Thursday, October 28, 2004

Hello from Heathrow Airport, London, UK

Lots of Egypt Photos...

http://community.webshots.com/album/207005813nOxxae

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.

hugs,

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:

www.hilton.com/worldwideresorts

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.

Cheers,

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.

Cheers,

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.

Cheers,
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.
Cheers,
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.

Cheers,
Veronica and David

Friday, October 15, 2004

Hi From Aswan

Hi All;

We're in Aswan today and having lots of fun.

We got up at 3:00 am to go to ABU SIMBEL - wow - pretty amazing. We' haven't uploaded any of our pictures yet - but you can look at others by clicking on ... http://homepage.powerup.com.au/~ancient/abus.htm.

Ahh - neither of us know what day of the week it is - hmmm - maybe that's okay :-) Tomorrow we're heading out on our boat for a 3 day cruise up to Luxor. We'll have pretty limited access to the internet (and even if we have good access we might be too busy / relaxing to internet much).

We took lots of good pictures today - so we'll try to post them, and some more notes before we leave.

We miss everybody - but of course Moe and Sadie :-)

Love,

D&V

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Last Day in Cairo :-)

Hi There;

Just a quick note to say we're leaving Cairo tonight on a sleeper train for Aswan. The tour is keeping us pretty busy - so our emails will be off and on for the next two weeks.

Yesterday we went to the Museum, Citadel, and the bazzar. Today we were at the pyramids at Giza and we only have a few hours of free time before we leave. We will try to email you when we can. We are excitted to see Abu Simbel in the next few days.


Cheers,

D&V

Monday, October 11, 2004

Cairo - Day 3

More pictures http://community.webshots.com/album/198819619VdRGFy


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, sarcoffiscuses, 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 Tut 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 sarcofficuses. 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.

Cheers,Veronica and David
PS - We're loosing track of time - isn't it turkey day today???

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Cairo - Day 2

Pictures... http://community.webshots.com/album/198364739FlbcEV

Today we got up early and hired an English speaking taxi driver for the day with the help of the hotel receptionist. David negotiated a price of 130 Egyptian pounds for the whole day of sight seeing the pyramids outside of Cairo. The original price was 170 Egyptian pounds. David is getting much better at his bartering skills J

We drove from Cairo to the three huge pyramids at GIZA. They are simply outstanding. At this site there were many tourists and many locals trying to sell pyramid souvenirs, hats, camel rides, donkey rides, and cold drinks. The sphinx is the first monument you see. It is directly in front of the largest pyramid which has smooth edges at the very top. David and I took many pictures of the Sphinx. David included these pictures in the blog from today. You could imagine how beautiful this was when it was first built. You can tell that the feet have been rebuilt and amount of weathering is significant.

From the Sphinx we walked up a long paved road that brings you closer to the pyramids. This road had many tourist buses and David and I noticed that we were one of very few tourists using the road to walk up it. About half way up we noticed that you could enter a tomb on the right, which was included in our entrance ticket. A guard showed us the original door of the tomb and then took us to where the body was found. We peered into a large crypt where you could see real human bones. The pathway was extremely narrow and the ceilings were very low. It reminded me of caving, minus the water up to my waist.

We continued up the paved road and walked around the pyramid with the smooth sides near the top. We could walk along the very bottom perimeter of the pyramid, which made a much easier path than trying to walk through the powdery sand. We took pictures of us with the Tourist guards at this pyramid and bought a drink from an old man and his donkey behind the pyramid. Everyone was trying to sell us a ride on a camel or donkey. Neither David nor I were interested in doing this. I believe it is part of our tour when we go to the Valley of the Kings when we are in Luxor.

We collected pebbles from the base of the large pyramid. I found a beautiful alabaster pebble and we collected several limestone pebbles.

From Giza our taxi driver took us to the step pyramid in Saqqara. In the distance you can see the pyramids at Giza. The entrance price to see this pyramid was the same as the ones at Giza, 40 Egyptian pounds for the both of us (9 US dollars). This tourist site was much quieter. There were fewer people trying to sell you things.

