Imagine this. It's January 6th, 2007. You have just married your best friend and after a night of celebration, still wrapped in the cocoon of love that surrounded you and your new husband, you make your way through the still dark, early morning hours and board a plane for Africa. Your plane touches down in Cairo and immediately you feel the dry heat of the desert prickling your skin and you know you have left the Ohio winter far behind. You are on an adventure and you have to pinch yourself to believe you are really here.
Your hotel is on the Nile. THE Nile river. You will have dinner on a boat down there a few nights from now at dusk and it will be completely surreal. You will feel the ancient river rocking softly below you as you float along her sinuous curves. You will watch the sun set over this river every night for eight days and you will not believe how lucky you are.
You have booked an english speaking tour guide for your time here in Egypt. One that you assume will be shared with at least a few other travelers. But when your guide arrives to pick you up the next morning you discover that you are the only two people on the tour. No one else has signed up. So for the next week you will have your own private Egyptologist and driver to show you around this grand city. You pinch yourself again.
Visit Memphis, the capital of the Pharoahs during the Old Kingdom. See the recumbent statue of Ramesses II and the Alabaster Sphinx. Go to Sakara and see the Step Pyramid. Go to the pyramid of Dashour, the Red Pyramid, and go inside. Feel the sting of ammonia in your nostrils and eyes as you make your way down, down, down the narrow passage and into the darkness of the burial chambers. And then finally, Giza.
As your car rumbles along the dusty dirt road, watch as the form of the three great Pyramids slowly appear, rising up out of the desert before you. Stop and transfer to camels to get you the rest of the way there. Your skin is starting to hurt from all the pinching by now. But it's okay because it's true. You are really here, standing in the shadow of the mighty Khufu with your hands on one of the wonders of the world.
It would seem that that would be enough, but there is still so much more. Visit the Museum of Antiquities and King Tut's tomb. Come face to face with 3000 year old mummies in new age glass coffins and stare in utter disbelief at the pint sized humidifiers plugged in to the walls around you, which you *hope* are doing their job and keeping these ancient souls preserved.
Make your way over to the Mohammad Ali Mosque, unassuming in its dusty brown cloak on the summit of the citadel. Nervously leave your shoes outside the doors and find yourself entering another world altogether. Feel the layers of rugs beneath your feet as you traverse the grand room. Look up. See the magical lanterns circling above your head and the breathtaking emerald domes rising above them. Peer in to the tomb of Mohammad Ali himself. Decide this is the most beautiful place you have ever seen.
Step outside and peer over the precipice and out on to the great sea of buildings, rock and rubble that make up Cairo. See the minarets poking through the hazy din of pollution and dust. Too many to count. Walk the Khan el Khalili Bazaar and eat your weight in grilled chicken kebabs, falafel and rice every day you are there. Except that one night, when you go to that fancy french place and your husband eats the best meal of his life. He still talks about it to this day.
And then comes your favorite part, Old Cairo. Is there such a thing you wonder before going there? Isn't it all old? But then you begin to understand. You will visit the Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church where it is believed that Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus stayed on their journey in to Egypt. Stand beside the Ben Ezra Synagogue and the site, local legend tells, that baby Moses was plucked from the water in his basket of reeds.
And then you head north. North to Alexandria and the Meditteranean Sea. See the Montazah Gardens where the Egyptian Royal Family once spent their summers and where all foreign dignitaries, presidents and prime ministers stay when they find themselves here, in Alexander's great city.
Stand in catacombs built into 100 feet of solid rock and watch with your own two eyes Egyptian architecture give way to Greco-Roman as christianity found its way on to these shores. Stand in the living, breathing history of this world. Of religion, of architecture, of our ancestors and pinch, pinch, pinch yourself one more time.