21 July 2010

Egypt Trip Review: Abu Simbel & Aswan

Hi All!

After our ship, the Nile Story arrived at Aswan, we stayed overnight and four from our group prepared for our trip to Abu Simbel. This was an optional tour, but one that we felt was worthwhile seeing.

This involved an interesting trip with questionnable methods as when we arrived at Aswan airport we were allocated boarding passes with random names on them. Our confidence lessened when we found out we were flying with Air Memphis, an airline that had been mentioned in less than favourable conversation with our guide in Cairo!

For me, the flight was exciting! We boarded a 30 plus year old McDonnell Douglas DC-9. Sure, it looked and felt old, but the chance to fly aboard something like this doesn't come up very often! Regardless, many on board didn't feel safe until they were back on the ground. Luckily for them, the flight didn't take too long.

We were bussed over to the Abu Simbel Temple where we were given time to explore by ourselves. It was amazing to behold such a huge temple but also to realise that this monument had been relocated, piece by piece from its original location to this place to avoid it being submerged in Lake Nasser.

We were soon taken back to the airport and flown back (aboard the same, trusty DC-9 with different names on our randomly selected boarding passes again) to Aswan. From here we met up with the other two members of our group and looked at The Unfinished Obelisk in one of Aswan's quarries.

Our day was just starting! From the Unfinished Obelisk we visited the High Dam and took in the views of Lake Nasser and the surrounds. Following this we took a boat to the Philae Temple. This monument was also relocated to avoid flooding during the High Dam's construction.

With the day winding down we enjoyed a Felucca ride along the Nile with the opportunity to buy some souvenirs onboard before heading back to our cruiser for our last night in Aswan...

More to come!


08 July 2010

Egypt Trip Review: Luxor & The Nile

Hi All,

Continuing our trip review of Egypt, from Cairo we took an early Egyptair Express flight to Luxor in Upper Egypt.

(17 May 2010) Upon arrival in Luxor we met our new guide, Ahmed and were transported by bus to the famous and massive Karnak Temple. This is where we got our first look at an Egyptian Temple and an introduction to their design and function.

The Karnak Temple has the largest and most complete gate (entrance) of all the temples in Egypt. This entrance is lined with Ram statues. Within the temple itself are three separate sections, many obelisks and many more statues.

From the Karnak Temple we moved on to the Luxor Temple which is at one end of the recently excavated 'Sphinx Avenue', a passageway lined with hundreds of Sphinx statues. The gate to the Luxor temple features two statues and originally had two Obelisks. One remains, the other was sent to Paris as a gift.

Within the Luxor Temple it can be seen that other generations have had their influence. In many rooms there is evidence of Christian artwork plastered over Egyptian hyroglyphs as these temples were re-used as places of worship. Near the entrance to the Luxor Temple is a doorway high up on a wall. This is actually part of a mosque that was constructed on top of the Luxor Temple ruins.

From the Luxor Temple we were taken to our Nile River cruiser, the M/S Nile Story.

We took up an optional experience for the following morning, a balloon flight offering panoramic views over the Luxor area.

18 May 2010, another early start for three of our tour group. We boarded a boat and crossed the Nile while having breakfast and tea. We were then taken with other budding balloonists to the launch site where many balloons were filling the skies already.

The balloon flight was awesome and offered some excellent views over the valley region including the Tombs of the Nobles, the Temple of Al-Deir El-Bahari and the Valleys of the Kings and Queens. For our first ballooning experience it was definitely worth the price and the early wake up!

Back down to Earth we awaited the rest of our tour group (who had enjoyed a sleep in and some proper breakfast aboard our cruiser) and headed off to explore the tombs in the area. First stop was the Valley of the Kings. No photography is allowed here, but we explored three different tombs as the temperature rose! From here we continued on to the Al Deir El-Bahari Temple, this one is better known as the Temple of Hatchepsut.

We paid a quick visit to an Alabaster shop where we were shown the differences between real and fake alabaster as well as how certain alabaster items are created. Following this little rest stop we continued to the Valley of the Queens where we explored two more tombs.

After a long day exploring in the heat we returned back to our cruiser for dinner and to set sail along the Nile. On arrival at Esna we came upon several row boats in the water. These turned out to be salesmen offering carpets, scarves, galabeyas and more. The negotiations from the top deck of the cruiser provided a lot of entertainment and the throwing of items back and forth as we all looked for a great deal.

The following day (19 May 2010) we visited temples at Kom-Ombo and Edfu, each offering their own unique stories and purposes. The heat was a lot more noticeable in Upper Egypt but it did allow for a chance to relax on the top deck of the cruiser and indulge in the pool to keep cool. By the end of the day our cruiser had already arrived at Aswan.

Stay tuned for more updates from Aswan!



04 July 2010

Egypt Trip Review: Alexandria

Hi All!

Continuing the Egypt related blogs, on 14 May 2010 after our tour of Cairo we were off to Alexandria aboard a bus. On the way we visited two of the many monasteries between Cairo and Alexandria.

Our first stop was at St Bishoy's which offered a look at a traditional monastery while the second we visited was St Mina's which was a bit more modern.

Pics from Alexandria
Much of this day was spent in transit to Alexandria. 15 May 2010 allowed us to tour Alexandria a little more - our day started with a visit to the Montazah Gardens and the Palace of King Farouk. We then headed along the Corniche to Downtown and visited the famous Catacombs. We were then given a guided tour of the modern Alexandria Library, Bibliotecha Alexandrina before heading back to our hotels.

There were some wonderful sights in Alexandria which is still quite a busy place like Cairo, but with beaches and sea breezes. The Bibliotecha Alexandrina was an amazing place and even with a free ticket for Internet Access on their computers, both Eleonor and I resisted the urge to log on!

In the evening there was an offer to experience a guided tour of Downtown Alexandria and a dinner but our group decided to save some money and explore of our own accord so we took a taxi ride along the Corniche to walk the streets of Downtown and see what bargains we might be able to grab.

Check out footage from our taxi ride here:

We had a good look at the markets and shops in Alexandria but didn't bag any deals so we headed back towards our hotel where we had some very tasty Pizza from a nearby shopping complex.

16 May 2010 we left Alexandria and headed along the coast to El Alamein, an important place where soldiers fought in World War II. Passing the extensive arenas on the Mediterranean coast we visited the War Cemetary which included an Australian War Memorial and a large number of graves for soldiers from Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and Canada.

El Alamein War Cemetary

After this visit we explored the War Museum before hitting the long and lonely road back to Cairo. We returned to Cairo during peak traffic which showed us just how the Egyptian locals deal with clogged roads before visiting a cotton shop in Giza.

We returned to the Santana Hotel in Cairo for the night in preparation of an early departure the next morning to head to Upper Egypt.

A special shout-out to FlightsDubai.org who have actually featured two of my trip reports regarding Egypt on their site!

More to come in future posts :)