Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Egypt. Show all posts

Researchers Discover Two Hidden Chambers Inside Egypt's Great Pyramid

It seems the discoveries just keep coming in Egypt, a civilization thousands of years old with plenty of monuments to prove it. Researchers in Cairo now say that they have discovered "cavities" inside one of the most well known and iconic structures on Earth – the Great Pyramid itself.

The discovery was made using imaging technology called muography. This technique uses special equipment to analyze radioactive particles known as muons. Analysts can detect where the particles are most dense or least dense to help create an image of the interior of spaces. In this way, it works much like ground penetrating radar, providing a map of the interior of the pyramid itself. 

According to reports, the team conducting the study says that they are "now able to confirm the existence of a ‘void’ hidden behind the North Face, that could have the form of at least one corridor going inside the Great Pyramid.” The team added that “The precise shape, size, and exact position of this void is now under further investigation. It should be done with the help of 12 new Muon Emulsion plates that are installed in the descending corridor, and will be collected by the end of October 2016.”

The same researchers say that they have also located a second "void" in the structure that is located behind the descending corridor inside the pyramid as well. This corridor is the one that leads directly down into the structure to the tomb of the pharaoh Khufu, who had the pyramid constructed as his burial chamber some 4500 years ago. 

What does all of this mean? We'll just have to wait for further information to know for sure, but it could confirm the existence of hidden chambers inside the Great Pyramid. What those chambers could contain would be open to speculation of course, but anyone who has ever been inside these structures can tell you that they are unimpressive other than from an architectural/construction sense. Unlike the tombs in the Valley of the Kings and Queens, the walls are not covered in hieroglyphs or painted in ornamental styles. Instead, they are bare, smooth, and colorless. The corridor and chambers are relatively small, and even a bit claustrophobic. But, it is possible that important items for Khufu were stashed in these spaces to prevent them from being looted by thieves.

Of course, it is also hard to get too excited about these "discoveries" considering the hype that was made last year about possibly finding the tomb of Nefertiti hidden inside that of the boy-king Tut. Those claims later seemed to have been proved false, although archaeologists continue to research the findings. Will this be a similar story? If these chambers inside the Pyramid are real, will they hold anything of value? Or are they just part of how the structure was made? It will likely be months before we know for sure, but it is definitely intriguing to think about. 

Nefertiti's Tomb Not Found in King Tut's Tomb After All

One of the more fascinating stories that we've been following over the past year was the possibility of hidden chambers inside King Tut's tomb in Egypt. The story first broke when an archeologist by the name of Nicholas Reeves proposed the theory that such hidden rooms might exist after making laser scans of Tut's burial chambers. He then postulated that those hidden areas could belong to the lost queen of Nefertiti, who was Tut's step mother and may have ruled Egypt before him.

Fuel was added to the fire last fall when it was announced that ground penetrating radar has been used at the ancient site, and those scans had revealed that there indeed blank spaces hidden behind Tut's walls. This seemed to show that Reeve's theories were proving accurate, and that archaeologists were on the verge of making a major discovery.

But now it has been revealed that those scans may not have been accurate at all, and that there really isn't anything hidden in Tut's tomb as first thought. A second scan of the tomb, funded by National Geographic earlier this year, reportedly found no evidence of hidden chambers. Furthermore, there are Egyptologists who are claiming that the Egyptian government is suppressing the news as long as they can in order to maintain the illusion that a discovery may be imminent for as long as possible. The idea of finding Nefertiti's remains was seen as a major find, and could potentially be a boost to the country's flagging tourism sector.

Apparently, Nat Geo's second scanning operation is wrapped up in non-disclosure agreement, which means no one can officially confirm the story at this time. We'll have to wait for the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities to make a statement before we know for sure, but those close to the story say that Egyptian officials are in a bit of a panic over the lack of a new discovery and are looking for alternate opinions and evidence before proceeding.

This story made headlines just a few months ago, but now seems to be completely without merit. That's a bit depressing considering how much hype surrounded the potential discovery. Hopefully we'll get the real story soon so we can either move ahead with learning more about what's in Tut's tomb, or put in behind us altogether.

Hidden Chambers Confirmed in King Tut's Tomb

One of the more interesting stories in archaeology that we've been following over the past several months is the possibility of hidden chambers existing inside King Tut's tomb. The theory that such chambers might existed started with British archaeologist Nicholas Reeves, who has been studying the tomb for decades. He believes that the hidden chambers may be a second tomb, possibly containing the remains of the lost Egyptian queen Nefertiti.

Last fall, a team of researchers entered Tut's tomb and used gourd penetrating radar to scan the walls in two locations that Reeves identified as being possible entryways to hidden rooms. Yesterday, the results of those scans was revealed at long last, and it is now looking like his theories may be true, at least in part.

Yesterday, the Egyptian antiquities minister Mamdouh Eldamaty, held a press conference in Cairo to announce the findings. He told those in attendance that the radar scans not only confirm the existence of the two hidden chambers, but also revealed that those rooms contain items that are made of both metal and organic materials. That would be consistent with what you would expect to find in another tomb, although it remains to be seen whether or not the remains of Nefertiti.

Eldamaty says that “It could be the discovery of the century,” although he refused to speculate too much on what might be found inside. Another radar scan is scheduled to take place in a couple of week to take a closer look at the interior of the chambers and give archaeologists an idea of how to proceed with potentially opening them.

As you can imagine, working with such an ancient monument requires delicate, painstaking techniques, and at this point there is no plan to start the process of opening the new chambers. That will likely come in time, after researchers have further studied the make up of the rooms. What lies behind those walls remains a mystery for now, but it could be treasures on par with what were originally discovered in Tut's tomb, or it could be something else entirely. We'll just have to be patient to see what more mysteries will be revealed.

Video: Climbing the Great Pyramid of Giza

A few days ago I posted a video of an urban climber ascending a tower in Dubai. Today, we have another urban climber, but this time he's going up one of the most iconic structures ever built - the Great Pyramid at Giza. The view from the top is pretty spectacular, but I have some pretty mixed emotions about this one. Hopefully this doesn't become a trend, as these pyramids are over 4500 years old and are the last of the Seven Wonders of the World that remain. Keeping people from damaging them should be a priority.

Scans Suggest Hidden Chambers and Passages in King Tut's Tomb

Back in August, I posted a story about an archaeologist who had proposed a theory that there may be hidden chambers inside King Tut's tomb, and that those chambers could in fact lead to the final resting spot of Nefertiti, one of Egypt's most well known female historical figures, whose burial site has never been found. Now, just a few short months later, researchers are saying that they believe that these secret passages may indeed exist, and could contain treasures that go well beyond those found in the boy-king's burial chamber.

Last week, archaeologists took ground penetrating radar into the tomb of Tutankhamen in attempt to peer beyond the existing walls in search of hidden passages behind two panels that may be secret doors. On Saturday, they announced their findings, which look very promising. So promising in fact, that Egyptian antiquities minister Mamdouh Eldamaty now says that there is about a 90% chance that another chamber sits hidden behind the north wall of Tut's tomb, and that there is evidence of another hidden doorway along the west wall as well.

