Joined December 2019 Message
  • Day8

    Petra-fied

    January 12 in Jordan ⋅ ☁️ 9 °C

    Matt here,

    I’ve always wanted to go to Petra. Growing up, I often looked at the mysterious picture of the Treasury my parents had framed on the wall. They walked up to this incredible structure, carved out of solid stone, through a narrow stone canyon, and in a moment of perfect drama, the ancient monument loomed out of the landscape.

    Well it was all that and more. I didn’t realise just how vast and sophisticated the Nabatean city of Petra was. 50,000 people lived there, trading with every culture of the Mediterranean world. They had huge ornate temples, ingenious hydraulic systems, and beautiful architecture that combined the Graeco-Roman style with the Oriental style of the Levant. The place is full of mystery - buildings loom around corners, dark doorways denote hidden domains.

    I got a bit overexcited and bought two ancient Nabatean coins (from the time of Christ!), and a couple of ammonites for good measure (echoes of boyhood rock collecting).

    To reach the breathtaking heights of the region, we rode some very patient donkeys. As we went we saw other donkeys resting inside the ancient Nabatean rooms along the way.

    Well the view from the top was incredible. Brutally jagged gorges in stratas of every red, terrifyingly deep and terrifyingly beautiful. In the words of Grace O’Toole, “God is great.” From there we saw the Arabah, the division between Jordan and Israel. We’ll be there soon!...

    (addition from Jordan - the person not the country... classic gag...)
    After a huge day, we were ecstatic to visit a Turkish bath! Matt didn’t come with us - but it was exactly what we needed after a massive day of walking. Went to bed feeling very blissed out
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  • Day7

    Hello Jordan

    January 11 in Jordan ⋅ ⛅ 5 °C

    Early mornings are becoming our thing. It's the only way to do a Winter tour; get out early and make the most of the sunshine.

    Our first stop was Mt Nebo - the place where Moses died. This is really our first major bible pitstop. The view was totally incredible, even though we had kind of a cloudy day. We couldn't see the outskirts of Jerusalem, but it was still special.

    People told me that I would feel something really special coming to Israel, even though I was mostly looking forward to Egypt. Today I felt a little stirring in my heart. I knew that God had been here. Of course, God is everywhere, but there was something really special about knowing that God was in that exact spot at one point in time.

    Next was the Arnon Gorge. Spectacular, amazing, incredible views.

    One of the most surprising parts of today was the SNOW! It started when we were about 20 minutes away from Wadi Musa, where Petra is located. We stopped and got out to have a little play in the snow - I regretted only wearing my Toms and not my hiking boots, but they held up well and no cold feet here!

    Today was a big driving day with lots of coffee pit stops and toilet breaks. Tomorrow is PETRA!! Matt's absolute highlight! He'll be writing tomorrow's post.
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  • Day6

    Back to Cario

    January 10 in Jordan ⋅ ⛅ 8 °C

    Our last day in Egypt started off with a 2.45am wake up call! We all gathered in a daze to grab our breakfast packs (bread roll with cheese, bread roll with fake devon and bread roll with no filings) and get on a plane back to Cairo.

    Pyramids! It was the coldest we'd experienced so far in the trip. It was still early by the time we arrived at the Pyramids so the sun hadn't warmed anything up yet.

    There are moments in life when you realise that you really did have the wrong idea about a thing...and I had one at the Pyramids of Giza. Matt went inside the big pyramid - I decided that a claustrophobic induced panic attack wasn't on my to do list for the day and stayed outside - and as I was thinking about the inside of the 'mids. That's when I realised. The pyramids aren't a pyramid shaped shell that is totally empty inside. They are solid pyramids with a pathway cut into them. So yep. I learnt something that day.

    The day kept rolling along, even if we were too tired to notice the time ticking. We stopped at the Sphinx; cue many references to Asterix and Obelix. I felt a little underwhelmed here, but it may have more to do with my early morning than the monument itself.

    Often I'm surprised that life is happening around the big things we've visited. There isn't a huge radius around the sphinx or the pyramids that is just emptiness, instead there are buildings and shops and fences - not just the postcard image.

