Trip Start Apr 20, 2008
74Trip End Aug 15, 2010
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It was a 5 hour flight to Cairo and incredibly bumpy, I flew with a British airline called BMI, the plane sounded like it was going to fall apart most of the time.
Airport transfers were included in the tour so that was nice. The resort we stayed in was about 20 minutes out of the actual city of Cairo. From the second floor viewing platform the pyramids were visible. The rooms were pretty average but the swimming pool was divine. The main downside was that because of our distance to the city there were no shops or restaurants close by so we had to do with the four that were in the resort (cheap by London standards but not by local). I shared a room with an Australian girl called Deanna, she had also arrived a day early like me.
Monday we had free until the orientation briefing session at 6.30pm. We got a taxi into central Cairo downtonwn area just to look around and sort out some money issues we couldn't do at the hotel.(Internet at the hotel was an incredulous 10 GBP an hour)
The city of Cairo was packed with cars and traffic was similar to that I have experienced in most other developing countries, no lanes or apparent road rules, constant beeping of the horn and general chaos. There was not a car on the street without dings and scratches all over it. Walking along the street in downtown we were hassled by just about everyone we came across, 'hey aussie aussie, where you from? Kangaroo, Captain Cook, Sydney, Melbourne etc. You come into my shop, you see I have Australian flag, I have photo with Molly Meldrum I, my uncle, he is supplier of white musk essence to the body shop etc etc. etc.'
We managed to get out own little tour guide called Aladdin he showed us an internet cafe, where we could change money and taught us how to 'walk like an Egyptian' ie. cross the road.... his advice "close your eyes and pray to Allah". I don't now about the theory but it seems to be just what the locals do... the traffic is incredibly heavy and there are no gaps. They just walk out and the cars have to either stop or swerve generally missing them by just a few centimetres. I found the only way to cross was to get next to a local and walk when they walk using them as a kind of a shield against the cars..
The rest of the afternoon we spent by the pool.
That evening we had out briefing session. There were 77 people on our tour, only 2 of whom were not Aussie or Kiwi and 95% of who were living and working in London. We were split into two groups with two guides but we all stayed at the same hotels and did all the same things. I was in group A with Yuki. My room mate Deanna was in the other group with Sam which was slightly odd and confusing and resulted in me missing my bus one day as the groups were leaving at different times.
The first night was an optional acitivity which was a dinner and show cruise along the Nile. It was buffet dinner and the food was awesome. Just rice and meat dishes, hard to describe but very tasty. The show was a couple of guys in bright orange with sticks jumping around in time to some live music. This was followed by a very ordinary belly dancer. Next came a man dressed in a long skirt, this is apparently a traditional form of dance which involves the man spinning round and round and round so that his skirt flies out around him, after a while he held his skirt up above him so he looked like a spinning top and then he took it right off and kept spinning it above him. I felt dizzy just watching him!!
Tuesday the tour really began with an early morning start, 8 am we were off to Sakkara to see the Step pyramid, the first pyramid ever built. Second stop the pyramids of Giza, thought to have been built between 2589-2566 BC. A truly amazing sight; from a distance they look like they are made up of small rocks only slightly bigger than bricks. On closer inspection I found the rocks were almost all my height and weigh an average of 2.5 tonnes each. The pyramids can be entered but at an extra fee and there is nothing inside, just a small dark tunnel, no carvings or anything. Any treasures were taken by tomb robbers many thousands of years ago or placed in museums around the world. We also visited the sphinx which is just to the south of the great pyramids.
We had checked out of the hotel before we left for the morning and at 8pm we were off to the train station. We took an overninght train to Aswan, Egypt's southernmost city. Here it was a lot warmer with temperatures about 38 degrees the middle of the day and not a whole lot cooler at night. We checked into the hotel and had a couple of hours free time before we started out Aswan tour. The hotels we stayed at were all pretty nice with the highlight always being the swimming pools where most people spend the bulk of their free time. The tour of Aswan consisted of a visit to the unfinished obelisk, the High Dam and Lake Nasser (before the Aswan dam was built the Nile used to flood every year, since it has been built the waters on the south have risen and some of the monuments had to be moved) and Philae temple which is located on Philae Island and is dedicated to the goddess Isis.
Thursday morning we had a very early start! 3.30am we were on the bus. We had to drive to a meeting point to join the tourist police convoy. We drove with all the other tour buses visiting the site on that day, each with an armed guard on our bus.... Abu Simbel is 300km south of Aswan right near the border to Sudan. Abu Simbel was one of the most impressive things we saw; huge figures carved into the side of a mountain. This was one of the monuments that had to be moved when the dam was built and the whole mountain has been cut apart and put back together on ground about 80m higher than it was originally. Inside the walls are covered in wonderful carvings but of course the most impressive sights are never allowed to be photographed.
We returned to the hotel at 1pm and at 2pm we boarded the feluccas, a type of sailing boat which was to be our home for the next 2 days. We were 12 on each boat and the deck consisted of one gigantic mattress. Our meals were served to us on a plastic table cloth and consisted of pita bread tahini, salad, pasta and various soups and stews. We spent our time just relaxing; sitting or lying down were the only options so sleeping, reading and taking in the view were the main activities. If we needed to go to the toilet we had to pull over and find a bush. At night we pulled up on the bank and we slept on the deck in our sleeping bags, lined up like sardines.
Friday we sailed all day except for a long lunch break. As soon as we stopped moving the absence of a breeze made it apparent how warm it was and most people opted for a dip in the Nile, very refreshing. We were given a task list for the evening which was to be a bonfire night. We had to complete such tasks as collect/find egyptian coin,ID and flag, group song, impersinate tour guide, belly dancer, girl dressed as boy, boy dressed as girl. This occupied us for most of the afternoon.