Egypt is awesome – 2007 itinerary

(Last Updated On: May 26, 2020)

Egypt really is awesome. That became clear almost immediately on my 2007 tour that included Cairo and outlying monasteries, Luxor, the Red Sea resorts, and Mount Sinai.

people on camels with pyramids in the background

Two weeks in Egypt

A month wouldn’t be enough to see everything Egypt has to offer, but our two-week itinerary was a good way to start.

Tuesday, February 6: The Beginning

I am a little worried as the day gets stated – my fifteen minute trip to the airport takes almost an HOUR.

Wednesday, February 7: Travel to Cairo

Frankfurt

It isn’t until we are making our approach into Frankfurt, Germany, that I realized I have never actually been to this place that is so important to my brother. It seems like a place I know, but I really only know it through his stories. Someday I’ll have to actually visit here myself.

The Cairo Airport

I can see the pyramids from the plane!

At least I think I can. The sun is so bright that it is hard to see anything, but I really think that is them. If only I can get a little better look. . .

We bank and they vanish from sight.

Dinner in Cairo

For our first night in Cairo, we have a lovely dinner in a magical building in Al-Azhar Park.

Thursday, February 8: Cairo

The Egyptian Museum

The Egyptian Museum is a great introduction to the history and culture of ancient Egypt, but there is far too much to absorb in one visit!

In Search of the Holy Family

We visit the basement chamber where the Holy Family is said to have stayed on their travels.

The Night Train to Luxor

As it turns out, the night train to Luxor not only provides transportation, but serves as a force to bring many of us together.

After dinner with others in a cramped train compartment, I now have a bunch of new friends.

Friday, February 9: Luxor and the Valley of the Kings

Arrival in Luxor

A late arrival provides a pleasant introduction on our arrival in Luxor.

Temple of Karnak

Our first stop in Luxor is the grand Temple of Karnak.

Temple of Medinet Habu

A drive across the Nile and through the green fields ends at the colorful Temple of Medinet Habu.

The Colossi of Memnon and Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut

There’s not much of the Colossi of Memnon, but there are some very dramatic statues (and a few wall paintings) at Hatshepsut’s dramatically sited mortuary temple.

The Alabaster Factory isn’t exactly my thing, but I find a couple things that allow me to join in the shopping frenzy.

The Valley of the Kings

What a desolate place! It is dramatic and beautiful in a way, but also stark and bleak, without a speck of green.

mountains above the tombs

Luxor City

Compared to Cairo, Luxor is a relaxed place. We enjoy it on a cruise on the river and a carriage ride through the city market.

Crossing the Nile

Only two bridges link the west side of Luxor to the city proper, bridges that are clogged with vehicles at this time of day. We are running late after our visit to the West Bank tombs and temples and Romani is looking for a quicker way to get us back into the city. His answer is to send us across the Nile by boat – and by very cheery-looking boats at that.

brightly colored small ferry with Luxor temple in background

colorful Nile boat

A carriage ride through the city

We are hurrying back because we are supposed to take a carriage tour of the city, but it is already late in the afternoon. Still, not wanting us to miss out, Romani arranges an abbreviated tour.

I share my carriage with Jess, the youngest member of our group. She is an intelligent, curious, and good-humored teenager. I enjoy this chance to hear her take on the trip and on life in general. She is a cool kid.

The carriages make their way through a chaotic market that spills out of the open shop fronts and into the street.

It is a colorful and exotic place.

The evening convoy to Hurghada

Travel to the Red Sea is via the evening convoy to Hurghada.

Saturday, February 10: A Red Sea vacation

The Red Sea

We have a full day on the Red Sea, with snorkeling (or diving) in the morning and a beach break in the afternoon.

Sunday, February 11: Traveling to the Sinai

Leaving Makadi to cross the Red Sea

We have been staying at the beautiful Makadi Resort, but today we leave to cross the Red Sea to the Sinai Peninsula.

Crossing to the Sinai

The next phase of our trip begins at the ferry terminal, where we catch the “fast ferry” which will zip us across the Red Sea to Sharm El Sheikh in just 90 minutes.

The charm of Sharm

Sharm El Sheikh is the most famous vacation town on the Sinai. I expect it to be an ugly, over-developed place, but Sharm has a charm all its own.

The road to Saint Catherine’s

The road to Saint Catherine’s Monastery takes us through a dramatic, desolate landscape.

Evening at the monastery

We are staying in the monastery’s guesthouse and taking our meals with the monks. I love having a quiet evening in the monastery, but I’m not planning to do the morning camel trip to the top of Mount Sinai.

Monday, February 12: Saint Catherine’s Monastery

Dawn

While the others are trekking to the mountaintop, I enjoy dawn at the monastery and the beginning of a beautiful day deep in the Sinai.

Touring the Saint Catherine’s Monastery

Built in the year 550, Saint Catherine’s Monastery is one of the oldest active Christian monasteries. Our tour takes us through much of this UNESCO World Heritage site, including its library filled with rare books.

Later I have time to walk along the mountainside paths outside the monastery walls, providing wonderful views from the outside looking in.

