A Travellerspoint blog

Homeward Bound

sunny 17 °C

Am writing this from Doha, Qatar.....the home of international soccer apparently....what a joke. Anyway, we are now on our way home and waiting for our connecting flight to Melbourne.

The last couple of days have been spent soaking up another half day of sun at Sharm and brushing off for a night at Cairo. This time we stayed closer to the airport, at the Fairmont. Really nice hotel and huge. It has squash courts (well played Sam but beaten by a better player on the day), tennis courts, a lot of restaurants, 3 pools, lounges and plenty more.

The girls spent the last day in Egypt shopping. They caught the complimentary 39 seat bus....just the 3 of them on it. Fortunately, they weren't able to fill it up with purchases. I visited the Heliopolis War Cemetery via a Cairo Cabbie....I figured later that I probably should have told him that I was only visiting the cemetery, and I was expecting to return to the hotel. Geez, the way he was driving, I reckon he was trying to put me there permanently!

On my return, in an effort to settle my nerves, Sam and I had a few games of squash which was a good way to finish the trip.

So I suppose this is it. What did we learn about Egypt???

1. Pedestrian crossings in Egypt are not for walking on they are there for cars to pick an easy target.

2. No smoking tables are tables without an ashtray. The table next to you will have an ashtray though, and the smoke will settle nicely over your meal.

3. When the traders want you to buy something, they will assume that the only reason that you are saying "no", is due to the price. There is no way that you actually don't want the piece of shit.

4. Sakkara King, at 10% alcohol, is not a beer. It is a mallet that comes in a 500ml can. Nothing but a mallet can cause the damage that the King can! Nothing! If you spill a can of this stuff, Emergency Services arrive with sirens, hoses, and full body suits.

5. When going to a public toilet, it is BYO toilet paper. It can be purchased by the sheet at the door.....but there is no point haggling. You have poor negotiating posture when your eyes, toes and knees are crossed.

6. Do not try to hire a car in Cairo. Psychiatric hospitals are full of foreigners who have tried.

7. Sakkara King......you know the drill.

8. In Egypt that have all kinds of food. Beef Kebabs, Chicken Kebabs, Lamb Kebabs, Pooch Kebabs, and probably Camel Kebabs. Learn to like Kebabs when traveling through Egypt.

9. Hibiscus Juice. Never heard of it? Come here and see how it is offered to you at every place you shop, eat, or sleep.

10. Unwanted optional extras on Cairo cars include, indicators, tail lights, and windscreen wipers. White lines on roads are totally ignored, as are traffic lights.

11. The media should get out a bit and stop trying to redo the same stories and add the amount of mayo that they do to their stories. Egypt's two main exports are Petroleum and Tourism. We found that 99% of the places and people were really hurting due to lack of tourists, and this is all due to the quality of the media coverage. Sure there are spots to find trouble if you are looking for it, but most tourism sites were many miles from trouble.

12. A "Little Girl" is worth more around Cairo than what they are further south. This could be because the guys in Cairo are full of crap, and the guys down south will deliver. It would appear that a "Little girl" is worth somewhere between 2 chickens and 5kg of bananas, and 5 Ferraris, 2 Hummers (with a full tank of petrol), and 200 camels. Will get back to you on the dollar figure.

All in all, we have had a great time in Egypt. Many laughs, many places that photos cannot do justice to (have had a crack though, 1500+ photos). We won't be having a slide night, it will be a slide week! Excited??????

Posted by mljjs 12:28 Archived in Qatar Comments (0)

Lazing around Sharm El Sheikh

sunny 22 °C

Sharm El Sheikh

We have been lazing around the Red Sea for the past few days after 2.5 weeks of flat out temple hopping. The resort we are at and the location is excellent and the weather perfect. Whilst the official temperature has varied from only 20 degrees to 24 degrees, it has been quite warm on the beach and the water temperature is 23.

We have been quad bike riding through the mountains, and snorkeling/diving out on the reefs. Sam has completed his certification and can dive to 12m, and Jessica has been on three dives. The rest of us snorkeled out near Tiran Island and the visibility was incredible. Plenty of coral and fish to be seen. Even from the beach at our resort the snorkeling is excellent. Eagle Rays, Stingrays, Lion Fish, Moray Eels and all sorts of bright, colorful fish and coral are right at your doorstep.