The taxi driver was able to drive us to the top of the hill where you can see the step pyramid. He dropped us off at the entrance where you can buy a ticket. You enter through a large entrance way with many pillars into a large quart yard. To your right you can see the step pyramid. The step pyramid looks much older than the ones we saw at Giza. We walked around to the back of the pyramid, where we could see the pyramids at Giza and Memphis in the distance. Behind the step pyramid they had enclosed a stone statue in a rock chamber where you could peer through eye holes to look at it. David and I took photos of the statue. I hope it turns out. We saw a group of tourists meditating at the base of the pyramid. After walking around the base of the pyramid we decided to head back to the hotel and have a nap.

Today was extremely warm in the dessert where the pyramids where. We drank about 2 litres of water between the two of us. Since there were few restaurants around the pyramids we only had a snack for lunch.

On the way back to the hotel our taxi driver nearly hit a pedestrian. He was helping us look for fruit stands and was distracted for a second. When he turned his attention back to the road a pedestrian stepped right out in front of our car and we came to a screeching halt. There was no time to grab the holy shit handles. Luckily the breaks on the taxi were working!

Once safely back at our hotel, we took a shower and a cat nap. Then we had to find dinner. We had much better luck today. Since today is Saturday and not a day of prayer we noticed that there were many more shops and restaurants opened. We were able to walk to our hotel and quickly find a BBQ chicken restaurant. It looked like a fast food restaurant so we kept looking along Nile Street. Right around the corner from the BBQ restaurant we found an Arabic restaurant that we thought would be our equivalent to a Swiss Chalet back home. We had delicious hummus and two types of bread and delicious grape vine leaves for an appetizer. I had a chicken wrap with vegetables (cucumbers and tomatoes on the side) and David had a beef platter. Then we had coffee. The food was delicious and reasonably priced. We saw several items on the menu that we would like to try. We might return tomorrow with two Australians that we met this morning while eating breakfast - who are on our tour. Their names are Kathy and Bruce. They just spent a month in London and Ireland and now they will be on our tour before returning to their home in Cambra, Australia.

We found a pastry place that sold gelato on the way home to our hotel. We bought a variety of sweets and two small cups of gelato. It was delicious. We manage to make our way back to the hotel without the help of a taxi tonight. We bumped into Kathy and Bruce at the entrance of our hotel and we went up to the roof top bar with them for a beer and to share our sweet treats with them. They are very friendly and it will be fun to travel with them over the next two weeks.

Tomorrow we plan to take a boat ride on the Nile on a Felucca and then go to a market, maybe the Citadel.

Cheers,
Veronica and David


Saturday, October 09, 2004

Cairo and Pyramid Photos

This is pretty cool - enjoy

D&V

http://community.webshots.com/album/197504284AOPsob

More - Cairo

We are in Cairo! Somewhere completely far from home. The climate here feels very much like Cuba. There are palm trees, very narrow streets. So far we have seen a SMART car but no mini’s. There are Lada’s everywhere!

We woke up around 8:30 am and had breakfast at the hotel (SALMA hotel). We were the only ones in the restaurant initially. Then 3 Australians appeared. They were leaving Cairo this afternoon after being here for 2 weeks. They did a one week tour with Imaginative Traveler (our tour group). Their only complaint was that they wanted you to get up extremely early on most days to see tourist places. They said that once they got to Aswan they were too exhausted and ill to do the one day trip to Abu Simbel and they were very disappointed that they were not able to do this.

As I’m writing this journal entry, David and I are on the roof top of our hotel where there is a patio bar (that does not open for another 2 hours). Off to my left, between many apartment buildings with satellite dishes we can actually see the Pyramids! I can’t believe they are right in front of us. David took a few photos and they are included in this blog.

So it was the Australian tourists who told us about the terrible bombing in the resort area near Dahab (boarder of Isreal). David and I were anxious to find an internet café to tell everyone that we were ok. Last night we called my brother and David’s mom and left messages that we arrived in Cairo safely. We still wanted to get our message out. The porter at our hotel was able to find 5 internet cafes…all closed since Friday’s is like our Sunday’s in Canada. It is a day of prayer and most businesses are closed or open late. Finally he found one that was open. It was a little store shop that had computers with Windows XP. We read Goggle news about the bombing and tried to get information at the British and Canadian Embassy’s but their web pages were not updated yet. We are now considering staying on the West Side of the Red Sea if we decide to go to a resort at the end of the our tour. We will avoid the area of the terrorist attacks.

