From Cairo to Istanbul in 28 Days

We flew from Bangkok to Cairo on the 21st of September.  On the first day, we tripped around to Giza and the City of the Dead.  Later that evening, we took the train to Aswan.  Along the way, we stopped at Abo Simbel, Luxor, Karnak, Philae, Deendeera, Abydos, Hurghada and finally flew to Alexandria.  We spent two days touring Alexandria.  Taking in the new Library of Alexandria and Fort Qutbay as well as the Greek and Roman Catacombs under the city.  We drove from Alex. back to Cairo where we toured the city in detail (Muhammad Ali Mosque, the Giza Plateau, Pyramids and Sphinx, Saladin’s Citadel, etc).  We also took in Sakkara and Memphis and viewed the Red and Bent Pyramids as well as the Alabaster Sphinx and the Statue of Ramses II along with the Ziggurat of Zoser and the surrounding pyramids.

Then we were off to Israel.  We spent about 5 days in Jerusalem viewing the old City and took day tours out to Nazareth, Akko (Acre), Ceaserea, the Dead Sea, the Jordan River and Masada.  We met an old friend (Mali) from my days in the MFO in the Sinai.  And we got the excellent airport treatment for which Tel Aviv is so famous.  But that’s a story for another day.

Finally, we were on to Turkey.  I wanted to see the Hagia Sofia.  Primarily.  That said, I was a bit anxious about Turkey.  I’ve been to quite a few Muslim countries and Islam hangs over them like a pall.  I don’t particularly care for it.  It’s quite heavy and puts a damper on things.  Israel did not have this except in the Palestinian areas of the Old City in Jerusalem.

We arrived in Turkey and I was quite pleasantly surprised.  Islam is an undercurrent in Istanbul.  They’re Muslim.  You know it.  They know it.  No one gives a damn.  I like that.  It’s how it should be with all religion and it’s how it is in most non-Muslim places.

It was refreshing.  I don’t think I saw but 10 Chadori/Hijab wearing women and they all seemed to be tourists.  Nothing oppressive in Turkey about religion.  They seem to all get along.  I met quite a few Nestorian Christians and they had the same attitude.  We’re Christians.  So what!  There’s none of the demand that their religion be respected at all cost.  I like that.

Turkey was clean as well.  That’s another thing about Muslim countries.  They’re dirty and run down.  Even newer places.  It’s as if Allah has declared that “thou shalt not do maintenance.”  lol  Cairo is the worst.  They built the city hundreds of years ago atop ruins.  They didn’t remove anything.  They cleared no land.  Just started building atop the rubble.  When those buildings started falling apart, they just built around them.  And the dirt and grime.  It’s everywhere.

Not so in Istanbul.  It’s a beautifully maintained city.  Clean streets.

And the people.  Everyone was so nice.  And they smiled.  Very few mean spirited folks or scammers around.  As a matter of fact, I can’t remember anyone even attempting a scam on us.  We asked directions when we were lost and we were simply given directions.

The food was great as well.  They had these pancakes with beef or veggies or jellies. Whatever you wanted.  AND THEY WERE DELICIOUS.  Of course, the Lamb Kabob was excellent.  I ate so much kabob, I thought I was going to explode.

The Hagia Sofia or Aya Sofia was wondrous.  Incredible.  Amazing.  It was gargantuan.  The famous religious depictions were beautiful.  Centuries old Art.

The Blue Mosque or Suleimein.  One of the most beautiful structures I have had the pleasure to visit.  More lovely inside than the Mohammad Ali Mosque in Cairo.  Insanely intricate and well maintained as well.  Simply beautiful.  Can’t say it enough.

We walked around the city several times. Stopped by a few museums.  The Istanbul Archaeological Museum was huge.  Relics from Troy, Persia, the Ottomans, the Greeks, the Romans, and everything in between.  It was amazing.

Then we went up the hill to the Topkapi Palace.  I didn’t know much about it.  I knew it was supposed to be gorgeous and historical.  I hadn’t researched it.  We almost didn’t go.  Huge mistake.  If you make it to Istanbul, you must go to the Topkapi Palace.   Aside from it’s beauty and historocity.  It has what are called “The Sacred Trusts.”

The Sacred Trusts are actual artifacts handed down (or stolen) from Empire to Empire from the time of Mohammad.  His clothing.  His water bowl.  The plates off of which he ate.  And not only Mohammad.  There are relics from Fatima and “the Companions.”

