Of pharaohs and heroes: Journey to Egypt

The Pyramids of Giza, Egypt.
Photo: Belinda Jackson

I am so pleased to publish this blog about my recent article in Luxury Travel magazine. This is the first story I’ve written for a mainstream publication about Egypt since its revolution, back in 2011. The feature had the invaluable support of Abercrombie & Kent, which maintains
its Cairo office, staffed by charming, knowledgeable Cairenes.


While
other countries affected by civil unrest and terrorism events have
slipped back onto the travel pages within weeks of the events, I feel
Egypt – where I have lived and continue to return to every year – has
been punished too harshly, and it suffers deeply the loss of one of its
key sources of income.


The people lean heavily on
tourism with good reason: their undeniable treasures include the Pyramids
of Giza, the colossi at Abu Simbel, the gracious and eternal Nile. And
they’re just three of its riches.


Egyptians
say that once you’ve drunk from the Nile, you’ll always return.

Maybe
you’re not up for a cup of river water, hopefully this article will
inspire you to visit – or to return.


‘We
come to visit the gods. Stern of face, empty of eye, they stare. Blank,
sightless eyes see nothing, yet see everything in the future and back to
the ancient world. The colossal sculptures of Abu Simbel are in Egypt’s deep south, touching on the border with Sudan, and are the jewel of the appropriately named Nile in Style journey with Abercrombie & Kent.

“Nowhere
are there so many marvellous things, nor in the whole world beside are
there to be seen so many works of unspeakable greatness,” wrote
Herodotus of Egypt in the fifth century BC. Fifteen centuries later,
he’s still on the money.’

Click here to read on about my journey down the Nile.

Would you visit Egypt now?

Adrere Amellal ecolodge, Siwa.

Two weeks ago, I started writing a post about the idea of visiting Egypt once again. It was time: tour prices have halved, even from the most prestigious travel companies. The Lower Nile has finally been reopened so that a visitor can sail the entire length of the Egyptian Nile, from Cairo to Abu Simbel. And the crowds that plagued the Pyramids, Luxor and all Egypt’s treasures, have stayed away in droves.

The blog was driven by a recent letter to the editor in the Sydney Morning Herald, in which the writer, recently returned from Egypt said, “I had a great and safe time. I have been there before and this time stayed mainly in Cairo, at the Sara Inn, and was saddened by the empty markets and other tourist areas. The Egyptians are, mostly, very friendly and welcoming and need the tourists to survive.”

Bab al-Futuh, Cairo

A few minutes later, my inbox was hit with a recent survey by the Hilton group, which found that 43% of Australians in the survey said they wanted to visit the Pyramids.

So it’s heartbreaking to see, in the space of a week or two, how the climate has changed, with the anger fuelled by the second anniversary of the overthrow of the Mubarak regime, to the riots in Suez over the death of 73 fans at a football match, which saw a judge sentence 21 people to death over their role in the catastrophe.

Fashion comes and goes: why, Syria was tipped the Lonely Planet’s hottest country just six months before it descended into its current, horrific civil war. And now Sri Lanka, still scarred with its own civil war, is 2013’s poster child for world tourism.

I know it is hard for Egyptians to live through these times: it’s hard to watch from the outside. But such a beautiful country, in such a politically strategic location with possibly the world’s greatest tourism riches, will rise again. We just have to hope, for the people’s sake, that it’s soon.