    On we trotted to one of the most amazing museums in the world - The Egyptian Museum. We'd heard a lot about this over the last few days as all the valuable items from the temples and tombs we'd seen were actually housed here in the Egyptian Museum. It is huge so I'll give you just three highlights:

    1. Tutankhaum's stuff: all of it was pretty incredible! But the best (in my opinion) was the cascading boxes that his sarcophagus was in. These are huge, gold, boxes that get smaller and smaller and we actually could see into them as the back was open.

    2. Akenaten's hall: I studied this Pharaoh in school and was a bit obsessed with him. Such a crazy guy. There is so much I could say about him, but one weird thing he did was change the way Pharaoh's were depicted. Until him, all the pharaohs had a similar look (even if they didn't in real life). I saw one of the statues he built of himself. It is almost unrecognisably Egyptian. Check out the photo.

    3. Merenptah’s tablet: mentions defeating Israel in a battle! It’s pretty amazing to see things that mention Israel as we get closer to going there! This basically confirm that Ramasess II was not Moses’ Pharaoh.

    The museum was also a bit strange in that it wasn't very well curated. Hardly any items had labels, the lighting was dim and it didn't seem to have a very logical flow to it. I've been cringing every time Medhat says "...but that is in the British Museum" - but now, I think I'm grateful that someone is looking after it properly!

    Later that night we strolled through the streets with Jamin and Janett & family. Saw how papyrus was made and bought a vial of jasmine perfume.

    Tomorrow morning we fly out to Jordan!
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  • Day5

    Sahara Sunrise & a Sunset Sail

    January 9 in Egypt ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    4am is not my friend. That was our wake up call for today so we could join the convey to make our way to Abu Simbel. The only way to cross the Sahara is with a police escort - so hello 4am and 3 hour bus ride.

    It was totally worth it. I’ve been looking forward to Abu Simbel since we paid our deposit for this trip, or really even since my 2010 history class at school (eeek was that 10 years ago!). The entrance is quite dramatic! There are a few unusual things about these temples:
    1. Unlike all the other temples we’ve seen, these were actually carved into the mountain, rather than crafted block by block.
    2. These were moved up onto the hill because th Aswan dam was flooding the temples and ruining them.

    The Aswan dam is like a beautiful version of Lake Macquarie - but man made! The desert starts on the banks which makes for a really unusual contrast; the nile right next to massive rocky sand dunes.

    Walking around the corner, I was immediately impressed by the regal statues of Rameses II. Not a guy you would want to get into a war with - which was exactly the point. Inside was quite well preserved. My favourite wall was the battle of Kadesh. Yep, there’s another depiction of this battle, just in case you missed the other million versions. This one was really beautiful though. Surreal.

    Our afternoon activity was a visit to a Nubian village, which we reached via a motor boat. A few of us got to go onto the roof of the boat and watch the sand dunes roll on by. The contrast between water and desert was, once again, striking!

    Cue camel ride along the Nile. Terrifying. Mildly entertaining. They are crazy creatures. Not to mention the last thing I heard Garry say when leaving the boat was “if you get bitten by a camel, you’re on a plane home tomorrow”. Nothing like riding an animal with poisonous teeth. I’m more than happy for that to be the last camel ride of my life.

    The Nubian village was beautiful and brightly coloured, with a dome shaped roof on every house. They keep crocodiles (not mummified ones this time!) in their houses. For Egypt, the crocodile was bad news, but for Nubians it is a symbol of protection. Matt held one of the baby crocodiles that had a red cord wrapped around its mouth!

    We strolled through the village and did a bit of shopping. MT bought a drum, I bought three scarves and a rug. Returned to cruise ship via motorboat. Happy days.

    Until the first drama of our trip. Matt left his backpack on the motorboat! Luckily he had his wallet and phone in his jacket. Medhat sorted it all out and miraculously the backpack was returned!

    Tomorrow is our last day in Egypt!
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  • Day4

    It really feels like Ancient Egypt

    January 8 in Egypt ⋅ ☀️ 16 °C

    We’ve said more than once that visiting all of the massive buildings has mostly felt surreal - almost like we got tickets to see the Egypt section of Universal Studios. It feels like it can’t be real because it’s just too good. Well today it felt a bit different.

