My Topdeck Trip – Part VII: Reflecting on Egypt

It has now been exactly three months since I hopped on a plane to Frankfurt, and then another from there to Cairo. Now that I’ve been back in England, buckling down on uni work and getting on with everything that comes with student life, my trip to Egypt seems a lifetime ago.

But last week, I finally sat myself down and edited all the video footage I took in Egypt.

I love this video (though I hate my editing programme for messing up some of the quality during exporting it – I’m trying to fix it): I feel like it really captures the many things we did in Egypt, how amazing the trip was and the overall good time I had exploring the country.

As you might know, I went on the 10 day ‘Spirit of Egypt’ trip, which is organised by Topdeck Travel. They’re an Australian-by-origin company, organising group travel around the world (last week they launched their trips to Asia, and they look amazing – seriously wanderlust-inducing!). This year I’m a student ambassador for the company, and, as a part of this, I got to go on a trip of my choosing. The reason I chose Egypt in this scenario is because, of the available to me options, I deemed Egypt the country I was least likely to be able to go to any time soon. That, and it just sounded like an amazing trip!

I’d never been on a group trip before this holiday (that is, unless you count school trips abroad), but to be fair, I still don’t think I really have been as our little ‘habibi group’ was only five people strong – three Australians, one Dutchie (that’d be me), and our Egyptian trip leader. Nevertheless, it was a new experience and thankfully, we all got along fine.11891433_10207219284031609_760167916027847267_o

The trip was truly great. Over the course of ten days, we have seen a massive amount of Egypt – having travelled almost 2,500km over road and river – and learned tonnes about the ancient history (I’ve talked about the specifics in more detail in five posts which I’ll link below). It was amazing!

Honestly, if you are thinking of travelling to Egypt, I would highly advice going with an organisation like Topdeck, for several reasons:

  1. It was wonderful not to have to worry about where to go, when to go, and how to go. All our destinations had been planned out for us – all we had to do, was wake up on time (some of the times we had to get up were brutal, but worth it) and makes sure our bags were packed.
  2. As I said before, we saw an incredible amount of what Egypt has to offer (though I bet there’s so much more to be seen), and I simply don’t think it would have been possible to see that much – or that you’d take on the challenge to travel so far and wide on your own – in just ten days. It felt like we’d been in Egypt for absolutely ages, because almost every day (especially in the first half of the trip) we’d do as much as you’d usually do spread across two or three days (well, my family would anyway). True, around the sixth day we were all very tired, but right after that we were taken to Hurghada for a few days of 11865205_10207219310552272_5945558516897026569_orelaxing! And really, you need to see as much of Egypt as you can.
  3. It’s also very useful to go on a trip where you have a trip leader in Egypt: ours was able to tell Meg and me when we’d have to wear more covering clothing to avoid nasty situations. It is a Muslim-majority country and they have different values from more Western countries. However, because our trip leader told us when it was best to wear a t-shirt and longer trousers, we never experienced any problems.
  4. This one is more practical, but still true: due to the current political climate in Egypt I’m not sure how possible it would be to go there on holiday without an organisation like Topdeck. I imagine you’d be able to go to Sharm el-Sheikh or Hurghada if you’re only after a beach holiday, but if you want to travel across the country like I did, I think you’d have to have a trip leader. Every time we covered a lot of ground (so from Cairo – Aswan, Aswan – Abu Simbel, Hurghada – Cairo, etc.), our trip leader had to organise permits for us to be allowed to travel (and so, I think, the government knew where tourists were in case something happened). On top of that, when we drove from Aswan to Abu Simbel we had to drive in a convoy with other tourist vans and two police cars with armed policemen.

There were two things I didn’t like as much about the trip, both of which couldn’t really be helped:

  1. Everywhere we went, sellers tried, in rather loud ways, to lure us into their shop so we’d buy something. On top of that, if you’d actually decided to buy something you had to haggle about the price, so you wouldn’t pay something ridiculous for your keychain or magnet. I really disliked the haggling and I wish it hadn’t been necessary. I usually buy souvenirs if I go on holiday, and don’t mind shelling out €2 for magnet, but due to the constant pressure to come in, look at things and buy them, I probably bought less than I’d usually have. I understand why it is this way (since the revolution in 2010, tourism, which used to be a big part of Egyptian economy, has dropped drastically).
  2. A bit more light-hearted: I wish our Topdeck group had been bigger. True, it would have cost us space in the van, but I would have enjoyed meeting more people!

