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Egypt Part Two

2nd April 2014 Cairo. Twenty million people. Bad traffic.

The first you see of Cairo, entering from the south, is a myriad of ten story blocks of units and as you drive in you reacquaint yourself with the African style of city driving, i.e. every man for himself but, having graduated from the Dar es-Salam school of driving, I survived, more or less.

We finally found the Isis Garden Camp owned by an Adelaide lady, Sue, who gave us a warm welcome, and her Egyptian husband, Helal who is also friendly and helpful, organising our sight seeing for the next three days. Their home is an interesting building of six floors, which houses their extended family and has views of the Great Pyramid of Giza only three K’s away. The Great Sphinx is also there, right in the middle of town. There is also a very nice garden, pool and camp kitchen. Parking is limited but gated and under security cameras.

We have heard the call to prayers, that start early each morning, maybe at 5am, and throughout the day, but here in Cairo it is overwhelming. We have a Mosque just two doors down and they do have a PA system along with several other Mosques in the area and when they all get going at the same time it is a unique experience not entirely unpleasant.

3rd April 2014 Just did a bit of washing and walked down to the supermarket about 2K’s away and caught a tukk tukk back, these guys really do have some awesome driving skills.

There is no municipal garbage collection in most of Cairo.

Tomorrow we travel…………………by camel.

4th April 2014 We rode by camel to the Great Pyramid and Sphinx of Giza. Camels are much better on sand than on road and the ones we rode were decorated with ink designs which made them look even better. My camel’s name was Michael Jackson and Judy’s was Cleopatra. They were well behaved and didn’t spit or bite. I think Cleopatra took a liking to me.

The pyramids were also good.

5th April 2014 Cairo is a BIG town, we realised, as we headed toward the Egyptian Museum. This museum is right next to El-Tahrir square where the recent rioting occurred. The entire street in front of the museum was full of tanks ready for the next riot, also a big building burnt out next door.

The museum houses many relics from antiquity including King Tut’s stuff and we spent a couple of hours here before going with our driver, Walid, to see old Coptic churches and some very impressive mosques including the Mohamed Ali Mosque.

Lunch was Kusheri, a spicy mixture of mince, chick peas, noodle, and macaroni. Good.

I mentioned earlier that there was no municipal garbage collection. I may have been wrong as I saw a backhoe clearing a huge, accumulated, hill of rubbish. Maybe this is how they do it.

Through a keyhole

Through a keyhole

6th April 2014 We were taken on a tour to Saqqara. Because we were with an Egyptian guide we were able to bypass a lot of the hassling that goes on at all the tourist sites. We did see the very first pyramid ever built as well as other tombs and for an extra consideration were taken on the unofficial tour of an as yet unexcavated tomb. We clambered down an awkward entranceway, past a heap of rubbish and into a small tunnel from which several birds flew (no bats) and we explored the pitch black passageways for quite some way until we came upon a skull then another and finally two side rooms which were full of human bones. No explanation given.

There were some excavations going on around the site but when I tried to photograph it I was waved away, all very Indiana Jones.

 

Finally came to saying our goodbye at Isis Garden Camp and settling the bill. Very expensive. See “Travel notes/accommodation”.

8th April 2014 Arrived at Ras al Barr late yesterday, one of the most northerly points in Egypt from where our car will be shipped to Iskenderun in Turkey. We worried that the ferry may not be operating, it is, and we have the arrangements in place thanks to our agent here Mohamed Ali El-Hefnawy ntramagroup@gmail.com. Two days ago we applied for and were granted a three-month visa for Turkey on line US$60.00. Too easy.

Ras al Barr itself is a large resort city with hundreds of huge three story buildings that look to be hotels, though they all look empty at present. All appear to be built around the same era of the 50’s and 60’s, with surrounding palm trees, they remind me of Miami slightly past it’s prime. I have been told that this place really hots up around holiday time. In fact it did hot up on Saturday night, just like Brighton in Sydney, complete with drag racing, doughnuts, people milling and the odd firework. Very entertaining for us from our balcony.

The Nile empties into the Mediterranean Sea here so in a way it is a fitting end to the African section of our trip as we have followed the course of the Nile, on and off, from source to fin.

Just had yet another black out. Not me personally.

10th April 2014 

Sitting on our balcony overlooking the Mediterranean enjoying an Egyptian breakfast of boiled egg, cheese, olives and a bean dish, listening to the ABC’s Radio National

 

Took the ferry to the other side of the Nile to Al Malaqa village that is the opposite of Ras al Bar with busy markets and exotic smells.

Have you seen the old 50’s vintage cars in Havana, Cuba? Same here. I was admiring one of these old classics when the owner, Adel Ali came over and invited us for a coffee across the road and as we shared a shisha he explained that his Dodge had the original body but that the rest of the car was made up from various Japanese parts of different brands. I think he was trying to sell it to me.