From the internet café, we wondered around the neighborhood and bought 2 bottles of water. The Australians strongly suggested that we drink lots of water everyday. We then took a taxi to the Cairo Museum. We were able to get there by taxi for 10 Egyptian pounds. WE wondered around the neighborhood around the museum but did not go into the museum. We will be going in the museum when we join our tour on Monday.

The people we meet on the street are extremely friendly. Someone approached us and explained to us that everyone was a prayer and that we would not be able to find an open restaurant until after 1:15 pm. He then took us to his perfume shop and showed us the fragrances he was selling. We ended up buying a very small bottle called Arabian Knights from him. I asked David to take a photo of us in his store. I thought the photo was worth the price we paid. We quickly discovered that people will approach you on the street and offer their business card and then ask you to follow them. David and I just say no – very firmly and then they turn away. Twice we had groups of poor children following us. The one aspect of Cairo that I find shocking is the large number of cats we have seen everywhere. While eating lunch at a small local restaurant I saw at least 15 small cats in 20 minutes walking in and out of the restaurant and on roofs across the street. I didn’t feel too bad for leaving a little lunch behind – I knew it was going to the garbage where the cats will get the left-overs. The roasted chicken we had was delicious, very well cooked and very fresh. We met the chicken, roosters, and ducks down the street before we found lunch.

After lunch we walked along the Nile J You can see both sides of the Nile from Nile street. It reminded me very much of the Ottawa river near RockCliff where you can see both shores. There were very large cruise ships and Feluchas (sp? Small sailing boats). We walked past several Embassy’s and very nice Hotels. We also found the Cairo Hyatt Hotel which we could not resist going into. We had to pass a metal detector and put our bags through an X-ray machine to enter the hotel. Once inside, there were huge beautiful flowers everywhere and a fantastic view of the Nile. The Hyatt hotel is on a man made island in the center of the Nile. Outside the hotel there were 2 truck loads of guards – 3 guards with very large guns. David believes that this is typical and NOT in reaction to what happened last night.

From the Hyatt we caught a taxi back to our hotel. The Australian’s wisely told us to bring a hotel brochure so that we could find the hotel again. The Taxi driver did not know English very well and got very lost on the way back to the hotel. We learned our first Arabic word “HOTEL” which sounds like “Fondot”. We heard him say this about 9 times as he stopped to ask for directions: “Fondot Salma?” We only paid 3 US dollars for a 35 minute taxi ride.

Here are my first impressions of Cairo:
Loud (call to prayer is deafening)
Dirty but you see street sweepers everywhere and people washing their cars constantly
Most buildings are brown or grey and laundry hanging out the windows
There is lots of poverty. We walked down alley ways where people sold fruit, vegetables and meat and you wonder how they could possibly sell any of it.
LOTS and lots and lots of street cats. They are all terribly malnourished and so small. We saw 5 kittens that 2 tourists were trying to look after. They could not find the mother. Maybe she was hiding. Moses is about 6 times the size of the cats we saw today.
Crossing any street in Cairo is very risky. Driving is worse. We saw bus loads of traffic cops being dropped off a city corners to direct traffic. No one pays any attention to any of the traffic lights.
Taxi’s are extremely accessible. The drivers will wait at the end of a block and honk to get our attention to see if we need a taxi. You have to negotiate your price before you enter the taxi because they will change the price as soon as you enter the taxi. David is getting very good at bartering a good taxi fair.
Everything here is extremely cheap. 4 to 5 Egyptian pounds equals one US dollar. We had dinner tonight on a ship, floating on the Nile and we only paid 150 Egyptian pounds which equals about $45 Canadian dollars for the both of us.
The cars are old here. While we were walking down a street this afternoon, a car sped by us and the door literally fell off as he passed. The driver got out of the car and picked up the door and then kept going…right in the middle of traffic! Amazing!
We need to bring toilet paper and buy wet naps…the restaurants do not have napkins or toilet paper in the washrooms

