Egypt has yet another story to tell

  • By Jackson Holtz Herald Writer
  • Friday, June 1, 2012 2:42pm
  • Life

The opening of the King Tut exhibit in Seattle came with a message to would-be tourists interested in deepening their interest in ancient civilizations.

“Egypt is safe,” said Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim, the Egyptian Minister of State for Antiquities Affairs. Ibrahim was in Seattle for the exhibit.

After a year of revolutionary turmoil, many tourists have stayed away from one of the most magnificent visitor destinations in the world.

Now, as presidential elections look to restore political stability, Egypt again is poised to welcome visitors.

“Tourism is integral to the economy of Egypt,” said Marwa Maziad, 32, a doctoral student at the University of Washington.

While studying in Seattle, she also writes a weekly current-affairs column for Al-Masry Al-Youm, an independent daily paper in her native Cairo.

Since the Jan. 25, 2011, toppling of Hosni Mubarak’s decades-long regime, Egypt has been like a house undergoing renovations, Maziad said.

The election brought political ordering and more security, she said.

“Yes, come,” she said. “Egypt is positioned even better now to have the people flowing through.”

While officials say safety has returned, problems do persist. Last week two American tourists were briefly kidnapped on the Sinai Peninsula but released unharmed.

Still, statistics show an increase this year in visitors, Mohamed Hegazy said. He’s the consul director of the Egypt Tourist Authority.

People who go see “Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs,” the exhibit of prized antiquities running through Jan. 6 at the Pacific Science Center in Seattle, will get just a glimpse of the massive Egyptian cultural legacy.

What archaeologists have discovered over the centuries is only the beginning of what Egypt has to tell, said Emily Wilson, the owner of Traveller Worldwide Explorations, a Seattle company that offers small group cultural trips to the Middle East.

She’s been to Egypt several times since 1998.

“The whole country is full of antiquities. Barely few have been discovered,” she said. “There are thousands below the sands of time.”

Most visitors will spend about a day at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

That’s where many of the more than 5,000 King Tut artifacts are housed.

“King Tut is just a sample of a rich treasure, which is still there in Egypt,” Hegazy said.

Most visitors will spend at least eight days in the country, but a better plan is to stay 12 days or longer, he said.

Wilson recommends trips that include a few days in Cairo to see the museum, the pyramids at Giza and to spend time exploring the cultural side of the ancient city.

Then, she suggests people visit the Temples of Luxor, the Valley of the Kings or the Coptic Monastry at Mount Sinai.

Egypt also has wonderful beaches on two oceans, and beautiful coral reefs in the Red Sea.

“Whether (tourists) are enjoying historical sites or beach sites, both, it’s one of a kind,” Hegazy said.

Walking through ancient spaces isn’t just about the art and architecture. Many sites once were temples, and the spirit and majesty remain. Ancient peoples built and inhabited the places that are visited today, Mazaid said.

“You understand civilization. It continues. It hasn’t been interrupted,” she said. “It’s quite an experience.”

And even people destined to see ancient places, can’t miss the new history being made today in Egypt.

That’s why Mazaid said there’s one place all visitors must go: the birthplace of the Arab Awakening.

“People have to go to Tahrir Square,” she said.

There are daily flights to Egypt from Seattle either connecting through New York or European airports.

Jackson Holtz: 425-339-3447; jholtz@heraldnet.com.

Travel to Egypt

• Traveller Worldwide Explorations: Reach Emily Wilson at emilymwilson@comcast.net

• Egypt Tourist Authority: www.touregypt.net

King Tut exhibit

“Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs” continues 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily at the Pacific Science Center through Jan. 6. Tickets range from $27.50 to $32.50 for adults; $24.50 to $29.50 for seniors and students, $16.50 to $21.50 for children 6 to 15; $15.50 to $20.50 for children 3 to 5. Advance tickets are recommended. PacificScienceCenter.org or call 800-664-8775.

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