Traveling before the world shut down

When I was a small child, I remember reading the National Geographic about finding King Tut’s tomb. I peered at the photos of the piled stuff in the dark rooms below the ground, the images of his mummy and wanted to know more. We went to see the King Tut exhibit when it came to Washington, but it still wasn’t enough. I wanted to go to Egypt someday.

Reading Agatha Christie and Amanda Peabody only fanned the flames. Egypt was definitely on my bucket list. And it was also on my mother’s, a retired Western Civilization professor. So when she asked me in 2019 to join her on a trip in February 2020, I didn’t hesitate.

In retrospect, the trip sounds rather foolhardy. Risky. We had started to hear about COVID in January. But it felt still so far away. China. Countries had started to close their borders to visitors from China, and maybe it would work. And then before we departed, we heard that northern Italy was affected, too. But we were flying to Rome and then Egypt. It seemed safe enough to us at the time.

The trip was marvelous. We spent time in Cairo, we went down the Nile in a boat. We explored ruins with our energetic guide. It was all we hoped for and more. But we also worried about the world around us. Was COVID creeping closer? Was traveling unsafe? My family was worried and wanted me to come home early. We agonized about what to do, but decided to stay.

I managed to get our tickets changed so we flew back home through Germany and not Italy, and Dulles instead of JFK. Just before we left, we heard that other Americans who had been in Egypt had become sick and brought COVID back to our home state of Virginia. And that Egypt had begun to have cases.

We made it home safely on March 7, and soon after the world shut down. My son’s school ended. We started working from home. And we went nowhere. As I have walked the streets of my neighborhood day after day, seeing the same things again and again, I have thought a lot about our magical journey to Egypt. What we saw. What we ate. The smells and sounds. It was the last time I was with a group of strangers from all over, getting to know them in person. We went to live performances. We walked around ruins. We ate meals together and hung out. I’m so glad we went when we could. And when everything is safe again, I look forward to another great travel adventure.

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