A Travellerspoint blog

Exodus

Final thoughts...

As it turns out a trip can be done successfully with little predeparture planning. Apparently one can also relax while traveling and take naps. Who knew? Perhaps a touch of pre-planning would have discouraged me from coming to this region alone and in the summer. Reading tripadvisor.com may have discouraged me from coming to Egypt at all! Maybe planning is overrated...

I highly recommend Egypt and Jordan as a post break up destination for any single woman who needs an ego boost. If I had a dollar for every man who has proposed to me in the last two weeks...I could head out on my next trip!

Definitely a different culture and way of life. Upside to independent travel is seeing that very clearly. Downside as well? I've definitely had an education into the Muslim world that I didn't expect. There really is a very deep respect for women and religion and a sincere adherence to a way of life that is very different than the US. This is readily apparent even in the most modern cities.

There have been challenges that I didn't anticipate and wondrous sights that exceeded my expectations. As always, the more I travel the more I realize just how much of the world there is to see and how lucky I am to have seen so much of it. See you next trip...

Posted by NYCgirl 09:04 Comments (0)

Cairo

Chaos, pyramids, markets and McDonalds

ah...Cairo. As always LP says it better that I ever could. "Let's address the drawbacks first. The crowds on a Cairo footpath make Manhattan look like a ghost town. You will be hounded by papyrus sellers at every turn. Your life will flash before your eyes each time you venture across a street. And your snot will run black from the smog."

Um, yes.

Call me a jaded (and overheated traveler) but this city is lucky it has pyramids. I'm just saying.

Sitting in my local internet cafe - my home in Cairo - the owner a little bit loves me. That's probably because I hide out in his AC for most afternoons but I'll take what I can get. I love the huge no smoking sign on the wall as I develop lung cancer and asthma at the same time. Maybe only English speaking smokers aren't allowed to smoke?

Day 1 in Cairo was clearly spent at the pyramids. I'm not sure how I managed to take something like 200 photos, but then again I managed like 50 of a sunset on the Nile so it shouldn't surprise me too much. Not much in the way of group tours available - even went to the local youth hostel. Since the Pyramids are a bit out of a town and I wanted to visit several sites besides the famous Giza pyramids I hired a driver/guide for the day. It was from the most affordable agency in the downtown area and I was more than a little nervous about what might show up the next morning. But this was one case where I was pleasantly surprised in Egypt.

The driver was a little sketchy (marriage proposals, constant attempts to get me to visit papyrus, perfume and carpet shops) but took no for an answer (on everything except the marriage part :) but the guide was excellent. We had an interesting conversation about his two wives (apparently legal) and he was full of info. Most tours begin at 9 but they agreed to pick me up at 7. This was great because we got to the Giza pyramids before they opened at 8. I was officially the first person in and got to get pics before the THRONGS of tourists hit. I really can't imagine what busy season looks like...oh and mr. tourguide was also adept at taking photos. Yay!

Saw the pyramids and the Sphinx. I'm just saying they're kind of big up close. You are able to climb inside but they aren't exactly spacious so I decided to opt out. Of course the post card sellers, camel drivers and what feels like every Egyptian on the planet are out in full force. "Where you from? Hello Madam. Want to buy..." My Luxor respite was over. I know it's their livelihood and Egypt is all about tourism industry, but quite honestly it really is vexing that you can't have even a moment to appreciate some of the most beautiful things in the world without having to say la shukran a million times.

Next stop was the Bent Pyramid and some tombs at Saquarra and then the Red Pyramid in Dashur. The Red Pyramid was wonderfully unattended and there were only a few cars in the parking lot. Not on the usual tourist route. I climbed 125 stairs to climb into the pyramid and lasted about 20 feet before turning back. You have to literally fold yourself in half and when people were coming in behind me and I realized that I'd have to go all the way in without being able to turn back I felt a little trapped and turned around. It's hard to describe how narrow, humid and suffocating the passageways are. So much for overcoming claustrophobia on this trip...

Day two was spent walking around Cairo and doing a little city touring. I tried to find a day tour but there really wasn't any group trip available and it just didn't make sense to do the whole hire a private guide thing. I took the subway to Old Cairo. It cost about 20 cents and is the safest way to travel in this city! Too bad they have like one line that serves 1/90th of the city. But it got me where I needed to go. Old Cairo is a little area that looks a bit like the Old City in Jerusalem. Same sort of walls and walking through alleys. There are a bunch of churches there, but the draw for me was Ibn Ezra's synagogue where the Cairo Geniza was found. No pics allowed, but it was pretty cool to see.