Tuesday, February 13: Leaving the Sinai

Through the Sinai

We spend most of the day traveling through the Sinai, stopping only to visit a small museum near Saint Catherine’s and the Convent of the Seven Sister in the Feiran Oasis.

Evening from my balcony in Cairo

Our travel speed decreases dramatically when we reach Cairo and it is late when we finally reach the Nile Hilton. But finally I am in my hotel room at the Nile Hilton where I can  take in the view of the city and Nile.

night view with river boat and colored lights

Wednesday, February 14:Cairo

Morning Above the Nile

We get to sleep in this morning, which is great.

When I finally get up, I head straight for the windows and pull open the curtains.

 

Traveling through Cairo

Weaving through the chaotic streets of Cairo provides an overview of the city as we slowly travel through the crowded streets.

Sultan Hassan Mosque

We learn a bit about Islam as we tour the Sultan Hassan Mosque.

The Citadel

While the Citadel in Cairo dates back to the 9th century, it wasn’t fortified until the 12th century. It’s huge! But as large as the fortress is, the large, elegant Mohammed Ali (Alabaster) Mosque is the Citadel’s highlight.

Al-Azhar Park

A sprawling park built on a former dump, Cairo’s Al-Azhar Park is the perfect place to enjoy a little greenery and watch the sunset.

Blessings and meditations at the Coptic Cathedral

Every Wednesday the leader of the Coptic church in Egypt holds an evening lecture for the faithful. We are lucky to be here on Ash Wednesday, when the Pope offers his blessing to all. It’s a moving connection to the past. After we have been blessed, the lecture begins. This week it is a meditation on love, since today is also Valentine’s day.

Blessed

It is very late in the day when we arrive at Cairo’s Coptic Cathedral.

outside of cathedral at dusk

The Wednesday Lecture

On Wednesday evenings Pope Shenouda III answers questions from his flock and then lectures on a point of theology.

It seems like we have been at the Cathedral for hours already and this, the main event, is just now beginning.The Pope rises and stands at a podium, his image enlarged and projected on the large screens above him for all to see.

TV screen showing Pope Shenouda III

He welcomes the audience and then begins to sort through a handful of paper – questions submitted to him for his response in a Papal version of the “Dear Abby” newspaper column.

After the event inside, we learn more about Saint Mark in a small chapel below the main cathedral.

Thursday, February 15: Giza and beyond

Saqqara

Saqqara is the vast area that served as the burial place for Egypt’s earliest rulers. The area includes the step pyramid of Djoser and the tombs of many others, including the beautifully decorated tomb of an official named Mereruka.

Magic Carpets

Carpet shops are rather ubiquitous in this part of Egypt. I have no plans to buy a rug, but the showroom is filled with magic carpets of all colors.

The Pyramids of Giza

We finally get to the great pyramids of Giza, where we gawk at their size, take a short ride on a camel, and admire the Sphinx.

Friday, February 16: Old Cairo

The Coptic Museum

The Coptic Museum holds a large collections of treasures related to Christianity in Egypt.

The Hanging Church

The Hanging Church (El-Muallaqa) was built above a first century Roman fortress. It’s been remodeled a few times, but retains a holy and ancient-feeling interior.

Religious Architecture Galore

A walk through the neighborhood allows us to visit a variety of religious architecture: The Greek Orthodox Church of Saint George, Ben Ezra Synagogue, and the Coptic churches of Saint Barbara and Saints Sergius and Bacchus.

El Azhar Mosque and the Khan El Khalili Market

We split our time between the El Azhar Mosque and the Khan El Khalili Market, because you can only do so much shopping. (And the mosque is historically important and very beautiful)

Saturday, February 17: The Monasteries of Wadi Naturn

Our day takes us into the Western Desert to visit the Christian monasteries of Wadi Naturn. Long a center of Christian monasticism, even today a number of active monasteries remain in the area. We visit three of them:

Wadi Naturn has been important since the days of the pharaohs as well, as a source of salt. But it has always been far removed from the rest of the world. Today, however, the area seems to be growing rapidly.

I end the day by meeting a grad school professor who is currently living in Cairo. It really is a small world.

Sunday, February 18: Cairo

Cairo’s Christian Garbage Collectors

Cairo’s Christian Garbage Collectors have a large community hidden in the ancient quarries of Mokattam Mountain. We are here on a Sunday to learn a bit about this community and join in a worship service in one of the community’s enormous cave churches.

On foot in Cairo

After a simple, lovely lunch, we walk back to the hotel. Our security detail drives alongside, always keeping an eye on us, but I’m happy to be out in the city. We’ve had few opportunities to walk here, so it is a treat just to be out in the city’s streets.

city street with traffic and a pedestrian

directional signage

All cities are best encountered on foot!

Cairo: 4 pm

There is still one hour until checkout and I am spending it on my deck, the Nile sprawled out below me and the city’s wonderful cacophony of sound swirling all around.

I love it here.

It seems odd to be leaving – somehow it has come to feel normal to be here and it is odd to think that tomorrow I will be gone and someone else will take my place. It doesn’t seem right.

The end of our time in Egypt

We end our trip to Egypt on a Nile dinner cruise party boat. It’s not the end I would have chosen.

The Details

Find details about my trip and check out a mini-guide for planning your own trip.

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