Picked up another Travelmarvel tour, Treasures of Egypt with Hidden Jordan for a couple of weeks, then backing it up with another couple of weeks travelling around Turkey with Peregrine tours.
  • Day10

    Back to the Beginning

    March 13 in Egypt ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    Rudely awoken at 4.15am " Road is open, we leave at 4.30am" and so begins our journey back to Aswan - 3 hours through the desert, back to our river boat, 20 minutes to pack our bags and off to the airport to catch the 11.30am flight to Cairo and on to Amman in Jordan.

    On the ride to the airport we are informed that the Jordan part of the tour has been cancelled - Jordan has closed its borders - the tour is over and flights will be arranged for return to Australia. Unfortunately, we were heading on to Turkey after Jordan but we felt that it is only a matter of time before the border is closed into Turkey due to the coronavirus, so we are also returning home after only 10 days.

    As it was, our 11.30 am flight did not leave until 5pm. Not sure if this was anything to do with the pandemic, but I think it was because Cairo had a storm the previous day - 100mm in 1 hour - not extraordinary to our standards but because Egypt is so dry, they do not have stormwater drainage. Apparently the airport was closed for 5 hours due to flooding so there was a backlog of flights.

    So, this trip has had it all - coronavirus, cancellations, delays, sandstorms along with some amazing sights. It is disappointing to miss out on Jordan and Turkey but at least we got to see Egypt.
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  • Day9

    Abu Simbel in a Sandstorm

    March 12 in Egypt ⋅ 🌬 27 °C

    Will this trip is proving to be a challenge for the poor tour guide. We had a morning flight from Aswan to the world heritage site of Abu Simbel. The flight was quite bumpy the visibility poor when we landed but we thought nothing of it.

    Abu Simbel to Rameses II and the smaller temple to Nefertarti (Ramases favourite wife and also Nubian, very dark skinned African Egyptians known for their beauty) is set on the shores of Lake Nassar. This temple complex was moved piece by piece by UNESCO in the 1960's to its current site because it was in danger of being flooded by the newly raised Aswan Dam. Quite a remarkable engineering feat.

    Abu Simbel is remarkable outside and just as incredible inside . The ancient freizes are just so detailed and beautiful, I can understand why UNESCO thought it important enough to spend $40 million to save it from being flooded. Little Abu Simbel was not quite as impressive but was still good.

    A short visit to Abu Simbel and we headed back to the airport for the return flight. By this time, the sandstorm was getting worse and the flight was cancelled. The 40 minute flight will now be replaced by a 3+ hour bus ride back to Aswan. We head off and about 20 minutes into the journey the buses are stopped.... The road is blocked by sand and we cannot continue.

    Can't fly out, can't drive out... looks like we are staying in Abu Simbel until the storm passes, whenever that will be. Hotel is fine located on the lake and would look beautiful on a nice clear day... but the view out the window today is awful. Anyway, it is just an inconvenience for us - bit of an adventure really, but must be a nightmare for the tour guides. Will let you know what happens next installment.
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  • Day8

    Edfu

    March 11 in Egypt ⋅ ⛅ 33 °C

    We visited the Temple of Edfu today making our way there by horse drawn carriage. I kind of felt sorry for the poor little horse as they are quite skinny and they probably go back and forth several times a day, a distance of 2 or 3 km each way. The temple is made of sandstone and dedicated to the falcon god Horus.

    Then we cruised onwards to Kom OmboTemple which is an unusual double temple dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile god and Horus, the falcon god. There is also a museum with mummified crocodiles.

    It is getting to the point where we have seen the extent of temples. These two were quite magnificent, but compared to some of the others like Karnak temple they were a bit ordinary.

    Tomorrow we visit the Abu Simbel temple which should be a really highlight.
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  • Day7

    Valley of the Kings and Queens

    March 10 in Egypt ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    Settled into the Royal Lily but before we leave Luxor there are some more temples to visit, namely the Valley of the Kings and Queens

    In the Valley of the Kings we visited 4 tombs. When a king (pharoah) comes into power, workers are commissioned to prepare the burial tomb. Digging, cutting, decorating each chamber and moving on. As soon as the pharoah dies, work ceases and is prepared for the burial. So if a pharoah lives a long time, the burial chamber can be quite long. Some of them are beautifully ornate.

    Next we visited the Temple of Hatshepsut ( say Hat cheap suit), a mortuary temple of the Pharoah Hatshepsut. It is quite an impressive building cut into the rocky cliffs.

    Final stop was Valley of the Queens which is much the same as Valley of the Kings but is the burial place for wives of pharoahs. One tomb even held the miscarried fetus of a pharoahs wife. Incredible to see the colours on the scenes are so well preserved.

    Back on the boat for lunch and we set sail for Edfu. A very relaxing afternoon after the busy morning.
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  • Day6

    Will this day end?

