Egypt is another country you get raised eyebrows for traveling alone to, and I’ll admit, there is some merit to that at times. I wouldn’t recommend it to a first time solo traveler. However, I fell in love with Egypt. It is one of my all-time favorite places. I was here about 5 days and I could’ve stayed for a month. The people were very kind and endearing. I really felt welcomed and I truly enjoyed the people I met. The wonders of ancient Egypt are also some of the few that were actually more amazing and more humbling than they get credit for.
That being said, you need to be prepared for pushy markets, a different way of life and a country that has just undergone a revolution. Mentally prepare yourself and then jump in.
Egypt is different in that it really is set up for packaged tours where you have your whole trip planned out for you. Even though I booked just one thing at a time through my hostel, they kept trying to combine everything into one long excursion, which was fine. If I had it to do over, I would have just let my hostel or a tour company book it all because I was short on time. Usually, that’s not the type of thing I’d recommend but it just makes sense in Egypt. That’s how they’re used to doing things. If you have a month, that’s different, but otherwise, go with the flow.
The most amazing thing to me, is that I arrived in Egypt around 1:00 AM, got my visa stamped and a few hours of sleep at a hostel and then woke up this morning to go to the pyramids. A lot of ancient Egypt’s cities are still the major cities and so the main attractions like the Great Pyramids are just outside of town. In fact, the rumors are true, you can see the pyramids from a Pizza Hut, but of course, the only fun way to see them would be by camel.
The Sphinx is right there too. You actually see both within about 10 minutes.
I always thought that if you went to the pyramids, the only way to get in would be to do a big group tour. It wasn’t like that today. I was given full on permission to go in alone. It was pretty creepy.
So this is the Dashur Pyramid just outside of Cairo. When I got here, there were a few other cars but it was quiet. I climbed to the entrance where two old me in robes and turbans were selling tickets and eating lunch. I paid a few dollars and looked through the entry. To get into the chambers you go down a long, steep ramp to the bottom.
No other tourists were in there. It was completely silent. What surprised me was that the pyramids are like giant ovens and it was hot by the time I got to the second chamber. Both were empty but had 45 foot ceilings and smooth rock interiors. There were no hieroglyphs chiseled in the walks, just beautiful stone leading up into the dark. The third and last chamber smelled terribly like ammonia. It was so bad that I couldn’t stay in.
I stood in the second chamber, staring at the walls and trying to appreciate the experience but the hairs on my neck were standing up. Everything was silent in the heat. Thousands of years of quiet seemed to hover in the chamber. It was very creepy and I wondered how long they would let me stay down there before someone came looking. I didn’t really want to test the pyramid guards. One told me he had a bad knee so I think it would be a very long time.
I took an overnight train to Luxor. Did you know the overnight trains get very cold? It was an interesting experience shivering in Egypt over night. I’ll need to buy a blanket for the trip back to Cairo.
I’m not sure there’s anything I’ve seen that comes close to comparing to this. The ancient Egyptians were amazing.
This is the incredible Temple of Hatshepsut, the only female pharaoh of ancient Egypt. Her tomb is inside the mountain. Since she was a woman they wouldn’t burry her in the Valley of the Kings on the other side of the mountain. So she dug a tunnel though until her tomb would be in the same area as the men’s.
Like a boss.
I absolutely love the markets in Egypt. It’s a good thing I’m leaving soon because it’ll prevent me from spending too much on wool scarves, Turkish rugs, alabaster and lanterns. The way they bargain here is new to me. It’s much more fun and playful than say, China or Bolivia. It’s almost flirtatious. I was trying not to buy a rug today but the man showed me one with a woven picture of a stout woman carrying a jug on her head. It was so cute that I laughed when I saw it. Then the shop owner smiled because he knew he had me and I knew I’d have to buy it. I’m a good haggler by now but sometimes the charm of the Egyptians makes it hard for me to be as ruthless as I usually am.
As my flight to Tanzania gets close I’m wishing I had a bit more time in Egypt. I’d take a cruise down the Nile for a few days just to see the sand from the water. But, a dinner cruise on the Nile will have to do for now.