A Travel Story From San Francisco to Cairo
Our tour guide kept saying “Let’s say together” These three little words made me feel like I was in elementary school, then I would remember why, and I would immediately find the core of my group and join them.
If your travel destination has shown up on the US State Department’s Travel Alert within the past 12 months, then you too may want to travel with a group. Or if you are traveling alone, or if you don’t want to spend a lot of time ‘thinking’ about your next venture while visiting far away places then, group travel would be the answer.
Travel is Education at its best, or at least that is our slogan.
When I traveled to Egypt a few years back, there had been some problems, nothing serious but Egypt was listed on the US Department of State Travel Alerts. I was traveling alone and I needed the security of a group so I sign up for a 10 day group tour and cruise to Egypt. It was one of the most memorable journeys of my life. I traveled from San Francisco to JFK, New York, then to Paris and then to Cairo, Egypt.
Egypt had some issues with terrorist and US citizens had been involved in a couple of the incidents, so the “lets all stay together” idea was foremost in my mind. When we landed at the Cairo International Airport we saw guards walking around the Airport with machine guns on their back. From the moment I saw this, they never had a problem with me staying with the group. Sometimes when visiting ancient sites, I would get a little excited and move ahead of the group. It was the memory of the machine guns at the airport and our tour guide saying “lets stay together” that would cause me to Immediately find and join the group. I had not been this group conscience since I went through East Germany on the troop train, to West Berlin, in the 1970s. (Travel has always helped me to appreciate the US)
Back to the reason for this article. “Stay With the Group” was the unspoken theme of our tour. This was not hard to do since we had a tour bus assigned to us (air conditioned) and our tour guide spoke very good English. If any of us wanted to explore a destination or a particular place on the tour, at least 3 or 4 of us would join them to ensure that we “Stayed Together” Yes, there were times when I personally grew tired of my tour and my tour companions, there was so much information, so much to learn and see, I would just stay in my hotel room or tell them that I didn’t feel well.
A couple of little old ladies on the tour stopped me from fibbing about where I was going for the morning or afternoon. They would wait down stairs in the hotel lobby and catch me when I was coming out of the elevator. “Oh, you are feeling better; good we can catch a cab and go to the bazaar”. It seems that the little old ladies did this to several of the younger travelers. Needless to say, they always got their way.
“Free Time” was scheduled on the tour, however our group had grown close and pretty much stayed together. Our group consisted of couples, college students, little old ladies, professionals, retired individuals and me. We were a regular UN from the US.
In Cairo women were not allowed in the casinos at night without a male escort. So the women who had husbands ended up sharing their husband’s attentions with all the single women on the tour. We just selected the couple that suited our personality and tagged alone with them. No, there was no under the cover activity going on! It was good clean honest survival tactics. For some reason they forgot to mention in the tour brochure that women were not allowed in the casinos without an escort. (Yes, they have casinos in Egypt)
During my stay in Cairo, I wore a scarf over my head when I went out of the hotel. I did this out of respect. Cairo, at that time had over 14 million people living there and 75% were Muslims and 25% were Christians. Even though I was not a Muslim, I felt more comfortable covering my head and blending in with the Muslim population.
Our tour went something like this; Full day tour featured the Egyptian Museum, the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx at Giza, the Solar Boat, the Citadel, the Hanging Church and the famous Bazaar over a 3 day period
Then it was time to depart Cairo and catch a train to Luxor to begin our Nile Cruise. Our train ride was overnight and we had sleeper cars so privacy was not an issue. During the train ride while viewing the terrain, the small towns and the living conditions of the Egyptians, we had time to reflect on all the information, history and lessons we had experienced while in Cairo.
We sailed from Luxor to Aswan (Aswan is the gateway to Africa and was a prosperous market city on the crossroads of the ancient caravan routes) and then caught a flight back to Cairo) The river boats go back and forth from Aswan to Luxor, so some of the Americans on another tour flew to Aswan and then sailed back to Luxor.
Once on the luxury (small) cruise ship, it was like floating on air, where ancient pictures of the Nile River banks could be seen from each stateroom and the dinning rooms. Almost every moment of every day for 3 days there was a Kodak moment happening on the shores of the Nile River. The cruise revealed the most intimate details of the river banks. The ship was extremely modern and the sights were exceptionally ancient. It felt like we were caught in a time machine.
Our tour guide was an Egyptologist, she had gone to school for 4 years to learn what to say to American tourist and how to say it. She took us on a couple side trips to places that are mentioned in the Bible. It was amazing to see these historical sites. No amount of tuition could have paid for what she taught us and more importantly, what she showed us! I truly recommend that you sign up for tour information to Egypt.
Our tour was ‘high end’ meaning it was a 5 start tour, the hotel was beautiful and the cruise on the Nile was breathtaking. I returned to the United States feeling more knowledgeable and more willing to “stay with the group” when traveling to far away places. All the questions both spiritual and about world history were answered. My entire life changed for the better once I returned to the US.