This was our first experience living in a 5-star resort and we loved every bit of it.
Day 1 – 30th December 2019
We woke up early morning, checked out of cruise and proceeded to visit the monuments in Luxor. On the way, we could see hot air balloons returning from their trip. We had also been offered the opportunity to go on Hot Air Ballon at an additional cost of $110 per person. It was too much, so no one from our group went for it.
Our 1st stop was Valley of the Kings which is a valley where rock-cut tombs were excavated for the pharaohs and powerful nobles of the New Kingdom (the Eighteenth to the Twentieth Dynasties of Ancient Egypt) from approximately 1539 BC to 1075 BC. Egyptologists use the acronym KV (standing for Kings’ Valley) to designate tombs located in the Valley of the Kings. The system was established by John Gardner Wilkinson in 1821. The valley is known to contain 63 tombs and chambers (ranging in size from KV54, a simple pit, to KV5, a complex tomb with over 120 chambers). The royal tombs are decorated with scenes from Egyptian mythology and give clues as to the beliefs and funerary rituals of the period. Almost all of the tombs seem to have been opened and robbed in antiquity, but they still give an idea of the opulence and power of the pharaohs.
Shrief told us about the most famous tomb KV62 i.e. the tomb of young pharaoh Tutankhamun (meaning the Living image of Amun). It is renowned for the wealth of valuable antiquities that it contained. Howard Carter discovered it in 1922 underneath the remains of workmen’s huts built during the Ramesside Period. The tomb was densely packed with items in great disarray due to its small size, the two robberies, and the apparently hurried nature of its completion. The contents were all transported to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. This tomb has additional charges apart from the normal ticket, so we didn’t go inside but 1 family from our group visited it.
Our ticket permitted us to visit any of the 3 tombs. Shrief guided us on which tombs to visit.
The 1st tomb we visited was Tomb KV2 which is the tomb of Ramesses IV. He was the third pharaoh of the Twentieth Dynasty of the New Kingdom of Ancient Egypt. KV2 contains the second-highest number of ancient graffiti within it (after KV9), with 656 individual graffitis left by both Ancient Greek and Roman visitors. This tomb also contains around 50 or so examples of Coptic graffiti, mostly sketched onto the right wall by the entranceway. The tomb has a maximum length of 88.66 m and consists of three slowly descending corridors labelled B, C, and D. This is followed by an enlarged chamber (E), and then the burial chamber (J). Past the burial chamber lies a narrow corridor (K) flanked by three side chambers [Ka, Kb and Kc]. The tomb is mostly intact and is decorated with scenes from the Litany of Ra, Book of Caverns, Book of the Dead, Book of Amduat and the Book of the Heavens. This was the most beautiful tomb we visited that day. The colours on all the graffiti were so bright and intact that it amazed to us that these paintings and hieroglyphs were made more than 3000 years ago.
The 2nd tomb was Tomb KV6 which was the final resting place of the 20th-dynasty Pharaoh Ramesses IX. The archaeological evidence and the quality of decoration it contains indicates that the tomb was not finished in time for Ramesses’s death but was hastily rushed through to completion, many corners being cut, following his demise. Running a total distance of 105 metres into the hillside, the tomb begins with a gate and a shallow descending ramp. Following on from the ramp come three successive stretches of the corridor. The first of these has four side chambers – two on each side – but none of these is decorated or finished. At the end of the corridors come three chambers. The first of these is decorated with the Opening of the Mouth ritual. The second chamber contains four large columns, but neither the stonecutting nor the decoration work was completed. At the far end of this chamber, a ramp slopes down to the actual burial chamber, where the pharaoh’s sarcophagus was placed (the floor has a rectangular section carved out to accommodate it). The ceiling is vaulted and is decorated with splendid pictures of the goddess Nut (goddess of the sky, stars, cosmos, mothers, astronomy, and the universe). The side walls show scenes from the Book of Caverns and the Book of the Earth. The far wall depicts Ramses on his barque, surrounded by a host of gods. The yellows, dark blues, and blacks used to decorate this chamber are visually striking and unusual among the tomb decorations in the Valley.
The last tomb we visited was Tomb KV3 which was intended for the burial of an unidentified son of Pharaoh Ramesses III during the early part of the Twentieth Dynasty. It is similar in design to the straight axis tombs typical of this dynasty, and an ostracon written in hieratic script from the time of Ramesses III mentions the founding of a tomb for a royal prince, likely this tomb. The unfinished state of a couple of rooms in the tomb along with scant archaeological evidence suggests that the tomb was never used. Some have suggested that it was originally intended for use by the prince regent who would succeed as Ramesses IV, and who started building his own tomb (KV2) soon after he came to the throne. The excavation was still going in this tomb so we just took pictures of the surrounding area.
