Published: June 1st 2011May 17th 2011
Finally riding a camel in the middle east.
Luxor is an amazing city. Luxor is a hot city and Luxor is a tourist trap. These things being considered I loved the city for its architecture but hated it for its cutthroat hassling. On my last day to Luxor I went to what is considered by many to be the nicest temple in all of Luxor and some would say also in all of Egypt. It was fantastic, you felt as though you were walking through a city built for gods and although it was mostly in a state of ruin, it really was gigantic.
I can only begin to imagine what it must have looked like in its original state of glory. It seemed to keep going for ages and many areas were still under excavation and restoration. The main hall containing the rows upon rows of pillars, supports beams that must have weighed many tons. It certainly was a sight to see and to that point in my trip had been the most touristy place I'd visited so far. It was rather amusing to see women draped from head to toe with a little hole uncovering their eyes standing next to women who barely had any
Harbour by night
By the time the ferry finally left it was already dark.
clothes covering their bodies.
After visiting the temple I returned to the hostel and relaxed out of the scorching heat that is Luxor. That evening I took the bus to Aswan and who do I meet.....My friends from Scotland who kept popping up wherever I went. This was a pleasant surprise and I spent the next day with them. I had to get up early to go to Abu Simbel the next day, around four am after going to bed around midnight due to a long train ride from Luxor. Getting to Abu Simbel was a long uncomfortable minibus ride through the desert, for many hours with little sleep, in the early hours of the day. The ride was well worth it, however, and Abu Simbel ended up being, in my opinion, the nicest temple in all of Egypt. It was breathtakingly large and knowing that it had been painstakingly dismantled, piece by piece, to preserve it from being destroyed once the High Damn was built in Aswan, was equally impressive. The hieroglyphs were some of the most enjoyable to look at and the four statues of Ramses on the outside were enormous and intricately carved. A rather
He watches as time passes by and yet he remains a symbol of technology and power from thousands of years ago barely matched today.
humorous site, was seeing all the nineteenth century graffiti (Signatures) left by the explorers who originally found the temple after being hidden under mountains of sand for centuries.
The ride back to Aswan was a long and hot one and by the time we finally got back to Aswan, I was very hungry, due to the outrageous prices being asked at Abu Simbel itself, and thirsty due to my water supply running out about halfway back. This resulted in eating pizza with my Scottish friends in a local pizza joint very close to the railway station. It was very good pizza, I had Italian style as did Ross, however Karina had Egyptian style and seemed to love it. For me the Egyptian had been to salty for me previously but this pizza may have been different. I went back to my Hostel after this and asked about getting a Malaria shot, since I was going to Sudan, and proceeded to waste my afternoon and pocketbook on an afternoon that ended in failure...I never did get the shot.
The evening was spent going over emails and looking over sports stats, I still keep up on all my sports everyday
Standing in front of Abu Simbel
A depiction of how big Abu Simbel is seeing as I look like like an ant and Im a fair ways in front of it.
if I can even though I am halfway around the world :) Go Canucks!!! A little walk through some night markets which ended unproductively and back to sleep I went, waiting for what was awaiting me the next day and oh what a day it was.
The busiest day of my trip thus far started relatively normally. I woke up, packed my things and proceeded to have a breakfast and check out of my motel. I then hassled with a cab driver until I finally got to a price I was happy with and got out at the aswan dam, where I had to wait in line for about 40 minutes waiting to get through security. After that I walked for about 5 minutes and then had to fill out a bunch of paperwork, go though some more security, get my passport stamped, get my papers looked at in another spot and finally make my way down to the ferry. Here I thought I was finally homefree, I had gotten through all the bureaucratic bullshit and was still leaps and jumps ahead of many people. I was wrong.
As I walked down the ramp leading to the ferry,
On the backside of one of the buildings in Karnak I found this interesting depiction of the Pharoah whippings some of his servants or slaves
I came to a realization that I would have to wait for a long time yet just to enter the ferry. The lineup to get into the ferry was rather large and arabs don't wait patiently in line to get into places like we do in the west. Here it is a free for all and whoever is stronger and stronger willed will make it onto the ship faster than the rest. I am fairly strong willed and I did manage to get onto the boat fairly quickly, however, once I was on the ferry it was little good to me because the majority of the people who were going to be entering the ferry hadn't even gotten through customs yet. The ferry was supposed to leave at 12 in the afternoon.....it left at 8 in the evening, it was dark out. The amount of items that were pushed, thrown, jammed and forced onto the ferry over the next eight hours blew my mind. I did not think that the entire shipyard full of items were all going to make their way onto this ferry, not to mention the truckloads of stuff that was separate from the stuff already there.
