Archive for June, 2010

Back to Cairo

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Awesome. 8 hours driving back to Cairo.
One or two breaks along the way… nothing of interest to report 😛
Once we were back we went out for another ‘final dinner’ – at the same restaurant we went to for the first one 😛
Hassaan tried to say 8, but considering the only lunch we’d had was snack food on the bus we went for 6 instead. 😛
Afterwards, Hassaan took Madeline and Carson of to the Cairo equivalent of a mall. Apparently they do exist. I was feeling lazy and so instead ended up watching bad movies on TV, and continued to do so the next day. I had considered the possibility of heading up to see the step pyramids, but given I had 50 LE left of cash and didn’t really want to make another ATM visit, I took it cheap and bummed around near the hotel. Of course being in London now, I actually found a random 20 pound note in my jeans pocket, but anyway.

The Blue Hole

Friday, June 4th, 2010

We’re told Dahab is famous for the ‘Blue Hole’ – a shaft running down through the reefs near Dahab, literally only 10 meters offshore. Dahab itself was full of dives shops and snorkelling centres, and Hassaan organised a jeep for Carson, Madeline and myself to head on out there to snorkel it out. We left relatively early, around 9.30, and it was just as well – by midday there would have been well over 200 people in the water at any one time, snorkelers, scuba divers and swimmers.
The hole was reached by a short 10 metre pontoon from the shore which led straight to it’s edge. The hole was about 100 meters across, with reefs surrounding it. The water over these reefs was less than a metre deep, but the hole itself we’re told is over 100 metres deep, well out of the range of even scuba divers. At first I was somewhat disappointed with the reef itself,although the fish were numerous and varied, quite different to those found when snorkelling in Victoria. Closer inspection, and heading outside the hole to view the outer shelf of the reef yielded a much more interesting and varied reef structure. I had debated getting a disposable underwater camera for this, but had decided against it, and as we were leaving our bags in an open area in the restaurant, I didn’t trust it enough to bring my own camera at all.
I had three 45 minute or so stints, each time getting out because despite being summer in Egypt, I still found the water a little chilly and we had no wetsuits. Was still well worth it, and was amusing to see over 50 snorkelers packed into such a small space as the hole later in the day. None of the action on the surface, and the multitude of scuba divers below us seemed to faze the fish though, they kept going on their merry way.
We ended up coming back around 2.30, and had a short nap. Seems I’m getting into the habit of siestas before I’ve even made it to the Mediterranean countries they are well known for. Late in the evening we wandered down the main street and went to a little Egyptian place, and managed to fill our table for less than 20 LE each.

Full table for final dinner at Dahab

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Full table for final dinner at Dahab05-Jun-2010 03:51, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.067 sec, ISO 250

The contrast with just getting a local meal vs. a (somewhat westernised) restaurant meal is huge in price, yet (with the exception of my microwaved chicken on the way to St. Catherine) just as filling and just as tasty.
We then wandered down the market st, and on to the boulevard, and had more reminders of Lygon street with spruikers everywhere, not trying to get us to buy their stuff from the bazaar, but to eat at their restaurant. The westernisation of Dahab became very apparent, with even a few bars and pubs – something which doesn’t exist anywhere else in Egypt as the majority of the population, being Muslim, don’t drink.
Ended the night with a quick trip to the supermarket, grabbing some chips for the 7 hour drive the next day back to Cairo.

Dahab

Friday, June 4th, 2010

Up at 8.30 and had a dip in previously mentioned massive pool. Was a bit annoying though as turns out half of it is only 25-50cm deep, meaning you can’t even swing your arms around to swim properly. Was still quite refreshing, and you dry out almost as soon as you get out due to the nice warm wind. Then after breakfast we were off to Dahab, Egypt’s beach side resort and diving capital.
Driving in to Dahab it actually seemed quite small, it wasn’t until the the next day driving along the coast to the north that I realized it’s true size. Still our hotel was very nice, and I got a double room on the top floor all to myself, with a great little balcony with views of the beach literally 30 meters away.