The results of the radar scans lend credence to the theory that was put forth in July by British archaeologist Nicholas Reeves. He spotted the potential hidden chambers while reviewing the physical layout of the tomb, and extrapolated that the area beyond could be the resting place of Nefertiti, who was the Tut's mother in law. Since than, others have physically examined the tomb as well, and found evidence to support Reeves' theory. The radar scans were simply the next step in looking for further clues, and were necessary before any kind of excavation could potentially begin.

Reeves, who has been studying Tut's tomb for more than 30 years, says that he first got the idea that more hidden chambers could exist when he looked at laser scans that were made of the burial chamber back in 2009. They showed structural differences that weren't readily apparent thanks to the paint and other decorations that are a part of the walls. He also says that he believes most of the artifacts found in Tut's tomb were actually originally made for someone else. Most likely a woman.

He has further postulated that Nefertiti didn't just pass out of history when her husband – a powerful pharaoh named Akhenaten – died, but instead ascended to the throne herself. Reeves says he thinks she changed her name to Smenkhkare, and much like Hatshepsut, the female-pharaoh that proceeded her, ruled the country for a time.

Whether or not the hidden chambers do exist, and what treasures they might hold, is likely to remain a mystery for a bit longer. It'll take some time before a team of archaeologists can carefully remove the sections of the wall that cover the secret passages, as they'll go to great lengths to not damage the existing site. That will be painstaking work for sure, but once completed it could reveal a piece of hidden history that will be fascinating to behold.

For now, we'll just have to wait patiently for more news. If there are hidden chambers behind the walls of Tut's tomb, they have been locked away for more than 3400 years. They can wait just a bit longer to be revealed to the world.

Canadian Adventurer Planning a Walk Across Africa from Cape Town to Cairo

A Canadian fitness expert and adventurer is preparing to embark on what promises to be the journey of a lifetime. Mario Rigby is in the final stages of planning an epic trek across the entire African continent, heading south to north. His journey will begin in Cape Town, South Africa, with the hopes of eventually reaching Cairo, Egypt by traveling only on foot, by sail, or paddle.

Rigby had dubbed his expedition Crossing Africa, and he plans to get underway on November 24. His planned route will take him out of South Africa into Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya. From there, he may choose to continue into Uganda and proceed into South Sudan, or detour across Ethiopia instead depending on the political situation in that region as he approaches. Finally, he'll trek across Sudan and into Egypt as he eventually pushes towards the finish line.

As he walks across Africa, Mario says that he expects to cover approximately 10,000 km (6213 miles) along the way, and has projected that it will take him about 15 months to complete the entire journey. He plans to live on just a few dollars a day, and will be camping in the wild much of the time, but hopes to stay with locals while passing through towns and villages.

Rigby says he has numerous reasons for undertaking this tremendous journey. First and foremost, he wants to test the boundaries of human endurance, both physically and mentally. He also hopes to study the importance of health and fitness in difficult environments, while also investigating the how African tribes have adapted to those same environments. He also hopes to use this trip to inspire others to do adventurous things, and he wants to bring more awareness to the importance of conserving the environment. All ambitious goals to say the least, but certainly obtainable given the scope of his expedition.

Currently, Mario is on a training walk from Toronto to Montreal, which is serving as a warm-up for things to come. But soon, he'll depart for South Africa where he will begin the walk in just a few short weeks. You can follow his progress on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to get updates on how he is doing. The video below also serves as a good introduction.

Thanks to my friend Julian Monroe Fisher for sharing Mario's story with me.

Video: Cairo in Timelapse

This video transports us to the streets of Cairo – one of the most iconic cities on the planet – to give us a glimpse of life in that impossibly busy, chaotic, and colorful destination. You'll see some of Egypt's well known monuments, including the pyramids and sphinx, as well as other amazing architecture, fascinating people, and the incredibly bad traffic that the city is known for. Having visited Cairo on more than one occasion, I can tell you that it is a place of contrasts, with history and culture to be explored around every corner.

CairoLapse from Hisham Moll on Vimeo.

Is the Search for Nefertiti Nearly Over?

The Egyptian queen Nefertiti has long been held in high regard by historians, Egyptologists, and archaeologists alike. Legendary her for her beauty, Nefertiti was the wife of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, who ruled the country from 17 years. During their reign, Egypt shifted from a pantheon of gods, to the worship of a single god, bringing monotheism to the Egyptian people for the first time.

Nefertiti reigned alongside her husband and she had unprecedented power as compared to most women. Ancient Egypt was a patriarchal society, and while women were generally held in high regard, the seldom were allowed to rule the country. But Nefertiti was an exception to that rule, and as queen she curried great favor with the king and his court.

But what exactly happened to this powerful woman remains a mystery. Whether she died before her husband or out lived him seems to be a matter of debate, but there did seem to be a concerted attempt to erase her from Egyptian history at one point, which makes it difficult to surmise what became of her. For centuries historians and archaeologists have tried to discover Nefertiti's fate, and while there are plenty of theories, there has been little hard evidence to go on. Her tomb has never been found, and there seems to be little trace of her final resting place – something that is quite odd for a person of her stature.

That might be changing however, as a new theory put fourth by a British archaeologist working at the University of Arizona may finally uncover her tomb at long last. Nicholas Reeves says that by studying digital scans of the tomb of King Tut, he may have found two previously undiscovered "ghost doors" which may lead to another burial chamber beyond.

Tut would have been the next king to succeed Akhenaten, and since he only lived to be about 17 years old, his burial chamber wasn't quite prepared yet at the time of his death. Reeves believes that Tut was placed in a tomb that was originally built for a queen, and that it was hastily walled up to make room for the boy-king instead.

Reeves points to a number of clues to back up his hypothesis. For starters, Tut's tomb was far smaller than was appropriate for a pharaoh, and some of the items found resting with him came from an older era. Both are indications that the tomb may have been previously used for someone else. The design and size of the tomb indicate that it was perhaps meant for a queen of the 18th Dynasty, of which Nefertiti was the last great one.

Reeves' theory has garnered a great deal of buzz within the archaeology community. His logic is sound, and there are indications of possible hidden chambers off of Tut's tomb. But it will take some time to confirm whether or not they do exist. Researchers will likely take ground penetrating radar into the tomb to see if there are indeed chambers on the other side of the walls. If they are found, it will take even longer to excavate them, as the process will likely be painstakingly slow so as to not damage the chamber. So,while the final resting place of Nefertiti may be close at hand, it could be years before we know if Reeve is correct. Still, it is an interesting theory to say the least, and it could give us more insight into what became of the legendary queen who remains an enduring enigma even into the 21st century.

Adventures in Egypt: Alexandria

Over the past few weeks I've been sharing some stories from my recent travels through Egypt as part of an itinerary hosted by G Adventures. During my visit there, I explored Cairo, walked in the shadow of the Great Pyramid, visited the ancient site of Abu Simbel, and hiked into the Valley of the Kings and Queens. I also wandered through the White Desert and visited the charming Siwa Oasis. For the final leg of the journey, my traveling companions and I left the remote regions of the Western Desert behind and traveled to Alexandria, a city with a long history that is also modern and vibrant.

