Sunday, November 07, 2004

Hurghada – October 23 through 27

David and I were lucky to get a room at the Hilton in Hurghada. Here we relaxed beside the pool and on the beach for 2 days without leaving the hotel. David and I both had a massage and I had a manicure and pedicure. The restaurants in the hotel were excellent for breakfast and lunch but dinner was not very good. On our third day at the hotel we left at night to go shopping for souvenirs in town and to eat dinner at a Lebanese restaurant. The food was delicious. We managed to haggle for the price we wanted to pay for the souvenirs and gifts we wanted to buy and then took a local taxi back to the hotel.

The last day we were in Hurghada we had breakfast at the hotel then relaxed by the pool. We had lunch at the restaurant by the beach and then relaxed and swam in the Red Sea. For dinner we attempted to find a restaurant near the hotel but could not find one we liked so we returned and had a delicious meal at the Italian restaurant at the hotel. We packed and got to bed early since we were leaving the hotel at 9 am the next morning to catch a flight to Cairo at 10:30 am.

Hurghada Day 1 – October 22

We got up early and had breakfast with the group at the hotel in Hurghada. David and I both had an omelet. Then the group walked to the Dive Shop where we took a van to the boat. We got our snorkeling gear and boarded the boat. It took an hour for us to arrive at the first snorkeling site. We got our gear on and dove in. The water was very warm and very salty, which made it easy to float in. I had a few moments of panic when I realized I could not breath through my nose. After I learned to relax – holding David’s hand – I really enjoyed looking at the brightly colored coral, blue mouth clams, very large fish with bright blue stripe, big black spikey fish sleeping in the coral, and many schools of fish. I came across a yellow and black fish that appeared to be sleeping in the coral. David and I went back on the boat for a little break and then went out again for another 40 minutes before lunch. The second time was much more relaxing and I could really enjoy myself. For lunch we had pasta, a vegetable dish, fries, chicken, and coke. After relaxing a little longer on the boat, David and I went in again for a third time at the same site. The other David from London, had obviously done this before since he was the only one to swim very far from the boat and investigate most of the coral. I was happy to stay very close to the boat since I’m not a very strong swimmer.

When everyone got back into the boat, they took us to a second snorkeling site. This site was where this company took people for night dives because it was very shallow and people could not get into too much trouble. This site was incredible to watch fish. David and I jumped in and stayed in for 35 minutes straight. Later, David told me that the number of fish we saw may have been because it was close to sun set and that was when all the fist come out to feed. We saw many more fish at this second site. It was fun to float and enjoy the fish zooming in and out of the coral. David looked up and said to me “Look how far we are from the boat – I think we should turn back!” So we made our way back to the boat. Everyone got back on the boat and we headed into shore for dinner. Exhausted, sun baked, and relaxed we returned our gear and walked back to the hotel.

Since tonight was the last night for our group to be together, we ate at the Hotel buffet. The group was leaving Hurghada at 1:30 am to return to Cairo, while David and I were staying in Hurghada for 4 days to relax. :-) After dinner, Sandra (our tour guide) arranged for David and I to meet with the Imaginative Traveler representative in Hurghada to arrange for our last 4 days in Hurghada. At 8 pm we met with Ramadan and he told us that it was unlikely that we could stay in the hotel and that we should pack up and be ready to check out tomorrow afternoon. He said he would call us tomorrow to tell us if we could stay in the hotel or not. If we could not stay at the Three Corner Hotel, he would help us find other accommodation in Hurghada. He suggested that he transfer us to a 3 star hotel and both David and I didn’t like the sound of that. We told him that we wanted to relax and wanted to stay at a 4 star hotel or 5 star hotel.

After we met the group for ice cream and said our good byes. Most of them wanted to get back to the room to have a nap before their 1 am wake up call. David and I are very happy that we are staying in Hurghada and relaxing instead of returning to Cairo. Several people in our group wanted to return to Cairo to see the pyramids again and to go to the step pyramids which David and I saw on our own.

Luxor Day 2 – October 21, 2004 Transfer to Hurghada

We got up early after tossing and turning all night and looking at my watch every hour. My stomach was not well because of dinner last night. We finished packing and then had breakfast with the group at the hotel. Then we waited for our stuff to be put on the van that would bring us to the Red Sea. We all pilled in the van and drove to a waiting area with another 40 + vans and buses. The waiting area was a very narrow street with high walls on either side. We were allowed to get out of the van and wait outside since the A/C was turned off in the van. I pulled out my crocheting and worked on my project for about half an hour. My crocheting generated lots of interest with the bus drivers. Our driver came over to me to tell me that his daughter was learning how to crochet in school and that she practiced every night. She is 16.

Finally at 8 am we were on our way. The ride to Hurghada was quiet with everyone sleeping in the van. The geography was surprisingly rocky and in some areas mountainous. I crocheted while David read a British tabloid and then the novel that our friend Kathleen gave us as a going away present.

We traveled from Luxor to Hurghada through a small town and then the caravan split in two. On half of the caravan went North to Cairo and the other half went East to Hurghada. About half way we stopped for a 15 minute break at the only rest station we saw along the way. In the middle of no where there were 4 very large restaurants with huge washroom facilities. I was surprised that in 15 minutes everyone was able to use the washrooms, grab a snack and sit down for 5 minutes.

We arrived in Hurghada around lunch time. Our hotel is called the Three Corner Empire Hotel. We are very happy with our large room. The room has 2 single beds, a queen size bed, sitting area, large closet area and a bathroom. After a nap, we had lunch and then we investigated the beach, which was a block away from the hotel. Unfortunately, the beach is very narrow (with a long dike on either side) and there are very small bits of oil floating on the water. :-( So instead of swimming in the Red Sea – like we had hoped to – we went back to the hotel and swam in the pool and relaxed.

Soon it was time for dinner. We joined the group to go to a miserable Seafood restaurant. The food arrived cold and tasteless. To add insult to injury, when it came time to pay, the waiter tried to charge David for a platter he didn’t order. When I heard this, I jumped up and looked the waiter straight in the eye and said “He only ordered one seafood platter.” The guy was totally surprised by me jumping up – so he lowered our total price.

We came back to the hotel and read before falling asleep. Tomorrow, we spend the day snorkeling and relaxing on the Red Sea.:-)

Day 1 – Luxor – October 20, 2004

We woke up very early this morning to take a ferry ride to the West Bank. We rode donkeys through a small village to the Valley of the Kings. The trip was 7 km long and took about 2 hours. David was concerned that he would be leaving his own trail behind the donkey with his long legs. I was extremely nervous since I don’t generally like riding animals of any kind.

From the ferry we walked to where our donkeys were waiting for us. The owners matched us up fairly well with a donkey. David got one of the largest donkeys. I was happy to get a small slow donkey. We got on the backs of these little beasts and started our long trip to the Valley of the Kings. It took a little while for me to gain my balance. Only one of our group members managed to fall off the donkey as we approached the Valley of the Kings. Our guide quickly dismounted their donkey’s and pushed our friend back onto his without missing a beat. Along the way we saw many people working in the field and 3 hot air balloons rising in the distance. We passed the Hapsheshut temple along the way as well – the temple dedicated to the first Queen of Egypt. It was the same temple that we attempted to see by ourselves yesterday but failed because it closed before we could buy a ticket. L

We arrived at the Valley of the Kings entrance about 2 hours after we stared. Our tour guide from Karnak was there waiting for us with tickets. He explained that he would take us to 3 tombs in the Valley of the Kings. The first was the smallest, then a medium size one and then finally – one of the longest tombs in the Valley. This tomb was situated right beside and on top of King Tut’s tomb.

We had an enjoyable morning of looking at the tombs. Each one was completely bare but the walls of the tombs were what we really came to see. The colours in the tombs are surprisingly bright. We were allowed to take pictures outside the tomb but no photos or cameras of any kind were allowed in the tombs to protect the brilliant colours of the walls.

The first tomb we entered had a very large entrance, small hallway and one big room. The second tomb we entered, had the same size entrance, longer hallway and two rooms. The tour guide explained to us that the second tomb would have been completely full of everything the King had when he was alive stored in the tomb. When this King died, the tomb was not large enough to hold all his treasures so the builders of the tomb had to dig an extension at the back of the tomb to hold additional treasures. This addition was built as they mummified the body. It’s difficult to imagine having so much gold that you would have to build an extension to this large tomb. Along the hallway there were lintels where false doors would have been when the tomb was sealed.

Finally the third tomb, was enormous. This tomb had an extremely long hallway where we felt like we were descending quiet far from the surface. The walls and ceiling of this tomb were beautifully decorated. There was a mural on the ceiling of a god blowing the sun across the sky. This mural is on the ceiling of most tombs but this was the clearest and best example in the Valley of the Kings. After descending about 2 city blocks at a steady slope, we entered an enormous room where the sarcophagus of the King was still present. To break the sarcophagus the robber’s poured boiling water over the rock and cracked it open. The broken sarcophagus was still present in the tomb and the granite pieces look like boulders. David and I paused in this large room for only a few minutes before we had to leave since the line up to this tomb was very long.

We met our group and started our hike over Magic Mountain to the worker’s village. Magic Mountain is a mountain behind the Valley of the Kings that looks like a natural pyramid. Some people believe that this location was chosen for the Valley of the Kings because of this mountain. We struggled to climb the very steep path to the top of the cliff. At the top of the cliff we were met by locals who tried desperately to sell us statues and beads. These locals could not afford to get the license to sell items in the Valley of the Kings so instead they approach tourist on this path. When we reached the top of the path, we were too breathless and sweaty to tell them that we were not interested. Instead we paid them a little money to take our group picture.

We continued along the path and stopped to take fabulous pictures of the Valley of the Kings from above, the Hapsheshut temple from above (although we didn’t visit this temple we were able to view it from all angles), and the Valley of the Queens. After an hour hike we arrived at the Worker’s Village.

These workers were the people who built and decorated the tombs for the Kings and Queens. The only remains of the village were the base of the walls of their homes and their own tombs. We were allowed to see two of the worker’s tombs. These two tombs were much smaller but more colourful. It also felt more like a cave that we were entering than any of the tombs that we saw in the Valley of the Kings. For both tombs, we descended a very steep staircase with a very low ceiling and entered a very small room. The room in each cave was very beautifully decorated and the walls and ceiling were protected with glass so that you could not touch the walls.

After investigating the tombs at the Worker’s Village we got back on our donkeys and headed back to the Nile. This trip was much shorter since we were completing the loop we started in the morning. We road through a small village and then stopped briefly at the side of a road to see 2 enormous statues that were the only remains of a temple that was no longer present.

We had lunch at a very nice restaurant along the Nile. It was very relaxing to sip Lemon juice and cold water in the shade. After lunch we took a ferry back to the East bank where we had a nap and then met our friends Kathy and Bruce on the roof top to relax by the pool. After we ventured into Luxor to find an internet café and do a little shopping. We met the group for dinner at a restaurant in Luxor, near the Luxor temple and then returned to the hotel to pack.
Tomorrow we leave early for Hurghada. We are all looking forward to chilling out along the red sea at our next destination: A resort :-)

Day 3 October 19th, 2004 – Transfer from Melodie to Luxor Hotel

This section could have one of three titles – you decide which fits best….

a) Fish wrapped in newspaper
b) How V’s underwear ended up a reception
c) The missing bathing suit bottom.

Last night while we were packing, V could not find her bathing suit bottoms!!! She went through everything in the room twice looking for it. She was really worried because she could not figure out how it had left our room (she was wearing them when she got back from the pool). It had to be in here somewhere since she changed only in our room. She was quite concerned too because our plans includes lying on the beach and doing nothing at the end of our vacation. How was she going to do that without a bathing suite (after all this is Egypt – not Cuba – so bathing suit bottoms are mandatory).

V went to bed very frustrated last night. She woke up even more frustrated that she could not find my bathing suit bottoms but she was convinced that it was not in our room.

We went to breakfast determined to find someone who spoke English who would understand us. We found someone at the front desk and explained that she had lost her bathing suit and was there a lost and found on the ship. He gave a very perplexed look at us and did not understand how she could loose my bathing suite. Luckily the person standing at the reception desk over heard us and very sheepishly brought out a rolled newspaper and asked “Did you loose your underwear?” YES!!! she told him but it is not underwear – it is my bathing suit bottoms! Thank you!!!

It was clear that V was embarrassed by this – but her embracement was not anything like the staff. They weren’t used to touching women’s underwear – thus the wrapping them in newspaper.

As part of Ramadan there are a number things you can’t do…
1) Eat, drink or smoke during daylight
2) Have sex, or impure thoughts during daylight

I expect next year that they’ll add a new item…
1) Can’t hold women’s underwear during daylight

Speaking of Ramadan (I knew very little about it before – now I know a little) did you know it moves ever year – something like “every 12 new moons” – as such it actually moves from summer to winter – then back. Imagine summer in Egypt – the longer summer days and not eating or drinking all day in the hot summer!!!

We met the group for breakfast on the ship and then took carriages drawn by horses to Karnak. This temple is enormous and comprised of 3 temples. One highlight of this temple is a room with 16 large columns in the centre row and 121 smaller columns surrounding the original 16 large columns. Even the smaller columns are enormous. It takes 6 men holding hands to circumference one of the smaller columns. Please see this web site for a detailed description of the temple. It is the most impressive temple in Egypt aside from the pyramids at Giza:

The Karnak temple is over 100 acres and our tour book suggests that a 2 hour tour is good but it would take 4 to 6 hours to gain a real appreciation for the temple. Today we had 2 hours at the temple.

Our tour guide is very funny. He must want to be a comedian. He told us from the start that we were allowed 3 questions per person over the next 2 days. He will be our tour guide tomorrow when we see the Valley of the Kings. I quickly used 2 of my 3 questions. He told me that I could borrow some of “husband’s” tomorrow if I wanted to ask more questions! J

The entrance to Karnak is a row of lions with Ram’s heads. The tour guide took us behind the entrance wall to show us examples of uncompleted columns (the only 2 examples that have been found to date in Egypt). He also showed us a mud ramp that was used to build the huge statues that we see all over Egypt.

