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11 minute read

Meet Odysseys Travelers Hillary and Philip Kennedy

February 20, 2023

Photo: Giza, just like I pictured it, pyramids and everything!

Hillary Kennedy and her husband Philip, first-time Odysseys guests from Rye, New York, recently returned from our Egypt & the Eternal Nile small group tour. Read our Q&A with Hillary to learn about their journey through antiquity, hear why they chose Egypt for their first tour with Odysseys, and view some of Hillary's fabulous and fun photos and captions highlighting their adventures.

Photo: A couple wonders of the world you don’t see every day. And, Sally the Camel has one hump. Ride, Sally ride.

What excites you about travel?

Travel is a luxury, no doubt, but it feeds the soul. Immersing yourself in another culture and, understanding and learning about the world and how fellow human beings live in it is critical to the human experience. Life is about perspective and I believe that it's critical to experience other ways of life and living.

You have a lot of choices when it comes to traveling and choosing a tour company. What are some of the reasons you chose to travel with Odysseys?

We selected Odysseys because of Joe and Liz Atterbury, friends of ours that have used Odysseys before and highly recommended your company. We were very pleased with our journey... We are now in conversations with them about touring Japan…We are also considering taking our three adult daughters on one of your tours!

Photo: Ramses II’s long life—Ramses II lived between 90 and 96 years, which gave him ample opportunity to marry wives and beget children. He had over 200 wives and concubines and over 100 children, many of whom he outlived. His first and perhaps favorite wife was Nefertari, to whom he dedicated one of the temples at Abu Simbel.

Why did you choose Egypt as your first tour with us?

I have wanted to visit Egypt since I learned about it in high school. I was an Art History major in college; most people give it up to the Greeks and the Romans, but Egypt is truly the bed of civilization. The trip did not disappoint. What a privilege. The timing was perfect for where we are in our life right now. And we could afford it.

Photo: Yeah, we did. Bucket list

What exceeded your expectations or surprised you the most on tour?

Where do I begin? Floating in absolute silence on Lake Nasser, the first glimpse of Abu Simbel, the absolutely incredible, mammoth size of everything. The sparse yet glorious landscape the desert creates and…hot air ballooning over the Valley of The Kings and Queens - MIND BLOWN. But in truth, everywhere you looked, went, and saw was remarkable.

Describe your Odysseys Tour Director, Medhat Elnakib—what was he like?

Medhat was incredible. Smart, funny, patient, informed, unbiased. His lectures were fascinating, his English was perfect, and he was a joy to be around. He will forget more than any one of us on that tour will ever know. I highly recommend him as a Tour Director. Medhat's itinerary and his lectures were in perfect timing with the places we visited. I REALLY believe that starting down the Nile in Aswan, Lake Nasser, and sailing up to Luxor, then back to Cairo was the best way to experience the time line of Egyptian history.

Photo: Sailing on the River Nile. Local boats, “ feluccas,” are unique to Aswan. Huge tillers the size of tree trunks and heavy, raw, thick ropes hoist the massive canvas sails. The sails furl around the mast both under sail and at rest. They sail these beasts like bumper cars…No hard-a-lee-lost on these Muslim sailors.

Were you able to meet and interact with local people while touring?

Everyone we encountered was professional and very nice. It's clear that the Egyptians really like Americans. I found them to be warm and welcoming, and for the most part they all went far beyond expectations. The spice guy was hilarious...the farmers lunch was also very special...And a shout out to King Tut Balloons! Our ' driver' was fantastic - knowledgeable and informative as we flew over the tombs and the Temple of Karnak - and he was fun. 

Photo: In Luxor, Egypt, we motored across the river and were treated to a home-cooked Egyptian lunch. The man in the first photo made the pots used during our feast with clay and mud from the banks on the River Nile. His potters wheel is run by pushing a large flat disc with his left foot…His brother, behind him in the second photo, makes furniture from local trees and farms vegetables by the river. Their mother cooked a traditional meal of stuffed cabbage, potatoes with garlic and tomatoes, okra with garlic and peppers, sun bread, stewed beef, and grilled chicken from the hens in her back yard. In the last photo are the home thrown pots serving the delicious fare and Philip enjoying it!

If someone never traveled with a small group before, what would you tell them the benefits are of traveling with an OU small group?

I can't answer that question as this is the first "group travel" I have experienced. We were a group of 18, I believe, including Medhat. It still felt intimate and I found it very beneficial to share the experience with others. By the time the tour was over, everyone was friends and we knew each other pretty well! So, I guess I can answer the question! I felt that sharing the experience with others who also have a thirst for knowledge and cultural immersion was incredibly beneficial to my overall experience.

What inspiration did you take away from your experience in Egypt?

I will hold my experience in Egypt as one of the trips of my lifetime. I was absolutely blown away by its history, the glory of this exotic land, and its people. I hope that I never forget the colors, the smells, the chaos, and the people all of which makes it so special.

Click here for the Kennedy’s travel tips and click here for more fun travel photos.

View our Egypt & the Eternal Nile itinerary here.

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