    Our first site was Edfu Temple. We got there by a horse drawn carriage, but don’t think Queen Victoria out for an afternoon jaunt round the park! Think typical third world country traffic jams with yelling and hand gestures and now add in a rickety carriage, complete with fluro-vested driver. Michelle and Medhat gave us very specific instructions about getting on and off these carriages. If you take the wrong one, you could end up at a totally different site! Thankfully, the whole operation went off smoothly.

    Edfu temple. Wow. Wow. Wow. This has been the MOST impressive thing I’ve seen. The walls were gigantic - walking up to the gates I could really imagine the life this temple would’ve had! It is one of the most well preserved temples in the world. Mostly because 90% of it was covered in sand until fairly recently.

    One of the coolest elements was a stair case that went up and around like a spiral staircase (but this had square turns). Back in the day, you would go up the spiral staircase, make our offering and then head down another ramp to exit. This entry / exit actually inspired the Vatican ascension to the top room!

    I can’t help but wish I’d learnt Hieroglyphs in school! I just want to know what everything means.

    Edfu was built by some of the Ptolemy Pharaohs - who were actually Greek. This means there are lots of mistakes everywhere! Some hands of the figures are the wrong way around, there are empty cartouches and the wrong kilt on the wrong person. To tell the difference between a Pharaoh and a God / Goddess, you have the check out the skirt. A tight fitting one = God / Goddess. But a loose one, or one that sticks out = Pharaoh. I like the feeling of my brain filling up with new information!

    We were back on the boat by 10.30am and kept on sailing!

    Next stop - Kom Ombo, another Greco-Roman temple. Beautiful, majestic and so close to the Nile that we just walked from the boat. From this temple we have information about Egyptian medicine, including labour practices (cp Exodus 1v16) and massage technique - apparently the Egyptians invented cupping.

    This temple was dedicated to Sobek and Horus. Sobek is the crocodile headed God - which is probably why there were mummified crocodiles found here! They are now in a crocodile museum next door. Super gross to look and and kind of creepy!

    We are only have two more days of Egypt. Tomorrow starts at 4.30am! We see Abu Simbel - this is the site I am MOST EXCITED about seeing. Big crush on Rameses II.
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  • Day3

    Temples, Tombs and Trinkets

    January 7 in Egypt ⋅ ☀️ 13 °C

    As I’m writing this it is 8.15pm on 7th Jan and we are cruising down the river Nile. It’s dark, but there are locals outside my window yelling out “holá” every 30 seconds. They are in small motor boats, powering along - or actually attached to our cruise ship by a rope - and are selling things! The idea is that they throw it to you, and if you like it then you throw the money down. Hectic!

    This morning was chilly and brisk as we crossed the Nile in colourful motor boats. Before we knew it, we were in the Valley of the Queens.

    Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple was amazing. Three levels of this queen proclaiming that she was actually the daughter of Amun, and thereby proving she should be Pharaoh. There is even a scene of Hatshepsut drinking milk from the udder of Hathor to further prove that point. Medhat explained exactly how it all went down, and boy were there some crazy family dramas!

    Just to add to her deity relationship claim, this temple is directly in alignment with Karnak (we visited yesterday). This just adds to her father claim, basically saying - see that’s my Dad’s temple just over there, we are so connected.

    We zoomed onto the Valley of the Kings! It’s easy to see why they chose to bury their pharaohs (and all their gold) in these mountains. You would never know a tomb was waiting behind all of those rocks. And what’s amazing is that there would be possibly hundreds more tombs waiting to be found in the mountain!

    Tutankhamen’s tomb. The most famous in the world - but not the most beautiful one we saw today. It’s quite small actually. It’s still hard to believe that I saw Tutankhamen’s ACTUAL mummified head today. So so so so many videos, textbooks, YouTube videos, BBC specials and National Geographic articles about the boy king - and I saw it today. To tell you the truth, I still expected it to be glimmering and gold, even though I knew it was all taken to the Cairo museum.

    We saw three other tombs in the Valley. Each was different and kind of the same. Merenptah’s has 2x sarcophagi because he thought the first one was ugly! When they built tombs, it was a big secret to everyone where they were located. So this meant that when they were building Rameses’ IX tomb they actually bumped into another tombs wall! They made a quick turn (very unusual in tombs!) and continued on!

    The day continued....

    We visited an Alabaster workshop and were entertained by a show and tell that had a strangely similar vibe to a seal show at Sea World; each worker was applauded after showing us their certain skill. The owner promised us a good special price as we are family. We are suckers. Medhat said our bargaining was “almost good”. I think a drop from 5000 to 2000 is still pretty good though.