We then went to the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut which is also known as the Djeser-Djeseru (Ancient Egyptian: ḏsr ḏsrw “Holy of Holies”). Built for the Eighteenth Dynasty pharaoh Hatshepsut, it is located beneath the cliffs at Deir el-Bahari on the west bank of the Nile near the Valley of the Kings. This mortuary temple is dedicated to Amun and Hatshepsut and is situated next to the mortuary temple of Mentuhotep II, which served both as an inspiration and later, a quarry. It is considered to be one of the incomparable monuments of ancient Egypt.
Hatshepsut was the daughter of Thutmose I (1520-1492 BCE) by his Great Wife Ahmose. Thutmose I also fathered Thutmose II (1492-1479 BCE) by his secondary wife Mutnofret. In keeping with Egyptian royal tradition, Thutmose II was married to Hatshepsut at some point before she was 20 years old. During this same time, Hatshepsut was elevated to the position of God’s Wife of Amun, the highest honour a woman could attain in Egypt after the position of queen. Hatshepsut and Thutmose II had a daughter, Neferu-Ra, while Thutmose II fathered a son with his lesser wife Isis. This son was Thutmose III (1458-1425 BCE) who was named his father’s successor. Thutmose II died while Thutmose III was still a child and so Hatshepsut became regent, controlling the affairs of state until he came of age. In the seventh year of her regency, though, she broke with tradition and had herself crowned pharaoh of Egypt. Her reign was one of the most prosperous and peaceful in Egypt’s history. There is evidence that she commissioned military expeditions early on and she certainly kept the army at peak efficiency but, for the most part, her time as pharaoh is characterized by successful trade, a booming economy, and her many public works projects which employed labourers from across the nation. Although she went to great lengths to be remembered after her death, Thutmose III carried out a sweeping campaign to destroy her legacy 20 years later. He crushed her statues, defaced her images, and erased her cartouche for vengeance. She is generally regarded by Egyptologists as one of the most successful pharaohs, reigning longer than any other woman of an indigenous Egyptian dynasty. After knowing this story, I had immense respect for Pharoah Hatshepsut. She was a true Queen!
The temple was decorated with scenes from her reign and housed shrines to Anubis, the god of the dead; Hathor, goddess of fertility; Amun, king of gods; and Re, the god of the sun. The complex is entered via the great court, where original ancient tree roots are still visible. The temple was connected to Karnak temple by an avenue of Sphinx but was destroyed by Thutmose III. A large ramp leads to the two upper terraces. The best-preserved reliefs are on the middle terrace. The reliefs on the north colonnade record Hatshepsut’s divine birth and at the end of it is the Chapel of Anubis, with well-preserved colourful reliefs of a disfigured Hatshepsut and Tuthmosis III in the presence of Anubis, Ra-Horakhty and Hathor.
Finally, we went to the most talked-about temple. The Karnak Temple Complex is commonly known as Karnak (from Arabic Khurnak meaning “fortified village”). It comprises of a vast mix of decayed temples, chapels, pylons, and other buildings near Luxor. Construction at the complex began during the reign of Senusret I in the Middle Kingdom (around 2000-1700 BCE) and continued into the Ptolemaic period (305 – 30 BCE), although most of the extant buildings date from the New Kingdom. It is the largest religious building ever made, covering about 200 acres (1.5 km by 0.8 km), and was a place of pilgrimage for nearly 2,000 years. The area around Karnak was the ancient Egyptian Ipet-isut (“The Most Selected of Places”) and the main place of worship of the eighteenth dynasty Theban Triad with the god Amun as its head. It is part of the monumental city of Thebes.
As we entered the temple, we saw an avenue of sphinxes which once linked the great Temple of Amun at Karnak with Luxor Temple. We went to see the Kiosk of Sesostris I which is one of the oldest structures in the whole temple complex. Built of fine limestone, it was erected to commemorate the King’s Jubilee. Then we saw the Temple of Ramses II which had several statues of Ramses II.
Next, we went to explore the famous Hypostyle Hall which was constructed during the reign of Seti I (a hypostyle hall is a space with a roof supported by columns). The hall has 134 massive sandstone giant papyrus-shaped columns with the centre twelve columns standing at 69 feet. Like most of the temple decoration, the hall would have been brightly painted and some of this paint still exists on the upper portions of the columns and ceiling today.
