Monday, July 28, 2008

Travel: Experiencing Egypt (Patti Nickell)

After a four-hour flight from London that landed in Cairo just after midnight, all I wanted to do was fall into bed, but the bellhop who showed me to my room at the Mena House Hotel was in a particularly chatty mood. Drawing back my drapes and indicating the inky blackness, he smiled and whispered conspiratorially, ”You can't see them now, of course, but they're out there.“

It occurred to me that my smiling bellhop was in some kind of Egyptian Witness Protection Program and that ”they“ were coming for him, not me. Taking comfort in that thought, I fell into bed and slept soundly until a blistering ball of sun, pouring through the partly open curtains, served as my wake-up call.

Opening the curtains all the way, I gaped in surprise, realizing just what my bellhop had meant the night before. ”They“ certainly were out there — right beyond my balcony — huge, mysterious and more than a little menacing: the pyramids of Giza, including the Great Pyramid, the last remaining wonder of the ancient world. I gulped, the first of many times I would do this over the next eight days. Egypt has that effect on people.

Ever since the fourth grade, when I wrote a report on Egypt for United Nations Week, I have had an insatiable desire to visit the Land of the Pharaohs. Now, here I was, on Abercrombie & Kent's ­”Highlights of Egypt“ tour. More than once, over the course of those eight days, the concept of trying to cram 5,000 years of history into such a short time frame made me smile. But no one can say I didn't try.

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