A Travellerspoint blog

Egypt

The Red Sea, Egypt

A great way to relax

sunny 27 °C

Days. 19 - 24

Hurghada. The Arabia Azur resort was a bit daunting for us at first, quite a big change from the noise and bustle of Luxor, but after a day we settled in nicely enjoying the sun, sea and endless food.

Our days were pretty much the same:

Claim a beach sun bed with our towels
Breakfast buffet
To the beach to read, turn on the rotisserie every half hour, basting in sunscreen often.
As soon as I arrived my pool guy will bring me a cappuccino
Swim, snorkel
More baking and reading
Is it lunch time yet? Belly up to the buffet
More of the same again until 4PM,
nap time
Dinner buffet

We met lots of people, but conversations were mostly on the surface as many did not speak much english and we did not speak German which is what most of the guest were.

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The staff were excellent. 45 days on then one or two weeks off. Many lived in Luxor and came for work. They work very hard, 12 hour days and always have a smile on their face and love to joke. Everyone is made to feel like they are the most important guest there.

A lifeguard would visit me on the beach and practice his english, saying a word and I would give the explanations and then use it in a sentence. When he came to the word ‘stingy’ we used it in a sentence but I suggested he may not want to use that word when talking to tourists
He crossed it off his list.

One day we went on a boat tour to snorkel in a couple different spots. There were 12 of us on a fairly large boat and our first stop was to watch Nile dolphins playing in the water.
Three different stops to snorkel and a stop on a beach for an hour. I was not really impressed with it at all. The snorkelling in front of our hotel was better.

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Lots of pink jelly fish, but they didn’t seem to bother anyone thankfully.

We walked to the marina one afternoon, and one day when I was having my afternoon sleep Doug went off on an adventure into the old part of town and came back wth lots of stories to tell .

Days 25-30

We decided to split up the time between two different resorts on two different reefs.
The Serenity Makadi bay was more luxurious with beautiful grounds, two salt water and two fresh water pools, and a beach out front with plenty of sun beds, umbrellas and windscreens. Our room was large and on the ground floor facing one of the salt water pools. Unfortunately the pool was too cold to go in, I know because I tried one day and it took forever to warm up again. The sea was warmer.

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Our routine here was very similar as before. I read three books which was great. The food was so much better and my vegetarian needs were met, with the chef meeting me at each meal to point out dishes that did not have meat.

One young waiter would come at each meal and teach Doug and I a new Arabic phrase. He would pronounce it, give the meaning and we would repeat.
He would say it again and we would repeat
Inevitably he would shake his head and walk off frustrated with us as we would mispronounce it terribly.
All in good fun.

We arrived during a big wind storm and the red flag was flying, but the next day we were back to yellow and ventured into the water down a ladder at the end of the pier

It was outstanding. Many tropical fish, and the coral! It looked like beds of purple and green heather growing under the crystal clear water. This is the best place I have ever snorkelled and we went in twice day. The water temperature was on the cooler side so we could only stay in 30-40 minutes at a time. The Red Sea is so salty you can lay on the top and float with ease.

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We did go to a couple of shows but mostly we just had a late dinner than went back to our room to read. We met lots of people and conversations were a bit easier here as more people spoke English. Guests came from Germany but also lots from England, Egypt and other parts of Europe. There were people of all ages as well as many young family’s which is always great to be around young children , all who were so well behaved.

One afternoon I was approached by a man on the beach wanting to sell treatments at the attached spa, so I agreed to a needed colouring and haircut.

The outside of the Spa looked very promising but that’s where it ended. Inside was in great need of renovation and a good cleaning. I met my hairdresser in a small room with three chairs. Her english was minimal and I like to have a hairdresser who has a good cut herself, but of course I could not see her hair as she was in a full headscarf. I came armed with photos, haircuts with light color with lowlights.
“Just a trim.”
Ok ok she said

What was I thinking?

Two hours later my hair is very bleached, not sure what happened to the lowlights, and I am scalped.
I had memories of my dog, a Bichon frieze, when he would come home from the groomers with a really bad short haircut. He would hide under the bed in embarrassment for a few days.

I have had a couple of trips too many to the buffet to fit under the bed

My hair grows fast though, and I have a hat.