In a narrow court, there are several obelisks, one which dates from Thutmose I, and is 21.2 m high and weighs nearly 150 tons. Just beyond this is the remaining obelisk of Hatshepsut, nearly 30 m in height. Thutmose III blocked out the view of this from ground level and constructed walls around it. Its companion lies, broken, by the sacred lake. We passed the Temple fo Mut (Wife of Amun-Re) which was built by Amenophis III. We saw calendar engraved in one of the walls.
We reached south of the temple which had the Sacred Lake. In Arabic, it is known as Birket el-Mallaha (“Lake of the Salt Pan”) as the water of the lake is slightly saline. Near the lake is the biggest statue of the Scarab beetle which symbolizes immortality, resurrection, transformation and protection. Shrief told us to go around the beetle thrice with a wish in mind. All of us in the group did that while the other tourists gave us confused glances.
We then walked to the Temple of Amun which was the main temple in Karnak. The ceilings and columns had beautiful paintings. In later centuries, Ptolemaic rulers and Coptic Christians altered parts of the complex for their own uses. We could see paintings of Mary drawn over the ancient paintings and statues strategically demolished to create a cross for the church.
Finally, we saw the Temple of Ptah which was dedicated to the ancient Egyptian god Ptah, his wife Sekhmet the goddess of war, and his son Nefertum. The building was erected by the Pharaoh Thutmose III on the site of an earlier Middle Kingdom temple. The edifice was later enlarged by the Ptolemaic Kingdom.
We then braced ourselves for a long journey to Hurghada. On the way, we had lunch at a restaurant which Shrief considered to be the best food on the trip. They had already prepared the meal for us and the table was set when we arrived. There was a men’s washroom but no washroom for women inside the restaurant. We had waited for a washroom for a long time on the bus. There was a paid women washroom outside the restaurant which was a bit unfair. So after having our food, we sneaked in when the money collector was distracted.
When we came out, we saw some of the aunties talking to a guy. He was asking about the sindoor that aunties had applied. Aunties told him that it meant that they were married, so he asked if they were newly married. One of the aunties replied that she has been married for 20 years. He asked if their husbands had other wives, which was a bit weird. So we asked if he had more than one wife and he was very proud to say that he already had 2 wives. He also said that one marriage is not enough and started giving examples of Kings who had married more than once. After this interesting encounter, we came back to our bus.
We started again for Hurghada. It was a long and boring journey, so I started playing Antakshari with Mummy. Some of the people heard us singing and asked me to sing in the mic. I sang 2-3 songs then others joined me and we sang along. After a few songs, we decided to dance inside the bus. It was a lot of fun and all of us girls finally became good friends.
We reached our hotel called AMC Royal Hotel & Spa which is a 5 stars Resort at 6pm. The resort is situated on the sandy beach of the Red Sea only 11 km north of Hurghada. The resort overlooks its own spacious private beach. The resort is an all-inclusive property offering full board accommodation. All local drinks (soft and alcoholic) are also included. This was our first experience of living in an all-inclusive 5-star resort. We checked into our rooms and went back to lobby for drinks. Papa joined his group of uncles and Vibhi was also included in the group. Mummy & I also decided to enjoy this opportunity and asked the bartender to give us something special. He made a mixed fruit cocktail for us which was amazing. After having a few drinks, we went for dinner and finally retired to our rooms.
Day 2 – 31st December 2019
We got ready and had our breakfast by 9am and boarded the bus. It was more than an hour ride to Sindbad resort.
When we reached the resort, we were given tickets for the Submarine ride. We paid $50 each for Sindbad Submarine ride. After getting our tickets, we boarded the ferry and decided to sit on the top deck. It was a pleasant 30 min ride. The submarine was anchored to another boat, which served as a platform, thus our transfer to the submarine was very easy. Once we entered the submarine, we had a good unobstructed view of the reef and the fish as we were assigned seats where two people shared a pretty large window. We went 25 m deep. The only downside was that the reef is only on one side of the submarine at a time, so half the time was spent just looking at the occasional fish that swam by. It didn’t take away from the experience though, as we ended up sharing the seats with people who were seated on the opposite side and saw the whole thing twice. They even had a diver, who was swimming around the submarine, he was feeding the fishes, thus he attracted a lot of various fishes. We spent around 45 minutes underwater. On the way back, on the transfer boat, they served us with juice. The driver told us that the bus in which we travelled was the only bus in the whole city. It was quite an interesting fact.
