Egypt and The Nile:
Contiki July 2012:
Well after our hectic start to our Egyptian adventure we finally met up with our Contiki Tour group. We had a great mix of fellow travellers and we all hit it off immediately. While we were waiting for everyone to arrive and for our official meet up we sat and chatted over a few Egyptian beers in the Hotel Victoria bar. Stella the local beer of choice is actually quite nice, considering Egypt is an Islamic country and any form of alcohol is forbidden by Islam.
After a brief meet up, our tour manager Sherriff who we would soon realise is an absolute legend, explained to us this cool little restaurant that we all should go to. We wondered off together hoping to find it. We had already been exposed to the hectic Cairo nightlife but it was great to walk around in a group. You still got the usual stares probably even more so now but it felt a lot safer. When we arrived at the restaurant the staff were a little shocked as the number of us and had to figure out a way to fit us in. They actually moved people that were already eating to other tables to make room for us. The huge decline in tourism throughout Egypt since the unrest has had a massive effect on their economy, we managed to have photos in front of the Pyramids and Abu Simbel without anyone else in them, you cannot even buy a postcard without people in them.
Without delving into the nitty gritty of the tour, if you want that info follow this link to the tour page on the Contiki website:
Cairo to Aswan:
As anyone that has ever been on a Contiki tour knows, how hectic they are, Egypt is no different. Day one had us at the Egyptian museum in Cairo, off to the Pyramids and the Sphinx, Camel riding around the Pyramids, Smoking Shisha eating Pigeon and boarding an overnight train to Aswan. It was a ridiculously hot day but my god what a day it was. By the time we had a few beers and a bunch of shisha we were on the train and completely knackered. The train is pretty much what you would expect in Egypt, it is not flash, it not smooth, it is not quite but it is an Egyptian train. We were the only people on our carriage which I do not know if that is normal or just a reflection of the demise of the Egyptian tourist industry. We all knew that we would get absolutely no sleep so we stayed up drinking, playing cards and getting to know our group.
Nile Cruise and Aswan:
Day 3 has you see a big rock, The Unfinished Obelisk and a big dam. The highlight of this day for me was the Felucca ride. I just loved sailing on The Nile on this traditional boat. The views of all the villages that rely on The Nile to survive are breathtaking. The villages use The Nile for everything, transport, fishing, water to drink and wash with, it is the lifeline of Egypt. At one point we had two kids in a dugout canoe come up to our boat and sing Frère Jacques to us. It was just one of those brilliant moments.
Nile Cruise Aswan to Edfu:
Day four had one of my favourite sites in Egypt, Abu Simbel. We were lucky enough to have made the first flight out there, and then our superstar tour manager rushed off to the temple before anyone was there. That is where
we got the photo of our group without anyone else there. Abu Simbel is this amazing temple completely carved out of a cliff. Then if the sheer size and the amount of detail in the carvings are not enough to spin you out. They have moved the entire temple, piece by piece up the hill. When the Egyptian government decided to dam The Nile and flood the desert they had doomed the amazing Abu Simbel to disappear into the depths of Lake Nasser. So a bunch of smart people got together and engineered a way of dismantling the huge structure and shifting it up the hill. An amazing feat in itself but when you look at the precision in how they have achieved this feat, your mind really boggles. The entire day was amazing, except for the return bus ride to the airport. Well to be precise, the waiting in the car park in the bus without air-con in 48’C for Lorain to buy a scarf!!!! Some people have no idea. The rest of that day was spent relaxing in the pool on our boat, sipping cocktails, writing in our travel journals and just soaking up Egypt. That afternoon we docked in Edfu and visited Kom Ombo Temple and witnessed a beautiful sunset over The Nile and through the gates of an ancient temple.
Nile Cruise, Edfu to Luxor:
We start our day at Temple of Horus the Avenger. This breathtaking temple is Egypt’s second largest & best-preserved temple. We were greeted at our boat by the locals who give you a ride to the temple in there horse and carts. We were warned that they have been known to ask for extra money or tips and that we should only give them 10 Egyptian Pounds at the end of the visit. Our driver took off with us and then turned a different direction the rest of the group. He went down a little alley way and stopped. He asked for a tip, we thought we were doomed!!!! We explained that we would give him a tip when we get back to our boat after the temple. He kept on going on about how poor and hungry his family are. That he has to feed his horse before his family. We understand how hard these guys are doing it in Egypt and we want to help out as much as we can, you just need to be careful in these situations. This poor Egyptian man who was just trying to feed his family was struggling so much he was desperate for money. He actually got a little angry that we didn’t give him any money right there and then. We did give him a tip as we finished our tour but he was still not happy about it.
We set sail and left Edfu behind on our way to Luxor and the ancient City of Thebes. We walked up the awe inspiring Avenue of Sphinxes. It is believed that the avenue once connected the Temple of Luxor & the Temple of Karnak. The amazing Luxor is often considered as “The World’s Greatest Open Air Museum.” There are ancient ruins everywhere you look in Luxor. I have heard stories of locals having some of the Sphinxes from the Avenue of Sphinxes in their lounge rooms. The locals built their houses on top of the sphinxes. Now that the government is digging up the ancient ruins they are consistently finding new ruins in this ancient city.
That afternoon we had an amazing walk around a local “Soak” a traditional market place where you can find anything you want. I loved hearing the different ways that the locals would try and get you either into their store or to buy some of their goods. They would yell out in all different languages trying to figure out what country you were from. I once heard a guy yell out “I don’t know what you want but I have it here” I thought that was brilliant. I was walking with my wife and a friend from our tour and this man yelled out to us. He said “why you so sad? Two wives, Two wives, Casanova!” I was offered everything from shirts, watches, sunglasses, animals and marijuana a number of times. Be aware all you travelling hippies do not buy marijuana in Egypt. You never know who is selling to you and it might just land you in jail.
Luxor to Hurghada:
Well how do start to explain a visit to “Valley of The Kings” and the super famous “King Tuts Tomb”. This was one of my favourite parts and one that I was looking forward to. Ever since primary school we have learnt about and heard so many stories about King Tut and the amazing tomb. It was just breathtaking walking through this Pharaohs burial place. Trying to imagine what it was like to find this tomb. When we were at the Museum in Cairo we had seen all the treasure that had been found in the tomb and now to see where it all was sitting undiscovered for thousands of years. I found it hard to contemplate how it had all fitted into this tiny room. Listening to all the stories about King Tutankhamen, seeing the amazing treasure and then walking through his resting place, was truly unbelievable. However King Tuts tomb is neither the most magnificent tomb nor the biggest in The Valley of The Kings. It is actually the smallest and has the least amount of detailed paintings. You see that it was a little bit of a rush to finish off the tomb. The paintings are quite large and have not much detail. The tomb is tiny compared to the others. The largest tomb is not for a Pharaoh in fact it is for the sons of a Pharaoh. KV5 the tomb for the Sons of Rameses II is the largest tomb in The Valley of The Kings and like pretty much every other major find in Egypt they found the extent of the size of the tomb by accident. There was a huge flood through the Valley of The Kings which flooded the tomb, which was originally thought to be a small tomb of no major significance.
After our Ancient Egypt fix we headed off to the beach side city of Hurghada on the beautiful Red Sea. We went for a quick dip to cool off which was a great relief. Then we grouped together and went out for a farewell dinner. We drank ate some great seafood and smoked some more Shisha, some cool and different flavours in this Sea Side Resort town. Hurghada is so far removed from the hustle and bustle of the rest of Egypt. It is a resort tourist town with miles and miles of beach side resorts. You start to see super flash cars and the super rich Egyptians come here to play. You can see women walking around in the bathers which would be dangerous anywhere else in Egypt.
Hurghada to Cairo
The next day had us out on a private boat ready to go snorkelling, swimming and jumping off the top of the boat and a nice lunch. It was a great day out snorkelling and seeing some amazing fish and coral. The Red Sea is approximately 4 times saltier then the ocean, which made your eyes very, saw if your goggles leaked. That after noon we hit the road again for our long journey back to Cairo and to say good bye to our new lifelong friends.