Our hotels pool

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Our hotels pool04-Jun-2010 02:56, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.067 sec, ISO 800

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04-Jun-2010 02:36, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200

Our hotel, I'm under the satellite dish.

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Our hotel, I'm under the satellite dish.04-Jun-2010 02:33, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.003 sec, ISO 400

The beach at Dahab

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The beach at Dahab04-Jun-2010 02:32, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.01 sec, ISO 160

We discussed going snorkeling that afternoon (we got in around 1130) but decided to save it for a full day. The best thing about the hotel though? Free wifi! Dahab is frequented by a large number of tourists (although not so many this time of year) and also has quite a high European population. No doubt this has led to certain western ‘necessities’ such as internet being more readily available.
So, I lounged through the afternoon in the shade by the salt water pool, tapping away and getting photos and blogs done. Hassaan also showed me a few photos from his Facebook of some of his previous tours. Had a great cheap lunch down the main road at a little sandwich bar, getting another shawerma sandwich – also came with chips and salad for only 15 LE!

Awesome & cheap 'Beef sharwerma sandwhich' lunch in Dahab

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Awesome & cheap 'Beef sharwerma sandwhich' lunch in Dahab03-Jun-2010 22:05, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.05 sec, ISO 500

Later in the evening we wandered over as a group to ‘Funny Mummy’ – a restaurant recommended by Geckos and were talked in to having some fresh fish, literally caught only 2 hours previously. We picked out a White snapper and a red groper (I think it was groper he said at least) and they were taken away to be cooked.

Our dinner - caught 2 hours previously

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Our dinner – caught 2 hours previously04-Jun-2010 03:31, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.067 sec, ISO 400

When they arrived the snapper actually looked quite vicious, with teeth and everything!

has teeth :O

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has teeth :O04-Jun-2010 04:18, Canon Canon PowerShot A3000 IS, 2.7, 6.2mm, 0.067 sec, ISO 125

It tasted great, and we got free entrees, and when we went to leave they bought us free dessert to bring us back for another hour almost (even though we didn’t buy any more drinks amusingly)!
One interesting experience at Funny Mummy was the cats. The tables where low and we only sat on cushions, and Dahab is apparently overrun with cats. The waiters gave most tables a spray bottle to keep them at bay as they climbed over everything and were very sneaky and hiding under tables to pounce on the best morsels. It was an amusing game of wack-a-mole until some of them were so wet they didn’t really care any more and dived at the food anyway. Luckily most was saved, but it was a completely unique experience, although I guess it has similarities to protecting chips from the seagulls.
Also it seemed as though every restaurant along the beach front had shiesha pipes. Having seen the Lebanese restaurant on Lygon St in Melbourne this didn’t seem overly out of place, but Christine hadn’t seen them before, and had to try an apple one.
After al this we discovered when we went to pay there had been a misunderstanding and we thought the waiter had said 75 LE per fish, as opposed to 75 LE per person (4 of us shared it). Hassaan had understood the same as us, and while I would have paid it anyway, Hassaan being good friends with the waiter (he takes many groups there) we got it for 50 LE each. Worth every cent – and we had spent nearly 4 hours relaxing there!

