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:

http://www.touregypt.net/karnak.htm


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 :-)

Cheers,

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.

http://community.webshots.com/user/davidsmiottawa

Cheers,

David

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Trip Photo Summary

Hi All;

Click here our "best of the best" pictures.

http://community.webshots.com/user/davidsmiottawa

Cheers,

David