In 1996 I visited Egypt at Easter. I went with the brilliant people that are Explore as a singleton. The whole trip was brilliant – Cairo, Pyramids, temples, two night small boat trip (sleeping on deck) down the Nile etc.
We had two three a.m. starts – one to go to unbelievable Abu Simbel and one for what was to prove to be the highlight, a donkey ride to see the sun rising over The Valley Of The Kings.
Sceptical at first – I had only ever ridden a donkey at Pontins before as an unsuccessful jockey in a ‘donkey derby’ – but as soon as I set off along the rocky path with my sure-footed friend the magic started. Before long our small group had reached the prime point overlooking the valley.
As we munched on breakfast on the hoof, the tip of the sun made its first appearance over the horizon.
Soon the giant orange sphere had turned the desert landscape from murky grey to a golden glow. You probably had to be there to appreciate it, but the whole group had tears in their eyes, such was the beauty of the spectacle before us (the hard, spiny back we had between our legs had nothing at all to do with it)!
We lingered for thirty minutes or so before re-mounting for the descent and the amazing visit to the huge tomb of Ramses III, the longest serving Pharaoh ever. They started building each Pharaoh’s tomb as soon as they were crowned, hence Ramses (who died aged ninety) had a far bigger and grander three-chamber tomb compared to the equally famous Tutankhamen who died (was murdered?) aged just nineteen.
Unfortunately the Ramses tomb had been looted centuries before despite the location being kept a closely guarded secret to all but a very small chosen few (surviving manual labour and architects plus their families were even killed to preserve the secret), otherwise the fabulous Cairo Museum would have needed to be twice as big! (As it is they say that if you looked at every exhibit for one minute you would need to spend an entire year there without sleep)!
I have since ridden a donkey in Santorini (another hair-raising journey up a winding cliff face path with precipitous drops on one side) & on the Acropolis of Lindos – good as the experiences were, nothing has come close to that magical morning just outside Luxor.