Getting the Most from Your Travel Experiences

There is a saying that travel is its own reward, but there are obviously other reasons for making the decision to travel to different places. Whether for vacation, adventure, a change of scenery, or a trip of a lifetime, people travel to a variety of places every day. For the most part, people are hoping to gain something from their travels, after all it is often quite expensive. We aren’t any different, we also get something in return for traveling to all of the places that we visit. For us, it is learning about the culture, meeting the people, and experimenting with local flavors that are our rewards. We aren’t cultural anthropologists, but we do use many of those concepts when we are on a trip to a foreign country.

When Our Raft Flipped on the River
Embera Village
Hiking in the Andes Mountains

We certainly understand the adventure travelers who travel the world looking for different thrills. Whether diving off a reef in the Caribbean, climbing to the top of some of the worlds largest mountains, or trekking through dense forests, there are many different pulse pounding ways to spend your time when traveling. We have definitely had our share of adventures from staying in the Amazon, going down Death Road in Bolivia, climbing to the top of Colorado mountains, white-water rafting, skiing, and ziplining in different jungles. However, for us, it was visiting the indigenous villages and meeting the people that call these places home that have made the most lasting memories.

Learning About the Ancient Temples in Mahabalipuram
Our First Ziplining Adventure
Walking the Streets of Old Town Cairo

No one can blame people who choose to travel for relaxation. There is nothing like sitting on a beach or a mountain resort and not doing much of anything. We take several trips throughout the year and at least one of those is usually just to unwind and let the day-to-day stresses melt away. Just because we are relaxing, though, doesn’t mean that we don’t take time to meet the locals and taste the local foods. Whether in Mexico or on the Spanish Riviera, we like to learn about the people who live near the resorts and make their living by pampering all of the tourists who come to their locations. Often times, many of them have moved from their home towns to earn money and send it back to their families.

Indigenous Tribe in Napo, Ecuador
Climbing in Bolivia
Death Road

Whether traveling to a country where the citizens look similar to yourself or traveling to a place where you stand out amongst the crowds, there is so much to learn from the places that you visit. As much as the world has become smaller with the internet, television, and social media, there is no substitute for spending time in a culture that is different than your own and taking time to understand the people that live there. One of the things that constantly amazes us is when we see tourists in a different country that don’t take time to actually talk to the people who live there, but just wander through taking pictures and acting like it is an exhibit for them to see. In our opinion, those people are missing out on the best part of traveling, absorbing as much about the culture as possible. What is it that drives you to take the time and spend the money to travel to places that are foreign to you?

Helicopter Landing at the Base of the Mountains
Joining in on the Warrior Dance in Kenya
Getting a Sense of the Scale of Aphrodisias in Turkey

A Wonderful Itinerary for a Three Day Stay in Cairo, Egypt

Egypt is definitely a fascinating country for many reasons and there are so many incredible sights to see. For most people, a trip to Egypt will start or end in the capital city of Cairo. We often think about our visit to Egypt as a tale of two trips with one being the cruise we took from Luxor to Aswan and the other being our time in Cairo itself. To make the most of your time in Cairo, it is best to spend at least 3 days traveling in and around the city. These are the top things to see during your time in Cairo.

Enjoying the Temples in Egypt

 The Giza Pyramid Complex – No visit to Cairo in Egypt would be complete without going to see the Great Pyramids. Although the Pyramid of Khufu is officially known as The Great Pyramid, the entire complex is often referred to as the Great Pyramids of Giza. The Pyramid of Khufu is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the World and also one of the most intact wonders and stands 481 feet tall (146.5 meters). There are actually six pyramids that make up the pyramid complex as well as the Great Sphinx.

Pyramid of Khafre

 The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities – Taking time to tour the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities is certainly a highlight of any trip to Cairo. As with many other sites in Egypt, having an Egyptologist as a guide is extremely helpful if you want to learn as much as possible during your time in the museum. There are so many items on display within the museum that it can be quite overwhelming. In addition to the sarcophaguses, papyrus hieroglyphs, and pieces of art, there are several dramatic statues housed within the museum.

