A Travellerspoint blog

Last Day in Egypt

March 6

semi-overcast

I was feeling very lousy in the morning so Don went off with others for our last day tour of some of Cairo’s sights. They left about 7 with the intention of going to the Egyptian museum before the crowds. But when they got to the museum there was some security check going on and the museum wasn’t opening to the public until 9.
So off they went to the Klan El Khalili open market bazaar. They went to the al Azhar mosque first, part of the Al Alzar University. This was located in the historic centre of Islamic Cairo and Ashraf said it dated back over 1000 years towards the time in 970 AD when Cairo was founded. The bazaar is also the site of terrorist attacks in 2005 and 2009 when 21 and 1 people were killed respectively. It was a bit early for it as well but there were some shops opening. They spent about a hour wandering around and doing some souvenir buying before heading back to the museum.
Al Alzar Mosque

Al Alzar Mosque

Mosque minaret

Mosque minaret


Bazaar

Bazaar

Bazaar

Bazaar

By the time they got to the museum it was quite crowded but what are you going to do?
Ashraf took them on a tour pointing out some of the highlights of the museum – the largest collection of Pharaonic antiquities -ancient coins, papyrus, mummies, statues, various tools dating back 4000-5000 years ago and then let them wander around on their own for a while. The artifacts found in King Tutanhamun’s tomb were probably the most interesting. What is so amazing is the effort and detail that they put into keeping the gods happy and preparing for the soul to return. So much gold, so many amulets, so many words and prayers.
Limestone colossus of King Senuseret I

Limestone colossus of King Senuseret I

Calcite basin supporting a boat with a shrine from King Tut's tomb

Calcite basin supporting a boat with a shrine from King Tut's tomb

A child's mummy from Roman times

A child's mummy from Roman times

4500 year old fine pottery

4500 year old fine pottery


After the museum they went off to the almost 1000 year old citadel of Saladin ( the biggest Islamic fort in the world) and a visit to the Mosque of Mohamed Ali which is located inside the citadel which overlooks the city of Cairo, then off to the Coptic area of Cairo where they visited various churches. Of note is one fourth century church called the “Church of the virgin Mary” which is a hanging chuch built on the ruins of two 1 st century roman fortress towers and the Abu Sergu Church, where you can go down into a cavern where they say Mary Joseph and Jesus stayed when they fled to Egypt shortly after Jesus was born, after King Herod ordered all first born babies killed.
Mohammed Ali Mosque

Mohammed Ali Mosque

Inside the dome of the mosque

Inside the dome of the mosque

Church of the Virgin Mary

Church of the Virgin Mary


They returned to the hotel earlier than I had expected, but satisfied with the day's tour. We had a final group meeting to fill in evaluations and say goodbye. We were given our ride to the airport around 10:00 pm and started our long trek homeward. Which although long, was uneventful, just very difficult for me because I was feeling so sick. But I made it.

Posted by katdill 13:54 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Relaxing at the Red Sea

March 2 to 5

sunny

Our first day at the resort was pretty slow and simple. I started the day with doing some laundry, which dried very well out on our balcony. We had a walk on the beach at low tide, until the lens fell out of my glasses and I had to return to the room to repair them. Luckily the screw was still there, although I do carry spares. Each trip to the hotel room means climbing 3 flights of stairs, there is no elevator. After lunch, we played a game of mini-golf on the worst maintained and poor course we have ever seen. Then it was sit by the pool and visit with some of the others from our group. Before you know it, it is time to eat again! Staying at an all inclusive could certainly have a heavy effect on my weight!
Don wanted to go snorkeling again and asked Ashraf about it. After Ashraf inquired with the company Timeless Tours uses he told Don that they wouldn’t go for only one so Don organized to go with the Dive shop connected to the hotel.
The next morning he left around 9 on a relatively fancy boat compared to the other snorkeling trip he has taken in Africa – a cabin cruiser. There were about 15 other European tourists taking the trip although only about a half dozen went in the water.
The snorkeling boat

The snorkeling boat


Don indicated the trip was supposed to do some dolphin watching and two stops for snorkeling. But the dolphins weren’t cooperating that day so none were sighted –even though they said as they left that there was a 100 % chance of seeing them. There were three who said they haven’t seen a dolphin before so I’m sure they were disappointed.
Both the snorkeling stops were on the leeward side of coral atolls. Don's report of the first stop was that the clarity was really good –maybe 20 -25 metres, he was able to swim off by himself which he likes, the coral was decent and there were plenty of interesting fish although not really big schools of them. The Red Sea is home to over 2000 fish species of which 10-20 % are found nowhere else in the world. Don was happy looking at lots of new species he hadn’t seen before. He was also impressed at the variety and colours of the giant clams with their various shades of blue, purple and grey lips and excited to see a blue spotted sting ray. The second stop was similar to the first but not as interesting and more exposed to the winds. The only thing he was not excited about was the water temp - only -25 -26 C- so it was a bit chilly even with his rash guard on.
We hadn’t discussed the length of the trip before he left so I was expecting him to be back by early afternoon but they didn’t get back until after four.
The view from our balcony of the resort facing the ocean