An ( expensive) lesson learned

This morning we sat with a couple from northern Russia for breakfast. They said that the snorkelling here is no where near as good as Sharm el sheik, north of here on the Sinai peninsula . Hmmmmm. We may make a trip back at some point to check that out

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Day 31

Our relaxing vacation came to an end too soon, we were really enjoying the time there so much. Today we flew back to Cairo for the last two nights in Egypt. Our hotel arranged an airport pick up for us and in an hour we were checking into our 2 star hotel. Well maybe 3. Great location though, right across from the museum and near all the expensive hotels on Tahrir square where the uprising (revolution) was a few years ago. We have a balcony over looking the very busy street with non stop honking. Quite a change from our quiet beach retreat.

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We went out for a late lunch/ early dinner at a restaurant in a nice hotel across the street and then wandered about for a few hours down back lanes and small streets. I lost my lipstick a couple of weeks ago and could not find any place in hurghada to buy some. I found a small shop here and bought two for under 6$. I feel human again with my short bleached hair and bright pink lips.

Doug wandered around again later on and I just hung out in our room

Day. 32

Our last full day in Egypt. Last night we arranged to have a guide pick us up this morning and take us on a walking tour of Islamic Cairo. He arrived at 8 AM and we drove to two large mosques, Hassan and Mohammed Ali. The later is from the 8th century and the Hassan from the 18th. Very impressive and beautiful with intricate art of marble and cedar inlaid with ebony and ivory.
In the Hassan mosque lies the mausoleum of the Shah of Iran and also king Faruok.

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Our next stop was the Islamic museum which was very well laid out with some beautiful pieces. A class room of university art students were scattered about drawing some of the artifacts

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A local Egyptian souk was our next stop, through a medieval area, the first walled area of Cairo.

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This is Egyptian cotton

We had a stop for some Turkish coffee and then onto the tourist bazaar

Our Egyptologist, Eman was a wealth of information about many subjects regarding old and current Egypt and I felt I could ask him many questions about religion politics and customs without problem. I was not so lucky a previous time here so I have learned to tread lightly now with my overly inquisitive mind and big mouth.

I bought some nice living room pillow cases in red and Doug got a small package of freshly roasted coffee that we will try at home . Oranges and bananas were also purchased as there isn’t any fruit at breakfast

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We were dropped off at 2:30PM and we were famished! We found an Egyptian restaurant near our hotel and were delighted to enjoy a delicious meal of falafel, roasted vegetables, tahini, foul ( a local vegetarian bean dish) and Doug also had barbecue chicken. This was all washed down with tasty cold lemon mint drinks

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After a sleep and rest in our room we walked the streets of Cairo for a few hours looking for a lamp Doug saw in the market but had decided not to buy.

Cairo has 20 million people. That is more than half the population of Canada living in this one city, so naturally it is very busy. The streets were very crowded with people walking about as we were.

The shopping is divided into areas, I have seen this in other cities as well. Blocks and blocks of shoe stores, nothing but shoes of every description for a mile or more

A block over were windshields and car parts as far as the eye can see.

Next block jewelry and on it goes.

But no lamps. We felt very comfortable walking everywhere, even down alleyways. Police presence is very high.

Muslim’s don’t drink alcohol so they socialize in coffee shops and sheesha shops. Sheesha is tobacco mixed with a flavour like apple or fruits and smoked with a large water pipe. There are many small shops everywhere full of mostly men. There are a number of larger outdoor ones that we found with young women in as well.

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We noticed that most Egyptian men also smoke regular cigarettes.

Day 33 and 34

Our transfer to the airport was at 7:30AM for our 10:30 flight to Athens. Being a Friday traffic was light and we arrived at 8. We decided to check both suitcases and then waited until boarding time. Security was different here. At the flight gate you had to go through a very thorough screening and pat down before getting on the plane. Makes sense really

In Hurghada and Cairo they allowed open food through security and water in my metal water bottle, they just asked that you take a drink or eat some of what you are carrying. Brilliant, I wish all airports did this. I had had same experience in Tanzania

We boarded our flight, settled in, taxied down the run way and we were then informed that we needed to return to the gate for a technical issue. We all deplaned and were bussed back to the waiting room where we waited for a couple of hours until we did it all again

I met a lovely woman my age from Santa Barbra California and we had a great conversation about Egypt and our experience here.

We didn’t have any real plans today so the delay was not the end of the world.

So we finally arrived at our hotel on the sea in a small town called Rafina which is around half hour from the Athens airport
Tomorrow we will just walk the sea boardwalk and prepare for our 16 hour flight home on Sunday, March 3 rd.

Rafina
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We had an amazing trip to Egypt and I am so happy we came. We are even talking about a return trip in the near future.
It will be great to be home and sleep in our own beds for now however. Thanks for following along. Until next time.

Posted by debbep 12:44 Archived in Egypt Comments (7)

Nile cruise and Luxor

It just keeps getting better

sunny 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.

