A Travellerspoint blog

Luxor - Valley of the Kings

sunny 26 °C

Day 8.

We were able to negotiate a 7:30 start with our guide after he suggested 7:00. This was well received and after another big breakfast we were off to see the Valley of the Kings, on the west bank.

Wow, what a sight. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take cameras in, but wandering through these tombs is quite incredible. The detailed artwork that tells stories about the person and the process of getting to the after-life look as though they were painted yesterday, not 3 - 4,000 years ago. We paid extra to see Tutankhamun's tomb and although it was nowhere near as spectacular as the others, due to the fact he died suddenly and so young, his mummified body sits in the burial chamber. You can get within 2 feet of his tiny body. The tomb of Ramses III is full of color and the corridor in to the burial chamber is quite deep and long.

We then had to visit an alabaster shop where they show you how they make the articles and the difference between fake and genuine products. And golly, are people all over you to sell you their products. At the Valley of the Kings they were like flies, and the moment your eyes make contact with their product, they will follow you for miles. It is possible that your eyes may make contact with their product when they shove it in your face, but I was told that I make eye contact with them too much, I should totally ignore them. Easier said than done. I found the best way was to buy a product early and use this as your Egyptian Aeroguard. Not that saying, "I already have one" is a valid excuse not to buy one from the next guy!

This guy Mahmood, a very good friend of mine, followed me around the place for 30 minutes. I would go down in a tomb and the first thing I would see would be Mahmood saying, "200 pound, 200 pounds" for a book on Egypt....bloody hell he was driving me bonkers, even though he was a very good friend of mine. In the end I got the book for 150 (around $25 of real money), gave him 200 but he didn't have change. He gave me all the books he had and then went running around looking for change. Louisa thought I had bought the pile of books so I decided to reverse the tables and started nagging the vendors to buy a book from me. I asked for 5 pounds and the cheeky blighters haggled me and said "3"!

After we were chased into our cars, we then went to the temple of Deir El-Bahari (1480 BC) and yes, it is another magnificent structure built out of a cliff. This temple was built by Queen Hotchickensoup, who herself is a king and buried in the Valley of the Kings. The fence around it that was built to keep the rabbits out could not be seen.

I know I said yesterday that I had solved the riddle of "How much for the little girl?", but there now appears to be some confusion. Today at the temple, I was offered 2 chickens and 5kg of bananas for Jacinda by a very nice local gentlemen (who by the way, tried to sell me books that I already had in my hand). At first this deal appeared to be out of the market, but the chickens were big and in good health. I couldn't afford to give this deal up (I still had Jessica who could get me a few camels), so I accepted. Jacinda was last seen running in the general direction of Cairo.

We then went to the Valley of the Queens and once again, it was really good, but a tad below the standard set by the kings. We visited 3 tombs and 2 of these were beautifully laid out, one with a mummified feotus! We managed to piss off two local gentlemen who thought they were adding value to our tour by pointing out the bleeding obvious in the paintings or fanning us with a small piece of cardboard. They were actually hindering our experience by constantly talking and dragging us on before we were ready. Of course, when you exit the tomb they put their hand out but we didn't have small change so kept walking. Lucky I know very little Arabic.

Back to the boat and we took off up the Nile at 13:30. Very pleasant to be on our way but Luxor is a very nice spot with some very nice people.

Posted by mljjs 13:08 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

How many camels is your daughter worth?

sunny 22 °C

First of all, apologies for my form at Alexandria. The beer tasting really knocked me around and Louisa reckons that Sakara King got me sloshed in no time. Of course I disagree with that, but I must say that I am finding it hard to explain why I woke up face down on the balcony with my underwear on my head and toothpaste up my nose.....

Anyway, back to the trip. We were up at 4:00 am in order to catch our 6:30 flight from Alexandria to Cairo, and then the 8:45 from Cairo to Luxor. All went well although it would appear that I have donated one pair of boardies to the Azur Mediterranean Hotel that were left drying in the shower.....should be dry by now I reckon.

The travel company that we are with have been fantastic and they even had a guy meet us at Cairo airport to tell us that our connecting flight was on time and check we were all OK. It was the same guy who used our passports to buy bottles of vodka and cigarettes at the Duty Free shop when we first arrived. Obviously the office failed to tell him that we were only on a domestic flight so he'll have to get his grog through normal channels.

We landed OK in Luxor the third time....I am counting the bounces down the runway as separate landings as they were about 50 m apart. Our guide was there to meet us and took us to our ship on the Nile which is very nice. We have three cabins, Sam is on his own. He is finding the lack of 24 hour Internet a challenge and as I write this, he is across the road at an Internet cafe. 10 EGP for an hour. Around $1.50.

