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Aug 30, 2005 - Pyramids and Beaches Tour 2005/Egypt Summary

Reported by JoMar All rights reserved.

10 hours ahead of Vancouver

Well it's been a while since our last entry since we haven't had much time on this tour of Egypt. We arrived in Cairo, Egypt from Dublin, Ireland at 4am instead of 1:30 am due to some delays and thank God for our pre-arranged airport pickup! We arrived at our hotel, had to walk up 8 flights, as the lift did not work and it was hotter than in an oven! Then, the next day we went to a bank machine and SURPRISE! We could not get any money! Had no cash for 2 days! Very un-nerving feeling to have in chaotic Cairo. We had gone to 7 different machines and could not get any one of them to accept our card!!! Oh yeah the first machine we went to we were escorted by a police officer with a machine gun. Tourism is very important to Egypt and since the 1997 and 1998 tourist massacres the authorities are taking no chances. Every major hotel has a metal detector and police in front.  Many street corners also have police with machine guns, as do most of the banks. If the police see many Egyptians talking on the street with tourists they will stop to make certain that we are not being harassed in any way.

Were was I...oh yeah. Okay so calm and collected John decided to have a nervous breakdown. I got the worst case of homesickness I have ever had!! The combination of culture shock and not being able to access funds in a very foreign country really got to me. I think the little daily annoyances in Europe created by not knowing from day to day were to go or what we are doing, asking for directions, not knowing how to use local phones, language barrier etc etc; finally came to a head and this annoyance first day in Egypt...well you know. Thanks to a little long distance chat with Laura and a pep talk from Marc we didn't take the first flight back to familiar Vancouver.

Anyone whoever comes to Cairo MUST take a taxi ride in this city. Talk about a nerve racking hair-raising experience! But fun at the same time! I thought the traffic in Rome was chaotic, wow! The cars use their horns as turn signals, the traffic lights are basically their form of Christmas decorations and hundreds people cross right in the middle of the street in front of very fast moving traffic!! Cairo has a 20 million population and it feels like it. This city is a zoo, hectic and insane and believe it or not it is our favorite part of Egypt!! Oh yeah, and talk about shoe stores!!!

We decided to talk to our tour contact Nirel and start our 15 day tour of Egypt early, instead of waiting seven days. We met with Nirel and she lead us to a fantastic hostel. 16 Canadian dollars a night! They in turn lead us to a bank machine that would accept our card. Apparently not all the machines in Egypt accept international cards, only a select few and also they are temperamental, working one minute and not the next. Okay so panic over. We thought we would cry when we heard that machines counting our money!!

Nirel was such a big help and really got us started and settled on our tour. Once the tour started and we were looked after and given direction, instead of having to find our own way like we had done throughout Europe things were so much better!! We met some really wonderful Aussies and Brits on this tour, two of which we are still traveling with currently here in Alexandria. It was so nice meeting you guys; Kim, Kimmy, Sally- bondage girl, Kirsty, Alex, Rosa, and Caroline and the tour would have not been what it was without you. Our tour guide, Tam, was amazing  -- catered to our every need, fun and very knowledgeable. 

We started with a tour of the Pyramids and the Sphinx and a visit to the Cairo Museum.  Te Pyramids were interesting but I wasn't as impressed with them as I thought I would be when I finally saw them. The Sphinx however I found amazing!! This huge cat was carved from a single huge block of stone. The Pyramids of course are the only standing structures left of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Marc rode a camel in the desert near the Pyramids. Camels are such beautiful animals. I was standing one time beside one and I felt something wet on my hand and I looked up and there was one staring me right in the face. Kissed by a camel!!! The Cairo Museum had a room dedicated to King Tut of course. What amazing and beautiful treasures Howard Carter found in 1922!

