In May 2015 – days after I graduated from UW-Madison – my dad and I went on the trip of a lifetime to Egypt. I’ve read (i.e. skimmed) many travel blogs, and have decided to post here a series of anecdotes from the trip, rather than our day-by-day journal. We took over 800 photographs on the trip, curated here with the few dozen that best give an idea of our experience.

Pre-Trip: Frequently Asked Questions

Why Egypt?

We were asked this many times, and the closest we could come to an explanation was, “I’ve always wanted to see the pyramids and we wanted to be different by not going to Europe. Also, touring Egypt is a bargain right now.”

Aren’t you worried about how dangerous it is?

A little, but a quick Google search assured us that Egypt was really safe at the time we travelled.

What are you going to do while you’re there? 

Here’s the 15-second summary: we go to Cairo and tour the Great Pyramids, then we fly an hour south and get on a Nile River boat cruise for 7 days, going up and down the Nile and touring several ancient temples along the way. Then we fly back to Cairo and visit the Egyptian Museum.

Rehab and Mohammed: Our Tour Guides

On our first full day in Cairo we met our tour guide, Rehab. She’s the type of person Dad would call a “firecracker” – smart, confident, unpredictable, and fun to be around. Rehab is an official Egyptologist, meaning she has a Master’s degree in Egyptology – a requirement of all tour guides. When we were on the boat, the travel agency’s representatives would ask, “Who was your guide in Cairo? Oh, Rehab? You guys are very lucky!” Rehab took many of the pictures of us in Cairo as we toured Old Cairo and then the Pyramids of Giza. On the last day of our trip she guided us through the Egyptian Museum and several religious sites in Cairo. Rehab is one of the most passionate people I have ever met, telling the stories of ancient Egypt with an unbelievable level of enthusiasm and excitement. She also gave insight into the hardships and corruption in Egypt, including her own personal story. It would be inappropriate to post that story here, but Dad’s memory of that day included this ending line:

“I said that the guy was a dirtbag!  She thought that was so cool and gave me a high five when I said it!”

Mohammed (his actual name is Mido) was our guide for the majority of the trip, staying on the boat with us and guiding us through all but one of the temples we visited. He was an excellent guide and fun to have on the boat. Although he was a more laid back guide, he still told the stories of each monument with substantial knowledge and passion. One night we went to a small coffee shop with him and another guide, as well as our friend Joyce. The two guides told us about their lives, going into detail about the importance of family and religion in Egypt.

Probably the strangest yet best part of our situation with our guides was our group size – it was just Dad and I! We essentially had our own tour guide the whole time. Both Rehab and Mohammed would always say, “Stop me if I’m being boring” – an interesting approach to starting a story.

The Semiramis II: Cruising the Nile

Our home for the majority of the trip was a small cabin in the river boat. With dark wood finishes and a spiral staircase, I couldn’t help but think I was on the Titanic. In fact, here is my description that I wrote while on the boat:

“Imagine when they built the Titanic, they also built an economy class version in the river boat size. The riverboat also sank, and then 70 years later James Cameron recovered the river boat version and removed some of the water damage. That’s the Semiramis.” -I might have been a little too harsh.

Much of the day was spent on the top deck of the boat, where there were tons of chairs and a small pool. It was there that we met Joyce, another “firecracker” hip-hop dancer and artist from the Netherlands, not much older than me. She would become our closest friend on the boat ride as we exchanged stories about life in the Netherlands and America. Dad remembers that her favorite adjective was “shitty.” I remember that she was, unlike me, totally unafraid of being center stage on the dance floor at the parties the boat held.

As the boat travelled up and down the Nile, random Egyptians would try to sell towels and blankets by throwing them to the top deck and yelling the price. If you didn’t want it, you’d throw it back down – often straight into the river!

 “DON’T INSULT ME!”: Shopping in Egypt

Everyone we met in Egypt was really nice. The respect they show for tourists is remarkable. But they also want the tourists’ money. There are lots of small shops that sell perfumes and papyrus paper artwork and clothing, and the high-pressure sales pitches started to get on our nerves. Bartering on everything gets old. My favorite excerpt from my journal looks back at our second night in Cairo:

We were walking a restaurant near the hotel to get dinner and this guy was literally just waiting for tourists to walk past so he could lure them into his “Egyptian Museum.” “Tickets” were “free” for us because we were such “good friends” that day. We thought he was talking about the drink stand outside the museum at first and asked if he sold beer. He said, “I can get you beer.” If only he had an 18 year old sibling! He said to just come into his “shop” and pay. I started to realize he was talking about the museum and tried to get us out of it. We did not want another ridiculous sales pitch in a 1-on-1 situation. He refused to bring it out to us so we said no and went to get our food. Of course, he was still waiting for us when we came back, this time saying “I brought it down for you.” So we followed him a little bit after agreeing on the price of 25 Egyptian Pounds for a beer.

Where did he “bring it down” to? His museum! Surprise! Dad said “Fine, but I don’t want to buy anything else, so don’t try to sell me anything.” For some reason, Museum Guy got a little offended! “Don’t insult me! You assume I’m going to try to sell you something else! We’re not going to try to sell you something! Egyptians, we’re good people!” Dad apologized and went into this creepster place to find two guys waiting with a beer. These two guys also said they were insulted that we would assume they were trying to sell us something. Museum Guy left us there and the Beer Guy said “Oh! This is premium beer. 40 Egyptian Pounds.” We started to walk out, all this time refusing to sit down because sitting = staying until you buy something in Egypt. Dad argued about the price and got it down to 30 because we just wanted to leave. The deal went down, and as we were trying to get the hell out of that “museum,” guess what they did? They tried to sell us their perfume!!!!!! Surprise!!!! Apparently our insulting false assumption was just an insulting true assumption.

P.S. That was no museum. It was a perfume shop with a sign that said “Museum”

Pictures of Us In Front of Things That Were Built Over 4,000 Years Ago

Conclusion: It Was Aliens

Egypt is an amazing place to visit and it’s hard to even scratch the surface of everything that happened on our trip with one blog post.

Rehab says aliens didn’t help build the pyramids because they seem like they had practiced on the other 110 before building the 3 that we always see. But on our last day of the trip started to hint at the idea that there’s something the ancient Egyptians had that we didn’t in terms of tools for cutting stones. Aliens??? I’ve seen the artifacts now, and I’m more confident in the alien theory than I was when we got here. And I was pretty confident when we got here.

I'm Tom. I'm a <a href="">software engineer </a>at <a href="">Redox</a>. I live in <a href="">Madison</a>, Wisconsin, and I try to <a href="">travel</a> for at least 1 month per year. Recently I've gotten back into making videos, and I love cooking. I've worked many places, mostly startups. Here, I write about the things I've learned. Follow me on <a href="">Instagram</a>.

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