Today we also found an answer to the big question, "How much for the little girl"? Margaret, I have seen your comment and I am proud to say I have the answer. Jessica was offered 5 million camels by some guys. I am told camels are worth between $5,000 and $20,000 USD, depending on age and health. At say, $10,000 that makes a little girl worth 50 billion. Am holding out for a better offer, even if it means throwing Jacinda into the mix, either way, this should be a profitable business trip....and also cut back our baggage weight for the return trip.

We visited two temples after we settled down in the cabins. The first was Karnak Temple and was absolutely amazing. Built between 600BC and 300 AD it goes forever and the statues and pillars and sheer size of the monuments is incredible. I have a theory on this. We could have these structures in Australia if we have sandstone and pink granite shaped like they do in Egypt. They have rocks of all shapes and sizes. 30m men, large god like creatures, lions, sphinx's, long pillars, kings and queens. All they do is is stack them up and arrange them in rows. We could do that too but our rocks don't look anything like theirs. But we do have a big rock that people come from around the world to see....imagine if it was shaped like a king or a giant lion?

Louisa and I will be retuning to Karnak Temple tonight for a light show. The kids are all Karnaked so have chosen to have an early night.

We then went to Luxor Temple and this too was amazing. The original temple had two massive Obelisks at the front but now have only one. Apparently some dopey guy swapped it with France for a clock.....and the clock doesn't work! How could could anyone destroy a temple over 2000 years old for a clock?

We then headed back to our ship and settled in and waited for dinner at 7, which was great. Louisa and I got picked up at7:45 forth light show and was fantastic. Some commentary about how and why the temple looked like it did along with lights strategically fading on and off as we walked around as a group of around 20 people. It went for an hour and that was enough for me. It had been a long day. Two flights, two temples, a light show and offers for my daughters to consider.

Posted by mljjs 13:04 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Alexandria

sunny 21 °C

Am writing this from Cairo airport after catching a 6:30 am flight from Alexandria. We had a great time in Alexandria but it is now off to Luxor via an 8:45 am flight to catch our Nile cruise at midday.

Yesterday, Day 6 in Egypt started out with a conservative kick-off at 9:00,which was much appreciated by the late starting Ando's. It is Friday and the day of prayer in these surrounds so the traffic was only normal...by Australian standards. We made good time through the markets until a "deadly embrace" occurred between 16 busses, 46 cars, 232 pedestrians, 6 ducks, 4 puppies and one bloody tram! Always a worry here when the drivers get out of their cars and start up deep and meaningful discussions with other drivers who have jumped out of their cars to have deep and meaningful discussions...lucky it is all in Arabic and we are none for the worse. When they then decide to start up a water pipe and puff away, we're concerned that this deadlock may last for some time.

Anyway, shortly after the tram moved we were on our way, drivers jumped back in their vehicles and the ducks were left wondering what dinner plate they were destined for...actually so were the puppies as we found out later, and we don't want to disturb everyone with how many ways a pet pooch can be considered "delicious" in these parts.

We finally reached the Catacomb that of course meant very little to us, but when we descended down into the tombs, we were absolutely overwhelmed. It was amazing how deep they dug into the sandstone for what was originally a private tomb for a man and his wife and son. This was dug some 2000 plus years ago and after that it was converted into a public tomb, where others have dug cavities for their coffins (well maybe not their own but someone close to them). The difference between the Egyptian and then Roman artwork was very interesting. We could have wandered through the corridors for a lot longer but it was time to get back up. Once again, we are very lucky to see such places with very little tourist traffic. When we got back on to land level, it was weird to see how far we had traversed underground when you match the points above and below.

We then headed to the Roman Amphitheater that was accidentally discovered quite a few years back, excavating for a building. It was pretty cool but 1000 year old relics are getting to be fairly normal around these parts.

It was then off to a fort built on the site of the Alexandria Lighthouse, one of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World, and Egypt has two of them. We walked around it for a while and watched the men fish from the rocks, and as you do when you visit such a spectacle, you buy 3 watches, 2 wallets, and a couple of scarves. Meanwhile, Sam who I am getting a bit concerned about, wandered around the place filming genitalia! It stated off with a couple of phallic wood carvings and ended with a photo of a donkey.....fairly well endowed, but enough of that.

We bravely had lunch at a small roadside diner and tried some genuine Egyptian cuisine. I think it was something called Kishemy. A bowl of macaroni, covered with chickpeas, tomato, fried onion, rice and a heap of other stuff. It was surprisingly nice, and even Sam just about finished his bowl.

