The Airport and the Ghetto, The dodgy way.

In your face evidence of the Revolution

In your face evidence of the Revolution

It was early morning on our last day in Egypt, we were picked up from our hotel in a rather unusually clean, neat and dent free van for Egypt by a very fluent English speaking Egyptian man and a driver who spoke not a word. As we were loading our bags into the van we witnessed our very first bit of aggression in Egypt. Yes we had been hassled and stared at the entire time in Egypt but this morning the usually rather quite for Cairo street corner was in a ruckus. Directly outside our hotel lobby was a full on fight. There were approx 10 guys all yelling there was a lot of pushing and shoving going on. This was both intriguing and a little worrying as we were only a block away from Tahrir Square which was the site of the all the violence and protesting throughout the revolution. Was this an insight in to something to come???

How much can you fit on a van?

How much can you fit on a van?

Before we knew it we were on the road and we felt safe, well for now. The roads were unusually busy for this time of the day even for Cairo’s lofty standards. We hit traffic almost as soon as we hit the bitumen and our driver and transfer guy were talking a little too quite for my liking even though they knew far too well that I could speak no Arabic. Then the driver took a turn down a side street. My wife turns to me and asks do you know where we are going? To which my reply was sure I know all the back streets in Cairo…. We drove down more and more side streets each dodgier then the last. I remember looking at the doors of the van and making sure that they were all locked, but then thinking is that a good thing or not? What if I need to make a quick run for it? Are these doors child locked? We drove passed something that resembled a local tip. But as far as I could see it was just a car park that had a few broken down half stripped cars and the free space around them was a good place to chuck all the apartments rubbish. The roads were getting rougher and rougher and skinnier and windier and just overall dodgier.

We had been in the van for over an hour now and we were starting to get worried that we might either miss our flight or worse not make it out of Egypt. You could just think what our over stimulated imagination was doing to us. I had all these ideas of what was going happen, what I would do if the worse did happen and trying to keep an eye on the way that we came in just in case we needed to run for it? But that was useless as sack of hammers, the roads were so windy and every corner looked the same just maybe more dilapidated then the previous one. I managed to gather the courage to ask our transfer guy were we were. To which he replied the traffic was bad so we take a short cut just 5 more

Workers in Cairo

Workers in Cairo

minutes. I took this as “We are buggered” and so did my wife. The bitumen gave way to desert sand and even more unfinished apartments then before. We drove passed a makeshift mechanical workshop under an apartment block. Out front there were a bunch of “Half Cars” yes half cars. They were stacked up 3 high in this very narrow laneway. A bunch of very dodgy looking guys hanging around smoking. We then stopped at this corner. It might have been a shop or even a brothel who knows. There was an old man sitting on a rackety old chair at a white dusty table smoking a huge extravagant Shisha pipe. I thought to myself this is it and by the look on my wife’s face so did she. I gave her a re-ashoring look and crossed my fingers.

A man and his DonkeyOur Transfer guy wound down his window and started speaking to the old man. There was a lot of pointing and nodding but the entire thing was very calm. I noticed my own breathing slowed down and even I felt calm, then we were off again. Down some more side streets, passed a few men on donkeys carry all types of goods unassumingly to market then we popped out on this major hwy, I was stunned. I was certain we had managed to make our way completely out into the sticks. That Ghetto we drove through for the last two and half hours was right in the middle of Cairo. We had to dodge heaps of traffic because we were not on an on ramp, more just a dirt track that was made by the locals to get access to this huge hwy. Across 3 or 4 lanes up onto the medium for a U-Turn and we were presumably heading to the Airport.

When we arrived at the airport the Transfer guy asked us for our passports. Now we guard our passports with our lives and really do not like to hand those over, especially to a guy that got us lost for over two hours in the dodgiest part of Cairo. He explained that it is job and that we should give him our passports. I looked at him for a while and decided to hand him our passports. He then walked us up to the counter, read all the crazy signs, helped us get through customs and right up to our gate. He filled out our forms and explained to us our flight details and even what to expect. It was a huge help as we would of really struggled to get through that maze of Arabic and would of tried to fill out the form in English, as he explained would of caused even more drama. We were ever so grateful for his help and now were so relieved that we had actually made it there safely. We thanked him and handed him a tip. Still very new to the tipping thing we hoped it was enough. His smile and a big thankyou made us feel we did ok.

