I started my year off moving from an inexpensive town where I paid no rent to an expensive city with a housing crisis. I knew the experience was going to involve a lot of smart decisions about money and a lot of penny-pinching. When I started an unpaid internship I knew putting anything into savings to support my first love of travel was going to be a pipe dream. In short, I was ready to embrace the fact that I was going to be staying in Copenhagen and everywhere else I was wanderlusting for would just have to wait.
And then my unpaid internship came with a sudden perk: free trip to Egypt.
Just a few days before my flight I found out I was invited to go visit our office in Cairo while also partaking in some serious bucket list stuff.
I don’t often feel culture shock, but landing in Cairo was one of the most shocking experiences of my life. The traffic is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. After it took thirty minutes just to exit the parking lot (because I guess the lines are just a suggestion), we headed into the city surrounded by the sound of horns. From the bus window I watched pedestrians weaving through traffic and cars driving alongside us mere centimetres away.
All we had time for on the first night was a couple of hours at a bar. It just so happened that bar was on a boat. On the Nile.
Safe to say, when I moved to Copenhagen I didn’t think I’d end up partying on the Nile.
On our first full day in the country we did what anyone has to do when they go to Cairo: visit the pyramids.
The Great Pyramid was one of those tourist attractions that I knew would be cool to see, but I felt like I had seen so many photos that the experience would be somewhat underwhelming.
It wasn’t. At all. I mean, this is a Wonder of the Ancient World after all. When you are standing next to a pyramid and seeing that the stones are taller than you, the fact that this structure was built thousands of years ago becomes surreal.
To get the full experience of the Giza pyramid complex and see more of the desert, we rode camels around the pyramids. Camel riding was something I’d always seen photos of my friends doing that made me jealous. And while the sudden surge in height when my camel stood up initially terrified me, it was fantastic to experience the pyramids and desert from another perspective (even if my camel’s crooked saddle meant the entire ride was a lower body workout for me).
After a quick look at the Sphinx and an amazing lunch with a view of the pyramids, we headed through the bustling Cairo traffic to the Egyptian Museum. Thankfully our guide was well-versed in Egyptian history and took us to the most popular exhibits, as touring the entire museum on my own would have completely overwhelmed me. Let’s face it, Egyptian history goes really far back. And you know how museums around the world are filled with old Egyptian artifacts? Just think how many more artifacts actually stayed in the country.
We were all tuckered out from a long day and ready to sleep on our five-hour bus ride to Hurghada. However, by this point we had discovered the phenomenon of “Egypt time”, which essentially means that you should assume everything will take twice as long as planned. It took two hours just to get out of Cairo. By 1:00 AM we had finally made it to the Red Sea.
Things were so different from the capital it was hard to believe we were in the same country. Between tanning on the beach and eating three plates worth at all of our buffet meals, we managed to get some actual work done. So as a reward for all our hard
eating work we went into Hurghada to eat some more. Our bus driver recommended a local restaurant that looked kind of like every shawarma place in Copenhagen. Needless to say, we were all blown away by the insane meat and appetizer buffet we were served. And while I didn’t get to try the stuffed pigeon that so intrigued me, I did get a taste of intestines stuffed with rice. (Note: delicious.)
On our last day in Hurghada, I loaded up on a huge delicious breakfast before stuffing myself into a wetsuit to go diving for the first time. Diving is something that has always sounded exciting to me. But, being that I am scared of fish, open water, and feeling trapped, when I was watching the first half of our group go diving that Friday morning I started to wonder whether I was up for conquering so many fears at once. In the end, I survived. I managed to dive five metres below the surface (holding onto the instructor’s hand, but it still counts). I’m not sure if I’ll be doing it again, even though the fish were pretty – and thankfully none of them touched me – but at least I can say I did it once. And I even have a cut on my knee from the coral reef to prove it!
Soon we were on our never-ending bus ride back to Cairo for one more night out. We headed back onto the Nile to see some belly dancing before grabbing a two-hour night’s sleep and leaving for the airport. I ended the trip with a great airport nap and the most amazing mango juice I’ve ever had.
It’s been over a week since we’ve been back and I still can’t really believe I was there.