Beginner horse riding experience in Egypt

Hi! My name is Jordyn, I’m a beginner rider from South Africa and I’d love to tell you a bit about an incredible ride with Hooves Around the World I recently did in Egypt. I’ll tell you a bit about myself first. I only really started riding a year ago, I had never been outside South Africa, except to Lesotho, which is completely bordered by South Africa. I speak English and Afrikaans, and I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I knew very little about Muslim culture before coming to Luxor. My idea of Egypt consisted of a few short clips of Cairo I’d seen on the news, an old animation called The Prince of Egypt, a message from my dad telling me not to drink the tap water and the books on Egyptian gods I’d read as a kid. My preparation for the trip consisted of multiple train trips to the Egyptian Embassy, where I was told they’d only accept a visa on arrival, and glancing over the trip itinerary where it said something about the Nile and Camel rides.

horse and beginner rider in front of the nile in luxor egypt
Jordyn and Alarma

On the plane ride between Addis Ababa and Cairo, surrounded by men who were only speaking Arabic, I finally had a moment of self-awareness. I knew nothing about Egypt. I had been traveling since that morning and had not eaten much so I was not feeling my best self. I solemnly stood in line to have my passport stamped, documents in hand. The lady at the counter smiled, stamped my passport and let me through.

I arrived at the main entrance of the airport, still confused that I didn’t need a visa, my eyes were battling to focus on the overhead signs in my search for the airport hotel and Sanne. There was a stand with “Taxi” written nearby and four or five men shouting “Taxi”, I assumed they were probably trying to advertise a taxi. I found the hotel (and Sanne) with the help of one of the men, at the mere price of a tip. I was very relieved to find Sanne. We walked slowly up to the room, our eyes both bloodshot from our flights and I had the best four hours of sleep ever.

Also read: Marleen's horse riding holiday in Luxor

horse and rider in front of hot air balloons at sunrise in luxor egypt
Jordyn and Alarma during sunrise at the hot air balloons

At 5:30 we left for our 7AM Luxor flight on which I was mostly asleep. Upon arrival we met our lovely host - Nobi. He gave us an introduction to what we would be doing, unfortunately I couldn’t process a lot of what he said. I was tired and was still getting used to the accent - luckily Sanne did all the talking and gave me a recap afterwards! We arrived at our hotel after the stunning drive over the Nile, past farm lands. The hotel facade was made of a beautiful dark brown brick with stained glass windows and a huge wooden door. We entered the hotel lobby, with murals of Scheherazade from One Thousand and One Nights lit by the light coming through the stained glass. The other common areas were all similarly beautiful with murals, stunning traditional masonry and domed ceilings. We unpacked and waited for Marleen to join us. Once she did we all ordered some lunch, which was delicious. All the food we had during the trip was amazing. We met Nobi in the afternoon and he walked us to the stables. I noticed for the first time that all the streets were decorated for Ramadan with coloured tassels hanging above our head on every street. It was so pretty with the elaborate doors and mud brick walls. Everyone in the street greeted us with a smile - especially the kids who would excitedly run after us while we were riding. When we arrived at the stables we met our guide, Mandu, who was awesome! You could tell he really cared for and loved the horses. The horse I rode was named Alarma (she was the best). I had assumed all Arabian mixed horses were spicy and difficult to ride because of their temperament, but Alarma was relaxed, sensitive and really took care of me. I’ve only recently started riding horses so I am still improving lots every time I ride. I was, to be honest, very nervous that the way we were going to ride would be too different for me. We were riding in a different type of saddle on a new breed of horse that had a reputation for being difficult (the latter turned out to be false!). But, they were all very well trained, could handle the motorbikes, donkeys, children and my clumsy riding. 

Also read: all information of horse riding in Luxor

horse and rider walking through the desert of Luxor, Egypt
Jordyn and Alarma in the desert!

Our first ride was along the Nile at sunset, with feluccas floating past us and people working in the farmlands we rode past. Riding past the farmland at sunrise and sunset, with wheat shining gold and the horses in a smooth, slow canter was breathtaking. Over the following days we rode to see hot air balloons, past caves in the valley of the kings and to old temples and statues. The temples that we saw on the ride were stunning and I was happy to have time to visit some of the temples on foot. We saw Luxor temple at night after taking a ferry named Titanic across the Nile to the West side of the bank. The difference between the two sides surprised me quite a bit. On the East side we mostly saw locals, and donkeys and motorbikes were the main mode of transportation. The West side had loads of tourists, cars and modern buildings. Luxor temple was incredible and you really got a sense for the power of the ancient pharaohs. My favourite part was the barely visible, worn-down member of a god, said to bring fertility to those who rubbed it.  The statues were lit so that they cast huge shadows on the temple walls and you could really appreciate their size.

On another day we went to visit the tombs in the Valley of the Kings. They’re set at the base of a giant pyramid-shaped mountain so that, it was believed, the old kings could use the slope to reach the heavens. When we entered the tombs you could see the original, and still vivid, paint that coloured every wall and ceiling. You descend a steep ramp with starry ceilings painted above you and multi-coloured gods giving their blessings to long-dead pharaohs. The layout of the art is incredibly well done and I wished I could read hieroglyphics. You can tell just from the images how connected to the gods the pharaohs were said to be. After exploring the tombs we went to see the architectural masterpiece that is Hapshetsut temple with beautiful depictions of Hatshepsut's travels to Punt (now the country of Somalia). Other activities that we got to do included a camel ride, cruising the Nile on a felucca with tea and a cigarette in hand (the locals offer you cigarettes almost continuously!) and a carriage ride. Since we only stayed for a week we were busy all the time and it was awesome coming back to great food, comfy beds and nice people. Having enjoyed these activities so much, I really believe this trip offers the best for non riders and beginners also!

two tourists in front of hapshetsut temple in luxor egypt
Hapshetsut Temple

The sites we visited were beautiful and the activities were awesome, but I am very happy that most of the trip was spent on horseback. I only got into horses about two years ago after I started working at a horse farm in the Drakensberg of South Africa. I was mostly in the office, but would get to go out riding every now and then and eventually I was able to help out as an assistant guide and join in on a few staff rides in my off time. This didn’t really make for a very formal horse education and so my riding started off full of bad habits and I wasn’t very good at horse riding for a long time. It’s surprisingly difficult to learn to ride when you’re an adult. I carried on practicing though and finally got the basics down and luckily I had a friend I could ride with to help me out. I’m so glad I did carry on because I have so much respect for horses after learning about them. They’ve been a great companion for humans for thousands of years and are expressive, sensitive and intelligent. Over the last years it’s been an amazing experience to be able to see those qualities after not even knowing what it means when a horse has its ears back. In two years I learnt a lot and came quite far, and though I had learnt the basics, I still had only ever ridden on and been around Basotho ponies. They’re a hardy and relaxed breed, perfect for the mountains, but for me learning about horses meant more experience with different breeds of horses and different riding styles on new terrains. And that’s exactly why riding in Egypt was a dream come true for me. Having been in the same place for some time,I hadn’t really had the opportunity to travel and new experiences hadn’t been all that new so I was so excited to be able to do something so different to what I was used to. It was an awesome trip to a beautiful country with amazing people and great experiences.  And now, having had an incredible new experience, I’m ready to start planning my next horse riding adventure with Hooves Around The World. 

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