    March 9 in Egypt ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    So we had a very early start - up by 3am, off to the airport at 4pm for the 7am flight to Luxor where we are to join a cruise on the Nile for the next 4 days. So far so good... arrived in Luxor about 10am and as our boat not ready until 1pm, we visited the Karnak and Luxor temples.

    Karnak temple complex is very impressive, especially the massive decorated columns - there are 134 of then, most around 10 metres tall while another dozen are 21 metres tall. Many of the large wall paintings depict stories about people from ancient Egyptian times and it was amazing to see how well preserved they are considering they are thousands of years old.

    The Luxor temple complex was constructed mainly under Amenhotep III & Rameses II, added to by Tutankhamun & others. The front gate has many statues of Rameses and there are several obelisks which really serve the same purpose as a church cross on top of the building or tower, or a minaret on a mosque.

    From here things went a little pear shaped. We headed back to the ship for what was supposed to be a late lunch. Unfortunately, the presence of coronavirus on another Nile cruise ship has meant screening for the virus on other cruise boats. So, back into Luxor while the tour director is hastily trying to organise lunch for us. We finally got lunch at around 3.30pm after not really having anything much to eat all day. Finally we were able to board around 5pm and we all had our temperature taken and a small sample had swabs taken to see if the virus was present.

    After Egypt we go to Jordan (and then Turkey), but some of the tour group were supposed to go to Israel after Jordan. This portion of the tour has now been cancelled. Still going to Jordan at this stage but borders are being closed or restricted every day. No news on Turkey yet but there is a risk they may deny us entry there. Shall cross that bridge if we come to it.
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  • Day5

    Step, Red and Bent Pyramids

    March 8 in Egypt ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    We had a free day in Cairo and had booked a tour to the Step pyramid located about 30-40km South of the pyramids at Giza. The step pyramid, built by the chancellor to the pharoah (Imhotep) was, in my opinion, more impressive than the ones at Giza. It is considered the oldest pyramid and while not the size of the Great Pyramid, what was impressive was the complex itself. The entrance, built approx 4500 years ago was still in perfect condition with a hallway of 20 odd columns where guards would have stood between to receive the guests.

    There was a burial chamber underneath the Step pyramid that Brad had a look at - I didn't bother. There was smaller burial chambers in the complex where the walls are covered in hieroglyphs. You had to descend backwards down a step ramp and then walk almost bent double for about 20metres. What I enjoyed the most was chamber of the daughter that depicted intricate scenes of everyday life. The detail and the colours were incredible.

    Leaving the Step pyramid we went to the bent pyramid and the red pyramid. The bent one was a mistake as the base was too small (only by a couple of metres) making the angle too steep to keep going straight up - it would have been to tall and would collapse on itself, so he changed the angle part way up giving a bent appearance. Sneferu (pharoah) who commissioned the pyramid was not impressed and demanded a new one be built (The Red Pyramid). The architect lost his head for his troubles. The Red pyramid is so called because it was covered in small reddish coloured stones but the stones have all eroded and fallen away over time.

    Final stop of the day was an open air museum at Memphis (at one time a capital of Egypt). At this place there was a statue of Ramases II that had been found in a marsh. At 10 metres in length he is the largest statue cut from a single block of limestone. His legs were eroded from being in water which is probably why he fell over and lay for years in a swamp.

    An excellent tour and because it was just the 2 of us it was so much better than being in a group.
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  • Day4

    Pyramids, Sphinx and Egyptian Museum

    March 7 in Egypt ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    Saturday was our first full day of touring with the group. There are 38 people including a group of 22 with their travel agent from Phillip Island. All Australian except for a couple of Kiwis.

    We left at 7am for the pyramids and Sphinx which was good to have an early start as we were there before the crowds. Brad went into the Great Pyramid to look at the burial chamber. I passed on this as I don't do narrow enclosed spaces and from all reports it was quite difficult. We then took in the pyramids from the panorama viewpoint where some members of the group partook in a camel ride (and I think some of them regretted doing it) and finally onto the Sphinx which fortunately only had a small amount of scaffolding. Last time we were here (2014 - on a cruise ship tour) quite a lot of the Sphinx was under restoration.

    After umpteen photos, we went to a place where they demonstrated how to make papyrus followed of course by the option to buy some of the artistic pieces. Nice, but no from us. Then lunch at a park that was a reclaimed garbage dump, then off to the Egyptian Museum, home of King Tutenkhaman's treasures including his famous golden mask. Absolutely beautiful but we were not able to take photos because there was a 3 metre tall, 400kg Egyptian security guard with an AK47, bazooka and a slingshot whose vocabulary extended as far as NO PHOTO which he grunted at us several times. Seriously though, it was very interesting and all authentic artifacts except for the Rosetta Stone which was the key to translating the hieroglyphs and is the reason we know who each of these Egyptian kings and queens were. It is just a pity that the Grand Museum which has been under construction since 2012 is still not open. When it does it will be the largest museum of its kind in the world. It is due to open 2019, so maybe next year 🤔

    Almost the end of the day and we still had not been to the bazaar. Last thing we wanted to do was go shopping for junk souvenirs so we waited in a coffee shop until it was time for a small group of us to see the sound and light show at the pyramids. Basically different lighting effects on the pyramids and a storyline about the history of pharoahs connected with these pyramids. It wasn't too bad but it certainly was a long day.
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  • Day3

    Coptic Cairo

    March 6 in Egypt ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    WARNING! This entry became longer than I expected, but there are pictures this time.

