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Travel to Egypt

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  • E G Y P T

  • Fascination with Egypt can start young and can last a lifetime, as theres no other place in the world that holds more mystery and allure.

    If visiting Egypt has been a lifelong dream of yours, then travel with us to Kemet (the ancient name for Egypt, meaning Land of Magic) on a MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR.

  • Land of Magic and Mystery Story and photos by Mary Sequoia Hamilton

    EGYPT

  • Recently, my 11 year-old son has been studying about Ancient Egypt in the classroomand at home. Weve mummied his Power Rangers in tightlywrapped toilet tissue (embedded with costume jewelry to simulate amulets and drenched in perfume-scented oils), ceremoniously placed them in shoebox cofns, and buried them in the backyard.

    Weve TiVod dozens of History Channel programs pondering intriguing mysteries: Did Cleopatra commit suicide, or was she murdered? How is a pyramid built? Did the ancient Egyptians really know the cure for baldness and migraines?

    Weve written our names in Egyptian hieroglyphs and explored myths surrounding the symbols in a persons name. (If your name has an M, represented by an owl, legend has it that you possess innate wisdom; R is the symbol of a mouth and refers to those who appreciate good conversations and food; and L, well, you may be perceived as bossy, stubborn and sometimes grouchy, just like a lion.) We even constructed a model pyramid out of marshmallows and hot glue

    and had a modern mess when we forgot to unplug the hot glue gun.

    Fascination with Egypt can start young and can last a lifetime, as theres no other place in the world that holds more mystery and allure.

    When media magnate William Randolph Hearst was about my sons age his mother took him on

    a world tour of Europe and Egypt where he gathered ideas and inspiration from

    the grandeur and scale of castles, temples, art and history. In fact, Hearst was so enthralled with Egypt that he returned again, at the age of 29, on what a colleague described as a photographic orgy returning to

    the U.S. with 3,200 images of the Nile, pyramids and natural surroundings as

    well as art, antiquities and a collection of mummies.Travel writer, Amelia Edwards, who penned

    A Thousand Miles up the Nile in the late 1800s, described the ancient land of mysteries as a place of which no writing and no art can convey more than a dwarfed and pallid impression.

    Bottom line: You have to visit Egypt for yourself.(continues on next page)

  • Apparently, about 11 million people did just that, swelling Egypts tourism up 22% from last year and up 300% from a mere 3.8 million visitors per year a decade ago. Egypts Tourism Ofce forecasts thatby 2011, theyll need to construct 2,500 new 100-bed hotels just to accommodate the global guests.

    Makes sense since Egypt is crowning Top Destinations lists all over the world and ranks with the best of best in books like 100 Places to See Before You Die. (Ironically, the coauthor of that best-seller died this past year at 47 years young, having visited only half of the destinations on his list.)

    In 1963 when Hollywood siren Elizabeth Taylor slithered across the silver screen as Cleopatra (Cleopatra VII to be exact, since all the female Egyptian Pharaohs of Greek-lineage were named Cleopatra), tourism to Egypt spiked to an all-time high.

    Then, some 30 years later the sultry Ralph Fiennes in the 1997 Oscar winning best-picture The English Patient spiked yet another boom in tourism.

    Historical epics set in exotic locales appear to inspire legions of travelers on pilgrimages. Hollywood is in bed with the travel industry, so it seems.

    My fascination with Egypt heightened during

    my teen years in the 70s with the craze over the traveling exhibit of the Egyptian Boy King and his tomb artifacts.

    Egypt stayed in the forefront of the media, and in my mind, with The Bangles belting out Walk like an Egyptian, Indiana Jones whipping his way through Cairo in Raiders of the Lost Ark, and comedian Steve Martin strutting his stuff to tune of King Tut.

    As an adult, the dream of visiting the Great Pyramid had reached the apex of my Bucket Listi.e. things to do before one kicks the bucket.

    Yes, Egypt was calling.And I was prepared.For over 25 years I had been leading travel trips

    around the world Sings Sings in Papua New Guinea, Art tours in Florence, Treks in Nepal ... I had even been a Park Ranger in Yosemite leading people through the backcountry and bear habitat. Now Egypt, which had been a dream of mine since I was my sons age, was next on my list.

    So, with my husbands assurance that he would hold down the home fort and keep our son focused on his Egyptian studies and crafts, I made plans to travel to Cairo in preparation for leading magical tours to Egypt.

