Whether or not you believe in the concept of destiny, it certainly seems there are times in life when we are directed, overtly or subtly, to go someplace or be in some location. We may not always even understand why at the time. Where we travel is often dictated by our work, our passions, our family requirements or other factors.
But sometimes, just sometimes, it feels like chance, kismet, whimsy or some magical combination leads us to a life-enhancing experience in an unexpected place where extraordinary people and sights are put before us. Our friends may say, “Are you crazy?” “It’s not safe.” “Why would you go there?”
But frequently those are the times that leave us with indelible memories. I remember in detail standing on the Serengeti Plains at sunrise as I watched four hyenas take down a young gazelle. I turned away in the final moments to see a fly on the shoulder of my friend standing next to me. I could see the lines in its wings, I could feel the sun on my back and several lanky giraffes startled me as they ran past followed by slower moving antelope and zebra. All my senses were fully engaged in that moment.
Travel is about so much more than just going someplace. Even the simplest vacation to a new place can lead us to discoveries in ourselves, to new connections and to a broader understanding of our place in the world.
Since 1973, we at Big Five have expected no less of ourselves than to make it possible for our travelers to have these moments. To do this, we are constantly creating new tools and avenues to help you decide what is next for you.
If you want to continue to discover the magic the world has to offer, you can preorder your window into your personal travel destiny and CLICK HERE. Please, enter your name and email address.
Once my sister and I landed at Cairo’s airport and saw our names on the Big Five board, our faces brightened. We met Amir, a tall dark Egyptian with eyes like Omar Shariff. He took our passports while we sat and talked about how happy we were to finally be here. After just a few minutes, he was back with our visas and we got our bags. No lines, no waiting, nothing! It was flawless, fast and so easy. What a great way to start the trip.
The story of Egypt is written across the ages and carved in magnificent sandstone structures. For millennia, this land has had a powerful effect on all who have been drawn here. The fascination usually begins with the great pyramids of Giza and the stunning Sphinx.
I couldn’t stop thinking that I could be standing in the footprints of history. Marc Anthony once stood here, Alexander the Great stood here, Napoleon was here, and now me, standing feet away from these more than 4,000-year-old tombs.
History never tires of revealing itself, often in unexpected places. According to a CNN report, a newly uncovered sandstone statue of the sphinx, thought to date back 2,000 years, was discovered while crews worked to lower the groundwater level in an ancient temple. Egypt’s Ministry of Antiquities stated on its Facebook page that the tiny sphinx, some 38 centimeters/15 inches tall, was found on the southeastern side of the Kom Ombo temple near the southern city of Aswan.
And still more discoveries wait beneath the centuries of sand. An ancient cemetery with 40 mummies was found in Minya, south of Cairo, and included jewelry, pottery and a gold mask that may date to 300 BCE.
Our Egyptologist drove us to see Dashur, which most tourists don’t visit as it is out of the way. But here were the first pyramids built more than 4,600 years ago. And, there were few other people around, allowing us to absorb these private moments with history.
Each journey into Egypt is personal – or should be, allowing for time and space to connect with the surroundings and the people. Avoiding the “been there, done that” crowd is paramount for us and for our guests. Without genuine connections, an adventure can become just another day.
We met this beautiful, young Egyptian woman, Farah, Big Five’s country manager who used to work for the United Nations in Cairo fighting for gender equality. We talked about Egyptian women’s strength. I couldn’t help but think about women like Cleopatra, Nefertiti and Hatshepsut, all boldly performing jobs meant for men. We walked through Cairo neighborhoods, far from tourist areas, where Egyptians live and work and go to school. That evening. we talked with some of them about the latest political, economic and social aspects of country. An unforgettable evening!
Egypt is awash with experiences beyond cold monuments. Café visits to exchange ideas with local people. A short distance from Cairo, Fayoum is one of the fascinating oasis and the oldest city in Egypt, founded 4,000 years BCE. El Qasr is one of Egypt’s most captivating medieval desert villages and features unique desert homes, dating from the 16th through the 19th centuries that have been completely or partially restored. The Black Desert and the White Desert wait in the Western Desert, where camping is allowed.
