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Egyptian adventure – the end

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Our very last early morning call came at 3:00am… we were heading off for a sunrise  balloon flight over the Valley of the Kings. Needing match sticks to prop open our eyelids, ten adventurers left the ship to make our way to the airfield. On the way we were required to fill in some important information to help balance the basket – our weight in kgs. Well I had an idea of what I was in stones at the beginning of the holiday. But now I’d enjoyed a whole week of all-inclusive food and drinks and I never have any idea of what I am in kg. In the end did some rough mental arithmetic and added a couple of kg just to be sure. I hoped nobody would read the weights out loud!

As we neared the airfield we passed the Valley of the Kings, tombs lit, casting eerie shadows over the land up into the mountainside. I was more than happy to observe from ground level but Mr D really wanted us to experience a balloon flight together. It’s a measure of how much I love him that I got into the basket, smile fixed in place. As our balloon inflated the basket left the ground, hovering a little to allow the ground crew to move us around to distribute our weight evenly. Satisfied that all was well, they cast us loose and up we floated. Four gas burners supplied the hot air. So powerful and loud were they that I named them The Dragons!

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Our pilot was great at pointing out major features as we slowly floated skyward. Every so often he would let us know our current height. This might have been welcome information for other passengers, but for me it was disconcerting – he finally stopped calling out the height at 950m. By this time I have a death grip on the handles and am unable to take photos. Mr D, on the other hand, was having the time of his life. Borrowing some courage from him, I managed to peer over the edge and pick out various tombs and temples. As my ears popped again I realised we were on the way back to earth. Praying for a gentle landing I adopted the landing position which is more like the thigh-workout from hell. Fortunately we were blessed with a gentle landing, kissing the desert. All we had to do was stay put while the ground crew found us and began the process of deflating the balloon and packing it away. Phew! I survived.

A little later we rejoined our tour team who’d been watching us from the ground, and they brought packed breakfasts for us. What a lovely thought. Munching on a croissant and some fruit, we toured round the Valley of the Queens. The tombs don’t look like much from the outside but were amazing inside. Like the Tardis, they are deceptively large inside. The carvings and decoration still looked as fresh as the day they were completed. Same for the Valley of the Kings. The unfinished tombs indicated that their occupants died before the craftsmen had time to finish their work.

Onwards to the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. What a woman. She did a power grab for the throne and held on to it for over twenty years. Most of her statues show her dressed as a Pharaoh, complete with false beard. When she passed away, her usurped nephew was so incensed with her that he tried to erase her image wherever possible, outdoing the fleeing Christians in destruction!

On to our very last temple – Ramesses 3rd. Again the carvings and decoration are still in remarkable condition. By this time, Mr D and I were footsore and quite tired. We’d been on our feet for 12 hours without a coffee!! For this first time on this trip, I was more than glad to be back on board, even if it was to pack our cases and make ready for a few days in Makadi Bay to rest and recover.

I cannot put it into words just how amazing it has been to see the wonders of the ancient world with my own eyes. The Egyptian people are so warm and welcoming, and our security was their highest priority. Wherever you come from, dear readers, if Egypt was on your list of places to visit, please go. You’ll not regret it and will come back with amazing memories.

Thank you all for reading this little series. I wonder where we will travel to next?

Happy travels everyone xx

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Egyptian adventure – pt6

The unfinished obelisk – Aswan
Had this stayed in one piece it would have been a spectacular sight at around 42m tall. You have to feel sorry for the stonemasons on this job. There they were, carving the front, left and right sides, and just beginning to carve out the rear face when disaster struck – the rock cracked at the base. I would hate to have been the one to break the bad news to the Queen (Hatshepsut). Mind you, it left an amazing example for us to see how obelisks were created.
If  you’ve been following this series of posts, you will know that the most senior guests had misbehaved last night. Needless to say none of them made it up in time for today’s tours. So while they were nursing hangovers, we were in for a packed day.
After our trip to the quarry it was onwards to the upper and lower dams. The upper dam created one of the largest man-made lakes in the world, Lake Nasser. Its construction flooded large areas of Nubia, displacing the people. There is always a losing side with such things. Looking out at the lake, it is o huge it looks more like a sea… I hope to come back some day as I think a cruise on this lake would be amazing, not least because I would be able to visit Abu Simbel.
Back on board the coach again and this time we are off to see the Temple of Philae. This one spent a good few years under water following the construction of the dams. Between water damage (recent history) and the Christians with their hammers and chisels (ancient history) it’s a wonder we are able to see it at all. The whole temple was rescued by UNESCO and relocated to higher grounds and can be visited at night-time when you can hear the story of Osiris, Isis and Horus.
Onwards to an oil producer and a chance to escape the rising heat. I was in my element here as I am very in to aromatherapy. It was only due to Mr D that I did not end up with more oils. As it was I managed to purchase sandalwood, lotus, papyrus and royal amber oils before being dragged out and back to the coach!
After lunch on board, we headed off to another craft outlet, this time papyrus. Demonstrations showed us how a relatively weak reed is converted into strong, waterproof, and very durable paper. Remember the papyrus on the walls of the Egyptian museum in part 1. They are not protected from sunlight and yet remain clearly easy to read. It is truly amazing stuff. We also learned how to tell the difference between real papyrus and fake stuff made with banana leaves. You hold it up to the light to inspect the weave and the final test is to ask to pour water on it. If the seller looks shocked, it’s banana leaf!

