My most recent Atlantis cruise to the Mediterranean was the big gay cruise to the pyramids. The big question everyone asks immediately, “Did we have any problems in Egypt?” Well, only if you count trying to avoid the vendors who continually attempt to sell everything imaginable. In terms of being a cruise ship of 2,500 guys touring Egypt, there were no problems. Before arriving, we advised everyone that we were there to enjoy the historical sites and experience the culture. Therefore, I wouldn’t pick your time at the Sphinx to propose to your boyfriend since the gay lifestyle is not exactly openly embraced. As always, remember you want people to respect your culture, and we should respect theirs as well. Although we may not agree with it, we kept reminding ourselves that we were just visiting. After all the advice on what not to wear, (tank tops are not a big thing there) everything went great. The tour operators and tour guides didn’t know what was going on, however a few figured it out along the way. Several of the bus guides kept noticing the lack of women. We just told them we left them on the ship. Others assumed we were army personnel on vacation. After a while, most of the guides figured it out and really didn’t care. Ultimately they just wanted us to purchase cartouches. So once again money talks, prejudice walks.
The first thing you notice about Egypt is the driving. Never sit in the front seat of the bus! I think I aged 20 years on the 3 hour ride from the ship to Cairo. Tailgating is a sport there and the dividing lines are only there for art. Even if there is only one car on the road it still doesn’t stay in its lane. Trust me, sit in the back and take a Xanax.
The second thing you notice is the poverty. Egypt, despite its treasures, is a very poor country. Many of the streets we traveled were just dirt and the canals were not very pleasant to look at. There were attractive areas and we were allowed to depart the bus for photo opportunities. The first place we visited was the tombs and the Step Pyramid, one of the first ever built. From this point forward the drive was spectacular. Everything you’ve ever seen on the History Channel comes to life and you have a sense of surrealism. Continuing from there we visited the statue of Ramses II which is one of the largest statues of a pharaoh (not that size matters).
Lunch at the Cairo Hilton was a happy surprise and the atmosphere was refreshing. Hotel guests mingling in the lobby kept wondering why there was no line for the woman’s room. Our next stop on the journey was to the Pyramids of Giza. To put things into perspective, in regards to how much the city has grown over the years: we could clearly see the pyramids from the hotel. In fact they were less then a mile away. All the pictures you see of the pyramids and the desert are facing southwest. The second you look north or east, the city is in the background. Since 1956 the population in Egypt escalated from 16 million to 85 million today, with nearly 17 million in and around Cairo, so it was inevitable the two would meet. Even more frightening is the fact that less than 300 yards from the front of the Sphinx is a KFC and Pizza Hut. Yes, it’s true, but they don’t have grilled tenders yet.
The Pyramids and the Sphinx are everything you would expect, majestic and stunning, an amazing accomplishment of architecture. At one of the pyramids you can climb down to one of tombs. This was not a stroll down steps; it was maneuvering through a 4-foot crawl space at times. Yes a bit scary, so I opted for KFC. The pyramids are where you can ride a camel for that once in a lifetime adventure. It should be a once in a lifetime adventure, much the same as my one time with Cathy Miller. There is a great expectation, but once you get on you can’t wait to get off; after 10 minutes on a camel’s back you’re done. However, the smell stays with you. In fact, on the return bus ride we knew who rode the camels. The guys operating the camel rides had been informed about us prior to our arrival. The questions were abundant: “Are you from the gay cruise?” “Is that your boyfriend?” “You ride camel like boyfriend?” As long as we purchased something they really didn’t care. I must admit, standing on the overlook gazing at the pyramids was an awesome experience and definitely something you should experience if you have the chance.
Malcolm Nietzey travels the world aboard Atlantis Cruises and reports on interesting ports of call for Hotspots Magazine. After Egypt he cruised to Rhodes, Mykonos, Santorini, Naples and Rome. We’ll bring you more on his travels in the Mediterranean in future issues of Hotspots Magazine.