While at Karnak we saw many more fascinating and beautiful columns and statues. Our tour guide pointed out a flood line that occurred in the 1800’s that knocked over some of the huge columns in one of the rooms of the temple which were repaired. We spent some time in the room with the enormous columns. Each column has the name of Ramses II (consisting of a bee, duck and sun) in the exact same position on all the columns so from any area in the room you will see Ramses’s name. This room once had a silver floor and windows from the top allowed sunlight into this giant room with large golden statues.

Outside the room with the giant columns we saw one of the Obiliques that Queen Hatetshut had made during her reign as Queen. We saw it’s pair in Paris. Our guide showed us many other hieroglyphs before taking us to the giant scarab Beatle and the sacred lake just beside the temple. Our guide told us that if we walked around the scarab 3 times and made a wish, it would come true. If woman walked around the scarab 7 times then you would have a baby.

Our guide gave us 30 minutes to wonder around the temple and then we had to meet the group in front of the temple for our ride to our hotel. David and I walked around the giant scarab (guess how many times) and then went back to the room with the giant columns to take more pictures. We quickly looked at the Ramses II temple and then we ran out of time so we left the temple to meet our group who was waiting for us under the shade of a tree. David got his sandals shined by a local 9 year old boy for 5 Egyptian pounds. By this time it was 11:30 am in the morning and it was already warm outside.

We took a horse and carriage to our hotel in Luxor called the Emileo (Room 401). We finally have a hotel room with a Queen Size bed J There is a nice size bathroom, shower, large sink, toilet, A/C, TV and bar fridge!!! This is the nicest hotel room yet.

David and I checked out our room and had a nap. We woke up around 3pm to go to the West bank to see Hapshechut’s temple. We walked to the Nile and took the local ferry across to the West Bank for 4 Egyptian pounds. The locals only pay 1 Egyptian pound to ride the ferry. David said this ferry reminded him of the local ferries we hear on the news that capsize. That gave me a very comforting feeling (sigh!).

We were very easy targets for taxis drivers when we arrived on the other side of the Nile, considering we were the only tourists on board. After much haggling we managed to negotiate a ride to the temple for 5 Egyptian pounds. Unfortunately, by the time we got to the temple they just sold the last ticket 20 minutes earlier and they would not let us in the temple. I was SO disappointed. We told the taxi driver to take us back to the ferry but they wanted to charge us 45 Egyptian pounds. We told them that they were nuts and to stop the taxi to let us out. We had seen a tourist van parked at a local café and we were pretty sure that we could hitch a ride with them back to the ferry for free, so I was not too worried. I got out and started to walk towards the café while David stayed in the taxi to negotiate. He negotiated a 15 Egyptian pound return to the ferry. So I got back into the taxi and we caught the local ferry home. On the way home, we sat on the top deck to get a good view of the Nile and Luxor.

When we arrived back on the East bank we walked along the Nile and watched the sunset over Luxor. It was beautiful. We found a café that had comfortable couches along the Nile and we had a few drinks to relax. Soon we had to get back to the hotel to eat dinner with the group at the roof top restaurant.

After dinner, Sandra gave us a summary of our last days of the tour. This meeting gave David and I an opportunity to arrange an additional stay at the Resort on the Red Sea instead of returning to Cairo with the group on Oct. 23rd. After the meeting, David and I went shopping. We picked up a few souvenirs for our friends and family and we picked up David’s custom made shirt that he had ordered earlier.

We were in bed early since tomorrow we had a very early wake up call to ride a donkey to the Valley of the Kings :-)


Veronica and David

Day 2 – Melodie – October 18th

We woke to see the locks Melodie going through the locks. We spend the morning relaxing and typing in journal entries into a word document so that we could post them when we are in Luxor. We had Lunch with the group on the ship and arrived in Luxor. Our group met at 2 pm so that Sandra (our tour leader) could give us a briefing about Luxor and what we will do in Luxor over the next 2 days.

After the briefing David and I had a good afternoon nap before joining the group for a walking tour of Luxor at 4 pm. Sandra pointed out our hotel, the local and tourist bazaar, good restaurants to try, the Luxor temple (right in the middle of Luxor), an internet café, and bank machine. We left the group to find the internet café where David posted our blogs. We met our Australian friends Kathy and Bruce at the internet café and had a coffee with them. I’ve been drinking a fruit tea called Cacadae which is a fruit tea that is served cold.

We went back to the Melodie to enjoy dinner with the group and then to watch some dancers that Imaginative Traveler had arranged to have on the ship for entertainment that night. The dance show was not very long. There was a girl who did belly dancing that got some of our group up to dance with her. There was also a guy who did a traditional dance from Turkey where is twirled endlessly for over 10 minutes in a very large, very colorful skirt. David had fun taking many pictures of both the dancers.

Soon it was time to return to our cabin to pack to leave Melodie tomorrow morning. :-(

Day 1 Melodie – October 17th -Breakfast, relax until 12 noon, Temple, haggling , swim, relax, dinner and party

Last night David and I had the best sleep yet since our vacation began. I think it helped that our boat did not move during the night.

We woke up and had a small breakfast on the bat. We met with our tour leader at 10 am so she could describe the significance of the next temple we were about to see. It is called the Edfu Temple. Every temple we have seen so far has been better than the previous – with the exception of Abu Simbel.

Edfu is some distance from the Nile so the two tour groups on Melodie too vans through a village and a bazaar to the Temple. We had less than 2 hours to investigate this huge temple and shop in the bazaar. David and I would have spent more time in the temple but we had to pick up something to wear to a costume party tonight on the ship. SO we spent little over an hour at Edfu before going to the bazaar.

This temple had fantastic picture and hieroglyphs everywhere. To get the full effect of how grand the entrance to this temple is we had to cross a large court yard and stand at the very back to see the 38 m high x 180 m wide front. Here you see a large war scene. From the entrance, you enter a court yard where you see statues of Horus. The next room was the library where text was stored – it is now empty.

The next large room was the Hall with a smaller side room that had recipes of incense and perfume. We spent some time here photographing the many hieroglyphs that covered every inch of this room. We then tried to take the stairway to the room but unfortunately the gate was locked and we could not enter. Too bad because we were told that there was a beautiful view from the roof of the temple.

We wondered around the back half of the temple where the sanctuary was a giant block of solid granite that had carved hieroglyphs. The block was taller than David and about 8 feet across with a hollowed out middle. Amazing!!!

We left the sanctuary and walked in and out of the many side rooms until we found a wooden baroque that was stored in a back room behind the sanctuary. This baroque is a replica of the original, which is at the Cairo Museum. The wooden carriage was used to carry offerings to the gods.

We wanted to stay longer but we only had 20 minutes to shop for our “Egyptian” robes that we wanted to wear to the dinner party tonight. So we left to go to the bazaar. This bazaar shopping experience was horrible. We had people shoving each other to get us to go to their store. The competition is fierce since there was about 30 stores all selling almost the exact things. The prices were also ridiculously high as well. In the end David found a dark blue stripped “night shirt” and I found a white embroidered top and blue pants. The trick to haggling is to know what you are looking for and to have a price in mind that you want to pay. Most importantly, you will also have to be willing to walk away. We have been told that Luxor is many times more aggressive than what we experienced at this small village. The group is trying to figure out ways to deal with these aggressive sales people – other than to tell them where to shove it!!!

