Monthly Archives: July 2013

Dancing on the Nile

8/2/11

I went down to dinner, but then realized most people had changed for the party, so I went back to my room to change. I put on Lexi’s skirt and Sonja lent me a tank top aka singlet. I put my Egyptian skirt around my waist and over Lexi’s skirt. I was so pissed that I didn’t have my costume from my suitcase. I felt so plain. Sonja lent me a shawl to cover my shoulders. I didn’t anything at dinner. We went up to the pool area to hang out for a bit, but it was getting dark. We went down to the lounge for the party.

Some of the Trafalgar people were there. They danced with us for a bit, but the music they were playing was way too hip hop for them and us. We then went to take pictures in the lobby. The guys looked great in their galabiyas. Mike was wearing his rope from the room with his headdress. It was funny. Paul looked like dracula in his galabiya because it was black and sort of had a cape.

We danced for a while, but I hated the songs. So I grabbed my ipod and made a playlist. Then the party got started. I became ipod DJ for a while and so did Meg. We danced to some old school 90’s songs. Of course we also danced to Walk Like an Egyptian. Since this is the only party night on the tour because Egypt is conservative, several of the people in the group decided to drink a lot. The group started to thin out after 12 am. I left the lounge around 1am. I went back to my room, changed, and prepared my stuff for the next day. We had docked in Edfu so I took several photos of it from my room’s window. Bed time.

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Categories: Africa, Egypt, Travel, Trip with a Tour Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Watching the Sun Set at Kom Ombo

8/2/11
We took a shuttle from the plane to the airport and then a bus back to our boat. Once we were all aboard we set sail.

My luggage still didn’t arrive. 😦 I went to lunch because I felt ill and wanted real food. I had super yummy mashed potatoes and some bread. I went back to my room to get cold for a bit. I watched MTV cribs. I also watched the Nile from my bed.

About 3 hrs later it was time to meet Sherif to see Kom Ombo. Sonja, Paul, Michael, and I were the only ones going. Sherif took Sonja and I outside to a tiny ledge so we could watch us pull into Kom Ombo. One false step and we would be in the Nile. We disembarked and walked to the temple.

Sunset was coming and the temple looked beautiful. There were still remnants of color in spots and the hues were brilliant. Sherif showed us a scene that contained images of medical supplies and one where a woman was giving birth. The temple was dedicated to Sobek and Haroeris (Horus the elder). It’s rare for two gods to share a temple. People used to wait to get treated here and you could still see the games and drawings they carved into the floor while they waited. There was an image on the temple wall of a lion biting the hands of its enemies. There was a picture of Cleopatra since the temple dates from the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Sherif kept saying, “Come I show you the best picture.” This kept cracking us up.

Cleopatra

The sun started to set and the place became magical. We took pictures holding the sun. Mike started not to feel well and was looking pale. Sherif sent him back to the boat because he’s had people faint in this temple before, which is strange because it wasn’t hot. I didn’t want to leave because it was like stepping back in time. It was so quiet and peaceful. Sherif showed us the Nilometer and where they kept the alligator.

It was time to break Ramadan for the day so we walked back to the boat. We saw a museum they were building. I asked Sherif what his favorite Egyptian site was and he said Abydos. That’s where Osiris’ head is supposedly buried. Random strangers offered Sherif food and water. He accepted the water.

We went back on the ship and Sherif went straight to dinner with the crew. I went to the top deck and watched Kom Ombo slip away. Everyone on the deck said they didn’t go because they felt they saw it from the boat. All they could see was the top part sticking out from the trees. They really missed out. The four of us who went loved it.

Categories: Africa, Egypt, History, Travel, Trip with a Tour Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Day I was Mistaken for an Egyptian Queen’s Soul

8/2/13

Surprisingly we did not have to wake up at the crack of dawn to catch a plane to Abu Simbel like all the other Contiki tours had to. I skipped the cruise’s breakfast and ate my cereal on the bus. We drove to the airport in Aswan. We went through security which was a metal detector and xray machine. Our waters were allowed in. Sherif showed us a picture of Nefertari that we would see in the temple. He also complimented my dress. He had us sit down and he gave us some background info on the temples. I wanted to look around at the shops in the airport, but he said we didn’t have time. So I chose the bathroom instead as did some of the other girls. We ran straight from the bathroom to our gate. We were boarding!

