Land of the Pharaohs!

- by Swastik Todi

23 Jun 2020

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Wrapping up office early, I headed home to pack my bags for the exciting week ahead. I was off to Egypt the same night with my parents for a 6-night vacation!

This was my first family holiday in 5 years and the destination was one I had dreamed of visiting ever since I had read about the pyramids as a 9-year old. The trip included 3 nights at Luxor, 2 nights at Cairo and a third optional night at Alexandria.

After an elongated journey that involved two connecting flights and a 5-hour layover, we finally landed in Luxor, the capital of Old Egypt. The next three days that we spent in this quaint town were agreeably one of the fondest times that I can remember. We stayed at Jolie Ville Hotel & Spa, an expansive resort perched on an island overlooking the dark waters of the Nile. Though it boasted of numerous dining options, I still salivate when I think of the falafels, hummus and pita bread they serve up at their main restaurant.

We started our vacation with a visit to the Karnak Temple. Built over 2,000 years ago and spanning 100+ acres, the Karnak Temple is dedicated to Amun-Ra, the Sun God. Walking around the gigantic temple complex and its numerous halls left me captivated. The Great Hypostyle Hall, in particular, left a lasting impression. Consisting of 134 massive columns that tower 24 meters in height, it is easily one of Egypt’s most popular landmarks and has also been a location where numerous movies have been shot - including The Spy Who Loved Me and Poirot’s Death on the Nile. I remember sitting in this very hall and looking at the ancient Egyptian inscriptions (hieroglyphics) on the columns all around me. It’s hard to believe the kind of architecture that the Egyptians were capable of at that point in time. We also attended the Sound and Light show which truly does justice to the elegance and grandeur of this temple.

The next two days included a number of attractions; the Tomb of Queen Nefertari, The Sun Temple, Valley of the Kings, Colossi of Memnon, Obelisk of Thutmose I, Tomb of Tutankhamun, Avenue of Sphinxes and many more! If you would ask me to rank these places, I’d put all of them in the first spot. Each monument adds to the history and sheer brilliance of what would undoubtedly have been a glorious empire.

Another monument of noteworthy mention, is the Temple of Hatshepsut. This monument is dedicated to Queen Hatshepsut, one of ancient Egypt’s first female pharaohs. Stepped platforms and pillared porticoes set against the tall rugged mountains makes it a sight to behold. The walls of the temple are replete with immaculate paintings and neat hieroglyphics that pay homage to the great queen as well as the Gods relevant to her afterlife

Next, we headed to Africa’s largest city, Cairo! The bustling metropolitan, with a population of over 30 million, served as a fitting contrast to our earlier destination. The unchecked pollution and nightmarish traffic in the city would probably make you rethink your decision to visit Cairo, but I can assure you that skipping it from your itinerary would leave your visit to Egypt grossly incomplete. In downtown, on both sides of the Nile, are numerous hotels that give you striking room views with top-notch hospitality. We were able to get a great deal at Conrad Cairo and I would definitely recommend considering this property!

The Pyramids of Giza were undeniably the monument I was most looking forward to visiting. So it wasn’t a surprise that we ended up tweaking our itinerary to bump the Pyramids up to first spot on our to-do list. It lived up to the hype and beyond! The three massive structures pyramids are constructed diagonally, with each one more remarkable than the other. Built over 3,000 years ago, they consist of millions of granite blocks, brought from mines over 500 miles away! Each pyramid has an extremely narrow tunnel that leads you to the main chamber that once housed the mummy of a pharaoh. The entire experience right from the first glance of the pyramids to being in the confined chamber of the pharaoh king, is one that will leave you in awe of this great civilization.

Apart from the Pyramids, Cairo has numerous other attractions such as Cairo Citadel, Hanging Church, Coptic Cairo, Dinner cruise on the Nile, Egyptian Museum and the Cairo Festival City Mall.

There are numerous other cities and towns all across the country that one must visit if time permits. This includes the city of Alexandria with its Greek architecture, the town of Aswan with numerous more historical sites and the sea-side resort town of Sharm-el-Sheikh, which is often compared to the blitz and nightlife of Ibiza. The coastal town of Hurghada is another hot favourite with water-lovers and boasts of some of the most spectacular diving sites in the world.

My trip was truly a memorable one, especially because I (like most people) underestimated what Egypt has to offer. Right from un-matched historical sites and endless entertainment options, to the noteworthy hospitality of its people, this place has earned a special place in my heart. If I were to pick three favourites of this holiday, it would have to be the

  • Grand Karnak Temple
  • A sumptuous dinner cruise on the Nile
  • A visit to the party town of Sharm-el-Sheikh!

While thinking of Egypt, often what comes to one’s mind are the pyramids and linen-wrapped mummies. Having spent a week in this country I can assure that this destination is capable of surprising you at every step and will leave you wanting for more!

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