Exasperated, we made it back to the ship to relax until high tea at 4 pm and dinner at 7 pm.

Dinner tonight was a special Egyptian dinner. There were beautiful bright green veggies (Zucchini and beans) but unfortunately they were very salty to taste anything. I was told later that it was meant to be salty to replace the salts that we lost during the day.

Dinner was followed by a party where they broke us up into 5 groups. We had to pick names for our groups. I was in W-Ankh-er’s away and David’s group was called Dave 5 since there were 3 David’s in his group and this group was number 5. WE had a fun evening of playing games – like making a mummy by wrapping a group member in toilet paper and answering trivia questions about the temples we have seen to date. David and my group tied for second place. Then they had a best and worse costume contest. Our friend Kathy was nominated from her group. The 5 best had to do a little dance and they were judged. David and I are not sure who won this contest but it was fun to watch. J

There was a dance after this but I was too exhausted and wanted to lie down so we relaxed in our room and went to bed.

Tomorrow we sail to Luxor by going through the locks in the morning and arrive sometime in the afternoon. WE spend one more evening on Melodie before being transferred to our hotel in Luxor called the Emilio.

David and I are finding our vacation just flying bye but at a good relaxing pace. We still have lots of energy and we are looking forward to investigating all we can see in Luxor.

Veronica and David :-)

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Photo Summary

Hi All

Here is our "best of the best" pictures from our trip.



Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Trip Photo Summary

Hi All;

Click here our "best of the best" pictures.



Thursday, October 28, 2004

Hello from Heathrow Airport, London, UK

Lots of Egypt Photos...

David and I are at a pub in London, UK. Our flight from Cairo went very well. Last night we decided to go to the bazaar one last time. We met a French Canadian from Montreal who was on her way to Israel to visit family. She had been to the bazaar 3 times so she was able to show us around. She could speak English as well as I could speak French so I was struggling to remember what I have not used in the last 10 years.

We are here in the airport for another 4 hours. I think our flight leaves at 5:30 pm. There are many shops to look at so time will pass quickly.

Being home again will feel GREAT!!!! We are both looking forward to catching up with everyone soon.


Veronica and David

Monday, October 25, 2004

We are at the Hilton in Hurghada!!!! :)

David and I are staying at the Hilton in Hurghada!!! This hotel exceeds all our expectations. We have a beautiful room on the 6th floor of the hotel that faces the Red Sea. Today we spent the day on the beach and then beside the beautiful pool. We had dinner at the restaurant and then met the Imaginative tour manager to pay the balance of our hotel room. He also found a 10:30 am flight for us from Haghada on Oct 27th to Cairo. We arrive at 12noon and we have one more day in Cairo before we leave at 7:30 am on Oct 28th.

Here is the web page of the hotel:

We think this might be our last blog for this trip. When we leave Cairo on Oct 28th we arrive in London around 11 am and have a 5 hour lay over. Then we catch a plan from London to Montreal around 5pm. We arrive back in Montreal at 7:30 pm - too late to catch the last train back to Ottawa so we will stay in a hotel close to the train station and airport in Montreal. We plan to catch a 10:30 am train from Montreal and arrive in Ottawa at 12:05 pm on Friday. Our friend Kathleen has offered to meet us at the train station when we arrive (what a sweet heart!!!).

Looking forward to seeing everyone - especially Sadie and Moe - when we return.

Cheers, hugs, and love,

Veronica and David

Friday, October 22, 2004

Hurghada Day 1 and 2

Yesterday David and I arrived at the 3 Corner's Empirer Hotel. It's a very nice resort hotel that reminds us of our time in Cuba. We have access to 2 pools at the hotel and access to the beach which is one block away.

Our room is HUGE!!! We have a sitting area with a single bed, then a large bedroom with another single bed and a queen size bed, a balcony, a closet area, and a bathroom. Very nice. We wish we could stay here for the duration of our vacation but we have been told that the hotel is totally booked. We can check again tomorrow morning for a vacancy. Fingers and Toes crossed. WE are not really worried since Hurghada is Egypt's fastest growing city and there are hotels everywhere.

Yesterday, David and I unpacked and then relaxed by the hotel pool. Then we went out to dinner with the group at a sea food restaurant. Unfortunately, the food was cold, service sucked and then they tried to over charge us for the food. I stood up and told them that it was not right and they corrected it.

Today we spent the day on the Red Sea snorkelling. It was wonderful to swim among all the beautiful coral and fish. We went to two locations. THe first - I was very nervous and had to get my swimmer's legs. Eventually we caught on! David and I went for 3 swims at the first location. Then after a delicious lunch on board (food aways tastes better outside) we went to the second site that they use for night diving. There were many more little fish here. We were in the water her for 35 minutes straight and then we had to come in because it was after 4pm.

We got back to the hotel to change and shower. Now we are on the internet before we meet our group for the last time for dinner tonight. The group leaves for Cairo tonight at 2:30 am. Their wake up call is 1 am. I'm happy that we are not leaving tonight. It will be nice to stay here and chill out for a few days. We especially would like to snorkel again and hang out at the beach from where we launched.

We are in our Large hotel room for tonight and if we have to move, we have until tomorrow at noon to find our next hotel. (Like I said, we are not worried about finding something).

We will keep you posted.


Veronica and David :)

In Hurghada

I tried posting this entry before we left Luxor but it did not work... Enjoy! Veronica

Tonight is our last night in Luxor. We leave for the resort town (Hurghada) tomorrow at 8am. We are staying at the 3 corner's Empiror hotel.

David and I decided to stay put in Hurghada until Oct 27th and
then we will go to Cairo to catch our plan home early on the 28th.

Today we got up early for a 7 km donkey ride to the Valley of the Kings where we saw 3 tumbs. Then we went for an hour hike in the mountains to see the Valley of the Kings and Queens from above. It was beautiful. Then we saw the tomb worker's village and examples of their tombs...again beautiful. Then we road our donkey's back to the ferry where we had delicious lunch before catching the ferry back to the hotel.

This afternoon David and I slept for 2 hours and then lounged at the
pool on the roof of the hotel. The New Emileo hotel is the nicest that we have stayed at to date.


Veronica and David

Monday, October 18, 2004

Aswan Day 3: October 16th Breakfast at the hotel, Felucca ride on the Nile, then board our cruise ship – Melody

Our group got up early today to take a water taxi to the other side of the Nile to ride camels to a Nubian Village to look at a temple. David and I decided against the camel ride so that we could enjoy another Felucca ride on the Nile alone.

We ate a small breakfast at the hotel and then walked 2 blocks to the Nile where we were able to negotiate an hour long Felucca ride for 50 Egyptian pounds. We had a very large Felucca all to ourselves that was much larger than the one the group was on the other day.

We sailed back and forth on the Nile. Part way through our cruise, the younger of people brought out a bag of jewelry for sale. David spotted a beautiful hematite bracelet to replace the one that I had lost last spring. I found a beaded necklace that was purple, blue, and green. The boy also gave David and me a scented necklace – we know David’s sister Stephanie would just love.

