Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Walk (Sail, Climb, Swim, and Run) like an Egyptian

Monday 27th December 2010. I left Heathrow sometime in the afternoon, got to enjoy a proper aeroplane for a change ie. one where you have a TV screen and no ongoing sales pitch. I didn't get into Cairo until 23:40, so I saw Cairo's lights which was kind of nice. Once I got to the hotel, I was bemused at the room - I wasn't sure what I was expecting, but I should have been expecting what I got - a room that looked like it had once been luxurious, say circa 1940, but hadn't really been maintained. It was what I imagine from movies like Indiana Jones or The Jungle Book, and half expected some English toff with one of those ridiculous safari helmets to walk into the room. Tuesday 28th December 2010. When I woke up, I found myself on top of my bed with the TV on - how I fell asleep. What actually woke me up was the Porter guy knocking on the door, to let in my roommate. After a quick chat, my roommate and I decided to check out Cairo together, after some breakfast, and freshening up. I was entertained at breakfast, when looking at something like mince, I asked one of the waiters what it was. I'm sure he said "Penis" so I looked at the waiter next to him, who said it was beans. I was very proud of myself for being mature and not laughing in front of them, however did have a quiet chuckle about it later on.We walked a big loop, quite a way, but really didn't see anything spectacular, didn't stop anywhere. The above photo is on the Nile, note the smog.The Cairo tower.No caption needed - although remember this is pre-riots.And of course - remember junk food has no calories if it is deemed ethnic - hence the McArabia. That evening we met the majority of the rest of the tour group, did the administrative stuff, and then went out for dinner. Wednesday 29th December 2010. After breakfast, we met the remainder of the tour group, the ones who got there late the night before, or early that morning. The first stop of the tour was the Egyptian Museum. It was interesting, but we soon discovered that over-crowding is not a concern, one room got so full that some Italian guy lost his cool.The next major stop was the Giza plateau - where the pyramids are. This really is only just outside the city limits, not far at all.It was interesting, but it was kind of ruined by the souvenir & camel ride sellers, and the guys who would offer to take a photo for or with you, then demand a tip. One cool thing was going through the littlest Pyramid, although not quite as adventurous as in the movies.That evening, we were allowed to go back to the hotel, shower and get some food. I ended up going with someone else and got KFC - one of the highlights of the trip - it turned out that the store I went to was run by deaf people, at the time I just thought they were really friendly and lateral thinkers, knowing the best way to communicate to a foreigner was through sign language. This however was followed by the low point of the trip, the 12-hour overnight train from Cairo to Aswan. When I saw it in the itinerary I assumed it would be in sleeper carriages, it wasn't. I'm not a really fussy traveller, I guess I just expected more for my money. The worst thing was the toilets, which stayed clean for all of about an hour. Thursday 30th December 2010. Anyhow, we got to Aswan at about midday, had a bit of time to have a look around - I had a bit of a look at the market, and got a feel for the prices of things. I got myself an Egyptian flag - to add to the collection. Later that evening we took a boat trip to a Nubian village, which included a camel ride, which was kind of scary as it was already dark. We had dinner at a Nubian house, it was nice, and also learnt that the Nile had been cleared of Crocodiles, however, the Nubians kept baby ones as pets (which doesn't seem logical, what happens if a boy and girl crocodile end up back in the water, meet, and do the crocodile rock?)We went back to our hotel, and then had to be up again at 1am- in order for our tour bus to join the convoy to Abu Simbel at 3am. Friday 31st December 2010. After about a 3 hour drive through the desert, we made it to Abu Simbel (below). It was good, and what made it even more interesting was the fact it had to be moved at one point, when they built the Great Dam. Apparently we also visited the Temple of Hathor before returning to Aswan, and hopping onto the Felucca boat, where we celebrated New Years. Saturday 1st January 2011. This day was spent sailing along the Nile. I mainly just read, and tried to keep warm, and stop the boat's kitten from urinating in my sleeping bag. I tried to go without going N.o2, but gave in that night, because all I ended up doing was trying not to think about not wanting to go. Sunday 2nd January 2011. We departed the felucca, and took a trip to Kom Ombo, and then to our hotel in Luxor. We then saw the Temple of Karnak, and the temple of Luxor, both were good, and our guide was cool and funny.Above - This is one of the statues outside Luxor temple - they are uncovering them - basically there is an ancient road between the two temples, with these on either side. Below - A Mosque had been built on the site of the Luxor temple before they uncovered the surroundings and realised that it was in fact the site of the ancient Temple. Monday 3rd January 2011. We headed to the Valley of the Kings, via this (below) the Colossi of Memnon, which apparently are 3400 years old. The valley of the Kings was awesome, the closest the trip got to the Indiana Jones fantasy - we explored a couple of tombs, one was just totally amazing, several levels, including one part with a bridge.After that we visited the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut (below) which was also quite impressive, and hard to imagine that it is actually as old as it is.Late that afternoon, we farewelled some of our group, and then headed to Hurgharda - we had to wait until we got clearance to leave Luxor from the Tourism Police, as it was around this time when the troubles began with a bombing in Alexandria. Anyhow, we got there without too many dramas, from memory I think it was about a four hour trip, not too strenuous. Tuesday 4th January 2011. The hotel in Hurghada was one of the best I stayed in in Egypt. Complimenting this was the best Egyptian breakfast too - lots of choice. Following breakfast I went down to the beach with all the others, and laxed back on a deck chair and read my book. The others went and did something else, and I took a swim - as I had been hanging out for one for over a year (the last ocean swim I had taken was in Alicante in September 2009). It was definitely nice having a chilled out time after the mad rush of sights we'd seen up until then. That evening, we headed off on our way to Dahab (below). It was an overnight trip, made longer by the fact the Tourism Police made us go the longer way. However, once we got there we were allowed to access our rooms, which technically we shouldn't have been, and got some sleep. Wednesday 5th January 2011. I don't think I did a whole this day, other than catch up on some sleep, eat, and read. As you can see by these two photos - the cleaning staff took pleasure in doing cool stuff with our towels when they made our beds and stuff. The love heart was a bit much for my single bed in the room I shared with another guy, however, full marks for creativity. Thursday 6th January 2011. Dahab was located about an hour or two away from Mt Sinai - the famous mountain climbed by Moses, where he received the Ten Commandments - so I thought it was worth climbing. Most of our group did it overnight, but one of the girls and I thought the daytime would be the more logical choice - at least then it wouldn't be freezing cold, and we could see where we were going. I still think that was the best choice. So I got up rather early, hence the sunrise photo.After an hour or so's drive we reached St Catherine's Monastery - which houses the bush which is supposed to be the burning bush that talked to Moses. The Burning Bush on the left. With Fire Extinguisher conveniently located to it's right.It probably took us at least a good two hours to climb Mt Sinai. This photo below was nearing the top - hence the ice forming (this was January - Winter)We got to the top in time for Sunset, which was nice - having climbed up in a t-shirt and trousers, I put on my thermal shirt and jumper for the climb down, as it got dark and cold rather fast. Climbing down wasn't as strenuous, but harder as I couldn't see my way all the time.Once we got back to Dahab I had a bit to eat - although I was not really feeling like eating, and headed home to bed early to sleep and recover.

Friday 7th January 2011.

The following day our group went snorkeling at the Blue Hole - which is kind of famous in those parts for diving and snorkeling. It was quite cool, although we did have a little bit of drama when one of our group fainted in the water.

Saturday 8th January 2011.

Some of our group decided to walk down the beach and go snorkeling again at another spot, which again was fun, not so many dramas this time.

Sunday 9th January 2011.

The various members of our group had various plans - two of us decided to go snorkeling again, at yet another spot. Because the other two days sessions seemed too short, I spent the best part of 4 hours in the water, but also had to fight the current to get out of the water - as the spot had only one way in and out.

Monday 10th January 2011.

We finished up in Dahab and headed back to Cairo via Suez (although didn't get to see the canal as we went under it).

On the way back to Cairo. I believe the city across the Red sea there would be Aqaba - Israel.Once back in Cairo, we settled back down, went out for dinner, and then I returned and went to bed after packing, as I had an early flight the next day, back to London.

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