This is by far my longest entry to date... so sit back, relax, and enjoy the pictures!

After a few days in Cairo, leaving feels like changing out of bowling shoes into regular ones: it's that refreshing. As much as I loved the energy of the city, the incessant honking and the air pollution makes LA feel like a little town in Kansas.

And the smog... oh man, the smog!
And so, I hopped on a train from Ramses Station and headed to Alexandria, Egypt's window to the Mediterranean.

Alexander the Great was a creative man and basically named all of his cities Alexandria - this one being just one of them. After he died, most of them changed their names, but somehow this Alexandria remained.

While I was expecting something of a Mediterranean beach city like Tel Aviv, Alexandria felt more like Cairo's little brother... with more water.
If you ignore the trash though, Alexandria is quite the beautiful city. French buildings, fantastic sunsets, what more can you ask for?
I watched a young Egyptian couple have a romantic dinner on the beach - that is until they tossed their trash straight into the ocean...
The city also uses their original 19th century trolleys as their metro system. It's painfully slow, but gives the city a pretty authentic vintage feel.
What used to be one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of the World, the Alexandria Lighthouse stands no more. But in its place is a crusader era fortress.
Most tourists skip Alexandria, so I stuck out like a sore thumb everywhere I went. 

In fact, some places I felt like a tourist attraction myself. Egyptian guys and girls would approach me asking to take a picture with me in the most random places. 

On the street? Sure, why not. In an internet cafe? Alright. In the bathroom though, that was a strange one.
As with any ancient city, you have your plethora of ruins.
The Romans really liked their amphitheaters. I swear I've seen at least 10 amphitheaters at this point. My guess is acting was a pretty stable job in Ancient Rome.
And perhaps the loneliest pillar in the world. Forever alone.
A few days later, I decided to take an overnighter (i.e. sleeper train) straight to Aswan, the southernmost city on the Egyptian Nile and slowly work my way back up to Cairo.

A rickety thirteen hours later, I woke up to a bustling town on the southern Nile. 

The Lonely Planet guidebook called Aswan a "small city much more relaxed than Cairo or Luxor."

Lonely Planet lied.
Much to my disbelief, the concept of no thank you did not exist in Aswan. Right from the start, this "relaxed town"  had the most aggressive street vendors I had ever encountered. 

A simple "la shukran" didn't cut it in Aswan;  street vendors chased me, grabbed me, and yelled at me because I wouldn't buy their stuff.

One night, I couldn't even leave my hostel to buy some water without being mobbed by at least 5 different people. I wasn't the only one with these experiences, of course.

I did, however, meet Yuya and Masato, two Japanese guys who had a great sense of humor!
We escaped the city and took a three hour ride to see Abu Simbel, an incredible temple carved by Ramses II once upon a time.
Ramses II also built another temple close by for his favorite of his 54 wives, Queen Neferteri. I'm pretty sure the other 53 were very jealous.
That same day, we took a boat to see the Philae Temple, the last Ancient Egyptian temple built before the Romans came and wreaked havoc.
It's safe to say we were pretty exhausted after 13 hours of sightseeing. One can only take in so many hieroglyphics in one day.
The next day, I took a boat across the Nile and did some climbing to explore some tombs on the west bank.

What I expected to see at the top were some more dusty tombs. Instead, I discovered an impeccable view of the Nile all to myself.
Instead of the usual train ride to the next city, I decided this time to drift my way to the next destination.

I met Matt from Canada, and we signed up for an overnight Egyptian felucca ride up the Nile to Luxor!
That awesome boat in the center... was not our boat. We had the tiny little budget felucca on the right.

Small, but comfy indeed.
We met Ajit from India and Mariya from Bulgaria and, as we drifted slowly down the Nile, we swapped travel stories over some wonderful food.
I slept like a baby that night on the felucca. Unlike the restless ocean, the Nile River is calm and gentle. That night, I realized without this little river, none of Egyptian civilization would have ever existed.

On the way to Luxor, we stopped by two temples: one devoted to the crocodile god, Sobek, and the other to the sun/bird god, Horus.
As Matt gleefully pointed out to me, "It's a bird... with a hat!"
Not just a casino in Las Vegas, the real Luxor is where the ancient Egyptian capital of Thebes was - home of the Valley of the Kings.

