is the great stone statue of the Sphinx. It is thought that the Sphinx was modeled after the great king Khafre. Located just south of Cairo, in the region known as Saqqara, lies the first know stone building, the Step Pyramid, which was built during the 3rd Dynasty by the Pharaoh Djoser. To give you an idea of the times that these structures were erected, the 3rd Dynasty was around 2686 – 2613 B.C. and the 4th Dynasty ran from around 2613 – 2494 B.C.
From Cairo, I am planning to take a night train to the Upper Nile river valley and the city of Aswan, which will be used as a base for visiting the much further temples of Abu Simbel, Edfu, Kom Ombo and Philae. Abu Simbel, built by King Ramses II and a second temple built for his wife, Queen Nefertari (not to be confused with Nefertiti who was married to King Tuts father, Akhenaten) is located about 10 miles from the border with Sudan along the Nile River. This temple was taken apart and moved brick by brick to higher ground in the 1960s to prevent its impending destruction, after the construction of the Aswan High Dam. This temple is where I am hoping to celebrate my 28th birthday. Wow I am getting old!!! But if I’m not home, it doesn’t count, right?
After Aswan I plan to, at a moderate pace, make my way back to Cairo. With stops of course in Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. If time warrants I would like to visit the less visited temple of Tell el-Amarna. A temple dedicated a the sun God Aten, which was built by King Tuts father, Akhenaten and Nefertiti.
On November 28th I will fly from Cairo to Amman, Jordan and after a long day of bus/taxi travel plan to reach the city of Wadi Musa, best known for the Nabatean city of Petra (the Rose-Red City hewn into Stone). Petra was lost to the outside world, until a Swiss explorer dressed like a bedouin penetrated the city and “rediscovered” it. Many of you have seen Petra, though you do not know what it is. If you have ever seen Indiana Jones and the Last Crusades, then you will know that the final scenes where they are locating the Holy Grail in what they refer to as Turkey “In the canyon of the crescent moon”. You actually gaze upon the stone building, known as the Treasury.
After Petra, I will travel north back to Amman. I have not really spent much time thinking about this part of the trip yet, but Jordan is seeped in history. Known to Christians, Jewish and Muslim religions to be a region that is as old as time, Jordan contains ruins of castles built during the Crusades, as well as many sites known by the three major religions. Aside from these sites, there are also numerous Roman sites (most notably the city of Gerash or Jerash) and a few remains in Amman, as well. Did you know that Amman, Jordan was once known as Philadelphia.
I will fly from Amman back to Cairo on the 4th of December in the evening and then my flight back to the United States will be on December 5th, starting in the early morning. Why I choose destinations which depart in the early morning, I will never know. Last year my flight from Bangkok, Thailand left at 6:00 am and this year the flight back to Amsterdam leaves at 4:00 am…