Overall, I loved getting to explore Egypt. Despite the need for the convoy, a guard with us for longer distances, and having come within metres of guns, Egypt didn’t feel inherently unsafe. Sure, I would hate to drive in Cairo (crazy traffic, I tell you), and being born in The Netherlands, I had never come so close near an army tank and guns, but they didn’t cast too big a cloud on the trip. It was rather shocking to be near them instead seeing them on TV, but in all fairness, the presence of the tank and guns, and the need for a convoy and a guard on long distances, were put in place to ensure our safety (but no, America, I don’t condone your gun policies).

I should say, though, that when we were in Aswan, a bomb did explode somewhere in Cairo. However, this hasn’t affected our trip in any way. Perhaps I was a bit more wary about returning to Cairo, but we wouldn’t stay long. Unfortunately, since that plane went down in Sinai, air travel has been limited and holiday-goers have been advised not to go.

11923286_10207219270591273_2037593435858934947_oThat being said, I still urge you to go to Egypt when you can (be sure to keep an eye out on government websites to see what they recommend when it comes to travelling to Egypt). It’s a wonderful country and so completely different from anywhere I’ve been before. It has an incredibly rich history, and there is just so much to see and learn. On top of that, I got to do, see and experience things I didn’t think I’d be doing for at least another few years! (swimming with dolphins, going in a hot air balloon, and quad biking, to name a few…) I’m very happy with my choice to go on the Spirit of Egypt trip and incredibly grateful to Topdeck for providing me with the opportunity.

As part of my role as student ambassador, I am also able to offer exclusive deals and discounts on any Topdeck trip. I’ve heard about the trips of the other ambassadors, and they, too, sounded absolutely fantastic. Whether you’re after a New Year’s trip in a big city, a few weeks in the US, a month across Europe or exploring Oceania and Asia – Topdeck has a wide variety of trips to offer, and I highly recommend you check out their website (warning though: you’ll seriously want to travel after doing so). If you’re interested in the deals and discounts, just send an email over to adventures@topdecktravel.co.uk and mention my name (Christa!).

And that is it for my Egyptian adventures. I loved going on this trip and have already got my eyes on a few other Topdeck trips that are calling to me – alas, I must wait until I have money. But when I do, I’d go on another Topdeck trip in instant.

As promised, here are the other parts in my Topdeck ‘series’:

Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VI

Thanks for reading!

Love,

Christa

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My Topdeck Trip – Part VI: Hurghada & Return to Cairo

Sorry for the delay of this post – uni started again and has had me busy for the last two weeks! So let’s get cracking on the last post detailing my adventures in the Land of Sand (I will write another post about the trip after this one, but it’ll be a little different).

After our brief stay in Luxor, we got back into the Topdeck mobile at 7.30am on the 22nd of August for 4-5 hour drive. We’d finished all of our sightseeing and were to spend two nights in Hurghada – a very popular city among tourists, situated right on the coast of the Red Sea.

We arrived at our hotel around noon. As that was before check-in, we walked around the premises, taking in the pool, the beach and the several bars and restaurants within the hotel complex, before we had lunch at the buffet.

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Following lunch, we got to check into our rooms – which thankfully had great air-conditioning – and went for a dip in the pool. There was a massive amount of chlorine in the pool, which I unfortunately discovered by accidentally swallowing some water, but other than that it was great to lounge in the cool water and swim around. We only had an hour to spend in the pool, for we’d booked to go quad biking in the desert!

