Mummy knows best

By on August 31, 2009

Pharaoh fever is upon us, thanks to this summer’s ancient Egyptian exhibitions. Follow in the archaeologists’ footsteps to a world of sarcophagi and snorkeling, and let Egypt answer the holiday needs of all mummies (and daddies)!

Egypt promises a romantic journey back in time, through the desert and along the world’s longest river, against the backdrop of ancient landscapes filled with grand archaeological sites. Arriving in Cairo with expectations of boy- kings and buried kingdoms, your Indy Jones swagger will soon disappear as you are greeted by a modern, polluted city. Fear not; across the Nile, just 40 kms away, lies Giza, and soon you’ll see the Great Pyramids poking out through the concrete hotels, vast and forbidding. Catch the early evening light show, and give the family a taste of things to come. The Cairo of old can be found at the Citadel, a huge fortress founded by Saladin or the ancient market at the Khan el Khalili, but it is the Mummy room at the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities that will spark the interest of the junior explorers. Housing the sleeping Pharaohs and the mother of all Mummies: The one and only boy superstar, King Tutankhamen.

The biggest problem for the roving family is knowing what not to see. Worlds away from the flurry of Giza and concrete of Cairo, Dashur is home to the Red Pyramid, as large as the Great Pyramid of Cheops but with fewer tourists. Visit Memphis and Saqqara, home to the Colossus of Ramses and the oldest, dynastic necropolis and still you will have barely touched the surface of Egypt’s treasures. Fight the urge to visit every site in Cairo and the lower Nile area and fly to Luxor before younger explorers’ tempers flare and plans frazzle in the heat. Luxor is Pharaoh central, packed with awe- inspiring sites every way you turn: the Land of the Dead, the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens; everyone gets in on the action. Take a horse-drawn carriage through the swarming centre of town with its market stalls and spice shops. After dark, see the atmospheric Sound and Light show at the Karnak temple complex, a breathtaking eighth wonder of the ancient world.

Luxor is a great departure point for your expedition down the Nile. Nearly all the cultural and historical sites of Ancient Egypt are found along the banks of this great river. Board a luxurious river cruiser and encounter the Egypt of the past at a leisurely pace with its mud-brick houses, ox-drawn ploughs, camels, donkeys, and high-masted Ferukas. Security is high, no fear of Agatha Christie- inspired incidents on board except for dying of boredom from the bland cuisine that tends to be served on most of the ships. The cruise ships, by the power of the gods, maintain a carefully arranged docking schedule, preserving the serenity of the ancient sites despite herding large numbers of tourists. A little further and Sobek, the crocodile god, at Komombo and the city of Aswan with its famed dam await. If time or tantrums permit, head further south to explore the ancient settlement of Abu Simbel and marvel at the Great Temple of Ramses II.

Egyptians love children, and you’ll be greeted with smiles wherever you go. You’ll also be hounded by offers of donkey rides, camel treks and guides, all essential to the Egyptian experience and you’ll rarely be on the wrong end of a bargain from these hospitable people, especially if armed with a pocket full of ’baksheesh’.

When the Pharaohs start to look similar and a camel ride in the desert doesn’t cut it anymore, it’s time for a change of scenery. What could be more exciting than a coach convoy with a police escort across the desert to the Red Sea? Arrive at Hurghada on the coast of the Red Sea or move up to Sharm el-Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula. Snorkel in the turquoise waters and take a trip on one of the glass-bottomed boats. Let the kids create their very own pyramids on the white sandy beaches and practice the delicate art of haggling for their holiday trinkets. All adventures must come to an end, and before your tribe have mastered writing their name in Hieroglyphs, it’s time to return home and once again be under the spell of a very different mummy.


When to go: Most Nile cruises sail year-round; from September to May is optimal, when the weather is mild and breezy.

Security: Be prepared for a lot

of checking of documents.

Money: The money is grubby and small notes (1, 5, 10) are rare. You practically tip everyone so keep a good supply of small notes handy at all times.

Language: “la shu-kran” — no thank you.

Getting There: A typical flight between Japan and Egypt is around 12 hours. Fly to Cairo, then to Aswan or Luxor on one of Egyptair’s frequent flights. Egypt is six hours behind Japan.

Private tours: Egypt is a relatively cheap place to travel, so get yourself a private guide. A good guide makes all the difference and has a way with camels.

About Carl Williams