Days 180- 185: Egypt

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Africa » Egypt
July 26th 2007
Published: September 3rd 2007
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We landed in Egypt at about 1am in the morning to a balmy 33 degrees - apparently this was fairly cool as it had been 43 degrees during the day! We laughed to see the visa stamps given at the airport for Egypt are literally 'stamps' (they look like postage stamps) ;-) Cairo is a crazy, crazy city - interesting drive from the airport as we tried to peer through the smog lying over everything. Drove over part of (according to our taxi driver...) the longest bridge in the Middle East (I think he said it was over 18.5km long - phew!)

The first day we explored the area around our hotel, but the 45 degrees often forced us back to the hotel room for a brief air-con cool down! These were some of the hottest temperatures we'd ever been in, hotter even than places in Africa. Was interesting to see the variety of prices in the supermarket! Some things were ridiculously cheap but then we found a packet of normal chips that worked out at $9nzd and oreos that were $10nzd! That night we did a dinner cruise on the Nile and the lights around the waterfront are pretty awesome. It was a great dinner with traditional Belly dancing and other dancers afterwards so it was quite an experience! Especially when they forced Martin and I up to dance with them..... Though nothing quite prepared us for the shock of the drink prices at the end - ouch! Always ask before you buy in Egypt! Ahhh well, its the experiences like that that make travelling so memorable! ;-)

The following day we hired a driver for the day and proceeded to go out to the Pyramids. We went first to Giza and set off with a guide and camels for 2.5 hours trek around the Pyramids. The guide was great, very witty and had heaps of info!! Plus, seemed to love taking us under fences into areas tourists obviously not permitted at the moment and distracting local police so the boys leading our camels could take photos of us climbing the pyramids! ;-) It was very surreal being at the pyramids and Sphinx at Giza, had to keep kicking ourselves! ...And being on camels just added to the experience! Took loads of photos and melted under another 47 degree day out in the bare landscape. We were a little surprised to learn how close to the city the Pyramids are, had expected them to be further out. Due to their proximity to the city, the tops of them and the background is a nasty layer of smog which was a little surprising to see! Those clear photos of the Pyramids against a blue sky must be photo-shopped! Also, there is sooo much rubbish lying around!! The guide kept clearing piles away from entrances to tombs and so forth. Nevertheless, it was a fantastic experience. After Giza we went to Sakkara and that was further out and I guess, looked a bit more like we expected them all to look in terms of surroundings. A lot cleaner too! There was also a small museum there which we looked through. After this it was only early afternoon but the heat had dried up all our energy and we directed our driver back to the hotel. After a late lunch at the "Hearing Impaired" run KFC we met up with some of our group for the trip through Syria, Jordan and on up to Turkey.

The next day was a relatively early start for the drive through to Mt Sinai. We stopped off for a few supplies (read: cold drink after icecream after cold drink....) and a refreshing swim in the Red Sea. Went through numerous check points where the guards try everytime to persuade our guide to let the girls in our group out of the truck so they can see us - weird! Egypt being Muslim means all their women are in full length berkas and gowns so us in our boardies and t-shirts are quite bare by comparison! Our French guide, who was awesome and very friendly, had just the right bull terrier temperament for dealing with these guides though, and since there's only 10 of us in our group and 7 of them are guys they were dealt with fairly quickly (most of the time!) We reached Mt Sinai, reputedly the mountain that Moses was given the 10 commandments, and had camp dinner before Martin and I got Camels for the trip up Mt Sinai. The rest of our group decided to walk but that was one steep walk and took several hours so we were hugely grateful we decided on the camels. It was dark during our climb but a full moon and the view of the mountains as we went up was pretty sensational - the camel were virtually silent when they walked! Being on camel back meant we got to soak in our surroundings a bit more rather than staring at your feet place step after step up the mountain ;-) The camels stopped near the top, leaving us to join the others for the last 750 steps to the top. I remember thinking I never wanted to see another step again! They were rough steps cut into the rock, with steep falls on either one or both sides. We took up our sleeping bags with us, and on reaching the top, we hired mattresses from the guys there and found a ledge to sleep the 10 of us. It was very eerie sleeping under a full moon at the top of Mt Sinai, it was a definite highlight of our trip to Egypt. After a few nightcaps, we called it a night only to be woken at about 3am by several idiotic American chicks with typically loud voices and stupid questions "is this Mt Sinai?" - ahhhhh?!? what mountain did they think they just spent several hours climbing up?? and then shining their torches up at us saying "are they sleeping?" Basically we had climbed at night so we could sleep at the top then view the sunrise in the morning but most people walk up about 3am to catch the sunrise and by 5am there was quite a large amount of people! We were very grateful for our "ledge" as we had a great un-blocked view! The sun took a while to rise but our fave was just the experience of actually sleeping at the top of a mountain under the stars! There were heaps of shooting stars that night! The walk back down the following morning was awesome, having a day time view of the surrounding scenery. Took about 1.5hrs to walk down and were even more grateful we took camels up the night before as some points were pretty damn steep! We had brekkie then started the 2hr drive to Dahab.