I have to admit, I was a bit sad to leave Siwa Oasis behind when we set out for Alexandria. As much as was looking forward to seeing the city that was once the capital of Egypt under the rule of Alexander the Great, Siwa was such an enchanting place that even after spending a couple of days there, I wasn't quite ready to move on. Still, there were things to see and do elsewhere in Egypt, and our 2300 mile (3700 km) journey wasn't done just yet.

We struck out from Siwa in the early morning, as there were many miles to cover before we reached our destination. Traveling north out of the desert, we eventually reach Egypt's Mediterranean Coast. It was a revelation to see that body of water after spending days wandering through the dunes of the Western Desert. To celebrate, we stopped in the city of El Dabaa to not only stretch our legs on the long (8+ hour) journey to Alexandria, but to get a good look at what Egypt had to offer in terms of beaches. Unsurprisingly, those beaches were beautiful, giving us a great look at a section of the North African coastline that was simply gorgeous.

After spending a brief time in El Dabaa we were back on the road to Alexandria, although for the remainder of the journey we never wandered far from the coastline. To the south of us the desert still stretched into infinity, but to the north the Mediterranean Sea glistened blue in the mid-day sun. It was a spectacular contrast to behold, in a country that is full of contrasts.

It took anther couple of hours to reach Alexandria, and after spending a few days in the quiet and peaceful Siwa Oasis, it was a bit of a shock to the system to arrive back in civilization. Much like in Cairo, the traffic in Alexandria is insane, with far too many vehicles on the road, and a constant dine of horn blaring at one another. It was a startling shift from the quiet time we had spent in the desert, and it took a bit of time to adjust properly.

Once we had acclimated back to the hustle and bustle of a big city, it was easy to see the appeal of Alexandria. This modern, and very cosmopolitan, town clearly has its roots in Egyptian culture, but also exhibits influences from around the Med and Europe as well. The streets are lined with shops and restaurants, thousands of people are moving to and fro, and the city has an energy about it that I didn't experience anywhere else in the country. The mood and setting there is just so different from a place like Cairo.

That isn't to say that Alexandria lacks in ancient wonders for visitors to take in. For instance, the Citadel of Qaitbay is an impressive structure built back in the 15th century on the site of the old lighthouse that was once considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. This fortress was built by a Sultan back in 1477, and still stands guard over the Eastern Harbor to this day.

Other things to do in Alexandria include touring the Catacombs of Kom ash-Suqqafa, a large Roman burial site that was discovered back in 1900. Pompey's Pillar is also worth a look, as the 30 meter (98 foot) tall column is a great reminder of Egypt's amazing architecture and ingenuity. The pillar was named after Pompey Magnus, a Roman leader who was supposedly killed in Egypt not far from the site. But in reality, it is part of the remains of a temple that was constructed decades after that incident.

Of course, Alexandria is well known for once having a vast repository of ancient knowledge stored at the famous library that once stood there. That structure was destroyed by a series of fires and attacks, with its ultimate demise coming in the third century AD. When the library was completely destroyed, it took a great deal of information with it, creating a bit of a dark age that followed. It is believed, for instance, that the library had important information about how the pyramids were built, something that confounds us even to this day.

Today, there is a modern library in Alexandria that is still quite a sight to behold. The massive building continues to hold an impressive amount of information and knowledge, although much of it is now contained on computers, DVD's, and other modern storage mediums. Still, there are a tremendous number of books in the library. The site also hosts many conferences and seminars too, making it one of the top destinations in the world for scholars, students, and travelers alike. For my part, I wandered the halls there in awe and wonder of the incredibly modern building that is dedicated to learning.

Alexandria is a bit of an anomaly in Egypt in that it has a solid night life to go along with the other attractions that you find there. Because of its Mediterranean influences, there are a number of good restaurants and clubs, and it isn't too hard to find a place to enjoy a drink at the end of the day. This isn't necessarily the case in other Egyptian cities, where alcohol is at a premium.

Shopping is another area in which Alexandria stands out. While I'm not much of shopper myself, it was hard to ignore the streets lined with all manner of shops, not to mention street vendors hawking various other wares. Prices seemed quite reasonable too, although the city is more expensive than other parts of Egypt in terms of food and drink.

For me, Alexandria was the perfect way to end my trip to Egypt. It is a bustling city with plenty to see and do, even through the crowds and traffic could be a bit overwhelming at times. Still, the blend of history, culture, and modern sensibilities, along with a dash of Mediterranean flare, gives it a unique feeling that is all its own. The city is unlike any other place in the country, which makes it very special. Any visit to Egypt isn't complete, without first dropping by Alexandria.

After a few days in the city, it was back to Cairo to catch a late flight home. After 16 days of travel, over a wide range of destinations, I was ready to depart. But Egypt is a place that stays with you for a lifetime, and I've been fortunate enough to go there twice now. It is a special country to be sure, and with a history that dates back nearly 10,000 years, it is easy to understand why it holds such an appeal for travelers.

I want to thank my friends at G Adventures once again for hosting me on this amazing trip. We traveled by bus, plane, train, boat, camel, donkey, and bike on this tour of Egypt's wonders, and it was an incredibly fulfilling experience all around.

Adventures in Egypt: The Siwa Oasis

It has been more than a month since I returned from my journey through Egypt, and during that time I've been off on another adventure to three of America's national parks. But there are still stories to share from my visit to northern Africa as well, even though I have already posted extensively about the trip. If you missed those posts from a few weeks back, you'l find them here: Part 1: Quiet and Calm in Cairo, Part 2: The Great Pyramid of Giza, Part 3: The Valley of the Kings and Queens – By Donkey, and Part 4: Into The White Desert.

As always, I'd be remiss if I didn't think my fantastic hosts at G Adventures for bringing me along on this journey. All of the things that I saw and did while I was on this trip were a part of their Absolute Egypt itinerary, a 16-day marathon that takes you to just about every corner of the country. If you're looking to visit Egypt yourself – and truly now is the time to go – than have a look at this option, or one of the other options that G Adventures offers. They truly have some of the best tours for seeing this amazing country.

When I last left off, I had been spending some time in the breathtaking White Desert, a region that is marked with chalk rock formations that spread out as far as the eye can see. Those deposits look like snow in the hot sand, with thousands of years of wind carving away some very interesting and distinct formations. It is a very memorable setting, and a great example of how the desert can be a truly beautiful place.

After spending a few days in the hot desert, it was time to move on to our next destination, which was the small town of Siwa Oasis. As the name implies, the city sits in spot that affords it some respite from the desert, with both fresh and saltwater lakes nearby. The area is surprisingly lush with trees and green grasses growing throughout the oasis, although towering sand dunes sit just outside the Siwa city limits.

As one of Egypt's most isolated and remote cities, Siwa sits just 50 km (30 miles) from the border with Libya. Over the centuries the small town developed its own cultures and traditions, independent of much of the rest of the country. Mostly inhabited by members of the Berber tribe, Siwa is its own unique place that holds a lot of allure for visitors who are looking to escape the hustle and bustle found in many Egypt's larger metropolitan areas. In Siwa, it is as if life stand still with a peaceful solicitude and a slower pace to life.