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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.

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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.

Day 12

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Day 13

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Day 15

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Day 16

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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The museum however was great, beautiful layout and very interesting artifacts

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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

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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.

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Day 18

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

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Posted by debbep 13:14 Archived in Egypt Tagged cruise. nile luxor. Comments (0)

Cairo and Aswan

sunny 28 °C

Day 7

Mohammed was our hired driver again to day . He was the one who picked us up from the airport. We set off at 9 and our first stop was Saqurra, which was a half hour or so drive from Giza. The landscape changed to more green and lush with many large date and palm trees. We drove though prosperous looking farming areas but there were still evidence of those who were struggling financial as well.

Lots of police presence everywhere, especially at and near the tourist sites. In full bullet proof vests and gear, machine guns and the police on the side of the road are standing behind metal shields about 4 feet high with a cut out for the gun to stick though. They are always friendly and approachable however. We ask them directions or for information when we are lost etc.

There are two sides to Saqurra. You really feel like you are in the desert out here, miles of sand with the pyramids and tombs the only thing on the landscape. Mohammed stayed in the car, he is a driver not a guide and his english is minimal. We had the Cairo pass so didn't need to pay again. $100 US gets us into all the sites in the area for five consecutive days.

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One of the ‘scams’ I figured out is that a fellow at the beginning of the area will ask to see your ticket again, completely unnecessary. Eventually i just said no, i don't need to show it again. They look at it and ask if you are on a tour. If you say no, they become your self appointed guide. They just walk with you and start telling you things. If you say no guide, they just don’t listen and you just end up having a guide most of the time. No is not an answer they understand. Ahmed did not have a great command of the english language, but he thought he did so i didn't have the heart to tell him I couldn’t understand pretty much anything he was saying. He took us around the site and showed us some tombs with great hieroglyphics with color still visible. It is amazing to think that these are 3,000 yeas old and still in perfect shape.

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In the end we gave him 200 Egypt pounds, ($15 CDN). There were very few tourists here, more guides and sales people than tourists. Tough life for them right now.

We then drove to the other side and dodged the “guides” and just looked around on our own. The hieroglyphics on this side were outstanding. A police man came up to us and asked if we were on a tour.
No, just us.
‘Follow me, I will show you some tombs’

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He took us to an area a bit way from everyone and unlocked some doors. He showed us four different locked tombs that were outstanding. He also let me take photos which was great. As this was something I had read about beforehand I knew that he expected ‘ backesh’ or a tip which we gave at the end. 40 Egypt pounds ($3) which he seemed to appreciate.

There was also a tomb, we had to climb down a very steep ramp hunched over as it is only 4 or 41/2 feet tall. Not much down there but you can appreciate what they were like.

Next stop Dahshur. I couldn’t remember much about it, but it was three pyramids you could go into. Only a handful of people here unlike the tombs at Giza pyramids.

Walking up 170, yes I counted them, uneven steps with handrails only available half way was daunting . Reaching the top I see that there is a very steep ramp going down into the pyramid 65 meters . It is very dark, we forgot our headlamps in the hotel, and thankfully there were rails on the ramp across the floor to keep you from sliding all the way to the bottom. Like the ones on ramps down to the docks. This entrance tunnel was even lower and by the time I reached the bottom it was hard to straighten up again. You reach a room where you can stand and then continue through another low tunnel to find another room you can stand upright in. What’s that I see ? Four flights of wooden stairs up. Well I’ve come this far, I am sure that there is a prize at the end.

The smell of ammonia is quite strong and there is not much air. At the top we were quite amazed at what was waiting for us
A big pit with large rocks.
Really?
I guess it’s a cool experience but in my humble opinion my knees and back could have done without it. Doug was amazed that I did it at al with my claustrophobia

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Last stop was Memphis, an open air museum. A couple of large statues of Ramses 2 that we’re very impressive
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A very full day for sure. It was a bit windy and quite warm today, hat and sunscreen kind of day. The locals find it cool, they are wearing down jackets and big coats. It is winter after all.

Day 8

I have never used Uber before but decided to try it in Egypt. All the trip reports said how cheap easy and reliable it is. I set it up before leaving home but my paypal did not like that I was in Egypt so couldn’t use it, had to resort to putting in one of my credit card info.

The first guy couldn’t find us for some reason but the second one was there a few minutes later. Traffic in Cairo is insane! Totally insane! Everyone constantly honks, a different kind of honk for what you are thing to convey.