14th April 2014 I’m not going to say Out of Africa but finally we say our good bye to Egypt.

The Ro-Ro (Roll on-Roll off) ferry to Turkey does not take passengers so we are flying to Turkey along with the 250 swarthy Turkish truck drivers who have their rigs on the vessel. Judy is the only female passenger on the plane. I must say they were a pleasant bunch and well behaved.

Just heard on the news of a bomb explosion on a Cairo bridge, killing two policemen.

 

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Egypt Part One

22nd March 2014 Adam Home is the home, a large compound, of two Nubian brothers who first of all gave us a “welcoming” mint tea and contacted Mohamed, their cousin, who can arrange anything. There is a shortage of diesel here no problem. Mohamed made a phone call and came with me to the petrol station as we were waved past the twenty or so trucks waiting in a queue.

Mohamed wrote DIESEL in Arabic

Mohamed wrote DIESEL in Arabic

I filled both tanks and two jerry cans @ 30 cents/litre. Meanwhile the truckies were crowding around having a good old laugh, joking around not minding me pushing in. Apparently in Egypt this is acceptable as earlier on in the day I was moved, by a soldier, to the front of an ATM queue. The only people who have preferential treatment to a tourist are women, who can go to the front of the queue in front of the tourist. Judy does the banking now.

When we returned to Adam Home, Mohamed took us on a tour of his Nubian village taking us to visit his sister, a charming woman, to take the best lemon drink. It is made with a little milk added and shaken to the Billyo, tastes like a lemon spider (soda). His sister was happy to show us through her large house with lots of rooms, again within a large walled compound with flat screen TV’s and air con etc. Not your average Nubian family home methinks. The hubby is an accountant at an oil field on the Red sea. Mohamed had also procured a bulk amount of lollies, which he distributed throughout the village, to any kid in sight, as we drove around, a little like the pied piper.

Mohamed is such an enthusiastic fellow and will take us on his felucca (boat) on a Nile cruise soon.

24th March 2014 Lost a day somewhere. Visited the Philae Temple (Temple of Isis), which is one of the structures sawn up and moved to higher ground when the Aswan dam was built prior to flooding the valley. Magnificent, everything you would expect from Egyptian antiquity even with some Napoleonic army graffiti from when they were here in the nineteenth century.

Hot dry days and cool nights.

We just went for a walk along the banks of the Nile over which Adam Home looks. It is oasis like with palm trees and lush farmland. I was surprised to find a sandy beach at the riverside until I realised that the Nile flows through the Sahara desert = sand.

25th March 2014 Went on Mohamed’s felucca for a day of Nile River cruising. The felucca is a wide beamed sailing boat about 30 feet long. The deck is one big bed with an annex over the top, so we cruised, lounging around and sleeping occasionally, being interrupted by sweet Hibiscus tea and food cooked on the boat by a crew member, whom we named Captain Cook. The feluccas are very agile and fast even under half sail and we passed several icons such as the Temple of Isis or the Botanical Gardens but were too lazy to get off the boat.

The Nile is surprisingly cold and apparently 50 metres deep in places.

26th March 2014 The Abu Simbel excursion did not come off so we did nothing until the evening when the German overlanders, with some fairly serious trucks, decided to have a cook up of Thai beef Green curry and beautiful salads for all, including various Nubians, Swiss, Aussies, a Serbian girl, a Brazilian girl and an Australian sheepdog al a “Babe”.

A fire was required, Bosnian firewood supplied, and so another gig, singing “Bosnian Wood “ to the melody of “Norwegian Wood” with a finale “fire dance” whilst singing Elvis.

In true German style various pilsners were tested and vast amounts of Egyptian wine were quaffed by the female contingent.

Do you get the Vibe?

All in all our stay at Adam Home was really nice with Mohamed, Sammi (dead ringer for Eddy Murphy) and Sabbi, the perfect hosts.

The locals would honk and wave as they drove past the campsite.

28TH March 2014 Antiquity overload.

am Temple of Karnak

mid day Museum of Luxor

pm Temple of Luxor

Temple of Luxor

Temple of Luxor

Tomorrow Valley of the Kings, Tuts Tomb and other assorted unbelieveables.

We have had a huge amount of pestering here and all sorts of tricks, the best one being this:

As we passed a souvenir shop the trader asked if I could read a message that he had received, in English, on his phone. The message was truly sad, about a friend who had had a stroke. He asked me to come into his shop to formulate an answer, which I did. Meanwhile Judy had looked at the phone and found that it was a truly old message, surprise ten. He was very subtle about trying to sell his papyrus paintings.

Full points for this one.

The carriage drivers will do anything to get a fare, one even gave us the wrong directions, unasked, hoping to get our fare when we got sick of walking. They follow you along the road until you crack. Pay 1/3 of the asking fee.

