“A picture is worth a thousand words.”
When I look at my photographs from Egypt they leave me absolutely speechless. They are emotions to me, not words. Egypt is my heart and soul. My experiences there have greatly defined me and I have learned so much about myself through these experiences. Travel is a tool of empowerment. It helps you push your own boundaries, it challenges what you think you know, and it opens your eyes to untold and endless wonders. To travel is to live.
The following photos are a few special memories from my time in Egypt – I hope they fuel your travel dreams.
Going to the Pyramids for me, like so many other travelers, is the “I have made it to Egypt” moment. Egypt and the Pyramids have been intertwined since their construction over 5000 years ago. I will be the first to admit that these two photos are pretty much as obligatory as it gets. Yeah, we look like major tourists. The dual upside and down side of that though is that we were the only tourists there.
This was a moment where I could look out over the desert, over the dirt roads void of tour busses, the three Great Pyramids of Khufu, Kafre and Menkaure on the horizon, the bright blue sky above me, and take a breath, exhale, and think to myself, “ I did it.” That was the first time I had done anything close to mediation in years. I am blessed to have done a lot in my life that many would consider remarkable. I have graduated university; gotten my dream job, fell in love. But making it to the Pyramids was the proudest moment of my life.
The Temple of Philae
Since I was young, I have been fascinated by the Temple of Philae. A temple suspended on an island in the middle of the Nile is something I think everyone can agree is awe-inspiring. The Temple of Philae is 12 KM south of Aswan and was ancient pilgrimage center for the cult of Isis. It has been dazzling travelers with its power for centuries long before I showed up. This sacred site was venerated from the Pharaonic era up to the Greek, Roman and Byzantine periods with each ruler adding their own stamp onto the stones – a true time capsule of ancient Egypt’s history.
I arrived just as the sun rose. There were no tourists in sight. It was magically quiet and the air was beginning to warm but it was not intolerable yet. I could smell the water and Nilotic plant life. As travelers we are all familiar with that saying, “wherever you go, there you are.” This describes my journey exploring Philae – a quiet place away from the modern world.
For a deeper dive into one of my favorite temples in Egypt, read my Travel Guide to Aswan.
Karanis is a well-preserved and well-excavated settlement in the Fayum, some 80 KM south of Cairo. Dating mainly to the Roman Period, it has yielded an extensive amount of architectural, material and papyrological records that provide a thorough view of how life must have been during Greco-Roman times. Much of the domestic architecture of Karanis still exists in addition to two temples dedicated to the crocodile-god Sobek.
Going to Karanis represented a big milestone for me in that I went there alone, on my first solo trip to Egypt. Karanis was deserted, save for my friend Hamdi, the guard, and myself. It was like a gigantic playground, a sprawling metropolis of ruins. While of course being respectful of the monuments (I am good little Egyptologist tourist), I was able to explore this vast landscape of architectural wonders without being disrupted. Everywhere I stepped, broken pottery crunched beneath my feet. I explored the ruins, dusting off cooking wares and various other artifacts, playing a real-life game of archaeologist. As I had all time in the world, with no other visitors in site, I remember sitting down amongst the mud brick homes and trying to reconstruct some pottery.
Meidum is another off the beaten path destination – just across from the Fayum, a few KM south of Karanis, situated at the edge of the Western Desert. Above the lush green fields at Medium, is a the sixty-five meter high core remains of a 4th Dynasty pyramid built by the Pharaoh Snefru. Some believe that Senfru’s predecessor, Huni, did phases of its construction however, archaeological evidence points to Snefru as the only builder. Most people don’t know that Egypt actually has more than just the 3 pyramids at Giza. Much more. In many ways, the pyramid at Meidum is the genesis of the pyramid as we know it. When Snefru came to the throne around 2575 BCE, the Step Pyramid complex at Saqqara was the only large royal pyramid that stood complete, but, it was not the traditional shape we are familiar with today. The Medium pyramid was thus the first attempt at the true pyramid shape that set the pace for the famous Pyramids at Giza. Senfru is also thought to be the father of Khufu, the builder of the Great Pyramid. It was the necessary precursor to greatness.
Due mainly to poor craftsmanship, the outer casing of the pyramid has fallen and what remains is its solid core. Despite what is obviously a not very secure structure, you can still enter the Pyramid and explore the small burial chamber within.
With only the core of the Pyramid standing, to me this core was symbolic of the heart of the pyramid. Entering into the heart of the predecessor to the Great Pyramids is without a doubt one of those amazing experiences of my life. I climbed down the pyramid shaft without fear (despite the audible creaking of the ladder and the dust falling down from the ceiling with each step down I took) and found myself alone inside the Pyramid’s burial chamber. It was a small room just big enough for one person. I stood in the middle of the chamber, knowing full well that I was in a very fragile structure, which could collapse at any moment. I spun around with my arms held wide, in a sort of dance with the stale error inside the chamber and the darkness that surrounded me. I grinned ear to ear. When I exited the pyramid, I had a better understanding of the phrase “emerging victorious”.
My Egyptian family and I for my Birthday
My good friend Mohamed and his family wanted to give me a grand Egyptian dinner for my birthday. I had heard about Egyptian birthday feasts. They were massive spectacles of rich food. I knew I was in for an unforgettable affair. Most travelers and gypsy souls would look forward to such an event, especially in celebration of their birthday abroad.
They had made me a grand traditional meal built for the pharaohs and comprised of Bram Rice, Hamam Mahshi (stuffed pigeon), Molokhia (a soup made from mallow leave s and coriander), Water Buffalo, Chicken, and Aish. By the end of the meal I was full, but satisfied.