11949780_10153082780445509_1755553503_nDuring our drive to Hurghada we’d stopped along the way to buy scarves for the quad biking (so we wouldn’t accidentally breathe in the entire desert), which were tied around our heads before we put on our helmets and got on the bikes. Remember how I thought camel-riding was a little scary? This was scarier – or at least, I thought so (the others seemed to be doing alright). I know how to drive a car, but driving a quad made me feel a lot more vulnerable: you need to have some upper-arm strength to keep steering straight and it t11911544_10153082780355509_1323467697_nook me half the trip to get used to the speed that our guide went. We stopped in the middle of the desert to take a few photos after a while, after which we returned to the place we’d started. In total, I think we spent about an hour, maybe a bit longer, on the quads. I enjoyed the second half more as I got more used to operating the vehicle, but I don’t think I’ll be driving quads anytime soon again. It’s a fun experience, but not really for me…

Unfortunately, by the time we got back to our hotel both the pool and the beach had already closed by the time we got back (we asked about this – apparently they close them at 5pm because it gets dark early and many Egyptians can’t swim that well. I’m not sure how true this is, but it was annoying nonetheless!). We had dinner at the buffet (which, to be honest, was really disappointing) and spent the night lounging on the sunbeds ( = I read a lot).

The next day we received our wake-up call at 7.30am (the latest we’d gotten up so far), met in the lobby an hour later and were driven to the beach, where we got on a boat with a bunch of other tourists, diving and snorkelling instructors and the boat’s crew. We sailed for about 45 minutes before we reached a large coral reef and anchored. The original intention was to spend a while here and then move closer to the Giftun Island, however, snorkelling/diving conditions around the reef were so good that the ship’s crew decided to stay at the reef. This was one of the moments I had looked forward to the most – I had never snorkelled before this and internet had promised the Red Sea was a great place to do just that.

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The Red Sea was a breathtakingly bright blue and so clear. In the pictures you might see a few darker areas – those are where the coral reef is. We were given goggles, flippers and jumped into the salty sea with an instructor, who took us closer to the reef, showed us fish, dived to the bottom to show us shells and even took us to see some clownfish (Nemo, I found you!).

After our first snorkel-session we returned to the boat for a lunch and listened to everyone’s stories about their dive or snorkelling – it turned out Luke, who’d been diving, and several others had swam near dolphins! With this knowledge, we didn’t waste any time after lunch and Meg, our instructor and I went snorkelling again – this time to find the dolphins.

And we found them. It was really, truly magical to be so close to these creatures. One of them was particularly cheeky and came really close, while about six other dolphins stayed a bit deeper. Our instructor got even closer to the cheeky one and tried to touch it a few times – I didn’t get that close, but it was closer than I’d expected to (hell, I hadn’t even expected to swim with dolphins during this trip at all!).

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I could have swam with those dolphins for ages (if you look close in the pictures above you can see them!), but alas, we had to return to the boat eventually. After the dolphin adventure, we spent some time jumping off different heights of the boat and just casually swimming around, before we had to board again and were sailed back to shore.

We spent our last night in Hurghada the same way we had the previous night (and were again disappointed at the pool and beach closing shortly after we returned to the hotel). The day before we had decided that weren’t that bothered with the extra day trip in Cairo we’d signed up for, after all, and would prefer a good night’s sleep instead (had we gone on the trip, we’d have had to leave Hurghada at 1am to make it back to Cairo in time). So instead, we went to around 11.30pm and didn’t have to wake up until 8am.

We gathered our belongings, had breakfast and set off at 10am for a 5.5-6 hour drive back to Cairo, where we arrived at 4.45pm at the hotel we’d stayed in before. Meg, Luke, Arnold and I had food in the hotel’s restaurant before we were taken to the Sound & Light show near the Giza Plateau.

The Sound & Light show basically shows its visitors the history of the pyramids and the sphinx, by using (can you guess?) sound and light. It was quite interesting to see, but I do think it was a bit long – a fun experience nonetheless.

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And thus, we ended our last night together in Egypt. The next day, Meg and the boys were going to visit Alexandria as a day trip (Meg had already booked it, the guys’ flights weren’t until late that evening), so I said my goodbyes to them before going for some breakfast, packing up all my stuff and being taken to the airport by a taxi.

Other than me being really early at the airport (I couldn’t even check in yet), travelling back to the Netherlands was pretty uneventful (though I did manage to buy some brezeln (pretzels) in Frankfurt Airport in German), and I was back at home around 11.30pm.

