Sunday, July 17

Nile Cruise - final take

I know, I know, I totally suck. I’m just going to finish our Cruise now, then I’ll do all of Cairo in one entry so I can actually move on to other things that need to be blogged about.

Our final day with Mohammed, we went to the Valley of the Kings. He warned us the previous day that, the Valley of the Kings day was going to be the hottest day so far (yup, we’re talking 115°F) and that, except for when we were in the tombs, there would be no shade. He wasn’t wrong. Our ticket got us in to three tombs, of our choice. Mohammed mentioned a great tomb, but added “but there will be quite a few stairs to reach it… it will be difficult.” I admit it – I am a wimp. It was WAY to hot, and I was WAY to fat to climb several stairs in that heat. But I didn’t want to ruin it for Lisa and Amanda, so I told them if they wanted to go, I would just wait. None of us were really up to the stairs. In any case, the tombs we did see were awesome. Sadly, we had to leave our cameras in the tour bus, so no pictures.

On our way back to the boat, we stopped at the temple of Hatshepsut – a female pharaoh. It was beautiful – but again, so, so hot.

We then stopped at the Colossi of Memnon.

Mohammed had us stop at a place that, I don’t know the word, “harvests?” alabaster. The demonstrated the process of digging it up, cutting it in to shapes, and polishing it. Lots of hard work. We, of course, weren’t obligated to buy anything, but they had a green moonstone carving of Nefertiti that was quite cool, so I did buy that.

That night, a guy who called himself (I think) the Egyptian Don Juan propositioned Amanda. She must have left her fake wedding ring on the boat. Although she didn’t understand him when he asked for a kiss, she had the good sense to say no to anything he did ask. Hilarious!

That was it for our time with Mohammed, although we were in Luxor one more day. The following day, all by ourselves (shocking), we went to the Karnak and Luxor temples. Our flight to Cairo was late at night, and – surprise – it was too hot for us to explore outside, AND since we had to be out of our cabin, we hung out in the lounge where it was cool. We then flew to Cairo.


Row of sphinx to Luxor temple

Friday, April 29

Nile Cruise, Take 2

So, on the morning of our second day, we finally set sail (and yes, I’m finally updating my blog).

The Nile

We sailed up the Nile – how cool is it that I can say that? – until we reached the Temple of Kom Ombo. Kom Ombo is actually a double temple dedicated to Horus and the crocodile god Sobek. The temple was right on the shore of the Nile (and up some stairs). And it was absolutely beautiful… hot, but beautiful. Our visit to Kom Ombo was over by noon (Mohammed said it would be just too hot after that).

Kom Ombo

It was interesting, there were so many boats docked at each… um, port (?) that sometimes we had to walk through 4-5 boats before we’d get to shore. Some of the boats looked nicer than ours. Others were in an obvious state of disrepair. Since Amanda sees dead people, I’m surprised she didn’t see any ghosts hanging around the scarier boats we passed through.

After Kom Ombo, we set sail again. In our down time (not ashore and not eating meals), we had planned to go up on deck and lounge by the pool. However, even sitting in the shade of an umbrella (or even under an awning) was too darn hot for us (at least for me) to stay up there for too long. So, we spent a lot of time in our cabin. Which was actually quite nice. The heat was tiring, so we read and napped. Oh, and looked at the pictures take that day. Exactly how a vacation should be, busy seeing the sites, but still with time to relax.

Later that afternoon (it was fairly close to sunset), we docked at Edfu. The Temple of Edfu wasn’t as close to the river as Kom Ombo, so the three of us piled into a little horse-drawn carriage (Mohammed sat up with the driver), and we drove to the temple. It was really a nice way to see the town, and except for the kids who kept running after us begging for money, the drive was quite nice.

OK, this isn't the carriage we took in Edfu, but it's pretty much the same

Edfu, apparently, is the second largest temple in all of Egypt (after Karnak). The walk up to the temple was quite impressive, even as we were getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. Yup, dusk + hot weather = LOTS of mosquitoes. I think I counted upwards of 30 bites on my legs. Since Edfu is on the west bank of the Nile, should I have been worried about West Nile virus? Well, I wasn’t. Oh, and I got propositioned on my way in to the temple. Do people really fall for that stuff? Amanda brought a fake wedding ring that she wore from time to time. She usually got left alone… should have followed her example.


Lisa and me with Horus

Saturday, March 5

Welcome to Alaska

Egypt is hot, even in October, and Aswan was experiencing record heat (like 110° F). So, all of our activities were before noon, or after 4 p.m. Whenever Egyptians greeted us outside in the heat, they all greeted us with “Welcome to Alaska!” Some would take the time to explain why that was funny, but I think I got it right away.

