It just keeps getting better
15.02.2019 27 °C
Day. 11. Friday Feb. 8
At 9 am our transfer arrived at the hotel and we climbed into a van destined for our three day Nile cruise. Nick and Louise from England were already on board, two thirty something professionals, she originally from Sweden. We started chatted right away when we found ourselves in front of the Cataract Hotel where we were joined by Nick and Kara and Nick’s parents Dallas and Ingrid all from Huston. It took a half hour to get to the boat and the talking was non stop.
Our home for the next three nights is the Zekrayaat, a dahabiya or sailing river boat. Most of the Nile cruises are on large river boats that carry between 100 and two hundred passengers. Ours has six rooms and has a capacity for 12 people. Our Egyptologist Salah is around 40ish and very well travelled and educated in various parts of the world . He proves to be an amazing wealth of information, at times making it a lot of fun too.
A cold drink of hibiscus tea is brought as we watch our final four passengers make their way across the field and onto the boat. Aimee and Natalie are two travelling friends in their late thirties I think.Aimee resides in Los Angeles and Natalie in Phoenix.
Daniel a paediatrician and his father Jose from Madrid arrive and make up our final 12 so we set off north on our journey to Luxor.
Our rooms are assigned , ours a double, and all have private bath. It is quite spacious for a boat and the windows open to see the banks of the Nile passing by.
Lunch is served on the deck, an assortment of many Egyptian dishes fragrant with cumin, coriander and spices that i am not yet familiar with.
The 12 of us toast to an amazing group of ship mates and all express how relieved and pleased we are with everyone on board. We all end up being fairly open minded so we’re able to talk about politics, religion and current events over the next thee days without much disagreement.
The Nile, life blood of Egypt, is the only river that flows south to north. For that reason upper Egypt is in the south and Lower egypt in the north which can be a bit confusing fo me a times.
Kom Obo is our first stop, temples with some beautiful color visible on the walls and columns.
The wind is going in the opposite direction so most of the time we are pulled by a tug boat. The Nile is a bit choppy and very windy on the deck, but so smooth that you hardly know you are moving. The shade of the canopy over the upper deck combined with the wind makes it a bit chilly at times. I found a lounge chair that I moved into the sun and read my book, a novel on the life of Hatshepsut, a perfect book to read while cruising on the Nile.
We ate in the dining room downstairs for dinner as it was a bit cold. The boat pulled off to the side of the river for the night, something that the larger boats can’t do.
A very quiet night with almost no movement felt from the boat.
Breakfast up top at 8 and then off to explore some tombs and then a rock quarry to see where and how they chiseled away the huge stones and then transported them onto the boats to sail up the Nile to Luxor and various other destinations.
Back on board we are passing so many of the larger ships, there seems to be a convoy of them. I am in the lounge chair enjoying my book and Turkish coffee with a hint of cardamom when i hear Salah, our Egyptologist, get a phone call and run down stairs.
The boat is steered by a huge rudder with large ropes attached. Mohammed is furiously pulling on the ropes and moving the rudder to cross the Nile, dancing between all the other larger boats with great skill. The boat is then attached to the shore with ropes tied onto metal spikes which are driven into the bank. The resident cows and donkeys try to come up the gang plank to have a visit. They are very curious and hilarious to watch.
Salah jumps into he tug boat and they take off. Apparently Natalie and Aimee were left behind at the quarry. Thankfully she had her cell phone and called the office of the boat we were on. We felt bad that we didn't notice, but a lot of us were in our rooms showering or resting for a while so didn't think much of it.
The two hour wait was not a hardship at all. We chatted, read, English Nick went swimming, Daniel went ashore and found some fresh cut sugar cane that we all tried.
We were getting hungry though, but waited until they came back so we could all eat together.
They apologized for making us wait, we apologized for not noticing they were missing. It was great as no one was stressed about the change in plan at all, we were all very relaxed about it.
We got to put the sails up for a bit which was great. It’s so peaceful watching fishermen and life on the Nile.
Rami created another multi course lunch once again and was always very accommodating to my vegan and Louises’ gluten free needs.
There is always far too much food.