Next stop - "Islamic Cairo" - so named for its many mosques. It was Friday and there was massive prayer time going on. More importantly, everyone and their mother was at the Al Khan Khalili markets. Possibly the most insane markets in all of the Middle East. On the one hand I think I was harassed less than I expected because there were so many locals out shopping, on the other hand there were several near stampedes and a traffic blockage when all of the sudden mats were laid out in the middle of a narrow passageway and a bunch of men prayed for a few minutes. Definitely up there with "most random things seen in a marketplace." It was at least 1,000 degrees. At least. I don't think I walked through one tenth when I just was totally overwhelmed by the heat, the people and the dirt flying in my face. I'm about to go home and I have purchased not one souvenir on this trip. I really need to at least get a tacky alabaster pyramid before I leave...new goal for tomorrow.

I was rather proud of myself for my street crossing abilities and how easily I was navigating downtown ...until I realized it was Friday - the Muslim Sabbath and basically a non work day. Hence an empty downtown. No need for pride young lady.

Quick break for a beverage and awesome AC at McDonalds. ah...fast food chains everywhere downtown are the ultimate life saver. Best. AC. EVER.

Finally - the Egyptian museum. Get to see all of the treasures found in King Tut's tomb. And other cool stuff like that.

Cairo - check.Dashur - Red Pyramid

Dashur - Red Pyramid

Pyramids

Pyramids

Pyramids

Pyramids

Pyramids

Pyramids

tour buses galore

tour buses galore

Pyramids

Pyramids

Pyramids

Pyramids

Sphinx

Sphinx

Pyramids

Pyramids

mosque

mosque


mosque

mosque

chilling in the mosque

chilling in the mosque

prayer times

prayer times

mosque

mosque

market

market

market

market

market

market

tea seller in market

tea seller in market

market

market

prayer time in the market

prayer time in the market

market

market

Posted by NYCgirl 08:32 Comments (0)

Luxor to Cairo

Lesser of two evils?

I'll be honest. I am ready to go home. Like now. Egypt is just not doing it for me. Between the temperatures and the hassles, I feel exhausted. Part of me was so excited to get out of Luxor that I would have gone anywhere. Cairo is a big city with millions of people -surely tourists blend a bit more there. Less being harassed by every Egyptian on the planet. Bonus - it's farther up north and rumored to be significantly cooler. (By which I mean under 100 degrees) On the other hand, I'd heard from so many other travelers how crowded and insane the city is. How wild the driving is. And how utterly impossible it is to cross the streets because it's total lawlessness on the roads and road rules are unheard of. Lonely Planet even devotes a special text box on "How to cross the streets in Cairo"

"It may sound silly, but the greatest challenge most travelers face when traveling through Egypt is crossing the street in Cairo. Roads are frantically busy and road rules are something that the average Cairene has heard of , but only in jokes. Our advice is to position yourself so that one or more locals form a buffer between you and oncoming traffic, and then cross when they cross - they usually don't mind being used as human shields. "

Surely they exaggerate. Surely not.

I'll be honest. As I picked up my luggage and got ready to leave the airport and head in to the city, a not too small part of me was shouting - NO! Don't do it! Head to international departures and do whatever you need to do in order to get on a plane back to America. This part of me was silenced by the part that really needed to check the Pyramids off my life to do list. I made my way into a car and headed downtown.

Everyone kept saying how much cooler it was going to be in Cairo since it was farther up north. Apparently we're having a touch of a heat wave. I love weather.com. Temperature: 98 degrees. Feels like: 102 degrees. Really?? Feels like: HELL!

Ah Cairo...Again, words really do not do the street crossing process justice. As per LP's advice, after waiting and noticing that cars never paused and that traffic lights were either non existent or ignored, I would find a local and just cross with them. I can only compare this process to attempting to cross the FDR or West Side Highway lane by lane and hoping for the best. Cars are speeding behind and ahead of you and you just take it one lane at a time. The honking of cars is omnipresent. As in ALL the time. Honking at pedestrians, other vehicles and perhaps Allah? I think the entire experience was summed up when I finally saw a light at one major intersection. Instead of a man walking there was a green image of a man running. Seriously. RUNNING! *AND* cars were just wooshing past as if there was no traffic signal at all. If that doesn't say it all, I don't know what does.

Off to the pyramids in the morning...

landing in Egypt

landing in Egypt

Posted by NYCgirl 08:31 Comments (0)

Luxor

Hassle capital of the world

No I didn't create that nickname, but I certainly believe it! I'm not sure there are any words I could use that would accurately describe what happens in Luxor. Though I will certainly try.

The moment you step out of your hotel, taxis stop and honk at you. Horse carriage drivers yell. And this happens the ENTIRE time you are walking anywhere. People also tell outrageous lies. One driver told me it was illegal to walk down a particular side street. Another told me it was 60 km to a place that was a few blocks away and that there's no way I could walk there. This type of thing is also prevalent in other highly touristy areas of Egypt and you end up feeling like a human wallet.