A soft honk. “ I’m here “
Two honks, “ go ahead”
More aggressive honking is if someone’s getting too close

Everyone is constantly merging but there is no road rage or ill tempers at all. Just maybe a little more aggressive honking. They must have street valets because some of the side streets have cars parallel parked inches from each other three deep. It would be like a rubics cube if you wanted to get your car out so I assume you leave your keys with someone . This leaves a very narrow passage to drive down the road.

Even with a GPS the driver missed a lot of turns and got lost. I don’t think he had ever seen the Cairo museum, our destination, because at one point we passed it, I could see it and see it clearly marked on his GPS

“Museum?” I asked and pointed

He asked the car beside us where the museum was and the guy looked at him and pointed like
“Seriously, it’s right there, that huge pink building”

Traffic was stop and go, mostly stop, so we just said we will walk back from here. The trip took close to an hour and cost just over $6 Cdn with a tip

Just like in Bangkok we had two separate guys tell us the museum was closed for an hour, or the king tut exhibit has a one hour wait

“ come to my shop while you wait for the museum to open”

But not only did I look up the hours I could see people going in. Nice try. No thank you

We went through three separate security checks going in and one coming out. I could bring in my water however which was great. Our Cairo pass was scrutinized but he let us in. We were able to use it to see the mummy tomb as well.

The museum is moving to a new location in Giza but won’t be ready for a few years yet. The building is two floors and not well marked in my opinion as to where things were, but eventually we just decided to walk through the entire place. . The exhibits range from poor condition to almost perfect. It was incredible to see all of these sargofocus mummies and jewels from 3000 years ago. The king Tut mask and jewellery were very impressive

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We spent four hours there, had a bite to eat, and then called Uber again to pick us up. A bit of a mix up as to where we were and where he was but a lovely security guard called him for us and told us how to find him by cutting through the hotel.

A much faster drive home, about 40 minutes, again for $5 and after a rest in the room for a couple of hours we walked across the road to see the Sound and Light show

A bit cheezy but beautiful to see the pyramids and Sphinx all lit up with a a narration of the history of sorts

We decided to try the restaurant above or hostel and unfortunately it was very expensive and awful food. Not a great combination

Day 9

We are leaving the city that never sleeps, including me. Ironically the dogs stop barking and people stop yelling at 4am and that is when I am completely wide awake up. Go figure
Hopefully our next place will be a little quieter.

About the garbage. It seems that in the morning there is garbage strewn everywhere but shop keepers sweep it up and put into a big pile next to our hotel. Kids, and some older folks then pick through it to see what they can use. I saw a man with two donkeys pulling a cart who was lucky to find some discarded produce for his donkeys, or perhaps himself. Then the garbage pickup truck comes around 8AM and three men sort it out and take it away. Every morning starts off clean, but when we arrived at night it was quite shocking to see so much in the streets. My early morning entertainment watching the city clean up

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We hired Mohamed again to pick us up at nine and take us to Cairo for a few hours before our flight at 4.

I needed some money from the ATM beside our hostel and stood behind four women waiting. I am not sure how old they were, I imagine my age or younger, I can’t really gage it when they are covered head to toe in black. They smiled and we waited, and then a few more women came and stood in front of me and a couple other women. I made a polite fuss, but it didn’t seem to matter
They line up the way they drive, they just push in and get to the front, no one seems to mind.

Except me of course. I am used to order. I just couldn't take it after about 10 minutes when I am now 7th in line I left. Mumbling to myself, although they wouldn’t have understood me anyhow. They all just stared after me

“ what’s her problem?” I imagine them asking. Because they didn’t have a problem at all. I guess living with so many people you learn a lot of patience

Once again traffic is pure insanity and in an hour we are dropped off at the Coptic Christian area of Cairo. Security is high, we have to go through airport type scanners many times here as is the same in all of Egypt.

We wandered about and decided to hire a guide who found us and he helped us figure out what we were seeing. It’s a fascinating place with synaogues and churches side by side. This is where Mary and Joseph hid out for three years when Jesus was a baby as well as where Moses was floated down the river Nile. The Coptic museum had some beautiful artwork and items inside

This area is from 4th century and most buildings are still intact as original despite the big earthquake of 1992.

A side walk eatery was visited for a quick lunch and then off to the airport. I am glad we allowed an hour as it took an hour 15 to navigate the complete gridlock

Our Egyptair flight had us in Aswan in less than two hours . It is warmer, quieter and very clean and modern

Our arranged driver dropped us in front of our hotel and we are in awe. Located on the Nile river the hotel has a huge grand lobby with couches everywhere and a lovely garden and swimming pool

Doug and I are like school kids when we see our room.

