I arrived in Egypt by crossing the Israeli border by land into the eastern part of Egypt called the Sinaí peninsula. I first went to a place called Ras Al Shaitan which is a string of hotels and guesthouses and restaurants along a stretch of beach on the Red Sea. It is a VERY calm place with rustic and basic accommodation which is both beautiful and serene. After spending 2 nights there I made my way to a bigger town by the name of Dahab to meet my friend Yosra. She is from Cairo and I had met her back home in Bogotá a few years ago and it was great to meet up with her in her native land and she was amazing with me 🙂
I quickly discovered that Dahab is a really cool place. It is home to a world famous scuba and free diving spot called The Blue Hole, that attracts people from around the globe. People also come because it is a beautiful place that is not so developed and has a hippie charm and vibe, and is very affordable for scuba diving (I paid $16 USD a dive for some of the best diving in the world) .I ended up staying a little over a month in Dahab as I liked it so much and because I made a good friend, Julieta, who was working and living there and kindly hosted me.
While I was there I spent the first few days scuba diving, which was great…but then I went for something I had been wanting to do for some time. I started getting into Freediving, or Apnea. This is when you hold your breath and go under water. Some people compete to see how long they can stay under water, some try to go deep and reach new depths, and for others it is just like scuba diving where you are under water appreciating the beauty of the sea (but instead of using a tank full of oxygen, you use your lungs!)
I both studied and practiced on my own, as well as completed a 2 day course and was happy that I was able to achieve some things I didn’t think were possible for myself. I was able to hold my breath under water for almost 5 minutes (4:53) and also (separately) to swim down to almost 25 meters (80 feet) on a single breath. (This is nothing compared to others, some people hold their breath for 12 minutes and reach 200 meters/650 feet)!
While I was in the Sinaí Peninsula I also went twice to climb Mount Sinaí which is very important in biblical terms as it is supposed to be where God in Christianity gave Moses the Ten Commandments. It is a really stunning place to see the sunrise at the top. Beside that I also went to Sharm El Sheikh, which is too fancy and developed for me, but I loved the National Park there, Ras Muhammad, which is absolutely stunning above and inside the water.
Afterwards I went to Cairo with Julieta and we had the very good fortune of having a friend there Hannah, who was amazing and let us stay around a month off and on in a spare room in her beautiful apartment. Cairo is both a beauty and a beast. While its population is debated between 10 and 20 million depending on who you ask, the noise and pollution at times can make you sure it’s 20. However, it also has beautiful architecture and an endless amount of neighborhoods, museums, mosques, churches, and historic sites to take in that deserves a long stay if you can!
From there we took trips to Faiyum with our lovely friends Maie and Samar, a bit south of Cairo which is beautiful and famous for pottery making so I indulged. We also took a trip to Alexandria, a city famously named after Alexander the Great, who I am named after 😉 We also went to Siwa, an oasis in the deserts of the west of Egypt near the border with Libya and it is amazingly beautiful to see an ocean of green from olive and date trees and the natural water oasis in the desert!
Then we finally went south along the River Nile to Luxor, which has amazing temples and graves of pharoes such as King Tutankamon at the Valley of the Kings. It also has Karnak there, which is absolutely amazing. It is the 2nd largest ancient religious site after Angkor Wat of Cambodia. It is incredibly impressive and my famous part is Hypostyle Hall, an area of 50,000 square feet (5,000 meters) with 134 massive columns arranged in 16 rows, beautifully adorned with hieroglyphics. From Luxor we also went a few hours north to see a beautiful temple called Abydos which was worth it.
Then we went further south to the city of Aswan which sits on the River Nile and is lovely and this where on a boat ride I decided to take my first swim in the Nile and it was amazing. After a few days exploring the sights around Aswan, including another amazing temples called Abu Simbel ,we decided to treat ourselves to a cruise on the Nile! Most of them are pretty expensive, but we managed to negotiate (we went directly from ship to ship on the dock) a 3 day /2 night cruise that made stops at amazing temples and had great comfort and food for $60! It was much more luxury than I’m used to and it was perhaps the best spent money of this trip with how special it was.
Then after lots of running around, perhaps unnecessarily on my own to be able to get my visa for Sudan and to keep this exploration of Africa by land (I’m going to try to not take any flights and make a clockwise tour around the continent), I finally am ready to take a 5am bus tomorrow to cross into Sudan (this will be my 2nd attempt )
But now I can tell you this much about Egypt. Wow. You are a beautiful and welcoming country. Almost everywhere you go people will say hello to you and tell you “Welcome, you are most welcome” and they mean it. The people are lovely and are happy to see tourists after having a huge drop in tourism due to some unjust fears by people that it is not safe. There were no terror attacks while I was here (and there were many in Europe and the U.S. during this time and I don’t hear people warned not to go there). I was amazed how safe it was here and I went into every sketchy neighborhood I saw to take pictures and had no problems, nor met anyone who had either. It is so incredibly rich in history, culture, beaches, diving, good food, and has very affordable prices (I was able to live on $5USD a day for most of it).
I recommend everyone who can, to make their way to this country when you can. It is SO much more than just the pyramids that people often see and then leave. I was blown away by so many of the temples and masterpieces of ancient history throughout the country that I saw, one of the highlights of my entire trip.
It is safe to say that Egypt and its people will definitely always have a spot in my heart.
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Some things about Egypt I didn’t like:
Female Genital Mutilation (Circumcision)
Extremist morons that should be thrown in jail
Homophobic leadership, trampling on civil rights: