With vaccination against COVID-19 covering large swaths of populations in Europe and the US, many countries have opened up travel to foreign holiday destinations. Yet Egypt, which is stepping up vaccination but still suffers a high number of COVID-19 cases, has not been among the destinations open to travel.
Despite that, however, Egypt was delighted to welcome a very special visitor earlier this month.
Gloria Walker, 56, from Philadelphia, who was last year diagnosed with late stage bladder cancer, has lived her childhood dream of seeing the pyramids of Giza.
According to a story written by Michael Klein and published by the Inquirer, Gloria’s son Dustin Vitale, a 26-year-old teacher, asked her: “If there’s one thing in the world you can do, what would it be?” Her reply: “I’d like to see the pyramids.” It was her dream ever since she was a little girl, he said.
Vitale and his wife, Hailey, raised the money needed for the trip, more than USD10,000, by making and selling cheesesteaks, a fovourite of his. The whole family stepped in to help, and the money was raised. Yet when asked if he would think of opening a shop to sell cheesesteaks, Vitale said: “I could never. I love doing this on the side, but my heart and passion is teaching and for the students.”
As to his mother Gloria, she thought going to Egypt was an amazing idea, but had no grand travel plans other than “just being on the ground there.” Dustin’s trip there in 2018, she said, “was “life-changing.” He had said that he could never forget the friendliness, hospitality, and generosity of Egypt’s people, as well as the country’s special attractive, wonderful and unique tourist and archaeological sites.
On 8 May, Gloria and her family of 14 members landed in Cairo. Their first visit was to the Giza Pyramids on 9 May.
Khaled al-Anany, Egypt’s Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, was keen to meet Gloria. He received her at the Sphinx paws, a space which was opened exceptionally for her.
Dr Anany welcomed Gloria and thanked her for her passion for Egypt and its ancient civilisation, expressing confidence that her visit would give her the positive energy to help with a speedy recovery from her illness.
Gloria thanked him, especially for what the ministry had done to enable her to achieve her life wish to visit the Pyramids. She also expressed great happiness at the warm hospitality with which Egyptians have treated her with since her arrival.
In front of the Sphinx, Gloria insisted on standing up from her wheelchair to fulfill her dream and take a commemorative photo at the foot of the great Sphinx.
The minister asked Gloria whether she would be visiting Upper Egypt, but she replied that the tourism programme of the visit did not include it. He invited her to visit Luxor and enjoy its unique Egyptian monuments. She was thrilled with the offer, and the Minister gave directions to extend her and her family’s visit to Egypt for one day during which she would visit Luxor.
Dr Anany gave Gloria a replica of the ancient Egyptian goddess Maat, the goddess of justice and truth, to put in her home in Philadelphia to always remind her of her visit to Egypt.
In the beach resort of Sharm al-Sheikh in South Sinai, a world favourite holiday destination, Gloria was warmly welcomed by South Sinai Governor Khaled Foda who wished her a speedy recovery and presented souvenirs to her and her family, inviting them to enjoy the serene beaches and the city’s attractions. She thanked him and said she planned to return to Sharm al-Sheikh in Christmas to enjoy the festivities, warm sunshine, and splendid nature.
During her visit to Egypt, Gloria was accompanied by representatives of the Coalition of the youth of political Parties, who stayed with her and her family since their departure from New York Airport and until the end of their visit.