As I sat in the coach that was transferring this handful of tired tourists to our ship at Luxor, I cried. They were tears of happiness. Alone, I had flown here to Egypt to finally visit the country that had fascinated me for years. But I had broken a promise to myself: ‘To never visit Egypt until I can translate the hieroglyphs without the need for a guide’. A naïve promise made by a 17-year-old shop assistant. What could I possibly know about this ancient language?
Exactly ten years later and working in IT, I had accepted that hieroglyphs were never going to be a part of my skill set, and booked my trip here.
Stepping off the plane, my body felt as though it were standing in front of an open oven door. The hot air rushed through and out of my nostrils, as if it might char me if I breathed too slowly. I was in awe;
ecstatic to have found the courage to travel alone, and excited by every tiny detail.
The Colossi of Memnon were the first historical structures I saw, standing proud in their barren, dusty land. Locals passed them by as if they were merely bystanders to this game of life. Cars drove on, pedestrians passed without even a glance, yet I turned to stare; my eyes transfixed until I could focus on them no more. I wanted to clamber out. To explore, take photos and absorb it all. My senses were working overtime; tingling for every moment.
“Are you okay?” a fellow passenger whispered.
“I’m just,” I mumbled softly as I rubbed my eyes, “I’m just so happy.”
She looked at me with an expression of slight shock, perhaps not fully appreciating how one holiday could mean so much. It was not just a perfectly formed Kuoni tour; booked for the want of ‘somewhere to go’. For me, this Nile cruise was a great laugh in the face of the depression that had consumed my childhood years. It was a solid stand against the pressure of having someone to travel with, and my first step towards the freedom of independence. I had craved the country for years, and somehow found the strength to turn up when I least expected to. It was dusty, it was stifling, and it was frightening. Yes, Egypt was more than I ever wanted it to be.
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