    Our first full day in Cairo was basically a free day as most of the tour group arrives today. We booked a private tour of Coptic Cairo which took us to some of the Christian churches in the area (Coptic refers to a part of the Christian church that started in Egypt). There are only 2 religions in Egypt - Muslim (75-80%) and then Orthodox Christians.

    The tour was excellent and our guide was very informative. We travelled to the Monastery of St Simon, also known as the Cave church, built into the Mokattam mountain. With a seating capacity of 20,000 people, it is the largest church in Africa. There is a belief that the mountain was moved to settle a debate between a Jewish leader and a Christian leader in the 10th century where "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed then you can command this mountain to move. Nothing is impossible" (Matthew 17:20). So the story goes, the mountain was lifted due to St Simon's great faith. Other parts of the story may have been embellished somewhat... for example, a part of the roof fell away to expose a carved statue of the virgin Mary and child, that was said to be natural, not man-made. Looked a little too perfect to not have been carved by man.

    Nevertheless, the site was fascinating and not often visited because it is located within an area known as garbage city. The inhabitants of this area are garbage collectors who sort, salvage and sell the rubbish. There are around 15,000 people who live here and most of them are Coptic Christians which is why this church exists here. It is not on the tourist map as such probably because access is very limited - you could not fit a bus up the narrow alleys etc.

    Although not part of the tour, our guide (who is Muslim) wanted to show us a large mosque. As usual, women have to cover up so I donned a green hooded gown that made me look like some ancient druid. Brad thought I looked like Yoda from Star Wars. Abdul (our guide), explained some aspects of his faith. There was a group of school girls who followed me and it turned out they wanted to have their photo taken with me. A white foreigner in a mosque is unusual... or maybe they thought I was Yoda (hahaha! ). Then they wanted photos with Brad.

    We moved on to the Hanging Church, so called because it is built upon the original Babylonian fortress so in a sense is hanging on to it. It is there oldest church in Egypt, built around 3rd Century. Then onto a Greek Roman church of St George and finally Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church which is believed to be where the Holy Family, Joseph, Mary and the infant Jesus Christ, rested at the end of their journey into Egypt. There is a crypt beneath this church where they lived for a few months. At each stop, Abdul insisted in taking our photo which normally we wouldn't do.

    Finally, we stopped for lunch - a traditional Egyptian meal called Koshry at Abou Tarek (A restaurant apparently famous for this dish). A vegetarian meal consisting of chick peas , lentils, rice, pasta and fried onions covered in a tomato flavoured sauce. It smelt good and was very tasty and very filling.

    So, a busy morning. Tonight we meet our tour group. I believe there are 38 people all up, so quite a large group. Sorry about the length of this footprint and congratulations if you managed to get to the end.
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  • Day2

    The price we pay..

    March 5 in Egypt ⋅ 🌙 20 °C

    The trouble with living in Australia is just that whenever we want to travel overseas it is just sooo far away that it takes a full day of travelling to get to your destination. The long haul from Australia to Dubai at around 14 hours is not fun, particularly in cattle class (oops, economy) and one day we may splurge and buy business class. Having said that, this was our Best. Flight. Ever! No, we didn't get bumped up to business, but the plane was only half full so Brad and I had a full row (centre aisle - 4 seats) which meant we could stretch out. Brad will say that I took over half his side too and you know what...it's all true! Anyway, we at least managed to get some sleep for a change.

    Arrived in Cairo around lunchtime. Met up with some of our our group- meet the rest tomorrow. Staying at the Marriott in the downtown area of Cairo. Early night as we have a tour booked for the morning (separate from the group tour which doesn't officially start until tomorrow night.) No photos yet but Brad will be onto it from tomorrow.

    (PS. Thank you to those that have read my blog and made a comment. Can I ask that if you write a comment from the Find Penguins page, could you put your name as well because I have a couple of comments that I do not know who wrote them,)
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  • Day1

    Today's the day

    March 4 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    A busy morning doing all the last minute things which probably could have been done before but they never are. Drive to Brisbane, had yummy Thai food for an early tea with Mitch and May and Mitch dropped us at the airport.

    Probably the fastest, most hassle-free experience passing through check in and security that we have ever had at Brisbane. Not sure if people are not flying due to the coronavirus but it seems quiet. We are not going to a hotspot for the virus so it will be interesting to see how full the plane is. It would be nice to just once have plenty of space to stretch out. We shall see.Read more