Earlier this year my family and I were fortunate enough to go on a family vacation to Egypt, a long-awaited dream of mine. If you know me, you most likely know that I am a first generation American of Egyptian descent. If you are a client who has known me for a long time (since marriage and kids) then you certainly knew of my desire to someday take my family to visit Egypt, the birthplace and home of my parents. That dream finally became a reality!
I'm writing this blog for two reasons. One, to share the details and memories from the trip because many have asked for it. Two, I want you to reflect on something in your life that you hope to do someday, and encourage you to hold on to that and see it through.
So it began. Last summer, my wife Cheryl and I, decided it was the right time to plan this trip for us and our two boys, Jacob (12) and Ben (9). My mother, Souzan, lives outside of Cairo in a place called October 6 City. Cheryl's parents decided to take my mom up on her offer for them to come to Egypt to visit and so they joined us on our trip.
We flew out Monday night (Christmas Eve) out of JFK and arrived in Egypt Tuesday morning. It's about a 10-hour flight, not too bad if you are able to get some sleep on the plane. We spent the rest of the day at my mom's place getting settled and getting over the jet lag. The first few days we spent in Cairo. We visited famous mosques, churches, and a synagogue. We also had lunch at a restaurant that specialized in one of my favorite Egyptian dishes, Koshari. Koshari is carb overload delight! Rice, macaroni, and lentils served with a delicious tomato sauce topped with caramelized onions and crushed red pepper or hot sauce (if you like). The restaurant was touted as one of the best in Cairo and definitely lived up to expectations. After lunch, we visited the famous Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square. The museum is full of artifacts and exhibits and you could easily spend two days exploring. The tour guide we had was helpful. King Tutankhamun's (King Tut's) exhibit was a favorite. We spent that Friday at home without any plans to go anywhere, we needed the break. I played soccer with my kids and other local neighborhood kids in a grassy area behind my mother's place. Later that day some of my extended family visited to greet us and meet the boys for the first time. It was kind of surreal to see my boys playing games with my cousin's kids.
The next leg of our trip was a 4-day excursion to El Gouna, a red sea resort town, about a 5-hour drive from Cairo. This was certainly a highlight of our trip. Within the hour of arriving, the kids were petting and riding a camel for the first time ever. We enjoyed a number of activities during our stay that included a sunset lagoon cruise, snorkeling, water slides, and go-carts. As a part of our stay at the Three Corners Resort, we were invited to their New Years Eve party. The party was held in a huge outdoor tent that could accommodate over a thousand people. There was plenty of food and the entertainment included a belly dancer, Egyptian spinning dance 'Tanoura', dance music and kids show that Ben was a part of. It was a memorable way to welcome the New Year.
We headed back to Cairo, only to get up early for a day excursion to Alexandria, 3 hours north of Cairo. I love the drive to Alexandria because you travel through the Nile Delta region which is fertile with lush green farmlands. We enjoyed our day in Alexandria visiting its famous library and antiquities museum. We ended the day with a fabulous seafood dinner overlooking the Mediterranian sea before heading back to Cairo. The next day we headed downtown to visit and shop the famous Khan El Khali bazaar. There nothing quite like the sites and sounds that you experience walking the alleyways of this bazaar. Then it was off to our Nile dinner cruise. As you will see in the video slideshow, the boys enjoyed dancing to the entertainment. We had great front row seats for dinner and the live entertainment (thanks to my mom's connections). The night ended with a quick stop for a glass of sugar cane juice. Another one of my favorite Egyptian treats.
Then it came to our last full day in Egypt and we can easily say that we saved the best for last... The Great Pyramids of Giza. The pyramids are truly awe-inspiring. I have visited many times and it is still mesmerizing and amazing each time. The kids experienced the same joy of climbing the enormous blocks of limestone, exploring around the Sphinx, and simply just starring at the Pyramids in awe. Ben was brave enough to go inside one of the pyramids, which was a great thrill for him. After exploring the Pyramids, we visited a papyrus-making museum and shop. The boys were able to make papyrus paper as it is traditionally made... fascinating to see. We then enjoyed our last dinner at a wonderful restaurant on top of a hillside in New Cairo. They served the most delicious pita bread and chargrilled chicken. The boys were able to observe them making fresh pita bread. Then it was back to my moms place to pack and get ready for our flight home the next morning.
It truly was a trip of a lifetime for Cheryl, Jacob, Ben, and my in-laws. We were truly grateful for my mom hosting us and planning our itinerary so that we could make the most of our trip. It would have been a different trip without her hospitality and knowledge. I know that this trip was more than just a vacation. What wasn't seen in the videos was the delicious food, my family's love, and the hospitality of the Egyptian people. Everywhere we went was an adventure, even to the local grocery store. My boys will forever remember their first trip to Egypt and I hope we will enjoy more trips to Egypt in the future.
So I bring this back to you... What are you hoping to do someday? What are you dreaming to do? Don't let that feeling go because someday the day will come when you actually commit to doing something that fulfills your dreams. When that time comes, you'll know that it was worth the wait!