DSC01547Thanks so much for reading about my adventures in Egypt. I plan on writing one more post about the trip, reflecting more on some aspects of visiting Egypt and my experience with Topdeck. In the mean time, if you’re interested in going on a Topdeck trip yourself and would like to save some money when booking it, you can send an email to  adventures@topdecktravel.co.uk and quote my name (Christa!) to get a great deal!

 

Love,

Christa

My Topdeck Trip – Part V: Luxor

On the 21st of August, we arrived in Luxor by ship at about 3am. Half an hour later, my Topdeck group and I were dressed and out on the streets, walking to another boat, filled with other
tourists, that would take us to the other side of the Nile. There, we were picked up by a van and driven to a plane on the edge of the desert.

After waiting around for a while and receiving some instructions, it was finally time to board the hot air balloon. Within minutes our pilot was filling the balloon with more heat and we were soon leaving the ground.

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Our balloon was the first to take off of the bunch. We soared across different heights, gliding through the air and the sun rose above the Nile. One of the most striking things I saw was the line between sand and greenery: the desert simply stopped and was replaced by a huge patch of land where the ground wasn’t too dry for plants to grow. It was crazy to watch the world wake up as we flew above it – a few cars drove around, a few people were taking care of their fields, chickens were going fluttering around their pen, dogs barked.

To capture what it was like floating across Luxor, here is a video:

After a relatively smooth landing, we were met again by Ahmed and our tour guide for the day, and were driven straight to Valley of the Kings. The Valley is a, as you might suspect, large valley in the desert where over the years and dynasties a large number of pharaohs were buried in tombs. We visited numbers two, eight and eleven, which belonged to Ramesses IV, Merenptah and Ramesses III respectively. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take any pictures, but it was incredible to walk around those tombs! Much of the original colouring is still intact, and it is absurd to think people were walking down there thousands of years ago, dragging large stones into the depth of the tombs in preparation of their leader’s death (apparently, tombs were mainly built during a king’s lifetime – if the king died before its completion, the workers would have 70 more days to try and finish it as that was how long it took for the body to be mummified).

Following the Valley, we went straight to Hatshepsut’s Temple. DSC01378Hatshepsut was a queen who, after her husband died, was regent of the country, guiding her son, Tuthmose III, who wasn’t yet old enough to rule.
Hatshepsut, however, decided that she didn’t see why she couldn’t be ruler, so she decided to be king.
Pretty epic, if you ask me. DSC01395The statues – the ones that remain (because her son had many destroyed, or the face mutilated, because he didn’t want her to be remembered and he never considered her a rightful ruler) – of Hatshepsut are even ‘dressed’ like men. She’s got the beard, the attire, and the only way you can tell it’s a woman is because of the softer facial features.

Next up was a short stop at a shop where they hand-carved stones – once again, we were given some hibiscus tea.

We went on to visit Karnak Temple, which was very big and very hot: DSC01430despite the time of day, the sun was shining incredibly brightly already. The most striking thing about this temple were the number of pillars – each decorated with hieroglyphs, of course. There were also some obelisks, though in some cases it were more remainders, really (with the other part being in the Louvre in Paris).  One of the obelisks was built by Hatshepsut. Her son, however, couldn’t take it down, because obelisks represent rays of the sun (and the sun, in turn, represents the god Ra) – so instead, he built a wall all the way around it, which by now has
crumbled and reveals the obelisk once
more.

DSC01468Last on the itinerary was a visit to Luxor Temple, which we’d flown past earlier that day. The outside of the temple was unfortunately never finished, but there’s a carving inside the temple which shows how it was probably meant to have looked – this carving has then been drawn in colour on paper to show us how it might have looked in full glory!

By now, all of us were drained of energy, which perhaps didn’t give us the best experience of the temple. Our visit was rather short because of it, but it was an interesting sight nonetheless.

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When we’d finished our sightseeing, we checked into the hotel. The boys went for a nap, while Meg, Ahmed and I had a late lunch in the rooftop restaurant, after which I went for a long dip in the rooftop pool. We gathered a bit later and just hung out, before going down to the hotel restaurant for a late dinner. Shortly after, we went to sleep, ready and excited for Hurghada the next day.

