When You Go to Egypt—A Quick Primer

So you’re going to Egypt? Congratulations! You’ll be walking on the land of Pharaohs! Egypt is an excellent destination for anyone who geeks out on the history of ancient civilizations. Ancient Egypt was on the forefront of education, military strategies, medicine, science, architecture and the arts. Evan Andrews shares on History.com that it “created a culture so rich that it has spawned its own field of study.”

In the Bible, we find that Egypt became home to the Israelites for 430 years. Joseph, one of Jacob’s twelve sons, became prime minister of Egypt and paved the way for his family to settle and multiply in Goshen.

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Photo illustration from Pinterest

Egypt was also the setting of the Exodus. After being mistreated for 400 years, Moses, a native Hebrew who was raised in the Egyptian palace was prepared and used by God to bring His people out of the land of slavery.

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Image from the Prince of Egypt movie

In the New Testament, Joseph had to take Mary and little Jesus to live in Egypt for a while after he was warned in a dream not to return to Israel because King Herod was looking for Jesus to have Him killed.

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Painting by Edwin Long, Anno Domini, 1883.

Egypt has an estimated population of almost 86 million. It is a largely Muslim country with a very small percentage of Coptic Catholic, Orthodox Christian and Coptic Orthodox.

Just how large is Egypt? Egypt is a transcontinental country, meaning it covers more than one continent. A huge part of Egypt is in Africa but the Sinai area is in Asia.

Now that you’re acquainted with Egypt, here are some FAQs:

What is the climate like?

It’s generally warm and dry during the day but gets really cold in the evening, just like any desert country.

What should I bring and what should I wear?

Since Egypt is a largely Muslim country, part of respecting their culture and beliefs is to dress modestly. As such, do not go walking around and visiting their tourist sites dressed in skimpy clothing–no shorts, no spaghetti straps, tank tops or anything that exposes too much skin. Depending on what time of the year you plan to go, it would be helpful to bring a windbreaker or a light sweater. Since there’s a lot of walking involved, jeans, cargo pants and sneakers would be most comfortable. Also bring a scarf which you can use to shield your head or cover your face in case it gets too windy and the sand flies up from the ground.

Sunglasses are a definite must-have to shade your eyes, plus an umbrella and sunblock to protect your skin. Bring a reusable water bottle that you can refill with clean water when you get back to your hotel or when you stop by restaurants. .

Is it better to go there alone or with a group? Is it safe?

I went with a tour group. I know that it would be an entirely different experience to go there alone and plan my itinerary. I might decide to do that once I’m done ticking off the other countries on my list, so that would probably take a while.

Given my limited knowledge of Arabic, I think that it’s better to go with a group and to also find a local guide. Their history is so rich, I think your trip would be more meaningful if you have a licensed and information-savvy tour guide who can answer your questions and give you your fill of Ancient Egyptian history. Having a licensed guide will also protect you from over-charging vendors and even extortionists who may prey on tourists.

Where can I find good licensed Egyptian tour guides?

Our tour guides were from Meryland Tours. I was very pleased with Dr. Ashraf Moussa (his nickname is Moses) who communicated well in English and was very much in touch with current events. He is knowledgeable in history and culture, naturally funny and kindly urged us to get going specially when we were already spending too much time in our mini photo shoots! I know he wanted us to cover as many places as we could.

Marco on the other hand, assisted us as soon as we landed at the Cairo Airport. He also took us through the midnight trek to Mt. Sinai and brought us to the border at Taba where we were to enter Israel from Egypt.

What are the must-see places?

A trip to Egypt is obviously not complete if you don’t stop by the Pyramids and the Sphinx (he is so going to visit you in your dreams haha). We were only in Egypt for three days so we were not able to go to Karnak, The Luxor Temple, Abu Simbel, Philae and Alexandria, among others.

Our first stop from the airport was the Egyptian Museum, which by the way is so huge, you can’t go through all the antiquities in just one day. Moses said that we needed three whole days to go through all the halls! They have an extensive collection of personal items and furniture found in tombs, clothing, armor, sarcophagi, mummies, ancient condoms, accessories and even bread! Mobile phones and cameras are not allowed inside the museums, so no selfies, no photographs of the artifacts. You truly must go and just experience it for yourself.

What kind of money should I bring?

US Dollars are accepted almost anywhere in Egypt but make sure you have a lot of smaller bills. If you’re one of those travelers who like keeping foreign currency as travel souvenirs, then have a few dollars exchanged for Egyptian pounds and coins. Bottled water (believe me, you need it!) costs $1-2 per piece and these are available at small stores or from your bus operator.


Are you all set and ready to walk like an Egyptian? If you have any other questions, you can shoot me an email at ingrid[at]ingridnieto.com.

Travel Video: ISRAEL

FINALLY! I finished this travel video! WHOOOO! When I edit videos, my tendency is to really get lost in time because I want to finish a project. It was a challenge to complete this because of my crazy schedule at work, events and ministry.

I spent weeks going through 600-800 video clips, noting which ones are good from those that are just crappy and blurry. So ladies and gents, my dear blog readers, here is ISRAEL IN MOTION (done with lots of love)!!!

Holy Land Photoblog: Megiddo

The first time I heard of Megiddo, the images in my head were of scary arms and artillery, troops and their tanks locked and loaded. Megiddo is said to be the site where the final battle between good and evil will ensue (Revelation 16:12-16), when nations will gather against Israel and the latter will call out to Jesus Christ to rescue them. 