It was then back to the hotel for gym and another swim in the Mediterranean. Bloody beautiful.

One of the unfortunate tasks of touring Egypt is assessing their local brews and this task was bounced around the Anderson's with little interest understandably, so it was up to me to do the dirty work. Bassem, our guide, advised our driver Mohammed (who would have guessed), to buy us an assorted batch of the local beers.

I have to say, the kick arse, get outta here, tell ya story walkin', Sakara King, is one hell of a beer at 10% alcohol. Surely there are rules against that, as it ain't fair. I am just trying to imagine 10 slabs of these suds being served up at a bucks night. Everyone would be face down on the carpet by 8pm before the movies even started! To borrow a Monty Python line, it is a bottle with a message and the message is, BEWARE! And in 500 ml cans....

The beers I had to negotiate included;

Sakara 10% King - 10%
Stella Lager Beer - 4.5%
Meister Max Lager Beer - 8%

Anyway, I think I need a few more opportunities to properly assess the varieties so will have to get back to you on a final verdict. That last Sacqrrah King haz nokked the duk owt of mee......

Posted by mljjs 21:53 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Long Day in the Saddle

sunny 20 °C

No pyramids today but lots of driving. We checked out of the hotel at 6:30 after a rushed breakfast....so rushed in fact, that Jacinda spilt 3/4 of a glass of mango juice down her front. Hilarious. Woke us all up, including the 27 waiters hanging around for a tip. Whilst they all rushed to provide assistance, they weren't quite sure of where to put the napkins. Should be noted here that the mango juice at the hotel is basically blended mango and has the consistency of a think pumpkin soup.

We headed off to El Alamein which is about 160 Kim's from Cairo. As we approached the Mediterranean Sea near El Alamein, it was amazing to sea the vivid blue water contrasting with the white stone housing. On the other side of the road was desert. Absolutely nothing.

Our first point of call was the War Museum and we had high hopes of a great presentation when we saw the large map of northern Africa with tanks, ships and hills. Lights showed the various attacks and retreats but when the guy turned up with a large stick and the commentary crackled from speakers that must have been retrieved from Rommel's tank, I was a tad underwhelmed. Couldn't hear anything but dates (which we knew) and some weird music. Not to worry, it was interesting walking through the display anyway and learning about what these guys had to endure. Unfortunately most of the displays have German or Arabic descriptions.....but there was a bit more described in English towards the end.

We then headed off to the War Cemetery just up the road, and this put the conflict in some sort of perspective. We only visited the Allies cemetery (there was also a German and Italian war cemetery) and this had 7000 named graves but there were even more graves for those that could not be identified. The cemetery was immaculately presented and despite the environment being almost totally different from that of PNG, it reminded Jessica and I of the Bomana War Cemetery at Port Moresby. Tombstones placed millimeter perfect, perfectly manicured gardens, and a weird silence.

It was then off to Alexandria, about 115 Kim's away. A town built by Alexander the Great. The trip along the Mediterranean was spectacular but we then headed inland to take advantage of the highway and a faster route. Of course we had no idea where we were or what roads we were on as our knowledge of Arabic is, well, zero. All road signs are in Arabic, but some descriptive road signs don't require any imagination, such as no mobile phones and %^#}*{<> 120.

When we hit the Alexandria traffic it was mayhem, but unlike Cairo, we were actually at a stand still. It was really slow going so we decided to skip lunch and go straight to the Alexandria Library, which is supposedly the biggest in the world with 1.5M books and even more scrolls and the like. I lost a little interest when I found out that the original library was effectively wiped out by wars around 400AD, but it was still an OK stop.

Then it was on to our new hotel, positioned right on the Mediterranean, in fact our balcony is 5 meters from the sand. This meant that a swim beckoned but the rest of the Ando's could only think of their stomachs at 4pm with no lunch, so it was just me that braved the winter Mediterranean water for a relaxing dip. It was great, but a few nearby fishermen thought I was crazy, but I thought they were crazy for trying to catch fish where I wanted to swim!

Given that we missed lunch, our tour guide wanted to take us out for dinner and that sounded great. We spent the evening trying to get a handle on the Arabic language and their weird right to left hieroglyphics. Was good fun, and dining in one of Alexandria's oldest restaurants added to the flavor. Tomorrow, we are doing more of Alexandria with a Roman Amphitheater, and the Citadel of Qaitbay, built on the site of the Alexandria Lighthouse, one of the 7 Ancient Wonders of the World.