Mt. Sinai & St. Catherine

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

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Cairo Again

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

I don’t think I was ever asleep for more than 10 minutes at a time… the aircon was either full bore,meaning pants jumpers and sleeping bag liner. Of off, meaning we started sweltering and removing all the layers we’d put on a couple of minutes previously and then some.
Still we made it in, and got the minibus back to the familiar hotel from over a week ago now. After a bit of a diplomacy session on the bus, we decided to head out to the cairo bazaars for what would be the final day of the tour for 8 of us. Unlike Luxor and Aswan these were cramped and huge. Tiny alleys, with thousands of people. Had a joke with one store owner who askedwhat I was after. I said ‘Nothing’ and he says ‘We’ve got that!’
Had a nice lunch at a local pizza bar, and I finally found out that Shawerma is the name for kebab meat cooked on a spit. Was a very nice sandwich 🙂
With the afternoon free I ended up spending 3 hours in the net cafe near our hotel. Wrestling with Picasa to finally get it to play nice with my USB stick and sync them up online. Can now also upload specific photos from my albums rather than the whole lot which should save some time, assuming I have the time to pick out the good ones to start with. Our final dinner as a full group we went to a local restaurant around the corner from our hotel. This time I had an Egyptian style pizza, which instead of being a flat base with everything piled on top, actually is more like a pita bread, with the base full of the meat, and the vegies and cheese piled on top of it. Was a nice twist on the standard pizza.
We also gave Hassaan a small gift – one of the breakfast boxes from our bus ride to Abu Simbel, filled with random little souveniers from home, and from our trip, including some Canadian, NZ and Australian money, a twinkie, a pack of Uno cards, a NZ rugby team cap… and some rubbish. On the box we’d written little thank you notes, and also included our tips for the trip.
And so the next morning it was farewell, as some of us headed off to the airport back home, and 4 of us continued on to Mt. Sinai.

Luxor & Valley of the Kings

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

So I was woken up at 4.30 am as Tom gets ready to go on his balloon ride which I decided against due to funding. Although it was only 150 LE which is cheap compared to Australia I wasn’t dead set on it. When we the rest of us got up at 5.30 and wander up for breakfast we could see them taking off across the Nile, and got a few photos, before heading over to the west bank ourselves to catch our donkies.
Something obviously hadn’t entirely agreed with me the night before, as I was getting occasional stomach cramps which I assumed was just wind, but when things coming out were all together more liquid than they should have been it was clear it was more than that. Still I managed to make it though they donkey ride OK. There were about 4 separate groups with us, about 40-50 donkies in one big pack. We were told that ‘ha’ is supposed to speed them up, and ‘hoosh’ is supposed to slow them down, but overall they just did what they wanted, occasionally listening to the owners who would yell ‘yalla’ instead.
Once there it was a short walk in blistering heat up the hill to the tombs themselves. Our guide was not allowed in, and yet again our cameras neither. The first one we entered was Ramses VII, rather short, no more than 20-30 meters into the cliff, it was still quite colourful compared to everything we’d seen so far, no doubt due to it being hidden from direct sunlight. I could write more about this one tomb, but it was completely overshadowed by the other two unfortunately.
Ramses III was next, a good 10 times larger and further into the cliff than VII. It actually encountered another tomb as the digging was in progress and had to angle off to the side to keep going. This tomb is particularly famous for it’s ‘harp room’ – the tomb was discovered before hieroglyphics where deciphered, and this tomb has some great depictions of everyday life in picture form rather than hieroglyphic. One room in particular shows very clearly shows a couple of Egyptian women playing harps, something entirely unique amongst tomb artwork.
Finally and most spectacularly was Ramses I. This tomb was cut almost at 45 degrees downwards into the mountain, a very steep decent down stairs into the burial chamber, overall the tomb was only twice as big as Ramses VII, however the colours where completely unspoiled. I don’t think I saw a spot on the walls in the chamber which didn’t still have it’s colour, still bright and vivid as thousands of years ago. I had wondered before coming here how we know what ancient Egyptian art looks like – sure we had the outlines from the carvings but I was totally surprised to find out that there existed tombs such as this with all their colours intact.
Boiling under the heat we headed back to the river, stopping only briefly to snap a few photos of two massive statues. Under difference circumstances they would have warranted much more than the 5 minutes we gave them.
Back in Luxor we had the afternoon free. We had two rooms in a hotel between all 12 of us, as the Melodie had left, but most of us were instead out in the City. I got my Liverpool top for 40 LE ($10 AU) and it is quite obviously a fake but at least I have one now. Amusing because it even says made in Egypt. Not something I will be able to wear in England though 😛
Later in the evening a group of us headed out, got some Ice cream, and had a walk around Luxor temple. Amusingly you can see the majority of it simply by walking along the road outside, saving a good 50 pounds. By night it was quite a sight. Then back to the hotel, to pack our bags and catch the night train back to Cairo.