Having arrived and settled in by about 2am after negotiating the randomness of Cairo Airport. Only there, would they have you fill in the health form after getting off the plane in an unairconditioned corridor with 100s of other people before letting people through to get the required visa. Lucky for me I am organised and always got a pen with me. Once through that saga, I found my transfer pick up and he guided me to some random counter, unlabelled, to obtain my Egyptian visa for US$15. Finally I managed to get through and then I watched in amazement as the driver negotiated his way through traffic at high speed constantly changing lanes in what still looked like peak hour traffic well after midnight!
Next day I just slept most of it apart from getting a bite to eat at Community Assist KFC Store where the only people employed are deaf. Surprisingly it made communication much easier as it was all pointing and they jam alot more chicken into a hot & spicy zinger burger than they do in Australia. I am hoping it was chicken anyway.
That night I got to meet the group I will be travelling with and the tour leader. All seemed pretty good with everyone. Got a bit of a mix this time with some Aussies, Americans, and one kiwi girl who literally arrived from London just before the meeting. Her flight was delayed by 3 hours and seem to circle Cairo for hours for no good reason. Tour leader seems like an interesting person, not what I really expected from an Egyptian as he is cool calm and relaxed.
Off to the Pryamids of Giza in the morning. Were a hell of a lot bigger than I thought and it was damn hot as well. The heat wasnt such a problem but the humidity was so high. Went for a wander within one of the temples and it was so hot inside and not to mention having a very low ceiling. I aint tall but I swear the Ancient Egyptians must have been dwarfs to get in an out. I reckon I banged my head about 6 times in only a short journey. People here want money or tips for literally anything, whether its a cop holding down a rope to let you stand on a block of a pryramid to a guy telling you how to do a stupid pose with one of the pyramids, such as touching the top etc, you got to pay them off with a tip. I guess its their way of life, but I feel like my hand is constantly in my wallet.
Undertook a camel ride to the Sphinx though the desesrt sands. Getting on and riding was easier than I imagined but the slow pace was annoying me. Unfortunately I wasnt at the front of the chain of camels so when the guide asked if he wanted to go faster he refused. I would have wanted too so I constantly gave the guy in front some good natured stirring but all to no avail. The Sphinx itself is an awesome structure. There are many theories as to what happened to the nose of it. My personal favourite is that Michael Jackson needed it and paid off the Egyptians nicely!
From there it was off to the Egytpian Museum with our local guide. Having the guide was great as the museum isnt really that well planned out apart from the King Tut exhibit which was great. To see the mask and how beautiful it is, was a treat. It felt surreal looking straight into the eyes of the mask, thats for sure. The other major highlight within the museum was the animal mummification museum where they had mummifed some of the biggest crocodiles I had seen amongst other animals.
That night we were off to Aswan by overnight train. Oh yes, another train journey! This was seriously the worst train I had been on. Firstly it came about 1 hour late, secondly, the food was so bland that I will have to buy some of my own spices to liven it up on the return journey from Luxor to Cairo in a few days and thirdly, the engine was new and the driver didnt have much experience with it and the whole time he seemed to by applying brakes randomly meaning constant shunting whilst trying to sleep. I think most of us only got a couple of solid hours at best, between almost being thrown out of the bed numerous times. We then arrived into Aswan about 2 hours behind schedule as well as being very tired indeed. Hopefully the return train trip will be somewhat smoother.
For the afternoon we wandered through the Aswan Market area being constantly hassled. It probably didnt help with me wearing my Socceroos top! Funny how everyone has a good price for tourists and they say no hassle but they are out on the street, hassling you to come in and see their range of dodgy products. The only thing I bought was some chilli spice so I can add it to meals to give the train food some much needed flavour.
That twilight and evening we spent on the Nile cruising on a motorboat with a Nubian Guide who was apparently 57 years old but seriously looked closer to 87 who gave us an insight into the Nubian culture and history. Yes, they are different to the Egyptians and even have their own language. During this adventure we spent the evening with a Nubian family who cooked an awesome dinner for us and divulged more about thier life. We also gave the small kids presents and played various games with them, which they seem to really enjoy. The kids also seemed to take a liking to my camera and worked it out pretty quickly, taking so many photos, none of whch were much good, that killed my battery. Overall a great night was had.
Following day a pre-arranged trip to Abu Simbel temple by plane. I’ll start by saying the temples were really impressive, especially the heiroglyphics but the real journey was travelling there. The airport at Aswan was more impressive than could have thought as its not really a major stop. Flying Air Memphis (no Elvis was present) we were given a boarding pass to get to Abu Simbel but not a return ticket, which we did think was odd, but with no allocated seat and the ticket being in our first name only. We waited and waited to board this flight and we were first in line, then the war started with a French tourist group, accusing us of pushing in when they only arrived 5 minutes before departure. It’s sort of hard to push in when you are at the front of the queue to begin with.