Once on the plane I realized that I was on the wrong side of the plane to see Abu Simbel. I needed to be on the left side. Sitting to the right of me was an Arab man who didn’t seem very nice. To the left of me was Janelle. Then Sherif calls me and asks me to move. He has me take an empty seat in the row behind him on the left side of the plane. He moved me so I could see Abu Simbel. Lexi moves and sits next to me. The plane ride was smooth. They offered us water. I got a great picture of Abu Simbel from the air. I played some American music for Lexi. We landed after what felt like only 15 minutes, but was really over 30 minutes.

Abu Simbel from the air

We got on a shuttle bus to take us to the main airport. Then a bunch of us ran to the ladies room. We boarded a coach bus which we shared with the Trafalgar group. We drove to a little food area and had to walk from there. The walk to the temples was hot and grueling. I felt like I was melting. So I joked around and prayed to Shu (the wind god) and at that moment a gust of wind hit my dress. The light breeze stayed with us! I turned a corner and there was Ramesses’ Temple. I was in awe. It was so incredible! We took some pictures then we went to a “shaded” area with a bench to listen to Sherif. He talked to us about the moving of the temples and the alligator that walked right up to people at night during the light and sound show. He asked us who wanted to buy the Abu Simbel pictures for 20 LE. I told him that I wanted them. Then he let us wander around for an hour.

The girls and I headed to the right aka Nefertari’s Temple first. It was breathtaking. We took a lot of pictures of the outside. We wandered around the inside of the temple and examined all the glyphs. Everyone was trying to sneak pictures, but I was too scared to. I finally worked up enough courage to do so and right when I went to grab my camera I saw the guy coming. Scott got caught and the temple guy deleted the pictures. See the pic below of him getting caught. Towards the entrance I started to read the hieroglyphs to Janelle. The temple guy’s face lit up when he heard me. He asked me if I could read them and I said yes. Then he went on and on in Arabic about me. He took my arm and guided me to the famous image of Nefertari and made me rub her lotus flower a couple of times. You are not supposed to touch anything so I was shocked he wanted me to touch the walls. On our way out he asked if I wanted a picture with the ankh. I did, but didn’t want him to ask me for money. I thanked him in Arabic and he wished me blessings in both languages while bowing his head towards me. The little Arabic I could understand, his behavior, and what I wound up finding out from others made me realize that he thought I was Nefertari’s Ka. A Ka is an Egyptian’s double. There are stories about people’s Ka’s tricking people into believing they are the original. Maybe that would make sense as to why the gods granted me wind when I asked for it. 😉

Picture from Sonja

We then headed to Ramesses’ Temple. We took more pictures and I looked at some of the glyphs on the outside. The entrance way had Ramesses statues/pillars that were made to look like Osiris. We looked at all the famous scenes like Ramesses on the chariot shooting an arrow and smiting his enemies. There were back rooms as well that were covered in glyphs from floor to ceiling. Some of the back rooms smelled like something died in them. We started to get hot and dehydrated so we decided to head back.

Fallen head

Usermaatre Setepenre

The walk back was uphill and was torture. At that point it was the middle of the day and the sun was beaming. We finally made it to the rest area and were so happy to see water and food even if it was overpriced. I bought a water and a kit kat. We took seats with Sherif and filled him in on our temple experience. We then went to the bathroom where we had to pay. We waited a while for Paul and Mike. We eventually gave up. We walked through a row of vendors who liked my galabiya and didn’t try to sell me stuff when I told them no thank you in Arabic. At the top of the hill was Paul and Mike. Sherif got into a bit of a tiff with Paul. We boarded the bus and headed to the airport.

Security was a joke this time. We got our tickets and used the bathroom. This time I was on the left side of the plane. I was between Meg and Mat. Aussie sandwich. They gave us water again. Meg, Mat, and I spent most of the time talking about Australian politics and how it is compulsory to vote in Australia. The conversation was interesting, but the 3 of us were scared because the plane was experiencing extreme turbulence for the entire flight. The plane couldn’t land soon enough for the 3 of us. It was because of the intensity of the heat. We were all so thankful to land. We all felt a bit queasy.

*The picture below was sent to me by Contiki because when I came back from Egypt I sent Sherif a NY Yankees shirt. He’s wearing it in Abu Simbel below.