After an hour of sailing we returned to shore but at a different location so we took a taxi back to the hotel for 5 Egyptian pounds. David and I packed our bags before we left for our Felucca ride so we only had to go back to our rooms to check out of our rooms.

We met the group at 11:30 am in the hotel lobby and we boarded vans to take us to our ship – the Melodie. Fortunately, for us – Amy, or Antique Amy – has finally been retired and the tour company purchased a new boat. We’ve been upgraded!!! J Melodie is a smaller cruise ship than what we have seen in Aswan. She has 42 cabins. When David and I boarded the ship and we were assigned our room, we were surprised to find another couple already unpacked in our room. We guess they didn’t like the room they were assigned so they took ours since the door was open. So the people at the reception desk found a new room for us. We unpacked and then asked the porters to put the two single beds together – and they surprised us by asking us if we would like to move to a room with a Queen Size bed? YES!! So we went back to the room again and repacked to move to the next room.

Our room has a Queen size bed, mirror and little shelf/narrow desk to put our stuff on, many hocks everywhere, closet, and small bathroom with shower. The other rooms with twin beds have overhead shelves which we do not have. Instead we have room under the bed to store our stuff.

After getting settled in our new room, we had lunch with the group on the ship. The rest of the afternoon we enjoyed our time by sitting in the pool. The pool is twice the size of David’s hot tub which is a good size to allow about 12 people to sit in it. The size makes it a little difficult to swim in. The water is initially ice cold but the sun warms it very quickly.

Some time in the afternoon we pulled ashore to look at our first Temple along the Nile. This temple is called Kom Ombol (sp?). We arrived at the temple at 5 pm and our tour guide gave us a short description of the Temple. Then we went on land to investigate the Temple. We were so lucky that we decided to see the temple as soon as possible because we timed the sun set perfectly, which made the hieroglyphs more beautiful to look at. This temple is dedicated to two gods: crocodiles and Horus. The people who built this temple made sure that the two gods were equally pleased by making sure that the two sides of the temple was a mirror image. There were many hieroglyphs that we had not seen before like an Ankh with arms holding hooks and a woman wearing a flower patterned dress. There was also a smaller temple off to the side with two mummified crocodiles that were 2500 years old. This temple also had a crocodile pond (empty and dry) and a Milometer.

The sun was setting and we were getting thirsty so we made our way back to the boat. Unknown to us, they moved our boat so that larger boats could moored onto each other.
At one point, David and I counted 9 lined up side by side. These boats docked here so that that the tourists could visit the Temple for a few hours. Melodie was one of a few boats that were staying there for the evening. It was amazing to see all 9 boats leave the port in unison to sail to Aswan, the direction we had just come from.

I was really tired and wanted to work on our journal so I decided to lay low while David went out with some of the group to have a SheShaw (smoking pipe) at a Nubian camp. He said that he was enjoying the Sheshaw by sharing it with 4 other women from our group ;0)

Tomorrow we continue to sail on the Melodie and we stop to see the Temple.

Veronica & David

Aswan Day 2: October 15th Abu Simbel, nap, dinner on the Nile, internet café and bazaar

Today was a very early morning. We had a 3 am wake up call to board our bus to Abu Simbel. We tossed and turned all night because we thought we would miss our wakeup call.

We boarded the bus with our boxed breakfast. The bus was very quiet since everyone wanted to sleep. I was wide awake so I worked on my crocheting project for an hour. For an hour, we waited in a long line of buses for the police escort to Abu Simbel. Around 4:40 am the convoy was finally moving. I fell asleep and woke up in time to have breakfast. When we arrived at Abu Simbel, we had a quick washroom break while the other tour guide bought our tickets to the temples.

We had an hour to explore two temples. The first temple we saw was a larger temple built by Ramses II for him and his wife. The second temple is smaller (right next to the larger temple) and was built for his wife and the queens. The large temple has many little room s with hieroglyphs of battle sceens. You enter a very large room from the entrance where there are large pillars with very large statues. We were allowed to take photos without a flash or video. David had fun taking lots of photos of very beautiful walls. We thought the large room in the centre of the temple was warm, until we entered one of the many smaller rooms on the side. The temperature in these smaller rooms was at least 5 C warmer than the large room. Again the smaller rooms had walls that were highly decorated with battle scenes.

The highlight of the King’s Temple (aside from the fact that they moved these beautiful temples in the 1960’s to save it from the rising waters of the Lake that surrounds the temple when they built the high dam) is there are four large statues sitting together at the very back room of the temple. The four statues are of Ramses and his fellow gods. Twice a year the sun enters this back room and lights one statue for 20 minutes to signify Ramses coronations and another statue to signify his the date of his death. We just missed the Oct 21st date by a few days. The truth is that the sun always reaches these statues – even today when we visited the temple.

Because of the heat, all the buses arrive at the very same time so there is a huge crush of people going into the large temple. When we were in the King’s temple, there was no real organization and everyone was crushing each other to see the 4 statues in the back room. So after quickly viewing the statues, David and I decided it was time to leave. When we exited the King’s temple we were surprised to see that there was hardly anyone standing outside the King’s temple. When you visit Abu Simbel, we suggest that you ignore the tour guide’s recommendation and visit the smaller Queen’s Temple first so you avoid the big crowd and by the time you are done visiting the Queen’s Temple, the large crowd will be through the King’s Temple and you will have a much more enjoyable visit.

Another thing to note: both David and I were horrified to see the amount of graffiti on the legs of the giant statues outside the entrance of the King’s Temple. People in the 1800’s must have been allowed to climb these statues and put there names on it. We saw many Italian names with dates next to them in the 1800’s. And I was worried about simply touching the walls of the temple. Some people!!!!

After taking a couple of pictures of us in front of the large King’s temple, we visited the Queen’s Temple. By this time everyone that was in the King’s Temple were lining up to see the Queen’s Temple, so we decided just to enjoy it from the outside. David took beautiful pictures of all the statues in front of the Queen’s Temple. (Stephanie would have loved to be here.)

Soon it was time to meet our group at the café at the entrance of the area. Abu Simbel, the site, is situated on a spit of land that is surrounded by Lake Nazzier. The water looks clean and blue and I really wanted to go for a swim but our tour guide told us that crocodiles lived in the lake so it is too dangerous for anyone to swim in it. Too bad!

The site itself is very well kept. There is a stone pathway that leads you to the two temples and then back to the café in a giant loop. As we were making our way back to the café, we noticed a foot path up that back of the two temples. David saw this as an opportunity to take a ‘cool’ picture of the temples from up above, but unfortunately a guard stopped him before he was able to make his way to the top of the hill.

We took our bus back to Aswan. I was too awake to nap so I worked on my crocheting. It was only 9 am in the morning and we had already seen two magnificent temples.

The dessert is very beautiful and barren but I was happy to be in an air conditioned bus. We could feel the temperatures rising even at 9 am in the morning. The surrounding geography of this area is mostly sand with rocky hill outcrops. We saw wild dogs running in the sand away from the highway we were traveling on. Other than that, we did not see any wild life.

On the way back to our hotel, our bus drove over the small Nile dam and we could see the High dam in the distance.

