Between 2007 and 2009, we decided to seek adventure in North Africa and the Middle East. Our trips to Tunisia, Morocco and Jordan were escorted land tours while Egypt was a small boat tour. With the recent events in Tunisia and Egypt, what we thought of as memorable journeys should now be considered true adventures. It was hard to realize walking through a nearly empty Tahrir Square on a quite morning during Ramadan that it would be filled with a 100,000 Egyptians calling for the resignation of Moubarak this spring.
In 2007, we took one of Vantage's early tours to Tunisia: the Mediterranean & the Sahara, traveling by bus from the fertile coastal plain and the ancient city of Carthage to Douze, gateway to the Sahara desert. Our Program Manager, Roberto, was a French-Italian christian born in Tunis while our local guide, Khalil, who accompanied us on the whole trip, was an Arabic, English, french speaking local Muslim. Together, they provided us with a wealth of historical, cultural and religious information, far exceeding our expectations making this a wonderful tour.
From Carthage and its museums and the World War II American Cemetery we traveled to the foothills to visit the ancient Roman city of Dougga where, 2000 years ago 100,000 Romans lived. We were also amazed to see in the city of El Jem a 35,000 seat Roam amphitheater better preserved than the Colosseum in Rome.
In Douze, of French Foreign Legion fame, we had a most amazing adventure. Dressed in flowing Bedouin clothes, we took a camel ride at dusk into the Sahara to visit a genuine Bedouin camp for cocktails!! and hors d'oevres. After several glasses of fig vodka (Boukha Soleil), everyone joined in the Bedouin singing and dancing. We were driven back to our hotel by 4-wheel drive vehicles (too dark to travel by camel especially after fig vodka).
Gaining courage by the day with our high school french, we dared to enter a couple of souks where we bargained in french for Berber rugs and camel leather bags. We left the souk with both sides happy, all in all a fun experience.
Following the peaceful revolution this spring and the overthrow of the president Tunisia is different from the country we visited in 2007. We look forward to a repeat trip to find out.
Following our adventures in Tunisia, in 2008 we visited Egypt & the Nile: Land of the Pharaohs plus Jordan. What made Egypt so interesting and exciting was our Program Manager, Maged "Magic" Wadie. Magic besides being an outstanding and possibly the best program manager we have ever had was a university trained Egyptologist. Also as a coptic christian he had an encyclopedic knowledge of early Christianity in Cairo.
Abu Simbel has to be seen to be believed as does Luxor. At both sites Magic's experience was invaluable. At Abu Simbel, he had us wait until almost all the day tripper tourists had left, filling the time with a history lesson on ancient Egypt, so that we had the temple to ourselves. At Luxor he had us wait until the cool of the late afternoon, just before dusk, allowing us to leisurely stroll through the ruins without the mass of day tourists.
The additional 3 day cruise on Lake Nasser allowed us to visit the smaller temples only approachable by boat. Sailing on the Nile allowed one to sit on the upper deck, relax and get to know your fellow travelers.
Bargaining in the bazaars to buy a Galabia for the "Galabia party" was fun as was the party itself.
After the traffic of Cairo, arriving in Jordan was a culture shock. From complete chaos to the obeying of traffic laws and signs was amazing. While the post excursion to Jordan was short, we thoroughly enjoyed the visit to Petra and swimming in the Dead Sea. We were also to lucky to see, when visiting the ancient Roman city north of Amman, to see chariot races with soldiers in full Roam dress.
The memories, history, different cultures and religions of Egypt changed our image of the country. Magic opened up for us a whole new vista . He will always remain to us an outstanding program manager and credit to Vantage. We look forward to a return trip when the dust settles in Tahrir Squire,
Following our two earlier forays into North Africa, we decided in 2009 to take the first and so far only President's Tour to Morocco: The Imperial Cities of Morocco. This tour to an exotic and beautifully varied country was unfortunately poorly organized, After Maged "Magic" Wabid in Egypt the program managers in Morocco were a major disappointment. Nevertheless, we enjoyed Rabat and Casablanca while both Fez and Marrakech lived up to their reputations as Imperial Cities.
Essaouira, the post extension selection, was an excellent choice. This city, located on the Atlantic ocean, had much to offer. The ancient port, castle and beautifully preserved Medina were inviting, from watching the fresh catch come in to bargaining for inlaid wood items in the large but easily navigable Medina.
Dan & Dolores E.
15 time travelers
Escorted Land Tours
Small Ship Cruises