The view from our balcony of the resort facing the ocean

The view of the resort looking towards the main building

The view of the resort looking towards the main building


One of the coffee machines in the dining room

One of the coffee machines in the dining room


I spent the day very quietly, reading and playing games. I've been making an effort to drink lots of water, as I feel quite dehydrated. Luckily, the resort has water dispensers in different locations so you can fill your bottles as often as you wish.
Our third day at the Red Sea was much the same, Don spent some time at the pool enjoying the sunshine, while I hid in the shade on our balcony.
The next morning it was time to leave. So after breakfast, we all piled into a small van with our luggage for the short trip to the airport. We got our flight to Cairo and an hour later we landed.
We were picked up in another van and driven to the Pharaonic Village, which is an outdoor museum showing the history of Egypt and how people lived in their villages, as well as a reproduction of King Tutankhamun's tomb.
We rode along a canal in an open boat listening to a recording about the various kings and history, until it was time to disembark and walk thru some of the buildings.
On our boat ride

On our boat ride


Some of the actors in period costume

Some of the actors in period costume

A view of the mock village

A view of the mock village


After our tour ended, we were given a meal (paid for by the tour company) and then we returned to the Oasis Hotel for the night. By the time we reached the hotel, I was feeling quite ill. Definitely caught Ashrauf's cough and cold, so early to bed for me.

Posted by katdill 13:09 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

On to the Red Sea

March 1

sunny

We had a good time at the Murphy’s Irish Pub last night, although we had a little difficulty finding it. Ashraf hadn’t been there before and just had directions. So we went into a doorway and climbed 5 floors of stairs without finding the pub. The top couple of flights of stairs were dark as well. Ashraf knocked on a door and the woman that answered told us how to get into the pub. So down we went - she turned on some lights for us - and went in the proper door and then up a flight of stairs. We think she is the owner of the pub, as she came in later from a back door and talked to the staff. We didn’t stay very long, just a drink and our supper, because a couple of big tours of young people came in and it got very noisy in there.
Don and Gerald at the Irish Pub

Don and Gerald at the Irish Pub


We got on the road again this morning, checked out of the hotel, and headed in the direction of Hurghada, the place we are staying at the Red Sea.
Hauling sugar cane

Hauling sugar cane

More hauling sugar cane to the factory

More hauling sugar cane to the factory

A huge tiled urn on the street in Qena

A huge tiled urn on the street in Qena


We stopped after an hour or so at the Dendera Temple in Qena. This temple wasn’t on our original itinerary, but it was added to make up for missing Edfu Temple when we were on the cruise ship. Ashraf says it is an even better temple than Edfu because it is larger and has more painting that has survived. It was interesting and had lots of little rooms on the sides that the other temples didn’t have. We even went up on the roof. The size of the blocks of stone that make up the roof is unbelievable! I can’t even imagine how they got them up there with no crane or machines to help.
Some of the amazing artwork on the ceiling!

Some of the amazing artwork on the ceiling!


Huge columns entirely covered in decoration

Huge columns entirely covered in decoration


Don showing how big the roof blocks are

Don showing how big the roof blocks are


Then we continued on our way with one short coffee/toilet stop. We travelled through the desert and some very rough mountains. It is hard to imagine anyone ever living there!
Mountainous desert

Mountainous desert

A bus load of sleepy people

A bus load of sleepy people


The road was very good and we arrived in Hurghada about 3:30. After we got checked in to the Sunny Beach Resort, which is an all inclusive resort, we went to the beach restaurant for a snack, because we hadn’t had any lunch. We found out that the WIFI here only works in the lobby and main restaurant of the hotel. Our room is quite far away, this place is huge, maybe 300 rooms, and 3 swimming pools. It was very windy and cool today, it seems strange to be at a beach resort and have to wear pants and a jacket!

We sat in the lobby before supper for free beer and WIFI. When we decided to eat, I got a tour from the head chef to show me what I could eat - most of which I could have discerned myself. They have a huge buffet here and I think there will always be something I can eat. It is nice that they showed such concern to ensure I was properly taken care of.

Here are a few photos and a video from the Valley of the Kings tombs. Thanks Sara for being our professional photographer and sharing your work.
Proof we were in the tomb!

Proof we were in the tomb!

Such vivid colours in the tombs

Such vivid colours in the tombs


Another one from the tombs

Another one from the tombs

The noise level in the video gives you a good indication of how many people visit these tombs.

