Egypt Beckons

September 7, 2007

It’s true that it is still a good seven weeks away, but at least it’s on the horizon – our next vacation, in Egypt.

Of course, there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip as the saying goes, and the slip that is immediately visible is that my dear husband is planning a business trip to Tokyo just before we leave for Egypt. He says he’s going to be back a full day before we actually leave… but that’s the kind of program that’s so very likely to slip. At least it’s not a trek this time – for our treks, there’s always a million things to be done by way of preparing, packing etc. For a normal, ordinary, city-hopping tour, it’s much easier.

Then again, it is Egypt. This is a big thing – it is probably the foreign country that holds the greatest allure for me. Of course, given an option between Egypt and Rome, I’d have been in a real quandry, but now it is easy, because we’ve already been to Rome. That, in itself, is a very good reason to want to go again, but Egypt is the one country that actually manages to triumph over a second visit to Rome.

It is part good luck and part good planning that I happen to be embarking on the Archaeology module on Egypt a few weeks before we actually visit Egypt. I’m not sure if studying the archaeology of Egypt just before going to visit is actually a good idea or not… but I guess it can’t hurt. I have, of course, already read up a bit about the history and cultural context of ancient Egypt – starting with a huge, thick, and totally fascinating text book on the mysteries of the Great Pyramid written a long, long time ago, which I read probably back in the late ‘80s, when I was about 13.

Whenever we plan one of these totally ambitious, highly unlikely type of holidays, I always hold hope in check – chances are, something will crop up that renders our program defunct in some way. The result of this approach is that, when it finally begins to look as though we are actually going to be able to pull it off, I get all excited and completely disorganized and dreamy about it. That’s the stage I’m at with Egypt right now.

We still haven’t got the visa, but I’ve gone and put out a question on my Archaeology mailing list for advice on sightseeing in Egypt, and I’ve got several responses, including one or two highly detailed and enthusiastic ones. Despite whatever random background reading I have done about Egypt till date, I have very little by way of solid knowledge about the geography of the country – which spectacular temple lies where, what other wonderful sights are close by, and how long does it take to reach those places from Cairo? I’m currently trying to plug the holes in this sketchy map, and come up with a decent itinerary.

Mind you, I’m not usually so meticulous in planning foreign travel. Usually, I’m happy to list a set of cities I’d like to visit, and find out what’s worth seeing and doing there once I get there. After all, Lonely Planet is always at hand to provide the details. But this time, it’s different. This is Egypt we’re talking about. I have seen photographs of places that I absolutely MUST see before I die – now I have to track down those photos, identify the places, find them on the map, and work out how to get to all of them and spend sufficient time at each so that it doesn’t turn into a whirlwind, whistlestop tour.

It’s practically impossible, in a mere two weeks. I mean, just think: Cairo. Pyramids – lots of them. The Sphinx. Memphis (I’ve heard it’s not worth visiting, but just the name is so evocative). Thebes. The Valley of the Kings. The Valley of the Queens. The temple at Karnak. The temple of Abu Simbel. The temple of Ramesses II. The Colossi of Memnon. Akhetaten. Alexandria. The Sahara desert. Camels. Oases. The Nile. The Delta. The Beach. Mountains. Cairo. The Pyramids…

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