May 102009
 

A bit delayed as I play catch up with my life, but I took an 8-day trip to Egypt during my first term break. Living in the UAE makes it very convenient to travel to a number of countries. As Egypt has been on my top 3 list since I was 8-years-old, I figured that was the best place to start.

Check out the daily adventures from my trip on Blogger!!!

More trips to come,

-T

 Posted by at 22:06  Tagged with:
Apr 182009
 

April 9, 2009

At last the trip has come to an end! Hassan came to get me at 615 to take me to the airport. With no guide between us, I discovered that he actually speaks quite understandable English. So, we had a nice conversation on the way. Of course, he recommended that I come back to Egypt. He offered to drive me anywhere next time. He also said that he would learn English and I should learn Arabic because I could come back and since he wasn’t married (anymore – still has 2 kids), it wasn’t a problem, right?? ha ha ha.

It was a nice trip. Some adventures were had, stories now told. All the pictures are up on my Picasa site, so feel free to check them out.

By the way, Koshari is a carb nightmare, but delish! It consists of macaroni noodles, spaghetti noodles, rice, green pea beans, fried onions, tomato sauce and then you can add chili and garlic sauces. Mix it all together and you’ve got a lovely dish!

Thus ends my Egypt tour! I recommend anyone to go to Egypt. I hope to make another visit there someday soon to see Abu Simbel outside of Aswan in southern Egypt, the oasis to the west, Alexandria along the Mediterranean and Dahab near the Sinai peninsula. So, more to see, but it was a great start!!!

Until the next trip…

-T

Apr 182009
 

April 8, 2009

My Egypt trip is coming to an end. I arrived early in the morning back in Cairo. Again without coffee to start my day and a serious lack of motivation to do any more sightseeing. However, I had paid for a day-tour of old Cairo and Sakkara.

So, I was met by a familiar face, Hassan, the driver and a new guide came up. Another Mohamed, but different from Day 1. They took me first to the same hotel as the first day. There I slept for a bit but was still tired by the time we met again.

Despite my comment about wanting coffee, we were off to Mit Rahina Palace grounds to see more statues and stuff. I could barely listen as grumpiness had set in and I really did not want to hear another word about history, mythology or anything with facts. I mentioned as much to Mohamed who reassured me that he would make it simple for me. So, I tried at first to be interested and listen, but I waxed and waned in enthusiasm. It was clear we were not hitting it off.

From there, we drove outside of the city a bit to Sakkara. The first pyramid was built in Sakkara. It was built in a steppe-style rather than the smooth lines known to most of us. I was impressed with the rougher pyramid and enjoyed seeing a couple of others in the distant showing the evolution from the steppe-style to the smoother style. Still, I wasn’t feeling interested in what I was hearing from Mohamed and could tell I was really starting to frustrate him. When we got back into the car, he asked if I was tired. I explained that yes, I was but as I had said before I really, really, really did not want anymore history.
He seemed at a loss and suggested we stop at a Carpet School. So, I agreed to see carpets being made and disappointed the vendors when I didn’t want to buy anything. Well, I did have one design I liked, but wanted a bigger size than they had, so I was saved!
Mohamed then asked about lunch. He said he could take me somewhere for 45EP. I explained all I wanted was a couple of cheap falafel sandwiches for less than 10EP and some coffee! Please!!! He asked if I was sure and I nodded emphatically. He then asked if I would be interested in seeing a local cafe. I said, sure. Now we were getting somewhere! So, Hassan stopped somewhere so we could get falafels, bought me sugar cane juice, which is super sweet! and then we were off to the cafe. Mohamed and I played some backgammon while they had tea and I enjoyed a strong cup of Egyptian coffee. It was lovely. We started to joke around and all of us began to relax.
It was then that Mohamed (on left) explained that he was married with 3 children. Now, he was searching for his second wife and he’d like her to be American! Ha ha. He asked if I would be interested in moving to Cairo! Ha ha. I said I was fine where I am now, but good luck with his endeavour. Then, I began to learn some Arabic such as “Yalla, habibi” – c’mon baby! or magnum – crazy! Amma le-i – How are you (Egyptian dialect)? etc. So, we had a fun afternoon together after that.