Dahab is a picturesque village on the Red Sea which we really enjoyed. It was very quaint with cobbled streets, loads of cafes and restaurants along the waterfront, shops selling shish pipes, plus the streets and town were very clean which was refreshing after Cairo! We had a great dinner at Al Capone's (Anyone who goes there MUST get a thick shake from there, they were practically fruit sorbets and devine!!) The next day we went Quadbiking in the morning which was awesome - and managed to COAT our bodies in dirt and sand. After a lunch of hummus and fruit shakes back at Al Capone's, we went by jeep about 20mins away and went snorkelling at the "Blue Hole". It was very surreal snorkelling there, because everytime you looked up the "Beach" was barren desert and Mountains, with Arabs in full traditional clothing and Camels strolling along! The snorkelling was pretty good and the water nice and cool! We spent the afternoon having drinks and laxing out. That night for dinner we went to restaurant after restaurant bargaining for the best deal, it was such a laugh!!! Most of us were in hysterics while "the boys" bargained! ;-) All the restaurants were so keen to get us in their door that we finally got a restaurant which gave us free starters, free dessert, cheap beers and 20% off the meals ;-) Great evening!

Mt Sinai and Dahab were great times, in comparison Cairo is by far the dirtiest, smoggiest city we've ever been to and we quickly realised that its a great base to explore the Pyramids and so forth but not a city we'd be in a hurry to return to.

The next day was sadly our time to leave Egypt, however this was easier said than done....
We arrived at the Port to take the ferry across to Aqaba, Jordan at about 10am. We bought tickets for the 12pm ferry, were escorted through customs in fairly quick order and then asked to wait with some tourism police until it was time to board the boat. 12 o'clock drew closer and closer and finally we were told we could take the 10sec drive to the boat. We get there and are told by another tourism police officer that we are too late for this boat!! We told him we were only just sent here but he seemed to think it was just funny! We were told we could go on the 3pm ferry. It was another sweltering day but we waited out the 3 hours and finally boarded the next ferry at 3pm. HA! The boat didn't leave the PORT til 6.30pm!!! Yup, they hussled everyone on board and then just sat there at the pier for another 3.5hrs! In this time, us 3 girls went to the worst toilet in our entire lives (I'll spare you most of the details but was the stuff of nightmares! I think we are all permanently scarred) - it took us half an hour of fighting off fully covered Egyptian women to get to them! They would come up behind us and then stand there shaking our shoulders to try and push in! Jeepers! They were all pushing and shoving to try and get to the sink and then shoving their faces and FEET into the basins, trying to cool down! Then they would throw water over their heads so everyone was getting drenched and the ground was inches thick in brown water, again I'll skip the details once you got into the actual cubicles .......mmmmm, ...... I think I'll need counselling..... That was an EXPERIENCE! We finally got under way and arrived at Aqaba, (Jordan) port at about 9.30-10pm. Again we waited and waited - we were not allowed to disembark until just after midnight!!! Argh! It was about 1am by the time we got to our hostel for the night - making it a 15 hour journey to take a 3 hour ferry! Sheesh!

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