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Posts from the ‘Egypt’ Category

about going home…

egyptcairo and 2 menCairo-Byehome...

trip: Cairo to London
how: Aegean Airlines
miles total:  8919
days: 2

As we board our flight to head back to London I am mentally and physically exhausted. The mood is a bit solemn as G and I reflect on our trip. It’s funny its all over with… The 6 weeks flew by and I can remember every moment of it. We often think about our first days during the trip, when we arrived in Istanbul. We had no idea what we were about to experience, but we were so open to whatever would happen. I think that because of this openness I was able to make the most out of this trip (as you do with anything you are open to). However, this trip was different. This trip changed me in a way that no other trip has done. I can’t pinpoint what it was that changed or what it was that caused the change. I can only say that experiencing the cultures of these countries had a lot to do with it. Experiencing what it was like to be a woman in these places was something I had never experienced in South America, North America or Europe. It was a whole different world. I never saw woman out in the daytime, when they went out some were completely covered and always walking behind their husband. The people were happy though. And as I became immersed into this world I found myself longing less and less for the world I had known and I had a craving to learn more, to know more. I suppose this is what traveling does (this or the opposite).

Places in the Middle East that were deprived of the things I thought were ‘normal’ in life, were the places that touched me the most. The example that pops in my head is Syria. The country is full of the kindest, warmest, most genuine and hospitable people I have ever met. Yet, they don’t even have half the luxuries we deem as important, luxurious, or even necessary.  One of those luxuries is the simple freedom of speech. Especially as a woman. It is a poor country too. The signs of poverty are all around you and the average income in Syria is about US$ 200 a month (if that).  But, again…the people are happy. And they will do anything in their power to make sure you are happy too… after all… you are in their spectacular country.

Well, the ‘western world’ hasn’t changed. London is still here with all its hustle and bustle (and rain). G and I will be here for 1 week before we move to our new home in Sevilla, España.

Bye for now… more reflections to follow.

Ma’a as-salaama  مع السلامة

about Cairo, Egypt…

jump at giza!Nile and Cairocairo me in giza!

trip: Luxor to Cairo
how: Bus, Upper Egypt Travel
miles total:  6738
days: 2

Arriving in Cairo was possibly the biggest contrast between two cities we had had on this trip. Actually the biggest contrast between two cities in the same country that I had ever seen. We went from Luxor, a city of 350,000 people, to Cairo, a city of a metropolitan population of over 17 million. It was massive, chaotic, industrial, western, but it still had that Middle East flare I had grown to love.

People call crossing the street in Cairo a ‘chicken run’, I call it suicide… a run for your life… death at your doorstep… you choose. There is no such thing as a pedestrian crossing… actually no rules whatsoever. Hah! I had been fooled into thinking Damascus and Amman were crazy, but nothing compared to Cairo.

We stayed at the Canadian Hostel for the last two nights of our trip. You can’t help but feel a little melancholic during the last few days of a trip like this. However, I tried not to dwell on this. We refreshed a bit at the hostel before heading out for the famous town of Giza…. to see a few pyramids.

We took the bus for locals, which was advised by the hostel not to take, and instead to take one of their tours… some things never change. If it’s one thing I can recommend to any travelers that will do this trip is to never do any tours, even if they say ‘we don’t recommend doing that’ it’s fine… really. If we can do it anyone can do it. It’s a cheaper and more local way to see the real city, at it’s best (and worst).

Walking up the hill to get our first glimpse of the Pyramids was something I can’t even describe. It’s like seeing the coliseum in Rome for the first time, or the Eiffel tower in Paris, or even the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro… but WAY cooler!! They are massive and just to give you a little history behind them… they are located in a city called Giza about 25 km from Cairo and were said to be constructed in and around the 23rd Century BC. All three pyramids stand at over 400 feet. I highly suggest reading more history about the pyramids as the construction is phenomenal and hard to comprehend the level of precision completed.

