My husband, Frank, and I just got back from our 2020 vacation. We didn’t take it till this year on account of the plague—even though the destination was Egypt, which can, per the Book of Exodus, withstand 9 out of 10 plagues thrown its way.
We took a Nile River cruise from Aswan to Luxor, stopping along the way to inspect tombs and temples baking in the autumnal triple-digit heat. Then we saw Cairo and the Pyramids of Giza as well as other ancient things before ending the trip with a couple days by the Red Sea at a beach resort in Sharm El Sheikh.
Because of an exchange rate favorable to the U.S. dollar, we were able to afford a private tour for the pre-Sharm portion of the journey. We had two guides—one for Cairo and one for the cruise and its excursions. Both men were industrious and paternalistic, as guides are wont to be. They kept us to a very tight, very long schedule of daily sightseeing.
Of the itinerary, I came up with the following parody lyrics to a classic Dolly Parton tune.
Touring 5 to 9 — What a way to spend vacation There’s an endless line Of old temples in this nation. Want to catch some Zs, But the guide says, “Right this way now” Pass the sunscreen, please It’s another scorching day now
Still, Egypt astounded me at least as much as it exhausted me. I mean, I saw the Pyramids, for heaven’s sake.
While we were in Giza, Frank, who is highly susceptible to the lures of souvenir vendors, purchased a red-and-white checked headscarf. Next thing he knew, the seller had fashioned the item into a kaffiyeh and secured it to Frank’s head with a ring of black cord.
Frank wasn’t so sure about the getup. “Does this look like cultural appropriation?” he asked me.
“It looks like you’re headed to peace talks with Israel,” I said.
Frank also got me a scarf—a black-and-white one—but I opted not to wear it as a (possibly problematic) headdress. I borrowed Frank’s straw hat instead. It was a little too small for my skull, but that’s a common problem I have with hats on account of my large head. I’m sure the Great Sphinx can relate.
Egypt’s ancient stuff wasn’t the only source of astonishment during the trip. The traffic in Cairo, for instance, was unlike anything I had previously experienced, probably because I hadn’t ever been in a stampede before. Lanes are merely suggestions, stoplights are as rare as a Sahara snowstorm, and pedestrians cross busy highways without breaking stride, as if each car, truck, motorbike, and bus stuffed with alarmed tourists were a minor annoyance and not a potential maker of pedestrian pancakes.
Another thing I couldn’t get over was Egypt’s uncommonly tasty fruit. The mangos, dates, and oranges I tried were far sweeter and juicier than whatever factory-farmed abominations I usually buy at the Stop & Shop.
It’s possible that I overindulged, however, for I came down with what I assume was food poisoning during our first night in Sharm El Sheikh. That experience was unpleasant to put it mildly. But hey, I’m now one step closer to accomplishing the feat of having vomited on all seven continents.
Thank goodness the nausea didn’t hit me while I was crawling through the Great Pyramid. Frank’s headwear would have been the least of our problems.