First after lunch, we stopped at the Topaz Bazaar – another place to spend money. I went in without any desire to spend more money. However, all throughout the trip, I was really in love with the shape of the Key of Life and knowing how it represented Egypt, I thought it would be cool to find something like that. So, I went in to the bazaar and found a gold ring with the design on it. Then, I saw a pendant and decided to splurge on myself with a ring and matching necklace. I really like it! It’s the first jewelry I have bought for myself…!

From there, we saw the Islamic Cairo area. I entered a mosque where I had to wear a green cloak to cover my head and body. Nearby was a Catholic-style church. It was nice to see the harmony between a Muslim and Christian worship locale.
After that, we made plans to go out in the evening. It was a little confusing as to what really happened, but it is possible that Mohamed had hoped to go on a “date” with me, but as he was also working and we needed a driver, it turned out that I paid a reduced price for a night-tour/drive. So, they took me to a famous Koshari restaurant, which was delicious! Then, I was able to meet up with someone I had met in Abu Dhabi for an hour and relaxed catching up with her and her visiting friend.

Overall, it was a nice end to the day and a close to my time in Cairo!

Final comments coming up…

-T

Apr 182009
 

April 7, 2009

When I was in high school I was at a youth retreat for church and we were talking about sunsets vs. sunrises. I was always a sunset lover because watching the sun set over the Oregon coast with a bonfire is one of my most favorite things to do in life. However, the youth pastor explained why sunrises are more beautiful as the sun comes up to start a new day and the anticipation that can be felt about what the day has to bring. While I have generally always been an optimist, this way of looking at sunrises never occurred to me. So, at that retreat I stayed up all night and watched the sun rise over the lake. Since then, I’ve seen a few sunrises, but always make a habit of doing so when on holidays. I’ve seen the sun rise over Lake Titicaca, in Angkor Wat, and now while on the Nile.
Since the day before had been so rough, I determined to start this day with a bit of hope and inspiration starting with an early rise to watch the sun come up. I loved it. It was beautiful. I also considered the significance a sun rise has in a Muslim country and wondered why people lack the ability to respect each other when we share the ability to appreciate a common sun rise on a day.

After watching the sun rise and feeling a spiritual connection to God and the world, I went back to sleep a little more peacefully before starting the day officially. πŸ˜€ We had arrived in Aswan the night before and so I was to do a half-day tour in the area. I met with Peter prepared to check out from the boat as I was to be on the sleeper train back to Cairo that night. I said my good-byes to the Ahseek family from Mauritius and was off to see Aswan.

Peter was very kind and seemed to be Ehab’s partner or something because he was very concerned about my happiness throughout the day. We started at the High Dam. Before the dam was put into place there used to be crocodiles all over in the Nile. Now, they are blocked off in the Upper Nile and Lake Nasser area. The dam was built with the help of the Russians and provides most of the electricity in the country. While the dam wasn’t that impressive when compared to the Hoover Dam or Bonneville, it was still cool to see the lake and get a bit of the history involved in the building of the dam.
From there, we moved to the docks to take a boat out to Philae Temple located on Ejerca island. The temple used to be located in another area, but when they built the dam, it was flooded and covered with water. In fact, many temples and sites were covered at this time, so that they aren’t even sure what is still there under the water. In any case, the stories of Philae temple seem to combine history, mythology and love all in one. I enjoyed the stories, but felt myself starting to really burn out from all the history filling my head….
After the temple visit I asked to use the Internet as all I really wanted to do was to connect to my world for a while. So, I went to a local cafe and spent two hours catching up on Facebook (pathetic, I know!), emails and chatting online. It was a much needed reconnect for me. On the way back to the boat where I was meant to rest before going to the train station, I stopped for another bowl of koshari! YUM!

I spent an hour resting, then went to the train station to board the sleeper train for my 12-hour ride back up to Cairo. The train ride back up was pretty uneventful. I slept on and off. Read a bit. Ate not-so-good train food.
Basqued in the happiness I felt from some news I got via email. So, my day ended with a smile.

Almost there…

-T

 Posted by at 18:21  Tagged with:
Apr 182009
 

April 6, 2009

By far the worst day of the entire trip on many many levels. First, I was rudely woken up around 3am by noise from our arrival in Edfu as they were docking the boat. I contemplated on whether or not this would be the day I would get up to see the sunrise as I try to do this on every trip I go on, but alas I was too grumpy to enjoy something amazing like a sunrise. So, I attempted to go back to sleep.

