Travel from Washington DC to Luxor Egypt via New York City and Cairo
5/30/01 - 5/31/01
It was actually the movie, "The Egyptian" and not the Holy Land, which brought me to my first destination in Egypt; the city of Luxor. It is generally upper Egypt which I had more readily (and falsely) associated with Biblical times. The truth is, it was Ramses II who eventually set the Israelite slaves free around 1250BC, and he did it while ruling from the long-time capital of Egypt, the ancient city of Thebes. The city of Thebes is today called Luxor and contains the greatest collection of standing tombs, monuments, and temples from ancient Egypt's past.
If one would ask me what my favorite movie is, I would say without hesitation, "The Egyptian." Made in 1954, the story focuses on a physician named, Sinuhe who lived in the pharaonic times of Akhenaten. The life and story of Akhenaten has so fascinated me that I just had to see the area where the real Akhenaten lived. Akhenaten ruled Egypt for just 20 years before many believe he was assassinated. Ancient Thebes was calling me and since I was going to be in Egypt already, I decided to plan a three-day excursion into the heart of the ancient "New Kingdom."
I left Washington DC at around 5PM as I had arrived early to Reagan National airport and was able to catch a flight on standby to JFK in New York. While leaving the city, we flew over RFK stadium and the monuments, the new Redskins stadium and old capital center, and directly over the Bay Bridge. It all looked so beautiful and I hoped that I would see it all again someday if I survived my journey.
Upon my arrival in New York, I was able to relax and eat some dinner, enjoying my last bastion of Americana before the lengthy stay abroad. I was supposed to catch a ten-hour flight from JFK to Cairo, Egypt, but this was put in doubt when the stewardess proclaimed to us at 9:30PM that our flight "has been postponed until further notice for mechanical difficulties." My heart sank as I envisioned every portion of my well-planned trip suddenly falling apart. Upon landing in Cairo, I had a 5-hour layover until I was supposed to catch another plain to Luxor. Therefore, I knew that I had a little bit of time to play with, but not much. After about an hour and a half of squirming, the stewardess announced that we would be boarding and we actually got to Cairo without a hitch.
The flight was pretty bumpy, but I slept a good deal and was actually amazed that it seemed so short. In what could only be explained as a gift from God, the pilot told us that if we were seated on the left side of the airplane (which I was), we would be able to see a nice view of the Pyramids. I scavenged for my video camera and managed to get the most priceless shots of the Pyramids. I was pretty psyched to be seeing them. Few people are so privileged to see the Pyramids from that vantage point. Although I knew I would tour them in detail later in the week, I couldn't help but be amazed. I mean there they were, "THE Pyramids." There isn't another set!
Journal excerpt: Arriving in Cairo was an interesting ordeal. The airport is less than helpful as everything is written primarily in Arabic, which is impossible to decipher. Through my guidebook I realized that I had to pay $15 for a visa, which I needed to get at a bank before entering the customs area. There is a row of banks just before customs, so I was able to take care of that and exchange some money. It took me about an hour to get through customs, get my luggage and get over to the domestic terminal to catch my connecting flight to Luxor. In the meantime, a taxi driver scammed me for about 8 dollars to take me over to the terminal ( I ended up falling for it.) When we arrived, I discovered that he actually took me to the wrong terminal and I ended up walking about 300 yards to the correct terminal in the oppressive, near-triple digit heat wearing a full sweat suit, lugging a video bad, and rolling a suitcase.
During my time in Cairo, waiting for the plane trip to Luxor, I ran into a nice American lady and some of her relatives who now live in Cairo. I talked with her for a couple hours. Her relatives told me about the recent threat by terrorist Assadin Bin Ladin, who had pledged to murder United States citizens touring through Egypt. Now that's EXACTLY what I want to hear as I begin a 9-day tour of Egypt. I just pray that God will keep me safe. It wasn't an accident that I was brought over here. There is a reason. I can't wait to find out what it is.
Note: My flight to Luxor was non-eventful as was my trip to the hotel. One funny incident did happen on the plane though, as a "just married" couple was on board still dressed in their wedding dress and tuxedo (it's customary in Egypt to do this.) They bought "coach" tickets, but the stewardesses ushered them up to 1st class when she noticed that there would be room. As soon as they entered the 1st class compartment, the stewardess "pulled the curtain," and everyone began to smirk and laugh joyfully. It was a funny moment, one that did not need any translation.