Enormous Statues Inside the Museum

 Dahshur – We enjoyed seeing a wonderful variety of pyramids during our time in Cairo, but visiting Dahshur was probably one of our most interesting experiences. First, we were virtually by ourselves as we walked around the pyramids as there were less than a dozen total other visitors there during the time that we spent there. Also, since it is the site of the first smooth sided pyramids, one successful and a couple of others that weren’t successful, it is an interesting look into the learning that occurred by the ancient Egyptians to create what would later become the Great Pyramids. Dahshur is located out in a remote area of the desert, which was purposeful as they wanted the pyramids to be away from any well-traveled area.

The Red Pyramid

 Historic Old City Cairo – Wandering the narrow streets of the Old City of Cairo is an amazing experience that is worth making your way through the crowded streets to see. Just wandering the streets is quite exhilarating, but the highlight was taking a tour of an Ottoman era house that was built in 1648 and is in excellent condition as it was refurbished in 1997 as part of restoration project for the entire area. It can also be combined to see several historic mosques, synagogues, and churches.

Courtyard of Historic Ottoman House

 Step Pyramid in Saqqara – The Pyramid of Djoser, or Step Pyramid, is an ancient pyramid in the Saqqara Necropolis. It is located about an hour outside of Cairo and we toured it as part of trip to the Giza plateau. Although most people associate the pyramids of Egypt with the smooth sided Great Pyramids, step pyramids were the predecessors to such technology. There are other temples and burial grounds to be seen around the Step Pyramid, but as with Dahshur, there are not nearly as many visitors as at the Great Pyramids.

Step Pyramid

Mosque and Madrassa of the Sultan Hasan – We took a tour of Islamic Cairo that included the Mosque and Madrassa of the Sultan Hasan, which was truly fascinating not so much for what we saw, but more about what we learned from our guide. We wouldn’t recommend visiting without a guide unless you are familiar Sunni Islam, the history of Cairo , and the influences of the surrounding countries. Also, it is not currently a working mosque, so without someone to provide clarity on the features, it might not be as easily understood.

Inside of the Mosque

 Sailing a Felucca on the Nile River – One of the best ways to escape the hustle and bustle of Cairo is to enjoy a ride on a felucca on the Nile River. These sailboats have been used for transportation for hundreds of years in the region and are still quite popular today, although mainly for tourists. There are plenty of other tour boats that you can take, but if you want a truly relaxing experience, then a felucca is the best choice. It takes skill to navigate the river using these unique sails, especially since they are at the mercy of the wind.

Sailing in a Faluka

Abu Serga Church  – Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church, also known as the Abu Serga Church as well as the Cavern Church, is an important historical and religious landmark in Cairo, Egypt. The church is supposed to be built on the spot where Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus rested at the end of their journey into Egypt. The church is dedicated to Sergius and Bacchus who were soldiers in the 4th century that were killed by the Roman Emperor Maximian and achieved martyrdom and sainthood.

View of the Church

Although we spent almost two weeks in Egypt, it is certainly a place where you could easily spend an entire month making your way around to all of the fascinating locations. With a history that goes back to the cradle of civilization and with so many historic sites preserved or still being excavated, the possibilities almost seem endless. Regardless of how much time you have to spend in Egypt, it is important to make the most of your time in its capital city, Cairo.

Making the Most of Your Time in Nairobi, Kenya

We spent a couple of days in Nairobi in order to relax before heading home after our safari and we really enjoyed our time there. If you have a day or two in Nairobi, there are several places that are definitely worth visiting during your time there. Our hotel was located in the heart of the city and getting out to see the attractions was certainly a time consuming proposition due to the traffic in Nairobi, even with trying to avoid the heavier traffic times. We scheduled a Nairobi City Tour with our guides, but obviously these places could be visited on you own without needing to use a guide, but it helps to have a driver who knows how to get around the city.