  • Though Id be a SWF (solo white female) visiting the Middle East, I wanted to travel on my own terms and move beyond the tourist circuit and the megatours on megabuses.

    Also, I had been cautioned: the splendor of Egypt is so vast and so intoxicating for rst-timers,the sensory overload can leave one in a state of tomb fatigue. After all, there are only so many statues, hieroglyphs and Egyptian tombs a person can take in before they all meld into one big blur.

    Embedded like jewels along the Nile River, I wanted to savor my time in these glorious temples and spectacular pyramids. I wanted something different ... something intimate ... something memorable.

    Serendipitously, through a mutual friend and via Skype, I was introduced to a native Swiss living in Hong Kong, who came highly recommended for her soulful world tours and also because she would be in Egypt the same month I planned to be there.

    Having cofounded Boston Propera multi-million dollar upscale womens clothing companymost recently she had given herself

    Are these orbs oatingaround the statue of

    King Ramesses the Great? Photo taken at night at Luxor Temple.

    (continues on next page)

  • a permanent promotion from textile empress to travel goddess.

    As a fellow tour organizer, this woman appeared to be the ideal mentor for my upcoming custom tours to the cradle of civilization: we shared similar visions of leading excursions tailored for both fun and transformation in equal measure, and of people on our tours unwinding in the presence of profound stillness (as is found in powerful ancient spaces.)

    In fact, I was planning an itinerary for others that included exactly what I needed for myself: fun, transformation, and to symbolically unravel my overly scheduled, mummied self on a RESTcation (avacation of deep rest and relaxation ... far away from the cares of my daily life and responsibilities as a mom-preneur.)

    So, ever the prepared Girl Scout and always up for a spontaneous adventure, I bought a ticket on a Saturday and ew out from LAX on a Wednesday. Ihad a short checklist in hand: 1) Make sure Egypt is safe for kids (as I would most denitely bring my son andhis fortune friends to see the pyramids); 2) Meet with

    a local tour company to create an unusual, custom, and affordable itinerary that I could offer every Spring and every Fall; 3) Have fun.

    I arrived in Cairo via Amsterdam and met up with an eclectic, international bunch from Belgium, Costa Rica, China, Switzerland and the United States. To make

    the mix even more interesting, a German transplant living in Morocco who was a master teacher

    in the ancient Asian art of Nei Gongconsidered the grandfather to life-

    force or energy practices such as Tai chi chuan and Qigongjoined along.

    A local Egyptian tour company brought to life the grand itinerary with all kinds of special visits, pay

    offs and treats that only locals could arrange.

    We dined in tucked-away family restaurants and savored new concoctions

    like squeezed lime juice with fresh mint leaves (add sugar and its like drinking a slice of key lime pie.) We drifted down the Nile on a Felucca and sailed the skies in a hot air balloon. We climbed up camels and down steep cavernous tombs. We meditated in silence and

  • partied together at the pools swim-up bar. We spent time in solitude and banded together at bazaars.

    The highlight for all of us, was the private visit between the paws of the Sphinx (normally tourists can only view the Sphinx from a platform above it and from a distance) and our hike into the heart of the Great Pyramid (to the sacred Kings Chambera room so perfectly aligned with the Orion constellation it was believed to be a portal to send and receive messages from the other side.)

    There were many splendors on the trip. One of my favorite places of antiquity was Karnak,

    the largest open air religious complex in the world nestled in the heart of Luxor.

    Known as Ipet-isut, the most sacred of places, the temple once sprawled over ten miles and boasted an avenue anked with ram-headed sphinxes with mini-me Ramesses II statues (protectively between their paws) connecting the temples of Karnak and Luxor, some two miles south.

    Beginning in the 16th century BC and spanning more than 2,000 years, historians estimate that more than 30 pharaohs contributed to the temple complex, enabling it to reach a size, complexity, and diversity unrivaled in ancient or modern times.

    Our arrival to Karnak was at dawn, with the intent

    The two most visited sites in Egypt: The Giza Necropolis

    outside of Cairo, and Karnak Temple in Luxor.

    (continues on next page)

  • to beat the hoards of tourists that would swarm the grounds by 8am.

    Our Egyptologist instructed us to move quickly through the complex to commence our journey backwards, starting at the back of the property and ending at the entran