Several months ago I met a woman named Halle Eavelyn who runs tours of Egypt. For a living.
Let that sit for a minute.
She’s not Egyptian. She’s a young American woman who simply fell in love with Egypt and now it is her mission to lead people there (and other exotic places) on immersive tours that go behind the scenes to where tourists (or “touristes” as they say in Egypt) don’t normally get to go.
Eavelyn’s tours are unusual for another reason: they are spiritual as well as exploratory. The tour company that Eavelyn co-owns with her life partner, Greg, Spirit Quest Tours, takes people to the sacred places and stops to do things like chanting and toning and meditating. They aim to connect with the spiritual energy in the temples and the ancient lands.
According to Eavelyn’s book, “Red Goddess Rising,” they’ve been pretty successful at that.
Once a skeptic herself, Eavelyn gives a regular nod to unbelievers throughout her “spiritual travel memoir,” in which she lays out a detailed account of her many trips to Egypt in an attempt to describe her own evolution from a person who was once terrified of dying to someone who is calm and secure and brave and no longer claustrophic or afraid of the dark. Some of this transformation happened, as Eavelyn tells it, during “memories” of her past lives, or spiritual connections with other spiritual beings. But the important thing is that her “aha” moments happened in Egypt.
Whether the reader is open to tales of this nature or not, he cannot ignore the delightful minutiae that Eavelyn shares from her experiences as a Western woman in a Middle Eastern, male-driven nation. As a traveler she gets away with dressing and acting any way she wants, but over time she herself even adopts the dress and manners of an Egyptian, at least for passing moments. Especially entertaining is the story about the year Eavelyn and Greg were in Egypt during Thanksgiving, and she went to great lengths to produce a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner in a place where “pumpkin” could mean any kind of squash, and the locals would just as soon cover all of the savory dishes with cranberry sauce or opt for their favorite local beef and cheese meal.
Eavelyn’s tale of her own growth from the time she met and started dating Greg through the latest of her spiritual journeys in Egypt delves into topics one might expect to hear about in a psychologist’s office – childhood, past relationships, adultery, family dynamics, all that messy life stuff that we are used to hearing about when we learn about someone’s history. But then she does even more in-depth personal work as her relationship with Greg progresses and he inspires her to explore roads less traveled. Hypnotherapy, past-life regression, different religions – Eavelyn is clearly a seeker, not knowing exactly what she’s looking for until she finds it.
Having first met Eavelyn at a cocktail party and then read her book which describes her life story in cringeworthy detail, I am a little bit nervous about running into her again. On the other hand, I’m a blogger. I share TMI on an almost daily basis. It must be weird for my regular readers to run into me, much less have a conversation with me about regular things.
I enjoyed learning about the many ways Egyptian culture is so different from our own, and I appreciated the detail that Eavelyn included in the book. As a travel guide, it is handy for this reason. As a narrative read the book is a bit more challenging – Eavelyn’s attempt to paint a cohesive picture about a tour of Egypt by piecing together stories from many different trips with different companions over the years is admirable, but it falls short of clarity and at times gets confusing enough that a flip back in pages is necessary so you know where and when you are in the story. I found that reading “Red Goddess Rising” in short bursts worked best for me – it was the perfect dose of someone else’s reality to enjoy while my sons were in karate class two days a week.
Karate class is over for the summer, so I pushed myself to finish the book the other day at the pool so I could tell you about it. After all, I’ve had it since February. I missed the opportunity to tell you about the contest that Spirit Quest Tours was having to give away a trip to Egypt, which is a bummer because that might have saved you several grand. But as Eavelyn might say, everything happens for a reason, so I’m pretty sure you weren’t supposed to win that trip anyway. Perhaps a “girls’ week out” in Bali to retrace Elizabeth Gilbert’s steps in “Eat, Pray, Love” is more your style?
(I also reviewed Eat, Pray, Love. You’re welcome.)
I received a signed copy of Red Goddess Rising for review. All opinions are my own.