Happy Thanksgiving! I know it is not until tomorrow, but by then my Playa Del Carmen adventures will be in full swing 😉 And so today, I want to be thankful for my world travels. This Thanksgiving #TravelBL special will be all about Middle East travel bucket list items I have crossed off already. More inspiration for you, fond memories to me.
But… why a Middle East travel bucket list?
You must be asking yourself this question. There are several reasons…
Nefertari: we finally met! At Abu Simbel Temple, Egypt
When I was awarded a full $20,000 scholarship to study Arabic in Egypt for a year, it was a dream come true in so many levels. I had been obsessed with Nefertiti, Nefertari and all those majestic temples ever since I first saw them on a history book in elementary school.
My love for travel started this way.
After watching countless of documentaries on History and Discovery Channel, I wondered whether there were other civilizations like this in the world. How big (or small) is the world we live in, anyway? What other wonders are there to see? The more I learned, the more obsessed I became with traveling the world. I always say travel taught me English.
Basically, my wanderlust was ignited by Ancient Egypt and the Middle East.
colorful wall at Medinet Habu temple – Luxor, Egypt
And since I’m being thankful for my world travels today, I want to pay tribute to this region, which has transformed me in so many levels. Also, most of my world travels were done while living in Egypt and Morocco, so they hold a special place in my heart..
Today, a toast for the Arab world with this Middle East travel bucket list!
Sailed down the Nile River — and on an ancient boat
What most people don’t know is that the felucca is not only a traditional sail boat in Egypt, but the Eastern Mediterranean, comprising the island of Malta — all the way to Iraq. What’s more: The felucca even made it to the Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, back in the 19th century! (Wikipedia, felucca article). It is said that the glorified version of the felucca, known as a dahabeya, was also used by pharaohs and even Napoleon himself.
Our felucca trip crew! I’m the second on the right
I was lucky to spend a few days sleeping on board. I drifted on this simple beauty, so close to the historic Nile river. I still slap myself, thinking it was just a dream. And what a dream it was — I have never been so relaxed in my entire life. The most sublime experience though was getting to swim in the longest river in the world + actually stepping out of the felucca to visit ancient Egyptian temples. Just wow!
Yes, the Nile River can be THAT clear! Your felucca captain will know where to stop for you to swim safely
Me and an African sunset from a felucca on the Nile
Spent my birthday in Philae temple, Egypt
While I had already visited the Giza pyramids several times (and they were a sandstorm of disappointments), Philae was the first ancient Egyptian temple I ever visited. And I got to see it on my 22nd birthday too — what a treat!
The Philae temple complex was much bigger than expected. A portion of it may be seen from the Nile River — like right out of a movie!
Me at Philae Temple — on my BIRTHDAY!
Saw The Treasury and Monastery in Petra, Jordan
While the Pyramids of Giza were a sandstorm of disappointments, the ancient city of Petra was a completely different story. I cried when I saw the Treasury. I remember vividly how I sat at its feet for at least 30 min., staring at its majesty. Even though it is an extremely touristy site, I visited early in the morning. While there were still some foreigners around, my experience was not tarnished — at all. To this day, I still wonder why Petra had such an impact on me. Just remembering the 2 days I spent there take my breath away…! Definitely a huge item off my Middle East travel bucket list.
Read more: The Treasury, Petra: A tear-jerking Kodak moment
The Treasury, Petra by Bernard Gagnon
Me contemplating The Treasury
The most surprising, unexpected part of my trip, though? I freaking climbed the monastery — like, to the VERY top. No harness, no equipment at all. I remember slipping once and thinking I was going to die. Still, making it to the top was priceless and worth every scary step!
Also read: How I Climbed the Petra Monastery with a Bedouin (photo essay)
How to climb the Petra monastery: Looks easy, but it SO isn’t! The path looks deceivingly easy, when it is in fact extremely slippery and precarious
Almost there! See that tiny Bedouin on the top right? I made it THERE!
“I’m queen of the world! Wohoo woohoo WOOOOO!”
Old Jerusalem: Dome of the Rock, Church of the Holy Sepulcher
This one was huge: I didn’t get to visit Old Jerusalem once, but twice. There are so many things to do in Jerusalem — I am so lucky I got to experience them at a relaxed pace, on 2 different visits. My first trip was with the group of study abroad students during Eid El Adha — an experience in itself. the second time around, I was embarking on my epic Solo Middle East road trip. Highlights included the Dome of the Rock, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Western Wall, and the Church of Mary Magdalene on Mount of Olives.
Me at Dome of the Rock, Jerusalem! CLICK on photo to ENLARGE
Me at Temple Mount: Dome of the Rock on left; Al Aqsa Mosque right behind the arches (CLICK on photo to ENLARGE)
There are many other things from my travels that I am so thankful about. Unfortunately, not much space or time. I will leave you with a few other unforgettable experiences that I got to cross off my Middle East travel bucket list, though!
Experienced the desert — and a real oasis
Baharyia Oasis panorama by fellow student Margaux de Borchgrave
Visited “The Athens of Africa” – Fes, Morocco
Bathed in mud and floated on the Dead Sea
Floating on the Dead Sea! I’m on the far left
My (muddy) kiss from the Dead Sea!
Want to learn about more about my epic world travels? Check out my lengthy solo female travel photo essay, where I outlined everywhere I went shortly before, during, and after my 16-month study abroad stint in Egypt and Morocco!
What are you thankful for?
What’s on your Middle East travel bucket list?