Quite some time ago now, when I was in high school, I was scheduled to go on a history trip with a select few students to Egypt. This was the year of the Egyptian revolution, and of course, all was cancelled. My dreams of Egypt and all its history slipped away with this cancelled school trip, and whilst it was always one of my desired destinations to visit it was always so far out of reach.
To be honest, I was a little nervous initially with going to Egypt, I really did not know what to expect, it seemed really foreign to even me and the main question I was being asked by people when I told them about my trip was “Oh Egypt, is that safe??”
All fears aside I boarded my emirates flights and from the moment I was on that plane I was at ease. Not once, during the entire trip did I feel unease or unsafe and everything Bunnik Tours do is so well executed and organised. I knew I was in great hands, and I really was!
Day 1 we landed in Cairo in the morning. Now Cairo! What splendid Chaos! This city has more people in the city then in the whole of Australia! Our estimated arrival time to our hotel was anywhere between 1 hours and 3 hours depending on traffic, this was my introduction to the endearing madness of Egypt. We pulled up to our hotel Le Meridien Pyramids for the first night of our tour, staying just outside Cairo city at Giza. The view from my hotel room window below describes it all…
The rest of the afternoon was at leisure, this meant pinching myself every 10 minutes to ensure I was actually seeing what I was seeing! That evening we went to a sound and light show at the Pyramids and the home of the Great Sphinx (again a pinch myself moment). Afterwards we went to a lovely local restaurant and I had my first taste of Egyptian food.
Day 2: The next morning we woke up relatively early to actually visit the pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx. Wow bucket list, tick! With every Bunnik tour in Egypt, you do not get just a tour guide, you get an Egyptologist (yes it is a thing!) this means you are guaranteed a local Egyptian person who’s passion and knowledge will astound you every single day. The passion my Egyptologist Mofid, has for his country and its history is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Not just his knowledge but also his personal stories, his experience of the revolution, his view on religion, there was nothing Mofid wouldn’t share with us if we asked him. This was probably, the first, of many reasons why I fell in love with Bunnik Tours and how they operate.
On this trip we had three Bunnik coaches and three Egyptologists running their tour. This was to create, for us, an authentic Bunnik Tour experience. No more then 20 people on tour. What is great is, on every Bunnik Tour, you get a large coach size bus. This gives you the choice everyday of what side, what seat, upfront, down back, anywhere you want to sit! No seat rotation, sit where you like, this really is a great key feature of Bunnik Tours.
After our time visiting the Pyramids and the Great Sphinx we headed to the airport to board our flight to Aswan. We arrived late evening in Aswan and had an early night in preparation for another big and eventful day.
This evening, we had a group meeting and we officially met the Bunnik’s (The whole Bunnik clan joined us for the tour.) for the first time. Marion Bunnik, founder of Bunnik Tours, her husband Frank and their sons, Sacha and Dennis who is the current managing director of Bunnik tours. Dennis said to us “Today is the reason why people come to Egypt (pyramids and sphinx of course!!) but the rest of your trip is why people fall in love with Egypt.” I will never forget that. Egypt is so much more then just Pyramid’s and Mummy’s.
Day 3: This morning we visited our first of many temples in Egypt. The Temple of Isis was actually, my favourite temple (although they all had a unique charm and energy). This temple was built on Philae Island and actually had been relocated here from another island that was submerged after the building of a dam. Brick by brick they moved this masterpiece, they numbered every block to ensure that the rebuilding of this structure remain exact. How impressive is that! What a beauty as you can see from my photo I am hanging onto every word my Egyptologist says (me in the blue cap! )
This afternoon we boarded our Movenpick Cruise (our home for the following 3 nights!) and we set off on a traditional Felucca sailboat with my fellow travel companions and local village musicians. What I learned about Egypt really quickly is the locals love music, they love to dance! It is a wonderfully contagious quality and I found myself dancing away sailing down the Nile in a Felucca boat, so much fun!
Day 4: Up early, we disembarked our wonderful cruise boat and set off at 4:30am across the dessert for a view of Abu Simbel. Let me tell you this UNESCO Heritage listed temple did not disappoint! This temple was originally carved out of the mountainside by King Ramses II. When the dam was built that meant they had to move these two gigantic works of art in their entirety otherwise it would be flooded by the dam. The absolute gravity of moving these beautiful temples will really only be felt when you are standing in this place …amazing!