After our first night in Egypt (we pretty much crashed when we got to the hotel), we got up early to meet our guide, Mohamed (of course, right?). After an “Egyptian” breakfast that included hibiscus juice (not my favorite), and after a third failed attempt for me to withdraw money from the ATM (I had miscalculated the exchange rate), we met our guide at 8:30. The boat wasn’t ready for us to check in until afternoon, so we piled into an air-conditioned (THANK GOODNESS) van, and visited our first Egyptian sites.

We started with the unfinished obelisk. I’m not sure about Amanda or Lisa, but I was quite giddy with the fact that we were in Egypt… Egypt, people! OK, the unfinished obelisk is the largest known ancient obelisk, but it cracked as it was being carved out of bedrock, so it was abandoned. I’m not sure how this worked, but apparently, Egyptians used boats and sailed finished obelisks from Aswan to Cairo up the Nile.

Unfinished Obelisk

After the unfinished obelisk we drove in our van (did I mention that it was air-conditioned?) to the High Dam. I think it was at this point that Mohamed told us that after the Luxor Massacre (in ’97) tourism in Egypt decreased from 25 million a year to about 9 million a year. I can’t remember if that was ALL tourists, or just American tourists. But Mohamed told us not to worry, snipers now protected all tourist attractions. Hmmm… I just chose not to think about that.

High Dam

It’s amazing how much you can visit in one morning.

After the High Dam, we went to the Philae Temple. We had to take a boat to the temple, and you could tell this is a huge tourist attraction by the LARGE number of boats waiting at the dock. I would seriously say there were hundreds of boats. They were more than double-parked, they were stacked at least 4 deep, so maneuvering our boat out to open water was interesting to watch. As it was getting closer to noon, it was getting hotter, so I pulled out my hat… yes, my hat that I bought especially for this trip. I was glad to have it. As I’m writing this, I’m thinking to myself, “was I really in Egypt?” If not for the pictures, I might not believe it. What an amazing experience.

The crowded boats


After Philae, it still wasn’t time for us to board our cruise ship, so Mohamed took us to a “government” store. A government store is (or was in October, 2010) a store where there were fixed prices (supposedly less expensive than any non-government store), no haggling, and better quality products. We went to a perfume store, got a free soda, Lisa got a neck massage, and Amanda bought some Lotus perfume (I didn’t get any here, but finally broke down later in Cairo and also bought some Lotus perfume). From what we were told, you can only get Lotus fragrance in Egypt, so… why not?

It was finally time to get on the boat. Our room was really cool. It actually had three beds, so there would be no sharing during our cruise! We had lunch, relaxed in our room, and explored the boat until about 4:00, when we left for our last destination – the Aswan Botanic Island. We took a Felucca to the Island, piloted by a couple of Nubians (they were quite nice). About halfway across the Nile (yup, I said the Nile!) we ran out of wind – Feluccas are powered by sails – and we were almost stuck. However, we finally made it. The island was heavily populated with wild cats, so Mohamed warned us (especially Lisa) to NOT TOUCH THE CATS! It was difficult, but Amanda and I kept Lisa in line. Mohamed also warned us about NOT picking any flowers and that the guys with Uzis patrolling the gardens might try and trick us in to doing so. We didn’t see any guys with Uzis until we were almost ready to meet back up with Mohamed. This was the “guns & roses” part of the tour.

Our cabin

Guy with Uzi

Felluca sail

We returned to the boat for the night. The dinner buffet on the boat was quite good. I loved the variety of food. A couple of the cooks asked my name, and remembered me each time we went for a meal. “Did you like what I cooked for you today, Katie?” They were quite cute!

Wednesday, February 9

Walk like an Egyptian

With all that’s going on in Egypt right now, I feel like now is the best time to catch up on my blogging. I can’t believe how quickly the climate over there has changed from October.

Last October, Amanda, Lisa and I set off for a 10-day vacation to Egypt. Amanda found a great 4-day Nile cruise for us to start with, so we had to fly to Aswan almost immediately after arriving in Cairo. Our plan was to arrive in Cairo at 8:45 p.m. on the 14th, spend the night near the airport, then catch an early morning flight to Aswan – our cruise was to start at something like 9:00 a.m. on the 15th. Well, we all know what happens with the best laid plans, right? By the time we confirmed our cruise dates, there were no early morning flights available – none that got us to Aswan by 9:00. So, our only other option was to take a flight from Cairo to Aswan the same night we arrived. Now, I mentioned that we weren’t landing in Cairo until 8:45 p.m., right? The latest flight from Cairo to Aswan was at 10:15. Pretty tight connection for an international flight, but it was all we could do.

