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Published: February 20th 2009
Welcome to another instalment of our wonderful adventures around the world. Feel free to leave a comment on the site for us - its always great to hear from our friends.
European adventures have dominated our schedule since arriving in London almost two years ago. So it was decided that this time we would do something ‘not so European’. We thought that the Middle East would be different….So it was off to Egypt for 9 days…..and different it was!
Saturday 27th December
We took a BMI flight from London to Cairo. Cheap, but cheerful, and we didn’t crash - that has to represent good value! Upon arrival a man came sweeping through saying “Travel Talk Tour?”, and then grabbed our passports and disappeared - awesome; within 2 minutes of landing in Cairo, we had already been scammed - or so we thought. About 5 minutes later, he came back with our passports and our Egyptian Visas, and then whipped us through customs within minutes….phew. Nice start.
It was then straight into a minibus with a few others from the same flight, and we were taken to the Cataract Resort, near Giza. The sign said
5-star resort, and we were very impressed, considering we only paid 400 pounds each for an all inclusive 9 day holiday with Nile cruise. But we were soon to realize that the Egyptions don’t have the same standards as those in the west. Five stars included, no hot water, rusted fixtures and fittings, and the worst standard of building work known to man! Now that the standard was set, and our expectations re-adjusted, it was time to enjoy what was set to be a real adventure!
Within minutes of arriving at the hotel we were whisked away to a welcome talk. This is where we met our tour guide, Zizu. This guy was a real character, always helpful, highly educated and knew how to get a bunch of rowdy 20 to 30-something’s behaving like angels…..incredible.
At the brief we found out that the tour package we had booked was all expenses paid, covered all entry fees, and included sleeper train transfers. Out of the 30 or so on the tour, there were only two others that had the same package - much to the dismay (and disgust) of many others on the tour. But we got over that
quickly, especially when we slept for 14 hours on the sleeper train, whilst the others battled upright seats all night long!
Our first night was a river cruise with dinner and show. It included a buffet meal (the first of many), belly dancing, bands, singers and a spinning dancer.
Sunday 28th December
Today we learnt some critical words in Arabic. ‘La Shockrun’ (no thank you) - we needed this phrase constantly! And Yala Yala (let’s go). Our group was also given a name: “Pharaohs”.
Our first stop was to see Djoser's Step Pyramid complex at Saqqara. This pyramid was designed and built by ‘Imhotep’, the first master architect of the pyramids. We then headed to Giza to see the Ancient Pyramids. Whilst there Stacy had to call Barclays in the UK (on his mobile!) to have our account ‘unlocked’ so we could use ATM’s in Egypt. We then took a Camel ride around the pyramid, and had a closer look at the Sphinx.
It was then off to get ripped-off at a Perfumery - and yes, we were sucked in! We bought two fragrances - Calvin Klein and Issey Miyake. Though we must say -
they are the real deal, and smell great!
That night we had to make the 14 hour train journey from Cairo to Aswan. We were lucky enough to be on the sleeper!
Monday 29th December
We arrived into Aswan by about 10am, ready to set-off on our 3-day Nile cruise. Some of the group went on Felucca and some on the overland trip, though the majority were on the cruise. The Cruise had 5 star rooms (Egyptian 5-star) with ensuite. That morning we relaxed in our room whilst waiting for the others on the ‘upright’ train to arrive a few hours later.
After lunch we were straight back into it. The first stop was Philae Temple. Philae was an island in the Nile River and the previous site of an Ancient Egyptian temple complex in southern Egypt (before it was submerged by the creation of the High Dam). The Temple is part of the Karnak religious structure. The complex is now located on the nearby island of Agilika.
The next stop was the Papyrus Gallery. There was some interesting art that could be purchased, however the prices were definitely for unsuspecting tourists….
Camel Riding at Giza
They're grumpy buggers!
we took a small boat another 1.5 hours up the Nile to a Nubian Village for a traditional Nubian Dinner. The further we headed up the Nile, the faster the currents got. Some sections we really struggled against strong currents. That night, on the way back we all danced on the boat whilst the Nubian’s played traditional music. Great fun!
Tuesday 30th December
Today was an early start (3am to be precise) so we could make the 3 hour drive south to Abu Simbel (50km from the Sudan border). In the interests of safety, all the tourist buses travelled by armed convoy to reduce the likelihood of being hijacked.
