Laura Augustyn

Laura's Life Blog

Egypt - Oct 22 - Abu Simbel


After the tour of Aswan and seeing the Aswan Dam, it was time to board the cruise ship to embark on the Nile.  We stayed stationary overnight October 21 and the tour guide Nasir encouraged me and the others aboard to take the trip to Abu Simbel.  A once in a lifetime experience, bi annual on October 22 and February 22 there is a sunrise festival.  Only on these 2 days of the year, does the sun shine directly on Ramses face in the temple.  Ramses was an important King of Egypt who loved and worshipped the sun, thinking it was the god, prior to religion.  This began part of my spiritual journey.  It amazed me that way back more than 5,000 years ago, the Egyptians were trying to find out why thngs were and where they came from.  I say that it was in Egypt where the true God was actually found.  Only if you travel to Egypt will you get this feeling and direct connection to God.  It is very spiritual. 

So I decided to take the trip to Abu Simbel which involved embarking off the cruise ship and going in a van for a long drive to arrive prior to sunset at the temple of Abu Simbel.  My tour guide Nasir did not go, but told me I would meet another guide named Tai.  On the van, I met a lovely couple that was also on the cruise, she was from England and he was from France, and they recently married.  She resembled Nefertari, who was the true love and one of the wives of Ramses.  Ramses had many wives and over 100 children and he lived well into his nineties which was unheard of back in those days.  Somehow, I felt a connection to Ramses as one of my favorites, since I also love the sun, and it makes me feel healthy and better.  One of the reasons I love Egypt, the sun is always shining.  So the drive was long to Abu Simbel, and when we arrived, Tai greeted me.  He was very friendly, a dark skinned man from Nubia.  The Nubians are in the southern part of Egypt and live in colorful houses in an area that is different from the rest of Egypt.  I had a chance to visit this area as well and see the colorful homes where the Egyptians invite tourists into their homes.  Tai actually took me hand in hand to show me Abu Simbel.  I felt very safe with him as he was trust worthy and a very good guide to explain the temple of Abu Simbel and the significance of the sun shining on Ramses face only twice a year.  Ramses loved Nefertari the best and made a temple right next to his in her honor.  I toured both temples.  There was music and elation as the sun rose that morning.  Sure enough, the sun did shine on Ramses face.  Amazing!

Well, it was time to leave and say goodbye to my tour guide Tai.  The van drove back to the cruise ship where we were to embark to Luxor.  We spent that day touring Luxor and the large temple at Luxor and it was very interesting.  Overwhelming to learn all of the facts.  Nasir had to memorize or be knowledgegable in all of this.  He became very friendly to me, almost too friendly at times.  Since I was literally the only single woman alone, he would dine with me at the 3 meals that were served aboard.  There was an assortment of buffets and the staff that served were very congenial as it seemed the Egyptians love to be hosts.  All male.  October 23rd was also spent touring Luxor, which is known at "The Tourise Capital Of The World".  I always thought New York City was the tourist capital of the world.  But perhaps that is in the West, in the US where I am from.  In the entire world, and from the beginning, apparently, I learned it is Luxor, Egypt.  Nasir was my tour guide and took me solo on a horse and buggy ride through the streets of Luxor.  It was very biblical, with the men in the long cotton garb and the women covered as well.  It was like going back in time.  We would stop to have chai (tea) and tried shish - the smoke from the water pipe.  It came in flavors like apple, but I liked the original the best.  It was very relaxing.  We went back to the cruise ship.  On Sunday night, the 23rd, there would be a belly dancer and a party on the cruise ship.  Nasir said we would all have to dress up.  He helped me select a long, comfortable blue dress for the event.  The couple I was friendly with also dressed up.  There was still the couple from India, he was a doctor who did the anesthesia and his wife and baby.  They did not want to pay the extra $ to attend some of the events.  Nasir introduced me to the photographer on board and he was a friendly, young Egyptian man as well.  He took lovely pictures of the party on the cruise and even made a video for me to keep.  I found out Egyptians love to entertain and are very friendly.  Nasir the tour guide was getting a little too much and I wanted a break from him.

Monday, October 24, 2016 -   I walked off the cruisse ship after notifying the hotel manager at the front desk.  As I walked off there was a handsome Egyptian man who asked me if I would like to take a ride on his boat, or felucca. I could see the kindness in his eyes so I went with him. His name was Ali Mohammad. He told me he did not continue in school, but had learned English on his own. He was a mechanic by trade and also a boxer. He took me across the Nile River to Banana Island, where there were monkeys and bananas and some other animals.

I felt I had died and went to heaven. This was in Luxor. Ali told me about his life, how his father had died, and how he is now responsible for his mother as well as one sister that is younger and not married. He told me some of the culture about Egyptians. They are very strong in their Faith, lslam, and their culture as Egyptians. They are respectful. He invited me to see some guest houses he was building with his brother. He told me that I was always welcome to come and stay. He told me how I was a kind person as he could see through my eyes and into my soul. He said that they do not hug or kiss or even hold hands in his culture without marriage. I learned quite a bit about the culture, and another friend was made, who I also keep in contact with via social media.