That is some serious history.

There are also pieces of the Kaba’a from Mekkah and old keys and locks to the Kaba’a and the Grand Mosque there in Mekkah.

Treasures all.

I could scarcely believe my eyes when I walked in this room.  When I laid my eyes upon the Sword of Mohammad, I thought I was seeing things.  I had to rub my eyes.  Take my glasses off and clean them and take a second to let it sink in.

Imagine finding the sword of Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great.  Imagine finding the actual clothing that Jesus wore or the actual cup and plate from the last supper.

I’m no believer in any of these religions, but, I have a keen interest in history.  As a personality from an earlier age and a great historical interest, I have much respect for Mohammad.  He built an empire from nothing.  He created a religion and a culture which has lasted for over 1300 years.  It’s not his fault that his religion and his culture has been hi-jacked by complete asses like Osama bin Laden, the House of Saud and the followers of al Wahhab.  That’s not to mention the Iranian fools.  And, still yet, it doesn’t take into account the idiotic Apologists in Europe and America who sell their lies to an ignorant populace.

At any rate, it was a singular experience for me to be able to gaze upon the Swords that Mohammad and his companions used to rise up out of the desert and plant the seed that created one of the worlds greatest empires.

I was awe stricken.

After Istanbul, it was on to Ephesus to see the Greek Ruins, the House of Mary where Jesus’ Mother supposedly lived out her last days and the Temple of Artemis.  Next day it was on to Pammakule.   These places are so full of history and culture that there is no possible way for me to do them justice.  The Temple of Artemis is one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

In this trip, we’d been fortunate enough to visit 3 of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.  The Temple of Artemis, The Pharos of Alexandria (Fort Qutbay) and the Pyramids at Giza.

In my estimation, Abo Simbel is a great worthy of this acclamation as well.  Abo Simbel is a wonder of any age much less to marvel that it was built thousands of years ago.  But then again, Egypt is full of wonders that defy description, dazzle the eye and boggle the mind.

From Cairo to Istanbul in 28 Days.  This was a great trip and we all very much enjoyed ourselves.

Hope you enjoy the pictures…Dave

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(some of the pics in the slideshow are from earlier trips to Paris, Rome, Athens, Santorini, etc)



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.

Egypt — Who says you can’t go back?

I was stationed in Egypt from 1997 to 1998 with the U.S. Army. It was my first foray into the Middle East. My unit was actually in El Gorah in the Sinai. I was part of the Multinational Force and Observers committed to patrolling the Sinai to ensure that neither Egypt nor Israel broke their treaty and placed military forces in the Sinai. It is a peacekeeping missions. One of the few of which I am aware that is successful.

The guys at El Gorah are probably on lock down right now. Poor Bastards! Nothing to do there but drink, surf the web, watch movies and hit the gym. It’s a pretty small camp. A run around the perimeter will get you your two mile run but most of that is wasteland used for the firing range, an obstacle course and a small runway and heli-pad.

While I was there, we were locked down completely for about a month. Most of the time we were allowed to take weekends in Israel or Egypt. A four hour drive West and across the Suez Canal would place you in Cairo. A four hour drive East and past Gaza would put you in Tel Aviv.

I preferred Tel Aviv. Tel Aviv is like New York on the Mediterranean. Shopping malls. Green Grass. People going about their business much like we do in America. The city of Tel Aviv is a mix of America and Europe. The city was light and airy. A beach runs from Jaffa [Joppa of Bibilcal Jonah and the Whale fame] almost all the way to Haifa. Miles and miles of beautiful beach and sunny Mediterranean Sea.

And the women…my God. The women were beautiful. Half the city looked like models out of Fredericks of Hollywood or Victoria’s Secret.

Cairo was a different setting. Different but still amazing. Cairo is an eclectic mix of Modern and Ancient. Modern day Hotels and The 73 War Panorama and the Cairo Museum set amidst the Giza Pyramids, the Mohammad Ali Mosque. Ride a camel around the desert and come at the pyramids from the rear. Walk from the pyramids to the Sphinx. Right across the street. Pizza Hut, Taco Bell and KFC. That was a bit surreal to me.

Cairo has the city of the dead. A giant cemetery. Ancient monuments to families and individuals both great and small. People living inside the cemetery. The poorest of the poor.

Walking around downtown. I distinctly remember the smell of kerosene. I couldn’t figure out why. When I asked I was told that they used kerosene to burn the human waste in the public bathrooms. A bad smell turned disgusting.