In 1257 BC, Pharaoh Ramses II had two temples carved out of solid rock at a site on the west bank of the Nile south of Aswan in the land of Nubia (known today as Abu Simbel). The temple was dedicated to the sun gods Amon-Re and Re-Horakhte. They were only discovered in 1813. They were first explored in 1817 by the Egyptologist Giovanni Battista Belzoni. Abu Simbel was relocated in its entirety in the 1960s to avoid it being submerged during the creation of Lake Nasser, the
massive artificial water reservoir formed after the building of the Aswan dam on the Nile River.
After visiting Abu Simbel we visited the High Dam wall. It was interesting to note that when the dam was built it provided enough electricity to support all Egypt’s electricity requirements. Now it only provides 1/3 of Egypt’s electricity.
We then picked up duty free alcohol before setting sail at 3pm, bound for Luxor. That night we relaxed with drinks in the lounge.
Wednesday 31st December - New Years Eve
Today was one of our first chances to just stop…. We had the morning free to relax whilst the boat continued to cruise towards Luxor. So we sat on the boats deck, relaxed and read our books.
At 1pm the boat docked at Luxor. We had lunch, and then….we were off again!
It was a short walk from where the boat was docked, down to the Edfu Temple of Horus - one of the best preserved temples in Egypt. It was built between 237 BC to 57 BC, into the reign of Cleopatra VII. Horus is a god of the Ancient Egyptian religion. The Eye of Horus became
an important Egyptian symbol of power. Horus had a man's body and a falcon's head. Horus fought with Seth for the throne of Egypt. In this battle one of his eyes was injured and later it was healed by Isis. This healing of the eye became a symbol of renewal.
On the way back from the Temple we all bought Egyptian costumes for the party that night. We had NYE celebrations in the boats lounge, and were treated to amazing buffet meal. That night we partied with the other ‘Pharaohs’ until 2.30am before falling into bed prior to yet another busy day.
Thursday 1st January 2009
There was no rest - we were up at 6:30am and getting ready to go to Karnak Temple. This is a huge temple - the largest ever made. It covers about 200 acres (1.5km by 0.8km). It is a city of temples built over a period of 2000 years; and it was a place of pilgrimage for nearly 4,000 years. Quite amazing…
It was then off to Luxor Temple. The temple of Luxor is built on the banks of the Nile. King Amenhotep III who reigned 1390-53 BC built this
temple and dedicated it to Amon-Re, king of the gods, his consort Mut, and their son Khons. This temple has been in almost continuous use as a place of worship right up to the present day. It was completed by Tutankhamun and Horemheb and added to by Ramses II.
Whilst at the temple, Stacy began to feel very unwell. This was to be the start of what was to be 3 days ‘on his own, on the throne’!
That night there was a farewell dinner at Irish Pub. Stacy was too ill to go. But during dinner, it hit Erin too…. That then proceeded to be one of the worst night we have ever had! We were both so unwell. I think we would have passed each other, on route to the toilet, at least 10 times during the night….
Friday 2nd January
The morning came, and we were both still unwell. Erin was able to brave leaving the room to head to The Valley of the Kings, the Alabaster Factory and Hatchepsut Temple; but Stacy was too ill, and had to stay in bed for the day.
By 6pm, Stacy was still very very
The Nubian's keep crocs as pets....crazy buggers!
sick. So we called a doctor out to the hotel, who prescribed two types of antibiotics. By 9pm he was feeling well enough to leave the hotel room. Lucky, because that night we were catching the sleeper train back to Cairo. We got onto the train, and within 30 minutes, we were both fast asleep, and we didn’t wake until we arrived in Cairo.
Saturday 3rd January
We arrived in Cairo by 7am. We met up with rest of the group and some others from another group. Our tour guide (Zizu) was unable to take the group on the last day. We ended up with some other, disorganised tour guide. It was only then that we all realized that we had been spoilt having Zizu as our tour guide.
The last day included the Bazaar markets and the Egyptian Museum (were we saw Tutankhamen’s treasures). It was then off to the Citadel of Salah Al-Din, the largest Mosque in Egypt. The Citadel is essentially a medieval fortress containing three major mosques. It was built in 810 by Hatim Ibn Hartama, who was then governor, but due to its strategic geographic location in 1176, Salah ad-Din decided
to fortify the area to protect it against attacks by the Crusaders.
That night we had our final dinner with some of the group at Cataract Resort.
Sunday 4th January
So our journey to Egypt was over. It was a trip filled with adventure, amazing historical sights, illness, parties and at times, utter craziness! Whilst Egypt was an incredible destination, it will certainly be a while until we return...
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