The clientele here are nearly all Europeans, trying to escape their winters. The culture on the beach is somewhat different too, with fixed umbrellas and lounge chairs, and some strange swimming suits. When we were in Australia we were advised to dress modestly in Egypt at all times due to their conservative culture.....well I'll be stuffed if that is the information that the Europeans received before coming here. Not that I have noticed the bare breasts, and bikini bottoms that well, show an awful lot of bottom. In most cases the costume has mapped well to the chassis, but there have been some very alarming exceptions. Suffice to say, some swimming outfits are not in sync with a diet of three Big Macs, 5 pizzas, and a large side of Fries!!!! If you need to place your left butt cheek on one lounge and the right cheek on a separate one, don't wear the brief option.....it is simple. If you do feel the need then jump in the water and chase plankton!!

New Years Eve was spent at a restaurant/bar beautifully set up with Bedouin style tents and couches on the beach. Pretty good value for $16 p/h, including three courses, complimentary champagne on arrival and a free cocktail! Entertainment was a Transformer type guy wandering around and a fire dancer. All good, except for the beer. These guys need to understand that the fridge needs to be turned on, in order for the beer to be cold. Sounds simple but two fridges were fully stocked but with the switch in an "off" position....the opposite to "on". Even the waiter. Who was trying to hit on Jessica and Jacinda couldn't find a cold beer and had to go somewhere else to get one.

And on that note, Mohammed (a guy taking video footage of the night and continually coming up to our tent looking for "his angels") informed us that you cannot be gifted 5,000,000 camels as there aren't that many camels in Egypt. He believes his offer of 200 Arabian horses should be taken seriously and that he could present them the following morning at the front of the Marriot! If the beer had of been cold, I may well have been in a state to accept them then and there.

At the Quad bike trip the night before, the local guy at the Bedouin camp we stopped at, offered 200 camels, 2 Ferraris, and 2 Hummers (with full tanks of petrol). This offer went to 500 camels, 10 Ferraris and 5 Hummers (with full tanks of petrol) for the three of them....Jessica, Jacinda and Louisa. Believe it or not, this guy is Mohammed as well and I am kicking myself for not accepting the deal. I think that is the offer of the trip, and certainly beats the 2 chickens and 5kg of banana's I was offered at Queen Hotchickensoups's temple earlier in the trip.

Back to New Years Eve though. The night went really well given the beer was warm. At one stage we used the "when in Rome" clause and ordered a water pipe. It was really weird and we had the apple flavored tobacco added to it.

We moved on after midnight and found a whole new world to Sharm. We went to the party end of town and the place was really jumping. Sitting in the outside lounges with blankets and cold beer/cocktails was really nice and very different to lounges/bars we are used to at home. The water pipes were everywhere but one was enough for us. After a while we had to contend with one too many jerks who wanted to move in on us and wouldn't get the girls' less than subtle "hints" to effectively go now, or risk trying a water pipe in a manner they are unlikely to have experienced in the past! It was getting on to around 3 so we just headed back to the hotel.

Tomorrow we fly back to Cairo for a night and then it is on to Melbourne. We plan on doing a few speed boat activities in the morning before our 13:15 departure to Sharm airport. Will be a shame to leave. Go Aussies in the second test.

Posted by mljjs 12:23 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

In the Steps of Moses

sunny -7 °C

Day 17

We all slept like logs for the short time we had and bounced out of bed after hitting the snooze button 4 times. Jessica was a late withdrawal after failing the fitness test the night before. To her credit at 8;30 the night before she offered to come on the bus with us and see us off. What a trooper. Unfortunately at around 1:15am all we could get out of her was "arrgh", which is Arabic for "get out of my room and turn the light out and shut the door on your way out"!

We collected our Bedouin guide called Hassan and set about the 6km trek up the mountain. The first 4.5 km are fairly gradual but with lots of rocks and opportunities to come a cropper if you don't get the right foothold. We all had head torches which helped and Hassan would yell to us to go to the right or left when a camel was streaming down or up the mountain. The camel guides don't muck around when they have an empty camel. They really move them quite quickly to get to the next gig.

Whilst Louisa was doing it easy, she was taking her time and dropping back at times, so the camel guides were lurking like vultures, a step or two behind her, asking her is she wanted a camel every 4 or 5 steps.

For the first 20 minutes we were carefully looking to place our feet where the camel dung wasn't, but this was getting increasingly difficult. In the end I decided to pray to the heavens (Moses style) to guide my feet away from the camel crap. God's server must have been down as within 2 minutes we were all ankle deep in poo. And on that point, why is it that whenever you saw an obvious and safe place to get a foothold, there would be a big camel steamer lying in the middle of it? I think this explains the grin on the camels' faces.

