Traffic in Cairo is crazy at best, and so at times during our Egyptian stay we ditched taxis and buses for more exotic forms of transportation.
Drifting down the Nile in a Felucca boat was one of the most relaxing events of our entire stay in Egypt. We squeezed twenty or so people onto a single boat, and floated around for an hour and a half. It was refreshing to be removed from the urban hustle and bustle, and interesting to observe the city from a different vantage point. After enjoying picnic dinners we took in the sunset, and watched as slowly the city lights flickered to life. Felucca boats can be rented (among other places) along the strip of the Nile that is lined by American hotels. It is possible to barter with your guide/driver for a better price than they first suggest; as a large group we paid the equivalent of $1 USD per person.
Perhaps the monetary value of camel riding wasn't great, but for many of us, seeing the Giza pyramids atop an age-old travel animal was a priceless experience. The entire set-up is extremely touristy, but riding the lurching, spitting beasts for about 15 minutes was well worth the price of $10 USD. My camel was named Michael, and my handler even let us pick up the pace to a trot! Be aware that your handler will expect "bakshish" (a tip) for pictures that they take of you, or that you take of the camel.
The Egyptian Bedouins lead an existence far removed from the hustle and bustle of Cairo, and by land cruiser we exampled their lifestyle for a day and a night. Getting to the camping site was a bit of a hike (5 hours by bus plus 2 hours by land cruiser), but obviously the experience wouldn't be the same if it was located on the outskirts of the city. Some desert camping experiences center around existing Bedouin camps, but ours was set up on the fly. As our guides erected walls and laid out tables and cushions, we took in the expansive night sky and countless shooting stars. After a dinner of chicken, rice, and soup, we joined our hosts for traditional drumming and dancing around the campfire. Late into the night we circled our cushions and sleeping bags around the fire, only to to awaken hours later to a stunning sunrise vista. After breakfast of eggs, flat bread, and tea, we journeyed deeper into the desert to visit rock formations and hot springs, returning to Cairo later that day by bus. The entire experience cost $100 USD per person, but considering all of the driving and logistical details, we thought that the price was fair.
After our month in Egypt, we are now settling into life in rural, southern, India. This leg of our trip is geared toward reflection and introspection as we study the religions of India, and after our frenetic touring schedule of pyramids and tombs, I think that we are all ready for the change of pace. That said, I'm sure that I will still have plenty of adventures to report on, even if they only concern the 10-30 foot black cobras that allegedly circle the grounds of our retreat center compound!