After another coffee start (notice not breakfast, but coffee!), I was ready for my guide by 7:30. He was a little late and I don’t think I ever got his name…. After stepping off the boat, my guide negotiated a horse carriage driver to take us to Edfu Temple. About half-way through the ride (10 – 15 minutes in total), I started having trouble breathing as the horse hair was being kicked up and blown towards me and my eyes started to itch and burn….Luckily, we got to the Temple and I had a chance to recover a bit.
The guide began to show me Edfu Temple. It was quite beautiful and is a huge complex. However, I had to control my laughter throughout much of his explanation because he spoke to me as if he was telling the best drama story known to man. Me, a lone tourist…it was just comical. I wish I had taken a recording of the way he spoke about Hhhorrrus. LOL! Ah, I giggle just thinking about it. Anyway, he left me for a few minutes to walk around and take pictures. So, I was pretty content, though I was still suffering from itchy eyes and horse allergy.
Since all of my transportation had been provided for through my package, I didn’t say anything about taking the horse carriage back to the boat. Along the way, my guide said I should give the driver 3EP when we got back – or so I thought he said. When we got there, I gave the driver 3 1EP coins thinking that was enough.

My guide stopped and said, “No, it was 30EP.”
I asked, “For what?!”
He said, “That’s what the service cost.”

I thought he was full of it and as I never really had more than 50EP on me at any given time based on advise from my first-day’s guide, I told him,

“I don’t really have that kind of money on me.”
“What? You don’t?” he asked surprised.
“Whatever, here.” I responded annoyed by this point since my shortness of breath had returned and my body was itching from hives forming in response of my horse-hair allergy.

I handed him the money and walked away. He didn’t seem to really understand I was pissed off and said, “I’ll see you in Kom Ombo then at 3:30.” I just waved and walked off. After getting back on the boat, I had a little self-pity cry to myself as I washed my hands and face to get the hair off those areas and sat waiting for my breath to return to normal. Once that was settled, I texted Ehab to ask if it was normal or required for me to pay more than tip for the transportation. Ehab called me right back and asked about the situation. Then, he said he would pay me back some of the money when I got to Aswan because I shouldn’t have had to pay anything. So, I felt relieved and went to bury my frustrations in my book on the boat deck.

We set sail for another stop on the Nile at Kom Ombo. The Kom Ombo Temple is a unique temple in that it was built to worship Horus the Elder and Sobek (the crocodile god). It is symmetrically built to equal worship each god. So, the carvings are similar but the god image is changed. I was quite fascinated by all the different carvings of the crowns of the columns here as well. πŸ˜€ Kom Ombo was an important area as it was a military base and trading center between Egypt and Nubia. It was actually a lovely area along the Nile.
During the tour, Ehab must have called my guide because there was some arguing and yelling going on, which I tried to ignore. After my guide gave me the final bits of historical information, he left me to take pictures, showed which direction the exit was and took off! Usually, I was taken back to the boat to ensure everything was okay, but this guy was gone. So, the good thing is that I didn’t have to give him a tip! 😐

Once back on the boat, the day got a bit more interesting. The night before, Waleid, my masseur said he would offer me a free massage in the afternoon if I wanted it. Not being one to refuse a massage, I said “Sure!” and went to wait for him after I returned from the temple. While I was waiting, a guy was sitting at the computers using the Internet. So, he struck up conversation with me and it turned out that he was the manager of the boat. He told me about how he studied Tae Kwon Do and learned from a Japanese teacher about energy (ki). He asked about me and I thought it was a pleasant-enough conversation. He says we should wait on the boat deck for Waleid, so I follow him up to the deck where he offers me a drink. Me not being sure about paying for the drinks declined since I had plenty of my own water in my room. So, then the man said it was too hot, so we should wait downstairs. After being downstairs for a couple of minutes he asks if I like chocolate. I say, “Not really, thanks.” Then, he says to follow him and we can wait in his room…. I hesitantly follow the man to his small room where he has about 10 pairs of nice Italian shoes lined up, a stockpile of cigarettes, chocolate, etc. In his room, he offers to give me a free “Energy Vibration” massage for 15-minutes. ha ha. I politely decline and say I’ll just wait for Waleid. He asks if I’m sure and I confirm. Then, he offers to let me stay in his room to wait for Waleid…I tell him it’s okay, I’ll just wait downstairs. So, we return downstairs and Waleid has returned….

