Since early this year, I've been planning a trip back to Egypt with some friends who have never been there. We spent twelve days together in Egypt in late October. I had thought of blogging here while on the trip but I was so busy I hardly had time to email.

The group included Niniane, my friend and former MS employee who now works for Google. She thankfully persuaded me to include her friends Dan, Mingjing, and Andrew in the trip, whom I consider all good friends myself now. My friend and coworker Brent, ACES test manager, and his girlfriend Julie joined the growing group, as well as my brother Bruce and his girlfriend Cheryl. They were all just a kick to travel with.

Niniane acquired an Egyptian name on her first day in Egypt: Nana. My old friend Yasser Saad bestowed this upon her when he found "Niniane" to be a bit of a mouthful. For the rest of the trip, everyone in the group called her Nana and I think she'll always be Nana to me now.

If I had any personal hopes for the trip, it was that everyone would have a good experience of a country and people that I love, that they would get out of the experience what they wanted to get out of it, and that they'd take home a new view of Arabs and Muslims than is generally experienced here in the U.S. I felt that those hopes were fulfilled although the last one was the least expressed and most personal I suppose.

I'll put more details in about various aspects of the trip as time permits. We started in Cairo. We took the night sleeper train to Luxor, drove to Aswan, and flew back to Cairo. Nana asked me at the end of the trip, "What has been different from what you expected?" Frankly it was that everything went so smoothly.

No one got cranky or psychotic. We laughed a lot. And my good friend, Mohamed Nazmy of Quest Travel, made sure that we had great hotel rooms and ground transportation.

The sleeper train was fun. I'd never done that before and it was like we had our own dorm room on wheels.

After nearly two weeks of ancient monuments and gorgeous scenery, we ended the trip in Cairo and got a tour of the site where my archaeological team works. I was so sorry to see my travel buddies leave, as I stayed on for business meetings in Cairo. It was a wonderful trip. There are pictures at http://sphinx.smugmug.com.