“Look. Full size bath towels”
“ shampoo and soap in the bathroom”
“ a closet where you can hang up your clothes”

It’s the little things that are so exciting. It doesn’t take much to impress us. After our last hotel this was pure heaven.

We were hungry so we wandered out across the road and found a souk with many little alleyways of shops selling all sorts of clothes and goods. I thought I saw a cart of peanuts but I was wrong. The young man told me to taste one and I’m not sure what it was, some kind of fruit that I didn’t care for. He offered to take us through the souk and found us peanuts, dates and bottled water before leading us to a place to eat. Our self appointed guide was taking us to his uncles shops etc. But that was fine.

I really have let go of a lot of stuff here, like eating in cafes that are less than clean and eating stuff I have no idea what it is. They assure me it is vegetarian so I just go with it. We were the only tourists in this small hole in the wall and got lots of smiles and nods from the others

Egyptians eat huge portions, I can usually get through half if I am lucky. I tried a few new dishes that I quite enjoy.

A little bit of Arabic brings huge smiles to the local people. Many don’t speak any English at all, so we say thank you, no thank you and hello and good bye in Arabic. The big beaming smile we get in return is heartwarming

But now in Aswan there are a lot of Nubians here, people who were some of the earliest people here from Sudan and they have their own language.
So now we have to discern if they are Nubian or Egyptian and remember even more words. I’m sure we will screw up both languages a few times. But the fact that we even try is so appreciated

Day 10

The city has no water today. Something happened and everyone is without water. Must be a nightmare for hotel staff. Thankfully I had my shower last night.

A week ago I arranged a pick up at 5 am to go to Abu Simbel, a three hour drive south almost on the Sudan border. You have to submit copies of your passport and paperwork at least 48 hours in advance so they can clear it with the police. We were checked four times on route. The police always ask the driver where we are from, where are we going, ( in Arabic, but I can figure out what they are saying ). And then pop the trunk, look around and off we go.

Tourists can only be on this road between 5AM and 5 PM. I have heard different reasons why but I think it is for safety reasons to travel in the daylight in a group. The first part of our journey is in the dark but then the light slowly reveals the desert around us

The new two lane highway cuts through miles of sand, pink from the sunrise . We are following hydro wires the entire journey but nothing else is in sight. The road is straight and seems to go forever. You could watch your camel run away for days here it is so flat and straight.

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Half way there is a much appreciated bathroom break but the wind has come up suddenly and is whipping sand in our face and eyes. Back in the car on the road again the sand is swirling across the pavement in hypnotic waves of pink.

Finally at 8AM we arrived at Abu Simbel. The temple of Ramses 2 and the temple of Hathor are two of the most famous in Egypt. The parking lot confirmed that with many large tour buses and vans spilling out people into the entrance way to buy the $18 ticket

It’s already getting hot as we walk up the hill overlooking the huge blue lake Nasser.

And then there it is.

What an unforgettable sight, the four massive statues guarding the temple. Beyond is the temple of queen Nefertari which is equally amazing . Hathor was a female god that was more for women’s lives and featured in this one.

But what is even more impressive is that this temple, built in around 1240 BC, was moved in its entirety from its original site in the 70s before they built the high dam due to rising waters. Every ton of rock was moved perfectly to its new higher location . It was a huge undertaking with a few countries helping out.

These are photos of how close the river was before they moved it

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At 10:30 Doug and I are still wandering and marvelling at the sights when we notice we are almost alone. All the tour busses have left and we have the place pretty much to ourselves. People want to arrive here early to get the color on the statues from the rising sun, and from taking the same photo at 8:30 and again at 10:30 I do agree that the morning light is better.

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The downside of being the last person on the site is that you have to run the gauntlet of vendors on your own without the safety of other tourists to deflect from you. The vendors really do themselves a disservice as I would like to look but they make it so uncomfortable. I try to glance sideways behind my sunglasses, but if they see you look at anything they pounce

“ you like this madam, only 200 pounds, how many you like, I have more colours, how much do you want to pay?” All in one breath

Some were a bit assertive as well. Others use humour
“ you are breaking my heart madam”

And of course the ever present “Canada dry”. I asked one guy if he even knew what Canada Dry was and he had no idea. If they find out you are Canadian that is the response.

Our driver Hani was waiting in the cafe and we sat and enjoyed an ice cold sprite talking about his life in Egypt before making the three hour drive back.

