Adventure Egypt

Below is an excellent map of Egypt. It shows allof the major historical sights from Pharaonic times to the present. The Pharaohs, Alexander, the Ptolemies to the Romans. It is an excellent road map with which to describe and follow the path of my recent Egyptian adventure.

We landed in Cairo at about 6 AM. That first day, we napped til noon.

Afterward, we headed out to see Coptic Cairo and the great fortress on the hill which contains the magnificent Muhammad Ali Mosque. This Mosque is a wondrous work of art. A celebration to God and all that was and could be great about Islam as a religion. Muhammad Ali is buried within inside a white mausoleum. We head back to our hotel for showers. And then head back out to see the light show at the Pramids and Sphinx.

Next day, we were gathered up by Shaimaa and taken to the Pyramids and Sphinx at the Giza Plateau. We walked around those incredible structures and viewed a boat that was found in the 1940s. The boat was to be used to ferry the Pharoah across the river to the world of the dead. That afternoon we were driven south of Cairo to Sakkara to see the Ziggurat which is the earliest pyramid. We also took in the Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid. Huge structures. We climbed down into the Red Pyramid. It was…difficult. Afterward, we took lunch at an Egyptian restaurant. Pretty good food. That night we enjoy an evening cruise on the Nile. Taking in the sites of Cairo along the river Nile.

Day 3 saw us traveling North to Alexandria. We visited the catacombs. Checked out some cool grave sites that are centuries old. Dating back to the Greek and Roman eras. Took in a couple of mosques and the new Library of Alexandria. All of the learning of mankind in one repository. A daunting task. We also visited the Pompeii Pillar. I’ve put a few pics of this up on another post. Lastly, we visited the Quitbay Citadel which is built on the site of Ptolemys Pharos.

That night we jumped on the train that took us to Luxor. We were forewarned about the food on the train. So we grabbed some KFC to take along. I let them bring me a plate of food. It was as wretched as we were told. I don’t know who eats the stuff. Not even the Egyptians to whom we talked would eat it.

In the morning, we arrived bright and early in Luxor. We were met at the train station by our guide and he delivered us to our hotel and got us checked in. We agreed to meet at 1 PM for a tour of the Theben Temples of Luxor and Karnak. Magnificent is all I can say. We were given a tour here by Adel. A pretty cool dude who took his time and had lots of patience with me. lol

The next day. We get up bright and early to take in the Valley of the Kings and the Temple of Hatscheput. We also roll over to the Valley of Artists. This is where many of the artisans who built and decorated the tombs in the Valley of the Kings and Queens were themselves buried. We also take in the Colossi of Memnon. This was my second favorite site in Egypt. Two giants overseeing the ages of man. Reaching out from the past. What message would they have for us if they could speak to us?

The next day we drive to Aswan. We awaken bright and early. Along the way, we stop at Edfu and Kom Ombo. I think we arrived in Aswan at noon. We have most of the day to ourselves. So we go to the market. Catch some lunch at the hotel. We explore the city more and take in more of the markets. It seems the markets in Aswan go on forever. We don’t buy much. A couple of trinkets. This is where Adel leaves us and we are handed over to Fatima and a guy whose name I can’t remember.

That night, we take to bed early. As day 6, we are required to arise at 2AM in order to catch our bus to Abo Simbel. Abo Simbel is my favorite stop on this tour. It is beauty. It is ageless. It is THE sign of the greatness of Pharaonic Egypt. It’s a long drive to Abo Simbel. And a longer drive on the return. We seem to have been placed on the bus with the slowest driver in Upper Egypt. In the afternoon, we take in a few more sites. The Aswan Dam. The unfinished obelisk. The Temple of Philae which is situated on an island in the middle of the Nile. Tour guides aren’t allowed to enter Abo Simbel. They have their own. But when we returned to Aswan, Fatimah gave us a great tour of Philae and the other sites around Aswan.

That night we fly back to Cairo.