The city is a historical setting that was once home to the Oracle of Amon, one of the more powerful deities in Egyptian mythology. There are also a wide variety of ruins spread out across the area, with the most prominent being the Shali Ghadi, a set of buildings made of mud and salt that were almost completely destroyed by three days of constant raining back in 1926. The oasis rarely sees rainfall of course, so its inhabitants have always built their structures out of mud. But the heavy rains caused those buildings to melt over several days of downpours, and the remains of that disaster are still part of Siwa today.

There are also a series of ancient tombs located on the outskirts of town at a place called the Mountain of the Dead. This monument is left over from the Roman era, when many such tombs were carved out of the nearby rock.

During my stay in Siwa I found it to be one of the most relaxed stops on the entire tour. The quiet town is less of a tourist stop, so visitors aren't constantly harassed by merchants to buy their goods, and  the locals seem accommodating and accepting of visitors. It is the perfect place to escape the constant buzz of energy that surrounds Cairo, Aswan, and Luxor, which have far more interesting ancient sites to explore, but are also over run with travelers during their busier times. Here, the quiet life of a remote village of Egypt can be experienced fully, and it was a really nice change of pace.

That isn't to say that we weren't active during our stay in Siwa. In fact, on one day we took a tour of the city by bike that was both insightful and enjoyable in many ways. It is easy to rent a bike near the town center, and they are adequate for roaming about the oasis. Just don't expect that bike to be of top-notch quality, and be prepared for some discomfort along the way. Also, the traffic in the town can be a bit hairy as you pedal your way about. Most of the vehicles won't be on the lookout for you, so keep your eyes peeled for oncoming traffic, pedestrians walking in strange places, and random animals darting out into the road.

My cycling trip took me to the foot of the Mountain of the Dead, where the ancient tombs were on display. I also wandered to an incredibly well preserved old mosque, and past an ancient ruin that was purportedly a temple dedicated to Alexander the Great. But the best part of riding around Siwa was simply just seeing the daily lives of those who lived there. At one point we passed through a busy market, at another we rolled through a residential area, and sometimes we just pedaled down back streets. But on that ride I saw many locals busy with the tasks of the day, and it was refreshing to see them go about their work.

A true highlight of a visit to Siwa is taking a plunge in Cleopatra's Bath, a pool filled with natural spring water that is both cool and refreshing on hot days. Legend has it that Cleopatra visited Siwa and bathed in these waters, which in turn gave her the beauty that she is so famous for. In reality, she never even came to the place, but it makes a good story to share with the tourists I'm sure.

The pool is a great place to take a swim, and since it is frequented by many locals, it is another good place to interact with them as well. But be warned, it can also get quite crowded at times. I was there in the late morning, and it was the perfect setting, but later, as I climbed back aboard my bike to continue riding, it was starting to get quite full.

Siwa is a place where you can see just about everything the town has to offer in a day or two. But, because it is so relaxed and laid back, it is also a place that you probably won't be in a hurry to leave either. There are some surprisingly good restaurants to eat at there, and while there isn't any kind of jumping nightlife, there are still some fun places to pass away the evening sipping a tea while smoking shisha and watch life unfold. This is a place that is an oasis in more ways than one, and it is easy to understand the appeal of living there.

Visitors to Siwa should also be sure to take in the amazing sunsets. Late in the day, as the sun drops in the west, go to the old town and climb to the top of one of the prominent hills or open ruins. There you'll find that the air cools dramatically as darkness begins to set in. But before that happens, the sun hangs like a giant ball of fire along the horizon, illuminating the landscape with various shades of red, orange, and pink. It is a wonderful way to close out a long day of exploring the oasis, and quite peaceful as well.

As you can probably tell, I was quite smitten by Siwa. It was a surprisingly restful place in a remote corner of the Western Desert. If you're planning on visiting Egypt, and you want a place to go that is far off the beaten path away from the tourist stops, than Siwa just might be the place. It takes a bit of doing just to get there, and you won't find a lot of amenities when you arrive, but it is hard not to be charmed by the relaxed and simple lifestyle that you'll find there. Apart from the impressive ancient sites, it just might be my favorite place in the entire country.

I've almost wrapped up my tale of Egyptian adventure. I have one more post to share on the topic before moving on. To wrap up my journey through this ancient country I left Siwa Oasis behind and traveled to Alexandria on the Mediterranean Coast, a place that has its own history and legends. It too is unlike other cities in Egypt as well, and more than lives up to its billing.

Video: Nat Geo Drone Footage of Nubian Pyramids

You'll have to forgive me for being a bit Egypt-obsessed at the moment. Since returning from the country a few weeks back, I've been thinking about it a lot, and writing about my experiences there. This video of course caught my attention, as it features footage of Nubian pyramids in Sudan, that were captured by a drone operated by National Geographic engineer Alan Turchick. It is a great way to view these ancient monuments, which have a certain grandeur that is best when taken in from a bird's eye view.

Update: It has been pointed out that the sites in this video are actually in Sudan, and not Egypt. Sudan was actually a part of Egypt for hundreds of years, and the Nubians were a people that lived in that part of the world. It is important to make that distinction, so I thought I'd clarify the text some.

Adventures in Egypt: Into the White Desert

This is the latest post in a series I've been doing about my recent journey through Egypt. If you're interested in reading the other stories I've shared from that experience, you'll find them here: Part 1 - Quiet and Calm in Cairo, Part 2 - The Great Pyramid of Giza, Part 3 -Abu Simbel, Aswan, and Luxor – the Other Ancient Wonders, and Part 4 - The Valley of the Kings and Queens – By Donkey!

As always, thanks to G Adventures for sponsoring this trip. If you find that you'd like to follow in my footsteps and do the same things that I did in Egypt, you can join their Absolute Egypt tour and experience it all yourself.

Over the first week or so of the journey through Egypt I visited a lot of ancient monuments, many of which I had seen the first time I visited the country more than a decade ago. Those monuments, which includes the Pyramids and Sphinx, the Temples of Luxor and Karnak, and the amazing Abu Simbel, are certainly awe inspiring and amazing to behold. So, even though I had visited most of them in the past, it was refreshing to see them once again, particularly since crowds were nonexistent, providing a different experience. But, as the trip wore on, I was eager to see a side of Egypt that I hadn't had a chance to experience just yet. That came when at long last we left the well-worn tourist route, and made our way out into the desert. Here, we would see very few other travelers, but Egypt's ancient wonders gave way to its natural beauty, which is fantastic in its own right.

The journey into the Sahara began by setting out bright and early from the city of Luxor to the small town of Dakhla Oasis. It is a long day on the road, broken up by a number of military checkpoints that stopped our vehicle often to check passports, search bags, and have a look at the travelers. These checkpoints turn a long drive into a real slog, but they are necessary to maintain peace and security throughout the country. This leg of the journey was nothing compared to what would come later however, as the trip from Bahariya to Siwa would take nine hours to complete, with 34 checkpoints to pass along the way.

Arriving in Dakhla it was clear that we were far from the more tourist destinations that we had been visiting. This was rural Egypt, with few amenities for foreigners. The hotels and restaurants are simple, and there is little to do in the town itself. It was fascinating to see a different side of Egyptian life, but the village is not one you'd want to spend too much time in.