What the heck was that about? I dunno, but it was a very strange experience nonetheless. How do these things happen to me? At least it was “safe”. I need to stop being so trusting, I have been told, but then again I wouldn’t have such great little side adventures to share. Let’s just hope I continue to have “happy” endings!
So, ends Day 5. Just a few more to go.

More to come…

-T

 Posted by at 12:36  Tagged with:
Apr 172009
 

April 5, 2009

At last I was able to get a cup of coffee before I headed out for the day. It was just instant Nescafe, but I’m starting to acquire a deep appreciation for Nescafe! I was up at 7 to get ready, have breakfast and then meet by 8:30 for my tour of Luxor Temple.
Today my guide was Mina. Ehab was still my driver, but Mina gave me a lovely tour of Luxor Temple. It was partially built by Ramses II and by Amenhotep III. The pylon, obelisk and columns are fairly massive and the carvings were very impressive. For me, the most interesting aspect was seeing a modern-day mosque built inside the temple grounds. Apparently, it used to be a Coptic Church that was built back when the Christians were being persecuted and seeking shelter and safety in the temples. So, it used to be a church and now a moque that is used every day. Crazy.
The Luxor Temple grounds were a bit crowded with a PA system and stage set up as the president for FIFA was coming that evening to draw the groups for the next World Cup to be held in Cairo. So the streets were abuzz with flag-wavers and honks from excitement

After that, there wasn’t much planned for the rest of the day since the boat was to set sail that afternoon. So, I asked to use the Internet at a local place and to ensure I got the regular rate for using the computer. Ehab took care of it for me and I got to enjoy a blissful hour connected to the world again!

The afternoon was just spent on the boat. I wrote some postcards, studied for a while, read a lot and then the boat set sail. Dinners were a semi-formal event on the boat with the regular buffet-style. Most of my meals had been alone at this point, but they seated me with a lovely family from Mauritius. They spoke French as well as English, so they were the only other people I spoke to when I wasn’t with a tour guide or driver. So, I really appreciated their kindness when we could meet. Perhaps I’ll make a trip to Mauritius even! πŸ˜€

In the evening, I had a massage on the boat after working out a special deal with the masseur. I’m not sure it was all kosher, but it was ok for me! πŸ˜€

So, a short and fairly uneventful day!

More to come…

-T

 Posted by at 22:19  Tagged with:
Apr 152009
 

April 4, 2009

Somehow I had it in my head that I was riding the sleeper train all the way down to Aswan and then coming back up. So, when we arrived at Luxor station, I was noting all the people getting off the train feeling ready to get out when there was a knock on my door. I hadn’t had breakfast yet, so figured it was the guy asking if I wanted my breakfast. Instead, I saw a man with my name on a card telling me that I was to get off there. Confusion settled in as I was certain my ticket said to Aswan, but I said OK anyway.

Ehab introduced himself as my driver for the day and the manager of the Luxor/Aswan region for Ramses Tours. We set off in his car and it was necessary to hold on for my life… Ehab drove like a madman going 120kph (75mph) without ever slowing down and using his horn if anyone was in sight who might threaten a release of the gas pedal. Due to slight fatigue, hunger and shock, I was feeling pretty car sick by the time we arrived to the boat I was to sleep on for the next three nights. Luckily, Ehab was considerate enough to give me a few hours to take a nap, settle in and recoup before setting off for sightseeing in Luxor. Before he left, Ehab also suggested that I consider adding on some extra tours since I was going to be in Luxor for two full days and I should see both banks of the Nile there. It was true that I should see the sites, but I was also wanting to conserve my money a bit, so I said I would think about it.

When Ehab returned, he had brought along a female tour guide for the day. I don’t recall her name and we didn’t really connect well as I was still tired and yes, in need of coffee!!! But, she was pleasant enough. We started with the Valley of the Kings.
I saw the inside of 3 tombs – Ramses IV, one of 60-some sons of Ramses II and Ramses IX. The paintings and carvings were amazing to look at. You wouldn’t even know that they are so old because the manner in which they were painted was unique and they have been preserved so well. There were quite a few people there, so it took a bit away from the awe-factor, but I was still a little sad I couldn’t take pictures! There were many other tombs there including that of King Tut, but my guide explained it wasn’t so interesting to see since everything was taken to the Egyptian Museum anyway. I’m not sure now if that was just an excuse to appease me for the cheaper ticket or what, but truthfully I was probably satisfied enough. πŸ˜€

Somewhere on the way we stopped at an Alabaster Factory aka a shop in hopes of me buying something. I wasn’t really interested….