We also spent 2 days on a felucca boat. This is an ancient sailing boat that is still used in the Nile. The Felucca thing was so much fun. We just laid around for two days doing nothing but eating and drinking gallons of beer and water and sleeping and swimming in the Nile. We also had a campfire and traditional Nubian dance and song one night on shore. I also convinced a few of the gang that we could not sail the Nile without a skinny dip. FUN! A definite highlight! We came across a boat full of hot Aussie guys who stole one of our inflated whales and wouldn't give it back. Our Felucca captain got it back for us thru much effort. Also went to an island restaurant for traditional Nubian dinner (YUM) and traditional Nubian entertainment of song, dance and music. FANTASTIC!

Of course we visited temples galore. One of the most impressive was Abu Simbel. This temple was discovered in 1810 by a Swiss Archeologist who found the head of one of the statues sticking out of the sand. Eventually uncovered was a temple carved out of a huge mountain and the statue sticking out of the ground was one of four 20 meter high statues dedicated to King Ramses 2. The entire mountain was carved from the inside out and inside there were many amazing carvings and hieroglyphics (sp). Very cool stuff!

When traveling thru much of Egypt we had to go in a police convoy for protection. Police in front and back and in the middle. As I said the authorities are taking no chances with anything that could effect tourism in this country. We visited many Egyptian towns on our tour and saw some AMAZING temples dedicated to the God's and past Royalty. Our final stop before going back to Cairo was a place called Dahab. There we just vegged and relaxed by the Red Sea and the hotel pool. Went to this cool area in the desert, sat in a hut and had lunch;  also did some snorkeling there as it was right beside the Red Sea. What amazing marine life we saw!!  It really was like another world down there; unbelievable colours and the schools of fish were really cool to watch. It was so neat to be watching all this amazing life on the reef and all of a sudden a school of bright coloured fish would just glide past your goggles! So Cool!!

After 5 days in Dahab we returned to Cairo and back to our hostel Select. In the evening of our first day back in Cairo, we were walking down the street one night and this fella leaning against a car asked if we were English. We said yes and his face immediately lit up! He showed us the book he was reading; it was an English language text book. He was trying to learn English and wanted to know if we could help him to pronounce half a dozen words that he didn't know how to read. So we spend the next 30 min. teaching him some English. He was so grateful and didn't want us to leave!!  We gave him our e-mail and promised we would meet up again when we returned to Cairo.

The next day we were off to Alexandria. Alexandria is a beautiful city right on the Mediterranean and the vacation spot for most everyone who lives in Egypt. It is also the city that was established by Alexander the Great in 332 B.C. Recently Archeologists discovered some amazing underwater treasures in the harbour here. They also found what they believe was the palace of Cleopatra!! How cool is that!

As I have said before, the Egyptians are very hospitable and friendly and extremely curious about us. This was never more evident as in Alexandria. Wherever we went we were stared at and people would call out on the street and in cars "welcome to Egypt" always smiling and so happy to see us! We met some really nice people and exchanged some e-mails. (Ahmed!)

One day I was sitting on the sea wall here in Alex and this fella approached me and asked if he could sit and chat. He was very excited to see me and talk to me. He was studying tourism and was anxious to know all about were I live and the places I have been to. He said it saddens him that he could not visit anywhere outside of Egypt. Because of terrorism most Egyptians can not travel outside their own country. Also the authorities are very reluctant to allow them to travel abroad because they are afraid that they will not come back. He said "when you go back to Canada, please tell people that we are not all terrorists and that Egyptians are a peaceful people." He said tell people not to judge us based on the actions of a few extremists who are not true Muslims and are not true to the Islamic faith which is based on peace not war.

As of this writing we are now back in Cairo for 5 days and then off to Nairobi, Kenya for the Masa Mari Safari. Egypt has been a remarkable experience and we have seen some spectacular and amazing sights. We have met so many interesting and fun people; not just locals but the people on our tour as well!! We both agree that Egypt is one of the most remarkable places we have been to!!

Until we meet again,

john and of course markie too :-)

P.S. we forgot to mention that one morning along this GObus tour, while we were in Dahab, we got a wake up call at midnight for our venture 2 hours to Mt. Sinai, which we climbed beginning at 02:30am. and got up in just under 3 hours to see the sunrise! Amazing! This mountain is where Moses received the Ten Commandments!

Marc xo

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