“One’s destination is never a place, but rather a new way of seeing things”.
My trip came at a trying time in my life. This meant I found myself crying most nights, but such was the beauty of my experience, smiling all throughout the day. Mostly I was treated kindly and lovingly by strangers. I discovered that language is never a barrier, and that a smile and a genuine interest in others will open doors to wonderful experiences and unforgettable moments.
I began my trip in Egypt from Cairo where I met with my local contact, Mr. Timer. Traveling as a single female photographer I needed some local help to move around and get photo permits and access for some of the locations I needed to visit.
A city that never sleeps, Cairo is the capital of Egypt and has a population of 22 million. The city is full of life and movement; traffic is organised chaos, with warning honking of horns, street vendors, merchants on horse carriages, camels, bikers, tuk-tuks and fearless pedestrians crossing left and right. Everyone manoeuvres to avoid crashing with each other. With almost no traffic lights the occasional red lights are to be ignored and everyone seems to know the unspoken traffic rules!
Feeling excited at 6.50 am I was ready to begin exploring the streets. There is no such thing as travelling solo or thinking that you are alone. If you choose to see it that way, you are always in the company of the best companion, yourself! In my case I also had my camera.
First mission; “find coffee”!
As I wondered the streets near my hotel on the main street of Giza I saw two locals having their morning tea on a side street. Suddenly I couldn’t hear the busy buzz of the main street. It was quiet, they were chilling, watching life passing by. A simple smile and “Hi, how are you?” sparked an invitation to sit down for tea with these two locals. Mr Faron, apparently a popular local comedian and actor, and his friend – a local lawyer called Mr. Mahamidibrahim.
Well, sometimes we don’t find exactly what we’re out looking for, and so it was with me. My first Egyptian coffee turned out to be my first Egyptian tea, and it was a wonderful experience. It turned out Mr Faron is actually a well known actor in Egypt.
We chatted, or more like played charades for quite some time (I had no Arabic, they had almost no English, the tea was hot, and I could not leave before I drank it!) The language barrier didn’t matter though. They treated me like I was an old friend.
I carried on with my walk through the streets of Cairo, so fascinated by what I was seeing that I even forgot to search for that coffee.
One’s first impression is a lasting one, it sets up your experience in any subsequent situation. Mine was this: “Egypt is safe, and the locals are welcoming and kind”. I was right too. During my entire visit I never once felt threatened or overly hassled by any one.
“Don’t be a tourist, be a traveller,” I kept telling myself while exploring Cairo. But having said that, it was time for me to do some “must” sightseeing. Six pyramids together at the Giza Pyramid Complex!
The Great Pyramid is the oldest and biggest and also the only survivor of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World.
Looking at this magnificent monumental structure, now more than 4,500 years old, made me realise how advanced the Egyptians were. Their mathematical perfection gives the understanding that they were not only exceptional builders and architects, but incredible scientists as well. It is still a mystery today how the Khufu Pyramid’s builders knew how to point the pyramid almost perfectly to the north. How did they achieve such perfection, how did they carry up the massive stones? And with hieroglyphs, the Pharaohs already had their own version of selfies!
Some of them lasted thousand of years. I wonder how long iCloud will keep my selfies? Hmmm…
“A ride through the desert” with Mr Atef and Daisy”.
One must take a camel ride to complete the Great Giza Pyramid Complex experience! Although thousands of visitors come to see the pyramids every year and ride Mr Atef’s camels, his friendly personality and enthusiasm made my experience very special! (PS: FB friends now!!!)
On a late afternoon I met Mr Atef to adventure out in the desert. The goal: a sunset image of the Great Pyramid of Giza. Mr Atef and I started our ride in the topsy-turvy streets of Cairo with our camels Mickey and Daisy. After a 15 minute camel ride in the traffic (what were you thinking Leticia, I kept on saying to myself) we finally made it into the Egyptian desert. The ride became smoother. In case you wonder: Yes! Camels do trot and sort of gallop in an aching, slow motion kind of way. We had a few stops to admire and look across the desert panorama (ok, the truth, the stops were a much-needed break for my tush!).
After a long ride we stopped to have some tea with other locals. Again I had lots of “I wonder what they’re really saying” moments, but then smiles don’t need to be translated and we all enjoyed each others “lost in translation” moments, as we watched the sun come down.
Being a bit claustrophobic I found myself loving the comfort and nourishment of the open space of the desert. All is static. Your eyes can rest, and therefore your mind and your heart can find peace too.
It was dark. I was on a camel riding back to the city, following Mr Atef and feeling the desert floor through the hoofs of my sweet camel Daisy. The goal of taking a sunset image of the Great Pyramids had been achieved, but it wasn’t the point anymore. It was the journey that made it all a forever memory.