Posted by: lindsaygoes | March 19, 2012

Egyptian Escapades

On the day we were heading from Jordan to Egypt the ferry was unfortunately cancelled, which meant we had to go overland, through Israel. So it was a day of border crossings.

First we left Jordan, which was fine except that we got confused and got them to put our exit stamps on a bit of card instead of our passports, so I may have some problems if I decide to go back to Jordan again. Then we headed into Israel. In our group we had someone with a Hebrew surname, someone who didn’t look like their passport, and someone who just looked suspicious (which wasn’t me). So people got their passports away, their bags searched, and asked a lot of questions about the origin of their name. I just had the standard bag scan, and then got my stamp on a card, which for me wasn’t a problem, but one guy in our group got asked why he didn’t want the stamp in his passport, and said it was because he might want to travel to places where they didn’t like Israeli stamps. He got pushed a bit further on his destination and went with Iran. I’m surprised he managed to avoid the cavity searches after that.

Then we travelled through Israel for about half and hour, lined up and went through the Israeli exit point, which went a bit more smoothly and then tried to enter Egypt. We joined the line/mob, then realised that you needed an entry card, but there were none around, so we had to find an office and then get some cards. Then it was back into the line to discover that Egypt didn’t really want us. As we didn’t just want to visit the area around Sharm el Sheik (where you don’t need to pay for a visa), but more of Egypt, and even though we had bought the visas by that point, they decided that they weren’t going to stamp our visas that day. We then had a tour guide come and offer to help us, we initially thought he was from our tour company (he said he was) but after a couple of things he said we got suspicious and realised he wasn’t. Turns out that rather than a scam, he was trying to help us and had just misheard when we asked if he was from our tour company, and he did help us through the border. And didn’t ask for money. So then we were in Egypt, but there was no one to collect us. Eventually someone in our group found our driver sleeping in a van, and we were off. For a little bit, until we stopped at some toll booth and the driver asked us for money. We refused to pay (transport was included in the tour) and sat there for a while while the driver phoned our tour guide and agreed to pay and then get reimbursed by the tour company. So that was our introduction to Egypt. It was nice to relax in our hotel in Dahab that afternoon and pig out on garlic prawns that evening.

The next day a few of us went snorkelling to the Blue Hole, which was amazing, but before we entered the water we passed a load of plaques in memorial to people who have died diving in the Blue Hole, which was not encouraging. Although we were only snorkelling, so we hoped we’d be ok. We hopped in the water (cold) in a spot called The Chimney, where a group of SCUBA divers were starting and then followed the edge of the reef around the outer rim of the Blue Hole, and it was just spectacular. The reef dropped off below us, and there were so many fish and wonderful coral colours. We followed the reef around until we reached a deeper point known as the Saddle where we crossed into the Blue Hole, which is about 130m deep, so you can’t see anything below you, even the light just disappears. Amazing stuff! We were meant to go snorkelling twice, but at that point we were starting to freeze, so headed back to the hotel.

From Dahab we were heading to Cairo. We were told it was an 8-9 hour drive, but I think we had the fastest driver in Egypt because he did it in about six and a half hours, including a couple of stops. We went under the Suez Canal on our way, but couldn’t see any of it (that was a bit of a boring anecdote, wasn’t it?), and also saw some poor Egyptian guards running checkpoints during sandstorms.

Our first full day in Cairo we did a City Tour, visiting the Saladin Citadel where we went into the Mosque of Mohamed Ali, which is kind of similar to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul. I may have accidentally dropped my shoes on the floor while we were walking around, which is probably a bad thing, but we also had a view over Cairo, and you could just see the Pyramids through the smog in the background. Then we headed for the Coptic area of Cairo and went into the Hanging Church, which is built above an old Roman fortress. After lunch we went into the Kahn el Khahli Bazaar. Which was a bit crazy, especially as I was starting to get a headache and general body aches. Yep, getting ill while travelling again. After a bit of a drink (lemonade of course), to avoid the hagglers we were off to the Egyptian Museum, which has some amazing artefacts, and a burned out building next door from the revolution. On the way home we went via Taksim Square, which was fine, just a few protesters and stuff. That night we went on a Nile Dinner Cruise. If you’ve seen An Idiot Abroad you will have some idea of what went on, there was a belly dancer and a spinny guy. As I was feeling ill already the spinny guy didn’t help, particularly when he put the LED lights on his skirt. I suspect I should have had an early night.

The next day I did stay in with some weird flu thing. So I missed the pyramids and Sakkara (don’t worry, I made it to the pyramids later in the trip), but then had to do a five hour bus ride to Hurghada. It was followed by dinner and bed.

Next day involved sleep, bus ride, arrived in Luxor, more sleep (the border crossing bit was more exciting wasn’t it). We did have a dodgy copy of Tropic Thunder which played on the bus and kept freezing (no, still not exciting – sorry).

Ok, so the following day I had a very early start of 5am to go hot air-ballooning (cross that off the bucket list) over the West Bank of Luxor. We were a little late for sunrise but still had pretty amazing views of various ruins and tomb areas, as well as the houses we passed over, with small children waving to us from the streets. Really nice, a little fumey though. Once we’d landed successfully (we bounced, but didn’t fall over) and had what seemed like a hundred Egyptians grabbing hold of the basket to stop us travelling any further we got back onto the bus and headed towards the statues of Memnon where we had a donkey ride. Turns out my donkey was in season, and at the end I got off just in time before she got mounted by a male donkey. No wonder he’d been biting my ass the whole ride (I couldn’t resist that pun, sorry).

After that close call we headed for the Valley of the Kings and went into three of the tombs. It’s amazing how well the colours are preserved inside – just a shame you can’t take cameras in. After the tombs we went to Hatchepsut’s Temple, which has been really well restored and contains lovely carvings and scenes…as well as lots of steps (hey, I was still not feeling too well). Then it was onto our boat for our Nile Cruise before going for a Nubian dinner. We had a boat ride along the Nile to get to the Nubian House where they had pet baby crocodiles to play with. I declined because I didn’t want to get salmonella, and also they didn’t have a very nice habitat, or much environmental enrichment, but the food was very nice. On the way back we had drum playing and singing to entertain us.

I’m going to finish it there, because this is kind of long. I’ll get back to my adventures later.


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