Megiddo - the site of the final battle between good and evil

Megiddo – the site of the final battle between good and evil

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View of the Jezreel Valley from the top of Megiddo

How can such a beautiful, peaceful-looking plain be the backdrop of a bloody battle? History and the Bible both reveal that Megiddo has been the site of epic battles. The Megiddo Expedition site says:

Megiddo was the site of epic battles that decided the fate of western Asia. When the Canaanite city-states revolted against 15th century BCE Pharaonic attempts at hegemony, it was at Megiddo that they assembled to do battle. The Egyptian army, led by Pharaoh Thutmose III, surprised the rebels by choosing the most dangerous route of attack – through the narrow ‘Aruna Pass. After routing the Canaanite forces and capturing rich booty, Thutmose III laid siege to the city for seven months. His decisive victory enabled him to incorporate Canaan as a province in the Empire of the New Kingdom. The description of the battle of Megiddo is the earliest account of a major war in antiquity.

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Model of Tel-Megiddo

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The Late Bronze Period Gate

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The Late Bronze Period Gate

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Manger

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Flags

Flags

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It was interesting to see these birds get into their V formation. I tried to capture the V perfectly but this was all I could muster.

The Sacred Area

The Sacred Area

The entrance to the Megiddo Spring

The entrance to the Megiddo Spring

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Yes folks, it’s that deep

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It’s very cold in here.

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Hold on to the railings. The steps can get slippery

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HOLY LAND 2014: Crossing the border from Egypt to Israel

Our stay in Egypt seemed to go by so fast. I know we were able to visit a good number of touristy places but there is so much more to explore. Our tour guide Moses told us that the new Egyptian Museum would open next year and I’m thinking I should definitely go back. There are other places to see like Abu Simbel, the Valley of the Kings, Karnak, Luxor and Joseph’s Storehouses.

After a 10-hour bus ride, our group arrived at the Egypt land port where we had to cross the border to Israel. Marco, our tour guide number 2 warned us to not take photos or videos at the border because they were very strict. Once you get off the bus, it’s best that you find your luggage right away or an attendant will take it for you and you have to pay him $5. Call me kuripot but I didn’t want to! Imagine, an attendant will take your luggage, put it on a cart along with the others and he gets $5 from each of you? I can handle my luggage, thank you very much!

When you get to the land port, there’s a security check. It’s best to pull out your travel documents and passport and bring them with you as you pass through the scanner. We filled out a small sheet and had our passports stamped and we were out of Taba in less than an hour. The Israel land port is another story. It’s very memorable for me because THEY TOOK MY PASSPORT! I remember following the rules–I didn’t horse around, I didn’t even take photos or videos! When it was my turn to show my passport, the female immigration officer asked me if I spoke English and I said “Yes.” After that, she took my passport and said they have to hold it for security reasons. I thought it was a routine thing initially, but when I saw the rest of my tour group still had their passports with them, my heart started pounding so fast. Continue reading

Chronicling Ilocos Norte: Malacañang of the North


Before I even flew to Ilocos, I was already looking forward to visiting a few key places given the length of time I’d actually be there. As much as it was enticing to sleep in the soft, fluffy bed of my hotel room, I found myself waking up really early. I think it was my brain telling me to go and relish what Ilocos Norte has to offer.


The nearest spot from our hotel was the Malacanang of the North. It was originally built as the official residence of former President Marcos and his family. I don’t think visitors mind paying the P30.00 entrance fee, because once you step into the foyer, you can’t help but gape at the beautifully-designed living area.


From here, you can walk straight towards a serene viewdeck of the Paoay River.

There were so many corners to take photos of but we were pressed for time. The wedding was to take place on the same afternoon.

Too bad, didn’t get to explore this part.
This is what welcomed us when we went up to the second floor.
We went to the first room on our right–The Master’s Bedroom. EEP!

You can view more photos of the mansion in the slideshow below.

Chronicling Ilocos Norte: The Paoay Sand Dunes

Whenever someone mentions “sands” or “desert” I immediately get a visual of Dubai as portrayed in movies–an expanse of sand with beautiful ripples, shaped by the dry wind.

Photo by Jon Bower

It was only this year that I knew of hectares of sand dunes that existed in the Philippines–Ilocos Norte to be exact. I was extra thrilled upon finding out that the Paoay Sand Dunes was just a 30-minute ride from Plaza del Norte.



For P1500.00, you can hire a 4×4 vehicle (fits 5) that will take you through  the entire stretch of the sand dunes for 30 minutes.


Our jeep in screaming ORANGE!

Although it was dry and hot, clouds covered the skies, softening the sun’s rays. Around 300 kms from the starting point, we were welcomed by the cool sea breeze. That caught me! I took my slippers off and dipped my feet!


Chronicling Ilocos Norte: Plaza del Norte Hotel andConvention Center


I spent three glorious days in Ilocos Norte and made the most of my visit by taking lots of pictures!

 A shot of the sunset before landing at the Laoag International Airport.

The Laoag International Airport stays true to the Spanish-colonial feel of Ilocos.



We were booked at the government-owned Plaza del Norte Hotel and Convention Center which was just 15 minutes away from the airport. 
The well-lit, spacious lobby




The pool looked very inviting but this shot doesn’t do it much justice! I did take better pictures the next morning. 
After dinner, we checked into our rooms to rest and freshen up. It was a good thing I brought swimwear–we ended up going for an evening dip. Thankfully, the water temperature was just right. 

When I was done swimming, I went around the venue to admire the scenery and take pictures.




Can you guess what was going through my head when I shot this?
THIS SCENE. EXACTLY.


The venue for the Chua-Guillen wedding reception. 

More photos below: