Close your eyes and pray to Allah.
09.02.2017 - 18.02.2017 60 °F
Well I was pretty much done with the whole blog thing but a few encouraging words from Joanne Duffin reminded me it might serve a purpose so here goes. Course in retrospect she said "seeing the world for people" not telling them so maybe pictures would be enough without my nonsense...lol
I'd gotten a bit weary of making travel decisions all the time (getting old) and decided to let a young Cairoan...Cairoian...Cairolite? man named Ahmed (aCKmed) show me what his future as a tour operator looks like. He hasn't a license yet nor an official business name but he seemed keen. He'd offered me a three day stint in the south for such and such money and I told him to stretch and make an itinerary for two weeks. Why dabble...
Just to insert a point that would have come up anyway there are basically three names here; Ahmed, Muhammad, and Jeff. Just kidding...there's really only Ahmed and Muhammad. I have Ahmed taxi driver in Cairo, Ahmed my tour operator, Ahmed my rep in Aswan followed by Ahmed my rep in Luxor. I call them by cities when the ring me, not by name. They all joke about this so don't get all weird. It's a thing. Much like Alabama, where everyone is either named Cletus or Bo. Now THAT was a joke.
Full disclosure...the first couple days were hard for me. There were things outside the tour adding to this but conditions, guide attitudes, and accommodation added up to a couple dark days for me. I appreciate, again, the couple of you who willfully accepted my venting and responded in understanding and helpful ways. I was fed up and you helped me to remember why I do this. Thankee.
Aswan was the first stop. 12 hour overnight train from Cairo. Mine turned into 19 but I imagine that doesn't happen with the proper ticket. It would be an easy overnight otherwise so highly recommended when it goes as planned Here you get to start at the First Cataract and work your way back to the hub. You'll most likely be offered Elephantine Island, Abu Simbel, The High Dam and a Nubian Village. I have pictured Abu Simbel and The High Dam due to a bit of nonsense in the schedule. Do NOT let them put you in Memnon Hotel. Word to the wise.
Abu Simbel can be worth it if you have pictured being there but keep in mind it is 3 hours there, 3 hours back, with about an hour and a half to see the two sites. So "full day trip" means mostly driving.
The trip to the dam is mostly worth if for the story. You can look up the specifics if you like but the short of it is that about a couple dozen major historical sites were set to be drowned until UNESCO and a handful of countries decided to pony up the money to move them. Abu Simbel and Isis Temple, Philea (pictured) were just two. They are not in their original locations. I had no idea...forgive me if you did. Egypt hadn't the funds for this and it's astounding to me that they were going to go through with the dam anyway. Water is life, I know...but let's all take a moment to thank our countries and UNESCO for the opportunity to continue seeing these structures without a hard diving suit.
Next was Luxor. Valley of the Kings, Temple of Habu, Temple of Hatshepsut, The Colossi of Memon and Luxor Temple. All pictured a bit.
My guide was Well and he helped to assuage my fears that everyone here was just out for quick money and the minimum of effort. He was great. If you come to Egypt ask for Well. He used to be the head of Guide Tourism so everyone knows him. Won't be hard to find and he goes everywhere. If you are the Sonoma Valley type you'll appreciate his spiritual tours around Egypt in kind. His name is not self-adopted, it just an easier way to say Wa-el (sp?)...for those who fear a hippie. I very much appreciated his insight and non-conventional approach to the monuments.
The Valley of The Kings is a no picture affair. Yes, of course I took pictures on the sly but you'll see none of those! And they cost me a pretty penny...lol Not really worth it (edit--that sounded terrible. I meant the cost of taking pictures). The place is just too much to take in on one visit. They only open certain tombs at a time to the public, you get to chose three of those, so you don't get much of a choice in the matter. Two others are offered at an extra cost. I chose King Tutankhamen since it was up for the taking. Extra 100 pounds (5 US).
Despite people traffic and sort of pushy inner security I have to say The Valley is absolutely worth it. It is up to you to appreciate what you will about the place. I saw reverence and I witnessed loud singing and raucousness within the tombs. For me it was a chance to visit the grainy footage of my youth in crisp detail and try to summon up that great desire I felt to see them in person. I failed a bit at this but as a friend put it "I'll be interested to hear your views when the dust settles".
Not much to say about the Temple of Habu. It's beautiful and has some great carving and artwork. The Temple of Hatshepsut is a site to see purely based on her story if nothing else. Just go if you're here...lol
I won't go on about Karnak or Luxor Temple. The history is there for the taking. I will say the the first hypostyle hall in Karnak is worth the price of admission all on it's own. Breathtaking.