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Categories: Africa, Egypt, History, Travel, Trip with a Tour Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Day at the MET

7/18/13

We decided to do the MET today because it was supposed to be even hotter than yesterday. I met the girls on the steps of the MET at 9:30am. I got to the steps around 9:36am and could immediately tell that the museum was not open yet. It was supposed to open at 9:30am. We waited and sweated. It was over 100 degrees and there was no shade. We eventually got into two single file lines. I was soaked. This was redic. They should have had us wait inside the lobby. Everyone could have been shopping in the gift shop while we were waiting. They finally let us in at 10. Janelle paid $3 but the lady gave her back $1. I paid $3. Lauren paid $5. We hit the gift shop first. I saw several things I wanted to buy, but I wanted to wait to do it until we were done in the museum. I have been to the MET numerous times. The last time was 2 years ago and I spent an entire day there (opening to closing). So I’ve done all of the museum, but I love the place. I was excited to do it again.

Lauren’s picture. Janelle is on the steps

We started in the Egyptian section. We did Perneb’s tomb. I read some of the glyphs for Lauren and pointed out important pieces. I explained many of the items and funerary rituals. We ran into some of the girls’ Contiki tour mates. We did the Temple of Dendur which looked particularly pretty today since there was a ton of sunlight pouring in. I took them to my favorite galleries, 126 and 130. We used the restroom and Janelle decided to head out. She wanted to get back to her hotel and change before her Sex in the City Tour. We said our goodbyes. I was sad to see her go. I wish I could have spent more time with her. 😦

Lauren and I then headed to the Greek and Roman area. They are always wonderful to look at. We saw a piece called the Boxer that was temporarily lent to the museum. So I had never seen it before. There was a guy sketching it and he was doing a really great job. After that we headed to the area on Central America. We found one of my favorite areas in the museum which are the French rooms. It is like being transported to Versailles. I then took Lauren to see the Patio from the Castle of Vélez Blanco which makes you feel like you stepped into Romeo and Juliet. We then headed upstairs to do the second floor.

The Boxer

We started with the paintings. We looked at Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, etc. After we came out of the painting area I saw a sign for the Punk exhibit. I’ve always wanted to do the Costume Institute at the MET, but never get around to it. So we did a detour to see the exhibit. There was no photography allowed. The clothes alternated between very strange and awesome. Some of the outfits were made out of everyday items like garbage bags. Many of the outfits seemed a bit more gothic than punk which is my taste. There were also some great shoes. There was one pair that was gladiator style from Versace and went all the way up the leg.

Then we headed to the Asian section. This section is filled with Buddhas and Hindu statues. However, my two favorite parts of this section are the Vadi Parshvanatha Jain temple (gallery 243)  and the Chinese Courtyard (gallery 217). Unfortunately, both were closed this time. We were still able to see the top of the temple though. There were some new items that I had never seen before including animals made out of bubbles. I also saw some of beautiful clothes. One gallery had a view of the Temple of Dendur, which is a view I wish I had.

After that we wandered over to the Art of Arab Lands. I had only seen a little bit of this exhibit because the last time I was here the majority of it was closed. Last time I looked at the items from Mesopotamia. I enjoyed seeing the Moroccan Court (gallery 456), the Damascus Room (gallery 461), the Mihrab (gallery 455), and all the Qurans and rugs. I was sad that the Assyrian Royal Court (gallery 401) was closed. I would have liked Lauren to see it. We got to see the special exhibit on the Cyrus Cylinder.

The Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia: Charting a New Empire

Image from the MET’s website

Before we left I wanted to make sure Lauren saw the American Wing, which consists of the facade of the Branch Bank of the United States that they turned into a mansion filled with colonial rooms, paintings, furniture, and other artifacts. I love this part of the MET. It reminds me of the White House and I can easily picture our founding fathers walking around inside. One of my favorite rooms in the MET consists of images of Versailles and its gardens.

At that point it had been about four hours and I knew we were both tired and Lauren was probably hungry. Even though we hadn’t seen everything I figured it was time to go. We used the restroom and headed to the clearance shop and the regular shop. I bought two books (both on sale), an Egyptian pencil case (I always wanted one), and two postcards. Lauren picked up several items as well.

