Ever since I was a kid I dreamed about seeing the ruins of ancient civilizations. I was a history buff back then and I still am. No place offers more opportunities to explore the remains of long lost cultures than Egypt so it was a real thrill for me to arrive there.
My introduction to Egypt was Cairo. It’s a city that’s noisy, crowded, dirty, and generally chaotic but if you’re looking to escape the ordinary and explore around it offers some fascinating neighbourhoods. There’s an old Christian Quarter, a Muslim Citadel, and a camel market (not for the queasy). I really regret not making time to visit the City of the Dead which is a vast cemetery inhabited by both the living and yes, the dead.
Abu Simbel, a temple complex built by Ramses II, one of ancient Egypt’s most important pharaohs, lies in the far south of the country and is worth the effort to get to. I got there in a taxi packed with several other backpackers. I mean we were practically sitting in each others laps. On the way back north to Aswan we ran into a large camel caravan coming up out of Sudan and I managed to get some photos. I love it when a chance to get some good photos jumps up unexpectedly.
When leaving Aswan myself and a few fellow travelers rented a felucca with a two-man crew. Feluccas are small sailing craft that glide up and down the Nile. On the second day the captain took us to his home village and we spent the night in his mud brick house. It was very atmospheric especially after the captain took out a water pipe and invited us to join him in smoking some low grade weed.
Early the next morning we sailed to the ruins of Kom Ombo a temple complex built in the late period of the ancient Egypt. No other sightseers were there so we had the run of the place. Egyptian ruins look especially magical in the golden light of dawn.
After a few weeks of immersing myself in Egyptian ruins and museums I figured it was time to head out to the Sinai peninsula and get in some beach time. The beaches in the Sinai are good but what really makes the place worthwhile are the snorkeling and diving opportunities. In some places you can find yourself amidst a tropical reef with fishes of a multitude of colours only a few meters offshore. I hung out in a Bedouin village called Dahab for a few days. At that time it only featured facilities appropriate for the young backpack set. My accommodations consisted of a cinder block shack with a sand floor. I didn’t care. I had a great time with the locals and fellow backpackers. I’m sure it’s a lot more built up by now.