Nearing the end of my adventure
I embarked on this journey with only one intention in mind, to further my knowledge of Egypt but I gained so much more. I met some incredible people along the way and made some new life long friendships. We never know where life will lead us, but we will never know or become more than what we are unless we try.
Here are a few photos I took yesterday.
The Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa
“The Catacombs reach 100 feet down into the ground into solid rock.
The tombs are truly remarkable and their existence testifies of is engineering feat of great magnitude. The funerary motifs are pure ancient Egyptian, but the architects and artists were schooled in the Greco-Roman style. Applied to the themes of Ancient Egyptian religion, it has resulted in an amazing integrated art, quite unlike anything else in the world. For example, some statues are Egyptian in style, yet bear Roman clothes and hair style whilst other features share a similar style.” http://www.ancientpages.com/2016/01/10/catacombs-of-kom-el-shoqafa-largest-roman-burial-site-in-egypt/
“Alexandria National Museum was opened for the public in 2003, hosting artifacts of all historical events from the Pharaonic dynastic times, passing through the Ptolemaic Kingdom, the Roman Empire, the Byzantine and Islamic periods until the beginning of Mohammed Ali’s era as Egypt’s ruler and finally the Egyptian anti-British 1952 revolution. ” http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/2018-03/19/c_137048453.htm
Along the way to another museum I spotted this:
The Royal Jewel Museum
“The museum houses major jewelry pieces and acquisitions of the Mohammad Ali dynasty, who ruled Egypt for about 150 years till the July 1952 Revolution. Following the Revolution, the remaining jewelry left over by the Royal Family were safe-kept until a decree by President Mubarak was issued in 1986 to assign Princess Fatima Al-Zahra’ Palace in Alexandria as a special museum to house those pieces.” http://www.travelegypt.com/siteinfo/royal-jewelry-museum.htm
After the touring with Archaeological Paths was done for the day, a fellow traveler and I grabbed a cab and headed to the one thing I dreamed of visiting while I was in Alexandria, the Bibliotheca. To me, I prefer to call it the Great Library of Alexandria.
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina
Sue and I got there in time for the last English-speaking tour of the day. Our young hostess showed us around and told us how they just do not want to be a library for the people of Alexandria, but the world. They are digitizing their collection at a rate of 100 books per day on expired copyrighted material. Anyone in the world can access the library online at the below link. http://dar.bibalex.org/webpages/dar.jsf
Back to Cairo
In the morning, it was back to packing before boarding our bus again one last time, back to Cairo. In the afternoon, our group would have one last lecture from Dr. Hawass. We also had the chance to purchase any of his books before the lecture, and before he left, he would sign them for us. While I have read most of his other books, I purchased “Secret Egypt” that just came out. It is a very good reference to use if you are planning a trip to Egypt or just want to know more about the wonderful archaeological sites. It was great to get a signed copy of this book.
Saying Goodbye – Farewell dinner
In the evening, our group celebrated. It was time to part, but before we said adieu, we reflected upon our experience, listened to some great live music, enjoyed a lot of wine, and laughed our butts off together.
I will cherish this experience, this entire trip… always.
Update: Trip Advisor Review
If you have been following my blog posts, this is just my final thoughts on my trip with AP. I will be posting more about mountaineering and my writing process soon.
My reflections: Egypt 2 Undiscovered Tour with Archaeological Paths in November 2019.
This was not my first rodeo with Archaeological Paths (AP). In March 2018, I went on their Royal Egypt tour. On that first journey with AP, I learned quite a bit about Egypt and had such a wonderful experience that I wanted to use them again as my tour company for my return trip to Egypt, and I was not disappointed.
Listed below are a few reasons why I thought the experience was outstanding and why I would recommend traveling with Archaeological Paths.
Small tour group: Only 15 “travelers” on our tour with 3 AP personnel to take care of needs, cares, desires, and safety.
Locations: Most of the places we visited on the tour we had all to ourselves. We hardly saw any other tourists until Luxor on day 8 of our 14-day journey. If you have never been to Abydos, it is a must-visit. In my opinion, the wall carvings and hieroglyphics in this temple are even more impressive than Karnak.
Safety: AP did an outstanding job making sure our group was always safe. We had an armed security officer with us at all times, plus we had police escorts through most of middle Egypt. At no time did I ever feel unsafe. In fact, before and after the tour was completed, I went out on my own through the streets of Egypt. I am a solo female traveler, and I never worried about my safety in Egypt, getting lost yes, but not my safety.
Knowledge Sharing: Amr, our guide was outstanding. He knew in-depth details of all the sites of antiquity we visited and if there was a question he could not answer, he contacted other scholars in the area so he could give us an answer as soon as possible, usually the same day or the next morning.
Egyptologists: It goes without saying that meeting Dr. Zahi Hawass on five separate occasions and Dr. Mostafa Wazari twice during our tour was priceless. The passion these two men have for Egyptology and their country all but consumes their lives. I learned so much from them, and I was most grateful when after my tour concluded, Dr. Hawass emailed me some articles to help me with my research for the manuscript I am currently working on. He is a very busy man, but he took time out of his day to share his expertise with me.
Unique Experiences: While on this tour, our group got to accompany Dr. Waziri down a 60’ shaft to see an active dig site. Suffice to say, this was one of the many highlights of this trip. We also got to have dinner with him one evening, which was not only educational but incredibly enjoyable since he is a man of great humor. In addition, having Dr. Hawass meet us at various locations such as Valley of the Monkeys or at Abydos was a rare privilege. He spoke for almost 1-hour each time and provided us with ample time for Q&A. It was a thrill for me since I live to learn, and I was grateful to have him as one of my teachers.
Add-ons: I booked the add-on Jordan trip in 2018, and the add-on Israel trip in 2019. I would highly recommend both additions. Going to see the Rose City of Petra was a bucket list item for me, and I was so glad I got to experience this. The same goes for visiting Old Jerusalem. Both add on tours are short in nature, but provided me with just the right amount of “flavor” of each country. I did arrive one day early in Israel and did explore many sites on my own. If you can afford to go a day earlier, I would recommend doing so.
Additional trips: I also splurged and booked all available additional trips in 2018 and 2019. In 2018, I got to see a tomb that is now closed to visitors, KV20. If something is offered, and you have the money, I highly recommend going for it. I am big into experiencing all life has to offer, so I wanted to take home all of these treasured moments and not miss one thing.
In 2019, I also paid for add-ons I previously visited on my first visit. For example, I saw Nefertari’s tomb in 2018 but paid to see it again in 2019. I am so glad I did because, in 2018, no photos were allowed. Now, you can take photos but only with your cellphone. The same goes for the balloon ride. In 2018, I had a wonderful time flying high over Luxor but in 2019 the trip was made even better since this time the pilot took us high above the Valley of the Kings and Hatshepsut’s Temple. On my 2018 trip, the pilot did not go above these areas. I say savor the moment and take in all you can.
Hotel Upgrades and VIP Service: I added these offerings to my package. I love being pampered and also being a solo female traveler, and I did not want to worry about anything. The staff of AP treated me like a royal princess. I enjoyed the room upgrades and being met at the airport in a limo to whisk me away was a special treat.
AP Staff: My tour group leaders, Amr, Mohammad, and Max are the best! Not only were they super professional but also very warm and caring. They always surprised my group with sweets, ice cream, and extra treats. Listed below are just a few examples of how the AP staff made me feel like I was part of their family.
Amr, our tour guide was not only knowledgeable but kind-hearted too. One day on the bus, he pulled out a bag of crafts made by local Egyptian women. He all let us choose one gift and expected nothing in return. He provided us with these wonderful handmade treasures just out of the goodness of his own heart. On another occasion, I wanted to visit the library with another group member in Alexandria after the AP tour was done in the afternoon. Amr called ahead to make sure an English speaking tour was still available since it was late in the afternoon. When I found out I did not have enough Egyptian Pounds for the cab ride over and back plus the tour ticket, Amr pulled out his wallet and provided me with ample funds. He did not want me to miss the last tour of the day, and just said pay me back later. He went out of his way to help me out, and I still have fond memories of his generosity.
Mohammad (Mo) as we affectionately called him was in charge of tour logistics. He always tried his best to accommodate any request we had. He also constantly had us in stitches from laughing so hard. On the first day of the tour, I asked if we could have a pigeon in the market since I read that is a delicacy. While our lunch plans for the day were already in place, Mo managed to have pigeon served to us-to anyone who wanted to try it a few days later, (we all tried it). We enjoyed our little birds in a lovely outdoor evening setting in Al Minya while dusk was arriving. The table was dripping in candlelight and having the Nile at our backs helped make the night even more magical.
Max, our tour leader, was always trying to stay two steps ahead of us during the trip. He was constantly taking care of getting tickets, and exchanging money, and just making sure we were well taken care of. In Luxor, he asked if anyone wanted to go to the local bookstore. Many of us did, so he accompanied us and arranged transportation-AP provided this excursion at no charge to us and no one had to buy anything. I loved this outing and bought many books to help me in my research, books I have not been able to find in the US.
Overall Experience: Everywhere you go, you will see how welcoming the Egyptian people are. Children and adults are always waving hi to you, desire to take your picture, or just want to get to know you better-they are curious. A simple wave back will make their day. Yes, people will try to sell you trinkets and items, but that is how many people in this area of the world make their living. If you are interested in something, haggle and buy it, or just say no thank you. The AP staff will also haggle for you if bartering is not your cup of tea. Just tell the AP staff you need some help, and they will be your negotiator.
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