We felt as if we were in a movie, walking the paths of pharaohs and queens and others that until now we had only heard or read about. In the Valley of the Kings and Queens, there are many tombs but Big Five took us to those not included in the regular tours such as the King Tut and Nefertari tombs, which had recently been renovated, including the walls restored and alive with colors of gold, green, blue and red… nothing like what I thought a tomb would be. The Egyptologists who traveled with us along the way revealed to us an ancient world with abundant hieroglyphic puzzles, and with their help we were able to recognize many hieroglyphics ourselves!
We ended our cruise in Luxor, where we planned to stay one extra day. So glad we did. It is beautiful to walk around Luxor, with the Nile on one side and these incredible ancient temples such as Karnak on the other side. What a special way to finish our time in Egypt. By being there, surrounded by it and seeing it all first-hand, I felt like I was actually a part of history…. And, in a way, I am.
An August 2018 report from the UN’s latest Tourism Highlights Report noted Egypt as the fastest growing tourist destination in 2017, with a 55.1% growth in 2017 international arrivals. Discover your story in Egypt.
If you know Big Five’s fearless leader, Ashish, then you likely know that he adores all things mechanical that move. New or vintage, two wheels or four… you can’t slow him down. Cars, boats, mountain bikes, go carts, and even a two-wheeled personal vehicle like a Segway – as long as it has wheels and some kind of motor, he’s good to go.
We now know that includes 1940s Russian-designed motorbikes with sidecars. With all the talk of Russian connections these days, Ashish managed to discover a Russian-produced motorcycle in Morocco! Indeed, he was seen scooting around Marrakech’s narrow crowded streets with an enormous grin on his face.
“I love anything with wheels,” said Ashish. “And this sits very low, which gives you the sensation that you are physically connected with your surroundings. You see what’s happening around you, on the ground in front of you, on the streets around you. You also realize just how much of a utility these machines were in the 40s. They don’t build them quite like they used to.”
This specific bike was one of the originals that was found in the factory in Russia and eventually found its way to Marrakech. It has the sturdy look and practical no-nonsense approach you expect from Russian manufacturing of the day.
The company that built this bike is IMZ-Ural, established in 77 years ago during the era of World War II by the Soviet government. According to official accounts, the BMW R71 motorcycle seemed to be the best match for the army’s needs. Five bikes were secretly bought through Swedish intermediaries and transferred to Moscow where Soviet engineers dismantled them, and reverse engineered the design in every detail. Early in 1941, the prototypes of the Dnepr M-72 motorcycle were shown to Joseph Stalin, who ordered the mass production of this design, and hundreds rolled off the assembly line.
As production escalated, the Moscow Motorcycle Plant was established, producing hundreds of Russian M-72 sidecar motorcycles. But Germany’s Nazi Blitzkrieg was so efficient that Soviet leaders were concerned that the factory would be bombed. The plant was moved east to the town of Irbit on the fringe of Siberia in the Ural Mountains.
Initially, the “URAL” was built for the military only, but after WWII the factory was expanded, and in 1950, the 30,000th motorcycle was produced. In the late 1950s, production at the plant turned towards non-military uses.
Today, the now-private company produces heavy-duty Ural sidecar motorcycles with two-wheel-drive designed for rough, rugged terrain, and the sleek cT model for urban commuting and paved roads. The motorcycles are mainly exported to Australia, UK, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Greece, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Germany, Egypt, Iran, South Africa, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and US. The number sold since the factory was founded exceeds 3.2 million.
IMZ-Ural is the only Russian manufacturer of large capacity motorcycles and one of few manufacturers in the world to still produce sidecar motorcycles.
The next time you think about exploring Marrakech, think about taking the low road in the low-riding sidecar of a vintage Russian motorcycle – President’s Pick Morocco Mazes & Mysteries.
What tells a story but is not a book, a play or a song?
What grows but doesn’t change?
What challenges but never wearies?
What started as 161 x 400, and now totals some 81,600?
No, Silly, of course, we are not going to tell you…. Not just yet.
But why not be among the first to get whatever this is? It’s free and will look fabulous on your coffee table.
To pre-order your what’s it, CLICK HERE and enter your name and email address.