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When Egypt Calls

Posted on February 14, 2022 0

When Egypt Calls NAHA-EBERS Aromatherapy Study Tour 2021

By Raghda Maksoud, NAHA International (Egypt) Director

“If you drink from the Nile, you will always return to Egypt.” Herodotus.

It has been two years since we have been to Egypt. The airport was bustling, as we made our first meeting before boarding, getting to know our travel buddies before the trip started. It was amazing meeting new friends as well as old friends. Jamie and Justin Lynch were coming back for the third year! The flight was smooth yet long, 11 hours straight flying to Egypt from New York. But we had a lot of leg room, good entertainment, and tasty food.

You could still hear a lot of excited chats every now and then. Rose Christie, an experienced aromatherapist and old friend was sitting next to me, and I don’t think that we slept for more than an hour, as we were so excited chatting about almost everything!

Planning the tour took a year, between virtual meetings, and companies’ selections and itineraries. There is a lot going on behind the scenes, but this is what makes the trip unique and amazing every time.

The plane descended and I stole a glance at the beautiful sunny skies and the golden yellow sand. On the way to the hotel, I inhaled deeply, and all the scents came back to my heart and soul: A crisp desert Nile mixture of earthy, green aquatic notes with a dash of mint tea and a lot of barbeques.

It is so true that Egypt can change your spirit, and you will come back many times. It was very challenging with travel restrictions due to COVID-19 to arrange the annual study tour in 2020, but 2021 arrived and what was impossible became possible. We even organized a group PCR test, to ensure that we were not infected via COVID-19, in the hotel before travelling back to the USA.

Our stay in Cairo was excellent in a golf course hotel, with amazing food and excellent measures in place for social distancing, hygiene and COVID-19 management, which made our stay more comfortable. The food was outstanding and delicious, and I do not think we ever stopped eating the whole tour!

“Our days in Cairo were so packed. The study tour to Egypt is not an ordinary tour as it is a journey of self-discovery, making new friends and learning about a different culture and Egyptian aromatics.” Raghda Maksoud

Day One

The weather was sunny, bright, and perfect for our visit to the great pyramids of Giza. We received a history lesson from Suzy our tour guide explaining the history of the pyramids and sphinx, followed by camel rides and photos. The next site was the Pyramids of Saqqara, a magnificent place full of history, different tombs, temples, and the pyramids’ ancient funerary text carved on the walls.

Later in the day, we went to see the carpet weaving and the papyrus factories where local talented artists showed us the magic behind the traditional craft. The grand finale of the day was the sound and light show by the pyramids, bringing thousands of years stories back to life. It was both mesmerizing and beautiful.

Day Two

The second day was our factory visit, a sixty-mile trip north of Cairo which took three hours due to traffic. Tanta is located in the delta region, one of the richest regions of jasmine (Jasminum officinale), neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara (flos)) and citrus plantations in Egypt.

Egypt Aromatics hosted our visit of walking in the jasmine fields which was quite an experience. It was the end of the season, however, and it was so nice of them to leave some jasmine petals for us to smell and pick. The factory is equipped with six distillation tanks with different capacities.

Dr Rabab Abdelwareth, the Quality Control (QC) manager, explained the two-distillation process, steam, and solvent extraction from A- Z. We saw distillation tanks, separation tanks, filters, and boilers, not only that but we got to get free samples of freshly distilled peppermint (Mentha × piperita), in addition to buying concretes, essential oils, and hydrosols from their factory outlet. The day was long, but it was worth every second.

Day Three

It was the third day already and all I kept hearing was “this trip is getting better and better” which made me smile and feel happy. It was our old city tour, and a visit to the Egyptian museum in downtown Cairo, built in 1901 and housing 120,000 items. Later in the day, we visited the Egyptian Civilization, the newest museum in Cairo, with 50,000 artefacts and 22 Egyptian mummies. It is a state-of-the-art museum that is breath taking. We followed that visit with a beautiful lunch on the Nile banks, before heading to the Bazars, Khan El Khalili market and Moez street, a different part of Cairo loaded with medieval Islamic architecture, spice shops, jewelry shops and beautiful buildings.