One final thing, we really enjoyed dinner tonight on the Nile. It was a challenge to find a restaurant near our hotel but it was worth looking for it. David had shrimp and rice and I had kabobs and rice. For appetizers we had hummus and eggplant with a delicious filling inside. Then we had Turkish coffee. Earlier in the day we stopped in at a coffee shop and we saw the men smoking something that looked like a metal water bottle with a long tube. So after dinner we asked to try it. It is called “SheShaw”. I was not as successful as David was drawing smoke out of it. They gave us an apple flavored SheShaw. The attendant put coals in the metal container that had boiling water below the coals. Then there was a long pipe from where the water was. This container sat on the ground and you sucked in air from a long tub. I saw men puffing smoke out of their nose and mouths. I only got a small buff out of my mouth a couple of times. It was surprisingly sweet tasting.

Tomorrow we are not sure what we are doing. We are considering hiring a driver to take us to the pyramids at Giza or taking a day trip to Alexandria. We are looking forward to meeting people on our tour. I think it will be a fantastic time. J

Veronica


WOW Cairo

Wow Cairo

I wasn’t sure how to start this BLOG – here are a few other titles I could have gone with!!

· Brains and Livers
· Terrorist Attack in Egypt
· We can see the pyramids from our bar
· Nile, the river of life

We arrive late last night and, after a beer, had a great nights sleep.

We met a few Auzzies this morning a leaned a few important things.

· Bargain – taxis – always set the price before the trip
· There was a terrorist bombing in Egypt

So – being the ever adventurous we headed of for a walk, hoping eventually to be downtown. We zigged and zagged following our “bell boy” to an open internet café – open being the key – Friday is Sunday L. At the café we saw a news report about the bombing in east Egypt. Actually the bombing is very close to Israel – a long way away from here. We’ll make sure our future plans don’t take us too close to that part of Egypt.

After walking for about an hour we took a taxi downtown – 10 EL – or about 2 US$. Things are cheaper here – even the “tourist price” is cheaper. The local beer is about $2US – 500 ML – yum yum.

We were busy walking around – seems that places are closed until 1:15 for prayers on Friday – we finally stopped in for a Turkish Coffee (sweet) at a café – the men were busy smoking “water pipes” – we need to learn about this – hey we need to try this.

Now – on to the Brains and Livers. We were getting hungry and there was a place called “Tourist Restaurant”. We checked it out – but the only things on the menu were brain and liver – I guess the Tourists there weren’t from Canada – yuck yuck yuck!!!

The Nile is really pretty – I think it breaks into about 5 branches through Cairo – lots of boats along it – but most tourist boats. We’re planning on taking a ride in Cairo – it might even be part of our tour too.

So – finally we get back to our hotel up to the roof top patio for a beer. V points look – there is a Pyramid - wow – even at this distance you can tell there HUGE!!!!

Oh did I tell you I get “on and off wireless internet on the rooftop patio. So far I haven’t been able to get a signal for more than a couple of minutes – but I did get on – so it isn’t secured. Maybe when the sun goes down I’ll be able to connect!!!

Cheers,

David Smith


We are in Cairo! Somewhere completely far from home. The climate here feels very much like Cuba. There are palm trees, very narrow streets. So far we have seen a SMART are but no mini’s. There are Lada’s everywhere!

We woke up around 8:30 am and had breakfast at the hotel (SALMA hotel). We were the only ones in the restaurant initially. Then 3 Australians appeared. They were leaving Cairo this afternoon after being here for 2 weeks. They did a one week tour with Imaginative Traveler (our tour group). Their only complaint was that they wanted you to get up extremely early on most days to see tourist places. They said that once they got to Aswan they were too exhausted and ill to do the one day trip to Abu Simbel and they were very disappointed that they were not able to do this.

As I’m writing this journal entry, David and I are on the roof top of our hotel where there is a patio bar (that does not open for another 2 hours). Off to my left, between many apartment buildings with satellite dishes we can actually see the Pyramids! I can’t believe they are right in front of us. David took a few photos and they are included in this blog.

