I returned to Sofia yesterday after the longest traveling trip I have had in a long time. Last summer I was in the UK for just over two weeks, and a few summers ago I was in Prague for over a month, but both of those involved workshops, so I was not fully a tourist in either trip, I didn’t move around as much as I did here, and I certainly wasn’t shepherded around on a group tour. This was also my first time being on a guided tour, but overall it was a good experience and certainly worthwhile on a first jaunt through Egypt; something that struck everyone in our party was how restricted and restrictive Egypt was, partly for tourists’ safety and partly (we think) to keep Egyptian culture sheltered from foreigners and to keep tourism revenues contained.
It’s hard to boil down and process 17 days’ worth of travel through some of the oldest lands in human civilization. While my cat was happy to see me and it was a relief to drink tap water, walk through the market and down the street to the grocery store without being harassed either about my appearance or to buy something, and not have to baksheesh anybody for things that are in their job description to begin with, I’m stuck sitting here, procrastinating from starting my school work because I feel I should write something about this amazing trip (also because if I don’t do it now, I’ll never have time in the hellish 3 weeks at work that are about to descend on me), and yet I don’t know where to start. We were frequently shuttled around so much and were so exhausted at day’s end that I wasn’t able to make many notes during the actual trip. I have 755 photos on my camera, but it’s hard to share them or think about them in a way that doesn’t reduce them to, “…and here is yet another temple with some sculptures and hieroglyphics.”
There are, of course, the token photos, but I don’t want to share those yet (partly because sifting through those 755 photos is going to be a pain in the ass). Instead, because this trip was so unusual (for me anyway) in the quantity of face-to-face interaction with other people, I want to write about the Top 5 People we met on this trip. Between the five of them, I think you get a pretty good sense of the flavor of our trip and of this intriguing land and people. Unfortunately, I only have pictures of a couple of them, but will add the others once I get them from one of my traveling partners who took most of them.
#1 – Kiril Petrov is Bulgarian, not Egyptian, but without him, we would never have gotten to Egypt – or at least, we would have gotten there with an altered itinerary and a lot more frustration. The Sofia airport was closed and flights were canceled the last couple of days before Christmas due to heavy fog, confounding a lot of people’s travel plans, including ours. We were scheduled to depart on a short flight from Sofia to Istanbul on the morning of 23 December; we would then spend most of the day in Istanbul before boarding our 7 pm flight to Cairo. However, our flight was as ill-fated as many others; it was “delayed” for nearly 13 hours, from a scheduled 8 am departure time to an 8:40 pm departure, which would of course mean that we would miss our Cairo flight. The two flights were also separate bookings and reservations, so it was questionable what we’d be able to do if we missed the Cairo flight.