The last time I traveled to Egypt was with the kids. It’s a bucket list thing. Pyramids, Mummies, and the Sphinx. I recall vividly those moments, and the photos still are up on our wall. Incredible Luxor, the sound and light show in Carnac and the tomb visits. Plus, the Camel ride and the Nile cruise.
So, here we were, heading to Sharm el Sheikh on the Red Sea. Our long-awaited overseas conference (we missed the past two years due to Covid), and two weeks before COP27, the biggest and most serious Climate change conference in the world. More than 35,000 delegates will attend and more than 100 heads of state including Joe Biden. And we were there.
So, what is Sharm really like? It’s a resort. Primarily. First developed by the Israelis after they occupied it from 1967 to 1982, until an accord was reached and Sharm was returned to the Egyptians. An amazing destination and has the most beautiful climate and the most beautiful coral reefs imaginable. We got to spend just a few days there.
The town is super safe and even though it boasts no ancient buildings, it has a stunning mosque in the center of the town square. A few camels scattered here and there for tourist rides, some great fish restaurants (no alcohol) and the typical bazaar shops found all over Egypt. Time to bargain and search for something not made in China! And every merchant promises the real deal!
Sharm, above all is famous for its snorkeling and scuba. With over 1,000 species of fish and 150 species of coral, the Red Sea is gleaming with a kaleidoscope of color. No sharks, guaranteed….. and plenty of other things to do. The place is still in the throes of building development. They have highways that are built for Los Angeles and resorts popping up alongside Museums and Casinos and yet…..they still have not figured out the long and arduous visit to St. Catherine’s Monastery (10 commandments) and they should as it’s one of the most important places to see. They are talking of flights to Luxor and flights to the monastery. All in time this will make Sharm, a complete destination. From a conference point of view, it has everything. Now these guys who are meeting should start talking seriously about climate change and solar and battery storage. They almost certainly could power the entire country with the solar resources from the Sahara and Sinai desert.
Funny, it used to be all about oil. When the sun was staring in their face!
Crazy traffic, crazy markets, winding through narrow old lanes, and buildings getting pulled down to clear out the slums and move half of the city to a new Capital. The NAC. New Cairo. The project in Cairo has started. A city of 25 million people. Half of them to be moved to this new place not far from Giza. The Egyptian Museum is moving out there too in what will be the most ambitious project in Museum history. It will be the largest museum of antiquities in the world. With views across the dessert to the Pyramids and the Sphinx. But the Cairo I recalled is still there. Still with the Kan al Khaleli bazaar and the mosque outside the narrow streets. The beautiful old building of the Egyptian museum feeling more like a house that is being packed up. Mummies and boxes side by side and difficult to see what is what. There is of course the main attraction. King Tut. No photos in there but the incredible golden display is still as breathtaking as ever. And it has been around the world a few times. Poor guy! The museum sits close by to Tahrir square. Lots of shops and restaurants and if you look one way you might think you were in a modern European city but look the other way and you see it differently. Bikes and carts and people walking through the middle of the street. They say that not even 10 percent of cars are insured in Egypt. They all look like they have had some issues. Crossing the road is a sheer act of wonder and maybe madness. My Italian training could not even prepare for the crossing. Cars simply drive around you and somehow you feel that it’s a miracle when you arrive on solid ground once more. That is Cairo. The markets, the sounds the traffic and the chaos. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
An Old Geezer in Giza
Pyramids are strange things. Incredible testaments to a civilization that was hell bent on avoiding hell and pretty much had a philosophy that carefully encapsulated the afterlife. The golf clubs, the bikes, the workout equipment, and a few pets. All going into the pyramid. Unlike the later tombs found in and around Luxor, pyramids were huge, unbridled displays of ego and power. And of course, vulnerable to Tomb raiders! The great Pyramid of Giza began in 2560 BC. You can go inside and march all the way to the top. It’s a pretty claustrophobic tunnel and I would recommend only to those that feel fit enough, but..it’s amazing. Really, what is amazing is that its 4,700 years old! There are the usual shops around the pyramid and the Sphinx, and camel rides and horseback rides are everywhere. I recommend. Try them all. These extraordinary monuments, nearly 5,000 years old, in a dessert under the scorching sun are what traveling to Egypt is all about. Just have fun and imagine.
It’s a bit like Cairo. When you get to arrive in the main arrival terminal and need to transfer across to the domestic terminal, it’s a little chaotic. Not entirely clear and yet somehow it all works. I found myself standing in the queue with other passengers and a wedding couple. She was resplendent in her beautiful dress and the heavy train she needed to pick up as she was heading onto the plane. I even had an assist as she absolutely needed help handling the bags. And there we were, in a coach with a newly married bride and groom and I was the only one that looked surprised. Welcome to Egypt.
Tombs and Robbers
You must travel to Egypt. It’s amazing. Since travel opened, I have been thinking of this place for a while. Luxor, the Nile, the Pyramids, the museum, and the marketplace. All the memories of a long time ago came flooding back…Nile humor…I remember I bought a mummy and a pyramid when I went to the market, Crossed the Nile several times, didn’t see a crocodile or a Hippo and honestly was in awe at the history of the place. Its insane. The Romans were in love with the Egyptians. Adopted burial practices from them and leave is with clear art from the period of occupation that we have no access to anywhere else in the world. The Romans were so influenced and enamored by Egyptian history and ways that Caius Cestus even had a pyramid specifically made for him that suits developed by the Roman walls. Completed in 12 BC it took just two months to complete. Modest compared to the huge Pyramids of Giza, but no less impressive in this lesser-known spot near the Protestant cemetery.
Egyptian stone pyramids are the oldest. But Mexico and indeed Brazil has its share of ancient sites. The stairways to heaven.
ACIS will be offering itineraries to Egypt soon, until then contact your program consultant to customize your perfect tour.