Even though it was extremely hot outside I figured Lauren might want to see some of Central Park since tomorrow was supposed to be even hotter and they might not get to it. I used my phone to plot out a path to Cleopatra’s Needle (otherwise I would get hopelessly lost because I seriously hate the park). We found the needle pretty quickly and though we were beyond melting and we stayed to admire it and take some pictures. I knew there was another interesting site nearby but I couldn’t remember where. So we wandered for a bit in the direction of the water and found a statue that said Poland on it. At that point my iphone was getting pretty hot so I put it away. Lauren took some pictures and we decided to find our way back. Our way back wound up being along a very long path. Thank goodness I read somewhere that the numbers on the lampposts tell you what direction you are heading, what block you are near, and how long until you hit the street, otherwise I would have felt that we were going to walk forever. We saw a statue of Hamilton on our way out. The path let us out at 85th and 5th and we had entered at 79th or 80th and 5th.

We originally were headed to H&H Bagels for lunch which is located at 81st and 2nd. So we walked the avenues while sweating buckets. We were both weighed down with big heavy bags from the MET. Every time we missed the light we would hide in the shade. We got to 85th and Lexington and I explained to Lauren how many more blocks we would have to walk to H&H. I told her Shake Shack was a block away and she agreed. We got to Shake Shack and it was very busy. We shared a table with a woman. I was soaked! My dress was drenched. I hate the heat!  Lauren got a cheeseburger, fries, and a water. I just got an ice cold water. That cold water was the most beautiful thing on Earth at that moment. I was too hot to really eat. I ate one of her fries and they were good. We chatted for a while about debt, university tuition, rent, homes, apartments, etc. I walked Lauren to 86th and 3rd and we said our goodbyes. I was sad to leave them. It had been a very hot but nice two days.

I went to H&M and caught an air conditioned train back home.

The results of my shopping in the last two days

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Sightseeing and Shopping in New York City

7/17/13

I met Janelle and Lauren at Pace. It was already 104 out. I took the girls to see City Hall thorough the gates. We decided to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. While we walked they looked at some of the vendors selling pictures. We took it slow and focused on how amazing the bridge and view are. We walked to the middle so they could see the plaques. Lauren bought a Times Sq. picture from the guy in the middle part of the bridge. We walked back and stopped in line with the 3rd floor windows at Pace. I texted my boss for her to go to the window and see if she could see us. She could. One of my students even waved. Not like we could see them. We were almost off the bridge when my cell phone rang. It was Lombardi’s confirming our reservation. Janelle stopped to buy a painting of a girl in Rome, Paris, London, and NYC.

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We walked back to Pace where we sat and cooled off. The AC and cold water seriously helped. We used the restroom and headed up Lafayette St to Canal St. I explained to them that Canal St was all about haggling, which is something Janelle is very good at. We walked up Canal on the right side. She bought lots of scarves for $5 a piece. She also bought bags for 1/3 of what the woman was originally charging.

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After that I took them into a Mahayana Buddhist temple. So they could see the giant Buddha. We walked to Prosperity Dumpling on Eldridge St. I was too hot to eat. They ordered boiled beef dumplings, boiled vegetable dumplings, and a sesame pancake with beef. I would have ordered the pancake if I wasn’t so hot. The smell of meat cooking always makes me sick but on top of being beyond super hot it was making me seriously want to puke. Since Prosperity is so small there was no where for us to eat plus I needed to escape the smell. We went across the street to Pace HS so I could drop stuff off and we could sit for a bit.

After they ate we headed back to Canal St to do the other side. We started walking and my shoes fell apart. The glue dried up. Thank you 104 weather. We went into a store where Janelle haggled for a while over PJ pants and a jumper aka jacket. She kept confusing the guy because be didn’t know what a jumper was. She wound up just getting pj pants. The next vendor had my shoes and said $5. I’ve never paid more than $2. The $2 had glitter or something special. I told her I pay $1. We argued for a while and I got her down to $3. I was desperate. We did several more vendors and I felt like I was going to pass out. I asked if we could go to Starbucks.

The Starbucks was crowded but we were lucky enough to find seats. Lauren got me a water. She had iced coffee and Janelle had some kind of refresher. We chatted for a bit about twins, prices in Australia, and Australian lingo.

We finished Canal st and I bought a pair of earrings for $8. They were originally $10. I probably could have gotten them for $6 but I wasn’t in the mood to haggle. We went to a store called Necessary Clothing on Canal. There was a pair of black shoes I liked for $9.99 but they didn’t have my size. I showed the girls what we consider a jumper. Janelle bought a dress. We left and Janelle wanted more of the black and white scarves. Luckily I remembered where the vendor was (the third one off of Lafayette). She bought more and we headed to Broadway.