So it was the Australian tourists who told us about the terrible bombing in the resort area near Dahab (boarder of Isreal). David and I were anxious to find an internet café to tell everyone that we were ok. Last night we called my brother and David’s mom and left messages that we arrived in Cairo safely. We still wanted to get our message out. The porter at our hotel was able to find 5 internet cafes…all closed since Friday’s is like our Sunday’s in Canada. It is a day of prayer and most businesses are closed or open late. Finally he found one that was open. It was a little store shop that had computers with Windows XP. We read Goggle news about the bombing and tried to get information at the British and Canadian Embassy’s but their web pages were not updated yet. We are now considering staying on the West Side of the Red Sea if we decide to go to a resort at the end of the our tour. We will avoid the area of the terrorist attacks.

From the internet café, we wondered around the neighborhood and bought 2 bottles of water. The Australians strongly suggested that we drink lots of water everyday. We then took a taxi to the Cairo Museum. We were able to get there by taxi for 10 Egyptian pounds. WE wondered around the neighborhood around the museum but did not go into the museum. We will be going in the museum when we join our tour on Monday.

The people we meet on the street are extremely friendly. Someone approached us and explained to us that everyone was a prayer and that we would not be able to find an open restaurant until after 1:15 pm. He then took us to his perfume shop and showed us the fragrances he was selling. We ended up buying a very small bottle called Arabian Knights from him. I asked David to take a photo of us in his store. I thought the photo was worth the price we paid. We quickly discovered that people will approach you on the street and offer their business car and then ask you to follow them. David and I just say no – very firmly and then they turn away. Twice we had groups of poor children following us. The one aspect of Cairo that I find shocking is the large number of cats we have seen everywhere. While eating lunch at a small local restaurant I saw at least 15 small cats in 20 minutes walking in and out of the restaurant and on roofs across the street. I didn’t feel too bad for leaving a little lunch behind – I knew it was going to the garbage where the cats will get the left-overs.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Arrived safely in Cairo :)

We arrived at 12 mid night here last night. Cairo reminds David and I very much of Cuba..same temps.

The hotel is in a residential area far from the airport. The taxi ride here was quiet hairy. We saw many broken down cars along the way....thankfully we won't be driving here. :) The hotel is very simple (It reminds me of the hotel my brother and I stayed in in NYC a couple of years ago). The roof top patio is fabulous...we could see stars last night and the moon!!!! The hotel has a very powerful AC. David and I were freezing in our room last night. I guess we will leave the windows cracked open tonight..remember no screens here.

This morning while having breakfast, Austrailian tourists told us about the bombing in Egypt - far away from here (border of Isreal) - we'll avoid the area. We are safe.

I'll continue our blog from Paris and our last day in the UK some other time. We are going to take a taxi to the Nile and walk around to try to get our orientation. There are 5 internet cafes in our neighbourhood..this one was the only one open today (much faster than the connection in Cuba). I guess it is a day of prayer here today (we have to start reading our tour guide book soon!)

Cheers and hugs,

Veronica and David :)

Thursday, October 07, 2004

A Canadian sailor does on submarine

Why are we buying subs again???

Victoria Times Colonist - canada.com network: "OTTAWA -- A Canadian sailor who suffered smoke inhalation when the submarine HMCS Chicoutimi caught fire in the north Atlantic died Wednesday en route to a hospital in the Irish Republic."

Paris

Check out our photos of Paris

http://community.webshots.com/album/197079989vQGolP

This is a very early morning for us! We got up at 5 am to catch the 7am train to Paris. We made it to the train station in excellent time. We were able to grab a bagel/egg sandwich for breakfast and we had time to relax before taking our seats on the train.

As I'm writting this (from my journal), we are heading out of London, UK. David said that we are one hour from the chunnel - VERY cool! The train is very quiet and we are traveling very quickly.

The trainstation is very clean and large. David was right when he said that Canada does not know how to "do trains like the Brits"! It would be so nice if train stations in Canada were like this. It looks like an airport, with shops, lots of choices for food and drink etc. Everything is very clean and spacious. As soon as David dropped some trash on a chair, someone came by to pick it up :O)

(I'll write more tonight after our day in Paris.)

The train ride to Paris was very relaxing. Both David and I had a good nap. The train was especially quiet and smooth. Nothing like VIA One back home.

