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Published: February 4th 2010
Day 60: Monday, January 25, 2010.
Per the Contiki Egypt brochure: "Arriving in Aswan midmorning we view the unfinished obelisk and visit the High Dam. We sail on a felucca to the Botanical Gardens before joining our cruise ship for a sumptuous lunch."
We pull into Aswan around 8:30 am and hop on another tour bus. First we head to the High Dam
and it was pretty impressive to see how they control the Nile River. We then pass by the a monument that looks like a giant Lotus flower which commemorates the friendship between Russia & Egypt (they helped build the dam.) We get to the Unfinished Obelisk
and rock quarry. This was going to be the tallest obelisk ever made and it was being made under the order of Queen Hatshepsut. Unfortunately, it cracked when it was almost done being carved, and they abandoned it. So, you now see a giant obelisk lying in the granite quarry. You can also see some "graffiti" that the workers carved on nearby walls. Pretty cool. Of course, we decided to be very refined and upon seeing our shadows cast onto the rocks, suggested we do some posing. Nothing says Egypt
I wanted to go across the street where there was an old Muslim Cemetery and Julie & Andi were going to join me but we had one mission to accomplish first- make it thru the gauntlet of shops that were between us and the cemetery. I 100% cannot stand how pushy the market people are. They will stand in front of you and push their merchandise at you and in some cases, even touch your arm/back and lead you into the stall. We make it past them and turn to look for Matt, who had been walking with us, and we don't see him. So sad that someone so young didn't make it. Oh well, we have a cemetery to see. We get across the busy street and start to walk towards the cemetery gate when we see the next obstacle. The quarry is behind a guarded gate so for us to get to the cemetery, we have to leave the perimeters of the quarry which means we have to walk past a bunch of men, some of whom have very large guns (look like machine guns, but I don't know guns. I know they weren't pistols.)
M/S La Traviata
Our home for the next 3 days.
The three of us look at those guys, I take a few tentative steps forward and then decide "hell no" and we take some pictures thru the fence and scurry back to the safety of the group and the bus.
We then head to our hotel which is actually a cruise ship, the M/S La Traviata
. We have an extra treat because each of our rooms has a balcony on it- yeah! We leave our luggage on the bus because, once again, the hotel is kind enough to take care of it for us. I really like this perk. We wait in the bar while they assign us rooms and I start humming "I'm on a boat
" since it will forever be with me thanks to Contiki Europe. I dare to sing a few lines, hoping to get others to join in, and only a couple of other people know it and they just smile. Everyone else stares. Oh well. I'm singing it again now just typing this- catchy song. They have a very nice buffet set up and we all dig in. After lunch, a ride on a felucca
to the Botanical Gardens
is included on our tour and everyone lounges for about an
hour before that starts. During that hour, my stomach starts talking to me and I decide that I shouldn't go on the boat ride. I head up to the sun deck and take some pictures of the group as they sail off down the river, and then I proceed to get sick for the next hour. Then I sleep for an hour. Then I try to sit out on my balcony but I'm on the very first deck and the crew keeps walking on the small ledge right outside my balcony to get from the back of the ship to the front and each one feels compelled to say hello/how are you to me. Very cordial, but I really wasn't in the mood to make friends (when am I, right?) Another fun event is that there is a step up going into my bathroom and while I remembered that, i didn't lift my foot high enough during one of my mad dashes and I totally nailed my left big toe. I used to have a plate in that foot and they removed it a couple of years ago, so it's not in the best of shape to begin with. On
a plus side, the first surgery did nerve damage so I haven't been able to feel a good portion of that toe for years now. However, I hit it hard enough that I could feel it, and I could tell it hurt more than I could fee. I was able to bend my toe, so it wasn't broken, but it's got a weird bruise going on. Could have been much worse though.
The group returns about then and we stay on the boat for another couple of hours before Sherif takes us to the local bazaar. Before getting off the bus, he told the guys to act like us gals were their wives. It's not the safest place for a woman to walk alone. So, poor Matt got stuck with myself (wife #2) and Julie (wife #1). One of the topics Sherif and I discussed was the fact that Muslim men were allowed to take up to four wives, so we'll try to find a couple more gals for Matt. We step off the bus and we are instantly bombarded with market people. One of the things they'll ask you is where you are from. We later found out
from Sherif that your answer will affect the price of their merchandise (translation: you say "Untied States" and you'll be paying more.) Tomorrow night there is going to be a party on the ship and we're to dress up in Egyptian garb. So, Julie and I each want to buy some kind of head dress and a scarf with bells on it. However, everyone is so pushy and in your face that we both very quickly lose interest in shopping. We later remarked how weird it was that here we were, two very strong, independent women and yet the men in this country instantly make us feel small and scared. It's just something about the way they approach you- extremely intimidating. So we stuck damn close to Matt and he was cool enough that if we were interested in something (I got a pair of sandals) he would help us haggle the price down. One of the other market tricks if for the children to come up and ask you to buy stuff (though from what we hear, while you're saying "no thank you" to one kid there's another one behind you stealing your wallet.) One kid just wouldn't leave
Matt alone and even started to tug on his shirt, Matt looked down at him and said "NO!", just like you would say to a dog. It was actually damn funny, though in a way wrong. I say in a way because the kid actually backed off at that point- he had ignored all Matt's other, nicer requests to go away. There are many interesting stalls, and the spices are gorgeous- they set them up so they look like pyramids of color. However, other than my sandals, we don't walk away with anything and I think we all breathe a sigh of relief when we get back on the bus. Some of the guys with the group have planned something special for tomorrow night- you'll love it. I spoke with some other gals who went that night and about 90% of them say they felt the way I just described- someone should do a case study.
We get back to the hotel and head down to dinner where another gorgeous buffet awaits us. We all dig in and then some of us crash in the lobby in the most comfortable leather chairs I've ever sat in. Of course, I
only sit for about 10 minutes when I am informed that dinner and I will also not be friends. So, I say goodnight to everyone and have a fun evening with King Bathroom.
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