Day Four

Our fourth day was amazing as well. We did a trip to Fayoum, 62 miles southwest of Cairo, to visit Nefertari Natural Skin Care factory. An amazing woman-owned factory started in 1998 by Dr. Mona Erian, a pharmacist by profession. The company was named after the beautiful queen Nefertari and most of the products and ingredients are the same ingredients used in Ancient Egypt, as well as the packaging that was inspired by the containers in the Egyptian museum. The factory follows a strict Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) and has an amazing standard of operation, so it was an excellent learning experience for all of us.

From Cairo to Hurghada

The second part of the trip was to Hurghada, the beautiful coastal city located on the Red Sea 287- miles from Cairo. Our flight was about 45 minutes. You should have seen our faces checking to the hotel and seeing the amazing turquoise colors of the red sea resort! By the time that we reached Hurghada we were all tired, and we all needed some rest time before the second part of the trip. Our stay was all inclusive which made it a fun time all day long. The time spent here was a great bonding time among the group, between swimming, massages, dancing or watching the night shows.

The highlights of Hurghada were the snorkeling trip exploring the beautiful marine life in the Red Sea with the coral reefs and the beautiful colorful fish, the safari experience, which was hilarious, crossing the desert with sand buggies to the Bedouin camps and meeting the Bedouins, drinking tea and learning how to pronounce the botanical names of the wild grown herbs. It was absolutely an experience of a lifetime.

Of course, you can’t go to Egypt without visiting Luxor. We had an early morning wakeup call at 5:00 am, followed by five hours in the bus from Hurghada to visit the amazing city. Luxor needs at least a week to see all the site but seeing that we had only few hours, we made the best out of it. The Karnak temple complex with the amazing Hypostyle Hall in the Precinct of Amun-Re, a hall area of 50,000 sq. ft. (5,000 m2) with 134 massive columns arranged in 16 rows was great. The Sacred Lake dug by Tuthmosis III is the largest of its kind, which we know of, is lined with stone, and has stairways descending into the water.

The Valley of the Kings and the Hatshepsut temple were spectacular as well, which made us think that we need to go again to Luxor and spend some more time visiting the amazing sites.

The End of the Trip

Our final dinner was amazing, with seventeen NAHA members from different states and backgrounds, all gathering in Egypt with the NAHA Study tour, sharing memories, giggling, and promising to come back.

“A journey is best measured in friends, rather than miles.” Tim Cahill

About Raghda Maksoud:

Raghda A. Maksoud is a Level three Certified Clinical Aromatherapist and an expert with 23 years of experience in global business development and the supply chain in medicinal herbs, flavors – fragrance, and essential oil industries. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and Arts from Cairo University in Egypt in 1997 and completed a Project Management program from Cambridge.

Raghda’s journey started in Egypt in 1998 when she joined one of the leading growers and distillers in Egypt; it was then that she combined her love for languages and history with her passion for nature and adventure. She has since worked in the supply chain, business development, and sustainable sourcing visiting 21 countries with the most outstanding medicinal plant growing regions.

Raghda founded Ebers Aromatherapy and Consulting and started teaching aromatherapy globally in 2018. She launched the NAHA-approved Ebers School of Aromatherapy in 2020. She is a member of the Aromatic Research Quality Appraisal Task Force (ARQAT) for standards in aromatherapy research practice and reporting. She is also a technical member of (WFFC)The Women for Flavors and Fragrances (WFFC) in North America. Her mission is to develop aromatherapy globally, particularly in the Middle East, as well as support the development of women-owned small businesses, and research into aromatherapy.

Raghda is currently the NAHA International Director for Egypt and the Chair for the International Relations Committee. As part of this role, she arranges educational study tours to Egypt for aromatherapists and plant lovers to visit farms and distillers. You can learn more about Raghda at: https://www.ebersaromaschool.com/

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