From there we moved to the Temple of Hatshepsut (hot-chip-soup) or Deir al-Bahri.
Now this lady had a great story as far as I’m concerned. I love it when I hear in history that a woman took over power. I’m not sure why as I’m not necessarily a feminist, but I appreciate a woman with ambition. So, Queen or rather King Hatshepsut spread a story about how she was a descendant of the Sun-god as there was no proper male heir to the throne. However, she dressed and appeared like a man to the public – which is also very interesting…. Anyway, this temple was built for her and it was spectacular. Unfortunately, much of it had been destroyed or worn away, but the statues were quite impressive here.

On the way back to the boat (only a half-day itinerary), we stopped at the Colossi Memnon, which were two massive statues showing the remains of a very large temple on the West Bank. However, without maintenance of the walls it slowly dissolved from the regular flooding of the Nile.
I had decided to just spend the afternoon chilling on the boat, using the pool and relaxing as I was starting to feel overwhelmed with information and being so alone. So, Ehab offered to give me a free city tour at night so that I wasn’t too bored on the boat. I thought that was kind of him and said sure. So, he dropped me off back at the boat where I had my lunch and then relaxed. It was much warmer in Luxor than in Cairo, so I used the pool, tried to study, read my book and just chilled out. It was good. By the time the evening came around, I was refreshed and feeling much happier!

Ehab picked me up at 6pm and again recommended that perhaps I should see the Light & Sound Show at the Karnak Temple and then we’d do the city and in the morning he’d give me half price for the East Bank tour to see Luxor Temple. Since I had already been reconsidering this option, I agreed. I mean, I was there to see stuff! So, we first stopped to see what time the show started and found we had some time, so Ehab took me on the night tour first. We had a nice conversation. Ehab pointed out how many of the buildings in the city have been destroyed for excavation by the government and then rebuilt. He seemed very concerned about the loss of culture, which was a fair point. I was able to see the local market, which looks like any other market in a non-mall culture country. The only difference is the quantity of items or number of variations offered.
From there, we walked through the touristy market, which was a typical foreigners-attraction, but they venders were entertaining as usual. Ehab bought me some bread on the way out and offered to get me a taste of local Egyptian food for after the show even though I would still have dinner on the boat. πŸ˜€

Karnak Temple is massive. The columns reach for what seems like forever in the sky. At night, this impressive feel is amplified. The show was a nice change of medium to get some history, though I only really paid attention to half of it. You listen to the story and then walk to another part of the temple to hear more and work your way through the grounds until you get to seating over the lake and the story continues. It was pretty cool, if not a little cheesey, but hey it was something different. I liked the quote, “Remember, the huge size of this temple is not based on the size of man, but was built the size of the gods!” While it would be considered quite small from a god-like perspective (I would think), it is pretty impressive from the man-size viewpoint!
After the show, Ehab met me to take me back to the boat. As soon as I got back in, they called me to eat dinner, which I didn’t want because it was so late and Ehab had bought me my first Egyptian specialty, which I fell in love with (more on that later). So, I attempted to eat a bit and then crashed into bed for the end of Day 3.

More to come…

-T

 Posted by at 16:10  Tagged with:
Apr 132009
 

April 3, 2009

Perhaps the most inspiring day of the whole trip was my first full day in Cairo. Was it the history? Was it the pyramids I had longed to see? No…more to come on that later!

I was able to have a fairly long rest before meeting my tour guide for the day – Mohamed. I had Hassan again as my driver, which was comforting. In the morning, Mohamed was very polite and I was probably very quiet – still in search for a country that appreciates the beauty of a morning cup of coffee before throwing tourists into the sightseeing circuit!

We started with the Egyptian Museum. Now, I’m no lover of museums and this museum was huge! I was a bit concerned as we began, but Mohamed very effectively guided me to the highlights and important statues to be seen. Of course, I may have missed something amazing, but 45-minutes was beautiful! I got to see the artifacts taken from King Tut’s tomb including the famous head piece, sarcophagus, etc. It was quite impressive. I could have spent 100EP more to see his mummified body, but it wasn’t really worth that to me, so I got to see mummified animals instead! YUCK! πŸ˜€


From the museum we moved to lunch. Now, this was the first day and I didn’t know what to expect. Mohamed first said he could take me somewhere for about 80EP, that’s $14! So, I said, no no, I wanted to eat for at least half that price. He said he could take me somewhere and I ended up at a buffet place, which honestly I think was probably the same place for both prices!!! Anyway, the food was nice, but I don’t need a buffet meal!
After lunch, we headed to the Papyrus Institute. First point of interest is pronunciation. In my part of America, we say pa-pie-rus. In Egypt, they say pa-pi-rus. Perhaps something only a dorky English teacher would point out…. Anyway, I was shown the process for making papyrus: take the plant and peel away the hard outer shell, roll out the moisture, soak in water for about six days for the lighter color to remove the sugar, lay out in a grid pattern and press for another few days to remove the remaining moisture and you end up with flexible and lovely papyrus paper! Fascinating, eh? Of course, after the demonstration, I was shown the artwork done on the papers showing replications of hieroglyph stories and I fell in love with two pictures. One was simple with the lotus plant, papyrus plant and another flowering plant with birds flying over the top to symbolize love, happiness and long-life. The other was the image of King Tut’s proposal to his wife with a similar theme. They were both a bit expensive… so…I wandered and looked at other options. But, the colors in the latter image were vibrant and I fell in love with it. So…yes, I bought it! Now…I have to find a frame and wall for it….

From the institute we headed to the main attraction – the Giza Pyramids. All the images and expectations of my visit to Egypt came to this moment. 3 massive pyramids and the sphynx!

It was…amazing. I went down into a tomb, which was not a highlight, but I got a sense of how serious the tomb raiders were to get the valuable items. πŸ˜€


I did try to ride a camel. The pictures will make it seem that I had a great experience on the animal, but don’t let that fool you! I really wasn’t interested in riding one, but of course everyone said that is the thing to do. But, I live in a desert now, so I can ride a camel when I get the urge…but we had extra time, so…I agreed to have a short ride. The animals are TALL! A young boy guided the camel and took my photos. After asking for baksheesh, and being told I had no money – I really had no money on me due to Mohamed’s advice. Then,

Boy asks, “You want to gallop?”
I say, “No”
Boy whips camel and camel gallops.
I say “NO!”
Boy slows camel. Boy walks camel in same short patch of sound two more times.
Boy asks, “You want to gallop?” with a grin.
I say, “NO!”
Boy whips camel and camel gallops.
I start to fall off the side of the camel barely holding on to the horn shouting, “NO!”
Boy stops and asks, “You happy?”
I glare at boy and say “NO! Take me back.”
Boy takes me back.

The guide and camel owner wonder what is wrong. I explain I want OFF THE DAMN CAMEL! They let me off and I just say I want to go. Of course, they want to know why I am unhappy. I’m thinking why did I not trust my own instincts on this one? So, I briefly explain to Mohamed who translates to camel owner who says in English, “the boy no understand English”. I laugh and say, “He understands NO”. Mohamed tried to get me back on the camel and though it is against his religion to have me touch him in the manner it would be required to ride a camel together, he offered to ride the camel together with him. I said, “No, thank you, I’m done.”

Mohamed felt terrible for me after that, but I quickly shrugged it off as my first and last camel ride experience. I’m not really an animal person anymore…the farm upbringing clearly had no effect on me! πŸ˜€

We continued the tour and went to a Perfume Palace where I got to try different essences and replications of brand name colognes/perfumes. That was a lot of fun and the people were very friendly. From there, we stopped at a cotton store, but I wasn’t impressed with the claim for Egyptian cotton….

From there I had a few hours to kill before boarding the sleeper train to Luxor. Mohamed was very kind to stay with me the whole time until he sent me on my way.