We are picked up at the Airport by Hamdi. The owner and operator of Adventure Egypt. Hamdi has taken care of our tour in Egypt. He did a good job of it. Although, the tour like everything else in Egypt was a bt pricey. Even so, he had a mammoth task on his hands in booking us through everything at the last moment. Even if it was the low season.

We proceed to drive the 8 hours to Mount Sinai. It was a long drive. We arrived around 7AM and get booked into our room. The room was not so good. So later in the afternoon, we were moved to a nicer room. Thanks to Hamdi. We hung out until about 2 and proceeded to Mount Sinai. It was a hell of a climb. I’ll post more on this and other parts of the tour later. But this climb damn near killed me. But about 2/3rds of the way up, my old Army training kicked in. I got my second wind and took off up the mountain. I climbed a few spots that were pretty hairy. If you stick to the trail, you are pretty much safe. I kept exploring off the trail. A couple of times, I slipped and thought it would be the last anyone ever heard of me. haha

We reached the top. Finally. And watched the sun go down. Then proceeded down the side of the mountain in the dark. And it was dark. Sometimes pitch dark. I got “mis-oriented” once and lost track of Becca and our guide. But I found my way and got down safely. That is until I caught up with Becca and she blinded me with my flashlight and I almost killed myself. lol

That night, I stayed up with Hamdi and a tent full of Bedouin watching movies, talking and smoking sheesha or water pipes. Apple flavoured smoke. I had my laptop with me and my hard drive. So I gave these dudes about 30 movies. Kinda funny. A tent out in the desert with satellite TV, internet, desk top computer and 32 inch TV. I think he had a refrigerator out there as well. We sat up until 3 AM or so drinking tea, eating bread and cheese, smoking sheesha and laughing at Will Ferrell in Semi Pro.

Day 7 (I think), we rise early. Check out of the hotel and tour St Catherines Monastery. Interesting tour. It’s built on the site where the Israelites camped and Moses brought down the Ten Commandments.

After the tour, we headed back to Cairo. The last night, we stayed in the Mena House Oberoi. A beautiful hotel with views of the Pyramids. It was just the right place for our last night in Egypt. A little bit of luxury after our rugged tour of Upper and Lower Egypt. That night we decided to take in a bit of the Cairene night life. We didn’t see much. Pretty dead. It was a Sunday night though and we were in the wrong area. But I did meet a pretty cool gal named Nora at my Hotel. She was there for a wedding at the Khan Khalili room of the Mena house. She invited me up and we sat and talked for a couple of hours until she headed out with her friends.

The next day, I got up late morning. Packed everything up and jumped on my flight back to Dubai. Departing Cairo is a bit of a mess. The Airport was crazy and disorganized. But I bribed the police to put me in the front of the line. So I got through pretty quick.

I got to my gate and an hour or so later…I was off. Adventure Egypt concluded…

I have to say that the most daunting task I have ahead of me is describing here on this blog these sites and experiences. I have not adequate words to describe Abo Simbel, the Temple of Philai. I know of no way to convey the sense of awe and wonder that one experiences upon entering tombs and temples that are thousand of years old but look as if they were but recently painted. Walking through Karnak and Luxor. Hearing the histories of the Egyptian Pharaohs and their people. Kom Ombo and Edfu. It is beyond my power. What words could I use. It is not possible to pass onto the reader the magnificence of these Pyramids rising out of the desert. These works of man are a marvel to be seen. Imagine the efforts and genius of the peoples who built them. Even so, all of this pales in comparison to the mighty river Nile and the surrounding deserts.

The Pyramids and Sphinx at the Giza Plateau

The Sphinx and Pyramid

The Sphinx and Pyramid 1998

It’s been ten years since I last visited the Giza Plateau.  Much has changed.  Ten years ago, you could walk up to the Pyramids and actually climb them.  I’m not sure if that was a good thing or not.  But it’s much better than the Disneyland like setting that surrounds them now.  It’s funny.  I don’t remember the roads.  I don’t remember the buses.  I looked at my old pictures and at least one road was there.  I can see one bus in one of the pics as well.