We arrived back to our hotel at 3 to find we still don’t have water. We found a restaurant a few doors down on the Nile and had a late lunch/ early dinner while watching the sailboats, feluccas taking tourists out on the river. ,

It was quite muggy tonight but the temperature is pleasant.

Day 11

Water is back on which is a relief.

What a fantastic day we had today. We started to walk along the river after breakfast when a man approached and pretty much begged us to hire his horse and cart to take us to the museum we were walking to. We finally said yes and this poor horse had such a tough time pulling us up the hill I felt just awful.

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The ram is a mummy

The nubian museum was very interesting and we spent a couple hours there before going to the Cataract hotel, which is very famous here. It is the Empress hotel equivalent in Egypt. Many movies have been shot here as well as the setting for Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile. Being non paying guests we were shown to a waiting room with a few other lookie loos until a man came in and explained we had to purchase a ticket to visit the hotel. This keeps the riff raff out I suppose. $300 EP per person, (25$) but you could put that towards drinks or lunch. I thought we might get a coffee and a bowl of peanuts for $50 but we were pleasantly surprised. The food was fantastic, beautifully presented and would have been at least double the price at the Empress. The setting on the water watching all the small sailboats go by was so peaceful and lovely. A family from Cairo were also on a day pass and we had a great conversation with them before we went for our meal.

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We walked back to the hotel and a young man we met this morning wanted to arrange a felluca ride for us . This is a small sailboat that you can go around the different islands on. We agreed to meet in an hour, after a much needed rest, and were led down the stairs in front of our hotel to get onto the boat. It takes a lot of skill and hard work to navigate these amongst the many other sail and motor boats on the river. There was a great wind so we were off in no time. It was so lovely, quiet and smooth sailing over to our first stop a small island with a botanical garden. He let us off and promised to come back for us in 40 minutes after we walked through the park. There were many families having picnics and an outing here. School is on a winter break at the moment so we see families everywhere during the day.

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Once again we are movie stars. Everyone wants to take our pictures with them so I decided to do the same . Here are some pictures of some of the wonderful ladies I met today. Everyone is so friendly and happy to meet and talk to a foreigner. If I look over and smile and say hi, well that just gives a green light to come over and talk. And then they thank us profusely for taking the time with them. This one picture they handed me the baby to have the photo.
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This is the Aga Kahn mausoleum
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Our captain did not forget us and we met up again to finish sailing around Elephantine island. We were gone for a total of 2 hours and agreed on a price of 300 for both of us ($25) but also gave the young man a tip of 50 EP, ($4).

Tonight we wandered through the souk again, to buy some spices and meet a lot of interesting people

Tomorrow morning we will be picked up at 9AM to sail on a small sailboat, ( 4 rooms) for the next three nights to Luxor.

I don’t imagine there will be wifi on the boat but I will continue when we arrive in Luxor.

Posted by debbep 11:06 Archived in Egypt Tagged abu cairo. saqurra. simbel. aswan. Comments (0)

EGYPT

After 55 years I am finally here!!

sunny 25 °C

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Egypt has been on my list since elementary school. I actually think it was the first thing on my list if I knew I had such a thing back then. But the political situation and my pre conceived ideas of what Egypt today was like kept me from going.

A few month ago Egypt kept showing up in my life by ways of advertisements, conversation and news articles. I decided I needed to look into it and after reading may other recent blogs and travel stories we decided to make it happen.

Our Itinerary:

Fly from Vancouver to Athens on KLM on January 28h
Three nights exploring Athens.
Feb 01. Fly Athens to Cairo
Four nights in Giza
Feb 5. Fly Cairo to Aswan.
Three nights in Aswan
Feb 8. Three night Nile Cruise on a Dahabiya ( sail boat)
Feb 11 Four nights in Luxor
Feb 15 12 nights in two different resorts on the Red Sea for snorkelling and relaxing
Feb 27 Fly to Cairo for two nights
March 1 Athens for two nights
March 3 Fly back to Vancouver.

Jan 28/29.
Day one and two. Flying to Athens.

After an overnight in Vancouver we boarded our KLM flight to Athens via a short stop in Amsterdam. The flight overall was quite pleasant although we had a hard time sleeping, par for the course and arrived very tired.

The Athens airport is an hour from town and the cab fare was 40 Euros, or $60 CDN which makes it expensive.

Our hotel , The Evripides, is walking distance to all the attractions we want to see, reasonably priced, $70Euros
incl breakfast and comfortable. The staff are very helpful and friendly. The hotel rooms are very basic, but does the trick. Athens is very noisy, someone would do well here opening a muffler shop. There are lots of cars, trucks and motorbikes who are in desperate need. Exhaust fumes, construction noise means that this is not a peaceful environment that is for sure.

