LaLanda Thompson just returned from a once-in-a-lifetime journey through Egypt and Jordan. The 50-year-old resident of Las Vegas is acasino manager at the Venetian Resort, and has worked in the gaming industry for the past 26 years. She is also the mother of a 26-year-old son and the owner of Destination Ooh La La, a travel company that curates itineraries for adventure travelers who also enjoy wellness and luxury. Born and raised in Flint, Michigan, LaLanda’s mother nurtured her love for travel since childhood.

“From the time I was small, I can remember my mother saving for our family travel fund all year,” said LaLanda. “When the long-awaited summer came along, we would hit the road for extended road trips to Northern Michigan, Ohio, and Canada. She made sure we always had summer travel fun! These summer road trips set the foundation for many international travel memories me and my mother would have together. So far, we’ve traveled to over 20 countries together!”

When her mother is unable to travel with her, LaLanda opts to travel solo. She finds traveling alone very liberating and loves the draw of unbridled adventure and self discovery. Her most recent travels took her on a three-week adventure through Egypt and Jordan in September and October.

Photo courtesy of LaLanda Thompson

“I’ve had a desire to visit Egypt since childhood! I have always had a fascination with Ancient Egypt and its women Pharaohs Hatshepsut and Nefertiti. I was also intrigued by the pyramids of Giza and their detailed burial complexes.
Since tourism numbers are still low, I decided to take advantage and travel to Egypt. I was able to book my accommodations pretty reasonably and many times, I was able to view entire tombs and temples alone. The experience was priceless!”

In Egypt, LaLanda visited the cities of Cairo, Alexandria, Sharm El Sheikh, Aswan and Luxor. She enjoyed Giza’s Pyramid Complex by day and the Sound and Light Show at night. She visited Cairo’s Museum of Egyptian Antiquities and later attended the Nile dinner cruise. Shopping for papyrus artwork, LaLanda was able to commission a beautiful custom-made cartouche featuring her name in Egyptian hieroglyphs.

In Alexandria, she visited the Citadel of Qaitbay and the Roman Amphitheater, followed by scuba diving for the first time in the Red Sea off the coast of Sharm El Sheikh. Luxor was a treat, with its many well-preserved temples, of which LaLanda was able to visit Luxor Temple, Karnak Temple, the Temple of Hatshepsut, and the Tombs of Ramses I, III and IX.

Photo courtesy of LaLanda Thompson

She went on a scenic hot air balloon ride with amazing views of the Valley of Kings, and also chartered a boat to watch the sun set over the Nile River. However, the highlight of LaLanda’s trip was visiting the ancient Nubian city of Aswan.

“It was my favorite Egyptian city! I loved how laid back and peaceful it was compared to the hectic scene in Cairo, and I loved being welcomed by warm Nubian smiles. My visit to the Nubian Village was amazing as the entire atmosphere gave me a sense of calm, like I was meant to be there around Nubian people that looked like me. I loved that the natives on the island have their own customs and traditions and speak their own language called Nuba.”

“Small shops line the roads, and the entire island is painted in vibrant colors with massive murals of Nubian faces all over the landscape. The guest houses had a charming welcoming vibe. Most served as residences, as well as cafes/restaurants and shopping boutiques. I had a delicious meal prepared by the female residents of the guest house, consisting of lamb shawarma, potatoes, Egyptian rice, salad, hummus, and pita bread.”

Photo courtesy of LaLanda Thompson

LaLanda also enjoyed experiencing the Temple of Philae. Built to honor the goddess Isis, the stunning temple is situated on the island of Philae overlooking the Nile River.

From Egypt, LaLanda traveled to Jordan, where she visited the cities of Amman, Wadi Rum, and Petra. Her Amman day trip consisted of a visit to the historic Roman Theatre and Amman Citadel. Positioned on a hill overlooking the entire city, the Citadel is an important site with a long history of occupation by many civilizations. Buildings remaining at the site are from Roman, Byzantine and Umayyad periods.

“The Roman Theatre was also a nice site. The theatre can seat 6,000 people and is now used as a venue for cultural activities. It was refreshing to see how the theater complex serves as a social meeting place for Amman residents. I observed young children joyfully playing soccer in the square with friends and family.”

Photo courtesy of LaLanda Thompson

Next, LaLanda visited the Dead Sea, a welcoming oasis of beautiful blue salt water. Opting for a local hotel day pass, she was able to enjoy unlimited swimming in the Dead Sea, as well as a delicious lunch.

“The lake’s surface is 1,412 feet below sea level, the lowest land-based elevation on Earth. There are many benefits of Dead Sea salt and mud, some of which include enhanced hydration, clearness of skin, and detoxification of the body.
I loved being able to float and read a book without needing a flotation device.”

LaLanda’s favorite city in Jordan by far was Wadi Rum. Having opted to stay at a luxury Bedouin camp in a tent with a panoramic view of the sky, she arrived just before sunset, allowing her to take in the breathtaking views. At night, she could view the stars through a high-powered telescope and learn about the constellations. During the day, there were options to tour different historical sites for hiking, or to ride an ATV or camel through the desert.

Photo courtesy of LaLanda Thompson

“The Wadi Rum Desert was like my own giant sandpit to play in. It was the most peaceful place I’ve ever experienced. The star gazing is unparalleled!”

LaLanda’s last stop in Jordan was Petra. A huge rock-hewn city over a hundred square miles in size, it is not for the faint of heart. She arrived in early evening, and was able to attend Petra by Night, which consists of a narrated tour of Petra as you walk to the Treasury by a candlelit path called the Siq.

“At the end of the Siq path, the Treasury emerges fully lit in hues of purple, pink, red and blue! It’s absolutely jaw dropping. Upon arrival at the Treasury, there’s a sea of candles decorating the ground, and a native Bedouin tells a beautiful story of Petra.”

Photo courtesy of LaLanda Thompson

On her second day in Petra, Jordan, LaLanda decided to hire a guide to take her on the grueling more than 800-step hike to the Monastery. The hike began at 6:00 a.m. and about an hour later, they had reached the Monastery.

“My guide asked if I would like to get adventurous, and I said ‘of course!’ So, he asked if I’d like to climb to the base of the urn on top of the Monastery. It wasn’t easy. I almost backed out halfway up, but I managed to make it to the top. The sweeping view of Petra was amazing!”

“The remainder of the tour lasted seven hours. I opted for a mule toward the later end around noon when the sun was high. The tour was thorough, informative, jaw dropping, and exhausting at the same time. These three weeks in Egypt and Jordan have been a dream come true. This trip taught me that fear isn’t real, your body is stronger than you realize, and to always focus on the present moment!”

LaLanda is currently planning her next trip, which will be to South Africa in early 2022. You can follow her on Instagram at @miss.ooh.lala and @destination_ooh_lala.

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