Walk Like an Egyptian – Nubian Village, the Dam, and the Return to Cairo
This post covers the final days of our boat cruise down the Nile River. Once we wrapped up, we returned to Cairo. And, since one member of our Temporary Nomad family was ill during our first visit, we decided to return to the pyramids and the sphinx so that Kate could experience their magic.
What We Did
Day 137 (12/6/16): We awoke, ate breakfast, and boarded a felucca boat to sail across the Nile River. Once safely across, and after watching my travel companions fight to steer the rudder, we walked to the edge if the Nubian village. There we mounted some camels for a quick trip up the sandy-rock strewn walls of the valley. I was riding the largest camel I had ever seen, who also enjoyed moaning (“singing” as the guide said) continuously, a behemoth named Samba. Adam was on a camel named Nubian Moon, Justin was on a super chill camel named Mickey Mouse, and Katie was on a tiny, feisty, and somewhat dickish camel named Mona Lisa. The guides allowed us to steer the camels ourselves and even let us go fast on them. After a small hiccup involving an involuntary camel dismount by Katie, we reboarded the felucca and returned to our ship. We spent the next couple hours lounging in the sun, swimming on deck, and playing more euchre. After lunch, we met up with Sayed again and visited a few sites around the city of Aswan. The first was the site of a large unfinished obelisk, which provided a key to knowing how the ancient Egyptians carved them and other large stone sculptures. Second, we went to the High Dam, which holds back the massive Nile. Third, we took a boat ride out to visit the Philae Temple, which had to be relocated because of the dam. Our final stop was at a traditional perfumery before we headed back for the boat. We relaxed for a few hours before dinner. After eating we joined our guide to watch the Nubian music and dance show before returning to our rooms to pack for our departure the next day.
Day 138 (12/7/16): After our last breakfast on board the ship, we had a few hours to kill before our flight. We spent time on the deck napping and soaking up the sun, saying goodbye to Upper Egypt. We grabbed lunch at McDonald’s (much to the dismay of Katie and I), and then headed for the airport. After a quick flight back to Cairo, we said goodbye to our new friend and tour mate Winston Wee and returned to our hotel. We ate dinner at the hotel and spent the rest of the evening relaxing.
Day 139 (12/8/16): We slept in a bit and packed our bags, ready to check out if the hotel. At noon, we left our bags at reception and walked out of our hotel for our last Egyptian excursion. We decided to head back to the pyramids and the sphinx in order for Katie to get a chance to see everything, since she was sick the first time around. We walked the streets of Cairo to the entrance, bought our tickets (for 80 egp each), and entered the site. We Wandered around, snapping photographs and filling Katie in on all the history we had learned during our first trip here. We even got mobbed my children again, seeking selfies with foreigners. As it got later in the afternoon, we returned to the hotel grabbed a bite to eat, and waited for our transport to the airport. The rest of the day was spent in travel, as a 16-hour flight to Cape Town, South Africa awaited.
What We Learned
- You will be hassled constantly to purchase souvenirs and other goods while touring around Egypt. The people there have seen their currency devalue significantly over the past few years (from 5:1 against the dollar to almost 18:1), and the tourism industry, the country’s primary source of income, has not recovered since the crash in 2011. Our guide informed us that in 2010 Egypt had almost 16 million visitors in one year. However, since 2011’s civil unrest, they have yet to reach 16 million visitors in 2011-2016 combined. Only 1.5 of the former 7 million guides who previously worked in the tourism industry remain employed in it at this point. That means that people are generally desperate for work and cash. At every historical site, you will be forced to wade through a bazaar of people peddling cheap goods on your way out, some who may even force scarves and other goods upon you and then demand payment for them. The phrase we used most often in Egypt was actually the Arabic words for “no thank you”, and you practically had to repeat it constantly as you walked around. While this can be incredibly frustrating, just try and be polite but firm in dealing with it and maybe keep in mind why they may be acting like this. The sites are worth the hassle.
- McDonald’s in Egypt is the cheapest I have yet seen on my travels. A Big Mac meal will cost you a little over $2.00. As the boys said, “I’m lovin’ it!”
- Our camel ride by the Nubian village was a memorable moment, though maybe not in the best way. Katie’s camel, Mona Lisa, was quite the little ass. On the way up the valley wall, he promptly bit Adam’s camel in the butt, causing it to bolt out of the line, almost unmounting him. Next, it tried to eat Justin’s camel’s harness. It was a good thing Justin’s camel was extremely chill and had little reaction. However, in its final act of assiness, Mon Lisa decided she did not want to run. And she also, no longer required a rider. So, she bucked and flailed until poor Katie went soaring off into the sand. Thankfully, she was okay, just a little sore. It made for an interesting, and at times heart stopping, ride.
- At the Nubian music and dance show, the temporary nomads ended up more involved in the dancing than anticipated. We were first selected with our guide to do a conga line dance of sorts in which I witnessed Justin awkwardly trying to decide whether or not to take the waist of an elderly lady when prompted by the leader during the part where we were all wiggling our butts (he opted to grab her by the shoulders instead). Second, I was personally selected to do a one on one dance with a man who was the equivalent of a Nubian baton twirler. He may shimmy better than me, but I have a way flatter head useful for balancing sticks! Third, we had two of the Nubian men dressed as a horse come over and attempt to kiss us, and this time Adam got more than he bargained for when the horse went for his manhood rather than hi cheek. And finally, we were all once again dragged to the dance floor where we were made to repeat after the leader, yelling “nonsense Arabic” as our guide put it at one another, while people laughed at our mistakes and funny faces. Overall, we had a good time though, and learned some new moves.