Hi everyone! I have just been on my first, and very spontaneous, trip with Hooves Around the World and will tell you all about it in this blog post. I’m Marleen, from the Netherlands, and hope you will enjoy reading about my adventure in beautiful Luxor in Egypt!
It was exactly 6:28 pm. when I received the message from Sanne: “are you in Egypt right now?!” I had spent my day uneventfully in my room, somewhere in the middle of the busy and frightfully hot Cairo, as I was recovering from a meal which had upset my stomach terribly. My dear roommate had brought me chicken soup – good for the stomach – and made sure I stayed in bed to rest all day. You can imagine the absolute disbelief on his face when I told him upon his return from class that I had packed my bag and was heading to Luxor, a city on the other side of Egypt, that same evening. For indeed, this is where Sanne had planned her next Hooves Around the World trip. Sanne and I are good friends from high school but would only speak to each other once, sometimes maybe twice, a year. I had been in Egypt for a couple of weeks already to study Arabic, but Sanne only found out about this just before she boarded her plane. Upon her arrival she would be welcomed with a message from me, saying I was already on a train making my way down to Luxor to meet her. Later, when Sanne and I reflected on this, we agreed that even though everything worked out beautifully, it would not have hurt to wait with going on the train before at least some arrangements had been made. I had no idea what I was going to do or where I was going to stay, however, my mind was fixed on going to Luxor and experiencing a Hooves Around the World trip for myself.
Everything in Egypt, and especially Cairo, seems to be on the move at all times. There are planes, trains, metros, buses, mini vans, taxis, tuk-tuks, scooters, horses and donkeys, enough for you to pick and choose from. Even though there is a very decent, and not too expensive, flight from Cairo to Luxor, I had opted for the terribly uncomfortable 12 hour train ride. What can I say, the train ticket is only €7.50. As a foreigner they will usually not allow you to buy this crazy cheap ticket, and so a friend of mine went with me to the station. ‘Magnoon’ he called me, meaning crazy, when he found out my plan only consisted of making my way to Luxor. Still, he made sure I got on the right train and waved me goodbye. You can imagine a young, white, blonde girl by herself in a second class train carriage attracting a lot of attention. Indeed, even before the first stop I was asked where my husband was, under the watchful eye of all passengers present. It was something I had gotten used to, and yet there has been no country where I have felt so safe or well taken care of. If it wasn’t for the coffee my friend had insisted on buying for me, and the sudden stops of the train that would shake everyone awake, I would have slept peacefully knowing that at least 20 people would wake me up before we would in Luxor. Unfortunately I was awake for most of the night, zooming past unknown places hidden by the black cover of the night. I had been told it is a truly beautiful ride during the day, racing along vast stretches of farmland, palm trees and buzzing villages.
As my phone was my only form of entertainment during the ride I had managed to get the battery down to 1%. Not very practical, as Sanne and I still had not made any further arrangements whatsoever. It is here where the incredibly warm and welcoming nature of the Egyptians becomes visible. During the time that Sanne and I were making our way to Luxor the owner of Luxor stables and amazing host Nobi had arranged an extra bed for me to sleep in. In addition, he had arranged for someone to pick me up from the station and bring me to my friends, and called me three times to make sure I was doing okay and was well taken care of. It is for this reason that I arrived at the beautiful Sheherazade hotel without any difficulties, where I was immediately amazed by its beautiful authentic look and the outstanding service. I asked the receptionist where I could find my friends, but did I really have to? Of course they could be found at the swimming pool with a cold drink in their hand. Soon I joined them and we’d laugh about how with so little communication everything worked out so smoothly, but it was really Nobi who we had to thank for this!
In the late afternoon of that first day, when the simmering heat had cooled down a little, we were introduced to our horses, whom we immediately fell in love with. In a country like Egypt it is a great thing to see animals well taken care of, and we could immediately see that this was the case with Nobi’s horses. I was paired with Sherifa, an incredibly kind and intelligent horse. It was a while (read: years) ago for me since I had last gone horse riding. I used to go a lot when I was younger on the horse of a family friend, but since he was sold I had not gotten the opportunity to do so anymore. How excited I was to find myself back on the horse again! Our first ride around the outskirts of Luxor was mostly meant for us to get used to our horses. Even though it was my first ride in a very long time I felt very safe under the outstanding guidance of our guide Mandou, and on the back of the seemingly bomb proof, yet reactive, horses of Luxor stable. Whilst being led through the beautifully decorated streets of Luxor, with children shouting their welcoming hellos left and right, and along the Nile dazzlingly reflecting the last rays of sunlight, I had the opportunity to get used to being in the saddle again. After that first ride I knew straight away that I could trust Sherifa with my life, and that I would have an incredible time at Luxor stable.
When it comes to horse riding I do not nearly have as much experience as Sanne, but I truly believe that what Luxor offers you is something incredibly special. Every time we went through the videos and pictures we took of our rides I would be amazed, it was unbelievable to me that we had done such cool rides and seen such stunning things. It is difficult to share one favourite ride or one favourite moment, as each of the rides were so truly incredible. The morning rides would take us through a sleeping Luxor, through quiet streets and fields towards a sunrise in a sky filled with hot air balloons. In the afternoon we would go for multiple fast gallops in the desert, where one can feel the absolute power and energy of these beautiful horses, whilst the slow lowering of the sun colours the sky a beautiful yellow and orange. Another ride would take us to the Nile, where our horses would happily splash around to cool down a bit from the day. What amazed me the most is how diverse Luxor is: we have been in the desert, the mountains, in the Nile, through the farm fields, village streets, and seen temples, caves and statues which are thousands of years old. We had explored Luxor on horseback, camelback and on a boat. There was no idea or wish we had that seemed too impossible to arrange. To me it was an adventure full of nature, culture and history, all whilst being in the caring hands of an amazing local Egyptian family. The five days I spent there were way too short, I feel like I have only seen and experienced a small part of what Luxor has to offer, even though Nobi and Mandou have both done their absolute best to make sure we got the full experience. I would encourage everyone to go and see for themselves!
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