Our goal for tonight was to stay awake until 9PM which we did by heading up to the rooftop bar for a light meal and leamonaid. The view of the Acropolis and Parthenon all lit up was magnificent.

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Day 3. Wednesday.
We were both wide awake at 5AM. Breakfast was at 7 and consisted of yogurt, unlike any yogurt we have seen for a long time. Thick and creamy and reminded me of my first visit to Greece in the 70s. Even though neither of us eats dairy, we had to have some. Mixed with dates honey and fruit it was amazing.

The Acropolis was a 25 minute walk, all up hill mind you, but through some great neighbourhoods of shops and sidewalk cafes. The weather held off for us, it was torrential last night with thunder and lightning keeping us awake at times. But today was sunny with a bit of cloud cover and the temperature was perfect.

The last part to the site consisted of a number of stairs and I was grateful to have packed my walking stick as the ground was very uneven and slippery from the rain. The crowds were not too bad today and the site is fantastic. There is a lot of restoration work going on, probably forever I would think, but overall it is in amazing condition.

Our walk back found us meandering though small streets and alleyways where we came upon a Greek restaurant, (go figure) and enjoyed some stuffed tomatoes, eggplant dish and Doug had a plate of fresh sardines which he was thrilled with.

After a three hour nap we went and wandered the streets again looking for dinner. It was amazing to us how many people were out on a Wednesday night. The streets were packed with young people drinking and eating in sidewalk cafes. I wonder what it is like on the weekends?

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Day 4. Thursday.

Awake early again. Today we walked the other directions to the archeological museum. It is two floors and has some pretty incredible artifacts, including a small Egyptian display.

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On our way back to the hotel we passed by a big bus full of riot police, looking like they were waiting for something to happen. We decided to go to another area.

20,000 steps on my Fitbit yesterday and 11,000 today for someone who has not been walking much because of my foot issues, I was done by 2PM. Doug continued on exploring the local market place and enjoyed some fresh grilled squid which he said was delicious.

Day 5. Friday, Feb 01.

Finally a full night sleep. Yahoo.

Fly day. EGYPT HERE WE COME!

We went to the airport early for our EgyptAir flight to Cairo at four. They were very diligent, checking our boarding passes four times before we actually got on the plane. I slept most of the two hour flight and woke to the descent into Cairo. You couldn’t actually see the city until you were very close, there was a thick blanket of brown smoke covering the area as far as you could see. It is a huge city with wall to wall buildings, apartments, 12 or 14 stores high, all various shades of brown and grey. Very little in the way of any greenery. Sand and concrete as far as the eye could see. They all looked like newer buildings, in neat rows, some in circular neighbourhoods.

Arrival was very easy, thankfully I had read many blogs and trip reports so knew that the little bank kiosks before passport control is where we purchase our visa. $25 USD, cash only and no Egyptian pounds. It seems that everywhere tourists must pay in USD. The local currency is only for tips and restaurants and small purchases.

After collecting our luggage we needed some Egyptian cash and found six ATMs in a row. Just as well we had to try all six until we found one that worked with our HSBC card. The bank said i could withdraw $400 a day but seems its only $150 which will be inconvenient, but none the less we were relived to get some local money.

Our arranged driver was waiting and we drove 45 minutes to our hostel in Giza. That old familiar smell in the car is coming from the green tree hanging from the rear view mirror.

I had heard about driving in Cairo, on par with India, but its been a while since we have been in India.

There are 12 lanes, but the lines are only a suggestion, and no one really pays attention to them. Cars are going in every direction and some are so close you know why so many have scrapes down the sides. A variety of tuc tucs, trucks cars and motorbikes share the road, all travelling at high speeds. I look into the other cars and many are texting or talking on their cells phones as they drive. Moms with babies on their laps in the front seat, no seat belts or car seats. There are many new late models cars but just as many from the 60s and 70s, banged up, dented and held together with duct tape. You wonder how some of them are still drivable. I do see a few cars at the side of the road in fresh accidents, drivers out exchanging information.

It is Friday and a holy day for Islamic religion. There are many weddings and people celebrating on the side of the road, especially on the bridge that goes over the Nile.

We finally reach Giza. The air is still thick and brown, reminiscent of summer fires in B.C. We are surprised at how big the town of Giza is, lots of small shops and restaurants line the street. There is also a lot of garbage on the roads. That dam plastic again. We are in a bit of a culture shock I must say, didn't quite expect this, but things always look worse at night.