The last time that I was in Cairo.  Back in 1998.   Perhaps, I was there at a less busy time.  I didn’t remember the roads and such around the Pyramids.  There were a few other tourists during that visit.  Not many, though.  I rode a camel out of the desert to the Pyramids.  We came upon them from the rear.  Cairo looked far away.  It gave the illusion of being out in the desert and away from civilization.  I rode the camel to the smaller pyramids.  Dismounted my camel and walked up to the three great Pyramids.  On impulse, I started climbing.  There were a couple of Bedouin and one or two tourist police hanging around.  I got about 2/3rds of the way to the top of the Great Pyramid.  One of the tourist police started pointing his AK47 at me and yelling for me to get down.  I ignored him and continued to climb.  Nearly to the top.

It is not possible now to climb the Pyramids. The Egyptian tourism authority has laid more asphalt roads around the pyramids.  Buses actually drive up to the base of the Pyramids and offload hundreds of Japanese and European tourists each day.  Possibly thousands.  There were so many the day we were there, it was impossible to get a clear picture of the Pyramids without a Japanese or Euro tourist in the photo.  There are hundreds of vendors trying to sell scarves, cheap jewelry, small statues and all manner of trinkets.  You also have to contend with the Bedouins and their camels.  The primary push is camel rides, of course.  If they can’t get you to ride the camel, they attempt to have you sit on the camel for a picture.  If they can’t get  you to sit on the camel, they try to bully you into giving them money for taking a picture of them or their camel.  I just laughed at them and sang “La La La” to them.  La is No in Arabic.

I walked up to the Cheops Pyramid and started taking pictures of everything.  Including a little guy with a camel.  I walked up and snapped a few photos of his camel.  The little dude asked me for a cigarette.  So I gave him one.  I kept taking pics of him and his camel and everything in the area.  After a few minutes, an older Bedouin fellow walked up and demanded that I get on the camel for a pic.  I said “LA!”  He then told me to give him my camera so that he could take a pic of me with the camel.  Again, I said “LA!”  I would also say ; “Nah, I’m cool dawg.”  He started saying “Doog!  Doog?”  I laughed.  I like to throw American slang at these folks.  It throws them off.  Perplexes them.  They usually don’t know what to say to it.  Finally, he demanded that I give him money.  “Baksheesh!”  I laughed again and said “Hell no…” as I walked away laughing and singing “La La LA.”  i do a lot of singing when I’m on vacation.  I don’t know why.  I guess because I’m so happy to be out there and free.

These guys try to bully or harass tourists into giving them money.  Sometimes it works.  You’ve got these small Japanese women walking around looking lost.  Euros walking around looking bewildered.  It was quite comical.

The Pyramids and Sphinx are now surrounded by asphalt roads.  Tourist police in the hundreds walking about.  Riding camels and horses.  The tourist police try to get you to give them money as well.  Sometimes, they just see you walking by and ask you to take their picture.  If you do, they ask for “baksheesh.”  Arabic for money, I think.

Walking around Cairo, invariably you’ll have little kids running up to you whispering “Baksheesh.”  They put on these sad faces for you.  I’ve seen a group of kids laughing and playing.  Suddenly, one of them will spot a tourist and he will assume the saddest posture and look imaginable and walk up to you saying baksheesh in a low voice as if he is sad and hungry.  This was similar to the kids begging in India.

The Pyramids and the Sphinx are still magnificent.  Don’t get the wrong idea.  The asphalt does make them more accessible.  Unfortunately, the roads and buses and massive crowds detract from the beauty and mystery of these ancient monuments. It was still immensely enjoyable visiting Giza and gazing upon the Sphinx and it’s sister monuments.  And, of course, this time we had Shaimaa telling us wonderful stories and histories which made this visit all the more enjoyable.

Enjoy the pictures.