Love,

Christa

Ps. If you’re interested in going on a Topdeck trip yourself and would like to save some money, email adventures@topdecktravel.co.uk and quote my name (Christa!) to get a great deal!

My Topdeck Trip – Part IV: Aswan to Luxor

On the 19th of August, we had a wake-up call at 2.45am. It was horrendous. When we’d managed to drag ourselves out of bed, we were given ‘breakfast boxes’ (juice, some sandwiches and a banana in a paper bag) and got into the van for a drive that was almost 300km and lasted for over three and a half hours and would take us to Abu Simbel. We drove in a small convoy of several other tourist vans and two police cars: apparently this was a requirement when going that far South – I think Abu Simbel is about 45km from the Sudanese border – because that would make it safer for us, tourists, to go there. Our convoy wasn’t very big, but from what I’ve heard there can be sixty cars in one convoy (though I doubt that’s happened a lot since the 2010/2011 revolutions).

We arrived at Abu Simbel after a long drive and met our guide for the day. We were shown Lake Nasser, which apparently it’s so big that it’s larger than my home country of The Netherlands – mental! We then visited both temples: the temple that was built in honour of King Ramesses II (and was ordered to be built by him), as well as the temple Ramesses had built in honour of one of his wives: Nefertari.

Unfortunately you weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the temples, so you’ll have to do with these of the outside! The insides were, however, amazing to look at. Some of the carvings had been painted and the colours were still visible very well. The outsides were just as impressive: huge statues of Ramesses and Nefertari guarded the temples (in front of her temple there were six statues – two of her, four of her husband…).

DSC01154 DSC01111 DSC01140 DSC01098 DSC01145After perusing the temples we headed back to the van and by 12pm we were back at the cruise ship! We were given some time off to enjoy the sun and the pool, and met up with Ahmed again around 4pm. He took us to a gallery where essences are made. Essences are the base of perfumes, before alcohol is mixed in, but can be used on their own in a multitude of ways, and they won’t evaporate. Apparently they found lotus essences Tutankhamon used – i.e. 3000 years ago – and you can still use it! We spent a long time trying out different essences and sniffing our own, and each other’s, body parts to decide which of the essences we liked best. In the end, we all came away with more than we had intended – I personally got four different essences of 25ml, which I think will last me quite a while!

When we’d finished smelling all the scents, we went to the market in Aswan. We walked around for just over an hour, bought a few magnets and keyrings (and haggled about the prices to pay for them – something I really didn’t enjoy having to do) and returned to the ship.

DSC01169 DSC01171 DSC01181 DSC01204 DSC01214 DSC01216 DSC01252Upon awakening at 6.30am the next day, the ship had sailed down the Nile and we’d arrived at the Kom Ombo Temple – the place where about twenty crocodile mummies have been found. The temple honoured both Sobek, the crocodile god, and Horus the Elder, the falcon god. We spent some time admiring the carvings and hieroglyphics, after which we went to see the mummified crocodiles and went back to the ship. It would be a few more hours until our next stop, so we went back up to the pool to relax.

Our next port of call was at the Temple of Edfu. When we docked, we were taken to the temple by horse and carriage (which, had it been up to me, I would have preferred not to do as all the horses are visibly underfed). It was a very large and impressive temple, and was dedicated to Horus (who is related to Horus the Elder). When we once more returned to the ship, we turned out to be one of the first groups that had come back. We utilised this opportunity the best way we knew how to: by claiming some sunbeds again and enjoying the pool some more.

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That evening we spent some time in the bar area of the ship, as the it continued to sail down the Nile, and we were offered a one of a kind deal by Ahmed: because we’d already booked all the available optional activities, the local Topdeck office decided to offer us a hot air balloon flight over Luxor ($120), an upgrade in our hotel in Hurghada to full-board and unlimited drinks ($20) and an extra day trip in Cairo ($40) for the price of the hot air balloon flight! Although we had to decide as a group, the decision was made within seconds: of course we’d do it.

