HJ/EDEnterprise Dispatch, Dec. 12, 2005

Cokato woman finds Egypt a land of contrast

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Ruth Ann Licht’s trip to the Nile River in Egypt was everything she hoped for.

“This was a dream of mine from when I was 10 years old,” said Licht, who lives six miles northwest of Cokato.

Licht was awestruck when she walked around the base of the grand pyramid in Giza, only about a half hour from Cairo. “It was almost like an out-of-body experience,” said Licht, a secretary at Howard Lake City Hall.

Licht was amazed at how Egypt was a land of contrast. At the same time, the people there are just like us in the United States, she said.

One moment she is in a barely two-week old ultra-modern airport in Cairo, and the next she is winding her way through a dark, mysterious temple thousands of years old. “It was so wonderful,” said Licht, originally from Minnetonka.

Licht and her friend, Joy Goff of Savage, left the United States on Sept. 24 with Grand Circle Tours. Licht’s husband, David, is more interested in hunting and trapshooting than traveling, so he stayed in the Cokato area. Goff is 6-feet tall, easy to see in a crowd, and loves going to exotic places as much as Licht does, Licht said.

Licht is not a “shopper,” she said, and prefers educational tours. Their tour guides were all college graduates and Egyptologists.

Licht and Goff stayed a week in a luxury hotel in Cairo, originally designed to entertain visiting royalty. The tour package, however, included all hotels, food and travel, but cost only $1,895, a third of what it costs to cruise the Mississippi River in the United States, Licht said.

They flew to Aswan Dam, near the headwaters of the Nile River, and then cruised on the river, back to Cairo during the 15-day excursion. During that first week in Cairo, they visited numerous sites within the area.

Licht’s favorites were the pyramids and sphinx. As soon as she arrived she took off alone to walk around the base of a pyramid at least three-football fields long. It wasn’t a good idea for her to go alone, because peddlers swarmed over her, but she was so thrilled to have her dream come true, she didn’t hesitate, Licht said.

Later, the tour guides had arranged a colored light show on the pyramids for the group. Licht thought at first this sounded “cheesy,” she said. It turned out to be the highlight of the entire tour. “It was almost an ethereal experience,” she said.

The tour also included visits to the oldest mosque, synagogue and church in Cairo. The church was built on the site traditionally noted for where Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus stayed, when they escaped from Bethlehem after the Wise Men had informed King Herod where the Messiah would be born, she said.

Cairo is the third largest city in the world and the traffic was horrendous. “The driving there was just bizarre,” Licht said.

The largest thoroughfares had three lanes and yet five lanes of vehicles drove them continuously.

Although the traffic congestion was dangerous, crime was unusually low, she said. A group of tourists had been killed by terrorists in Luxor so security at some of the tourist sites was extremely tight. “That was our 9/11. We won’t let that happen again,” Licht was told.

Uzis often bulged under the jackets of the security detail and military officers openly carried machine guns on to their cruise ship at Dendara. Tourism is the biggest part of Egypt’s economy. People come to Egypt from all over the world, she said.

Licht also made a couple of side trips that were not part of the tour package. She went hot air ballooning over the Valley of the Kings, where King Tut’s tomb was, for example. Up high, Licht could see how the land next to the Nile River was lush and green, but immediately past that was the desert.

Licht expected Egypt to be dry, but near the Nile River it was excessively humid and at least 100 degrees. Licht believes she has never perspired so much her entire life. She could wring water from her socks, she said.

Licht traveled in the desert also. Many of the tombs in the desert looked unimpressive from the outside, much like a hole in the ground. The insides, though, were covered with beautiful paintings.

Besides viewing historical sites, Licht and Goff also had a chance to dine with a Muslim family. The Muslims had been celebrating Ramadan so didn’t eat until the sun went down. Their meals were Mediterranean style, featuring such foods as lamb and feta cheese. Egyptians love sweets so they eat five desserts at each meal, she said.

The group returned to the United States Oct. 8.

Licht said she often hears from women who want to travel, but think they must wait for their husbands to go along with them, even if their husbands are reluctant. A woman who brings a roommate can travel just as freely as a couple, she said.

Also, wherever Licht travels, the people they visit make an effort to learn English. Most Americans can speak only one language, their own, she said.

“That bothers me every time we travel,” Licht said.

The more she travels, though, the more she sees how people are alike, not different, and that is the most enjoyable part, Licht said.

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