We went to OMG! Where I saw a red and white shirt that would be perfect to be Saison Marguerite. It was only $9.99. The girls got some items as well. Next we headed to American Apparel. We walked out. We went to another Necessary Clothing. They had my shoes in my size! Janelle picked up a pair of boots for $5. I wanted this seafoam green dress but decided against it. The girls got several items. We took a picture of Janelle with all the bags and teased that she single handily ended America’s recession.

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We walked to Spring St to head to Lombardi’s for dinner. We were going to meet up with a big group of my friends for dinner. Only one of them had been to Lombardi’s before. We ran into their friend Bronte first. Then we saw my friend Rochelle. We went into the restaurant and since our party wasn’t all there yet they told us we could wait indoors. Danielo arrived next. Followed by Flora and then Jason. Cesar was last because of train issues. They were finally ready to seat us. They walked us through the main dining room, then the side dining room, then the kitchen, then a hallway, and then up a set of stairs. They pulled a ghetto NYC move and put a square table and a round table together for us. At Lombardi’s you have to order pizza by the pie. We ordered 3 pies. One with no cheese, garlic spinach, and sausage. One that was half plain and half with sausage. One that was half anchovy and half pepperoni. They wanted to try anchovy pizza. The pizzas came and looked yummy. I took a plain slice. The Aussies stuck to the no cheese pizza. My friends each took an anchovy slice to try. They thought the anchovy one was salty, but not bad. Cesar didn’t like it. As we went to eat our pizza I looked to the left of me and the Aussies were eating it flat and to the right of me all my New Yorker friends were eating it folded. We taught them to eat it like us. The pizza was good. The bread had a char on it and the sauce was sweet. It wasn’t oily at all. I liked it. So did everyone else. Another party arrived and they knew Jason. Small world. Passcell arrived and joined us in chatting. We taught the Aussies the word ratchet. I initiated a toast and we posed for a group picture. The check came out to $113 including tip. We took another picture with the Lombardi’s sign. The Aussies were tired and decided to go back to their hotel. The rest of us decided to catch Jason’s friends’ show.
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We walked to the Bitter End by NYU. It was a $5 cover and I wasn’t allowed to bring my water in. We found a table in the corner. There was a two drink minimum. I was forced to get a seltzer. We caught the last two songs from the previous band. The place became packed for the band we were there to see. The band was called Schucks Road. They were good and we had fun being our crazy selves. Our tab came at the end of the show and they charged us tip and a service charge. So a $3 seltzer became a lot more expensive. O well. We left and said our goodbyes.

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Hometown Tourist in New York City

7/16/13
I’m about to embark on a 3 day journey as a tourist in New York City. As a born and raised New Yorker I love my city, but not in 102 heat. That’s when I love my ac. I’m about to play tour guide to my Australian friends.

While I’m looking forward to seeing them, I’m not looking forward to dealing with tourist crowds in the heat. Chinatown in the heat is evil. The sidewalk is full of spit, fish, food, etc. It’s sticky and it smells. Not to mention the 9000 umbrellas to block out the sun. Soho will be nice and packed as well. Yes, I’m complaining but that’s what true New Yorkers do, they complain. This reminds me of the Jimmy Fallon monologue clip where he talks about New Yorkers getting free wifi and still complaining about it. Go to 1:50 in the video below.

I know I will wind up loving the experience. It will be interesting to see the city through new eyes. I can expose my friends to the grit, grime, and trash that makes me love this place. Yeah I know it doesn’t make sense, but a true New Yorker will get it. We all have a love hate relationship with the city. But the sight of the skyline at sunrise or late at night will shut us up every time.

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Don’t even think about insulting my city in front of me. Only a New Yorker can call New York for what it is. You insult our city and we shove you in a taxi in rush hour traffic with no ac and a driver with bad BO.

So here’s to sweating bullets while walking across the Brooklyn bridge, dodging spit in Chinatown, being trampled in SOHO for a bargain, eating pizza from an “original,” dropping mad cash on fifth ave, getting educated on museum row, getting lost in Central Park, and wishing the crowds at Century 21 would all disappear when you snap your fingers.

I will share my stories with you. Here’s to a few days of being a hometown tourist.

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Haggling in Aswan

8/1/13

We drove to the perfumery. It was really pretty inside. I was determined not to buy anything. After a long presentation about the oils and perfumes we were allowed to shop. The presentation had some funny moments. I caved and bought a small thing of papyrus perfume. Before we left a bunch of us changed into longer more covered outfits so we could go to the market. I wore Lexi’s skirt.

