Hole in the Donut Cultural Travel

Camel strikes a pose before the Step Pyramid of Djoser, just a twenty minute ride from Giza, Egypt

The Step Pyramid of Djoser, located just 19 miles outside of Giza, is the oldest pyramid in Egypt. Though there are a couple of other competitors, it may also be the oldest known cut-stone building complex in the world. Today it is the centerpiece of the necropolis of Saqqara, a large cemetery that served the ancient Egyptian capital city of Memphis for more than 3,000 years. The Great Pyramids of Egypt were also a necropolis, though they were reserved solely for the burial of Pharaohs. In comparison, the Saqqara complex contains the tombs of at least 16 kings, as well as high officials and non-royals. Read More

Great Pyramid of Giza, also known as Pyramid of Khufu, just south of Cairo, Egypt

I’d long wanted to visit the Egyptian pyramids, but kept putting it off due to scheduling and concerns over safety in the region. Last fall, I finally made it. One of the biggest surprises for most travelers is the location of the pyramids. Photos show them surrounded by sand, as if they are solitary structures far out in the desert. In truth, they are located on the opposite side of a busy street that fronts the archeological park in Giza, the city located just across the river from Cairo.

From the balcony of my hotel I had a prime view of all three of the largest pyramids, but looking at them from afar is deceptive. To feel their enormity, one must stand right up against them, and this is where the next misconception comes in. With the exception of entrances where visitors are allowed go inside, I had expected the pyramids to be somewhat protected from human touch. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Read More

Young girl creates modern day hieroglyphics on a wall in the tiny village of El Kab, Egypt

When our traditional dahabiya stopped for a visit in the small village of El Kab, Egypt, children flocked to the dock to sell their handmade baskets. This little girl, however, was more interested in drawing on a nearby stone wall with a piece of charcoal. Extracting myself from the fray, I wandered over to see what she was doing. With no shared language, we couldn’t communicate, but I tried to convey that I liked her creations with sign language and smiles. She flashed a shy smile of appreciation, nodding when I pointed to my camera for permission to take her photo. Read More

Kom Ombo Temple, near Aswan in Upper Egypt, is the only temple in Egypt dedicated to two separate gods

Kom Ombo Temple may be the most unique temple in Egypt, as it is the only one dedicated to two gods. Beyond the double entry are two separate but connected Hypostyle halls where reliefs of the gods have been carved into massive sandstone columns. The falcon-headed god Horus commands on the left side, while the right side is the domain of the crocodile god, Sobek. Beyond the entry hall, symmetrical sanctuaries, halls, and courts lie on either side of the center line, equal in everything but the deity they worship. Read More

A fat bumble bee lumbered across the stern of our boat. He circled a few times before realizing the yellow rope and orange life preserver weren’t flowers, then turned and headed back to the island where we were anchored. A black and white Kingfisher crossed his path, gliding impossibly close to the blue-green water of the Nile. With each flap, the tips of his wings barely grazed the water. Rather than scattering the schools of silver fishes below, the disturbance caused them to jump. To their death. There is no escaping the aptly named Kingfisher.

A profound peace descended on me as I gazed at this view from the stern of the El Nil Dahabiya

A profound peace descended on me as I gazed at this view from the stern of the El Nil Dahabiya

On the island, clumps of papyrus and water lilies with pale purple flowers dotted the marshes. Cattle roamed and munched on lush grasses, pausing every so often to low. Wild donkeys joined in, their braying a cross between a dog’s bark and a honking goose. The only other sounds were the gentle lapping of the Nile against the shore and twittering birds so numerous I couldn’t catalog them.

Three days earlier I had boarded the El Nil, one of four traditional houseboats designed and purpose built by Nour El Nil for their Dahabiya cruises on the Nile River. On the mahogany deck, overstuffed sofas, futons, and chairs begged to be occupied. Below decks, 10 luxurious cabins provided for an intimate group of no more than 20 passengers. I hopped up into my oversized queen-size bed, sank into the plush duvet and pristine white linens, and sighed with contentment.  Read More

At El Kab, Egypt, children sell baskets they make from candy wrappers

Sailing the Nile River with Nour El Nil in a recreated traditional Dahabiya boat allowed us to put in at smaller sites that cannot be accessed by larger vessels. El Kab, a small village south of Luxor, Egypt, was one such site. In addition to visiting the ancient city of Nekheb, which is located a short distance behind the present day village of El Keb, we enjoyed bartering to buy these baskets that local kids make from candy wrappers. Read More