But Dakhla does provide access to an amazing natural setting. The nearby White Desert is a national park that spreads out for hundreds of kilometers across the Sahara. It gets its name from the chalk rock formations that cover the area, making it seem like their is snow covering the desert itself. Over the centuries the winds have carved those rocks into unique formations, creating a landscape filled with stone mushrooms, spheres, and even one shaped like a rabbit.

The White Desert is only accessible by 4x4, and we were led into by a team of excellent and knowledgeable guides from Egyptical Tours. They took us through some of the more interesting areas of this natural wonder, while giving us a glimpse of the natural forces that have shaped the landscape there. 

All of Egypt is dry and warm of course, but the deep desert even more so. It was a challenge to stay properly hydrated while visiting this section of the country, despite the fact that we were constantly drinking water. The air is so dry there that any moisture evaporates very quickly, and even stepping into the shade of one of the many rock formations brought a noticeable change in temperature. It is a rugged, arid place that is captivating in its stark beauty. At times, it looks otherworldly, and it is a major contrast from the more popular tourist destinations that Egypt is known for.

Because the White Desert is a protected area, we were allowed to travel through it only at a cautious pace. The rock formations are fragile, and the Egyptian government is doing what it can to protect them. At one point, when we had stopped for lunch, a local ranger dropped by and sternly admonished our guides for parking one of the vehicles atop a rock formation. A fine was even issued – and paid – on the spot. Apparently they enforce the rules very sternly there.

After lunch we drove out of the White Desert and into a more open section of the Sahara. Here we were able to open up the engines on the 4x4's and go plunging up and down some steep stand dunes. That brought a much appreciated jolt of adrenaline before we drove off into a remote corner of the desert that would serve as our campsite for the night.

While the guides went about setting up camp, the rest of us settled in on top of a towering sand dune and watch the sun set. The temperature dropped nicely as we watched, and the many hues of red, yellow, and orange that make up the landscape were on display nicely.

That evening was one of the true highlights of the entire Egyptian trip for me. Camping in the desert may have provided the best nights sleep I had on the entire trip. While most of the group huddled together near the vehicles, I grabbed my sleeping mat and bag, and dragged them off a short distance from the camp for a little solitude.

The quiet of the desert was simply wonderful, but not nearly as amazing as the night sky overhead. As the night wore on, the moon set behind the horizon, wrapping the Earth in darkness. But the sheer magnitude of stars overhead brought the Milky Way to life in stunning fashion. It was an impressive sight to say the least, and easily one of the best views of the heavens I have ever seen from any of the places that I have visited.

The next day we would break camp and head out on more desert adventure. We'd climb a few Egyptian "mountains" – a term I use very loosely – and explore other remote areas on our way to Bahariya Oasis. All of which was quite refreshing after the busy cities of Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan. But nothing could quite compare to that evening in the desert, which will stick with me for a long time to come. If you're going to visit Egypt, it is definitely worth it to see if you too can camp out in the Sahara.

From here, our trip itinerary took us on to Siwa, which was another highlight of the journey. There is more to tell about that place, which is another destination travelers should make time for. It is a place that also contrasts sharply from the rest of the country, and I will share more of that in a future post.

Adventures in Egypt: The Valley of the Kings and Queens - By Donkey!

As I continue recounting the tales of my recent journey to Egypt, I want to also continue to thank G Adventures for inviting me on this trip, and showing me aspects of the country that I didn't experience on my first visit more than a decade ago. If you happen to find these stories intriguing, and you'd like to visit Egypt yourself, you could do a lot worse than joining G's Absolute Egypt tour. The 16-day itinerary takes you from the boisterous and chaotic streets of Cairo, to the historic cities of Aswan and Luxor, and into the heart of the Sahara Desert and beyond. It is an all-encompassing trip that will show you everything that the country has to offer, including plenty of things that you never expected.

In my previous post, I highlighted a few of the other ancient wonder of Egypt. We all know that the Pyramids and Sphinx are highlights of any visit to the Middle Eastern country, but there are a number of other incredible sites to take in as well, including the magnificent structures at Abu Simbel and the amazing Temples of Karnak and Luxor. But even those places are just scratching the surface of the historical sights and monuments than Egypt has to offer. In fact, there are literally hundreds of other places to explore, and travelers could spend a lifetime trying to take them all in.

But one of the places that is a "must do" while in the country is the Valley of the Kings and Queens. For more than 500 years this site, which is located not far from the city of Luxor, was the designated resting place for the pharos. Over that period more than 63 tombs were constructed there, some very elaborate in their design. Inside were placed the bodies of Egypt's rulers, along with all of the items they would need to successfully see them through to the afterlife. The chambers were intricately painted with brightly colored images and hieroglyphs, and the tombs were no doubt filled with a stunning amount of gold and other precious items.

This particular valley was chosen for two reason. First, it happened to fall in the shadow of a mountain that bares an uncanny resemblance to a pyramid, which the Egyptians were no longer building at the time. And secondly, it was remote enough that it was thought that it would prevent tomb robbers from looting the valuables hidden inside. Ultimately that hope was futile, as all but one of the tombs was long since emptied before they were later discovered by archaeologists. That single undisturbed tomb belong to King Tutankhamun, a boy pharaoh how was incredibly insignificant in Egyptian history. None the less, his golden mask and sarcophagus continue to mesmerize visitors to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo to this day.

On the day I visited the Valley of the Kings and Queens, we were up bright and early for a unique departure. Unlike most travelers, my group wasn't simply driving to the Valley. Instead, we chose to visit it the same way that the ancient Egyptians did – on the backs of donkeys. So, we set off not long after dawn, first crossing the Nile in a small boat, before meeting our trusty steeds on the other side of the water. The donkey's seemed even less thrilled at the prospect of beginning the day with a ride, but they dutifully allowed us to mount up, and began heading towards our ultimate destination.

Over the next hour or so we rode through the streets and backroads of Luxor along its west bank. Along the way we passed through parts of town that were only just beginning to wake, and eventually we wander out into the countryside, where farms and homesteads dotted the landscape. It was actually a very pleasant way to take in the Egyptian countryside, despite the growing pain in my posterior. Thankfully, my mount elected to behave the entire length of the ride, but some of my companions were forced to endure the more obstinate attitude that donkeys are often famous for.

Eventually our morning jaunt came to an end, and we were forced to abandon our mounts in favor of more modern transportation into the Valley itself. Loading up in 4x4 vehicles we drove off into the hills to cover the short distance that remained. Shortly there after, I found myself wandering through ancient tombs that were adorned with an amazing number of brightly painted images. The colors inside those tombs were so well preserved it was almost as if they had been painted yesterday. Unfortunately, none of us were allowed to take photos, so you'll just have to use your imagination. But if you've ever seen a Mummy movie, you'll have at least an idea of what the chambers looked like.

Surprisingly enough, archaeologists operating inside the Valley of the Kings and Queens continue to find new tombs there. The latest was discovered back in 2008, but there are indications that there are still more to be found. Whether or not any of them will reveal a treasure trove on par with King Tut's remains to be seen, but considering how thorough the tomb raiders of the past were, it seems unlikely.