Tomorrow’s plans are not so busy and do not involve getting up at stupid o’clock! What could be more gentle than a morning of bird-watching and an evening back at the Temple of Philae for the sound and light show?

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Egyptian adventure -pt 3

Hello 6:30am. Fancy seeing you on holiday. We have to get going as soon as possible before the temperature rises to furnace level (mid to upper 40 deg C)

Karnak hold numerous temples built by various Pharoahs and Queens. Our guide kicked off today’s teaching with a lesson on how to read hieroglyphs. Turns out you can read them left to right, right to left and top to bottom depending which way the faces of the hieroglyphs face. That must have been quite a headache for the original decoders… multi-directional writing and no punctuation. How do you know you’ve come to the end of a word, never mind a sentence?

The most prolific builder seems to have been Ramesses 2nd. Most of his works have survived invasions by Greeks, Romans, Arabs, and Christians and remained in good order, though not always. There were curious pock marks on some monuments. Turns out the Christians fleeing persecution, were armed with bolster chisels and blooming big hammers! All the other invaders built extensions to the existing architecture. I actually felt I had to apologise for the wanton destruction. The world should be thankful that most of the monuments were deeply buried in sand and soil and therefore escaped defacement.

On to the temple of Luxor…must remember to close mouth – everything is jaw-droppingly wonderful. This is beyond amazing. How did the builders, stonemasons and shipwrights accomplished their work, especially in this heat. I felt like I was walking in a sauna and it was only mid morning! If you get the chance to visit, go see the fertility god, his carving has seen much action throughout the ages. Needless to say I kept my hands to myself. I may be post-menopausal but I’m not taking any chances!

Our tour group tended to walk from shady spot to shady spot, and by lunchtime we were dripping and ready to head back to our ship for lunch.

Great excitement all round as we prepared to set sail for Esna. Everyone, now refreshed by lunch and cool drinks gathered on the top deck to watch the crew make ready to go. I guess the ship has come cool thrusters underneath as we seemed to move out of our berth sideways.

As we headed upstream, leaving Luxor behind, we travelled back through time. The city gave way to farms worked by tractors, which gave way to farms worked by horse, then eventually humans only.

A brief encounter with modern technology came in the form of a lock gate to raise us 6m up in record time. As we were not alone heading upstream we were berthed three deep. Buggrit! There goes the lovely view of the Nile. Oh and note to self, put clothes on before opening the curtains!

Tune in tomorrow for part 3 – Esna, Edfu and floating traders!

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Egyptian adventure – pt 2

close up photo of pharaoh figurine
Photo by Kalvin Sainz on Pexels.com

Egyptian Museum and transfer to Luxor

In order to fit in a trip to the Egyptian museum before our flight to Luxor, we needed to be up with the larks, on in this case, the ibis. I thought I’d seen horrific traffic on our trip to Colombo, Sri Lanka, but that paled into insignificance compared to the Cairo rush hour. After numerous hair-raising, buttock-clenching moments we arrived at the museum entrance. It looks like any old British Colonial building from the outside and hasn’t changed much on the inside.

Dust everywhere and priceless exhibits displayed inside old wooden cabinets, secured by the world’s weediest padlocks. I’ve seen better on a suitcase. How on earth the museum has not suffered major thefts I’ll never know. Even the treasures of Tutankhamun were similarly displayed. Fortunately, modern Egyptians are busy building a new state-of-the-art museum in the vicinity of the Great Pyramids. Not only will the items be better housed, but tourists will not have to endure the hair-raising trip into the city centre to see them.

Papyrus scrolls, canopic jars, sarcophagi (I think that’s plural for sarcophagus?!) and royal mummies… we saw the lot on our whistle-stop tour. I was most impressed with Ramesses the Second. He must have been a very tall man in his day. To have ruled for 67 years, dying at the ripe old age of around 97 is impressive even by today’s standards.

All too soon we had to leave to travel back to our hotel (Mena House) to meet up with our transfer coach to the airport for our flight to Luxor. There was little difference between rush hour traffic and midday traffic but at least there were fewer buttock-clenching moments.

