In the footsteps of an age old civilisation
By Aatika H Jain
As Evelyn, a clumsy librarian from Cairo, chants softly from the black Book of the Dead deep into the night at the hidden city of the dead, Hamunaptra, in Egypt, the cursed 3,000-year-old mummy Imhotep suddenly comes to life. It is no wonder why the Hollywood movie The Mummy and its sequels were blockbusters when they take you on a rollercoaster ride with the fictional-yetso- believable stories of the captivating rich history of Egypt and its ancient civilisation. Here is a country that saw the dawn of the human civilisation. It’s not all ancient monuments and temples though; you have the coast along the Red Sea with its beautiful coral reefs and resorts, and the world’s longest river, the Nile, running through it. Right in the midst of the Sahara desert is a rejuvenating oasis to pleasantly surprise you with its freshwater spring. Pack your bags and head to this amazing country that will transport you to another time as well as offer you lovely beaches, attractive cities, thrilling cruises,sailing tours, snorkeling and scuba diving, all on a single trip!
Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx
How could you possibly go to Egypt and not visit the last remaining Seven Wonders of the Ancient World? The Pyramids of Giza are what the travellers through the ages identify Egypt with. Tombs of the allpowerful Pharaohs, there are more than 120 pyramids all over the country, but three of the largest are around Giza, guarded by the famed Sphinx. The most popular pyramid of these, called the Great Pyramid, was built for the Pharaoh Khufu. You can get inside this oldest and the largest of the three pyramids with an extra ticket. The trip inside the Great Pyramid is steep and a tad claustrophobic, with the insides being extremely hot. But you might find it fascinating to feel the almost surreal atmosphere of the deepest chamber of the pyramid.
The Siwa Oasis, located right in the middle of Western Desert of Egypt, is the one of its remotest settlements. This is truly a hidden gem with its mud-brick architecture, unique language and the dressing style of the Berbers. The secluded oasis seems like another world thriving inside Egypt. Take a dip in the warm spring at the famed Cleopatra’s Bath, go sandboarding in the Great Sand Sea, the third biggest sand dune field in the world and immerse yourself in the spiritual energy of a sufi dhikr circle—meeting of the local sufists for prayers. The Shali Fortress is a mud-brick fortress built in the 13th century situated in Siwa. In the 1920s, torrential rains eroded it. Abandoned, the ruins offer a walk down the lane of old times. Climb up the hill in the centre for a spectacular view of the oasis and the city.
Located on the Red Sea coast, Hurghada has metamorphosed from a quiet little village to a striking resort boasting of stunning beaches with desert sand meandering into blue sea water, colourful marine life and unspoiled coral reefs. As travelling through the Siani Peninsula is not recommended right now due to potential unrest there, Hurghada is your best bet to enjoythe Red Sea coast when you scuba dive or snorkel. Not to miss is a chance to experience desert jeep safari through the Sahara desert that Hurghada offers. The thrilling, hot, bumpy ride on a quad bike might even present you with an opportunity to share a cuppa with the Bedouins.
The New Kingdom rose to power in Egypt a thousand years after the Great Pyramids were built. From Memphis, the ancient capital shifted to Thebes, where Luxor stands now. This is the ancient Thebes where you will be awe-struck with the beauty of the Valley of the Kings, the Karnak Temple and Memorial Temple of Hatshepsut. The bustling modern city is separated by the Nile River from the west bank tombs, temples and necropolis. Enjoy the lively souk (Arab bazaar), wonder at the colossal beauty of the tombs and temples, and feel ancient Thebes pulsating in the ruins once more.
Cairo’s Museum of Egyptian Antiquities
Walk through the illustrious history of the country of Pharaohs and catch a glimpse of what their lives were like. Real mummies, dazzling treasures of Tutankhamen and other mighty Pharaohs, eating bowls, grave goods, toys of little Egyptians vie for your attention in the 15,000 sq. m of museum space. A new Grand Egyptian Museum, also called Giza Museum, is currently under construction at a distance of 2km from Giza and is expected to be fully open to public by early 2019. Many of the artifacts from Cairo Museum have already been moved to the new museum.
The ancient Egyptians’ passion for food can be witnessed in their wall art in the tombs and temples, portraying huge spreads with an assortment of food. Despite being influenced by its middle-eastern neighbours, Egyptian cuisine remains distinct. Legumes, vegetables, meats and fruits are extensively used in cooking. Mealtime is an excuse to gather around scrumptious aromatic meals, taking pleasure in others’ company. Start the day with the traditional breakfast of Fuul mudammas, creamy mashed fava/ broad beans with egg and cheese cooked in lemon, cumin, garlic and tahini/seasame paste, and eaten with warm eish baladi/pita bread or ta’meya/ falafel. They are easily available at the various fuul carts in the streets. Koushari could be called the Egyptian pot noodles and is so popular that there are restaurants that only serve this dish. It is made up of several layers comprising rice, lentils, macaroni, chickpeas and caramelised onions, drenched with thick red sauce and garlic/vinegar/chilli sauce. You have probably already tasted the famous shawarma even before stepping foot in this country.
For those with a sweet tooth, you have roz bel laban, the Egyptian rice pudding; umm Ali, puff pastry with milk, sugar and garnished with nuts, coconut pieces and raisins and served piping hot; konafa, baked cream or cheese stuffed pieces konafa (semolina) topped with syrup, nuts and raisins; baqlawa, sweet pastry made up of filo layers filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with honey or syrup.
The wonderful coral reefs, colourful underwater world and charming beaches with turquoise water lapping on the sandy desert would make you forget that you are in the land of the mystical, mighty Pharaohs and their towering tombs and temples which still captivate the tourists and archeologists the same. Make Egypt your next holiday destination and you will not come back disappointed. Oh and don’t forget to pack your eating pants! WC