Photo credit Sonja

Picture from Sonja

Photo credit Sonja

Photo credit Sonja

Photo credit Sonja

The perfume guy drove with us for a bit and then we let him out so he could go and get dinner since Ramadan was done for the night. It was interesting to see all the shopkeepers sitting in the streets eating instead of tending to their stores. Sonja and I had indicated to Sherif that we wanted to go into the bookstore in the market. He took us to the store and stayed with us while we shopped. I was looking for Zahi Hawass books, but didn’t see any. I was also looking for the Egyptian Museum book I passed on in Cairo and was told by other bloggers to buy it here. I didn’t see it. I saw many books I had already read or owned. Sonja picked up a book on Egyptian Mythology. I decided on the book I had seen Sherif with and I bought some cool pens. Sonja and I then met up with the rest of the group.

This market was for haggling! We all needed to buy costumes for the party and we all wanted them for a cheap price. I was upset that I had to buy one since I already had a great one in my suitcase. Sonja was the first to get a skirt. Alli was next. The twins were great hagglers and got whatever they wanted for ridiculously cheap. Paul bought a bag. I also wanted a bag since I was sick of carrying everything around in a shopping bag. Every backpack I looked at was very expensive. As we walked around people called out to us with the following phrases: Free to Look! No hassle! My friend! Lexi bought a skirt and then I did as well. We were trying to get them for between 15 and 25 Egyptian pounds. It was so hard to haggle without asking how much it cost, which Sherif told us not to do. After buying our skirts Lexi and I bought chocolate and water. She paid me back for the skirt and some guy tried to pinch our butts.

We ran into Michael who joined me in search of a bag. I knew we were timing it close, but I figured we could make it back in time. I found a drawstring bag that I liked. The guy wanted over 200 Egyptian Pounds for it. It took me forever, but I finally got him down to 75 Egyptian pounds. It was still more than I wanted to spend, but I needed a bag (Later Sherif said I could have got him down to 60). Then Michael wanted to buy cigs which took forever with the haggling. He got them down to 15 Egyptian Pounds, but he didn’t have it on him. So I paid the guy. On our run back to the bus (we were now late) he told me the guys offered to sell him drugs and they offered him 1000 stuffed camels for me. I wonder how much that is in American dollars. We got to the meeting spot and the van was nowhere in sight. Crap!!! Then I spotted it parked a couple blocks away. We ran to it and Sherif refused to let us on. He pointed to his watch and shook his head. I pleaded with him and he let us on (with a smile on his face). I apologized even though we were only about 7 minutes late.

After being fake angry with us he explained that we were still waiting for Nicole. We waited and waited. Then we started to get worried. Janelle and Sherif went out looking for her. Meanwhile some little boy was attempting to sell stuff to Michael through the window of the van. It was funny at first. Janelle and Sherif came back empty handed. Now we were running into a problem. The boat was waiting for us, Sherif hadn’t eaten all day, it was very dark out, and Nicole was alone. Sherif told the van to take us back to the ship and come back for him. We gave him food and water in case he missed dinner.

I went straight back to my room and dropped off my stuff and then headed down to dinner. Sherif and Nicole showed up. Nicole didn’t have a watch so she lost track of time. So she wound up being an hour late. I had some pita bread, which was my first piece of Egyptian food.

We then went to the Nubian show which consisted of dancing, drums, singing, and chanting. I started not to feel well and went back to the room to lie down. I felt better and came back up to catch the end of the performance. I would have preferred the whirling dirvish. O well.

After that we hung by the pool for a bit. It was quite lovely on the top deck at night. The shop guy came up and dropped off our necklaces. That was fast! I went back to my room and organized my stuff for the next day and went to bed.

Categories: Africa, Egypt, Travel, Trip with a Tour Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sailing on the Nile

8/1/13
We get off the train and it is hot! We need to go down a long flight of stairs and then up a different flight of stairs. Thank goodness I didn’t have my suitcase at that moment. Surprisingly everyone managed to carry their suitcases up and down all those stairs. We got out of the train station and there was our bus. While on the bus, Sherif spoke to us about the day’s schedule and clothing.

