A honeymoon in Egypt. My lovely bride and I spent an extraordinary two weeks traveling throughout Egypt, exploring Cairo, the Upper Nile and the Sinai.



Upper Egypt - Luxor, Edfu, Kom Ombo, Aswan & Abu Simbel
The Nile The Cruise Luxor Tuesday Market Karnak Luxor Temple Valley of the Kings
The Colossi of Memnon
Temple of Horus
Kom Ombo
Temple of Philae Aswan Lake Nasser Abu Simbel

Update - Our visit to Egypt ended just a couple months prior to the demonstrations that have recently rocked that country. Though I understood that poverty was pervasive and Mubarak was unpopular - I never knew the depths of that unpopularity - nor did I ever dream that a country as seemingly stable as Egypt appeared to be, could change so suddenly and dramatically. The Egyptian people that we encountered where overwhelmingly warm and friendly and we truly do wish them the best and are hopeful that the the current instability leads to a better life for the people who call Egypt home.

Upper Egypt refers generally to the area from the the Nile River Delta - south of Cairo, to Lake Nasser in Aswan at what was once the "first cataract" (before construction of the Aswan High Damn) and ancient Egypt's border with Nubia. This area is remarkably rich in remnants of pharaonic Egypt. A legendary Pharaoh named Narmer is said to have united Upper & Lower Egypt around 3100 BC. Many of the earliest ruins from pharaonic times are located in Memphis, Giza & Saqqara, near present day Cairo in Lower Egypt. Upper Egypt however, contains a wealth of remarkably well preserved temples and monuments from Egypt's glory days - it's height of power. The Nile was what made civilization possible in Egypt and as a result, virtually all settlement is along its banks.

Thebes (present day Luxor) became the capital of upper Egypt around 2125 BC with the rule of Mentuhotep and his defeat of the north. Power remained in Luxor for over 1000 years before the empire began to fall apart. Among the rulers associated with Thebes and Upper Egypt are Tutmosis, Amenhotep, Hatshepsut I, II & II, Ramses and Seti I & II. Of course, everyone's favorite pharaoh, Tutankhamun also rules during this period. By 1070 BC - after 2,000 years as one of the world's preeminent civilizations - Egypt is a fractured state. Egypt never again retains the power and wealth achieved during this period. Though still wealthy and powerful to a degree, Egypt is ruled by foreigners (Libyans, Macedonians, Persians, Romans and Turks) until the 20th century.

The monuments in and around Luxor are part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site known as "Ancient Thebes with its Necropolis". You can link to the UNESCO site at http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/87.

Our first night in Egypt was spent in Cairo after an insanely long flight from JFK. Then it was up early and a flight to Luxor to begin the first part of our honeymoon - a Nile River cruise. For four days we cruised from Luxor to Aswan, stopping at Esna, Edfu and Kom Ombo along the way. After the cruise we took a short puddle jumper for an unfortunately brief visit to Abu Simbel and a flight back to Cairo.

City Views Coptic Cairo
The Hanging Church
The Citadel
Alabaster Mosque Pyramids of Giza The Sphinx
Giza Plateau Fun With Camels Khan al Khalili Egyptian Museum Felucca Memphis & Saqqara Four Seasons & Oberoi

Though Memphis - located in the suburbs - was an ancient center of power, Cairo itself was never a pharaonic city. Originally a 4th century Roman fort known as Babylon-in-Egypt, Cairo's rise to power came much later in Egypt's history. Built near Egypt's Babylon in 641, Fustat was the first capitol of Egypt under Islamic rule. When the Fatimids invaded from Tunisia in the year 969, they established their own capital nearby. The name of the new capitol was Al-Madina al-Qahira (the City Victorious) and it eventually absorbed what remained of Fustat as the old capitol declined. The name, often shortened to "Al Qahira" was bastardized by Europeans over the years to become what we now call Cairo.

Cairo is Egypt's first city and is the center of politics, culture and religion in the country. With a population of 20 million, it is the largest city on the African continent and has many of the problems associated with so much humanity. Endemic smog, perpetual traffic jams and grinding poverty plague the city which has sprawled ever further from its original center. It is no exaggeration to say that the primary problem facing any visitor to Cairo is getting from point A to point B, especially if it requires crossing the street. There are few (very few) traffic signals, and they are often ignored. There are no speed limits and lanes are merely suggestions, and not very strong suggestions at that.

There is a certain charm to the city though. On a clear day, the pyramids are visible from high points in the city and the Nile appears downright serene. The pyramids of Giza are nearby, as are many other relics from ancient Egypt, including the Step Pyramid of Djoser, the Bent Pyramid and the tombs of the nobles. The mosques and fortresses of Islamic Egypt are impressive and Coptic Cairo is a reminder of Egypt's Christian history. The Egyptian Museum is not to be missed and a felucca ride on the Nile at dusk can easily soothe nerves rattled by rogue taxi drivers and the endless sound of horns honking at nothing in particular.

The Sinai - Sharm el Sheikh, Ras Mohammed and the Red Sea Mountains
The Ritz Carlton Na'ama Bay Camel Ride Red Sea Mountains
St. Katherine's
Romantic Dinner
Ras Muhammad

The Sinai Peninsula has been a hotspot of conflict for many years. Just a few decades ago, it would not have been high on anyone's list of vacation spots. There have been many armed confrontation on the Sinai in the last half of the 20th Century. Egyptian forces fought with the Palestinians (against Isreal) in the Sinai during the Arab-Isreali war of 1948. In 1956 - Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal and ejected the British. In 1967 - in response to Egypt's ordered withdrawal of UN peacekeeping troops and the fortifying of it's borders, Israel launched a preemptive strike against Egypt. After this conflict known as the Six-Day War, Israel controlled all of the Sinai. Egypt bit back in 1973 and, after heavy fighting, retook much of the peninsula. In 1979 - Egypt and Israel signed a peace treaty and Israel pulled out of the Sinai in stages, thought the pull out was not complete until 1982.

My how things change. Now days, the Sinai has gone from hotspot of conflict, to a vacation hotspot. The Red Sea draws many European vacationers looking for a place to tan during the winter. It is home to one of the worlds finest coral reefs and draws divers from around the world. Ras Mohammed National Park is a protected marine reserve and probably the most famous of the dive areas, though there are many sites along the coast with spectacular reefs. The Sinai (as one might expect) is also home to Mount Sinai. Located near the mountain's base is St. Katherine's Monastery, possibly the world's oldest functioning monastery. The Red Sea Mountains with their austere beauty are also an impressive sight. In the face of this renewed tourism, there is one remnant of the former violence in this region that remains. For many excursions, you are accompanied by a security officer. Dressed in blue suits, they look like secret service. I think they are a legal requirement intended to reassure travelers, though I have to say they make me feel a bit uneasy.

Sharm El Sheikh has become the preeminent resort town along what is often called the Red Sea Riviera. It is situated between the mountain range of Gebel El Igma and the Red Sea and encompasses three bays: Sharm El Sheikh, Na'ama Bay and Maya Bay. The town is sort of an Egyptian Cancun, with high end hotels, restaurants and resorts. It can be a great place to recharge after a pretty intense trip. If you want a more laid back experience, Dahab has a much more back-packer-friendly feel. I have to say though, one of the funniest things I have ever seen was in Naama Bay. We spied a group of young Arab men in robes (clearly tourists), shakin' their money makers to Wyclef Jean. It was just a truly odd sight. Damn, where was my camera and why didn't I use it?

All photos on this page are originals by & copyrighted by Daren Willden, unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.