Cairo & El Gouna, Egypt.

I am a firm believer in “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”, I was fortunate enough that the guy I was dating’s family lived in Egypt meaning that I only had to provide money for flights and money I wanted to spend out there whilst my accommodation and food was covered. I don’t know what it was about Egypt, whether it was the time I went, my fascination with the middle east or whether it was the fact that I went with one of my favourite people. I can honestly say it was the trip of a lifetime.

The night before my flight I spent the night in London with my mother, it’s safe to say it was a restless nights sleep, especially as my mother happens to snore incredibly loudly, but at 8am I was ready to leave for Cairo. After a four hour flight with British Airways and watching multiple films, I landed in Cairo. On arrival I knew I had to attain a visa, as a seventeen year old, it was very overwhelming landing in a different country on my own, especially in a country like Egypt,so after following numerous different crowds, a woman pointed me in the right direction and I managed to buy my £10 visa. As soon as I had claimed my baggage I walked into what can only be described as a mob of taxi drivers, it wasn’t long before I was completely surrounded by taxi drivers, as I tried to frantically explain that my boyfriend and his father was going to pick me up, I saw Elliott through the mob and battled my way through. An hour later I arrived at Elliott’s and was ready to crash in order to wake up fresh faced the next morning for the long car journey to El Gouna.

The next day I woke up at 6.30 to prepare for our six hour car journey to the stunning El Gouna. I spent most of the car journey deafening the family with my quiet off key singing. I was very lucky and because Elliott had stayed at mine so frequently, his parents were paying for me to stay in one of the most beautiful hotels I have ever seen, called the Movenpick. I believe they have a chain of hotels but I am yet to visit one in another country. This hotel had maybe one of the most perfect locations. It was literally on the beach, I stayed on a ground floor room, sharing with his sister and one of my good friends Jess. The room was a stunning twin bed room with a huge en-suite attached. Directly opposite the beds we had a giant glass french door and right outside was a patio with two chairs and a coffee table. The patio pretty much lead us out to the beach where the red sea awaited us.

The next day we took a boat ride into the main town of El Gouna, it is absolutely covered in little shops and restaurants. It also has this little aquarium which cost 5LE to enter, the aquarium was absolutely tiny but it was pretty cool just to have a wander round and see what was there. We then took the Egyptian equivalent of a bus, basically a row of benches and no windows. In the evening we went to the El Gouna Harbour, I’m pretty gutted that I didn’t bring my camera as it was absolutely incredible! All the restaurants and shop lights reflected in the water where all these magnificent boats rocked gently on the water. It was absolutely beautiful! Google it if you don’t believe me! It was so nice just to get to know the family whilst taking in the culture.

Whilst I haven’t had the opportunity to take my PADI test yet, Elliott and Jess had and it was their last opportunity for the year to go scuba diving. I agreed to go along for the boat ride, as Elliott didn’t want to go and leave me playing beach ball and bat with his younger brother (not that I objected to spending time with his younger brother, we had a record of 52 to beat), and I didn’t want him to miss out on scuba diving, so I brought some coursework with me and sat on the boat for a couple of hours (I have to admit there was no better way to do coursework). The guys driving the boat ridiculed me for doing work whilst on vacation and managed to convince me to go for a snorkel and take some photos with the underwater camera Elliott’s Mum (Annabel) had lent me. The men had given me some bread to attract them to the surface, it was amazing being surrounded by so many different colours!! I never did get to see the photos I took but I like to think that I got some good ones.

Although the trip to El Gouna was all round fantastic I think one of my favourite memories was using a rubber boat to “sail” from the lake back round to the sea where Elliott’s family were sunbathing and jumping off the jetty. After many attempts to tackle Elliott out of the rubber boat and into the water, I resigned and climbed up into the little yellow boat. It was honestly just amazing, the feeling of sun on my skin, sitting and laughing whilst we manoeuvred around real boats and fought against the current to get back to the beach, making the most of it before our return to Cairo the next day.

The timing of my arrival in Egypt was pretty awful. I was so desperate to go I went two weeks after the revolution had ended. Even though I missed out quite a lot (just gave me another excuse to return back there in the future) seeing a city so run down and destroyed was fascinating, I have never been anywhere like it. The first morning I was back, Elliott’s parents, Jess and I went to a desert where Saffie (the dog) could be let off her leash, we drove past so many places that were just rubble and bricks. I also discovered that whilst we have three lanes on a motorway, in Egypt five cars can drive next to each other and sudden U turns are completely normal. It’s mental! People will literally just gamble their lives and sprint across the roads when they can.

During one of  the days, Elliott walked me around the city of Cairo, I took this opportunity to buy my family some little souvenirs. All the shops were so quirky and unique. We went into this shop where although I didn’t buy anything but the owner was kind enough to give me and Elliott three scarab ornament/charms each. They now sits on my shelf at university. That evening we visited some of the Pyramids, unfortunately I was unable to go to the main ones as the revolution had just ended and they closed everything early in orfer to protect their countries heritage. But we managed to visit less known ones which in a way was nicer, as the tour guides don’t receive as many tourists they were very thorough with their guide and showed us absolutely everything. After walking around the pyramids for an hour or so we went to a place called ‘Barry’s Bar’. I would highly recommend it, not only the food is great but you can watch the Pyramid sound and light show. It was amazing being surrounded by the language and culture and people who I had come to love during the week. The next night I was taken on a ‘felucca’, it’s basically a big boat with a table down the middle where you can bring a pre prepared meal with you and drinks, whilst cruising down the river Nile. I didn’t have the best of luck this trip as the weather turned very suddenly and the Nile became very choppy and very cold and unfortunately we had to cut our boat trip short.

The next morning I was up at 6am, packed and ready to catch my flight home. After many hugs and kisses I jumped into the car with Elliott and Peter and we made our way to the airport.

Egypt is a wonderful, hectic and fascinating country. If you ever have the opportunity to go, GO! I highly recommend it and it is easily one of my favourite places I have visited and I am very much looking forward to my return.