Truth is what they don't show you in the documentaries is that a lot of these sites are smack in the middle of the city. As I told Shaun I have to take my hat off to the camera men who film these places for NGC etc. without showing or hearing the traffic, hotels, brick houses and so on that envelope them. Well done. I could barely manage a decent photo in some...lol
I had wanted to visit Abydos but it wasn't on the agenda so the Universe sent me (we'll call him Darrel), my driver for the Luxor excursion, who invited me to tea that night. I mentioned the cost and he cut in half as long as I tell not a soul his name ;-). We set a plan for Abydos AND Dendera. Usually Abydos is a good 3 hours from Luxor on the main tourist road with traffic. BUT if you wake up early enough you can avoid the police on the "no tourists allowed" road and get there in an hour and some. This was his plan. It involved a 5am wake-up call. Meh.
I did so enjoy both sites and would encourage you to add them to you agenda. Very few tourists, so few as to feel alone on many occasions. Again I'll leave it to you to look up the architects and Kings involved if you'd like. Ramesses II is almost always involved in everything. Dude loved himself. But Seti I I have to respect in Abydos. Wonderful artwork and his legacy is heavily felt when walking around his section of the temple. Here we have Osiris as the main focus (see story about his dismemberment if interested). We also have the Kings List, as pictured, that gave Egyptology a huge helping hand in recording the chronology of rulers.
Dendera Temple is a thing on it's own. I had witnessed no temples like it. It is more modern and is mostly dedicated to the Ptolemy's and, in particular, Cleopatra VII (the famous one). This is spectacular in it inner framework and construction and should not be missed. If you have to give up three sites to visit this one I'd say make the trade. Tourists were fairly non-existent and two hours goes by like nothing.
SO! That was my scuttling around the monuments. Abbreviated of course. Now for Hurghada. Beach town. Diving, snorkeling, day cruises. And friggin' cold in the winter...lol Not USA cold mind you but chilly-ask for extra blanket-some don't do the second dive-kind of cold.
To make up for a bit of nonsense during the first couple days of the tour my operator arranged for two dives, free of charge, here. I was hesitant due to the temperature but had wanted to look into the possibilities anyway so I took advantage of the offer. You'll see a couple pics. Again, it's winter so the Hammerheads, turtles, Oceanic Whitetips etc. can't be bothered but it was so good to get back in the water. I lied to the Divemaster and said it had been less than a year since my last dive (it's been three) and we agreed to a drift dive along the reef. I was nervous at first to get back in without a refresher but turns out it's like riding a bike. All came back immediately and I had a wonderful time.
I even got to use my 50ft max depth camera on the second reef dive as you'll see. I've no experience with underwater photography so please excuse but I was happy enough with the outcome. Good to fly again.
I had also set up, outside the tour, a swim-with-dolphins outing. The sightings are not guaranteed of course but most come back happy. As I did. Our boat happened upon them twice. The first pod had to be at least 15 strong. The second, four.
If you've plans to visit Hurghada ask for Luca and his crew. To get back to an earlier point Luca, along with the ENTIRE crew are all named Mohammed...no joke...lol So he chooses Luca to differentiate himself. It's called the Dolphin House site and I couldn't recommend the crew of the El Monsieur more. You'll snorkel, frantically chase dolphins, have a great lunch and be amused by the antics of the crew, especially if you have kids. Top notch and 25 bucks..
I'm back in my hotel room now (7 US a night) with my extra blanket, a scarf and whiskey. Like I said...chilly. Tomorrow is an impromptu desert safari, again to make up for tour bumps, and a flight to Sharm el-Sheikh. From there we go to summit Mt St. Catherine in the Sinai Peninsula (don't get all wow for me...they take you almost all the way up--edit--no they don't...14km there all told--). Then Cairo for a night and off to camp with the Bedouins for a night in the Black and White Desert.
I hope the pictures scratch an itch. I have learned I am NOT an architectural photographer. Couldn't take one damned decent picture of any monument I came across...lol Uncanny. Totally lost any hint of eye. But they'll have to suffice for now.
I've about 2000 more crappy ones if anyone has any interest in the future ;-)
To sum up...it can be a challenging country for some personality type. Mine included. Please don't include yourself in the fray until you come here. By and large people are people and the closer you get to tourist hubs, the more you notice you are closer to tourist hubs. I have to pay homage to my diver/beach towns and say that if you are ever in need of a break from any culture shock....seek out the coast and the lovers of water. All chill....all the time.
Love to all and good lord, stop watching news. I've looked up Trump twice and regretted it...lol