It was a pretty simple flight and you know its a quality airline when the safety demonstration tells you to read the card in the seat pocket. No joke, that was it! The real fun began on the return journey as we noticed everyone else had boarding passes and we had none. We had no guide or tour leader for this part either, so we knew this was going to be interesting. Some how they let us through security, even though we had more than the standard amount of sunscreen, insect repellent and water, still with no boarding pass, then some random security guy just gives us 6 boarding passes (in totally random names, mine is now Olevir) and to just go an board the plane. No ID needed to be shown or anything. I dont think it could have been any more dodgy if it tried.
That night we went out to Phillae Temple to see the sound and light show. It was interesting and the story was good but I guess I was expecting something different, maybe more colours and lasers being included. All up it was good to see.
Next day was what Hisham says is the highlight of most peoples travels and that was the 24 hours onboard the Felucca sailing down the Nile (or was that up?). It was so chilled and relaxing that I could have done it for another day with ease. Just like letting the world pass you by as you float around. I’d call it bliss! Sleeping on board was pleasant except when the cruise ships went past as they created enough waves to rock the felucca a fair bit. We were docked to the land but the rocking was still pretty bad. Once docked, along with a few other feluccas, the captains started singing, dancing and beating some drums with definitely livened the evening up, well until there was no firewood left. Upon waking we were expecting to cruise for a few more hours, however all we did was cross to the other side then board a bus to Luxor.
On the way to Luxor we stopped at Edfu Temple which was pretty good, but by this stage I was close to being templed out. All the temples are different but after a while you start to think they really are not. The highlights for Luxor are the Valley of the Kings, Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple. Of the 3 Karnak Temple was by far the most impressive of each. It was so imposing and looking at how they must have built it sort of seems beyond comprehension especially with all the columns (from memory I think it was about 130). After that we ventured into Luxor Temple as night was falling which was good but not as good as Karnak.
Next day was off to the Valley of the Kings and seeing some of the tombs. We started at the Colossi of Memnon then jumped on Donkeys to get to the Valley itself. I seemed to get the donkey who obviously didnt get enough for breakfast as he stopped 4 times along the way to eat. Unfortunately on one of those occasions he veered stright infront of Ellie’s donkey who then gave me and my donkey a shove and the dismount occured. At least it wasnt a big fall with the only damage being a cut to the hand as well as some pride.
Unfortunately we were not able to take photos within the Valley, probably because the flashes would do too much damage to the colourful Heiroglyphics. It was amazing how deep they were and lengths they went to, to protect the tombs of the kings. The heiroglyphics on the inside were as ornate as I had seen. Whilst we were there, you could still see the archaeologists digging for a couple of the yet to be discovered tombs. There was the opportunity to see King Tut’s tomb but it was more expensive than was willing to pay plus we had been advised its not as good as the others we were seeing.
Once back to Luxor were hoping to be on the night train to Cairo but due to a few accidents on the Cairo line the night before, where people died and were injured, our train didnt arrive and were told it would be coming at 6am the next day. The only problem with a 6am train is that you have to wake up at some ridiculous hour to be at the station on time, even though you know in the back of your head its not going to come at 6am. Eventually it did come about 7.30 or so and so the journey back to Cairo was on.
Arriving in Cairo much later than expected all we had time for was dinner, some very quick food shopping, a shower and bed before rising early again for a 7 hour bus ride to Mt Sinai. By this stage most of us were getting pretty tired but once we got to Mt Sinai, we had a 3 hour hike to endure. After 2 days of pretty much not doing anything, to face up to a 3 hour hike was tough. Some people did it reasonably comfortably, unfortunately for me I twigged my back about half way up but still soldiered on to get to the top to see the sunset from the spot Moses apparently wrote his 10 Commandments from. It was inspiring but it did hurt like hell! Coming down was reasonably easy, even in the dark. That night was probably one of the best nights sleep I had, even with the back pain.
In the morning we wandered around St Katherines Monastery, which is still a working one for 24 monks in residence. It was quite interesting but me being me found the skulls and bones being stored in a room the most interesting part. The Church was pretty sweet but seeing me wearing a big tea towel around my waist to cover my knees was not a good sight. No doubt someone took a photo.
After the wandering we headed of to Sawa Beach Camp on the Red Sea from some rest and relaxation. Personally its not a first choice thing for me as I am not an aquatics/water person so all I did was eat, sleep, read, drink and play pool. Other went snorkelling and diving but I did enjoy my time there, especially the trash talk playing pool. This would be our last time with Hisham before heading to Jordan as Egyptian leaders cant lead in Jordan for some reason or another. A good night was had by all and we did give Hisham a fair bit of crap about a female tour leader who was there, who we believe he had a crush on, but she was taken anyway. This didnt stop us though!!
Next day was departure day to Jordan by ferry, all of us will miss Hisham and his love and passion for Egypt and all it has to offer.