A view of the chaos sorrounding the ferry from afar
I had to wait for hours upon hours on that ferry and to make things better, by the time I had finally found a small nook to drag my exhausted body into, I had been moved six times. I was told that the spots I kept choosing were already taken or simply out of bounds areas. This small nook that I had finally found happened to be a small space that i could barely sit in, let alone lay down and was right by one of the main corridors on the top deck sorrounded by many other men who also couldn't lay down. It may come to no surprise then, that I did not sleep that night, I was finally able to lay down, however, it was very cramped and I was on a stone hard floor and with no space to become comfortable, my eyes may have closed a few times but not that many.
While on this fateful ship I met a boy who was studying in Juba but living in Khartoum for the next few months with his uncle. He was very nice and bought me tea and wanted to spend lots of time with me....I
On the top deck of the ferry
Loaded with peoples stuff everywhere, barely any free space at all to sleep.
will explain later why this is important. I also met many other people on board this ship who were very nice and I enjoyed spending time with them although at times it was rather difficult to communicate in our respective broken languages. I also met a number of people from Australia, Britain and Germany who were driving from the top of Africa down to the bottom and going to live in Kenya, respectively. It was interesting talking to them for a while and they must be having an amazing time on their way down the coast right now.
Getting off the ferry was another hassle, once I finally made it to the entrance I was told I had to go back, go up top and fill out a bunch more paperwork for my Sudanese entrance. This took another hour or so and then once I made it out, I took a shared taxi to the town centre from the ferry, apparently the only way to get there although as I later found out this was not true, I could have walked, although it may have taken a while and it was boiling hot out so I was perfectly happy
Chillin with some friends I made aboard the ferry.
having taken the taxi. Once there our taxi dropped us off at a motel, obviously gaining commission, so I walked around the town, takes about five minutes, and being my naturally stingy self when i am travelling, I found one for half the price. I saved a whopping $1.80, however in the process I also met a Japanese fellow and a Brit who were taking the same ferry i had taken, back to Egypt the following day. They had been travelling through Africa for many months already and were able to tell me stories of their adventures. I spent the following evening and the next morning with them before setting out for Karima.
My bus to karima had no air conditioning....We were driving through heat that made you sweat just by standing outside and I was in a van full of other people....not the most comfortable experience of my life. Before getting on this bus I had learnt that I needed another travel permit from the police office, which took over an hour to be done with and another sixty dollars, but it sure was a good thing I got it done with considering every fifty to a hundred
Sleeping in a lakonda in Sudan, paying a large sum of approximately $1.80 Canadian a night.
kilometers there was a police checkpoint and they always wanted to see my passport to make sure i had a) a valid visa b) a travel permit and c) a traveller registration permit. These are all crucial for travel in Sudan and if you don't have them you will have problems and will most likely need to pay out many bribes.
It took six hours driving and by then it had gotten dark and I was told we had to stay overnight in Dongola. I wasn't thrilled because this meant even more bus rides tomorrow but there was little I could so I was shown to a lakonda, which is basically a big open room with no ceiling and a whole bunch of beds. Women would have a hard time travelling through Sudan because they can not stay at lakondas and many small towns don't have other forms of accommodation and travelling without a male partner is generally frowned upon if it is allowed at all. The next day I caught a minibus early to Karima and wandered around their meroe site containing a number of ancient pyramids and a few roman ruins, they were not as impressive as
Friends I met in Wadi Halfa
These guys, Chris and Take, were going back to Egypt aboard the same ferry I had just come to Sudan on.
those in Giza, however, they were nice to look at and I was the ONLY person there. I had only taken one bottle of water with me, 1.5 litres, and I had soon drank all my water and was extremely thirsty so i made my way back to the entrance where I had left the remainder of my water. I had to pay to enter but if you have time there is a road around back and it runs right next to the pyramids and one could see the pyramids by simply taking a taxi to this area and then getting out for a little while, look around at the pyramids, take some pictures and then get back in the taxi and get it to take you back to the bus station. I did not know about this road and was stuck paying entrance fees and walking back to the bus centre, this is a much harder task than it sounds when the weather is in the high 40's and the walk is longer than you anticipated. I eventually found some children and through the use of hand gestures and photos i was able to get one of them to
Pyramids in Karima, Sudan
The Pyramids in Karima were not as impressive as Giza, however, I was the only soul in sight.
guide me to the station. Luckily it wasn't to late to get on a bus from karima to Atbara and I promptly bought a ticket. Karima is a very small town, a very dusty town and certainly not a town I wanted to spend a night in.