 Temple of Hatshepsut is located not far away, and was built to not only line up with the Valley itself, but also Karnak Temple backing the city of Luxor.
After spending the better part of the morning in the Valley, we loaded up once again and headed out for another ancient structure. The

The Temple of Hatshepsut is one of my favorites because it was carved out of the side of a mountain. It features an impressive number of pillars and chambers. It was dedicated as a monument to the god Amun-Ra, and even though it has been destroyed three times over the centuries, it remains an impressive site none the less.

The Temple was built to honor Egypt's only female pharaoh. Hatshepsut rose to power after her brother died at a premature age, and she was able to hold on to the throne for more than 20 years by disguising herself as a man. During that period, she established trade routes across Africa, explored the continent far and wide, and managed to expand the Egyptian empire. But she was overthrown by her nephew who returned to claim the throne, and later had her visage removed from all monuments that bore her name. At the time, it was impossible for a woman to rule Egypt, and the feud between the two nobles was a bitter one indeed.

After leaving Hatshepsut's temple we set off back to Luxor, but not without making one more stop to take in the Colossi of Memnon. This two massive statues mark the entrance of what was once a large temple, but little remains of the place now. The ancient site fell in the flood plane of the Nile, and as a result it was destroyed over the years. There is not much to see there now either, save the crumbling remains of what were once two magnificent statues.

One of the highlights of the G Adventure trip was getting the opportunity to visit the homes of several locals, and have a traditional meal there. After a full day of touring these monuments, we stopped for lunch with a local family. They provided us with an excellent meal with a variety of vegetables, meats, and flat breads, while also giving us a chance to see what daily life is like in modern Egypt. It was a quiet, simple affair, but an intriguing one none the less. The house was filled with young children, all of whom were interested in the foreign strangers who had invaded their home. In the kitchen, the wives went to work preparing our meal, while several of the adult males served as our hosts. Afterward, we all gathered for a group photo outside the home, but not surprisingly the ladies didn't join in.

With this final day of touring in Luxor behind us, my group prepared to set out for the desert. Soon we would leave the ancient wonders of Egypt behind in favor of its natural wonders instead. I was eager to embark on that stage of the journey, as it was a part of the country I hadn't seen yet. While it was said to leave all of the monuments, temples, and tombs behind, the desert was calling, and I was ready to see what it would have to offer.

I would soon find out.

Adventures in Egypt: Abu Simbel, Aswan, and Luxor - the Other Ancient Wonders

As I mentioned in a previous post, the most iconic symbol of Egypt is without a doubt the Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza. Who amongst us hasn't been memorized by images of those massive structures that have stood for more than 4500 years atop a plateau that overlooks what is now modern Cairo. Those immense tombs built as monuments to the Pharos Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure live up to their billing, inspiring an overwhelming sense of awe in those who stand in their shadows. There is a reason why the Great Pyramid is considered one of the Seven Wonder of the Ancient World, and it is more than evident when you stand beside it. But those amazing buildings aren't the only impressive structures to be found in Egypt. In fact, the country is filled with other temples, tombs, and statues that are impressive in their own right. Some of them even rival the Pyramids in terms of grandeur.

After spending the first day of my recent trip to Egypt in Cairo, where the Pyramids were definitely the highlight of the experience, I took an overnight train south to Aswan, a city that is well known for a decidedly more modern architectural wonder. It is here that a massive project was undertaken back in the 1960's to build a dam across the Nile. This dam provided the ability to control the river to a degree, preventing seasonal flooding that would destroy farms and villages along the banks of the famous river. That dam is now vital to the economy of the country, and its construction was quite a feat of modern construction back in the day.

Aswan is also the gateway to the deep south, where one of the most impressive monuments to ancient Egypt sits just a short distance away from the border with Sudan. The temples at Abu Simbel were built to commemorate the reign of Ramses II, the greatest Pharaoh in Egyptian history, as well as his wife Nefertari. These structures feature massive stone statues that were intricately carved out of rock faces depicting Ramses taking his place with the ancient gods that were worshipped throughout the country. He ordered the construction of the temples following his great victory at the Battle of Kadesh, during which Ramses defeated an army of Hittites in what may have been the largest chariot battle ever fought. It's location along the southern border of the Egyptian empire was to serve as a warning to invaders from Africa, and a testament to the power of the Pharaoh himself.

Abu Simbel has always been a popular attraction for travelers, although it is quite a trek out to the desert just to see it. It sits 300 km (186 miles) to the south of Aswan, in a remote region far from any other sites. The current home of the two temples wasn't where it originally stood either, which makes its location all the more curious. When the Aswan Dam was being built in the 60's, the temple had to relocated in its entirety, an effort that took hundreds of workers and cost millions of dollars. That undertaking was more than worth it however, as the site is one of the most impressive in all of Egypt, and it a fantastic look at what Egyptian craftsmen were able to accomplish thousands of years ago.

Walking inside the twin temples reveals well preserved paintings, statues, and chambers. While over the years some of the luster has worn off, there are still numerous places where visitors can catch a glimpse of what the place must have looked like when it was in its full glory. We can only imagine what this place must have looked like when it was first built, as it is magnificent even now.

Back in Aswan there is plenty of things for visitors to do as well. The Temple of Kalabsha is another great example of Egyptian architecture, and a well-stocked market is worth a stroll, provided you can put up with aggressive shopkeepers hawking their wares. The city is also a great place to take a sail aboard a traditional Nubian sailing ship known as a fulluca. Spending a few hours on the Nile River is a relaxing way to take in the daily life of those that live there, as is visit to nearby Nubian village, which gives you a look at a very different culture that has existed within Egypt for thousands of years.

A visit to Aswan at the moment also provides insight into just how few visitors are currently coming to Egypt. All along the river there are massive cruise ships moored to the docks just waiting for a large enough contingent of travelers to make the traditional cruise down the Nile. These boats have so few customers at the moment that it isn't even worth it for them to set sail. Dozens of them line the banks of the river, silent, empty, and unused. In time, I'm sure they'll be pressed back into service as travelers return to the country, but for now they are a sad reminder of just how hard the Egyptian tourism sector has been hit.

After a few days in Aswan, I moved north along the Nile to the city of Luxor, which was once known as Thebes in the ancient world. The city was originally built to honor the god Amon-Ra, and as such there are a number of major temples and other monuments to be found there. In fact, the entire city seems like an open-air museum, with ancient wonders to be found around every corner.

Not the least of those wonders is the incredible Temple of Karnak. This sprawling site is one of the largest religious structures ever built, dwarfing even places like the Vatican and Hagia Sophia in Turkey. Karnak was a site so important to the ancient Egyptians that numerous pharos continued to add chapels, obelisks, statues, and chambers over the centuries. All of that construction can give it a bit of a disjointed feel at times, but it is still an incredibly fascinating and impressive place none the less. Visitors could spend the better part of a day wandering through its halls, and probably still wouldn't see everything that the temple has to offer. One of the biggest highlights for me personally were the massive pillars of the Great Hypostyle Hall, which began being built under Seti I, but were finished by Ramses II. There are 134 columns in all, spread out over two different room. Each stands 24 meters (80 feet) in height, and are 10 meters (33 feet) in circumference. Wandering amongst them is akin to walking through a stone forest, with intricately carved trees surrounding you on all sides.