You can follow my adventures on the mykombiandi facebook page:

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As well as my youtube channel:

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Thankyou,

Shane

Egyptian Party, Cairo

Walking back from our Egypt Contiki Tour’s farewell dinner we all could hear this party, the music was loud and everyone sounded like they were all having a great time. We could see down this very dodgy looking alley way where the party was happening. There were lights and music and people dancing. Not knowing any Arabic I thought that i could not go down and have a look. One other guy in a group wanted to check out the party, so we decided that we would go. We brushed up on our hello’s and thankyou’s and walked over. Standing on the side and just watching for a little while. One of the young kids had seen us and invited us in. You see him in the video. We were greeted with open arms and even given chairs. We sat down and just watched the dancing and listened to the music. There was live music and even what appeared to be a TV news camera man filming the event. I asked the young boy if i could film on my iPhone and got a big smile and nod. It was an amazing experience to allowed into this celebration and an inside view on this culture. The people were very friendly and we felt safe. We said our thankyou’s and good bye’s and left. We were both pretty stoked about the entire experience and could not talking about it the next day at breakfast.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwIzW0vI654

Egyptian Party, Cairo July 2012

Chaotic Cairo July 2012

When we finally landed in Cairo we were amazed at the chaos that is Cairo. It is in your face and non-stop. It is however all apart of this huge city and all a part of the experience. Here is a quick peak into the chaos, this short film is shot from the window of our hotel room at Victoria Hotel, Cairo, a few days before we headed off on our first ever Contiki tour.


Chaotic Cairo

Egypt & The Nile

Egypt and The Nile:

Contiki July 2012:

That which does not kill us, Makes us stronger

That which does not kill us, Makes us stronger

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.

Day 1:

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.

No tourist meant we had the place to ourselves

No tourist meant we had the place to ourselves

Kristy and I, alone with the Pharaohs

Kristy and I, alone with the Pharaohs

Day 2:

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.

Amongst the locals.

Amongst the locals.

Day 3:

Nile Cruise and Aswan:

One of those moments you can never forget

One of those moments you can never forget

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.

Day 4:

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

Alone with our new travel buddies at one the most amazing sites in Egypt

Alone with our new travel buddies at one the most amazing sites in Egypt

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.

Day 5:

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.

Avenue of Sphinxs

Avenue of Sphinxs

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.

Day 6:

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.

Day 7:

Hurghada to Cairo

Enjoying my time on our private yacht in the Red Sea

Enjoying my time on our private yacht in the Red Sea

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.

Perth to Cairo

Arriving in Cairo:

The very first stop on our epic 6 month RTW trip was chaotic Cairo. We would soon learn to love it and hate it for pretty much the same reason. We were at the start of this amazing adventure that we had been planning for years so as you could imagine our excitement was hard to control. Our bags were packed, all our belongings had either been sold or packed in a shed at my mother’s house, (Thanks Mum), and we had said our goodbyes. Little did we know what we were about to experience would change our lives forever.

Waiting for our epic adventure to start.

Waiting for our epic adventure to start.

We left Perth Western Australia on the 4th of July 2012 at an unusually reasonable time of 6am. We had a long journey before we would reach Egypt. We had a 9 hour layover at Changi Airport Singapore (If you have to have a layover anywhere in the world Changi Airport Singapore is the place to have it) and a 2 hour stop in Dubai, that we didn’t know we had until the plane landed there. Changi Airport is amazing, it has free Wi-Fi for everyone, and all you need to do is register. We used a lot of Wi-Fi at Changi, we had 9 hours to fill in. There are heaps of restaurants, shops, movie lounges and even a butterfly house. Which we went and visited, unfortunately it was so humid in there that our camera instantly fogged up so we were unable to take any photos. I was even lucky enough to meet Red and Yellow, MM’s.

Meeting my idols. Red and Yellow!!!! Changi Airport has it all!

Meeting my idols. Red and Yellow!!!! Changi Airport has it all!