I've talked to other travelers and people just end up feeling annoyed and resentful. They start ignoring everyone who talks to them. In the beginning I didn't even want to leave my hotel! I had a long chat with a British woman and two kids (who I had asked for directions after said carriage driver told me I was forbidden to walk down a particular street) who has lived in Luxor for several years and she told me she's gotten so used to ignoring people that sometimes her friend will say hello in the street and she'll just keep walking. I know it seems simple to ignore but it's really hard not to say no thank you - but once you do that it's all over. You've opened up a conversation and they're relentless. It also gets tiresome after the 100th person approaches you. I think the saddest part of all, and what I found most frustrating, is that you quickly become this harsh and suspicious person. No hello is just a friendly hello. No "Where are you from?" inquiry is innocent - it's all the beginning of a sales pitch. And everything is about getting money from you. In any other country if someone offered to take a photo for me, I would say thank you. Here it's about wanting a tip. So you end up just looking straight ahead and ignoring everyone and their hellos and I think it's kind of sad.

Luxor itself is such a popular tourist area because of its wonderful attractions. The Luxor museum, the Museum of Mummification (official winner of the TMI award), lots of temples, the Valley of the Kings where Tutankhamen's tomb was found but also tons of other fascinating tombs you can explore. All the treasures have been stolen or placed in museums but there are still beautiful decorations to see all over the walls and it is quite awesome to appreciate the work that was put into creating these tombs. (Again - if you hate your job, imagine being the guy digging the tomb in August - I'm just saying...)

The other real highlight of Luxor for me was the Temples of Karnak - a 2 sq km complex filled with sanctuaries, kiosks, pylons, and obelisks. Apparently its Temple of Amun is the largest religious building ever built. It really was quite spectacular. Of course - got there at 7 am to beat the heat and the place was already swarmed with tourists. Everyone keeps saying that the summer is slow season and I just can't imagine what some of these sights look like in December.

I will say - when it was time to leave Luxor - I was not shedding any tears. When my taxi pulled into the airport I was barely out the door before two men materialized out of nowhere and had their hands on my luggage. I literally had to wrestle it from them and say I was fine and could carry it myself. I was happy with the amazing sights, but utterly exhausted with the "la shukran" - Arabic for "no thank you" OR - please please keep harassing me until I buy whatever you're selling. I think it might be like "shalom" with its multiple meanings....

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple

Luxor Temple at night

Luxor Temple at night

Sunset on the Nile

Sunset on the Nile

sunset on the Nile

sunset on the Nile

sunset on the Nile

sunset on the Nile

Luxor Temple

Luxor Temple

Egypt

Egypt

hatshepshut temple

hatshepshut temple

Posted by NYCgirl 08:29 Comments (0)

Aswan to Luxor

Kom Ombo, Edfu

Today was time to travel from Aswan to Luxor. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. But we will save that for the Luxor posting. Travel day was actually quite fun. I ended up on a minibus with people from Canada, US, NZ, Aus, and France. And one Egyptian who was studying to be a tour guide and traveling with his French gf. Useful guy to have around...

We got on the minibus and our suitcases/backpacks were all tied on to a rack above the bus. I kept expecting to see a trail of dirty laundry behind the bus as everything came tumbling down, but I guess it was all tied up pretty securely. The trip took us to Luxor via two pretty cool temples in Kom Ombo and Edfu. Pics below. Edfu is actually not mentioned often as a top spot to see in Egypt, but I think it was pretty much the most impressive temple I've seen this trip. Not as huge as some, but mostly in tact and really intricate carvings on it. The other really cool thing was that there were pretty much no other tour groups on this route for some reason. Our bus had the temples to ourselves and it was kind of nice.

It was of course a billion degrees as usual and early in the morning I started to feel really sick. I was kind of surprised that I hadn't felt ill at all on the trip given the insane temperatures and the fact that I don't think I slept past 5 or 6 on any morning. The first thing that went through my mind was all the wonderful diseases listed in the Lonely Planet. (Typhoid - vaccine recommended for Egypt. Not so much with the time to get that before I left. Leishmaniasis - fairly certain that was a misdiagnosis on an episode of House. ) But it was just a little dehydration and copious water helped.

After the temples and a fun bus ride meeting some really cool people - we got into Luxor at close to 4 in the afternoon. Ah Luxor...you get your very own post.

Edfu Temple

Edfu Temple

riding a motorbike

riding a motorbike

Edfu

Edfu

our luggage

our luggage

Kom Ombo Temple

Kom Ombo Temple

Kom Ombo Temple

Kom Ombo Temple

Kom Ombo Temple

Kom Ombo Temple

Kom Ombo Temple

Kom Ombo Temple

Leaving Aswan

Leaving Aswan

Hilarious t-shirt on a local

Hilarious t-shirt on a local

leaving Aswan

leaving Aswan

Posted by NYCgirl 08:26 Comments (0)

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