Hopefully we will get away early enough for another swim in the afternoon if Jacinda can hold on to her Mango juice....

Posted by mljjs 12:00 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

More Pyramids

semi-overcast 20 °C

Another day in Cairo and surrounds and we are starting to get the hang of the place. Today I spotted a Tuk-Tuk driver over the age of 12! Had taken me three days but I did it. I just can't get over the roads and the crazy drivers, and the 10 year old Tuk-Tuk drivers mix it with the best.

We started the day earlier than normal so that we could get back to the hotel mid-afternoon. We headed off at 8:00 to check out Memphis Museum. This is not a museum with Elvis relics but Ramses II. This guy was a mad dude who had a habit of inscribing his name over other statues and fixtures, albeit 4000 years ago. There was one massive statue of him lying down that was a little too big and fragile, so they built the museum around him!

We then headed off to Dashur to see the Red Pyramid which was huge, but built in a rectangular shape as opposed to a square base. We were able to climb down into the burial chamber in this pyramid which was really weird. Around 200m of cramped corridor, around 90cm high and of similar width. Not great for dodgy knees and hips. The temperature was around 10 degrees C warmer inside and really stuffy. Well worth the effort though to experience a burial chamber over 4,600 years old. We all climbed down it. And another thing that we are lucky with is the lack of tourists. We had this place to ourselves. Absolutely amazing.

At Dashur we also saw the Bent Pyramid but it was a little hazy and the pictures don't properly represent the view.

Whilst the tourists might be in light numbers, the locals are out in droves. Today was the first day of second round of elections and we passed a couple of polling "booths". It was incredibly chaotic, even by Cairo standards. Massive queues with the women at the back (as it should be) and horses, donkeys, Tuk-Tuks, motorbikes, cars, buses, tractors and pedestrians everywhere. I thought our driver would be stuck there for years, but he just did what every other Cairo driver does.....just drive forward and a gap will appear! Gone in 3 minutes.

From there we checked out a carpet school, whee they teach, well Carpet making. The big sale was placed on us again but this time the Anderson's emerged with their cash intact. Was interesting though how they make the carpet and the skills of the people doing it. 2 hours labour for one square meter.

Off to lunch for some kebabs and then on to Sakkara to see the first pyramid ever built, the Step Pyramid. Very interesting history of the place but the aesthetics are spoilt by the scaffolding around the pyramid. Apparently the maintenance activity will take 15 years....they built the bloody things in 20 years, 4000 years ago!

It was then off to see authentic Egyptian cotton, or more correctly, see if the locals can lighten the Ando's wallets. Turned out to be a 1 all draw. We bought some shirts but knocked back the $300 sheet sets.

Back at the hotel by 3pm, in the gym and shopping plazas by 3:15.

After dinner Sam and i were keen to check out Tahir Square and the state of the protests which is supposed to be quite subdued. We turned left from our hotel, got hassled for taxi rides within 5 meters, but continued on towards the Square. Our first challenge was to cross our first road. Hector the Road Safety Cat would still be there using his outdated process. Sam and I hesitated for a while but a local dragged us across. As it turns out he must have spotted us leaving the hotel and used this opportunity to lure us into his shop around the corner. Apparently the Square has hotted up again this afternoon and we would not be safe. Best if we go around the corner to some shops and cafes. Not knowing of course that his shop was there. Anyway, to cut a long story short, we bought two papyrus paintings and two oils.....don't ask!!! It is funny how you can say that you are not buying anything and they customize the paintings with Sam's name, and we still say we are not paying anything and they say it is a gift and you keep saying that you are not paying for anything and then.....you buy something.

We then took off down a darkish street with strange people staring at us and our steps were getting quicker and quicker. We then saw Tahir Square with a lot of people there but before the square there was about 20 lads chanting, walking towards us and throwing rocks....Sam and I dropped a very quick "U'y" and started heading back to the dark street with strange people staring at us, as it was the better option!! Whilst we had a small laugh....very small, we two timed it back to a main street and took a big breath. 100m from the hotel these guys wanted to paint us in Egypt"s colors.....bloody hell.....no thanks .....we have no money....one guy was good about it and tried to pull his mate off Sam but he was keen to get some money. We managed to get back to hotel and say"wow". It really is strange how a simple situation can escalate at places like this. As I I type here at 10:30pm, there is still a lot of commotion outside. It does seem like the Square is starting to fire up again. The papers tomorrow will be an interesting read....fortunately, with no mention of Andersons!

Posted by mljjs 20:19 Archived in Egypt Comments (2)

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