Front of the House/Museum
The Tractor that Karen Used on Her Farm

Karen Blixen Museum and Gardens – It is hard to explain the impact that Karen Blixen had on the city of Nairobi and Kenya in general. The Baroness is best known around the world for her autobiographical story of her time in Africa titled Out of Africa as well as the movie with the same name. To the people of Kenya, she is known for providing healthcare to the people and providing inspiration to the women of Kenya. Although the book and movie romanticize her time in East Africa, the story and her life were rather tragic. The museum, which is the house she lived in and the gardens that surround it, is the location of their failed coffee plantation and features some of the farm equipment as well as photographs of the people in Karen’s life. There is also some memorabilia from the movie as it was filmed on location in Africa.

Handler Checking on an Elephant
Just Like a Kid Pushing a Friend into the Pool

Sheldrick Wildlife Trust and Elephant Orphanage – One might have thought that we had seen enough elephants during our safari considering that we saw hundreds of them, but we were actually excited to visit the elephant orphanage in Nairobi. The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust is dedicated to rescuing orphaned elephants and rhinos, raising them and possibly rehabilitating them, and then returning them to the wild. The baby elephants come from all of the various national parks and animal reserves where, unfortunately, poaching still sometimes occur leaving the elephants orphaned or sometimes they become orphaned for other reasons. Pretty much every baby animal is cute and adorable, but baby elephants are especially cute and precocious.

Hand-Painting the Beads
Necklaces in the Store

Kazuri Bead Factory – Although it is referred to as the Kazuri Bead Factory, it is really an artisan workshop where the beads for necklaces and bracelets as well as other pottery are created. Everything created by the artisans for Kazuri are handmade and hand-painted based on a preset pattern that each of the workers follow. In addition to creating beautiful jewelry and pottery, Kazuri provides work for mostly single mothers and provides free medical care for their employees and their immediate family. Buying items from Kazuri, which are sold worldwide, is really an opportunity to get some something beautiful and help the people as well.

Getting Close to the Giraffes
Giraffes Lined Up to be Fed

Giraffe Centre (The African Fund for Endangered Wildlife) – During our city tour of Nairobi, we visited the Giraffe Centre, whose official name is the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife. Obviously the proceeds from people visiting the center go to the preservation of endangered animals in Africa such as the cheetahs, rhinos, and other animals. Having spent the previous eleven days on safari where we saw giraffes in the wild every day, we weren’t sure at first about visiting the Giraffe Centre. It is currently going under some renovations in order to improve the experience of the visitors and to make the center even more green. The highlight of visiting the Giraffe Centre is getting up close to the giraffes and feeding them.

Walking Through the Market
Many Options to Buy

A Maasai Market – Although we had visited an actual Maasai Village during our safari, we still took time to go to one of the Maasai markets that are in the city of Nairobi. Be forewarned that as you enter the market, there will be men offering to guide you through the market, but you should ignore them and tour the market on your own. They just want to get part of the money that you might spend and they are really pushy about trying to get you to buy something. We had something fairly specific in mind since we had already bought souvenirs, which we couldn’t find, so we didn’t end up buying anything, but enjoyed seeing the local artwork on display.

One of the First Lions that We Saw
Rhino Heading Towards Us

Nairobi National Park – We did not visit the Nairobi National Park since we had already spent twelve days going through the national parks that are part of the great migration route, but if you are only visiting Nairobi and not doing a safari, it would be worth visiting. The park has many of the same animals that you will find when going on safari without having to travel more than a few minutes from the city.

Thorn Tree Cafe with the Message Tree Where People (like Hemingway) Received Messages in Nairobi
View from Our Hotel Room

In addition to visiting these locations in Nairobi, we also spent time eating at several different restaurants in the city. Obviously, due to the time of visit and travel restrictions because of COVID, there were not many other tourists in the city when we were there. We found the city of Nairobi to be quite interesting and enjoyed seeing it as much as we enjoyed our time on safari.