Egypt Landscapes That Put Life in Perspective


Hiking in the Coloured Canyon, Egypt.

Hiking in the Coloured Canyon, Egypt.

In the two weeks I’ve been in Egypt, the things that have struck me the most are:

  1. The country hasn’t been hostile, dangerous or nearly as overwhelming as I expected it to be based on media reports. I can’t believe I was scared about travelling here.
  2. The landscapes have been vast and beautiful. So much that I almost cried tears of joy on the morning I woke up in the desert during a camping trip.

I’m going to save my Egypt travel safety thoughts for the end of my trip, but for now I want to share how these expansive landscapes have made put some perspective on life.

Panoramic landscapes

On multiple occasions I’ve had the privilege of standing in beautiful panoramas of deserts, golden mountains near the oasis, canyons and huge temples/pyramids.

Being completely by these landscapes have been both humbling and enlightening.

Humbling because of the sheer size, both vertically and horizontally. Enlightening because it’s become a reminder about keeping the big picture in mind, which something I’ve often neglected to do in the past.

The present vs. the future

In facing life decisions or challenges, many times I’ve been so caught up in the moment or the emotions of the situation, I couldn’t see past that obstacle. As a result, I was anxious, afraid and confused. But inevitably, this “oh-my-gosh-this-is-the-end-of-the-world” event passes and becomes just a small part of the journey.

Here are some personal examples of what I mean:

  • In grade 6, I didn’t know my multiplication tables and felt terrible from being scolded by my mom and teachers. In hindsight, not knowing how to multiply back then was pretty inconsequential (and later, I still finished a degree in Mathematics with Honours at one of the most reputable Mathematics universities in the world.)
  • 8 years ago in university, I felt ashamed when I virtually failed a mid-term exam in one of my Optimizations class. Later, it turned out everyone else in the class did poorly too and the teacher made the final exam count instead. I ended up getting a 96 in that class.
  • 1.5 years ago when I parted ways with a long-term partner, I didn’t know how I’d be able to function. But being single gave me the opportunity to invest more energy in myself and in opportunities that maybe not have happened in the same way, like travelling around the world alone.
  • A year ago, I didn’t know how I’d fare without having a steady income from a job. It seemed like going against what was expected of me. Today, it turns out happiness and freedom doesn’t cost as much as I thought it did and there hasn’t been a day this past year I wished I was somewhere else.

During my hikes through these desert landscapes, we always come across beautifully shaped rocks or patterns. Usually they’re a few floors high and tower over us. As we walk away, it gets smaller and smaller relative to the entire landscape until eventually it’s just a dot.

Many worries and anxieties I’ve faced, have always become smaller, fading into the big picture as time passes.

My one year travel anniversary is coming up.

This milestone has been on the back of my mind for weeks. I’ve been pondering what I should do afterwards, in particular about how/if/what I’ll do for work and how I can use the experience I’ve gained this year travelling to help me in the future.

For sure, there is uncertainty about what the next year will bring.

But unlike other times in the past when I’ve wrestled with anxiety and worry, I feel much calmer and happier.

I have faith that things will work out. I believe when I look back 5 or 10 years from now, it’ll similar to how I look back to not knowing my multiplication tables in grade 6, that it’s only one of the small milestones in the grand scheme.

As Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, said in his famous Standford commencement speech: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward. You can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”

Here are five of the vast landscapes I’ve had the good fortune to see in Egypt so far. In each photo I’ve included at least one person or building as a size reference, to help you imagine the actual dimensions of the landscape.

Egypt Desert Landscapes

An approximate map of the landscapes:

  • A. Great Pyramids of Giza
  • B. Western Desert and Bahariya Oasis
  • C. Luxor, Temple of Hatshepsut
  • D. Coloured Canyon

View Larger Map

Sunny day at the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Great Pyramid of Giza. ~137m tall, each limestone block is half my height.

Sunny day at the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Hatshepsut Temple in Luxor. The only female pharaoh, ~1500BC

White Desert (west of the Nile, east of Libya)

Sunrise on the White Desert (west of the Nile, east of Libya)

Eroding mountain near the White Desert

Eroding mountain near the White Desert. The arrow is pointing to a 6'4'' man.

View of Coloured Canyon, near Dahab.

View of Coloured Canyon

>> What’s the most beautiful landscape you’ve ever seen? If you’ve been to Egypt, were you stunned by the landscapes like I was?

Photos above are from day trips and excursions with Get Your Guide and Egypt Excursions Online.

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  • Backpack travel bag, Caprese b

    wow!! wonderful Landscapes….
    I wish I could visit this place….

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  • Incredible pictures Lily.  I love how you mention about Steve Job’s speech that you have to trust the dot will somehow connect your future. I feel like every choice you made will lead you where you are now. : ) Have fun in Egypt.

    • Hi Sarah,

      Thanks for your compliments on the photos, it helps a lot when what you’re photographing is already incredible. Egypt has turned out to be a far bigger experience than I imagined going in. I’ve watched this Steve Jobs speech over 10 times from the first time I’ve discovered it and I still find it inspirational. 

      – Lily

  • Great pictures! I love the one of the pyramid. Gives you a good perspective on how big monument really is!

    • Hi Tobias,

      I love that photo too, I was surprised it would all fit in the frame! I can’t believe each of those blocks were about half my height. Incredible how they managed to build these massive structures.

      – Lily

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  • Anonymous

    Beautiful Piece. We absolutely loved Egypt when visiting. Especially the White Desert, glad you made it there. 

    • Hi Dave & Deb,

      I was surprised by how much I ended up loving Egypt and the landscapes in general. I was initially a scared to travel here due to all the bad press this region gets, but really glad I made it here too!

      – Lily

  • These photos are splendid. I will visit Egypt one day. 

    • Hi Charles,

      Egypt is definitely worth going to, if you get the opportunity. I thought the Pyramids would be the highlight of my visit, but it turned out there was so much more to experience :)

      – Lily

  • Peng Leong1

    Wow!!these Landscapes are beautiful,I want to see!

  • Paul

    The Grand Canyon is the most spectacular landscape I have seen. And despite seeing it more frequently than others, I still admire Niagara Falls.

    • Hi Paul,

      Grand Canyon is on my North America to-visit list, I’ve seen photos and can only imagine what it feels like to be there. Your comment about Niagara Falls made me laugh – it’s always listed on the Canada guidebooks but I’ve never found it that impressive, maybe because I’ve been there too many times and take it for granted (like our CN Tower)! I like that you like something in our own background in Canada :)

      Thanks for stopping by!
      – Lily

  • I was just in Bahareya in September–the White Desert was a complete fairytale. It stripped away the rest of the world and was stunning in its surreal formations, isolation and stillness. I hope you went to the Siwa Oasis as well. Both these places are with me as soon as I wake in the morning, far from that latitude in Toronto. Here’s how I felt about the rest of our travels through Egypt:

    (And by the way–I always said that only people who want to teach mathematics should have to take math. There are calculators and accountants for the rest of us!).

    • Hi Jules,

      Thanks for sharing your blog link. I couldn’t agree more about the White Desert being out of this world. I’ve never seen anything like it before and it kind of reminds me of the scene from Journey to the Center of the Earth when they’re surrounded by giant mushrooms. I didn’t go to the Siwa Oasis unfortunately, I guess it’ll just have to wait until next time.

      As for math, I’ll have to politely disagree with you ;) I think everyone should have a solid math education, it teaches you to think analytically. It’s just unfortunate that some math teachers make the topic seem more overwhelming and boring than it is!

      Thanks for stopping by!
      – Lily