The boat he took me over on was called a Felucca.  It was in a dock with the other boats.  There is a large boat dock for the bigger ships that take others on the cruises. There are a variety of ships.  ONe can even walk onto them while they are docked.  While the cruise stays docked, the tourists can embark and go and see all of the tombs and the historical sites.  Amazingly, Luxor is on the Nile River all the way down.  There are donkeys that walk around the grounds,.

Ali did ask me if I wanted to return to his felucca boat where it is always parked later that evening.  I told him I would have to return to the cruise ship becuase they have dinner a certain time and may be wondering where I went.

Sure enough, I got back, and the tour guide Ali was waiting for me and practically reprimanded me for departing off the cruise ship alone.  I told him I had already seen Banana Island.  That evening the group went back to Luxor, the biggest temple to learn more history of Egyptian civilization.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016 - The next morning I was to depart out of Luxor and fly back to Cairo.  In Cairo I would be picked up by a driver and then transported to Alexandria, a four hour drive.  On the flight, I met a German hotel Manager that ran the Hilton Luxor.  He sat next to me on the hour long flight and I told him I had a long career in the hospitality industry in the USA.  He liked Cairo, but said his wife liked to run, and she is often sexually harrassed as she is outside running.  I told  him that I had heard some of those stories before.

Well, it was time to leave Luxor and fly on to Cairo. 

When I got to Cairo, the driver's name was Ashraf.  Apparently the other driver got sick.  In any case, this driver spoke little if no English.  He was very kind and pleasant.  The 4 hour ride was long.  He made a stop or 2 along the way to get tea or chai as they call it in Egypt.  He bought a large danish and insisted that I share it with him.  This was also our bathroom breaks.  There were often women in the bathrooms that cleaned and cared for them that would often seek a little extra change. 

Alexandria - The Pearl of Egypt - October 25 - November 1, 2016

Abdel called along the way.  He was excited that I would be arriving in Alexandria, his home city that I had heard about for 35 years.  Amazing driving into Alexandria, a city on the Mediterranean Sea, often they call a portion of the walkway the corniche.  It is a wall along the Mediterranean.  There were many cafes along the Mediterranenan in Alexandria.  It was beautiful to be by the Sea.  Abdel was waiting for me at the Sheraton Montazah, the hotel he arranged for me to stay at.  We had both worked at Sheraton Hotels before, so it was coincidental that he chose this one for me.  He said I was right near King Farouk's Castle, he was going to choose for me to stay there, however, he found that the Sheratorn Montazah offered full breakfast every day and had the beach access.  Abdel brought me up to the room and it was beautifu, a balcony right on and overlooking the Mediterranean from the 7thj floor.  It could not be more perfect.  Eventually I made friends with the young girl who was the concierge, as she helped me with some of the photos on my phone.  I was preparing my resume/cv and she offered to help me and speak to her boss about getting me a job in Egypt. Just a thought.  There were certain citizenship requirements that were needed to work as an employee in a hotel.


Finally the day came for me to get off the cruise and fly on to Cairo so I could go on to Alexandria where my mentor and friend Abdel lived. Abdel had arranged for a ride which was 4 hours from the Cairo airport to Alexandria for me with Ashraf, who spoke no English. lt was a long 4 hours but he was kind and we stopped for tea and pastry. I arrived in Alexandria and Abdel met me at the hotel I where I would be staying, the Sheraton Montazah, which was overlooking the Mediterranean Sea and walking distance to the most beautiful beach I had ever seen. Again, l was in heaven. Abdel arranged for me to meet up with Radwa, the original tour guide for the next day to arrange a tour of Alexandria.

I got to see the places where Aristotle the Great, the Greek who came to Alexandria, and how it was named after him, in battles at Pompei, and the Roman Theatre. I did get to see that enormous Library, the biggest in the world. There were many students in Alexandria that go to the university. Education is free and despite what the media says, girls go to college. They are tested in their high schools to see and give them direction on what to do. One day we visited a separate beach called Memora, where I met up with some of the girls and they were fascinated that I was from America and insisted on photos with me. Abdel's extended family - his brother's family - his daughter, her husband and their daughter welcomed me to his home with an authentic meal in that Northern part of Egypt in Alexandria on the sea, made up of fresh seafood. They spoke Arabic and some English, so we conversed the best we could. All in all we remain good friends.

Sadly, my mentor / my friend, Abdel passed away on January 27 ,2017, but he was the guide for me in my life, and somehow it led me to experience Egypt and now study EFL. I returned to the USA and began teaching English As A Second Language to Immigrants,  I set up this website, I set up a Foundation, a nonprofit foundation in his memory to continue his legacy of kindness, peace and understanding, no matter what religion, race or social or ethnic background.   lt proves that no matter what background culture and language are intertwined.

I continue now on my spiritual journey, reading the Quran and remembering that we are all on earth for a short time and we have the free will to treat other's as God would want us to. I find the Muslim people to be very kind in their actions and attitudes and feel that they are not portrayed in the media as the peaceful people that they are. I saw firsthand that they are truly humble and kind.  Of course, like any religion, extremism is not the way to go.  There are also good and bad in every country and every religion.  It is up to the individual to follow the right path, as God would want us to.