Now…about inspiration and love. I had a great day talking to Mohamed because he is so in love with his girlfriend. He spent all day talking to me about her (in between historical stories, of course). He explained how they met, how he fell for her, how he won her and how he was hoping in just a couple of days he was going to ask her to marry him. They sent each other love poetry in English. It was cheesy and yet so honest, real and it touched me deeply. I began to reflect about my own ability to express how I feel about people I truly care about and wondered what harm is there in being like this? So, upon this thought I started my trip in Egypt.

More coming…

-T

 Posted by at 17:23  Tagged with:
Apr 092009
 

Egypt is a short 3.5 hour flight from Abu Dhabi. I chose to take advantage of my first term break to spread my wings for the first time all by myself.

Upon arriving in Cairo, it was a fairly efficient task to get through the airport. I bought a visa stamp from the bank/money changer. The banker tried to hit on me, but I kindly said thank you for my money and went on my merry way. After getting through immigration, there was an agent from Ramses Tours there to greet me. Mustafa took me to the car where I met my driver, Hassan (more on him later). I felt some relief when I saw the headrest covers shown above in the car. Finally, we made the hour-long drive through the craziest traffic to my hotel.

My first introduction to baksheesh or tipping was upon arrival at the hotel when Mustafa told me I should give 20 Egyptian Pounds (EP) to the driver. Then, Mustafa told me I should give him 50EP for coming to get me. I laughed at that one when I realized 20EP was equivalent to $10, more than enough in my book. In the end, I didn’t give Mustafa anything!

My hotel was Pyramid’s View Hotel with a distant view of the Giza Pyramids. It was a nice enough hotel – 3 stars at most. Once I was mostly settled in, I went and got a sim card for my iPhone (I love that I can do that with my new iPhone!). It was a bit pricey for the sim card and charge, but I will keep it for when I go back or if someone else wants to go to Egypt. πŸ˜€

After I got the phone working, I contacted a guy from Couchsurfing because I had been in touch when I first started looking at my trip to Egypt. He convinced me to go out for a couple of hours even though I was exhausted and said he’d come get me at my hotel. When he arrived, he came in to my room and immediately put his arms around me. I wanted to be sensitive to the culture, so I didn’t say anything, but then he tried to kiss me! I was like “WTF are you doing?” He explained that he was just so attracted to me. I explained that he didn’t even know me and now I was going to go nowhere with him, so he might as well leave. He then apologized and said that he’d like to start over and at least take me somewhere nice to see the town. I was really put off, though and it took me a while to calm down. Eventually, he convinced to let him take me to get some water and then we ended up driving around Cairo for two hours looking for a possible place to eat and then me just wanting to go back to the hotel to sleep. In the end, I did get 4 bottles of water that were very helpful during my trip!

Thus ends the adventure of Day 1 in Egypt!

More coming…

-T

 Posted by at 22:11  Tagged with:
Apr 052009
 

(I had planned to update regularly while on my trip, but alas Internet is hard to come by, thus I will do so slowly when I return and unfortunately, pictures will have to be viewed then as well.)

Since I was 8-years-old and heard about the great pyramids, I have wanted to see them. In junior high school, I was so involved in a school project on Egypt and King Tut, that I was instantly in love with the idea of seeing these wonders of the world. Having focused my travels on Asia so far, I wasn’t sure that I would really ever make the journey and was quite envious of my parents when they trekked over a few years ago.

However, life brought me to the Middle East and so I have taken advantage of my first break to fulfill a dream. It has been more than worth it so far.

I booked a tour package with Ramses Tours because I talked to a few people who said I would be better off going on a package tour rather than travel on my own as a single woman in the country. I definitely understand what they meant by that and am happy that I have booked the tour. However, for the first time I am truly traveling alone. The tours to the sites are with just me and a guide. I have a private driver to everywhere and all other things are done on my own including my meals. For the most part, I don’t mind it, but I had thought that I would at least join some other groups and have more interaction with other tourists. Still, just being in touch with the local guides and my driver has been nice because I get a touch of the local people more than if I were just hanging with other travelers. Also, it has given me some much needed time within my own head and heart. πŸ˜€

So far I have seen the great pyramids, the sphynx, the valley of the kings, the west and east banks of luxor and other sites. It’s all been great so far. I’m booked to set sail this evening for a Nile cruise from Luxor to Aswan and then will take a night train back up to Cairo for a day tour to Sakkara and then home to Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
When I return I promise to update more!

Until then,

-T

 Posted by at 12:29  Tagged with: