On Wednesday evening, I returned from Egypt. I had the time of my life, but internet was nowhere to be found, so that is why I did not write in my Jterm blog while I was on my trip. Twelve days was not nearly long enough to spend in Egypt, and I was sad to return to the US despite the niceties of American conveniences. Here is a quick and dirty rundown of what I did while I was abroad.
Day 1 - Arrival in Cairo, "the city of 2000 minarets." We didn't do much this day except for get settled into our hotel. However, we did get our first experience of the Muslim call to prayer, which we were to hear almost everyday after.
Day 2 - the Wadi Natron and Alexandria. On our way to Alexandria, we visited the Monastery of St Macarius, where John the Baptist may possibly be interred. In Alexandria, we visited a Ptolemaic era catacomb, Pompey's Pillar, a Roman theater, and the new library of Alexandria.
Day 3 - Giza. We awoke early and rushed to Giza. We were the first people inside the Great Pyramid of King Khafre, which was AMAZING! We also road camels around the pyramids and saw the solar boat of King Khafre. We took many pictures with the Sphinx and visited a papyrus factory.
Day 4 - Cairo. We started off the day by visiting the Citadel built in 1176 by Saladin, the ruler of Egypt at the time. Inside the walls of the Citadel was a beautiful mosque, also built by Saladin. Our group had a seat inside the mosque and had a wonderful discussion about Islam, led by the best guide ever, Max (who was with us during the entire trip). After leaving the Citadel, we visited two churches in the Coptic Quarter of Cairo. One of the churches, the Hanging Church, is built over two Roman towers and has no foundation. The other church, Abu Serga, is rumored to be one of the places the Holy Family stayed while in their Egyptian exile. In the evening, we visted the Egyptian Museum, which was overwhelming and wonderful.
Day 5 - Saqqara, Memphis, Dashur, Faiyum. Today we visted several early pyramids, such as the Step Pyramid of Djoser in Saqqara and the Red and Bent Pyramids of Snefru in Dashur. There is little left of the Old Kingdom capital of Memphis, but there is an interesting open air museum containing some of the remains. For the night, we stayed in a beautiful hotel in the Faiyum Oasis, a hotel in which King Farouque met with Winston Churchill many years ago.
Day 6 - Maidum, El Minya. We visited the Mountain Pyramid at Maidum and crawled into an unknown mastaba tomb. In the afternoon, our group got our hands on a soccer ball and played a really fun game of soccer in the courtyard of the hotel at which we were staying.
Day 7 - Beni Hassan, Tell al-Amarna. This day we visted the Middle Kingdom tombs at Beni Hassan. After the Old Kingdom, none of the pharoahs built pyramids but instead starting cutting rock tombs. We visted the Monastery of Virgin Mary, another place the royal family stayed while in Egypt. Our last stop of the day was Tell al-Amarna, the capital of Egypt for a short period during the New Kingdom. There was not much left in Amarna except for the mud-brick foundations of parts of the city. There were, however, hoards of small Egyptian children who said, "Hello," and ran after the bus, asking for ball point pens because they have nothing with which to write :(
Day 8 - Abydos, Dendera, Luxor. This day was characterized by many hours of riding in our Nile Sun Travel bus and listening to our guide, Max, talk us into places we were too late to be let into. Abydos is the burial place of Osirus, and there stands his enormous temple. At Dendera is the Greco-Roman temple for Hathor, the cow goddess. In the evening, we visted the Luxor Museum, which was much smaller than the Egyptian Museum in Cairo but incredibly interesting.
Day 9 - Luxor/Theban necropolis. This day was non-stop fun. In the early morning, we popped by the Colossi of Memnon for a photo op. Then we headed to the Valley of the Kings and hit up the tombs of Tuthmoses III, Tutankhamun, and Ramsses III. We also saw the tomb of the noble Rhekhmire. One of the major highlights of the trip was visiting Hatshepsut's temple at Dier al-Bahri. At Medinet Habu, we visted the artisan houses, the TOmb of Sennutem, the temple for the artisans, and the temple for Ramsses III. Just before lunch/dinner, we squeezed in the Ramessium, a temple for Ramsses II. In the evening, we visted the Temple of Luxor.
Day 10 - Luxor, Aswan. We started our day by visiting the Temple of Karnak, then joined a convoy of busses to drive to Aswan. When we arrived in Aswan, we visted the ancient granite quarry, which included an unfinished obelisk. We also saw the Nubian Museum.
Day 11 - Abu Simbel, Cairo. Catching a 6:30am flight to Abu Simbel, we toured the monstrous temple built for Ramsses II for several hours. Also at the site was a somewhat smaller temple for his wife, Nefertari. Abu Simbel is pretty close to the Sudanese border, which means our group traveled the entire length of Egypt. Abu Simbel was, sadly, our last site to see. We got a flight back to Cairo, where we had a goodbye supper with our group, our guide, and our guide's family.
Day 12 - Cairo, Virginia. We flew home this day. I was very sad to leave Egypt behind.
I had an incredible time in Egypt and will be uploading some photos from my trip at a later date.