Our flight was unremarkable (thank God… I’m not the world’s happiest flier) and our transfer to the ship short. The MS Esadora was one of three getting ready to cruise to Aswan. How sad to see so many other ships in mothballs, just waiting for the tourist population to increase to the pre-Arab Spring numbers. For a country that relies heavily on tourism, a 50% drop in visitor numbers is catastrophic for the economy. The country is trying so hard to ensure our safety. We were heavily guarded everywhere we went.

Anyway, back to the ship. This was our very first cruise so Mr D and I had no idea what to expect. Our cabin was beautifully appointed, with a Juliette balcony to watch the Nile slip past. The welcome meeting split the guests into three tour groups for the week, each headed by a very knowledgable Egyptologist. A brief outline of the full week itinerary was covered. I had a sneaking suspicion that we would be up early most mornings to make the most of our tours before the temperature soared. Unfortunately I was right. Tomorrow’s wake-up call was scheduled for 6:30am! Hello! This is supposed to be a holiday where we rest and recharge the batteries!

Tune in tomorrow for part 3, Karnak and the Temple of Luxor.

PS – we took a copy of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile, as you do 🙂

 

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Egyptian adventures – pt 1

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Photo by Simon Matzinger on Pexels.com

Cairo and the Great Pyramids of Giza

There’s nothing quite like waking up after a long journey, looking out of your hotel room and seeing a pyramid. Not just any pyramid but the Great Pyramid of Khufu.

Gazing up at it with my own eyes, I was truly lost for words. Just before Mr D and I left the UK for his big birthday trip, I read up on the latest theories about these wonders. This theory was about the alignment, not with Orion’s Belt but with the Autumnal Equinox

As luck would have it, our visit coincided with the Autumnal Equinox. Lucky us. And as the tourists have yet to return in great numbers, climbing up the inside to the King’s chamber was also possible without a long queue.

This is not for the faint-hearted. You need to be physically fit, agile, and have no fear of enclosed spaces because the climb is steep, relentless, hot, and at times, very cramped. Who knew that daily yoga practice would be so useful?!

Stepping off the ramp/ladder/death-trap (please note, health and safety don’t feature highly in Egypt) into the cool starkness of the King’s Chamber, I was stuck with the amount of granite lining the room. I can imagine teams of stonemasons working to carve the stones, but who built such amazing boats to carry them downstream without sinking or capsizing? They must have been formidable craftsmen.

The chamber is undecorated except for a couple of centuries worth of tourist graffiti! There would be no such behaviour from our group. Take home memories and leave only footprints.

The journey back to the outside world was just as hazardous as the accent, just a different set of leg muscles pressed into action. By the time I reached ground level I’d worked up a sweat worthy of sitting in a hot sauna and was utterly in awe of the ancient builders responsible for the pyramids.

Coming soon… pt 2 The Egyptian Museum and Cairo Traffic

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Getting back in the saddle…

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Why is it so hard to get back into writing after a break? It’s not as if nothing noteworthy happened. Far from it. Mr D and I had the time of our lives on our Egyptian Adventure. There wasn’t a day went by when I didn’t write in my journal and yet, once home, I can’t seem to get back in the groove and write up some of the funnier bits for you.

I find all sorts of things to do aside from my paid job. Suddenly that irritating mark on the carpet that appeared while we were away, seems more urgent to attend to. I’ve had this empty page open since 8:00am and now it’s 11:30! Well at least the stain (of unknown origin) is no more and tonight’s meal is simmering away in the slow cooker now that I’ve remembered to switch the power on at the socket!

Ennui!

That’s a great word to sum up how I feel. I’d love to be exploring more temples, coming up with new strategies to deal with the street sellers, or snorkelling with the entire cast of Finding Nemo. Maybe this is the crux of the matter. It’s post-holiday blues, where real life is just a little too ordinary when compared to the past two weeks. Mr D and I thoroughly enjoyed our time together just being us.

Right Cath, get a grip and saddle up! Enjoy the memories but keep an eye to the far horizon and the next adventure.

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Stop the world, I want to get off!

Happy Friday everyone.

This is a special Friday for me and Mr D. We’re off on a long-overdue holiday. For the next two weeks we will be mostly unplugged and off the grid in an effort to recharge our depleted batteries.

The trip is in celebration of Mr D’s big birthday (one with a zero on the end!) so I’ve pushed the boat out and booked us into a VIP lounge before our flight, and booked a few cultural trips to keep him amused. It’s always fun trying to find a balance between “doing” and “being”. Mr D loves doing, and will walk the hind legs off a donkey. Me? I like to mix it up with some being and some doing. With a bit of planning I think I’ve found the right balance for us.

As we are off the grid, I won’t be posting anything until we return at the beginning of October. Hopefully we will have so many wonderful experiences I will be awash with ideas for a good one-liner for Wednesdays and SoCS.

Until then, dear readers, be good. And if you can’t be good, for heaven sake, don’t get caught.

Cath xx