So, we flew from SLC to Paris – had a 5-hour layover in Paris, then caught a flight to Cairo. Even though we unsuccessfully tried to be on an earlier flight to Cairo (which would have alleviated the SUPER TIGHT CONNECTION to Aswan), the layover in Paris was very nice because a. I got to speak French, b. we sat in the Crown Room/Lounge with free food and drinks, and c. I ate French cheese.

So, we landed in Cairo pretty much on time, and since we were in Business Class (sweet), we were some of the first people in line for Customs. Unfortunately, we had to get out of line to buy an Egyptian visa, which I knew we had to buy, but assumed we’d buy it in the Customs line. By the time we got back in line, it was quite long. We were behind a large group of students, and Amanda asked them whether or not they had connecting flights. Since they were terminating in Cairo, we then asked if they would mind if we went in front of them. They were very nice and charitable and let us go ahead of them.

We got our bags, and then asked where we needed to go to catch our flight to Aswan. We were in terminal 1 (I think) and we needed to get to terminal 3… by shuttle bus. We asked several people where to catch the shuttle bus, but (of course) got conflicting answers or incomprehensible answers – as well as people wanting tips for helping us out (that got really old really quick, let me tell you). We finally got on the bus (so, it was after 9:30 by now and our flight was leaving at 10:15) and were on our way. It took FOREVER to get to the right terminal.

We finally arrived at terminal 3 at about 10:00-ish. We ran around trying to find the correct check-in counter, and were finally flagged down by a few gentlemen asking if we were going to Aswan. We checked in, then ran to the gate. We were quite blessed because our plane was still at the gate – and the door was still open. We were the last people on the plane, but we made it. Whew!

As we took the taxi to our hotel in Aswan, we noticed that our taxi driver (as well as several other cars on the road) drove without their lights on. Apparently, this is to conserve car battery power. As we saw this in Cairo as well, it must mean that poor car battery power must be country-wide.

We were finally in Egypt – I couldn’t believe it (if it weren’t for the pictures, I’d have a hard time believing it now). And I’m really glad we went when we did.

More to come…

Sunday, September 5

Am I the only one who’s never heard of Sturgis?

The first (or was it the second?) week in August, my friends Amanda and Jeff were in Aberdeen, SD for work. Amanda has always wanted to see Mount Rushmore, so even though Aberdeen is a six-hour drive from Rapid City, she and Jeff were planning to make the drive over the weekend. They invited me to meet up with them, so I took a Saturday morning flight to Rapid City.

Jeff and Amanda picked me up from the airport and our adventure began. What I didn’t realize is that our vacation coincided with Sturgis – only the nation’s largest motorcycle rally. When my brother, Roger, heard that I was going, he was so jealous:
Roger: “You’re going to Sturgis?”
Me: “Um, no, we’re going to Rapid City.” (thinking “what is he talking about?”)
Roger: “Yeah, but for Sturgis?”
Me: “No, we’re going to Mount Rushmore and stuff.” (thinking “why else would you go to South Dakota?”)
Seriously, I have never seen so many bikers in my life. Pictures can’t even do it justice. Everywhere we went there were bikers – bikes in the parking lot, bikes on the road, and bikers at the tourist attractions. We heard on the radio that they were expecting some ridiculous number of people… like 800,000. Which doubled the population of the entire state. Crazy.

Anyway, we went from the airport to the Badlands, which was an amazing sight.

From there we went to our hotel in Deadwood… a hotel filled with, yup, you guessed it, bikers.

On Sunday, we drove to Mount Rushmore. I especially liked the sign that read, “North by Northwest was filmed here.” I kept thinking – well, duh. If you’ve seen “North by Northwest” that was a given. If you haven’t, then the sign would mean nothing to you. Mount Rushmore was quite impressive – and big! On the airplane to Rapid City, the pilot had announced at one point that you could see Mount Rushmore out of the left-side of the plane. I was, of course, on the right side. Well, the lady sitting in front of me and to the left looked out her window and said, “I expected it to be bigger. It’s pretty small.” Ah, I chuckled, but refrained from comment. The gentleman in front of me didn’t: “Well, you ARE in an airplane. It’s much bigger when you’re on the ground.” Silly lady.

What did we do on Monday? We ate breakfast at Perkin’s (which we did every morning) along with dozens and dozens of bikers. Then we went to the Deadwood cemetery where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried. I loved it. Then we drove to Devil’s Tower in Wyoming. That was also quite impressive. And, yes, each stop was FILLED with bikers. Then Amanda dropped Jeff and I off at the airport – she had to go back to Aberdeen.

Super short weekend, but packed with fun.