Posted by katdill 21:43 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Exploring Around Luxor

February 28

sunny 22 °C

We got up early for breakfast and checked out of the cruise ship. By 7:00 am we were on our way in our little bus. After we picked up John from his hot air balloon ride (which he said was not worth the cost), we drove over to the West Bank to the Valley of the Kings. They have found 63 tombs in this one valley and are likely to find more. We visited 3 different tombs while we were there, Ramses III, Ramses IV, and Merenptah. It is amazing how well the paint has survived the thousands of years since it was painted. A couple of these tombs involved going down a very steep ladder like a stairway for quite a distance before reaching the burial chamber at the bottom. Ned pointed out the “trap” in a couple of tombs, where any grave robbers would fall into a pit - shades of Indiana Jones. We were not allowed to take pictures unless we purchased a photo pass, which we didn’t bother to do. Sara, from our group, did buy one and took many pictures, which I think she will share with us later.
The Valley of the Kings

The Valley of the Kings


After leaving the Valley of the Kings, we visited the Temple of Hatshepsut. It looks very large on the outside, but there really isn’t very much to visit. We had another possible shopping opportunity when we stopped at an alabaster factory/shop. The guide there was very funny and entertaining while explaining how they produce the handmade alabaster items.
The Temple of Hatshepsut

The Temple of Hatshepsut

Working on an alabaster vase

Working on an alabaster vase

Alabaster objects for sale

Alabaster objects for sale


We also made a very quick stop at the Colossi of Memnon for photos and then drove on to a restaurant for lunch. We didn’t enjoy our lunch there as much as the one we had at the Blueberry Restaurant in Cairo.

We were then driven to our hotel for the night, the Lotus Hotel, in Luxor. After settling in, Don and I went out to walk the neighbourhood. We had to repeatedly refuse offers of a taxi, or a guide, or shopping, but we managed to visit a couple of shops, buy some water, and return to our hotel without getting lost.
Very clever water filtration system used all over Egypt

Very clever water filtration system used all over Egypt


Ashraf has said he will take us out to have supper at an Irish pub nearby, so that should be interesting.

Posted by katdill 07:01 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Cruising the Nile

February 26 & 27

sunny

This morning the rest of our group went off very early to drive to Abu Simbel Temple, which was an optional trip that we had not signed up to take. So we had the morning free to do as we wished. We left the ship and walked around Aswan and found some market areas. We didn’t buy much but we had a good time looking and interacting with the local people. I even had a cup of coffee in a little coffee shop - served very strong and black in a glass with no handle.
A spice shop

A spice shop

A bread shop

A bread shop


After we returned to the ship and had lunch, and all the other tourists had returned from their tours, the ship left the dock at Aswan and started cruising down the Nile. It actually left about an hour or so later than scheduled. We sat up on the top deck, enjoying the view of the riverside and all the action on the river. It was a very windy day, which kept us cool even though the sun was shining. Just at sundown, we arrived at Kom-Ombo and docked. We left the ship and walked up to the Kom-Ombo temple. It is not a very large temple, but Ashraf had some interesting stories to tell us about it. It even has a well which produces pure water through a filtration process.
The well at Kom-Ombo

The well at Kom-Ombo


We were to visit another temple as well, Edfu Temple, but due to having a late start and the ship’s schedule we did not have time to stop there and see it. However, we will visit another substitute temple later on in the week.

The ship sailed part of the night and then continued on in the morning. It was so windy we spent most of the day sitting in our cabin, watching the world go buy. We had to go through a couple of locks as we proceeded down the river. At each lock as the ship slowed down, a swarm of hawkers in their little boats came out and started yelling at the people on the ship. “Lady, lady, only 100 pounds!” They were selling scarves and tablecloths, which they would throw up onto the top deck (4 stories up!) and then you could throw your money down to them. It was quite a wild scene, very entertaining. One enterprising boat stayed with us right through the lock and then tied on to the ship as we sped up afterwards. They had quite a ride before they finally gave up. Don was up on the top deck for part of the time and said this boat did quite a lot of business.
Some of the swarm of hawkers

Some of the swarm of hawkers


We arrived in Luxor and docked on the East Bank. So around 3:30 we left the ship and visited the huge Karnak Temple in Luxor, which is very impressive. We had a stop at a papyrus shop for a demonstration of how they make papyrus paper and the opportunity to purchase artwork done on papyrus (which we did not do).
Some of the many huge columns at Karnak

Some of the many huge columns at Karnak

An obelisk at the Karnak Temple

An obelisk at the Karnak Temple

The papyrus demonstration

The papyrus demonstration

The temple of Luxor

The temple of Luxor


We then proceeded to the Luxor Temple. It was dark by the time we arrived, but Ashraf says this temple looks better with the lights at night, than it does during the day. We don’t know...just saw it one way. All these temples are very impressive, with unbelievable carving done on the walls and every available surface. Egyptians know how to do “big” very well.
Then it was time to return to the ship and have our last supper on board and early to bed. The food on board is very good and there is so much choice and variety it is hard to stay with a reasonable sized meal.

Posted by katdill 06:22 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

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