An intrepid group of more than 20 Carthusians set off on the first Friday of half term for the first ever Theology, Philosophy & Ethics trip to Egypt, accompanied by Mr Begbie, Fr Clive, Miss Martin and Mrs Nelson. This was an expedition filled with history, religion, art, architecture, shawarma*, koshari**, relaxing swims and endless games of ‘Linkees’!
The chance to see one of the world's oldest and greatest civilisations was an experience I won't forget. Egypt surpassed all expectations, and the absolute highlight of the trip was the day we completed a trek up Mount Sinai to see the incredible sunrise at dawn.
Max (Year 11)
Arriving amidst the hustle and bustle of Cairo, the first stop was that most remarkable set of world heritage sites, the Pyramids of Giza. Taking in the Sphinx, tombs of Meresankh and Queen Hetepheres on the way, the group headed deep into the heart of the Pyramid of Menkaure before taking in the broad vista of this ancient landscape. From here, the group went back in time to the pyramids of Dashur and the first stone structure of its type in Saqqara, the famous Step Pyramid of Djoser. Behind the pyramid, everyone looked deep into the eyes of the Pharoah through two ancient viewing holes, whilst he gazed out beyond at the North Star for eternity.
Ancient Egypt was further brought to life by a visit to the remarkable National Civilisations Museum, where pupils came face to face with the Pharaohs themselves. From here, pupils then saw the highlights of Coptic Cairo (the Hanging Church, the Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus), as well as some of the most beautiful mosques in the world, including the ninth century mosque of Ibn Tulun with its stunning minaret. This adventurous group of Carthusians also made sure they took in the richness of Egyptian culture by haggling with sellers in the Khan Al-Khalili market in central Cairo, with limited success!
Having seen the best of Cairo, the next stop was Luxor, a base for exploring the heart of Ancient Egypt. Straight off the flight from Cairo, a visit to the less well visited temples of Seti I at Abydos and Hathor in Dendera opened up pupils’ eyes to the complexity of Egyptian mythology and religious practice. The next morning saw a sun-bathed visit to the vast site of Karnak and its famous hypostyle hall of columns. Guided by their ever-excitable teachers around this stunning sacred space (the largest temple complex in the world) will be an experience they are unlikely to forget in a hurry.
After some well-earned rest and relaxation, as well as a sunset stop off at Luxor Temple, the group crossed over the Nile and to the Valley of the Kings. Carthusians delved deep into the tombs of the pharaohs, including those of Tutankhamun and Seti I. Pupils quickly got a sense of the vast wealth of archaeological sites in this part of Egypt, as they took in the nearby sites of Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple and Medinat Habu, which constitute only some of the many sites to visit on the West Bank of the Nile. After such a long and busy day, the group relaxed as by travelling along the Nile in a traditional felucca as the sun set on another beautiful day in Luxor.
From here, the scene changed to biblical history as the group took off for the Sinai peninsula. Arriving in Sharm El-Sheikh, with its somewhat different feel from the rest of Egypt, the team headed off deep into the night towards a site revered by all Abrahamic faiths, Mount Sinai. At Saint Catherine’s monastery at around 1am, the ascent began. Accompanied by two local Bedouin guides, pupils processed up this most holy mountain, reaching the summit at 5am. There they sat under handily-rentable blankets from the resident bedouin of Sinai, watching the stars in a crystal clear sky. Gradually the sun rose, as the group witnessed the ongoing theatre of the heavens at one of the holiest sites on the planet.
The trip was simply amazing, we travelled across three different cities, gaining more and more appreciation for just how astounding ancient Egypt truly was with each day. It was extraordinary to stand in front of the world-renowned Pyramids of Giza and to be fortunate enough to also see the mummies themselves which were once buried there. The most memorable part of the trip itself, was the indescribable experience of ascending Mt Sinai during the night. Bright stars were glowing in the sky as we then waited at the top for the sun's rays to break through the clouds in the distance. It was simply phenomenal.
Stasys (Year 12)
Having had next to no sleep, the tired team headed straight, for some snorkelling in the Red Sea in a private boat. What a wonderful way to end a trip with such a rich array of experiences which will forever give these lucky Carthusians memories they will never forget.
Shawarma* - an Arabic word thought to come from the Turkish çervirmek, meaning to rotate or spit-roast.
Koshari** - Egyptian street-food dish of rice, lentils and pasta topped with tomato sauce and fried onions.