Travel has always presented new opportunities for me to cross items off my life list, and Egypt is no different. My trip to the south of the country to Aswan and Luxor gave me the ability to cross off two things.
The first is traveling by hostel. In Aswan the group I was traveling with stayed in a hostel for two nights, in an experience closer to a hotel. In Luxor we had a more true hostel experience staying at the Bob Marley Sherief Hotel. Really: in the middle of Luxor,there is a hostel devoted completely to Bob Marley. His music plays quietly over speakers, there are inspirational quotes painted on walls, and his face is on everything. As unique as I thought that would have been, it turns out that there are actually TWO Bob Marley hostels. The second is a knockoff designed to snatch guests from the one we stayed out.
In fact, this was exactly what happened to a fellow traveling American we met. He had booked a room at our place and followed signs to the other, who were more than happy to check him in without mentioning the mix-up. It was his loss however, as the true hostel was just fantastic: not necessarily because of the decor, but because of the staff. The owner himself, Sherief, sat us down for tea and coffee upon our arrival and chatted with us for almost an hour. We got to know him, the fellow staff, and even his wife who was currently in Europe. He called her up to talk to the Swiss members of our group. The kindness that I experienced from both him and the staff will be one of the most memorable parts of the trip to Luxor. The other part will be getting up at 330 AM to see the sunrise… from a hot air balloon!
I hadn’t expected Egypt to have a market for hot air ballooning, but the second I read about it in the guidebook I was hooked on the idea. We were able to set it up through our hostel, and for the equivalent of about $25 too.
At 400 we were picked up by van and driven to the Nile, where we hopped on a ferry across it. While crossing, we were provided with a breakfast of tea, coffee, and twinkies. On the west bank another van picked us up and brought us to a dark field where the shape of huge balloons rested on the ground. As we stood around, there were sudden bursts of fire from the burner and slowly the balloons took shape off the ground.
Aware of the lighting sky and the need to weigh the balloon down, we were quickly led to hop into the basket, and moments later we were off. We rose higher and higher, and as the sky grew lighter we could see the Valley of the Kings and ancient temples below us. The temples looked like little models, and the city of Luxor a distant painting. The Nile shone silver and gold as the sunrise approached, and soon the red-yellow sun itself appeared above the horizon. It rose quickly, and soon the entirety of the west bank was bathed in that distinctly Egyptian golden light.
After enjoying the light and view a little longer we landed in a farmer’s field and the balloon quickly came down. We reversed our journey back across to the east bank (without twinkies, this time) and at 700 am we started our day.
While I’ll definitely cross off hot air ballooning from my life list, I won’t be counting the hostels. To really make it count, I’d like to travel somewhere using hostels for most of the trip, instead of just a weekend. Guess I’ll have to just keep traveling!