Coptic churches, friendly people highlight Egypt trip |

Coptic churches, friendly people highlight Egypt trip

Phil Reinheimer, interim rector of Emmanuel Episcopal Church, in Grass Valley, led a small group tour to Egypt. Travelers included members of Emmanuel and of Trinity Episcopal Church, Nevada City. Reinheimer shares highlights of the journey.

JFK airport in New York City must be larger than all of Nevada County. We arrived here on the first leg of our journey to Egypt, leaving for Cairo tonight. We took the new, fast rail from the airport to the drop-off point for the nearby hotels, where we were to stay overnight before the long flight.

The automated train was fast, clean, and efficient. The airport looks cleaner than The 20 between Rough and Ready and Grass Valley (no thanks to the plethora of litterbugs on that part of the highway).

It’s raining here, but the temperatures in Egypt are still in the high 80’s.

On to Cairo, the pyramids at Giza, Luxor, Aswan, Nubia, and Abu Simbel.

Busy Cairo

Weather in Cairo is moderate, and the pyramids at Giza are magnificent. Cairo a huge, sprawling Third-World city full of activity everywhere you look.

We’re staying at an old British hotel right across the street from the Great Pyramid. What a sight for our small group from Grass Valley. Hope to see King Tutankhamun’s newly revealed mummy tomorrow.

Pollution in Cairo is pretty intense; the city is often in traffic gridlock, and it’s difficult to get anywhere without creeping along on the streets.

The Museum of Antiquities is fabulous, and tourism there seems at its usual high.

Coptic churches a highlight

Old Cairo, with the ancient Coptic churches, was a high point on our trip and we were able to visit the crypt where the Holy Family is believed to have stayed during their exile to Egypt.

Many of the Coptic churches were built shortly after Christ. The Copts are some of the most ancient of Christian communities in the world, though now only a small fraction of Egypt’s population.

Luxor and Aswan provided myriad opportunities to see the countryside as well as several ancient ruins. Our trip on the Nile River was extraordinary; we were on a small cruise ship (only 30 passengers) and thoroughly enjoyed the attention… and a three-day rest from the desert hiking!

We had looked forward to going to the pyramids at Giza and gazing upon the resin-faced countenance of the newly-revealed mummy of the boy-king Tutankhamen, only 18 or 19 at the time of his death and under 5-feet-6-inches in height.

Friendly people

The Egyptian people could not have been more friendly or helpful.

Often, I am asked about terrorist threats, but we stayed away from talk of politics and politicians and were able to enjoy the citizens of the country: At a working farm, a Nubian village, a family home in Cairo and throughout our wanderings in several villages, towns, and cities.

Our guide was a woman of the Coptic Christian faith, and we were blessed with significant insight from her about people of faith in Egypt, both Muslim and Christian.

We happened upon a large engagement party at the Coptic Orthodox cathedral in Luxor. The architecture of the church and the joyful celebration were impressive and a extra treat for us all.

Return for golf

I guess we’ll need to go back to Egypt at least once more: The golf course at the pyramids in Giza – built by the British, of course – was undergoing renovation.

Egypt provided us a glance back into centuries of history: Not only of the ancient country, but also of the beginnings of the Christian faith shortly after Christ’s life and the stunning Islamic architecture and friendly people everywhere.

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