When we arrived in Paris - the train station was huge. The people at the information desk were able to tell us how to buy a subway ticket that would take us downtown to Notre Dame Catheldral. THe people on the subway were also very helpful. At one point three people were trying to help us at once. We decided to get off at the Cite subway station and investigate Notre Dame Cathedral. The cost of the tour was 6 Eurols to climb to the top and see the city from above. There were 422 steps to climb to the top. Thankfully the stone stairs were in a very narrow passage - perfect for me who is terrified of heights. The staircase was one big, long spiral to the top. The stairs were well warn and David noticed that they were even resurfaced. David had to watch for the low ceilings on the way up.

When we popped out - we saw a fantastic view of Paris with many gargoils (sp?) everywhere. They seemed to be such a contrast to the church they were protecting. David had a blast taking amazing photos of these characters. My two favorite were - one that looked like it was eating something and another with it's head resting on it's hand..looking over the city below. I was gratful for the wide pathways all along the top of the cathedral.

After the main level, we went up to the top of one of the towers to take more pictures. This height bothered me alittle more than the lower level. Finally we walked all the way down. We are lucky that we both have good knees. Inside the cathedral we saw beautiful stain glass windows. Unfortunately, only 2 of the photos David took turned out. The ceiling of the cathedral was black with soot. We both lit candles at one of the many prayer stations - one for my Dad and one for Barb - David's sister.

From the Cathedral we found lunch at a local pub some distance into the downtown area.....

(I'll continue our day in Paris in the next blog posting! We have to return to our hotel now and pack for our trip to Cairo this afternoon. We can't wait to see the pyramids!!!!)

Veronica

Monday, October 04, 2004

Museum Day

Today was our Museum day. We got up early to meet our walking tour guide at 11 am to tour the British Museum. The tour was two our long and the tour guide was fantastic. The building itself is very impressive. When you enter, you immediately see a huge hall with glass ceiling. After telling us about the history of the museum and the person who donated the first collections, our tour guide showed us was the Rosetta Stone. It was larger than I could imagine. I've seen the replica several times at the ROM in TO. It's amazing how the enscription has survived all these years. David had lots of fun taking tonnes of photos. Then she showed us Artifacts from Greece, one of the oldest blown glass vase in existance, and a British boat that was found at a burial site dated 105 AD. After the tour we went to see Mummy - the inside story. It was a 40 minute presentation of a CAT scan of a mummy that was found 150 years ago. It was very interesting and entertaining. After the show, you could see the mummy on display. The 'funny' thing about this mummy was that when the mummy was being prepared the workers accidently left a small clay dish to catch the excess resin and it was glued to the mummy's head. To cover up their mistake, they wrapped the head of the mummy and included the dish since they could not remove it.

After the show we were all museumed out...so we headed to Harrid's for coffee, and to wonder around the store. It is a huge and beautiful store with theme rooms like the Egyptian room. They have many rooms that sell food, perfume, clothing, luggage, pet supplies and pets, christmas decorations..the list goes on and on. David and I found a travel alarm clock that we needed (we are BIG shoppers ;)...). We also found a Krispy Creme store for a quick snack. :) Tomorrow we are going to Paris for the day :)

Our train leaves at 7am (2am your time!) We will write more on Wed.

David posted pictures from our trip so far. Enjoy!!!

David and Veronica

PS - Sorry for all the extra posts - let's just say that all Internet Cafes are not created equal :-(

Photos and Journal from London

Click here for pictures http://community.webshots.com/album/195996054KJIcYm

Yesterday we didn't have a chance to connect to the internet - we're sorry. We decided to have a 'take it easy' day. We left the hotel around 9 am and walked across Hyde park. It was a beautiful morning and we found a cafe to eat breakfast beside a pond. There were runners participating in a race and lots of locals walking their dogs. We were missing Sadie very much after we saw a few Boarder Collies. :)

Then we walked across the rest of Hyde park to pick up our Hop ON/ Hop Off tour buss to Embarkment Pier to go on a river tour of the Thames. We decided to go on a circular tour where we didn't need to hop on and off. David took photos of Parliament from the river, the London Eye, and the London Tour Bridge. After the boat tour we thought we would like to go on the Eye of London - a huge firris wheel where each car holds 25 people. The ride is about half an hour. After walking across the pedestrian bridge we were too hungry to stand in line. We found a very nice restaurant near the London Eye to eat lunch. David had a delicious Feta wrap and I had a Pastromie sandwich, salad, and fries. (I'm finding London on the whole very expensive!) . Unfortunately, it was raining very hard when we left the restaurant - so we decided to head back to the hotel for a nap before meeting David friend Bret for dinner.

