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Published: November 2nd 2007
Sunrise in Cairo
Looking over the rooftops our first morning in Egypt
As we sat by the Red Sea last night eating dinner we decided that Egypt is definitely on our short list of must-come-back-to-this-place places.
How did this leg of our journey begin? Well, with complete and utter chaos as mentioned in a previous posting. It ends as we sit here trying to stay awake after packing so much into such a short time. Our flight to Greece leaves at 3:45 am (again, you get what you pay for, right?), which is a fitting end to a week that has included hot desert sun, nice and not-so-nice trains, 19 hours on a Greyhoud-type bus, a three hour hike at 3 am, and more than 10 total hours in packed mini busses.
The day we arrived in Egypt we met with "Metallica," the guest service guy at our random hotel, whose job it is to sell you package tours in Egypt. Two things were different about this as compared to, say, the creepy guy trying to sell you SCUBA diving at your hotel in Jamaica: 1) We actually liked this guy a lot. He is our age, down to Earth, funny and relaxed, and the fact that he lived in Melbourne
Drinking Karkadee (spell that if you can) with Amr in the Bazaar.
for 8 months means that he and Chris were an instant match. 2) We discovered that in Egypt you kind of HAVE to set up these tours. If you don't speak Arabic (anyone reading this, do you speak Arabic?) and you don't know the rules you will not have fun and you will get swindled. End of story.
Metallica works for a company that, like many others I'm sure, puts together an itinerary that meets your needs and includes every possible thing you might need including someone to take you TO YOUR SEAT on the train (You try reading an Arabic train ticket and see how likely it is you end up in the right seat, or even the right platform for that matter!)
We set some stuff up with him, and later that day realized that we screwed up our departure date and had something like three less days to fit everything in. He made some adjustments and gave us some choices, and in the end we figured out a solution that pretty much covered everything but resulted in the tired ramblings of a travel blogger that you are witnessing right now.
First things first: We
We got suckered into tipping some guard to take this illegal photo of us inside a temple (where you can NOT take photos!). I don't know if it was worth it....
started off in Cairo at the Egyptian Museum where they have all the things you ever wanted to see in Egypt. Most of the stuff they have cleared out of tombs and relocated in the enormous building, and even Chris said when we come back to Egypt he wants to be there when it opens so he has the whole day to look at stuff.
By the way, in this country you will find a lot of people who try very clever things to trick you out of your money. There is hardly any pickpocketing-type thefts, due to the strict Tourist Police who will stop people from talking to tourists if they want to, but if you willingly give them the money then it's not really their fault, is it? Also, they will do anything to get you into their store... Coincidentally, the Egyptian Museum is not closed for lunch, nor is it free after 4:30. Just keep that in mind if you ever come here.
Anyway, that night our good friend Amr came up to visit us and took us to dinner and then to the bizzare Bazzar. It was nice to have a local with us
Outside a mosque. Cairo is busy 24 hours a day!
to help keep the hawkers at bay, and it was really great to see Amr in his home country. He told me about Koshary ("co-cher-EE") and I vowed to eat some of it while we are in Egypt. I have since sampled every city's version and I have to say the best was right down from our hotel in Cairo (where we returned tonight to wait for the ride to the airport). I digress...
We had a great time with Amr and he showed us some cool places in Cairo. The next morning we got picked up in the morning for a trip to the step pyramid in Sakkara and the Great Pyramids in Giza. note: I may spell a lot of things wrong in this email so LAY OFF.
We were fortunate to have our own guide for this excursion, who told all about the dynasties and so on... it was really overwhelming and I was regretting not having taken the Egyptian History class that may or may not have been offered to me at some point in my life. Regardless, I felt like I knew very little about this part of history, so it was
Self Portrait of us on our camels. Their names were Mickey Mouse and Ali Babba. According to our guide they are all males because female camels are mean.
cool to have someone who did to show us around.
When it was time to visit the pyramids he asked if we wanted to go by car or by horse or camel. Of course we chose the camels, I mean it is Egypt for crying out loud. Good idea in retrospect but we won't be riding camels again. Ask Chris how his butt feels (STILL!). I still think they are cute, even with their severe dental problems, but I could have done without the bucking we almost got at the beginning (have you ever tried to hold on to a pissed off camel? Wear a harness). Also, going downhill is a bit of a challenge with the rocking and the sliding in the saddle. Oh, and wear pants and closed-toe shoes, just like the smart people at the Triangle Y Ranch request.
Amr met us afterwards to see how everything went and then surprised us at the train station that night... we caught the night train to Aswan in Upper Egypt (that's southern Egypt, as opposed to Lower Egypt which is is the north...) and explored ancient temples and tombs, and checked out their bazzar, which was somehow
The Great Pyramids
Not a bad picture for being taken on the back of a camel.
more oppressive than the one in Cairo.