Love,

Christa

My Topdeck Trip – Part III: Aswan

When it came to our journey from Cairo to Aswan, I think maybe it was a good thing our group was only four Topdeckers and a trip leader strong. The journey was about 1000 km long, which equalled to a good 12 hours in the Topdeck van. We left Cairo on the 17th around 7.30pm and arrived in Aswan the next morning around 8am, having stopped twice on our way to fill up on gas and have a wee and stretch break.

Upon arrival in Aswan we made our way straight to the M.S. Princess Sarah, which was docked on the Nile. We got about twenty minutes to rest, stretch the legs, and drink our welcome drink (typically cold hibiscus tea, which is very nice and typically given everywhere!), before we got back in the van and drove to a small harbour filled with boats ready to take the tourists (of which there weren’t very many at all, but that might be because it was so early) to the Philae Temple.

The boat ride was short, but sweet, and we were soon on the island where the Philae Temple stands. We had an amazing guide for the day, called Noubi, who had a great sense of humour, knew lots of English synonyms and loved using them, and had a great deal of knowledge about the sights of the day. The Philae Temple itself was quite an interesting temple – there are three different parts to it, all built at different times. There is a tiny bit that was built by Egyptian, and uses concave carvings and hieroglyphs. A huge part of the temple was built by Grecians and uses convex carvings and hieroglyphs (these two might be the other way around – I can’t remember exactly). And then the final part of the temple, its size in between the two others, was built by Romans. Apparently the Grecians and Romans wanted to build temples to honour Egyptians Gods to show that they too were appreciative and honouring of these Gods and thus could make good rules (or something along those lines…)

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Upon return to the cruise ship, we quickly ate a lunch and changed into our swim gear and spent an hour or two on the top deck, dipping in and out of the small pool. Around 4pm we got on another boat that took us to the other West side of the Nile. There we got about ten minutes to swim in the Nile – it’s crazy to realise I’ve done that! – which was quite a bit colder than anticipated. After the swim, we dried off the best we could, slipped our clothes back on and mounted a camel (another one of those crazy things I’ve done!).DSC01004

The start of the camel-ride was quite… scary. First of all, these animals, when standing up, are huge! Second of all, in order to get them to stand up, you need to lean backwards and sort of pull on the saddle. And then the standing up is a bit wibbly wobbly as well. There were
a few guides walking along with our little group, guiding the camels, but after a while my guide handed me the rope that was used as reins and began focussing on chatting with the other guides instead. Yikes. Now, I’ve ridden horses before, but they aren’t quite as tall as camels. Luckily, I managed to not let the camel ride of the track – mainly because it quite enjoyed following the others – and we soon arrived in a Nubian village.

Here, we got shown around a Nubian house, were given some mint tea (not quite my cuppa tea) and some more hibiscus tea (yum!). We also got to hold a small crocodile – which was really surreal and it felt so strange! – and for a fee of only L.E. 20 we all got some henna done. We returned to our cruise ship by boat as the sun was setting, which offered some beautiful sights.

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Love,

Christa

My Topdeck Trip – Part II: Cairo

It’s been a few days since my return to the dreary and wet lowlands and the heat and sand of Egypt already feel like a lifetime ago.

Following Part I in this series detailing my Topdeck Trip (which in case you’re interested, was the Spirit of Egypt one), here is Part II – the start of my journey around Egypt, beginning in the capital: Cairo.

One the 16th of August, around 4am I was awake after a night of three hours barely-slept sleep. By 5am, I was in the car on my way to the bus stop where a bus would take me to the airport. About 10 hours, two flights, a lay-over in Frankfurt Airport (which, by the way, is HUGE!), and an in-flight meal (which was surprisingly tasty – thanks Lufthansa!) later, I arrived in Egypt.

Immediately, I was completely blown away by the amount of sand everywhere. I mean, it is well-known that 97% of Egypt is made up of desert, but it’s an entirely different thing to suddenly be faced with that.

