Camel ride lead by young boy Egypt

Back in the days before the Arab Spring I went to Egypt. On this trip I saw some amazing sites, I touched noses with more sphinxes than I ever imagined possible, I climbed inside one of the Pyramids of Giza and saw the tomb of Tutankhamun*. For all the history and landscapes the thing I remember most about the trip? Running round a damn scarab beetle.

I can’t even remember what temple it was at (it was for sure one of the ones that is old and covered in sand) I just remember the tour leader suddenly stopping in front of a lump of rock and looking at us all expectantly. Peering closer I realised it wasn’t just a strange lump of rock at all, it was actually a giant carving of a scarab beetle. With great pomposity our tour leader told us of a ‘legend’ (for all I know he could have made this up for shits and giggles), the legend states that luck will be granted to anyone who runs around the scarab beetle seven times.

Scarab Egypt

I have thrown pennies into the Trevi Fountain, rubbed the Black Madonna on her lady parts and floated a candle down a river in Vietnam; who am I to judge how the gods give out luck? So shrugging shyly and side-eyeing my companions I started off on a slow loping jog.

Just picture this if you will: a hungover Rebecca (we were staying on a boat on the river Nile and happy hour started at 9am), so pale that locals wanted photos as proof, running round a lump of carved rock in jandals – oh and this is Egypt on the cusp of summer so it was 38 degrees and I was sweating so much I was practically doing doggy paddle. The first circle round the scarab beetle I was giggling so hard I could barely power walk, the second was slightly more credible and by the third I was starting to question my life choices. What on earth was I doing running in this heat on the off chance an ancient Egyptian god was still hanging around and like watching girls run enough to throw some good luck my way?

But I did it, I completed my seven turns around my scarab friend and waited for luck to rain down upon me. I mean asking for anything to rain down in Egypt has it dangers, we all remember the plague of frogs. But nothing much seemed to happen. Who knows maybe I was meant to break my jandal that day and by running around the scarab beetle seven times I avoided that horrific fate.

Enoying the silly in Egypt

My point for telling you this isn’t that running is good, or that ancient Egyptian gods still pack a punch – it’s that sometimes the thing you remember about a trip is not the grand or the historic; it’s the silly. No, the silly won’t make it on to Facebook and you won’t boast about it in the pub but it will be the thing you remember. The memory of the sun beating down on the crown of your head, your jandals flicking sand over the backs of your legs and how hard it is to run when you are laughing will stay with you forever.

*Side story: I have this amazing ability to fall asleep when I am on a bus (makes London commuting rather awkward). On our way to the Valley of the Kings I fell asleep on the bus and missed the announcement that we were travelling through some terrorist hot spots so would have armed guards on the bus, and following us around for the next few days. I woke up at the Valley of the Kings (refreshed after my bus nap) and walked off the bus with a spring in my step to go and look at some dead guys. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a guy following me, and this guy had a machine gun. Doing my best James Bond evasive manoeuvres (including dodging in and out of gift shops and buying a hat as a disguise) I spent about half an hour trying to lose him while at the same time trying to find anyone, anyone, from my tour group. Seeing our leader in the distance I practically ran up to him and was about to tell him about my weirdo stalker, when he waved at the machine gun man and asked if he had seen anything suspicious. And this was the point in my life I learned that if you see someone casually walking round with a machine gun they are probably there for your protection, bad guys don’t normally look so chilled out.

Camel bum

Ok, you are going to have to stick with me on this one because my travelling *pinch me* moment came after a fairly epic journey. A few years ago before Egypt was tipped into revolution I was on a tour in Egypt. Group tours are not normally my thing (wait till I tell you about Morocco) but it was far easier to book a tour rather than independently plan a trip that would keep three Americans and a runawaykiwi happy. So after a few happy days climbing into the middle of the Pyramids, riding camels and impersonating the Sphinx we were on to our next adventure.

Riding camels in front of the Pyramids Egypt

The plan was (was being an important word) to take an 8 hour overnight train to our Nile cruise ship, then we would cruise off into the sunset and onto the next temple. Two important things to remember for later, the Australian lads on the tour went shopping to prepare for the train trip, they purchased 1) playing cards and 2) beer.

We hopped onto the train and by god it was the best sleep I have ever had. Being rocked to sleep with the clackety clack of the tracks lulling you into dreamland is something I wish I had every night.

We woke up all of a sudden and instantly went into panic mode, the train had stopped and that could mean only one thing, we had reached our destination and the rest of the group must be waiting. We quickly threw our clothes on, jammed everything into our suitcases and ran out the door; only to be told that we were not there yet.

Abu Simble at sunrise

So what the hell was going on? We were told to just sit tight and the tour leader was trying to find out what was up. So we sat tight in our tiny train bunks and read books, looked out the windows at the camels and quite literally drank the train dry…fun fact for you, a group of Kiwis, Australians and Americans can demolish an entire train of alcohol in 14 hours. Oh yes, our 8 hour train ride was onto hour 14.

Remember the two items from earlier? Well moments after skiting to the rest of us that they had the forethought to buy playing cards and beer, the Australian boys discovered a couple of things. Firstly that their ‘playing cards’ were not playing cards at all, rather they were 40 cards with photos illustrating the most religious sites in Egypt, not so helpful when playing poker. And the second was even more brilliant, after opening a beer to commiserate the card debacle someone in the group helpfully coughed that they were non-alcoholic beers. Not surprising in a country like Egypt, but I have never seen an Australian look so heartbroken.

People standing on the pyramids

So, at hour 18 on the train we ran out of food. Then at hour 19 we heard a bang and found a bullet hole in the window. We still had no idea why we were stopped and all of a sudden the hilarity of hour 14 seemed like a distant memory. Remember this was in the days before smart phones, and we couldn’t exactly Facebook for help. Runawaykiwi was not happy.

Train Egypt

At hour 22 we found out what was going on, the train in front of us had derailed and spilled its load of something all over the tracks. The simple solution would be to put all of us tourists onto buses, but the  government would not allow us to get off the train without a police escort (re: earlier bullet hole, we were in a dangerous area), and the police would not provide an escort.

It took a further 6 hours for our tour leader to negotiate buses to another train, that train to a closer station and then taxis to the ship. In total we were on that damn train for 28 hours, and by the end we were tired, freaked out and hangry. So where is this *pinch me* moment amongst this hell trip, hush I’m getting to that.

Hanging out with a soldier in the Valley of the Kings

The tour company was absolutely mortified at our experience, and just didn’t want us to miss out on anything that had been planned. So when we arrived on our boat at 4am they announced that the visit to the Temple of Edfu would go ahead as planned with the coach leaving at 5:30am. Yeah, after 28 hours on a train the idea was an hour and a half sleep before more site seeing. Never one to miss an experience I was keen, and left my room mate sleeping while I went to the temple.

Temple of Edfu

After our tour of Edfu we got back to the ship at at 9am, by this point everyone was either already asleep (having skipped the temple) or went straight to bed. But something stopped me. There was magic in the air and this runawaykiwi was on the Nile, a place I had watched in Disney movies but honestly thought I would never be adventurous enough to go.

King Tut

With the ship asleep I crept up to the top deck and just sat in the morning light. The tour leader came by to ask if I was ok, I said I was perfect. With a strange look he said ‘almost perfect’ and walked away. A few minutes later he came back and handed me a pina colada… now it was perfect.

My travel *pinch me* moment? The hot rays of the morning Egyptian sun, gliding down a river of legend while drinking a pina colada and feeling like I had, just for a moment, held magic in my hands.

*pinch me*

The River Nile

Check out more *pinch me* stories in the links below!