Featured Traveler: Brian, from Austin

The first thing one notices about Brian is that he is tall, but what sticks in your mind after meeting him is his kindness, quick wit, and constant pleasant demeanor.  He is one of those people you just want to be around.  Brian took some time to speak with us about his recent trip to Egypt with Zoom Vacations.

Zoom:  What made you decide to take this particular trip with Zoom Vacations?

Brian:  My travel buddy and I receive the Zoom emails and have long thought about taking one of the trips.  We decided to do this trip as our first (but not last) Zoom trip because it was the top of his priority list, close to the top of mine, and we’d both been long fascinated with Egypt and its history.  When we decided to book, the tours were sold out so we went on a waiting list.  Patience paid off when another tour was added, so we knew it was meant to be.

Zoom:  The Great Pyramid at Giza is one of the 7 Wonders of the World. After being there, do you feel it deserves this distinction?

Brian:  Yes times 10, especially since it’s the last one that is still standing and in good shape.  The size is impressive enough but when you hear what it took to get those stones there from Aswan, it’s incredible.  Definitely one of the most impressive things I’ve seen.

Zoom:   What was your favorite moment from the trip?

Brian:  There are two that are tied for first place.  First, the afternoon on the boat when there was a long talk about the history and development of the main monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam).  I didn’t add much to the discussion but it was fascinating to hear people more informed than I am talk about this.  Second, the first view of Abu Simbel.  It’s astonishing and made me want to weep.

Zoom:  Did you make new friends on the trip?

Brian:  Yes!  Everyone on the trip was so friendly and well-traveled.  Very easy to get along with and I hope to see all of them again, whether on a Zoom trip or elsewhere.

Zoom:  How did you feel, being part of a gay group in Egypt?

Brian:  I was uncomfortable about it, but only until I got there.  I had not done a gay tour before and have only done private guided tours (me alone or with a few friends).  I was concerned that there may be some on the tour who would not respect the Egyptian culture and that we would be pointed out and, perhaps, taunted or ridiculed.  None of that happened.

Zoom:  How was the food throughout?

Brian:  Excellent.  All restaurant options had a wide variety of food and, in particular, the food on the boat was top-notch.  Also, the local wines, particularly the whites, are VERY good!

Zoom:  How was our dedicated guide?

Brian:  Mohammed was one of the best tour guides I’ve ever encountered.  And I’ve encountered a LOT of them around the world.  Funny, smart, engaging.

Zoom:  What surprised you about Egypt?

Brian:  I’ve read a lot about it over the years from the perspective of leaders and conquerors, so I thought I was pretty informed.  Two things stand out.  First, if not for “The River Nile” (as the locals refer to it every time), none of that civilization could have developed – no pyramids, no fabulous temples, no rich farmland.  It is the only source of water in the country, and it feeds everyone and everything.  Second, the unbroken continuity of the pharaonic rule – it lasted for millennia and the religious iconography stayed consistent throughout.

Zoom:  What did you think of the private boat we had on the Nile?

Brian:  It was perfect.  I loved my room – so pretty and lots of windows.  The staff was great – fun, engaged, and unconcerned that this was a gay tour.  For me, it was a real highlight of the trip, particularly being able to sit and watch the Nile flow past and see how it is still the center of everything outside Cairo.

Zoom:  How were the hotels?

Brian:  Excellent.  It would be hard to pick a favorite.  If I had to pick, I’d say Mena House, only because it has so much history and the pyramids are RIGHT there.  However, the hotel in Luxor (name escapes me) was also excellent – my room looked over the River Nile.  

Zoom:  What were your take-aways from the experience?

Brian:  First, do another tour with Zoom.  Second, it’s all about the people you’re with.  Bryan did an outstanding job as our host and facilitator – and all the local support was 10/10.  Third, I’m not as well-traveled as I like to think I am, even though I’ve been to over 50 countries.  Fourth, the tour isn’t aimed at couples or partiers – it’s aimed at people who like to travel well and who are genuinely interested in seeing and learning new things.  I would have been very comfortable with this group even if I hadn’t traveled with a friend.  Fifth, and as always, the ability to travel and appreciate it is one of the best things we humans are able to do.

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