Days 5-7 consisted of Temples at stops along the way as we cruised down the Nile and some down time enjoying a drink or two on the cruise. The temples we visited were Kom Ombo, Edfu and Luxor. All amazingly charming and rich full of fascinating history and spirituality. Visiting Kom Ombo was particularly beautiful at sunset. The light that hits the temples as the sun goes down is really breathtaking.
In the evening of Day 7 we had our local Galabeya party on the cruise boat. This is where we dressed in traditional Galibaya’s and enjoyed local music and performances. Again the Egyptians have a real passion for dancing, it was so much fun to experience an authentic local night. Hot Tip- don’t want to face market shopping for a Galabeya? Well no worries because our Movenpick cruise has a shop on board and it is just as cheap! (cheaper actually if you are not a good bargainer) and hassle free!
I don’t want to be a spoiler because it was such a surprise for me, but I have to tell you about it! An absolute highlight of my cruise was actually when we crossed the lock at Esna. The lock crossing itself was not the highlight but the 10 rowboats with local vendors that approached our ship to throw us their for sale items that included sarongs, towels, table clothes and Galabeya’s. If you wanted the item you would place money in the bag and throw it back to the rowboat (aim as best you can!) if you don’t want the item, well just throw the item back! This was utter chaos and absolutely mesmerizing to be apart of!
Day 7: Valley of the Kings – Need I say much more! This was really a pinch myself moment (yes another one!), walking into these ancient tombs of people that once ruled thousands of years BC! Seeing Tutankhamen’s tomb and his mummy was a beautiful haunting memory I will have for the rest of my life.
Day 8: We are now staying in the beautiful city of Luxor. Our hotel the Steigenberger is really a picture perfect setting overlooking the Nile. For some of us who decided to book the optional Hot Air Ballooning today was the day! Early start 4:30am and we are off crossing the Nile on our traditional felucca to the West Bank. I can tell you this, if you aren’t too scared of heights, this is not an optional excursion you want to miss! Watching the sun come up over the Valley of the Kings from the air and comfort of your balloon, what a beautiful way to start the day.
After the Hot Air Ballooning and a delicious buffet breakfast. We visited Karnak Temple. This temple is the ruins of an ancient city. Only 60% of this temple is actually uncovered, you could spend all day here and still not see everything that this temple has to offer. This temple was really a fascinating insight to a thriving world that once existed.
Day 9: Back to Cairo. This time we are not staying at the Pyramids of Giza, we are in the thick of it! We concluded our tour at The Marriott and this was probably my favourite hotel. The location was great, the hotel rooms were large and clean and modern. I highly recommend the local Egyptian restaurant in the hotel. Really authentic char-grilled Egyptian food. So delicious! In Cairo we visited the Cairo museum where we could now piece together fragments of our learnings we had absorbed along the way. Having already been to Tutankhamen tomb, it was amazing to see all the goods that are in the museum that were removed from his tomb. Plus, that infamous mask! Beautiful! If you go, I would highly recommend paying the few dollars to check out the mummy room. Wow it was so surreal to see these mummy’s of all these famous King’s from history and of who I had just learnt so much about. King Ramses II and Nefertiti are on display to name just a couple. We visited the Mosque of Muhammad Ali this afternoon and the famous Khan el-Khalili Bazaar. You want to shop and barter this is the place! The colours of the lamp shops next to the trinket shop, next to the leather shop with all the local vendors trying to entice you into their store, such a good time!
Day 10: It was the day we were all dreading! Leaving day.
I think about my trip now and I actually find it hard to find the words to describe exactly what this trip meant to me. Egypt is not just about its history, it is about culture, food, people, dancing and and experiencing local life. I have nothing but praise for Bunnik Tours. They are experts at what they do, at giving their clients an experience of a lifetime. Their passion really shows in how well organised and executed this tour was.
This trip was, by far, my favourite trip to date! I went to Egypt ready to see the history and the places I have only ever read about in text books, but I left Egypt truly inspired. The tour, the people, my new friends, nothing could have been any better! My Egyptologist said to me –“My great experiences in Egypt are now my great memories of Egypt.”I loved this and to me, that is what travel is all about.