Sunrise was due at 5:30 or 6:15 or 5:45 depending who you spoke to. Hassan said it was at 6:05. We stopped at numerous Bedouin "cafes" on the way up as Hassan was keen to take his time. We were keen to get going on most occasions. 100 steps from the top there was a final "cafe", with the usual blankets and seats inside. Hassan said that we should wait here for 30 minutes as it was cold on the summit and we had some time to wait. It was around 5:15. No arguments from us and we were asleep in 12 seconds. Rudely awoken at 5:45 by Hassan saying that we can now take our time going up the final 100 steps as it was 20 minutes or so to sunrise. He continued to lay down the law about what to do and what not to do on the final assault, and was cranky at us for wanting to get going....he said it was still around 30 minutes to go till sunrise...... as we could see the start of sunrise over his bloody shoulder!

Anyway there was probably 200 people at the top, some wearing Santa hats, some singing hymns, and a South African choir (pretty good by the way) belting out a hymn in the national way with lots of clapping and chanting. Sunrise was good but very cold. We all had on about 5 layers of clothing, but still hired a blanket at the last spot for 20 EGP. I was tough and let the others have it...what a guy.

Took about 100 photos and then headed down. On the way down there were many people still struggling to make it up. They were taking breathers every 4 or 5 paces but were in good spirits. We took the same path down as we took up, but there is a shorter path apparently. The steps of penitence....3000 of them. No thanks.

We met Bassem our main guide at St Catherine's Monastery near the bottom for a tour there. Very interesting place with paintings and manuscripts dating back thousands of years. There is also a waterwheel where Moses had a vision and the burning bush where Moses was told by god to get cracking up the mountain. The monks that live here have a constant reminder of their fate as the skulls of deceased Monks are stored at the Monastery....they are buried first and the skulls retrieved later....sorry about the detail.

Back to the hotel for a crappy breakfast and to freshen up for our 3 hour drive to Sharm El Sheik. We headed off at 10:45 and got to our hotel at around 1:00pm. Our first hour at the Marriot was underwhelming.

- Our rooms were stuffed up with the wrong bedding configuration in both.
- Our bags were not delivered till I asked where they were after an hour. Now we are all for carrying our own bags to our rooms and in fact prefer to,we were not allowed to!
- Didn't get our simple lunch order for over 40 minutes, and when we did, Jessica's did not come. Apologies from the staff as the chef had forgotten. The fish and chips arrived 20 minutes later....raw. Management were on the ball though and the chef paid for our entire meal...and drinks.

Spent an hour with Sam at the local dive shop getting his certification sorted out. We opted for the first level that will restrict him to 12m, but it means he won't be spending his entire week here, studying up on diving and doing all the water sessions. The is too much do around here.

Dinner though was great. Our package includes breakfast and lunch and normally this means buffet, but the buffet is on the other side of the main road. We are staying at Marriot Beachside and the other section is known as Marriot Mountainside. There is a local alternative at the Marriot's Italian restaurant. Great menu, great service. Jessica threw a glass of red wine at Louisa (well she made it look like she knocked it) and that kept the staff occupied for a while and in good spirits.

All extremely tired so off to bed for an early one, and maybe.a sleep in....but not for Sam who has an 8:45 appointment at the dive centre!

Posted by mljjs 01:15 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Sinai

sunny 21 °C

Day 16

Bloody hell. The first score I hear is Australia 3 for 204 then the first ball I see is Clarke being bowled and the next is Hussey getting a shocker! I have a theory....if your game plan revolves around intimidating umpires into making incorrect decisions, why would you want a decision referral system to correct poor decisions? Just a theory that I'll put out there. There is just one team in world cricket that refuses to use the system.

Anyway, bags packed and off to breakfast for a 09:00 departure to Saint Catherine's. Expected to take 7 - 8 hours in the car. Jessica missed breakfast as she has come down with what looks like Cairo Tummy. May be a long drive.....

We head to the Suez Canal, but you don't really see the canal itself as you drive under it. It took 10 years to build and 30,000 Egyptian lives. 100,000 Egyptian slaves worked on it. They took farmers from their land to work on the canal and treated them quite poorly, hence the death rate. It is up to 6km wide and goes for 191 Kms.

