My Egyptian Escapade
Before starting my MBA journey at the Indian School of Business, I visited Egypt — the land of Pharaohs and Mummies and of course the Pyramids. The rich cultural heritage, the history, port towns, beach towns, the country has plenty to offer explorers and travel-lovers.
Flagged by the Mediterranean Sea on the North and the Red Sea on the East, housing the river Nile and some part of the Sahara Desert, Egypt offers a mix of destinations to visit.
My first destination. One of the most ancient cities of the world, the city of Alexandria, even though hustling and bustling like a busy port town, reflects the beauty and serenity of Egypt and its culture. It houses the Bibilotheca Alexandrina — a commemoration of the Royal Library of Alexandria (largest and most significant libraries of the ancient world that was lost in antiquity around AD 300). Bibilotheca is built near the site of the old library. A masterpiece of architecture, the library has shelf space for eight million books, with reading rooms on eleven cascading levels. It also houses several museums and art galleries.
Located on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, Alexandria boasts of beautiful and serene beaches. Other popular destinations in Alexandria include the Corniche, Mansheya market etc.
Indian Community in Egypt
I got a chance to mingle with the Indian community in Alexandria, joining them in their fortnightly get-together. The Indian community here is so well knit, looking out for each other in this faraway land that doesn’t house as many Indians. The get-together was about merriment, games, laughter and food.
As an outsider, I couldn’t help but reflect on their lives in Egypt, a country still developing like their home country. Living in Egypt cannot simply be compared to living in other foreign lands like the Europe or the US. With the developed nature of these countries, making a home and a life there is much easier for Indians today than living in a still developing nation like Egypt. But here they were, calling Egypt their home and percolating Indianness in its cities.
Cairo & Giza
The twin cities of Cairo and Giza are separated by the river Nile. We spent the first evening in Cairo enjoying Egyptian cuisine, cruising on the Nile River, watching belly dancers and Egyptian tanoura dancers perform. Tanoura is a dance form that involves whirling, wearing a colorful skirt.
A visit to the Khan el-Khalili market is a must if you are looking to buy souvenirs for friends back home. Do not be surprised if shopkeepers call you Kareena Kapoor and Shahrukh Khan, Egyptians are fascinated with Bollywood!
Food! For the original Egyptian falafel called Taameyya and lip-smacking Egyptian national dish Kushari, head to The Gad, a local restaurant you’ll find at multiple locations in the city.
On day 2, we visited The Great Pyramid and the Sphinx — the quintessential Egyptian tourist destination.
On the same day, we also visited the Egyptian Museum. Be prepared to be awed and overwhelmed by the rich history at the Egyptian Museum. It contains endless display of Pharaonic antiquities dug up from the earth, the tombs of Egyptian kings including the famous tomb of Tutankhamun. A special section houses the mummies of the kings and the royal families.
Egypt has so much history and historical excavations, that a bigger, even massive museum is under construction in Giza called the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM). GEM will house the largest collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts in the world. It has been described as the world’s largest archaeological museum and is proposed to be opened in 2018.
The Egyptian Museum is located on the Tahrir Square which was the centre place of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution.
A 3-hour scenic drive from Alexandria on the International Coastal Road and you reach the lovely, quaint little port town of Port Said. Port Said is the northern terminus of the Suez Canal.
I fell in love with town, the view of the Mediterranean Sea, the container ships, the Port itself. It all seemed to be carved out of a dream. We spent an evening romancing with the town and the Sea.
Located at the southernmost tip of the Sinai Peninsula in the Red Sea, the resort town of Sharm-el-sheikh can be viewed as a grander and compact version of Goa in India. The way to Sharm from Cairo requires one to cross the Suez Canal via a tunnel that connects Suez to the Sinai. Once bustling with tourists from all over Europe and the Middle East, tourism has lulled since December 2015 after the British government banned travel to Sharm-el-sheikh.
The nightlife at Sharm-el-sheikh is ripe and casinos line the town. A walk at night on the Naama bay is assured to give you a flavour of the resort town.
The diving site of Ras Mohammed near Sharm is a popular destination for scuba divers from around the world.
Do you need any more reasons to put Egypt on your must-see list? :)