Across town from the Temple of Karnak is Luxor Temple, which would be incredibly impressive in any other location, but suffers a bit in comparison to its larger companion. Still, this temple is an incredible one, with massive stone statues, more towering pillars, and plenty of great examples of ancient Egyptian craftsmanship that are unique to the site. Best of all, in the evening, the temple is lit up by a series of lights, which make it truly stand out in the center of the city. Strolling past the sandstone structures in the darkness is a wonderful way to appreciate the setting, and is a must-do for any visitor.

One of the more lesser known wonder of Luxor is one that is still being excavated. The Avenue of the Sphinxes is a road that runs between Karnak and Luxor temples that is lined with statues of the sphinx. So far, about 3.1 km (1.9 miles) of the road has been uncovered, with over 1000 individual statues being restored. Those statues fall every few meters along the route, and are amazing in their own right. Again, what it must have been like to have seen these two amazing sites in their full glory, connected by a special road lined with statues.

I am thankful that on my trip I was able to spend time in these amazing locations. The itinerary that was set up for me by friends at G Adventures offered ample time to truly appreciate the ancient wonder of Egypt, and soak in the culture and history of these places. But my journey wasn't a special one set up specifically to show off these sites to someone who could write about it. It was part of G's Absolute Egypt trip, which is affordable and accessible to anyone who has a desire to visit the country for themselves. On that journey, not only will you get to see all of the things that I have shared so far, but many other wonders that I have yet to share. It is an all encompassing option that deftly mixes the ancient wonders of Egypt, with the natural beauty of the Sahara Desert.

More to come soon. I hope you are enjoying the account of my trip so far.

Back From Egypt!

I am happy to say that I am back from Egypt and ready to resume a normal posting schedule here at The Adventure Blog. My trip was a fantastic one, filled with all kinds of natural and manmade wonders. You'll be hearing a lot more about my experiences in the days ahead, as I share my thoughts on what is like to travel through a country that is steeped in history but has also faced some very large challenges in recent years as well.

I'd like to thank my friends at G Adventures for sponsoring me on this trip and showing me a side to Egypt that I hadn't seen on my first visit more than a decade ago. The people and places that I experienced while there were nothing short of spectacular, and I would unequivocally encourage any traveler to visit the North African country. Not only is it safe and secure at the moment, it is also incredibly quiet as the entire tourism industry in Egypt waits (not so) patiently for visitors to return. A few years ago, the Pyramids at Giza saw more than 20,000 visitors per day. Now, it is a fraction of that number, and as a result the Egyptian economy is struggling to a degree. For those who have always wanted to go, that is a good thing, as there are definitely deals to be had. But for those who make a living in tourism there, it has been a tough struggle since the revolution in 2011.

Obviously a lot has happened while I was away, and I'll be playing catch-up with some of the bigger stories that took place. Not the least of those was the devastating earthquake in Nepal, which brought an abrupt end to another climbing season on Everest, and brought tragedy to a country that has struggled mightily in recent years. The aftermath of this tragedy will be felt for years to come, and the story moving forward will be how Nepal can manage to rebuild itself in the wake of the ongoing challenges it has already faced in terms of developing its economy, expanding its fragile infrastructure, and eliminating rampant corruption. It is going to be an uphill battle to say the least, but one that could eventually produce significant gains for the Himalayan nation.

Although the earthquake in Nepal dominated headlines over the past few weeks, there were a few other major stories that took place while I was going as well. I'll be attempting to post updates on those in the day ahead too, even as other interesting stories arise. In other words, it is time to get back to the business of adventure, and I'm looking forward to sharing that with you. Thanks for your patience in my absence, and expect more inspiring and fun stories to follow soon.

Adventures in Egypt: The Great Pyramid of Giza

One of the biggest draws in all of Egypt is without a doubt the Great Pyramid at Giza. This spectacular monument that overlooks Cairo is one of the most famous destinations on the entire planet, and the only one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World that is still standing. It is an iconic place that finds itself on the bucket list for many world travelers, and rightfully so. But due to that iconic status, it also runs the risk of being a bit of a disappointment. After all, how can a place with such a fantastic reputation possibly live up to all of the hype?

As someone who has now visited the site of the Great Pyramid – and it's two lesser companions – on two separate occasions over the past decade, I can assure you that the pyramids of Egypt are anything but disappointing. For me – a student of history – they live up to all of my expectations, and then some. The mere site of these three massive structures is enough to instill a sense of awe that few other manmade destinations can compare to.

The sheer size and audacity of the pyramids is enough to make them worthy of "wonder" status. After all, it is estimated that the Great Pyramid alone is made up of more than 2.5 million individual stones, each weighing in excess of 6000 pounds (2727 kg). Those stones were individually crafted to fit into the overall structure, and help make it one of the most impressive construction projects ever undertaken. When it was completed in 2560 BC, the Great Pyramid was easily the tallest building on the planet, and it remained so until the construction of the Eiffel Tower in Paris in 1895. That means for nearly 4500 years, it reigned supreme.

Walking across the sands that surround the three pyramids at Giza one can't help but marvel at the massive undertaking put fourth by the Egyptian people to complete the project there. The pyramids are as impressive in real life as they are in any photos, and perhaps even more so when you are given a better sense of the scale of the monuments, and the site that they occupy. The number of people who worked on building these tombs dedicated to ancient pharaohs must have been staggering, as was the effort they put fourth over decades of work just to erect these massive stone buildings.

It is also impressive to think about the major figures in history who have traveled to Egypt just to see the pyramids. Over the centuries, countless kings, presidents, and diplomats have walked the sands of Giza just to gaze on the impressive sight. Alexander the Great is counted amongst them, having gone there when he conquered the region in 332 BC. Julius Caesar would follow suit nearly 400 years later. Others who spent time in the shadow of these amazing monuments include Napoleon Bonaparte, Mark Twain, and Florence Nightengale. The pyramids have seen history come and go, and yet they continue to be a part of it to this day.

Obviously no visit to Egypt is complete without stopping in Giza to pay homage to the pyramids. It is probably the most "touristy" thing that you can do here, but it is also one of the most important. Fortunately, the site is easily accessible, and well worth the effort. It is one of those rare monuments that lives up to its status, and delivers more than you could hope.

Having seen the pyramids both before and after the Arab Spring, I can tell you that now is a great time to go. While crowds are modest in size, they are not overly large, and it is easy to get close to these stone structures without throngs of visitors getting in your way. In fact, my recent visit proved to be incredibly pleasant.

Tourism is on the upswing once again in Egypt, and soon things will return to normal in terms of the number of people coming to visit. If you're thinking that it is a place you might want to visit in the future, I'd urge you to come now. Not only will you find plenty of good deals for travel within the country, you'll also discover that the most famous sites are far from overcrowded. That hasn't always been the case in the past, and now is the time to take advantage of this situation.

There are other monuments I'll be writing about in the near future, but the Great Pyramid is the cornerstone of tourism in Egypt, and practically worth the trip all on its own. If you love history, or simply want to see one of the most amazing structures ever built by man, you owe it to yourself to go.

My current trip is sponsored by G Adventures, and I want to thank them for bringing me on their Absolute Egypt excursion. It has been a wild ride so far, and I can't wait for more!