After returning to the hotel, we went back to our room to keep our bags. There was a note kept outside our room informing us that we had to go to the Italian restaurant for lunch. So we went to the restaurant and found that there were no seats available. While waiting, Mummy and I got a glass of wine for ourselves. By the time we returned, there was a table empty for us. Papa & Vibhi got inspired by us and got wine for themselves too.
After lunch, we rested in our room for some time. Then we went to the swimming pool to enjoy with others. Mummy, Vibhi & I got on the slide to go into the pool. It was so much fun that I did that twice. We stayed in the water only for half an hour because cold wind was blowing from the sea. We then went back to our room and took a long bath in the bathtub.
By the time, we got ready again it was 4:30pm. We decided to take a walk along the beach. We saw a footwalk on the beach called marina so we started walking on it. We walked only halfway when they started calling us back because it was time to close the marina. We took as many photos as we could while walking back. I then went into the beach to soak my feet because I can’t resist myself when I see the waves. The water was freezing, so I had to return back quickly. We clicked lots of pictures around the hotel before heading back to our room.
The gala dinner was going to start at 7pm. So we decided to sleep for an hour. At 7pm, we thought we might be too early for dinner so Mummy & I decided to check whether people had arrived or not. We also wanted to see whether people were wearing normal clothes or party clothes. We saw a mix of both so we decided to wear our party clothes which we had packed especially for the gala.
We were ready for the gala dinner by 8pm. This was our 1st New Year’s Party at a hotel. We were allotted seats with other Jatrik travellers. The seats were quite congested and it was very difficult to eat without interruption from others coming in or going out. We ate lots of prawns and squids which was delicious. When we were full, we walked around the room and saw lots of artistic cakes. We later saw that there was grilled fish available too, but we were full by then so we didn’t try it. The sushi they were serving was also very tasty and I ended up eating 5-6 pieces.
At 10pm, the dance programmes started and went on for an hour. They danced on various songs from pop to country music. They also had local dances like Tanaura & Belly dance. Overall, it was an enjoyable program. At 11pm, they let us dance on the stage. I was joined by Himadree, Archismita & Dipshikha from our bus. We danced for half an hour after which they picked random chits with room numbers and gave away prizes. 2 family from our group won the prize. We then joined others on stage for the countdown. It was such a fun experience! After shouting Happy New Year at the top of our lungs, we danced some more. The restaurant was then ready to close down. Papa went to his room from the restaurant. We were not done dancing yet, so we went to the disco and danced till 1am. When we came to the lobby, we found Vibhi waiting for us. He had told us that he would be in the lobby when the dance programs started, but we did not expect him to still be there. We clicked some more pictures.
When we came to our room, we knocked on Papa’s door but he was fast asleep. So mummy slept with us and went back to her room early morning when Papa called to check on us.
Day 3 – 1st January 2020
We woke up at 9am and went straight for breakfast. We then started rearranging & packing our bags because we would not get a chance to segregate our stuff and repack in Cairo. We also decided on souvenirs each of us wanted for ourselves and for others. That’s when we realised that we did not buy enough souvenirs for gifting everyone we wanted. We somehow divided the things we bought among ourselves. We checked out of our room by 12pm and sat in the lounge with our drinks. We went for lunch at 1pm and then boarded our bus.
The road was quite beautiful as we were travelling along the Red Sea. We drove along the Gulf of Suez for a long time. It is a gulf at the northern end of the Red Sea, to the west of the Sinai Peninsula. The gulf was formed within a relatively young but now inactive Gulf of Suez Rift rift basin, dating back about 26 million years. It stretches some 300 kilometres (190 mi) north by northwest, terminating at the Egyptian city of Suez and the entrance to the Suez Canal. Along the mid-line of the gulf is the boundary between Africa and Asia.
We stopped for coffee at Zafrana House and it was a treat by the manager Santu Uncle. The place was clean and organised. There were souvenir shops but everything was expensive.
