The Highs and Lows of Egypt

Trip Start Jun 20, 2003
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Trip End Mar 01, 2004


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Tuesday, November 11, 2003

From the start, Egypt was a must see on our trip around the world. How can you say you have been around the world and skipped the pyramids? But Egypt definitely exposed how this trip has been absolutely fantastic on the one hand, and a real grind on the other.

After traveling for almost six months, we considered ourselves pretty decent at this, but Egypt stretched our limits. The touts were the fiercest we've seen and would approach on average about once every twenty seconds. We would always say we were not interested, but they kept trying relentlessly. One even yelled at Sharad indignantly "why are you trying to ruin my business?" after we said no for the fourth time to a felucca ride. It is virtually impossible and very time consuming to book anything independently (i.e without a tour guide or agent) because of the translation difficulties and because Egpyt allows tourists only to take certain buses, etc. for their own safety supposedly. Of course, the heat is unbearable, and obviously western women (i.e white) in particular are treated exceptionally poorly. For instance, we once were going up an elevator to our hotel with a white woman and an obviously Egyptian guy. We thought they were together at first, but once we boarded the elevator he kept getting closer and closer to her and she tried to get farther and farther away. She finally started screamed at him, "I'm sick of this place!" and Sharad had to get in between them to prevent him from following her to her room.

In a nut shell those were the lows, and they were pretty low. But the highs of Egypt cannot be matched anywhere. To start, the Pyramids at Giza were even better in person than on film or from a photo. We were even allowed to climb through the largest one, and that was simply an unbelievable, Indiana Jones moment. The sound and light show at the Pyramids that night were also unforgettable. All during the hour long show, where the Sphinx is the narrator of a fascinating hour long history lesson on all he has seen over the thousands of years he has sat there, they light up the pyramids in a series of amazing colors. You have never seen the pyramids until you have seen them green!

From Cairo, we travelled by an overnight train down to Aswan and spent some time checking out the Temple of Isis and other sights. Absolutely fantastic. From there, we boarded a two day Nile cruise and celebrated Sharad's 30th birthday onboard. And the crew even managed an impromptu birthday celebration with a cake and dancing for all! It was also the first boat on which Susan did not get motion sickness, so that in itself was amazing, but it was just wonderful to watch the desert go by while you sail peacefully down the Nile.

We finally reached Luxor and saw the Temple at Luxor and the Valley of Kings, among other great sights. By this time, we were a bit ruined-out and needed to hide from the touts, and so spent more time than we should have at the hotel pool we splurged on. We then headed to the Red Sea for some much needed r&r. Sharm El Shiekh is very different from the rest of Egypt, which barely has any touts at all. It is right on the Red Sea, very near Jordan, and has some of the best diving in the world -- many say better than the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Accordingly, we spent some great time on the beach, and even had a better time underwater by finally completing our diving certification! That was simply awesome: breathing underwater, swimming with a million colorful fish all around you, floating above huge amounts of bright coral. During our last two dives, we even had a blue manta play right near by us as we practiced our diving skills, and had to have our dive instructor shoo away a poisonous lion fish. Awesome. The only negative thing in Sharm was that Sharad had some trouble equalizing on the way down, and the day after we got certified, popped his right ear drum and lost his hearing in that ear for about two weeks. A little annoying, but not all that painful, and we quickly took an overnight bus to Cairo to catch our flight to India -- ah, our motherland!
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