Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What a Trip - Walking Like an Egyptian

It is hard to believe it has already been a month since we were across the pond! Bob and I had our suitcases packed and eagerly, yet cautiously, boarded the plane to check out one of the hottest news item locations in the past few months: Cairo! I am so happy that we went forward with the trip and that we were able to travel through easily and have a smooth experience.

We arrived in Cairo after a tiring couple of flights, including a 3 hour stop in Rome in which I was getting delirious with sleep deprivation and was cursing the fact that I did not have any Euro to get a bottle of water. Quickly learning how to best negotiate with cab drivers and how to fend off all of the folks who want a little tip for doing not much of anything at all, we made our way to the City View Hotel. With an overlooking view of both the Egyptian Museum and the now famous Tahrir Square, we got some interesting stories out of the hotel staff including the fact that many of the CNN folks stayed there in January/February timeframe!
With a schedule filled with day tours, trains, planes and automobiles, we got started that very night, boarding an overnight train to Luxor.

Tips for a Day Trip:
- Carefully consider what you will actually need, you'll be carrying it with you the rest of the day.
- Do make one of the things you carry a water bottle to stay hydrated.
- Charge your camera battery fully before each big day, you might not get back to an outlet for another 12 hours!
- Spring for the private sleeper cabin if you are making an overnight journey - thinking to yourself, "I could sleep sitting up" is just not the way you want to go.
 
Surviving the fairly smooth train ride (nothing like an overnight ferry ride I once took from Athens to Crete where I thought death was certainly in the cards from all the turbulence), we arrived at 6am and were met by our tour guide. Not only was this early a start good from a weather standpoint - by the time it hit 10am the sun was a worthy opponent - it also meant we beat any developing lines to get into the sights.

Of course, we were on a unique trip indeed because we rarely met any lines at all! Parking lots that used to be full up now only had 5 or 6 vans and 1 full size tour bus bringing tourists to the Pharoahs. Good for us, sad for our tour guides who were experiencing a drastic loss of business.

We began at the Valley of the Kings, and although we could not take photos inside the tombs, this marked my favorite part of Egypt. Just seeing the walls, decorated with hieroglyphics in full color floor to ceiling, was an amazing site. Television and books don't prepare you for the impact of how ancient the walls you are looking at are.
One of our stops was at an "Alabaster Factory." We learned how the Egyptians take the alabaster stone and shape them into vases and jars - when a light bulb or candle is placed inside the stone glows and highlights all of its veins. They are also incredibly light.
Though not at this location, Bob and I purchased a set of three alabaster vases as our major souvenir take away.
With some afternoon downtime, we grabbed lunch and walked around Luxor. Here is my artsy shot that was actually made by not waiting until the camera focused before I hit the button.
For lunch we had koshari, a combination of pasta, rice and lentils in a tomato sauce. I had heard about this before I made the trip and was assured it was a must to try. Did not dissapoint! Linking to a recipe I found so that you can make it too!
Next up was Karnak. This open air museum consists of column after column and statue after statue in ode to Ra with contributions by many of the pharoahs. The detail, the color and the size of these structures were almost too vibrant to believe.
Our last stop before grabbing a plane back to Cairo was the Luxor Temple.
We were struck by how many statues were still so well preserved and kept intact, though a good number had damage either by natural causes or by the Romans who moved in and tried to destroy the art to put up their own.

Looking at the detail they put into the hieroglyphics was awe-inspiring. The king's enemies are shown here - with their hands tied behind their backs.
The sun was shining on young King Tut and his wife this day. Below that photo is the row of sphinx - not at all comparable in size to the one we would see the next day!
A jam-packed day comes to a close. We had the experience of taking an overnight train out to Luxor, saving on a hotel night, but with us having just arrived the day before, it had been a solid three days since we had slept in a real bed. Therefore, I was pretty thankful to board the 9pm plane which got us back to Cairo within an hour or so.
Incredible but true: while we had gorgeous weather in Luxor, Cairo had rain in the forecast. Because this happens so rarely, the streets are not prepared to handle two or three hours of rain and do not have a proper drainage system in place. The streets were flooded and caused traffic delays for the next two days!
Stay tuned for a recap of the Pyramids and the rest of our Cairo days, then on to Italy!

2 comments:

  1. Great pictures!- Kari

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  2. Amazing! And I definitely want to try that dish you had for lunch. I'm so happy you ignored my advice and did NOT cancel your trip! :)

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