We then head back south through Sinai, stopping at a place where Moses is believed to have parted the Red Sea....even though it isn't the Red Sea at this point. He then stayed 40 nights at this spot with the Israelis, where there are Palm trees and wells. Apparently the wells had "butter water" which is not suitable for drinking so Moses put Palm leaves over the wells and the water became drinkable.

Driving further south we had lunch in an Egyptian style diner.....options on the menu included, all sorts of things. Kebabs (beef), kebabs (chicken), kebabs (lamb), and kebabs mixed. We decided to have kebabs.....except Jessica, who had the other option.

The terrain really started to change around this point and became quite hilly. The hills/mountains did not have a single tree on them and were solid rock. They were awesome in the way they went straight up with no visible way of getting to the top of them without ropes.

The temperature was also dropping in line with the elevation, and by the time we had reached Morgenland at St Catherine's where we are staying, it was freezing. At Morgenland there is a massive pool that must hold some type of record of number of people to swim in it per megalitre of water. The calculation would be something like 0.00000000000000001. Apparently it was 1996 when the last person swam in it, and he was fully clothed and stumbled on his way back from the bar. The previous person may well have been Moses himself! As I have just found out, the only thing that is warm here is the bloody beer.....not happy. They don't even bother turning on their fridges here. If only they would keep their beer in the pool.

Beautiful. Looks like the generators have packed it in. Just when the bedroom was getting into double digits (temperature wise) everything is out. We are sitting in our bedrooms wearing head torches, wondering whether 8:30 is too early to go to bed. Answer is nup, as we'll be up in 5.5 hours.

We will be woken up tonight (more correctly tomorrow morning) at 01:00, to be in the bus at 1:30 and on our way to Mt Sinai for a 5 hour trek that ends in 750 steps. 6 km up and 6 km down. It is supposed to be around -7 degrees Celsius at the top of the mountain, which is 2,300m. Camels are an option but I don't think any of us could sit on a camel for that long. Anyway, at the top is where Moses received the 10 commandments and we should be there for sunrise. I am hoping that Moses may have missed a commandment, something along the lines of, "Thou must drink copious amounts of beer and go fishing".

Posted by mljjs 01:14 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Merry Christmas

sunny 21 °C

Day 15

Christmas morning and it started with a Skype session at 07:00 with the Anderson's who were gathered at Forest Hill. Good to see most of them. Pete, Leanne and Eliza had had to head off to their family for Christmas dinner. Matt, Lou, Meg, Kate and Harry were there from the Solomon Islands and Phil was there from Timor. Donna, Geoff, Nick, Jennae, and Josh we're also there.

Most of us then took the opportunity to get another hour of sleep and then it was breakfast. After breakfast we were due to Skype Louisa's family at Laszlo's house at around 10:00. We got a text message from them at around this time to say they had a power blackout due to the storms that hit Melbourne. Fortunately the power returned about 30 minutes later and we were able to catch them all on Skype. Laszlo and his family, Marina and hers, and Laci, Nella and Libero. Silvana was up at Khankoban.

We had booked a lunch on the other side of Cairo that was offering the full Christmas buffet and Santa thing. This was the other Cairo Intercontinental and the only place that our Concierge could find that was celebrating Christmas here. Even the Coptic Christians, who celebrate Christmas, do so on January 7.

On the way to lunch we passed the spot that Anwar Saddat was assassinated.

Lunch was huge, in fact so much variety that the kids were running around taking photos of the food! Whilst negotiating the massive feast, Sam and I both had a bad toilet experience....basically, the best way of describing it is that, well when you flush the toilet, it explodes with water! I reported the issue to the head waiter who had difficulty containing his amusement. He reported it to housekeeping and came back with an update a short time later. When approaching us, it looked like his head was about to explode due to him using very possible muscle to prevent him from bursting out into uncontrollable laughter.

The hotel, in a place called City Star, also has a shopping Centre and this took us over an hour to navigate. The bus took us back to our hotel at 4pm, weighing probably 5kg more than on the way to lunch.

Dinner was room service as we couldn't get off our beds. Personally, I felt that a wafer thin after dinner mint, might cause a similar reaction to The Intercontinental toilet incident earlier in the day.

Plans were in place though to set up the laptop for the Boxing Day Test via the Internet. Figured we could catch the last session from from around 07:00. Missing my third Boxing Day since 1974......

Posted by mljjs 01:12 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

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