Egypt Enchanted

Vacation time always means travel for Lavanya Nutankalva, so when the idea to travel to the historically rich nation of Egypt came around, it was like a childhood dream come true.
Egypt has always been a dream. The ancient civilisation, the pyramids, and the fact that even in those days they built world wonders made us finalise the trip. Once the travel plans were sorted, we were off for a memorable 12 days to explore the magic of pharaohs, pyramids and myths.
Along with my husband Suresh Reddy and our two daughters Reema and Esha, I landed in Cairo. In four days, we saw both the Islamic and the Coptic (Christian) influences of the capital. Put up at Giza, the first thing we did was visit the Pyramids of Cheops, Chephren and Mykerinus, the only standing wonders from an ancient world we know of. Next, we visited the Great Sphinx, the mysterious monument that has the head of a pharaoh with a lion’s body, and dates back to the time of Chephren.
Great Sphinx, the mysterious monument 
Later, we went to the Step Pyramid of Zoser, the world’s oldest major stone structure. It was built during the third dynasty (around 2630 BC) for King Djoser. On our way to the south, we also saw the Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid. Interestingly, the first is red because of the stones used, and the second was named for the angle in which the pyramid is tilted.
It was amazing just to see these amazing structures and marvels that reflect the engineering and technology that existed thousands of years ago. We also visited the Valley Temple, which belongs to the Pyramids of Chephren, and had a great time on a camel ride. You can climb into the pyramid for an entry fee, and it’s worth seeing the interior.
Egyptian Museum 
Another amusing repository, the Egyptian Museum holds artifacts from the Pharaonic period and displays a rare collection of 5,000 years of art. Over 250,000 overwhelming artefacts are present here, including an exhibit dedicated to Tutankhamen’s collection of treasure, gold and jewellery that was enclosed in his tomb for over 3,500 years before it was discovered and excavated in the 1920s.
We proceed to Mohamed Ali Alabaster Mosque, built by the same architect who built the famous Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey. We also saw the citadel of Salah El Din, and in Old Cairo, we visited the Hanging Church, Abu Sirga Church and synagogue. Khan el-Khalili bazaar is must, where thousands of shops and street vendors sell their wares. The district is legendary for fine border brassware, copper, perfumes, leather, silver, gold and antiques. But the rule is you have to bargain!
From Cairo, we drove to Alexandria, which has great Roman influences. Visiting the Roman Theater, Pompey’s Pillar and the Church of St. Mark (the oldest in Africa), we drove 30 km to see the entire city of Alexandria from the seaside, including the old harbour of Alexandria, where we saw the 7,000 monuments underwater. The library of Alexandria is the biggest in the world with eight million books, while the lighthouse was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. The Castle of Qaitbay was also impressive.
We spent good time at royal gardens of king Farouk to see the palaces of Haramlek and Salamlek, the royal beaches of the queens. King Farouk was the last ruler in history of ancient Egypt. We then headed to the prettiest, biggest mosque in the city, Abbo Elabbas Mosque. The unknown soldier of Alexandria and the statue of Alexander gave us a sense of greatness.
After this, we flew to Aswan. We visited the temple of Abu Simbel, three hours away by road, and the dam of Lake Nasser.  From Aswan, we drove to Luxor, where the temples and tombs are divided among the western and eastern banks of the Nile. The West Bank of Luxor is where you have Dier El-Bahari and the Valley of Kings, which is the New Kingdom (1549–1069 BC) Necropolis. On our way, we stopped at temples to Kom Ombo and Edfu.
After that, we flew to Sharm El Sheik, which is one of the famous Red Sea resort towns. The sea here is known for its pristine clear water, marine life, beaches and coral reefs. This is where, for the first time, we experienced scuba diving – an amazing activity that brings you closer to nature and the untouched beauty underwater. For food, we enjoyed pita bread, hummus, falafel, babganoush, and fresh salads. Stuffed pigeon is a delicacy in Egypt, where they also consume plenty of tea and dried fruits.                              ..... Lavanya