We again continued our journey and saw lots of ships waiting to enter the Suez Canal. It is a sea-level waterway in Egypt, connecting the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea through the Isthmus of Suez. Constructed by the Suez Canal Company between 1859 and 1869, it officially opened on 17 November 1869. The canal offers watercraft a more direct route between the North Atlantic and northern Indian oceans via the Mediterranean and Red seas, thus avoiding the South Atlantic and southern Indian oceans and reducing the journey distance. The original canal featured a single-lane waterway with passing locations in the Ballah Bypass and the Great Bitter Lake. In August 2014, the Egyptian government launched construction to expand and widen the Ballah Bypass for 35 km (22 mi) to speed the canal’s transit time. On 24 February 2016, the Suez Canal Authority officially opened the new side channel. This side channel, located at the northern side of the east extension of the Suez Canal, serves the East Terminal for berthing and unberthing vessels from the terminal. As the East Container Terminal is located on the Canal itself, before the construction of the new side-channel it was not possible to berth or unberth vessels at the terminal while a convoy was running. It was too dark so we could not click good pictures of the ships.
We went for dinner in Caviar Seafood Restaurant before going to our hotel Movenpick. Our rooms were interconnected which was fun.
Day 4 – 2nd January 2020
This was our last day in Egypt. Mummy woke up at 7am and decided to take a walk around the resort. I heard her idea and immediately jumped out of bed and got ready to join her. Papa, Mummy & I walked around and clicked lots of pictures in the kid’s zone and near the pool along with other buildings. We then got ready and had breakfast before proceeding to the bus with our luggage.
We got to see Cairo city on our way to our final destination.
We went to see the Cairo Museum in the city. It is home to an extensive collection of ancient Egyptian antiquities. Built-in 1901 by the Italian construction company Garozzo-Zaffarani to a design by the French architect Marcel Dourgnon, the edifice is one of the largest museums in the region. In 2020 the museum is due to be superseded by the new Grand Egyptian Museum at Giza. The Egyptian Museum in Cairo houses over 120,000 artefacts, including the contents of Tutankhamen’s tomb and most of the mummies that have been discovered since the 19th century. The museum’s exhibits span from the beginning of the Old Kingdom of Ancient Egypt (approximately 2700 BC) through the Greco-Roman period. The building consists of two floors. Upstairs the museum is organized thematically with a large portion of the area taken up the exhibit of the contents of Tutankhamun’s tomb, including his famous funerary mask. Also upstairs is the room dedicated to the beautiful jewellery discovered in the Royal Tombs of Tanis. On the ground floor, we could follow the history of Egypt from the Old Kingdom up through the Greco-Roman period.
Shrief had told us that if we had listened to his stories during the trip, we would know most of the history of the statues and related artefacts. It was very true since we knew most of the background history of kings like Ramses II, Hatshepsut, Khufu, Khafre, Amenhotep III, Tutankhamun etc.
We also saw mummies of Yuya & Thuya who were the great grandparents of Tutankhamun. Yuya was a powerful Egyptian courtier during the Eighteenth dynasty of Egypt (circa 1390 BC). He was married to Tjuyu, an Egyptian noblewoman associated with the royal family, who held high offices in the governmental and religious hierarchies. Their daughter, Tiye, became the Great Royal Wife of Amenhotep III. Akhenaten (meaning “Effective for Aten”), known before the fifth year of his reign as Amenhotep IV (sometimes given its Greek form, Amenophis IV, and meaning “Amun Is Satisfied”), was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty, who ruled for 17 years and died perhaps in 1336 BC or 1334 BC. He was the son of Amenhotep III and father of Tutankhamun. He is noted for abandoning traditional Egyptian polytheism and introducing worship centred on the Aten (notably instead of Amun, the temples of which he destroyed, the name of whom he rubbed off and the priests of whom he left without resources), which is sometimes described as monolatristic, henotheistic, or even quasi-monotheistic. An early inscription likens the Aten to the sun as compared to stars, and later official language avoids calling the Aten a god, giving the solar deity a status above mere gods. Akhenaten tried to shift his culture from Egypt’s traditional religion, but the shifts were not widely accepted. After his death, his monuments were dismantled and hidden, his statues were destroyed, and his name excluded from the king lists.
After the museum, we went to eat at Bonne Soiree Restaurant. This was our last meal in Egypt. We also bought a few more souvenirs outside the restaurant. We clicked pictures with our guide Shrief and our Egyptian tour manager Tariq.
Finally, we were dropped off at the airport. At 7pm, we boarded our flight to Riyadh. We had expected Riyadh Airport to be like Jeddah Airport but we were surprised to see that it was a beautiful airport. We boarded our flight to Mumbai at 2am and reached at 8am. Mummy Papa & Vibhi had their onward flight from T1 airport while my flight to Bangalore was from T2, so we parted ways at the airport and the trip came to an end for me!