After a brief stop in Dubai, pretty much just enough to get off the plane walk through the gates, use the bathroom, walk back to your gate and get back on the plane we were landing in Cairo. After negotiating the hectic Cairo customs and paying our $40USD Visa we were greeted by about a trillion screaming taxi drivers all willing to rip us off. We were soon to realise that our transfer was not turning up, only 40 hrs into a 6 month adventure and we were stuck. We had to fend off every Taxi driver in Cairo and figure out how to get to our hotel. It was quite funny how many Taxi drivers were trying to get us in their Taxi’s and how angry they got when we said no. Lucky enough I spotted the man that I was sitting next to on the plane. We had got to chatting and so I thought I’d ask him how much we should pay for a Taxi to our Hotel. The answer was approx 100 Egyptian Pound which was approx $12 AUD at the time. We grabbed the Taxi driver that was the least angry and said 100 Egyptian Pound, a nod and we were off. We followed him past the huge line of angry Taxi drivers, past all the Taxi’s lined up, across the road, at this point I thought maybe this was a bad idea, I don’t think this guy is a Taxi driver. A little further into the car park and to this dodgiest looking old car that was all dinged up that I had ever seen. The driver explained that it was a “New Car”, shit I thought, what was he driving before? How bad are these roads if this is a new car? I was soon to find out why the car looked the way it did. The almost 1hr Taxi ride from the airport to Victoria Hotel was scary to say the least. There is no way a westerner would ever be able to drive in Egypt. They would not understand the road rules or the lack of road rules. You toot your horn almost all the time, you don’t need to drive in lanes, which are marked, I didn’t see a speed limit but I’m sure they would not listen to them anyway.

Our Taxi driver decided to pass the time he was going to give us a tour on our way to our hotel. He was pointing out all the Mosques and churches and was very proud that they have a Mosque and Christian church across the road from each other. At one stage he had just finished explaining to me that there are no car accidents here, while hanging out his window looking backwards and pointing to a Mosque. This scared me a little, not only for him hanging out the window but the fact that there were no seat belts in the Taxi and he was swerving all over the road then we “Almost” had an accident the very first accident in Cairo!!!! I have no idea how we did not crash.

We made it alive. Home sweet home for the next few days.

We made it alive. Home sweet home for the next few days.

We finally arrived at “The Victoria Hotel” a little rattled but in one peace. We were greeted by the oldest frailest door boy I have ever seen. He quickly grabbed our bags and took them inside before we realised. I think we were stunned he could move let alone grab 2, 25KG backpacks. We were then to find out our 2nd issue of our trip. They did not have our booking? So we paid extra for the same room and up we went. We insisted to carry our own bags but this old Egyptian bloke grabbed them shoved us into this tiny, old lift. Which I think struggled with 3 adult and 2 backpacks. Someone had covered the load limit sign up, which just fills you with confidence, even more so when there is no door on the lift and you can see and touch the floors as they pass you. We tipped the guy with what ever coin we had on us. I thought we had not given him enough, but he was so happy and kept asking to help us for the next few days. I’m guessing we tipped well?

After we had settled into our room we decided we needed to get some Egyptian pound out. So off we wondered looking for an ATM that takes Aussie cards. The first one we found ate my card. Great I thought we have not even been on our trip for 2 days and in Egypt for 3hrs and our card is gone. I sent Kristy my wife inside to try and get someone. I didn’t want to leave her outside by herself as we had only walked 100m from the hotel and Kristy had already been wolf whistled and stared at enough. A man came out fiddled around with the machine and it went dead. He said “Broken, you have another card?” I was not leaving the ATM until that card came out. I made him fiddle some more, the machine turned on, it was rattled a little but 5mins later it spat my card out. Thank Christ for that. But we still have no money. So I tried again, the entire time thinking this is not a good idea. We were shocked when it spat out our card and our money.

We spent the next couple of  days until our Contiki tour chilling out in our hotel, getting used to seeing the military with machine guns and tanks in the streets, learning how to cross the road, this is a talent best learnt quickly, it will help you throughout Egypt and starting to enjoy this amazing ancient country.

Thanks for dropping by, you can find mykombiandi on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.

Thanks again.

Shane