Oh and the scams! The pyramids are full of them. G was getting pretty frustrated at this point so much so that you end up being really rude to the guys that are hassling you and then they make you feel bad about it! Some even pretend to be officials and police so you have to be really careful.

We spent most of the day around the pyramids in 48-degree heat and humidity. Love it.  The Sphinx was super cool too! People told us that the best view is from the Pizza Hut just outside the grounds of the pyramids. We went there for lunch and indeed it is well worth it. You have a sweet view while munching on pizza and pondering the likes of King Tut and Cleopatra. What more could you want? Oh yes, air conditioned too! I wish we would have been able to go to Saqqara, but time was against us now.

That night we were exhausted and went to bed relatively early after a nice dinner out. After all, the next day consisted of the Egyptian museum, discovering Cairo, Khan El-Khalili, Cairo Tower and the Al-Azhar Mosque!

We did just that. Cairo was full of excitement round every corner and the best way to discover it, like any city, is to just walk! We ate at Falefal that night and dined in style with other local Egyptians, eating only the best ful, mashed potato sandwiches and Egypt’s national dish, Kushari. Kushari is a mix or rice, lentils, chickpeas, and macaroni in a spicy tomato sauce with caramelized onions on top!  Mmmm!

Tonight we will leave on the last bus to the airport. Where we will depart Cairo at 4:30 am, head to Athens and change flights for London…right back to where we started.

London may be the same, but I for sure am not.


about Luxor, Egypt…

Luxor TempleLuxor

trip: Dahab to Luxor
how: Bus, East Delta Bus Co.
miles total:  6317
days: 2

Hm. Not sure if I would do that again! Egyptian buses and driver… scary roads…. the only tourists….smoke…. not so ideal. Thankfully we met two nice tourists on the bus so we weren’t alone. We arrived in Luxor the next morning and tell you the truth I wasn’t that impressed. The bus dropped us off outside of the city in what looked like just a little farm. It was so bizarre. Then we kind of haggled our way to a taxi ride on to our hostel, but in true Egyptian fashion, we were taken not to our hostel, but to a place close to it. We wandered the streets aimlessly. Then found our hostel down a very strange and ghetttto street! Welcome to Luxor.

Luxor itself is a very poor city and doesn’t get half the tourism that Cairo receives (however does receive a substantial amount). It is separated into two parts, the west bank and the east bank. The city itself is filled with old temples, tombs, and museums. I sensed a different atmosphere here than in the other countries we had visited. I could smell, feel, and see it. And it was hot. I mean really really hot. We only had a day and a half in Luxor so we were determined to make the most of it. We headed to the Luxor Temple, Karnak Temple and  the Luxor Museum straight away because we were headed to the Valley of the Kinds and Queens on the West bank, the next day.

Everything was equally as impressive as the next I was only disappointed by the amount of dilapidation and lack of conservation of the structures. Either way it was somehow mystical and magical being among the Pharaohs…. the Egyptians…. one of the most intelligent and fascinating people of all time.

The next day we headed to the West Bank. We rented a private taxi that morning for half a day and had gotten a decent price for it, especially because we split the price between the four of us (75 EGP). We saw everything that we could and I can’t say that one stop was better than another. However, if you are limited on time and money (you must a separate ticket for each place), I do recommend The Valley of the Kings, Dei al-Medina, Al-Deir Al-Bahari, and the Ramesseum Temple. That night we splurged a bit and had a nice meal in Luxor and enjoyed some pre-Ramadan celebrations in the town.

We slept well that night and woke up to a wonderful breakfast provided by the hostel. It was quite gourmet and although the hostel wasn’t anything to cry home about, breakfast made up for it!

We left around 2 that afternoon on another 11-hour bus ride up to Cairo. Whew. The last long bus ride of the trip. It saddens me a little.