While in Aswan we met Mohammed, a sweet 9 or 10 year old boy selling scarves to tourists. We told him we wouldn't be buying a scarf, but then we started talking. We had gotten really good at saying "La Shukran" (no thank you) to the hawkers, but Mohammed taught us some pricless phrases that came in VERY handy. First and foremost was "Mafeesh Faloose" (again, I guarantee I am NOT spelling these things correctly), which means something like "I have no money." When y ou say no thank you, Mohammed told us, they will keep trying. Tell them you have no money and they leave you alone. Then he sat back and watched until another hawker approached us at our table and we told him we didn't have money. The funny thing was that it WORKED! All the time in the background I could see Mohammed encouraging me to remember "Mafeesh Faloose" and you could see he was proud. He also taught us "Emshe," which you say to the little kids trying to sell you things with their big sad eyes. That basically means "scat," so you don't use that for
Look closely... this kid is texting on the back of a burro. And I swear later I saw a mule and cart going down the INTERSTATE!
The next day we found Mohammed and asked for a good place to eat. He took us to a restaurant, stopping first to leave his scarves at his parents' shop. When we left Mohammed we told him he was a very good boy, and to stay in school and he would turn out to be a good man. We really liked him. And we gave him 5 Egyptian Pounds, the price of the scarves he was selling (which amounts to about $1 US).
Next we took the train to Luxor where we had just one day to see everything. We went to Ramsees Tomb in the morning with a group and in the afternoon we had a private tour to Karnak Temple, which is a hell of a place. It is the biggest temple in Egypt and we could have spent DAYS learning everything about the place.
Then the fun began... After a really uncomfortable 19 HOUR bus ride we found ourselves in Dahab, where we have vowed to return as soon as possible for at least a week or two. We "checked in" to a hotel (they basically gave us a place to rest and
Everyone should kiss a camel once in their lives.
shower and store our stuff) and went snorkeling in the blue hole, which is an amazing reef in the Red Sea. Afterwards we walked around the city, had a delicious dinner and met back at the hotel for a 11 pm bus ride to Mount Sinai. Why so late? Well, you get there in the wee hours of the morning and hike about 7km up the mountain to get to the top for the sunrise. Later someone asked if the sunrise was worth it (did I mention that the top of a mountain in the desert in the middle of the night is FREAKING COLD?!?!?). The answer? Well, yeah, but mostly because of what you went through to see that sunrise. Afterwards we visited the monestary at St. Catherine's at the bottom of Mount Sinai, then drove back to Dahab to jump on the bus back to Cario to make it to the airport for our 3:00 am flight to Athens.
It was at some point during this bus ride that I woke to a tickling in my throat, indicating that I was getting a cold. By the time I started this blog (a few days ago, now!), just
Our good friend Mohammed. If you are ever in Aswan and want to buy a scarf, please go find this kid near the train station. I want him to go to college.
hours after I felt the cold coming on, I was deep in the throws of the virus and wishing I could just sleep for days. When we arrived in Athens and found our hotel at 7:00 am, our room was thankfully ready and we checked in. After a quick breakfast I slept ALL DAY, and most of the next except for a few hours when we went to visit the Acropolis, located just minutes from our hotel. It was a nice few hours in civilization and then it was back to sleep. The next morning we hopped on a ferry which brings us to our current location, Santorini, a lovely Greek island.
The coolest thing about Santorini is that its crescent shape is due to the catostrophic eruption of the volcano thousands of years ago, which dropped the center of the island into the sea and created a huge caldera or crater. Santorini has provided the scenery of most of the travel posters you have ever seen of Greece, and for good reason. Today we walked to the highest point on the island (it was about 20 miles round trip... my knee is killing me but we had to
work off the Greek food!) then stopped at a winery on the way back. Early in our walk we were adopted by two really cute dogs who must have been brother and sister. We named them Dumb and Dumber, since they were pretty clueless about things like traffic (and in Greece that is a deadly mistake. After the Reece incident we cringed every time a car passed!). Even though we gave them NO food, NO water, NO pats on the head and for the first couple of hours paid no attention to them really, they followed us up to the top of the mountain! When we would stop they would curl up like loyal friends, and when we walked they were up and walking with us. It was really cute. When we stopped at the winery I think someone shooed them away because they were gone when we came out, but about 15 minutes later there they were, running up to us like they were SO GLAD they found us and couldn't wait to see where we were going next! They followed us all the way back to Fira, the town in which we are staying, but we lot them
again as we walked by restaurants with outdoor seating. I think they found someone to feed them, but we had to admit we missed Dumb and Dumber, and we kept looking for them as we walked around later.
Tuesday we leave here and go to Naxos before returning to Athens for our midnight departure to South Africa. I've taken up enough of your time (It has taken three sessions to write this whole email!) so until next time!
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