Why Egypt? Isn’t it dangerous? Surely you’re not going alone as a woman? Was the most common response I had when planning a trip to Egypt. No. Egypt is no more dangerous than any other country and in my personal experience, I have felt 100% safe at all times. Egypt is a vast country; like most places it has pockets of trouble, but it also has a thriving tourism industry, amazing history, landscapes, and most importantly, some of the most hospitable people I have ever come across (not to mention stunning Arabian horses).
For me, Egypt has always held a fascination. I dreamed of one day visiting the Great Pyramids, the temples and mummies. So when I came across Ride Egypt’s Adventures of Luxor and Makadi Bay, it was an instant hit. The itinerary promised the perfect blend of history and culture, plus great riding. I certainly wasn’t disappointed.
Egypt today is so much more than it’s history. It is a vibrant, intoxicating, totally insane country. I fell in love with the place, its people and its animals. Go. Experience it. You won’t regret it. Although, if you’re like me, you might love it so much you go back three times in the same year…
Ride Egypt is owned and run by Emma, an English woman who moved her life to Egypt several years ago after falling in love with Belal, the Arab stallion she now owns. Ride Egypt HQ is based in Luxor where Emma lives, which means that you are truly welcomed into her family (and menagerie of animals) on a riding holiday.
Adventures of Luxor and Makadi Bay is Emma’s best selling holiday, and one I’ve ridden twice (it really is that good). You spend 4 days exploring the best of Luxor’s historical sites and village life, before spending the final 4 days letting loose in the desert and making the most of the beautiful coastline of Hurghada. The trip is ideal as a single traveller, as most of Emma’s customers are solo female travellers, which provides the advantage of travelling as part of a like-minded group.
First stop, Luxor. Luxor perfectly encapsulates the contradictions of modern Egypt. The East Bank is filled with bustling streets (top tip: if you’re brave and want to pass for a real Egyptian, walk in the road, not on the pavement), blaring horns, and crammed shop fronts. Expect to wince as horse drawn carriages dive in and out of the traffic. In the evenings the markets come alive with aromas of spice and the chorus of “hello beautiful lady” from the local market traders. Whilst a group of western women will naturally attract attention, it is generally well meaning and we certainly gave as good as we got. We spent a hilarious evening bartering over spices, fabric and beautiful Egyptian metalwork. Despite the many offers of marriage, thankfully all we came away with was some local craftsmanship!
Just a short boat ride across the Nile, lies another world. The West Bank is a tranquil oasis in comparison, with village life having changed very little for many years. During our time in Luxor, we stayed at a charming Egyptian guest house just moments from the bank of the Nile. The Nile House team, led by the lovely Costa, really cannot do enough to help. A banquet is served at every meal; far too much for the number of people but completely delicious. The food in Egypt is simply stunning. Fresh and full of flavour. Throughout the trip we feasted on freshly made falafel, breads and a dazzling array of salads. The highlight however, has to be Akmed’s fried aubergine with a generous squeeze of lemon – heaven!
Horseback is without a doubt the best way to explore this area. Trotting through the sugar cane fields and weaving through the labyrinth of alleyways provides an insight into village life that would be hard to achieve alone or on a traditional tour. Wandering along you can smell the freshly baking bread mingled with the scents of the buffalo which guard every other plot and the dry baked earth. You can feel the warmth of the sun and the power of your horse underneath you, which, despite the cacophony of calls from local children and the humdrum of bustling village life, is completely relaxed and ambling along in contentment.
One of my favourite rides in Luxor takes you through the local villages to Banana Island. Not technically an island, it’s actually a banana plantation on the bank of the Nile. After a hot ride, a refreshing drink and a delicious small sweet banana straight from the tree is the perfect treat whilst admiring the Nile views.