We had a free day in Aswan, so David and I went back to the hotel to drop off our stuff and find lunch in Aswan. Unfortunately, the restaurant that we ate at yesterday was closed because of Ramadan but we were able to find another restaurant very close to the hotel. For lunch we had chicken, potatoes, rice, salad, water and pop for 24 Egyptian pounds. Very cheap.

We had a nice afternoon nap before finding dinner at a restaurant along the Nile. The restaurant was beautifully decorated with pictures of Egypt, rock samples, Egyptian crafts, and jewelry. My stomach was not happy, mostly because we woke up too early and the heat. From the restaurant we walked along the Nile and then turned into Aswan to investigate the bazaar. We found an internet café to post a quick blog to everyone. Then we walked back to our hotel where we had drinks with the group.

Aswan Day 1: October 14 – Our first day in Aswan, train ride and dinner at a Nubian Village

Last night we road the train from Cairo to Aswan. The train ride was only 13 hours long. We boarded the train at Cairo’s train station around 8pm and arrived shortly after 9:30 am the next day. David and I were in a sleeping compartment with a wash basin. We had bunk beds and they served us a meal on the train that was very much like what you would get on an airplane. The time on the train went very fast. By the time we had dinner and chatted with our friends Kathy and Bruce, it was time for bed. There was a train car with a bar in it but it was too smoky for us to enjoy. We were able to sleep a few hours on the train even though we tossed and turned for hours. L

This morning we had breakfast on the train before we arrived at Aswan. From the Aswan train station, we took taxis to the Cleopatra Hotel. This hotel is old like the Salma hotel in Cairo but clean and had a nice westernized restaurant on the main floor. We brought our bags to our room, had a shower, and had a nap. Everyone else in the group chose to visit the Egyptian high dam which resulted in flooding the Nile valley and moving Abu Simbel.

After our nap, we went looking for lunch. Aswan is smaller than Cairo, less traffic, but dirtier and more flies. It is also just as hot as Cairo at lunch time. There are many more local restaurants close to our hotel than in Cairo. These local restaurants serve very good and very inexpensive food. We had cooked potatoes, rice, bread, salad (tabulie), and ¼ chicken for 21 Egyptian pounds (which equals $4 US) for the both of us. Lunch was very delicious.

Then we went to look for a bank machine so that we could pay our fees for our day excursion to Abu Simbel tomorrow and our tipping kitty. We had great difficulty finding a bank machine that would work (one was rebooting OS2 over and over again). Finally after 4 banks we were lucky to find one that accepted our card and gave us the correct amount of money. One bank machine would only give 300 Egyptian pounds.

From the bank, we took a taxi back to the hotel to meet our tour guide for a Felucca ride and dinner at a Nubian Village. (When David and I heard of this event initially on the train from our tour guide, we both heard Dinner and a Movie, instead of Nubian) J

The Felucca ride was very relaxing, although our boat was very full and two would have been more comfortable. Our Felucca stopped at a beautiful Island in the middle of the Nile River called Elephantine Island. Here we saw many cats, just like in Cairo, but here they were better fed and were able to drink the water from the water that was used to water the beautiful flowers in the garden. David and I spent 45 minutes wandering around and taking pictures.

Then we sailed to the Old Cataract hotel where the Agatha Christie movie was filmed “Death on the Nile”. Here we switched to a motorized boat to go to the Nubian Village for dinner. Before dinner all the women in the group got temporary tattoos called Hanna. I got a simple vine around my ankle. The woman doing the Hanna squeezed black ink onto my skin through a tube that looked like a cake decorating tube. Then we had to wait 1.5 hours for it to dry, before you can pick off the excess ink. I think it will last about a week.

For dinner we had the same food we had for lunch and it was delicious. Then we got back into the boat and a taxi ride back to our hotel. David went to the bar with some people from the group for a beer. I was too tired to join the group and wanted to get to bed early since we were up at 3am to go to Abu Simbel.

Cairo Day 6: October 13th : We celebrate our 11th monthiversary by visiting the pyramids in the morning, then a papyrus museum, then board the overnig

Today we spent the morning at the pyramids of Giza. I’m happy that David and I went there on our own since we were able to walk around the largest of the pyramids that was not covered in the tour. We also entered a tomb in an adjacent pyramid.

This time our tour began by going into the smallest of the three tombs. For 20 Egyptian pounds we took a 15 minute walk into and out of this pyramid. The walk into the burial chamber is a very long, very narrow ramp with two way traffic. David did very well by not bumping his head. When we got to the level where the burial chamber was, I went scurrying into a room and picked up a small pebble of limestone. Then we went further down into the pyramid to the main burial chamber. It was not an impressive room. Everything has been removed and it is just a chamber with a curved ceiling. After climbing out of the pyramids, we joined Ron, Sue, Bruce and Kathy for a walk around this pyramid. We were able to identify the three queen pyramids behind the pyramid we entered. David paid a little money to climb one of the queen pyramids and got some fantastic pictures of the three giant pyramids. I went to the end of a long strip of land and was able to film the three queen pyramids (One of which David was on), the three Kings pyramids and another 3 queen pyramids. Apparently all pyramids in Egypt have 3 queen pyramids (one for a queen and two for daughters of the king). Over all there are over 90 king pyramids in Egypt, each with 3 queen pyramids.

We spent the entire morning looking at the pyramids from different locations and taking lots of photos. We ended the morning with free time in the location where David and I went. This time we entered the area where the mummified the Kings that were kept in the pyramids. This building is located beside the Sphinx. We were able to get closer to the Sphinx this time.

From pyramids of Giza, we went to a papyrus museum. There, we learned how real papyrus paper is made. The artificial paper is made from banana leaves. The papyrus trunk is cut into strips and then they are soaked in water over night so that the sugars can come out of the strips. Then these stripes are arranged on vertically and one horizontally until a square sheet is made. This sheet is pressed and dried. Real papyrus can be washed and reused. You can also squeeze it when it is wet and lay it out to dry and it will become smooth again. This papyrus museum had many examples with art on them that you could purchase.

Then we asked the bus driver to take us to the same restaurant that we went to as a group the first night. Everyone wanted to go back there again since the restaurant that our tour guide took us to yesterday was terrible.

We had a few hours to ourselves to email, clean up and then board the bus to the train station to Aswan. A 12 hour train ride along the Nile. It should be an adventure.

WE will email more soon.
Veronica and David

Day 5 – October 12th Egyptian Museum, Citadel, and Bazaar

We are quickly loosing track of time. We think we missed Turkey Monday. I hope everyone had some extra pumpkin pie for David and me.

We got up early and met our group for breakfast at the hotel. We met our tour guide for the day after breakfast. His name is Sal and he is an Egyptologist. He earned his PhD in Egyptology – mummification after 10 years of school. He did his M.Sc. in Germany and his PhD in California. He has been a tour guide for 12 years.

He is an excellent tour guide. He told us so much about Cairo and artifacts at the museum. He is also an excellent story teller. The tour in the museum was 3 hours long. He explained the significance of several small exhibits in the entrance of the museum. Like the jewelry of the first Queen of Egypt. He also showed us perfume bottles that still has perfume in them after 5 thousand years.

Sal also showed us a head from the statue of the first queen of Egypt (Queen Hatshepsut). She was the only child of a King of Egypt but could not become queen because she was a woman. So she moved to South Egypt and became a queen by proving her strength and loyalty to her people. The true story was that she had fallen in love with her older tutor and became pregnant so she had to leave Northern Egypt to have her child. She eventually returned to N. Egypt to become Queen. Her son wanted to become King so he had her killed and removed all her statues from Egypt. The fragment that Sal showed us was one of the few archeologists were able to find.

Then he took us to see a couple of very interesting Mummies. Apparently there will be a National Geographic Special about these two mummies on Dec 23rd this year on the Discovery channel. One of the mummy’s names was Ptolemaic Ekhmim. He was a tax collector and was very wealthy but he was mummified in the worst way. His mummy shrank over the centuries so that it no longer fits its box. It was wrapped in the poorest of linens and his neck was broken. Apparently no one liked him while he was alive including his wife who ordered a very cheap burial for her husband. She on the other hand spent all his money on her burial. She is nicked named the “sleeping lady”. Normally it takes approximately 40 days to mummify a body. She was mummified over twice that amount of time. Her skin apparently looks as real as the day she died. She also had solid gold organs to replace the ones that were removed during mummification. The significance of her husband’s mummy was that through tests scientists were able to determine that he had leukemia for over 40 years. He died at the age of 88. Apparently he had the antibody for leukemia. Anyways, Sal said that this mummy is the key to curing cancer. So we plan watch the show near Christmas to learn more about this.

From the husband and wife mummy, Sal took us to see the King Tutamkahamun exhibit. He told us that King Tutamkahamun became king at the age of 9. Since no one wanted to listen to a child, the priests took over the reign of the king. He was given lots of money to change the religion of Egypt. This caused a great amount of controversy. King Tutamkahamun also fell in love with a young girl whose parents did not support this new religion, so he could not marry her. When he was 17 he wrote a law to change the religion of Egypt, which really upset the priests so in the end they murdered him by hitting him on the back of the head in the middle of the night. The Egyptologists learned about all this by reading the confession of the priests on the walls of the tomb. Since the priests confessed to this murder, they were going to go to heaven anyways. SO the priests quickly mummified King Tutamkahamun in a matter of hours. They also did not trust the guards to look after his tomb so they did it themselves for hundreds of years, mainly because they did not want their secret to be told. SO this is one reason why all his treasures were not found until 1921.

After the King Tutamkahamun exhibit we had 45 minutes on our own. David and I went back to a room where we saw a tomb that was on exhibit. Then I wanted to go back to the husband and wife mummies to get more information.

From the museum, we ate lunch at a tourist restaurant near the pyramids at Giza. The food initially was excellent. Most meals begin with an appetizer of hummus, fresh bread, salad that looks like salsa, and deep fried eggplant. The meal was not that good. David had an Egyptian meal that consisted of tomato sauce, rice and egg. I had lamb on rice, but there was very little lamb and more unidentifiable meat.

After lunch we went to the Citadel. The Citadel is old Cairo. Inside the Citadel is a beautiful mosque created by Mohammed Ali who was a leader of Egypt. He wanted to create a place where all religious people could celebrate. From the outside it looks very dirty. It was cleaned for the millennium but now the 7 cm thick silver domes are covered with brown dirt. Like everything else in Cairo, the domes are covered in dust and you can not tell that they are made of Silver. We went into a huge court yard where made of Alabaster stone. The mosque has beautiful copper windows – one for each tribe in Egypt. Each window has a lily and an eye for protection. When you enter the court yard you see a very large impressive decorative fountain. Also in the court yard is a clock that the French gave the Egyptians in exchange for the Obelisque that we saw while in Paris, France. We think the French did much better than the Egyptians since the beautiful ornamental clock has never worked.

Inside the mosque there are gigantic chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. The domes are decorated in mostly dark greens. When we entered the mosque we were asked to remove our shoes and not to let the soles of our shoes to touch the carpets in the mosque. We also saw the tomb of Mohammed Ali, the only person ever to be buried in a mosque.

After sitting in the mosque for a few minutes, we ventured outside for a wonderful panoramic view of Cairo.

From the Citadel we went to the Khan El Khlili bazaar. The bazaar is very loud and very busy. It consists of a maze of streets and side alley ways with very small shops. You quickly realize that most of the shops sell the same items. The challenge is to determine which shop to haggle in for the best price.

Haggling in Egypt is fun but a challenge. Once you find the item you would like to purchase and you are sure that it is authentic you say to the store keep “how much?” Then the hardest part (for me) is keeping quiet. The store keep will say a price, then you have to put down the item and say no while walking away. They then chase you and say “how much?” Then you ask again “how much?” and they normally lower their original price. From this point you have a starting price to work with. You can then say half this price and work from there. David and I have not really purchased many items yet, just a few items. We are mostly looking and practicing our haggling skills so that when we go to Luxor – hopefully we will get a fair price for what we would like to buy.

Met the tour leader for dinner. She took us to a terrible restaurant near our hotel. It’s obvious that the restaurant owners were taking advantage of the tour guides in brining us there. The food was horrible and the service was worse. They only brought us our micro waved heated food after I became testy with the waiter. They also did not bring us anything to drink unless we waved them down. We are going planning to complain to Sandra soon about this. We got home late from the restaurant to pack. We leave for Aswan tomorrow night after spending a day to see the King’s Pyramids at Giza.

David and Veronica

Day 4: October 11th – our last free day in Cairo before joining the tour group

Today, David and I wanted to have a free day before joining our tour group tonight at the hotel. After breakfast at the hotel, we found a fabulous café around the corner for REAL coffee. This café was amazing. We were instantly transported back into North America. The café looked just like a Second Cup. The floors were dark hardwood with tile flooring and the chairs matched the paint on the walls. They used a painting technique that matched the pattern of material on the chairs as well. We had cappuccino and espresso. It gave us a chance to review the pictures from the day before and I could write up the blog.
I hardly every gush about a public washroom (which they refer to as a toilet here) but this public washroom was gorgeous. It was clean (a rarity in Cairo), had toilet paper, and had a beautiful sink filled with granite pebbles which the Fawcett poured water into it. I took a picture of it and told the store clerk that he had the nicest publish washroom in all of Cairo.

From the coffee shop, we found our neighborhood internet café to post our blog and catch up with email. It was nice to receive emails from family and friends.

Next we walked to the closest busy road to catch a taxi. We haggled for a taxi ride to the Cairo tower for 10 Egyptian pounds. We found a very friendly English speaking taxi driver. Tried as he did, he really wanted us to hire him for the day. We politely told him that we just wanted to go to the Cairo Tower and gave him a Canadian flag pin when we left his taxi.

The Cairo Tower is something that I’m glad we did. It is something that the tour does not cover. For 40 Egyptian pounds each, we took an elevator to the top to see all of Cairo. We were surprised to see a sports club that had gardens, a horse track, tennis courts, and pools right below the tower. The greatest challenge David and I have been having while staying in Cairo is finding a restaurant to eat at. We’ve discovered that you have to start looking at least 45 minutes before you are hungry to find a restaurant. Once you find one, service is generally fast and the food is good, esp. if you go to a local restaurant. From the tower, David and I saw a few restaurants along the Nile, which we wanted to try. We misjudged the distance that we had to walk to the nearest boat restaurant and we ended up walking 45 minutes before we found one that we wanted to try. We wanted a rather large lunch because we knew we were going to eat one big meal that day and this would be it. The food on the boat was delicious and we saw many other boats sailing on the Nile. Unfortunately this restaurant was not one that you eat while you sailed on the Nile. L

We were thinking of doing another felucca ride but we were tired and we wanted to rest before meeting our tour group at 7pm, so we headed back to the hotel by taxi.

Since we were looking for a taxi after 3 pm (rush hour in Cairo) it took a while to find a taxi. We negotiated 15 Egyptian pounds to share a taxi with a French diplomat. She told us how much she detested Cairo and was hoping to be transferred to Istanbul in the next year. She also told us never to pay more than 5 pounds for a taxi in downtown Cairo, no matter the traffic. We thanked her and then we were off to find our hotel. Luckily the taxi driver had been there before and was able to find the Salma hotel by going through the back streets.

We relaxed a little before meeting our tour group at the hotel bar. It was too loud so we went up to the roof top patio to talk. There are 15 people in our group:

Kati and David are from London, England. Kati just finished her PhD in Child Psychology. Her thesis was in eating disorders. David does Management consulting. They are both from London England and are in their mid-twenties.

Kathy and Bruce who we met earlier are very friendly Aussies from Cannibury Australia. Bruce is retired from the government where he traveled all around the world with the Foreign Service. Kathy works at a government office which is responsible for communicating world events to the critical government offices in Australia. They both have children from previous marriages. It’s funny that Bruce has a cat (black and white – like Moses) and Kathy has a dog. Unfortunately they lost their home and all their possessions last year in the forest fires in Australia. Since then they have been able to buy a new house. They told us how generous companies in Australia were to help people who lost their homes during the fires – much like what happened in Kelowna last summer.

Peter and Marcia: Peter is a plumber and they are both from Australia. They are planning to build a house on their property (on a hill) when they return from this vacation. They have children from previous marriages and a dog.

Desiray (lawyer) and her niece Claire (midwife) from Dublin, Ireland. Claire is 26 and is a mid wife. She was a nurse and then went back to school to become a midwife.

Jamie (accountant) from Australia

Ron ( who is a retired telecommunication computer programmer) and Sue ( who is a retired secretary from a bank in London) from London, England. They retired young so that they could travel. They have been to all places in Africa and they have been to the Himalayan Mountains. I’m sure they have been to many more places – we just have not learned about them yet.

A blond woman who is a planner from London, England

Craig from Oregon who is a computer programmer. He is the only American in our tour group so everyone is asking him about the up coming American elections in November. He is voting for Bush (at the moment).

Our tour guide is named Sandra and she is from ???. She started this position 3 months ago. She is a little nervous and a little difficult to get to know. She is very professional though and told us from the very start what her responsibilities are. Her presentations could be a little more relaxed – but they are full of information.

At 9 pm everyone was starved so Kathy and Bruce asked us where our favorite restaurant was and we ended up taking 11 of the 15 out for dinner. We didn’t get home until late but it gave us a great chance to get to know everyone.

Tomorrow is a very full day. Museum, Citadel, and then the bazaar. Phew!

We will email more soon.
Veronica and David

Day 3: October 10th David and I investigate the Egyptian Museum and have a Felucca ride on the Nile

Today David and I went to the Egyptian museum. It cost us 20 Egyptian pounds each and unfortunately, we could not bring our camera into the museum. I was very disappointed b/c our guide books told us that we would have a 10 Egyptian pound charge for a camera (100 Egyptian pounds for camcorder). They would not let people bring phones into the museum either since I guess they have caught on to cameras on phones. We were allowed to take photos outside of the museum before we checked our camera. Our guide book told us about water lilies in a pool in front of the museum that have psychoactive effects and the ancient Egyptians used to put the peddles of these flowers in tea and smoked it. David took a picture of the pool of flowers.

David and I wondered through half the first floor and half the second floor of the museum before we became over saturated. There is so much to see. Unfortunately only 20% of the exhibits are labeled (in three languages: Arabic, French, and English). There are rooms full of stone statues, sarcophaguses, and mummies. There was a beautiful exhibit of Egyptian jewelry. I really liked the necklaces that had rows of bright colored beads. There was a mirror on exhibit that had a beautiful handle with a face of a woman on it.

The high light of the museum for us was the King Tutankhamun exhibit. They devoted a wing of the museum to the artifacts they found in his tomb. There were golden beds, large cases that looked like they could have been ancient crates that held everything in the tomb. Finally they had a room that held his golden mask and two of the three sarcophaguses. The third was a wooden box that was not on display. The two that were on display were made of solid gold. His face mask was put on the face of the mummy. It was in a glass case where you could see the underside of the mask. They also had golden finger and toe caps (?) that were found on his body and silver and gold nails that were used to close the coffin. Apparently, his body is still in the tomb in Luxor. David commented that they must have destroyed the tomb to get the amount of artifact and they size of artifacts out of the tomb. I hope we will get to see his tomb when we are in Luxor.

After about 2 hours David and I were ready for lunch. We found a small restaurant and we had some chicken on a bun. We asked for Turkish coffee and the manager of the store said to us “Please wait 5 minutes”. We figured that he went around the corner to get it for us.

After lunch we walked along the Nile and found someone to give us a Felucca ride on the Nile. Our guide book told us that most people take a Felucca ride at sunset. When we were walking along the Nile we noticed that there were no sail boats on the Nile at all., and we started to thing this was a bad idea. We negotiated an hour ride for 50 Egyptian pounds. It was so relaxing and the best part was that David and I were the only ones on the Felucca. We will have another opportunity to do this on our tour when we are in Aswan. If we decide to come back to Cairo with our tour group, we will definitely do this again before leaving Cairo. We took lots of photos of the Nile from the Felucca which David will post with this blog.

After our Felucca ride we made our way back to the hotel by taxi to meet our Australian friends for dinner. We found another restaurant along Nile Street that was not nearly as good as the one we found the night before. Then we found an internet café where we could catch up on our email and bloging in a 4 story computer mall. There were countless number of little stores selling all sorts of computer stuff. We ended our day by having a Stella (beer) on the roof top bar and enjoying the sweets we picked up on our walk home.

David: WOW – a 4 story computer mall – wow – they had a laptop that looked like it weighed only 2 lbs – 1 / 2 of mine. Life is good eh???

Tomorrow is David and my free day before the tour begins on Tuesday. We meet our tour guide Sandra tomorrow evening at 7pm. Tuesday will be a VERY full day. We see the Egyptian Museum, the Citadel, and the Bazaar all in one day. Wed. we go back to Giza in the morning and have a free afternoon before boarding our train to Aswan (13 hour train ride).

After three days on wondering the streets of Cairo we actually know our way around – and where we are on the map. This is much more than we can say for the local taxis. They really don’t seem to know the city too well.

Veronica and David