I really didn’t meet any Egyptian women in Cairo. I was hanging out with friends. After days full of sightseeing and climbing pyramids and exploring catacombs, we were pretty tired. I remember crawling down to the burial chamber of Nefertiti. The tunnel got smaller and smaller until i had to bend to make it through. At the bottom, my buddy Humberto and I took turns climbing into the sarcophagus to take pictures. Not much inside the chamber anymore. It’s all been removed by grave robbers of the antiquities authorities and placed in museums. So we spent only a few moments inside and made good our escape. Back up the tunnel to the light and fresh air. It’s an odd feeling knowing that you are under those huge pyramids.

Rolling around Cairo in a taxi cab is an adventure. I don’t think there are any rules out there. Buses have the right of way and they will take it. When a bus starts pulling over into your lane, you have no choice but to find a way to get out of it’s way. Horns are constantly blaring. A three lane road turns into 5 or 6 or 8 lanes. Drivers pay no attention to road markings. The traffic circles are chaos. Driving there makes Paris look calm and orderly.

Cairo, or al Qahira in Arabic, was an adventure for me. I can’t wait to get back and do it again. This time, I’ll be going down South. When I was there last time, I was in the Army. We were restricted from going South to Aswan and Luxor because of the terrorist activity. This time. Nothing will stop me.

Insha’allah, I will be seeing Egypt again 1-10 August 2008. Almost ten years exactly from the date that I last visited.


Arrival at Cairo airport, where our representative will be waiting for you. He will then meet and assist you through airport formalities and escort you to your hotel in Cairo, situated at the pyramids’ area. Check in and overnight at hotel in Cairo.


Today we visit the great Pyramids of Giza and their guardian Sphinx and then head to the Cairo Museum. Overnight at hotel in Cairo.

DAY 3: CAIRO – ASWAN (Cruise)

This morning we are transferred to Cairo Airport for our flight to Aswan. Then we will be escorted to embark on the Nile cruise ship-our floating hotel for the next five days. After lunch, we sail by ‘felucca’ a traditional Nile sailing boat, to view Kitcheners Island and the Agha Khan Mausoleum. Overnight in Aswan.

Optional: Abu Simbel excursion in the morning


Today we visit the impressive Aswan High Dam and its huge lake, and the Temple of Philae. Then we cruise to Kom Ombo to visit the Temple shared by the Gods Sobek & Haroeris. Tonight we enjoy a special costume party featuring Native Egyptian and pharaonic style. Overnight in Edfu

DAY 5: EDFU – ESNA – LUXOR (Cruise)

This morning we explore the Temple of Horus, the falcon god. Then we sail to Esna and continue sailing to Luxor. Overnight in Luxor.

DAY 6: LUXOR (Cruise)

Today we explore the Necropolis of Thebes, the wondrous Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut’s Temple, and the Colossi of Memnon. In the evening, we visit the Karnak and Luxor Temple. Overnight in Luxor.


Today we will be transferred to Luxor airport for our flight back to Cairo where we will be met and escorted to the hotel. The balance of the day is free for shopping. Overnight at hotel in Cairo.


The tour ends

We’ll have two more days in Egypt to do as we please. I’m thinking Alexandria would be a great palce to hit before we depart for home.

I did “meet” one woman in Cairo. My buddy Humberto and I were at the bar of the Moevinpick Hotel near the Airport on our first night in Cairo. We were drinking a few beers together and planning the rest of our weekend. This beautiful Egyptian girl walks past our table. I’m talking beauty. She kinda glances our way and gives us a twinkling of a smile. Humberto and I were impressed. We had heard that there were some remarkable beauties in Cairo. This girl definitely seemed to fit the bill. But as luck would have it, she was with a man. Humberto and I finished our beers and decided to cruise downtown to check out the Cairo nightlife. On the way out the door, we checked out our girl one last time. Her beau had walked away leaving us an opening. I waved at her, smiled and said; “Salaam!” She smiled at us and revealed the blackest set of teeth that I’ve seen outside of a Halloween costume party. lol I was taken aback. It was a bit difficult to recover but I managed to smile back and keep moving.

Later, I learned that many Egyptians have this discoloration problem because of the water. Lack of chlorine and such. It’s pretty shocking if you are surprised by it when trying to get all Rico Sauve on some girl in al Qahira. haha I know I was shocked.