My bus from Karima was relatively expensive and I'm sure I got ripped off but it was well worth it considering I was getting further ahead and didn't have to spend time in Karima. That night I slept in Atbara and finally had internet access again. In the internet cafe in Atbara I experienced the funniest moment I have yet experienced in my travels through Africa and the middle east. I was checking me email and checking out sports stats as I usually do and looked beside me to see what these eight year old boys were surfing the web for. Each of the three boys sitting at their computers next to me were consumed looking at the most hardcore porn one could imagine!! and this I witnessed in one of the strictest Islamic states in the world. This was a shock and a very humorous situation for me. Just goes to
Pyramids of Begrawiya
These pyramids may not have been as grand in size, but they sure mad up for it in quantity, with over 40 pyramids standing tall and proud at this site.
show you never know what you'll find when you're travelling.
The following day I caught a bus to Begrawiya, possible Sudans best architectual ruins. This was an ancient Nubian site with around forty pyramids and although they all had their tips missing, except for those which were reconstructed, they certainly were a sight to see. What these pyramids lacked in size, they certainly made up for in quantity. I was once again the only foreigner there and only once I was about to leave did I come across some local Sudanese people enjoying the ruins as well. While I was here i bought an interesting sword, an interesting necklace and an old coin from 1865, I am somewhat of a collector and there are certain things that I will buy in my travels but the touristy junk certainly is not amongst it. This sword will reappear in future blog so keep your eyes posted.
After enjoying my few hours at Begrawiya I hitchhiked my way to a nearby town and caught a bus from there to Khartoum. Once I arrived at the bus station I had a few problems finding a taxi driver who knew where I wanted
Reconstructed Pyramids at Begrawiya
to go and even then once I did find one it still took over half an hour of looking around to find the place and after that he wanted to charge me a ridiculous 30 sudanese pounds to which i said no way and gave him 20,...I still felt ripped off. I stayed at the khartoum youth hostel for the night, but it proved to be much to pricey for me and I reluctantly called this guy I had met on the ferry the following day. He came to meet me promptly and after going from one end of the city to the other and over the course of many many mini bus rides we finally arrived at his place. He was staying with his uncle and he was a nice enough guy, I don't want to rag on him to bad because he was a very nice young man and he paid for all my bus rides and my food and wouldn't allow me to pay fr anything. That being said I was never alone, everything I did was with him and he always wanted to be together with me. Everywhere we went it was together and then as
Some Beduins I met at Begrawiya
These guys were awesome and I enjoyed talking to them for a few minutes.
is typical in middle eastern/African culture amongst males, he wanted to hold me hand. This was simply not going to happen and I was already feeling fairly sick at this time, I was constantly sneezing possibly from the constant dust or maybe from allergies to something. My stomach also constantly hurt and I simply was not enjoying the crazy hot blistering heat. I had decided I wanted to go to dinder national park, however after doing some research I had found out it was not in season and would be very difficult to get there and also when I mentioned this to Alrasheed he was all set to come along with me. He had also made plans for me to stay with him for a month and I was not about to let this happen. If i at least enjoyed his company I would have tried to make things work but I found him to be altogether annoying and simply couldn't stand being around him much longer.
So between all the aforementioned reasons I booked a flight to Cairo that afternoon and flew out the next morning. AlRasheed waited at the airport for the entire eight hours until I
On a boat on the nile
Amazing shot on a boat on the nile at sunset.
left seeing as my flight was six hours delayed. He was very adamant about this and I did wish that things could have been different as he was genuinely nice, unfortunately they could not and I was glad when the wheels left the ground and were making their way to Cairo. A few days later I get an email from Alrasheed asking me to help him get a visa into Europe? or Canada for him....I knew there must have been a catch. I may have made Sudan sound like an unenjoyable place to visit and this certainly was not my intention, I had a few things that made my trip a little less enjoyable, however I still had a good time and would recommend going to Sudan for their genuinely amazing generosity and their loving attitude towards foreigners. I would recommend not going during the summer and from what i heard dinder national park should be on any travellers list to Sudan if it is during the right season. It was with a heavy heart but a happy heart that I left Sudan and got back on track to voyaging through the middle east via Egypt.
There are more photos below