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I was picked up by Topdeck representatives and driven to a hotel in Cairo where we would be staying for one night. That drive was as mind-blowing as the desert, if not more. I’d always thought Paris had crazy traffic – until I went to Marseille, after which that city’s traffic was the craziest I’d ever experienced. But both cities and their driving styles pale in comparison to what I witnessed on the streets of Cairo. On the side of the road there were people walking, donkeys pulling carts, people selling tyres, drinks and a plethora of other things I wouldn’t think about selling on the literal side road in any of the more Western countries I’ve been to. Then there’s the case of people just driving where they want, when they want and how fast they want. People pass you left and right and our driver at one point even reversed on the middle of the road because he’d taken a wrong turn!

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Upon arrival at the hotel (where the view from our window was of the Great Pyramid!), I met our trip leader, Ahmed, and spent a few hours dozing off in the hotel room, waiting for my roommate and the others to arrive. By 7pm, my roommate, a lovely Australian gal named Meg, had arrived and we made our way to the hotel restaurant where we met the rest of our group. As it turned out, our group was the smallest Ahmed had ever had, with only four people in it (there were supposed to be six of us, but two never made it to Egypt – we don’t know why/how). The other two were Australian as well, Luke and Arnold.

We spent the night chatting about the trip, went for food, stocked up on water at the supermarket, before hitting the sack, ready for an early start the next day.

On the 17th, we were up and ready by 7.45am. Our first port of call was the Egyptian Museum – unfortunately you were only allowed to take pictures of the outside, so I can’t show you any of the mummies, Tut’s 15kg solid golden mask or the statues displayed there. The museum itself is very close to Tahrir Square (where in 2011 a lot of the demonstrations happened during the Revolution) and right next to it was an army tank – which was a very surreal sight. It’s a very big museum (and they’re actually planning to complete the building of an even bigger one) with over 100,000 pieces of several different dynasties, as well as two rooms dedicated to mummies – one holds mummified animals, the other the mummified pharaohs.

After the admiration of the artefacts of several dynasties and saying hello to the remains of Ramesses II, Hatshepsut and a few other Kings and Queens of long ago, we had a brief lunch and continued our journey to the plateau of Giza.


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We were driven to a part a little bit away from the pyramids, so that we could get some good pictures of the three big pyramids together. We took this opportunity to also do some pyramid jumping, take some selfies and pose in that typical Egyptian way.

After we’d filled our camera roll a bit more, we got back into the van and drove closer to the pyramids. For an extra L.E. 40 (about €4.55 or £3.32), we got to enter the pyramid of Menkaure (our tour guide suggested going into this one instead of the Great Pyramid, because the insides are basically the same, but entering the Great Pyramid would cost L.E. 200). Truthfully, there wasn’t a lot to see on the insides, but it was nonetheless interesting to crouch down as we walked through those corridors and down to the chambers where the mummy, sarcophagus and possessions would have been stored so many years ago.

Once again outside, we spent some more time admiring the different pyramids, all amazed by the technique, craftsmanship and calculations that must’ve gone into the constructing and building of each of them – and all that without any of the technology we know today.

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After gazing at the pyramids, avoiding people offering camel rides and all sorts of trinkets, and a few more selfies, we made our way back to the hotel to gather our bags, got as comfortable as possible in the Topdeck van and mentally prepared ourselves for a 12 hour ride of 1000 km all the way up to Aswan!

I’ll be back soon with the next instalment in my Egyptian adventures.

Love,

Christa

My Topdeck Trip – Part I: Anticipation & Packing

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If you’re subscribed to my YouTube channel, you might have seen the video below of a recent two-day trip I made to London. For this two-day trip I got invited to come to London by Topdeck Travel to learn, as a member of their new Topdeck Academy, what the brand is about – having fun, exploring, meeting new people and discovering new places. Not only did it turn into one of my favourite ever videos that I’ve made, I also had a great time cycling along the south bank in the sun and meeting my fellow Topdeckers!

As part of our role in the Topdeck Academy, each of us is being sent on a Topdeck trip of our choice. My trip is starting very soon and will be taking me all the way to Egypt! This will be my first time setting foot on the African continent (making it the third continent I’ve travelled to) and I’m so incredibly excited. Earlier this year I didn’t even think I’d go on holiday, and if I would’ve gone I would have gone to Norway to visit a friend, so to suddenly be whisked away on a plane to travel around Egypt for 10 days came as a very welcome surprise!