As for all the things I saw in Luxor, let's just say I did so much I'll let the pictures do the talking.

You might notice I'm wearing the same shirt in all these pictures. Why? Because this is all one day. This was, if I recall correctly, a 21-hour day.
That night, we enjoyed some Meister (Egyptian beer) and cheap Egyptian food on the rooftop of the hostel.
After Luxor, just when I thought I had seen everything there was to see in Egypt, a few passing backpackers urged me to go see the western desert. 

While I did see a lot of desert already from Dubai to Jordan, I decided to squeeze in one last stop: Bahariyya, a little oasis in western Egypt.

Best last-minute decision I've ever made.
The Black Desert was one thing, but the White Desert... oh, man!
On my desert safari, I shared a car with three Chinese girls, and we set off for camping in the desert!
When there's no snow to snowboard on, why not sandboard instead?
That night, we shared a campfire with some funny Aussies, who I'm sure had more than just tea to drink!
We also had a thirsty little visitor at our campsite!
The next morning, we were surprised to find our little fox sleeping just a few feet away from our tents. I guess it gets pretty lonely out there in the desert.
After my impromptu desert adventure, it was time to go back into that hazy circus known as Cairo.

While I was gone, they apparently had another protest and burned a bus!
With an extra day to burn, I decided to go see the pyramids of Giza again... yes, they are that amazing!

On my way there, I ran into Lara and Geoffrey from France who I had met in Aswan, so we ended up spending the entire day together.
Seeing the pyramids a second time was just as spectacular to me as the first. That night, we tasted some local juices and went browsing in the night markets. I would say Lara, a spice lover, bought at least 8 pounds of spices alone!

After they flew back to France, my final night in Egypt was spent hanging out with Bruno and Eva from Hong Kong, who treated me to some delicious farewell ice cream downtown.

It was a wonderful way to top off the end of my Egyptian saga.
On my way to the airport that night, I experienced an unexpected final act of kindness in Egypt. Being a little lost and not being able to locate the airport bus, I went to an Egyptian guy for directions.

Juhanna, a college student, not only spent 10 minutes looking for my bus, but when he found it, he even took the one-hour ride to the airport with me! He insisted on paying the bus fare and wanted to make sure I got there!

What a wonderful lasting impression of Egypt. Shukran, Juhanna!
As with any country I've visited, leaving has always been the hardest part. 

While my 21 days in Egypt did have its corrupt cops and crazy hasslers, my memories of this wonderful place are filled with its history, its culture, and its much-too-often kind strangers.

I'll definitely miss you, Egypt!
PS: Happy birthday, dad!
10/20/2012 02:11:18 am

That fox looks creepy and cute at the same time! lol
Every time I see you meet strangers I get a good feeling inside..
The view must be nice going on the hot air balloon! Love ALL your pictures~

I miss my brother.. :( hope you are staying healthy and be careful on your next journey!!

BTW, Big Tex (state fair) died on Friday after 60 years, it was burned in the middle of the day!

10/20/2012 11:56:37 am

aa/ wow! Juhannais is really something, you can tell how kind he is from his face, our world was like this, was it?
you should invite him to visit USA.
bb/ Egypt is Amazing! I feel sad when I see a such beautiful, great historical country turned to a messy trashing place.
cc/ your trip makes a penny become a dollar!
dd/ the ending scene is just like in the movie, good one!
ee/ one thing is bad... I wish I were younger.

10/22/2012 10:49:38 am

Amazing photos; brings back so much :)
I had never seen the White Desert till now -- and it certainly is jaw-dropping. Looks like ice at first glance, doesn't it?
I'm surprised you resisted the urge to smuggle the little fox out of there - I know I'd have sneaked him in my backpack!
Your closing photograph is simply magical.

Your well-wisher up north in Canada

Alyssa Ast
1/23/2014 04:18:13 am

Thank you so much for sharing all of the pictures. I've been looking at vacations I can't wait to go, but it's still a ways off. Again, love all of the pictures. Keep them coming!


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