Tonight after dinner the crew did a performance with music and singing and then pulled us up one at a time to do some dancing. Salah then did a little play to teach us about the different gods which was a fun way to learn. Doug was Horus. The god of all gods
The boat was pulled over to a field at Edfu last night. I could hear the call to prayer at 4:30AM. It was soft and beautiful. At 5AM it got much louder and was completing with a few other mosques. It was an early morning for me.
After a breakfast, that included delicious crepes, yum, we disembarked and took a horse and buggy through the town to the temple of Horus, the god with the falcon head and one of the most important of the gods. This is one of the best preserved temples in Egypt and we found a number of other groups were there, Day trippers from Aswan.
Sailing to our next stop of El Kab tombs cut into the cliffs. A number of children were selling some hand made baskets, which really were not that attractive, but they thought that Doug needed to buy a few. They mobbed him all the way back. This is a photo of him, he is almost hidden from the children surrounding him. We each bought one but ‘forgot ‘them on the boat when we left.
Our last dinner as a group tonight, we exchanged e mails and hope to keep in touch possibly.
Day. 14 Monday February 11.
After breakfast we were all transported to our respective hotels in Luxor, a half hour drive from where we docked.
Ours is the Nefertiti hotel, a bit shabby looking from the outside but has good reviews. As it is only 9 AM our room is not ready so we left our bags and grabbed a cab to Karnak Temple, one of the most important in the Luxor area.
Once again it took some time to buy our Luxor pass. One fellow starts the process, then calls another fellow, who leaves with the documents and our US dollars. He comes back and they do something else, then we are suggested to give him a tip and he disappears again for a while. There was an english couple who were also getting the pass and getting quite upset that they were taking so long and doing ours at the same time, as they arrived first.
Doug tried to quell the situation by chatting about other things. The couple were really quite miserable about how things are done in Egypt.
Karnak was a great site and we explored for a few hours. Our taxi driver Adam was there to take us back to the hotel where we checked into our room on the fourth ( really the fifth ) floor, no elevator, but thankfully two guys hefted our suitcases up for us. There is a large terrace by our room which is where we enjoyed the restaurant for dinner. Our room is quite nice.
Breakfast on the terrace allowed a view of a dozen or more hot air balloons floating over the Nile and towards the valley of the kings. Doug and I decided not to do this as we had a fantastic one in turkey and don’t feel we need to do it here.
We arranged to have Adam’s cousin pick us up at 9 , as Adam was busy, and we set off to the West Bank to visit the Valley of the Queens. Queen Nefertari’s tomb was our first stop and it was magnificent. The tomb had been restored using the original methods of making the colors and applying them. Sweden France and USAid all seem to be a huge part in the ongoing restoration and archeology work in Egypt. We see a number of tents and workers at numerous sites. Many universities from around the world also play a huge part.
We did visit a few other tombs as well and then had to ‘exit though the gift shop’ once again. This is not as popular site so there were only about a dozen vendors. At the first stall I told the fellow I would look at everyone’s stalls and then make my decision at the end. He said that was fine and yelled at all the other guys of my intentions. It worked. I couldn't believe it
They of course tried to convince me to buy from them but it was not as bad as other places. I think because it was a small area they all were friends. I made my choice at the end, a wall plaque of Nefertari and we were on our way to see Hatshepsut temple.
I was very excited about this one as the book I had just finished was the story of Hatshepsut and the building of her temple. She wanted it to blend in with the mountains, and it looks like it could have been made in today’s time. It was very crowded and very hot but I was happy to be here.
We ran into Kara, Nick and Dallas again, we saw them at Karnak yesterday too. Crazy seeing as how many people are here that we have met up twice.
We stopped briefly at the valley of the Nobles on the way back but we were templed out by then and very hungry so didn't stay long.
There is no fruit at breakfast so we asked the manager where we could buy some. He suggested he buy it for us as it will be much less expensive.
We came back to our room to find our pillows and towels made into an elephant with a fruit plate on top.
Tonight we walked through the souk to go to dinner. Looks like some nice things in there that I don't need, but may have to come back and take a look later.
The manager brought us a beautiful plate of sliced apples and mouth watering sweet strawberries this morning. He is so happy to help in any way
Adam was here at 8:30 AM to drive us to the Valley of the Kings, once again on the West Bank.
