I have just returned from a wonderful re-union of our cultural group that recently toured Abu Dhabi, Egypt and Turkey. We enjoyed a feast of authentic middle-eastern food with an extensive range of local sweets including Peach Melba and Apricot Nectar Cheesecake complete with ample supplies of merlot, chardonnay, beer and soft drinks. It was wonderful to re-live our experiences through seeing our photos displayed on a large screen at the home of Rob & Julie.
Perhaps the most pleasing aspect of the tour was that it ran like a smoothly oiled machine. The transfers were always on time, in fact usually early and our guides had a great sense of humour and were a constant source of fascinating cultural and general information. They always advised us that they were at our disposal 24 hours a day and true to their word they were. No request was too much trouble – their service was outstanding.
It is always interesting to discuss the tour after you have had time to reflect. Whilst we had numerous truly remarkable experiences, one of the most unique was visiting an “average middle class” Egyptian extended family in their home and discussing their life in Cairo. Looking back, this proved to be a unique and poignant experience given the recent upheaval in the Middle-East. For a group of 26 tourists to be so warmly welcomed into a private home and generously given a lovely afternoon tea was a most humbling experience.
Our trip on the Nile Premium down the Nile River from Luxor to Aswan enabled us to experience true luxury and style. It was the most exquisite combination of educationally fascinating site visits coupled with relaxation and fun. Our evening pre- dinner drinks under the brilliant sunsets were, to say the least, utterly memorable. Visits to the Great Sphinx, Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum where we saw the Tutankhamun Galleries provided a fascinating and informative Egyptian experience.
To a man and woman we were stunned by the Museum Hotel in Cappadocia. It is indeed unusual to be so impressed by a hotel, but this one proved to be so surprising that the group arranged room visits to experience the diversity of luxury, style and unique opulence. Valley views from alabaster spas, wine dispensers in walls, rooms containing three cascading tiers culminating in a large studio with a central fish pond and a series of massive windows enabling viewing of the valley and its “fairy chimneys”, glass sections in floors revealing classical art objects – it was really difficult to leave!
A regularly heard comment was “I just didn’t think that the tour could improve on yesterday but this is amazing – it just keeps getting better and better”. The hot air balloon ride over the Cappadocian valley ensured that our cameras received a thorough work-out.
The tour provided some unexpected cultural gems. In Abu Dhabi we visited the Falcon Hospital and were educated into the importance of the falcon in UAE culture. It was fascinating to realize that falcons require a passport, the same as ours, to travel overseas.
In Istanbul, visits to the Spice Bazaar and Grand Bazaar, where we were plied with a never ending supply of food samples were a sensual feast. The extraordinary underground Yerebatan Cistern was impressive and visually powerful. We received the most wonderful and informative education on Turkish history with visits to the Haiga Sophia, Blue Mosque, Hippodrome and Topkapi Palace. The leisurely ferry ride up the Bosphorous provided a most informative and relaxing day. Our time in Istanbul concluded with a spectacular New Years Eve Ball where we consumed never-ending Turkish dishes and viewed an array of entertainment including belly dancers and singers.
Our guide brought history into sharp focus when we visited Anzac Cove, the Lone Pine Cemetery and Chunuk Bair – Gallipoli is a very emotional and moving experience.
Our re-union finished with the group wanting information on the “next one”.
For more details on the next Cultural tour to Croatia and Italy please select http://www.travelrite.com.au/cultural_pr.shtml