Our hotel, or hostel, is a bit of a surprise to say the least. On booking.com it has great reviews but it was not what we expected. Two young men met us when we arrived and carried our suitcases up four flights of dirty rundown stairs. The lobby was a card table and chair. The young man who owns the place is lovely and could not have been nicer or more helpful. Our room is , well basic but it is clean. The smell of stale cigarette smoke and fragrant detergent permeates the room. We have a balcony and it faces the pyramids which we will see when we wake up, but it also faces the Main Street. Apparently Giza never sleeps. A lot of places are open 24 hours. Loud music, talking, traffic noise, camels, donkeys braying, horses. It’s all outside our widow. Thankfully I brought ear plugs.

We walked a few blocks up and down the street , everyone smiled and said

“Hello, where are you from?”

Little children ran to us to practice their English.

We never felt threatened in any way, until we tied to cross the street that is.

On the way down we hung behind some young girls and just went at their pace. On the way back we were alone. Cars coming at every direction and they don't stop or slowdown. Finally one guy did stop. He look at us with great pity and let us cross, as did the van beside him.
In Asia it is a dance. The traffics moves around you, just don't stop walking. Not so in Egypt. Run for your life! They don’t tun on their lights and don’t slow down or try to go around you.

We found a wonderful bakery and bought a couple of delicious breads, one stuffed with dates and the other like a huge flat croissant. The smell in the bakery was heavenly. We weren’t hungry enough to have dinner but there is always room for fresh baked bread.

Now we hope to sleep though the party outside and enjoy our fist day in Egypt tomorrow.

Saturday, Feb 02. Day 6

Never sleptw. A bit grumpy this morning. Even with ear plugs and a sleeping pill I laid awake listening to the dogs fighting and the music blaring.

But opening the curtains to see the view of the pyramids made it all disappear.

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Wow. What a sight. Breakfast was served on the roof. Being the desert it is very cool in the morning and evenings. We see the garbage all being cleaned up. I think this is a daily occurrence with the tourists and garbage.

We had a bit of an ordeal getting our five day Cairo pass, but again with all the research i did ahead of time i expected it and you just have to go with it.

Although the entrance is right in front of our hotel, we negotiated a price for a car to take us to the other end of town to go to the main entrance to get our passes. It is crazy busy, with so many tour busses everywhere.
Eventually we had pass in hand and met our driver in the parking lot and asked him to drive us to the furthest pyramids. Temple of the queens. There were less people here and we marvelled at the sight for an hour, tying not to make eye contact with the many camel guys trying to sell you a camel ride, or offer to take your pictures.
Tourism is down right now and they are desperate to make a buck right now, but it was not as bad as some said it would be . Doug needs constant reminders not to engage in conversation however as he then can not get away because they think they have a sale.

‘Where are you from?’
‘Canada’
‘Canada dry eh?’ Same thing. Every time.
And.
How many camels do you want for your wife?

All in good fun.

We see lots of healthy looking gorgeous Arabian horses with men galloping across the sand at breakneck speed. Young teenage school girls squeeling and screaming in both excitement and terror as they sit upon a camel and are led by the camel drivers

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Si our driver took us to the third pyramid and we said good bye, much to his dismay. We said we would walk from here.

We spent five hours just wandering around and marvelling at the sites. Most of the tourists are Egyptian. Being a Saturday I guess that a a lot of families came for the day. We hardly saw any other pasty white red faced tourists like us.

As it turns out they all wanted to take pictures with us, selfies. Especially the kids and teenagers. Some adults too and they were not shy about asking. Many are from outside Cairo and tourist areas so don't see many westerners , we are quite the curiousity.

We wonder what the caption will be?

Young children came up to us regularity to say
‘hello, what is your name?’
They want to practise their english.

Many of the Egyptians smile and say ‘welcome’ when they walk by, and most smile and are very friendly and welcoming. You can see the women in complete cover smile under thier burkas.

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The pyramids are so close to Cairo it seems strange to see the huge city in the back ground.
Two young women befriended us in the small boat museum and we spent some time together. Beautiful 23 year old Muslim girls in their fourth year of civil engineering. They hope to be able to travel the world as well but say their family would not be happy with that.

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The Sphinx was at the end of our day and is not as big as you would think.

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After a great lunch we limped back to our hotel and had a nap for two hours. Not sure how I slept through the intense noise, but I did.

We have a car picking us up tomorrow to spend the day seeing some other pyramid and tomb sites.

Posted by debbep 12:17 Archived in Egypt Comments (1)

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