    Our last big adventure for the day (and this is all before our 3pm lunch) was the temple at Luxor. Amazing. Incredible. These Egyptians knew a thing about building. But this has a super bizarre element! Right at the back, a Coptic Church had decided to repurpose the building. In doing so, they just plastered saintly painting straight over the hieroglyphs - and the remnants are still there! It’s strange how much they just didn’t care about the ancient buildings!

    Back to the boat. We set sail. Saw a sunset over the Nile and are heading to Edfu tomorrow.
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  • Day2

    Hello Egypt

    January 6 in Egypt ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    So this is a long entry. I’m mostly using this app as a personal diary and to let our mums know we are alive. But if you like reading lots - yalla!

    ***************************************************************************

    After a massive number of hours, we have ARRIVED! A brief stopover in Cairo and we have made it to Luxor (locals say it more like Lure-xor).

    We met Medhat, our Egyptian local guide - we remember his name by saying Medicine Hat, and also Michelle. She is from Australia but lives in Cairo.

    As we were driving to our boat, Medhat taught us a few key words in Egyptian Arabic and started to learn all our names! At the moment I’m Gordon mostly - but that’s okay. We glimpsed Luxor temple as we drove on and I think I almost cried. It’s so surreal seeing the real deal! It’s almost strange how the modern city just exists around it. There are buildings, homes, shops literally next door to an ancient temple.

    Our cruise down the Nile started with boarding. There are approximately 10 ships lined up, side by side. To get to our boat (third boat in) you just walk the foyer of boats one and two. Straight through. They mostly line up with each other to create a crooked sort of hallway.

    Lunch. Delicious. Lots of little bits and pieces to enjoy. And then the best shower I’ve ever had. Or maybe after 36+ hours of travel any shower is amazing.

    There aren’t enough words to describe Karnak. I guess that’s why travel is so popular. You can’t describe how you feel walking up to something so overwhelming. It’s not just how big it is, or that it’s ancient or that it’s an incredible engineering feat - especially for an ancient city. We took a short bus trip from our boat to visit.

    I’d either forgotten, or just didn’t know, that Karnak is a bit of a smorgasbord for Egyptian history. It may have been started by Ramses II, but the walls were started (and not finished) by the last Pharaoh ever. Almost like everyone had a little go at adding to Karnak.

    There is something incredible about moving around in a place that had so much life in it. People, real people, spent years here making every single engraving, painting, crafting. And that’s almost eerie but mostly impressive.

    Our highlights:

    - seeing Shishak’s (spelling is 100% wrong) wall. This corroborates the Egyptian part of the story in which the Pharaoh helped Jereboham run away from Rehoboam and gave him shelter. The pharaoh then went and plundered Israel and Judah. One of the kartouches actually says “Megiddo”

    - we couldn’t believe there actually was some COLOUR on some of the hieroglyphs! Mostly it was the pieces that made up the roof, or out of the sun. But it was incredible to imagine the columns covered with bright paint

    - battle of Karnak wall. Classic. Love when Egyptians make themselves giant and then put their enemies in as tiny people underneath the chariot wheels. What a power move.

    - the sacred lake. Talk about a big romantic gesture. Seti I built a lake, in the desert, for his wife Tuya/Tiya. A lake! Apparently they would put little papyrus boats with little candles on the lake and watch them sail. Cuuuuuuttte.

    Dinner. Delirious. Rolled straight into bed. Sleep schedule is working (I think).

    Tomorrow we do Luxor temple and set sail along the Nile!
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  • Day1

    Stopover

    January 5 in the United Arab Emirates ⋅ 🌙 21 °C

    Sleep schedule going well! Eating from Burger King doesn’t really make you feel like you’ve left Australia.

    Cairo in another few hours!

  • Day1

    Sydney airport

    January 5 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    We are here! We made it to the airport with 40 other people. Despite me crying for about 20 minutes after my parents left (I was devo they weren’t coming with us) we got through and no dramas!

    Hoping Australia gets some rain while we are away to help the fires calm down!

    Loving the group vibe. Here’s to the sleep schedule!!

    We are on board, ready to take off! Here we go!
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