I must admit that part of me is rather, really, very nervous at the prospect of this trip as I’ve never done anything like it before: I don’t know any of the language in Egypt (at least in Venice I could semi-understand Italian because I had French in school…), I don’t know anyone who is going on the trip and I’ve never met any of them, my flight includes a transfer – something I haven’t done before and am internally freaking out about quite a bit, and I feel like the entire culture in Egypt will just be so different from what I know and am used to. But. I’m sure I’ll be fine. I’m a, sort of, grown-up. I’ve travelled to foreign places before. I got this.

I’ve finally done my packing, and decided to turn it into a video as well, as you can see above. The video and this blog post should be the first in a little series detailing the events and excitement of my trip. I don’t think I’ll update this blog on my travels as I go (though I won’t say for certain I won’t), but will definitely dedicate a few posts to the trip once I’ve returned to the lowlands (or the island in the North Sea). I’ll also definitely be making at least one video of the trip, though I’m not sure yet of the format, so keep your eyes peeled for that too!

You can also follow me on instagram to see some photos as I post them.

I’m ecstatic to be going on this trip and I hope you’ll enjoy this diversion from books on my blog!

Love,

Christa

The Problem with Mastering My Future

the problem with mastering my future

As the summer holidays between my second at third year at university crawls to a close (can somebody please explain to me why UK universities have 3-4 months off during the summer? It’s too long!), I am bound to start thinking about what comes After. And it’s scary.

Where will I go After my BA? Will I study for a master’s After my BA? Will I try to find a job straight After my BA? Will I try to travel for a bit After my BA? Will I move back into my parental home After my BA or will I live somewhere else? What country will I even live in After my BA?

Part of why I chose to study English (besides that nothing else really appealed enough to me and I really like all things books) is that it gives me an endless array of options when it comes to choosing what I want to do in the future. An MA narrows that range of options down – or at least, the idea is that you choose to specialise in something that you want to do for an extended amount of time.

But then what do I choose? Do I want to develop my Creative Writing more? Do I want to see what I could do with something film-related? Do I want to choose something where I could research children’s literature? Do I want to learn how to translate literature? Do I want to study something that allows me to learn more about publishing? WHAT DO I CHOOSE?

The options seem endless, and although it’s not necessarily the case, I feel like whichever MA I choose to study will close the door on any of the other options beyond the MA. Therefore, I need to really sit down and decide what path I want to take for the immediate future. But when I’ve chosen what MA I want to study, do I want to do it immediately? Or do I work and travel, then MA? Work and then MA? Or maybe no MA at all, after all? And if I do MA, what about money? I already have a lot of debt as it is and acquiring an MA would go paired with, undoubtedly, acquiring more debt too.

And then the above isn’t even taking into consideration the big question that forms the foundation of it all: where will I live? England, Netherlands, somewhere else? MAs in the UK are more expensive than in the Netherlands, and I’m not interested in acquiring tonnes of more student debt, but I do really like being here on this island and I would like to see what it’d be like living in a different city. Either way, there will be a move – which is enough to have me want to crawl under a duvet until the prospect of packing up boxes has disappeared from the horizon.

But if I decide not to study for an MA immediately, will I try to get an entry-level job, work a random job for a bit to save up money for travel, or should I apply for graduate schemes? And where would those jobs be? In the UK? In the Netherlands? Where would those options lead me – geographically and, well, as a person?

I knew where I was headed for a long time: I would finish my VWO and, if I got in, I would study something I loved at a UK university. Now that I’m nearing the end of that ‘part of my life’ (which sounds really dramatic) I’m a little bit at a loss. There are so many options and each of those options comes with more things that I need to decide on. It’s intimidating.

So during the upcoming months I will try to figure out what it exactly is I want to do or study and where I want to go. As of right now, I’m planning on applying for MAs both in the UK and the Netherlands, as well as some graduate schemes that several UK publishers run and basically  let all of them decide for me – if more than one accepts my application, that is when I have to, you know, really decide for myself.

Until then, I’ll continue to periodically freak out about After.

Love,

Christa