Adventures in Egypt: Quiet and Calm in Cairo

Egypt is a country that has always held a certain mystique amongst travelers. In fact, you could make an argument that it was actually the world's first tourist destination. After all, travelers have been coming to this land for centuries just to catch a glimpse of the ancient wonders that exist here. People like Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, and Napoleon Bonaparte, just to name a few. But in recent years the country has been making news for other reasons.

In 2011 the arrival of the Arab Spring proceeded the overthrow of a long standing dictatorial government, and ushered in a period of uncertainty and unrest. With protests in the streets of Cairo being broadcast on the nightly news, it appeared that Egypt had descended into chaos. Those images sent many would-be visitors scrambling to other destinations, as security concerns took hold. For a time, the country's famous monuments – including the Pyramids and Sphinx – were empty, as travelers stayed away amidst the turmoil.

But those days are long gone now. Newly elected President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi has brought a sense of calm and stability to Egypt, and it is having a positive effect not only on the people that live here, but the tourism industry as well. While crowds are still at a minimum, there is a strong sense of optimism in the air as foreigners begin to return at last.

I've been in the country for five days, and have already gotten a sense that things are both different, and the same since my last visit back in 2005. There is a heightened sense of security in the major cities, and around the famous tourist sites, but there is also a clear feeling that the instability of the past few years is over, and that Egypt is ready to get back to work. That work includes welcoming thousands of travelers to its shores.

I am traveling with a group of tourists on the Absolute Egypt tour offered by G Adventures. On our second day here we had the privilege of spending some time in Giza at the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx. There was a modest crowd at those sites, far from the mobs that were often found there in the past, but up significantly over recent years. Sharing those sites with a multitude of visitors from across the globe is part of the fun however, and there were easily a half dozen languages being spoken in the small crowd gathered there. That bodes well for the future of Egypt, which had seen a significant downturn in its economy due to the loss of incoming visitors. But now, the guides that I have spoken to say that things have definitely taken a turn for the better, and arrivals are up sharply so far in 2015.

What does all of this mean for travelers hoping to come to Egypt? I would say that now more than ever is the time to go. If you've always wanted to visit this place, there may be no better time. Security is good, crowds are low, and bargains can be had. That might not be the case later in the year, or moving forward. Once travelers deem the country safe enough to return, it is likely to be very busy once again.

For my part, I am enjoying returning to a country that I wasn't sure I'd have the chance to experience a second time. The Pyramids and other monuments are timeless however, and it is a humbling experience to witness them first hand. In a few days I'll head out into the Sahara on a completely different adventure than I had last time I was here. I'm looking forward to getting off the beaten path to a degree, and seeing more of this amazing country. Of course, I'll also be sharing a lot more about the things I've seen and places I've gone in the days ahead, but for now I'll just say that all is well in Egypt, where history continues to unfold.

The Adventure Blog is Back on Hiatus – I'm Egypt Bound!

I have a quick note to post to end the week. I wanted to let regular readers know that The Adventure Blog is going back on hiatus for a couple of weeks while I head to Egypt for a new adventure. I depart tomorrow (April 18) and will return on May 5. During that time I hope to have the opportunity to post about the journey, but I'll have to wait to see what kind of Internet service will be available. Hopefully I can post some regular updates however, so you can get a feel for what I'm up to.

I'll be traveling with a group hosted by G Adventures, who are easily one of the best adventure travel companies that I've ever had the experience of working with. The company has invited me to join one of their regular groups who will be taking part in their Absolute Egypt tour. While there, I will of course see the wonders of this famous country, including the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx, and the Valley of the Kings and Queens. But I'll also be camping in the Sahara, sailing on the Nile, and meeting with locals too.

This will be my second time in Egypt, but the first since the Arab Spring. It will be interesting to see how things have changed since I was last there, and what life is life for the people of this amazing country. The story that I will be looking for is the return of tourism to the Middle Eastern nation. The travel industry is vital to the economy there, but it has been crippled due to unrest in recent years. I've heard reports that the major attractions and monuments have been all-but empty at times, and I want to see if that remains true. 2015 is the year that travelers are expected to return to Egypt, but it is unclear of that has started to happen just yet.

While I'm away, there will obviously be a lot going on, particularly with the spring climbing season in the Himalaya. If you're looking for regular news from Everest and the other big mountain, than I'd suggest reading Alan Arnette's regular reports, and dropping by Explorer's Web from time to time too. I'll be trying to follow the unfolding season as best I can as well. I'll be home in time for the first summit pushes on Everest and Lhotse, although some of the other mountains may see some action ahead of the major push on the Big Hill.

While I'm away, stay safe, enjoy some adventures of your own, and hopefully I'll have some good things to share from Egypt soon. If Internet connections are reliable, I will at least post some photos on my Twitter feed at @kungfujedi.

I'll be back before you know it!

Video: Wingsuit Flight Over the Great Pyramids of Egypt

We have been overdue for a good wingsuit video, and this one arrives just in time. It features Cedric Dumont sailing above one of the greatest monuments ever built by man – the Great Pyramids of Egypt. The short video certainly gives us vantage point of those structures that we haven't seen before, as Dumont slowly tumbles to the Earth while the Pyramids only grow in size. Definitely a cool way to approach those amazing wonders.

Walking The Nile Update: End In Sight For Levison Wood

The end of the journey is now in sight for Levison Wood, the British explorer who has spent the past nine months walking the Nile River in Africa. A month ago I posted that he Lev had passed into Egypt, the final country on his grand walking tour. And now, just a few weeks later, he is approaching the Nile Delta at last. In fact, according to his most recent status updates on Facebook, he should reach the Mediterranean Sea by this Saturday.

It has been a long, strange journey for Wood, who started his walk last November, and will have covered more than 4000 miles (6430 km) by the time he reaches the Delta. The journey started in the highlands of Rwanda, which is where the furthest source of the Nile is located. From there, the expedition took him into Burundi, across Tanzania, and Uganda, before eventually arriving in South Sudan, the war ravaged nation that had been relatively quiet before he set out on his journey. Lev's walk along the Nile was disrupted at that point, when he ran into trouble and was forced to leave the country. He resumed his trek northward in Sudan, but ended up missing approximately 400 miles (645 km) along his intended route, and due to the ongoing conflict in South Sudan, he won't be able to go back and complete those missing miles for sometime.

Wood reached Egypt back in late July, and told a reporter for The Guardian that it has been the most relaxed stretch of the expedition by far. He says it has been easy to find places to stay, the people are friendly, and the food is good, and plentiful. That hasn't been the case through parts of the trek however, as he has faced difficult terrain, suspicious locals, and grueling heat. The Guardian article says that at one point in Sudan temperatures rose above 62ºC, which equates to nearly 144ºF, which if true would exceed the highest temperature ever officially recorded. In addition to facing the civil war in South Sudan, there have been other set-backs as well. For instance, in March, a reporter traveling with Wood died of heatstroke in Uganda. That incident left the Brit shaken and uncertain of his plans.

But now, with the end in sight, Lev is eager to wrap things up. He has been traveling at an increased pace, and with little difficulty, since reaching Egypt, and while he has not personally witnessed any unrest, two police cars have shadowed him at all times to ensure his safety. By the weekend, that escort should see him safely to the Nile Delta, and the end of the expedition.