The Nile and Red Sea Journey
From Heathrow to Cairo, you really could not have a bigger contrast in airports really. Glitz, Harrods and blissfully organised to smelly, decrepit, army personnel and the passport control guy blasting a dart. Stamp. Welcome to Egypt.
To make our lives and our visit a little easier we organised an 11 day Egypt tour with Gecko Travel. Bloody marvellous idea that was because Egypt isn’t the easiest country to travel in even with a tour leader. We had a spare day up our sleeves before the tour started so we went for the typical ‘what can we find’ wander. Well Cairo as it turns out isn’t the most pleasant of cities. With 22 million inhabitants (infrastructure for about 5 million) and 8 million in the next suburb of Giza, its packed. There’s an average annual of 3mm rain. It’s a dusty, filthy place. Add millions of cars (that they never through out!) to the mix and the air quality gets a thumbs down. So much for the walk. Steve had to switch into primal behaviour mode too.....
The next day we were on tour! First stop the Pyramids and the Sphinx. When we finally make it to Giza the pyramids tower above us in all their ancient glory. Wow, we’ve seen some ancient wonders on tour but the pyramids are magic and by far the oldest. At over 4500 years old walking next to the pyramids and sphinx you really feel like the size of a pea, or knock kneed midgets.
The next day we visited the Egypt museum, no cameras allowed though. The museum has an amazing collection of antiquities but is a little dilapidated with poor displays. There are lighting issues (some whole sections were dark) and very little in the way of security for the artefacts, many being uncased and not alarmed. Apparently they are building a new 500 bazillion million dollar museum somewhere tba some time this century. That being said the Tutankhamen artefacts were amazing up close, even more beautiful than the photos depict. Tutankhamen’s solid gold funerary mask was the finest piece, you could stare the king right in the eye, his brilliant gold lustre reflecting wealth, power and beauty. But was it the original??
In the fternoon we had some free time so we decided to check out the Cairo Bazaar. Walking not really an option we found a cabby to show us the sights on the way. We must of chosen the slickest cabby in Egypt! Lemon pie Mercedes (same model as our wedding car!), and giant leather jacket clad. This mafia don like driver sang energetically and slightly off key to Egyptian folk songs. The drive itself was one of the highlights of the trip. The afternoon sun bent through the car in orange licks. Shadowed mosques lined the road as we snaked through the narrow congested streets. The bazaar was pretty good, a labyrinth of goods from gold to garlic.
That night was the rickety slow train ride from hell. Cairo to Aswan was some 1000km away. Probably would have been ok except for the half dried vomit on the floor next to us. NYE in Aswan was spent relaxing on a sunset Nile river felucca ride. Then into a Nubian village for dinner, drinks and dancing! And it wouldn’t be a NYE without more drinking back at the hotel with the group. Duty free booze buckets evaporate and before you know it you’ve had 2 hours sleep, a chunder on the bed, and the bus is waiting for you down stairs to go to Abu Simbel at 4.00am.
Abu Simbel was pretty impressive. They moved the whole damn thing! I reckon it would have been better off left as is and turned into a deep water dive. But considering the state we were in, holding back on the street pizzas, just walking around it was a challenge.
Back into Aswan to board the Nile cruise ship which will be our floating home for the next 3 days. Nice boat with sun deck, bar and restaurant serving all you can eat buffet. How can you possibly hold back with “all you can eat”!
Whilst cruising the Nile we stopped at Komombo to visit the Temple of Sobek, a Greco-Roman temple that overlooks the river, and at Edfu we explore the well-preserved Temple of Horus, considered one of the finest examples of temple building.
The cruise ended in Luxor where we jumped aboard horse-drawn carriages to the massive complex at Karnak, built over a period of some 2000 years, and one of the greatest temples ever constructed. A beautiful site to visit despite Jess being a shade of green from mummy tummy (Egyptian term for Indian anus, aka tap arse). By the way, the Aussie buck became the daffy duck too if you didn‘t notice in the Moroccan blog.
Bright and early the next day we cross the Nile to the Valley of the Kings where we visit a few tombs. Afterwards we ride donkeys through the surrounding farmlands back to the Nile - trip highlight! Humphrey and Dilbert were trusty comrades. They knew where they were going, didn’t once EI ORR, and raced for the title neck n neck.
Our monumental tour of Egypt was almost over but before we tracked back to Cairo we swung by the Red Sea for some diving. Now is a good time to tell you about our feeling thus far. The ancient sites were amazing to see, the food pretty good and everything was affordable (Egypt is as cheap as Bolivia/Morocco/Thailand!). But, the hassle to buy this that n everything, and the rank egyptian men sexual comments and behaviour towards you are out of control. Much more confrontational than Morocco . Even with Steve by my side the men behaved like animals with sexual gestures and comments and hissing. Even to the point of cornering you in market stalls and draping scarves around your hips so they could feel your arse. The whole routine was starting to feel a little thin by now.
Snorkelling in the Red Sea was good and bad. The water clarity was crystal clear, the fish plentiful and colourful. The coral was a little damaged and there was hundreds of tourists in each spot, many stomping fins on the reef! The most annoying thing was the behaviour of the men working our boat. Bikinis and Egyptian perverts is not a good mix unless you want to see Jess serve up some attitude.
Well that was Egypt, enjoyable and annoying at the same time. Ancient Egypt’s remains are amazing and for any ancient civilisation buff you will get your kicks.