Hmmm..let me see..What do I remember of my mega Egyptian trip? That I had been seriously surprised to see how flowers had bordered the roads in glorious tangles; how green it had been in a few places; that it’s skies, lakes and oceans had been impossibly blue; And that the Nile river cruise had undoubtedly been one of the most romantic experiences in the world. Egypt had happened more than a decade ago and I had been a professional flight attendant at that time. Luxury, limited time and traveling as a couple had featured high on my priorities and I used to be a person, who would cry over chipped nails. It had been a very romantic trip too, with all the sweet perks of love thrown in and we had dressed nice, stayed posh, taken pretty photos and generally had a very good time. Free airline tickets had helped our travel budget and with that money we had shopped till we dropped. Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Edfu, Alexandria and Hurghada had featured on our itinerary and we had sailed down the Blue Nile on a very nice boat.
Aviation industry is tough on its employees and flying is no easy job. Leaves are hard to come by and winter vacations are rarest of the rare chances. That winter, however, we had gotten lucky and it had been a typical work hard, party harder trip. Our days had included small trips, splashing in the pool, pampering in beauty treatments and in the evenings, we had indulged in dances, dinners and drinks. Those had been the days before travel blogs, selfie sticks and hashtags and holiday moments used to be captured with neat little cameras along with printed photos. DSLR, tripods and other high end photography equipment used to be carried only by professionals and like every regular tourist, we had a little point and shoot camera with us to take pictures. The result had been off frame, self obsessed photos of us in various spots across the country and they had captured our moments, rather than the magnificent country.
After that I had visited Egypt numerous times for work, conferences, FAM trips etc and although my skills had gotten better with new fancy equipment, I have never been able to replicate the innocent charm of my first trip to the ancient Pharaonic land. Misr, as it is known in classical Koranic Arabic, is one of the most popular travel destinations of all times and the country is home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world. My attraction for Egypt had stemmed from school days and I had spent many hours day dreaming of Pharaohs and their mystical cults. Although, it had been a regular school girl’s wistful crush on something mysteriously foreign, in adulthood too, ancient Egypt’s exquisite history, hieroglyphics, blood curdling stories and brilliant technological prowess have always left me awed.
The modern Arab Republic of Egypt is a far cry from its glorious past and despite being a very strategically important nation, it is riddled with political rifts and problems. The nearly arid transcontinental country spans from northeastern corner of Africa to southeastern tip of Asia via the Sinai Peninsula and the lovely Mediterranean Sea plays along its coast. Today, Egypt is buckling under many media promoted issues and it is the most populated country in Arab and North Africa. Most of its people live along the river and as pointed out by the ancient Greek historian, Herodotus “Egypt is the gift of the Nile”. The mystical, ancient land is scattered with science, intriguing philosophy, cryptic messages, tombs, temples, treasures, museums, urban legends etc and this lethal charm has drawn endless stream of people throughout centuries. Countless numbers of historians, adventurers, archaeologists, explorers, robbers and gold diggers have succumbed to Egypt’s charms, yet till today, the country remains an enigma for most people in the world.
The same timeless aura and incredible history had drawn me to Egypt too and I have been attracted to the country in a most primal way. Thus, my first trip to the iconic destination had been a birthday gift and it had been the only packaged tour I have ever been on. The holiday had come along with a fancy chauffeur driven car, private English speaking guides, fun activities and excellent hotels and sometimes I secretly wish that the rest of my travels had been as easy as that tour. My evolution from a flying diva to a gritty solo traveler has been very harsh and although today, the world has confidently become my oyster, it had not always been like that. Cairo had nearly made me faint on my first step on Egyptian soil and it had been due to my lack of preparation. The month had been December and even though, Egypt had been technically experiencing winter season, Cairo’s blazing heat had shocked me numb. Due to false expectations of “winter weather”, I had been grossly overdressed in the world’s most driest and sunniest country and the shock had made me realize that, Egypt is actually an extension of the great Sahara desert. Even most of the colours around me had been of different shades of sandy yellow or sky blue and they had hurt my tropical eyes a lot.
Cairo international airport at that time, had been a dismal, chaotic place and it had been located at a distance outside the city. By the time, I had revived from my heat shock, we had been on our way to the city center and Cairo had shocked me by its sheer size. I had received my first glimpse of it during one of the loops on the long airport expressway and the sight had taken my breath away. The behemoth city had shimmered under a strong African sun and in the glare it had looked almost silver. Cairo had stretched endlessly like a sea and the haze had made melted it invisible into the horizon. To my first timer eyes, it had seemed as if the city had no beginning or end and for a timeless country like Egypt, it had been the most befitting capital.
RESPONSIBLE TRAVELING-BECAUSE I CARE