Feeling a bit lethargic.


about Dahab, Egypt…

DahabBlue hole

trip: Nuweiba to Dahab
how: Shared Taxi
miles total:  5620
days: 2

Dahab, as you may know, suffered a terrorist attack in 2006 and has since then bounced back, but has been recently overshadowed a bit by its neighbor, Sharm El-Sheikh. This is partly due to the fact that Easy Jet now flies to Sharm from most major UK airports and the hotels and restaurants have become bigger, cheaper, and more accessible (but not better!).

That being said we had heard that Sharm was not that great and were recommended instead, to go to Dahab, if not for the snorkeling, for the atmosphere. It didn’t let us down. We enjoyed a short, but sweet time in Dahab. That night we met up with some other people we met on the ferry over and enjoyed a fresh fish dinner… fantastic. We then took a stroll along the shore, admiring all the quaint little shops. It was cute here and before heading off to bed for an early night we stopped at the supermarket for some water. I was very thirsty and grabbed a bottle of Evian water, opened, drank, and continued to for some other groceries I wanted to buy. When I went to check out the cashier said the water would cost me 15 Egyptian Pounds. Just to put things in perspective, our dinner cost 3 Egyptian pounds and the night at the hostel cost 20 Pounds. Hm. I looked at him with a face that probably looked like it just saw death. “What?!” I exclaimed. He said, “Yes, this water is from France. And you drank from it.”  I walked out with him yelling behind me…. “You must pay!”

We were warned about the scams in Egypt, they were supposedly much worse than the rest of the Middle East. Boy, did we feel it! Everything was an effort! This was the start of a very long battle between paying what was right and paying what we were told.

Fortunately, We got away with not paying and the next day we were more prepared for the battle of prices. We woke up the next morning and rented our snorkel gear… off to the Blue Hole! This was my first time snorkeling and it was unbelievable. I can’t even explain… the Red Sea was simply fantastic.  The water was crystal clear, blue, warm, and full of life! Dahab impressed us and before heading off for our 16-hour bus ride to Luxor we stopped at an Indian restaurant and had a delicious samosa wrap with fresh strawberry juice!

I’ll be back here soon… and for longer…


about the border crossing from Aqaba, Jordan to Nuweiba, Egypt…

DesertEgypt Border

trip: Wadi Rum to Nuweiba, Egypt
how: Bus and Ferry
miles total:  5566
days: 1

Arriving in Aqaba, we went straight to the ferry where we had to follow numerous steps including exit fees, stamps, and visa regulations. Whew. One counter for this, then one man for this, then the other counter for this… it went on and on. After paying all necessary fees including our 70.00 dollar (!!) ferry ticket we waited for our ferry to depart. As we all lined up to get on the ferry we were called up by the police to board the ferry early. I suppose it is something they do for tourists, because there were about 7 tourists in line and we all got called to go on the ferry early. The ‘fast’ ferry to Nuweiba should be one hour, but after all the research we did on this ferry we didn’t find one person that said it took an hour. So, we were not disappointed when we boarded the ferry at 12pm, departed at 15:30 and arrived in Aqaba at 17:00. Oh Egypt… I already love you.

The Egyptian border madness is like nothing I have ever seen before. You can tell a lot about a country depending on the border control, or in Egypt’s case, the lack thereof. When we got off the boat we were told to go through a building and on the other side our luggage would be there. We went… picked up our luggage and then boarded a bus that would take us to immigration control where we could also buy our visas. We got off the bus and entered pure madness! Massive amounts of people trying to get all their belongings (which included big crates and boxes of who knows what!). We were told to go to a small room where we could get our visa. We got it without problem then needed to proceed through the ‘bag check’ control. Hah! What chaos again! As a tourist they don’t really care what you bring in and out of the country so we just sailed through without even a glimpse from the officials. We then met up with the other tourist and a couple Saudis who bartered with the taxi driver and got a decent price to head to Dahab! Finally… some relaxing beach time!!

This post may just seem like one confused person going through immigration and not actually knowing what’s going on. Well, my friends, this was I. When you go to Egypt, you too, will understand.

Cleopatra comin’at ya!