We met Bret and his girlfriend Melanie at an old English pub called the Victoria very close to our hotel. David worked with Bret when he worked for the Bank in Bermuda over 5 years ago. The pub had a fireplace, delicious nachos and cidar. After we went to the Persian restaurant next store where we had lamb, rice, humus, delicious home made bread and tabulie. Melanie and Bret are very friendly and told us a great deal about living in London. Melanie surprised us by saying that she was originally from Montreal. She has developed a British accent since moving here 14 years ago. They will be visiting Melanie's family in Toronto this Christmas so we hope to see them again soon.

On the way home (very late), David and I stopped in a local pub for a pint ( well, half a pint for me!)

Cheers, Veronica (& David)

Saturday, October 02, 2004

UK - DAY TWO...MORE Mini's EVERYWHERE :)

We are both very jet lagged. Hungary at odd hours and we can't sleep through the night yet. We were both up at 2:30 am last night and went for an hour walk to try to find some snack. It was good b/c we were able to sleep another 5 hours :)

Today we went to Notting Hill. It is like the Glebe in the summer but 9x's as busy and as you go further down the street you get some more ethinic stores and stands. David and I bought one strange item..a head massage thing. I'll have to show you so you know what I'm talking about. We then took in a bus tour - Hop ON/Hop OFF. It's a great way to see the city. We hopped off at Tafalger Square and took lots of pictures. People are very friendly here. David wanted a picture of himself there since it was the third time he was there and has two other pictures of himself at the same location. We got a funny picture of me looking up at him and you can see the statue behind him.

The weather here changes every 2 minutes. Sun, rain, myst, everything but snow. We were on the hop on/hop off bus this afterooon and we got dumped on..then the sun came out and we had a very bright rainbow. David took some fantastic photos of the London tower bridge..lots to see and do.

For dinner we went to china town and had PHO (soup). It was not the same as the PHO we enjoy in Ottawa but it filled our stomachs. After dinner we were walking to the Burger King to do our nightly blog and David suddenly decided to get someone to do my portrait on the street. I'm NEVER had this done before. It turned out pretty good for a 20 minute drawing :)

Now we are ready to go back to our hotel and try to sleep. It will be nice when we are no longer jet lagged.

Tomorrow we are planning to do the boat cruise of the Thames and the EYE of London..a big ferris wheel that you can see all of London. Finally we are meeting David's friend Bret for diner. David has the directions of where to meet him..I don't know what restaurant we are going to. We will ask him which show we should see while we are here if we decide to go to one.

I best sign off for now. The best thing about London so far is the architecture...I've never seen so many interesting (old) buildings EVERYwhere. :)

Cheers,
Veronica & David

p.s. Please email us or comment on our blog...it would be nice to hear from you :)

Friday, October 01, 2004

Happy to be in the UK!!!!

Hello Everyone!

David and I arrived this morning at 9 am (4 am our time). We had a long line up in customs which was ok since our luggage was waiting for us when we were done. We decided to take the tube from the airport which took about 1.5 hours.

Our hotel is fantastic. Right beside Hyde park and close to everything we want to see. We went for a long walk today and saw Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park and had fish and chips in a pub.

There are Mini's everywhere here and I spotted the first SMART car :)

Here's David:

Whew - we made it :-)

Our flight was really good (BA) - but we still needed a nap when we arrived. I would love to try those sleeper seat in first class - I bet you arrive very refreshed (or drunk) - maybe both :-)

It was a perfect day for a nice walk around London - seeing old places - finding new ones (like Internet at Burger King). They want £15 a day for highspeed internet - so we'll be sticking with the cafes. This once has a deal of a 5 day pass for £7 - gee - tough choice eh?

Speaking of Mini's - we went into the showroom - the £20,000 convertable looks nice - so hint - hint - if anybody wants to get me a little something for my birthday - red would be nice ;-)

We'll post some pictures - sometime!!!

Take care,

D&V