We are almost the only tourists in town. There are huge river cruise boats tied up at their moorings by the hundred and hotel car parks empty, which means that we have no queues and can really negotiate a price, though maybe some tourist atmosphere is lacking.

There are police on every corner with an occasional Army post complete with sand bags, machine guns and the odd tank.

29th March 2014 No photography allowed. The Valley of the Kings contains the tombs of many Pharaohs and the entrance fee of 100 pounds (AUD$16.00) allows you to see three tombs of your own choosing. We saw the tombs of Ramses 3rd, Ramses 4th, Ramses 7th and Merenptah (yes I know it is four but they forgot to hole punch our ticket at one of the tombs). Tutankhamun’s tomb is an extra 100 pounds and contains his mummified remains and a gold sarcophagus (coffin). Did you know that Tutankhamun’s body spontaneously combusted in the sarcophagus after a botched embalming job? Me neither.

All the tombs contain painted hieroglyphics that could have been painted yesterday.

Unfortunately you are constantly badgered not only by the traders outside but the employees within the tomb complex. Their trick is to show you some detail and then ask for money. This goes on all the time and you find yourself not enjoying the experience and yes, Judy lost it. Scary!

We also saw the temple of Hatshepsut and the Colossi of Memnon.

We have been staying at the Rezeiky Camp Hotel and they have been killing us with kindness. It is a hotel of fifty or so suites, in central Luxor, with a huge forecourt, which is perfect for overlanders with trucks of any size, and we are the only guests. They have plied us with delicious food, arranged our tour taxi and helped with procuring diesel, which is scarce here. In fact the petrol station is just at the top of the entrance lane to the hotel so they just told me when the diesel had been delivered. Full tanks ready for the White desert tomorrow.

They even asked if we could stay another day to join them in an engagement party for the manager’s daughter tomorrow night, however we are running out of time with our visa and shipping arrangements so we have to go.

30th March 2012 Leaving Luxor we have taken a minor road as a short cut to the western desert. I thought it may be dirt but it is good tar all the way, saved 300k’s. We have passed through many check points with no hassle but it does show how tense this place is. Heard on Aussie radio that 500 Brotherhood of Muslim followers have been condemned to death for killing a policeman. Is this real? Starting to get a little tense myself.

Motored to the Kharga oasis and stumbled across the Hibis Temple, much more enjoyable with a guide who doesn’t ask for money all the time and a little further on the Bagawat Necropolis. This is a 1400-year-old cemetery with 250 odd tombs and churches all made of mud. With the extremes of temperature and wind but probably not rain, I wonder how they have survived.

We are now bush camped at the foot of a large dune and go in search of diesel tomorrow.

Actually two local Arab men have just come over for a chat. They speak no English and we speak no Arabic but they are determined to have a good old chinwag, I think they are lonely, There are some interesting periods of silence punctuated by a rush of words when a new possibility for communication comes to mind. In the end we kind of, sort of, understand one or two things, maybe. This was to be repeated in the morning.

31st March 2014 Found diesel and had felafels and chips for breakfast, not the healthiest of diets. They were meant to be for lunch but had been just made and smelt so good we couldn’t resist.

Only travelled about 150k’s before stopping at Beir El-Gabal Tourist camp that had been recommended and indeed it was positioned in front of some spectacular desert mountains, 41c in the shade. After dinner we bathed in the hot mineral springs, of 38c and although the evening was still well into the thirties’ we came out refreshed and cool. This thermal pool has an iron oxide base and in the morning we found that our sheets had rusted (in colour). We also met a German lady Friedel who has built a meditation centre next door and a beautiful building and accompanying garden it is. Friedel suggested that we go for an early morning walk around the locale, which we did, and it did not disappoint, improbable hues and textures of dune, rocky outcrop and mountain.

 

1st April 2014 Happy New Year!

Headed toward the White desert but on the way inspected the 1000 year old Muslim village just seven k’s north of Beir El-Gabal made of mud. Some buildings are three storey’s high with one minaret some thirty metres high and the subterranean streets and lanes take you through lots of nooks and cranny’s with workplaces such as mills and blacksmith’s. Although it is a very hot day the original air vents/shafts provide natural aircon.

 

Toward the end of the day we approached the White Desert with magnificent meringue and Pavlova like formations. Camping here is allowed and we found ourselves a nice, secluded spot nestled in next to a giant snowy mushroom.

As I topped up the fuel from our jerry cans we happened to notice eight four wheel drives, full of people, pull up next to us, a school group from Alexandria. Oh no! However, after talking to them they said we could accompany them in going deeper into the desert to where the most impressive formations were, so we followed.

 

Here we are now, having lost them, sitting in the middle of the desert, all alone. But not lost as there is a well-marked path back to the main road.

We go to the Black desert tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

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