The crowds were not bad today and the temperature was perfect. The valleys have small trains that take you about a mile from the visitor centre to the first tomb. I bought an extra ticket to take photos for $24 and glad I did. The guards were on everyone who tried to take photos without the pass. Some would just take backesh but a few confiscated phones and deleted all the photos. One Russian woman was really mad and yelling and being very rude to the guards which they did not take well at all. One fellow got caught taking a photo with his I watch. Can’t pull anything over these guys.
Our first stop was Seti 1, which was outstanding but no photos here at all even with the pass.
Ramses 111, V and V1 were also very impressive . The colours are amazing, and the workmanship incredible.
The workers who built the tombs and the temples were paid in gold and not many were slaves. Some however were killed after working on the tombs of the pharaohs so that they would not be able to tell anyone where the tombs were for fear of looting.
Pictures don’t do it justice, each tomb tells a different story and the restoration work is incredible.
King tuts tomb held only his mummy and one of his sarcophagus. Most of the treasures that were inside are in various museums.
Our last stop was the Medinat Habu temple of Ramses 111 and Hatshepsut . Another impressive temple.
Late lunch, rest and then walking around the streets for a few hours tonight. We were pretty much the only tourists around this area walking at night. All the shops are very small and sell only a few goods . You wonder how they all make a living
We cut through the souk on the way back to the hotel and bought more peanuts and dates and a papyrus, much larger than I intended. These guys are so good, I started out choosing a small one first.
But then saw a larger one and before I knew it we were bargaining for both. I only got the one in the end which is all I wanted and I think we were both happy with the price.
Day. 17 Valentine’s Day
Elementary school starts at 730AM. How do I know that? Because our hotel is beside the school and at 7:35 we hear marching music full blast over the loudspeaker. Someone is playing the organ and for 1/2 hour various marching tunes are played for morning exercise.
Then the teach says ( I imagine)
“ now who is the worst singer in the class, raise your hand “. And that person comes to the mike and sings comments for the next ten minutes
I asked the cook at our rooftop restaurant. “ school exercises?”
“ yes. E v e r y M o r n i n g “. He sighs.
It gets all of us up and moving too.
Our last full day in Luxor was planned to just stick close to the hotel. Outside Doug hired a horse and buggy driver he had been talking to the past few days and he arranged a price to take us to the Luxor museum. It went sideways unfortunately as he wanted us to do more, words were said and it didn’t end well
The museum however was great, beautiful layout and very interesting artifacts
We walked along the waterfront and stoped for lunch at a hotel where we ran into our Spanish boat mate Daniel so we chatted for a bit
Continuing our walk to the Luxor temple a young boy offered to shine Doug’s shoes for 20LE. That went sideways as well I’m afraid and in the end he asked for 200 to which we handed him 40 and words were said again . His shoes look great though
Heading into the Luxor temple we realize we are instead entering the mosque attached. We turn to leave when a man says ,
“ no you are welcome, come in”
This was the only day I did not have my headscarf in my backpack but he leant me one and gave us a bit of a tour. He said that they help out 168 orphans in the area.
Doug said he would like to make a donation to the orphans and pulled out 200 (15$).
We made our way to the Luxor temple and looked around for a bit before returning to the hotel for a nap.
To the beach! A taxi to the Go Bus station for our three hour trip to Hurghada, which had many stops and took five hours. The seats very very cramped, like a cheap airline squished too close , but the the cost was only $8 each.
At 1PM we arrived and took a cab to our home for the next six nights, Arabia Azur Resort, an all inclusive on the beach. Our reservation was a bit screwed up but eventually we were given the right room, a sea view on the third floor. It is a huge room with balcony and quite an upgrade from the rooms we have been staying in.
There are no elevators and this is a huge resort where our room is quite far from the pool and food, but climbing the stairs and walking far may counteract all the food available from 6AM till 11PM that I am sure we will eat plenty of.
I am quite surprised that almost everyone is German. Some Russian and Scandinavian but the signs are in German and the staff speak German to us all the time, surprised when we speak English. We went into the library to get a novel to read and out of hundreds of books there was only one English one.
A young Swedish girl heard us talking and asked why we were here. She could not believe we came all this way.
There are no Arabic signs anywhere. We are having a bit of a culture shock, or a no culture shock. It reminded me of being on the cruise ship with everyone at the Buffett, packed to the rafters
There is a nice beach and the water is turquoise blue with a few reefs. We look forward to some swimming and snorkeling the next few days