Last updated on February 1st, 2024
Featured image: The women on Pack Light Global’s trip to Egypt | Photo provided by Dawn Booker
Finding healing in Egypt’s ancient cities
by Dawn Booker
I can’t share about my time in Egypt without sharing the life-altering events just before my departure to visit a destination I have always dreamed of. This trip was a healing journey filled with beauty, culture, and sisterhood. Even in the face of loss, I was able to feel joy.
I had been planning my trip to Egypt with 12 women who signed up to travel with my small group travel business for women of colour 40+, Pack Light Global, for over a year. While I was planning and preparing for this trip, I was spending sacred time with my dad, who was moved to hospice care as his health declined.
My father was proud of me.
Every time I visited with him, he would ask where I was traveling to next, and I would say, “Remember, I’m going to Egypt, Dad.”
He would say, remember to get my hat, and then reiterate his pride in me.
In mid-May, the hospice facility told us to prepare for my dad’s transition, so we did. We summoned my dad’s family to come down to visit him in North Carolina from Pittsburgh to spend some time with him, and as if it were a signal, within days of his family’s arrival, my dad peacefully passed away with my mom by his side, just one week before I was to travel to Egypt.
I was heartbroken; how was I still going on this trip? We worked with a fantastic destination management company Travel House of Egypt. The owner, Hatem H. Khadr, said, “Come, we will take care of you and your group, and you will meet your father in Egypt.” Hatem and his company delivered on this promise in so many ways.
The morning after
The morning after my father’s funeral, I, along with a group of strong and resilient black women, embarked on a journey to Egypt, seeking solace, connection, and a renewed sense of purpose. The decision to go to Egypt despite my grief was both a tribute to my father’s memory and a testament to the healing and comforting power of sisterhood.
As the plane touched down in Cairo, a mix of emotions lingered – grief, anticipation, and a hint of excitement for the unknown adventure ahead. The group consisted of two of my closest friends from college, a group of four sisters, and several repeat Pack Light Global travelers who considered Egypt to be a bucket-list adventure that they were grateful to finally experience.
Dawn Booker in front of the Sphinx / Photo provided by Dawn Booker
“Cairo, Egypt’s capital city
We began our trip in Egypt’s bustling capital city, Cairo. We stayed at the luxurious Giza district hotel, The Four Seasons Cairo, at the First Residence. The hotel is one of two Four Seasons hotels in Cairo; this property is located on the west bank of the Nile, and depending on where your room is located, you may be able to enjoy stunning views of the Nile, the city of Cairo or the Giza Pyramids in the distance. The rooms felt both comfortable and opulent, and we spent a lot of our time at the hotel’s open-air pool area, surrounded by greenery and views of the city. We especially enjoyed the first-come cabanas offering the ultimate temperature-controlled oasis from the Cairo heat, which hovers around 97F in June.
On our first full day in Cairo, the group explored the Open Museum in the Ancient city of Memphis, a former Egyptian capital. The centrepiece of the open-air museum is a 3200-year-old figure of former Egyptian ruler Ramses II; it stands tall as a massive 83-ton statue carved from limestone.
“The journey through Egypt was more than a physical exploration; it was a spiritual and emotional pilgrimage. Amidst the ruins and relics, our group found moments of reflection, prayer, and a deep connection with each other. The trip became a tapestry of healing, woven with the threads of a transformative shared experience that will forever remind me of the enduring strength of sisterhood. Egypt will always hold a sacred space in my heart. Even in the face of loss, I was able to feel joy.” — Dawn Booker
The Giza Pyramids
The awe-inspiring Giza pyramids, we were mesmerized by the architectural wonders that stood as a testament to the ingenuity of ancient Egyptian civilizations. For lunch, we walked a few steps from the Pyramid complex to KHU FU’S, the first restaurant located directly on the Giza Plateau; the panoramic views of the Giza Pyramids from every table in the restaurant are breathtaking.
Khu Fu’s unique dining experience combines traditional Egyptian food with modern creations. We chose a multi-course set menu that was lovely, from the amuse-bouche through the decadent desert at the end of the meal. On our last day in Cairo, we visited the Citadel of Cairo, The Hanging Church. The most beautiful part of the day was our visit to Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church, located in Coptic Cairo, often referred to as Old Cairo. The Saints Sergius and Bacchus site is one of the many churches and synagogues in what is also known as the Interfaith Complex. This church is considered to be the site where Jesus, Mary and Joseph lived after their pilgrimage to Egypt. The time I spent meditating in this church was restorative and peaceful. I had some of the best Falafel I have ever experienced at the local favourite Felfela restaurant in Downtown Cairo.
The group visits the Great Pyramids / Photo provided by Dawn Booker
Sailing the Nile on an Authentic Egyptian Dahabiya
After a short flight from Cairo to Luxor, upon landing, I immediately sensed the difference between Cairo and the former Egyptian capital city of Luxor. First, we noticed it was hotter and lusher along the Nile River; we also noticed that the people in both Luxor and Aswan had beautiful, deep brown skin. We boarded a private Dahabiya in Luxor and sailed along the Nile day and night for 4 nights.
We visited all the famous sites near the city, including the Luxor Temple, The Valley of the Queens and the Karnak Temple. The best way to see Luxor is from the Hot Air Balloons flying over 1000 feet above the ground. The views were incredible, and the feeling of sailing through the sky took my breath away. I have always feared heights but couldn’t allow this opportunity to pass; I am so grateful I did. The moments in the hot air balloon were definitely when I felt closest to my father. We sang, danced, and had decadent Egyptian meals each night as we lounged in our caftans that we all purchased along the Nile. Our guide ensured we felt safe and cared for the entire trip.
During our Final Stop in Aswan, we met many Nubian Egyptians and spent the day learning about Nubian culture. Many of us finally put our feet into the water; it felt surreal to be standing on a sandy beach on the banks of the Nile.
The journey through Egypt was more than a physical exploration; it was a spiritual and emotional pilgrimage. Amidst the ruins and relics, our group found moments of reflection, prayer, and a deep connection with each other. The trip became a tapestry of healing, woven with the threads of a transformative shared experience that will forever remind me of the enduring strength of sisterhood. Egypt will always hold a sacred space in my heart. Even in the face of loss, I was able to feel joy.
The group flies over Luxor in a hot air balloon / Photo by Dawn Booker
The ladies dressed up in their Egyptian Dahabiya / Photo by Dawn Booker
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