Egypt is a bucket list destination for just about anyone. You don't have to be an avid traveler to have ever dreamed about standing between the pyramids, kissing the sphinx, or riding camel back over orange-colored sand dunes. The scenery alone lends itself to the imagination and you could easily begin to picture what the days of Ramesses II must have been. History is all around you at all times and well-preserved which immediately ties you to the proud heritage of Egyptian people.
Fast forward to modern-day Cairo, and things are very different but still reflective of the significance of the past that is etched into Egypt. Cairo is the largest city in Egypt and a bustling shock to the system that hits instantly. This city sits at the banks of the famed Nile River, and boasts a population of about 20 million people. Egypt alone has a population of approximately 105 million people. It is a predominantly Muslim country but still seems more progressing than I expected in its views and diverse in its current culture. If New York City is the city that never sleeps, then Cairo is the city that never blinks. There are people in every corner, there are shops everywhere you look, many languages being spoken in the same conversations, amazing smelling food and spices and of course sweet-smelling shisha. If there is one thing I can say about Cairo, much less Egypt, I felt surrounded by a robust culture that is steeped in history and pride.
Egypt is so big and there is a lot to take in all at once. Here were some of my top 5 favorites:
The Pyramids & The Sphinx
So, small confession I really only came to Egypt to see these two things. By the time I left though, I realized how much apart of a bigger, grander tapestry of history they actually were. These two sets of structures were one of my earliest memories of me and father bonding over travel. I knew that being in their presence would be awe-inspiring. The Great Pyramids and the Sphinx are located in close vicinity to one another. You can purchase a ticket at the ticket office and proceed through several security stops before walking into the main historic area. Once you are through the gate, you are literally standing at the foot of the first of three Great Pyramids. Be prepared because it will take your breath away.
Off in the near distance, you will be able to see the other two pyramids against the desert background. It is possible for you to go inside the first pyramid but that ticket must be purchased at the gate or you are out of luck. If you choose to venture inside the pyramids, be cautioned, it consists of crawling through a small tunnel while crouching to traverse both inclines and declines until you reach the final room. Here is where a tomb was found but is now located in the Egyptian Museum. The walk is not for the faint of heart and is very hot due to little ventilation. Honestly, you can skip that and instead take a walk around each pyramid. It is possible to climb up the first set of stones to take a photo and get up close to each pyramid.
A short walk down the road that winds between the pyramids is where the Sphinx is located. It is a separate structure with a complex all its own. Upon first glance, it almost seems small until you walk through the purification chambers and exit along a pathway that puts you right next to the head of the Sphinx. Here is where most people take their iconic photos kissing the Sphinx, holding the chin of the Sphinx or any other creative way to capture this wonder of the world. A few tips while visiting this area: go early and not on Friday, it gets crowded quickly. If anyone offers to take your photo be prepared to tip them. Pay for the camel rides, there are a lot of fun and you get great photos from the other side of the pyramids. Lastly, make sure you stop for a moment and take it all in.
Visit The Mortuary Temple Of Hatshepsut
A little background history to Hatshepsut for context first: She was the fifth Pharaoh of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt. She was the second confirmed female pharaoh at the time. Now, you might be wondering if she was a woman, why was she not the Queen of Egypt? As the story goes, when she rose to power, she decided that she was going to rule Egypt in the same manner as the men who preceded her. This involved creating her own narrative and establishing herself as the God's Wife of Amen. Hatshepsut called herself a pharaoh in her story and even used male pronouns to refer to herself in her written story. In physical depictions, Hatshepsut is seen with the royal false beard and wearing a pharaoh's royal garments in many statues surrounding the temple, as well as in drawings on the temple walls.
She is regarded as one of the most successful and accomplished Pharaohs of her time, ruling for longer than any other female in Egyptian history. Her temple sits on the West Bank of the Nile River in the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt. It is carved into a cliff with a grand staircase leading to the central level of the temple. Here, you can see many statues of Hatshepsut as well as many columns and rooms for purification. On the top level is the chamber for the tomb that also showcases stories about the female Pharaoh's time in power. It is one of the most prominent structures in the area. The Valley of the Kings is known for the 60+ tombs that were found, including King Tut, but the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut is the most prolific structure standing. Her story is one that shows the power of women leaders and is inspiring to women in today's society.
Hot Air Balloon Ride Over The Valley Of The Kings
Hot air balloon rides should be on everyone's bucket list. Personally, I hope to do this in as many countries as possible. However, I am glad that I got a chance to do it first in Egypt. I wasn't sure what to expect but the end result exceeded my expectations. This particular hot air balloon ride started in a large open space on the West Bank of the Nile River. Our projected flight path was over the Valley of the Kings. One unexpected feature of our balloon aircraft was the size of the basket. Originally, I thought the aircraft would consist of small baskets with 6-8 people in each. The reality is, the aircraft is a large basket that holds about 20 people with even splits on both sides of the balloon pilot.
Even still, takeoff was smooth as we rose to 700 ft above the earth. This was coupled with the exact moment the sun rose to reveal a kind of beauty that could only be seen at that height. There is a moment of quiet calm that happens at cruising altitude that can only be described as tranquility. This was truly a highlight of my trip and a must do in any country offering this experience. If you really want to turn up your experience, pop a bottle of champagne while in flight and cheer to a beautiful life.
Cruise The Nile River
One of the most famous rivers in the world, the Nile River, exists in Egypt and has a 5-star cruise industry. The Nile River is a north flowing river and is arguably the longest river in the world, coming in at 4,130 miles (6,650km). It covers the length of 11 African countries and empties out in a large delta to the Mediterranean Sea. The highest populated cities in Egypt, including Cairo and Aswan, are located along the banks of the Nile River.
Cruising the Nile River can be done in many different ways, from luxury cruise ships to the shorter felucca rides. Most cruises in Egypt take place between Luxor and Aswan, visiting cities such as Esna, Edfu and Kom Ombo. Each stop gives you a look into some of the oldest structures still standing from ancient Egypt. It also is an excellent opportunity to see the stark contrast between ancient Egyptian buildings and the more modern-day apartment buildings, hotels and restaurants. The Nile River itself is a rather wide river with amazing scenery that changes from mile to mile. You can easily go from city scape, to mountains, to small village, to lush farmland in a matter of minutes. The luxury cruises are the way to go with a smooth ride down the Nile while being hosted by amazing staff that provide the comfort you need to relax and enjoy the jewel of Egypt.
Visit The Nubian Villages
Before traveling to Egypt, I did not know much about the Nubians. So, this was a welcomed surprise! The Nubian people are a part of one of the oldest civilizations known to Egypt, and are descendents from areas in modern-day Sudan and Egypt. Currently in Egypt, the Nubians live in what is considered ancient Nubia. They are farmers, shop owners, or they travel to work a variety of jobs in other Egyptian cities. Their buildings are brightly colored stucco structures stacked neatly together against the mountain side. Almost reminiscent of Mykonos but will more vibrant flavor. The people are welcoming as soon as you set foot on the Nubian soil, saying things like, "Wow you look like me, are you Nubian?" The goods sold here reflect the African culture from which the Nubian people derive their skin tone and heritage. The tiny streets are filled with shops selling local artwork depicting the deep-toned people of Nubia, spices, teas, and more. Camel back is the transportation of choice, and the Nubians traverse the small winding streets with ease. It doesn't quite feel like home but it feels familiar. This is a must-see and shop stop on any Egyptian itinerary.
So, that's it for my top five things to see and do in Egypt. I want to also give honorable mention the city of Alexandria. The ancient city contains a lighthouse called Pharos, which is regarded as one of the ancient world's seven wonders. I did not get a chance to visit but here are a few things to check out there: Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Montaza Palace, Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa and the beaches. Also visit the bazaars and perfumeries in Cairo. A few tips for the bazaars: know how much you want to spend on any item; most things are very cheap so haggle, haggle, haggle; if they won't budge leave and watch you spend exactly what you wanted.
These are my suggestions but Egypt is a big country, so there is much more to explore and discover.
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
Featured image by Amer-Marie/Instagram
- 20 Things To Do In Egypt (Updated 2020 List) No Travel Guide ... ›
- The Top 10 Things To Do & Must See Attractions in Egypt 2020 ›
- What NOT to do in Egypt - Matador Network ›
- 10 Things NOT to Do in Egypt - YouTube ›
- 12 Top Things to See and Do in Egypt ›
- Top 10 Things to do in Egypt - YouTube ›
- 25 Top Things to Do in Egypt ›
- 37 Cool and Unusual Things to Do in Egypt - Atlas Obscura ›
- Top things to do in Egypt - Lonely Planet ›
- THE 15 BEST Things to Do in Egypt - 2019 (with Photos) - TripAdvisor ›
Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith went to social media to share their Thanksgiving holiday with followers. The pair were surrounded by family and friends Thursday, and both posted how grateful they were to be with the ones they loved. Yet this comes on the heels of Pinkett Smith’s whirlwind of negative opinions and critics forecasting her book would be a flop.
Despite the negative feedback she received, Worthy, Pinkett Smith’s memoir, still debuted at #3 on the New York Times’ Best Seller list on October 25. The greatest backlash she received was centered around her relationship with Smith and the fact that the two had been living separate lives since 2016.
The commentary about their marriage overshadowed the reality that this book is ultimately about her journey to self-worth and the path she’s had to take in order to get there.
Social media comments about her book tour ranged from, “Me counting all the times Jada woke up and chose to embarrass Will Smith,” to podcasts like The Joe Budden Podcast saying, “Take me out the group chat,” which was a sentiment shared by many celebrities and fans alike. Yet, a point made by comedian KevOnStage proved that even though people say they don’t want to know about the Smiths, they’re secretly interested and want to know more.
Since the Smiths were wed in 1997, people have been fascinated with their marriage, and rumors about their marital arrangement have always been a topic of conversation. People continue to speculate that the pair is gay and swingers, and even new allegations have come out that Smith and Duane Martin shared an intimate relationship at one point.
However, despite their consistent united front throughout their marriage in recent years, Pinkett Smith has borne the brunt of backlash in the couple’s relationship, from her entanglement with August Alsina to Smith slapping Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards to the recent truths she’s shared about the couple’s marriage in her memoir.
Individuals are consistently running to the internet to support Smith and villainize Pinkett Smith, from podcast guests saying things such as “She doesn’t like Will, she likes the lifestyle” to deeming her “mean” or "manipulative" because of her facial expressions and demeanor.
Likewise, when you have hosts of daytime talk shows such as Ana Navarro saying, “I think she’s having a relationship with her bank account,” insinuating Pinkett Smith only shared stories about Smith to increase her book sales, it begs the question of where was this same energy when Smith released his memoir?
In Will, Smith discusses both of his marriages and how, in relationships, because of his upbringing, he needed constant validation and praise from his partners to feel secure. He also shared the reality that Pinkett Smith never wanted to be married, just as she never wanted the huge estate they share in California, but he wanted to give it to her despite her feelings about it.
Smith admitted to creating this family empire that only further boosted his ego and what he wanted his legacy to be instead of actually asking his family what they wanted or needed. People praised him for his vulnerability and said his book was an inspiration.
So how is it that one book about a person’s family, upbringing, and journey to self is praised, and another is villainized? The glaring thought that comes to me is, does likability often trump accountability?
People love Smith and his “good guy” persona; he’s always been an attractive, charismatic man that people can relate to, so even when he speaks about the way he mismanaged his marriage and family, it’s seen as growth. On the contrary, because Pinkett Smith doesn’t constantly fawn over him and shares how miserable she was in their marriage, she’s the villain.
People still blame her for not stopping Smith from smacking Rock at the Oscars and share their sentiments about how she embarrassed Smith with her entanglement with Alsina. Though this is a celebrity couple we’ve all followed for years, the question must be asked, how much accountability must Black women be subjected to in relationship to their partners' actions?
Why is it that the media is more interested in the marriage between Smith and Pinkett Smith than her childhood, or the fact her memoir consists of writing prompts, meditations, and methods for other women to find their sense of worth?
Could it be that the larger society doesn’t value Black women having the tools to find their own sense of worth? Or is it that Black women are expected to accept whatever is given to them regardless of how they feel or what they want?
The exclusive interview with Eboni K. Williams (@ebonikwilliams) and Dr. Iyanla Vanzant about if she would date a bus driver seems to have a lot of people talking. You can watch her response tonight on #theGrio. Catch the full interview, here: https://t.co/ctxE0zKFWj pic.twitter.com/BhIO52T2fg— theGrio.com (@theGrio) May 2, 2023
When Eboni K. Williams shared that she wasn’t interested in dating a bus driver, the internet blew up with individuals saying that Black women need to be less selective with their dating prospects. The commentary around this conversation shed much light on the reality that this demographic is expected and invited to settle in love if they actually want a life partner.
Black women aren’t often given the space to find their joy, fulfillment, or even self-worth because of the responsibility they’re forced to acquire in order to support their families and communities. Yet, “high value” Black men speak vehemently about Black women’s masculinity and inability to submit. We’re often inundated with podcast guests sharing that they’re not impressed by our success and are uninterested in our aspirations.
Black women, from a young age, are taught to place their community first and cater to the men around them regardless of what they do or how they behave.
We see this when young girls are told to put on pants when male relatives come around, we experience it when domestic violence survivors are encouraged not to press charges against their perpetrators, and we even see it when Black women face backlash for dating outside of their race.
The way Pinkett Smith has been treated since sharing the truth about her life and journey of discovering her self-worth is another example of how the world isn’t receptive to Black women being their most authentic selves.
It’s another example we can hold up to illustrate how Black women are expected to be magical but not human.
Even with this article, I’m sure there will be many who want to argue why Pinkett Smith was wrong in her narrative, but at the end of the day, it was her story to tell, and no one has more authority to share her lived experience than her.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Featured image by James Devaney/GC Images