We wound up on the MS Miriam and not the Madea or Carmen. We got upgraded!!! We were with Trafalgar and Insight Vacations. We boarded the ship and were told to wait in the lounge for our room assignments. I was room 314 on the third floor. To the right of me were the twins and to the left was Sonja and Lexi. Alli was across the hall. The room was big and beautiful!!!! I was so happy to be able to settle in. I washed the one and only outfit I actually owned (the one I wore on the plane). I had a mini fridge, so I put all my water bottles in there. I was excited to have cold water everyday. I skipped lunch and ate my snacks in the room. I watched the cruise info channel and started to explore the ship.

I ran into the twins who were going to get massages. I went to the basement level in search of the shops. There were two guys working in the jewelry shop helping Nicole. I walked in and picked out a gold cartouche with my name on it. I chose the 2nd smallest size. I looked around to see if I could find anything for my mom, but I couldn’t figure out what she would like. There was a 5% service fee for using my AMEX.

I then went to the other shop in search of clothes and gifts. I picked out a bunch of postcards for myself, a tut mummy, magnets, and key chains. Then I started to focus on clothes. I asked to see a Galabiya, but every one he showed me was either ripped or stained not to mention ugly. He finally pulled out a dark blue one with Nefertiti on it. It was clean and pretty! Now time for shoes or should I say sandals. There was a red pair that were my size that I decided to get. However, right when I went to purchase them I changed my mind. I tried them on again and started to walk around in them and realized they really hurt. I saw a black pair that were in my size and tried them on. They were thong style and were more comfy then the other pair. I charged everything and went back to the room. Lexi stopped by to discuss the price of her necklace. She got hers in silver and I started to wish I had as well. Then we stopped by the twins’ room and discussed it with them as well.

We left the ship and boarded our felucca. Janelle originally started to steer the boat, but then the real guy took over. It was so beautiful and calm! We passed a beautiful mosque. Sherif had the boat guy take a glass and dip it into the Nile so we could see how clear the water was. We passed the botanical gardens on Kitchener’s Island and I was so glad that we didn’t stop to see them. We started to approach the Mausoleum of Aga Khan. He was an imam and his wife would place a rose on his tomb everyday. It was considered very romantic. Then we stopped so we could walk on the sand dune. We boarded the felucca again and Sherif talked to us about the places he had been and his education. He got his BA in Roman and Greek Studies and his MA in Egyptology. He speaks several languages and has never been to Australia or the U.S. While on the felucca Sherif got a call about my bag. They predict it will arrive tomorrow. Somehow I doubt it. We passed the Temple of Khnum (the one in Aswan not the one is Esna). Next we passed the Old Cataract Hotel where Agatha Christie wrote Death on the Nile. We talked about archeology for a bit. We passed a man who was in the Nile all the way up to his head. However, he had a small head so it just looked like his hat was floating.

Kitchener’s Island

Mausoleum of Aga Khan

Old Cataract Hotel

Temple of Khnum

Old Cataract Hotel

We got off the felucca near where a bunch of boys were swimming and hanging out. I suddenly felt very uncomfortable in Megan’s short shorts. We went to a little street bodega. I bought water, chocolate, and postcards. Then we hopped into a van.

Categories: Africa, Egypt, History, Travel, Trip with a Tour Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wait a Minute…This isn’t the Hogwarts Express

7/31/13
We boarded the bus and caught our last glimpse of the pyramids. We were headed to the train station. Right before we got to the station Sherif read us our car and cabin numbers. Originally I was alone, but then he realized and added Alli. I was car 13 cabin 11/12. We got off the bus and everyone had to make sure their bags were unloaded. The porters came and took the bags and followed us into the station.

We walked the whole length of the station and everyone looked at us. We got to the end and waited and waited and waited some more. While we waited we watched a lot of trains pull in and people fight to get on. It was crazy! People were even hanging off the back of the train! Paul, Nicole, Michael, Megan, and I did a comparison of the work environment in Australia vs. USA. Australia’s is so much better! They have lots of freedom and time off. We also entertained ourselves by making fun of the guy hanging over the ledge leering at Megan. Paul kept going, “Special Price”, “Good price for you my habibi”, “Buy one get one free”, etc.

The train was over 1.5 hrs late. The car we needed to get to couldn’t be reached by the station. We had to go to 9 or 10 and walk. This was very difficult since the train space was tight and people kept pushing. We finally found our car and cabin. The cabins were not marked with #’s, which caused some confusion. However, we eventually got it all sorted out. Alli and I were next to the twins and on the other side of us were strangers. The cabin was so small! I don’t know how we would have fit two suitcases. Alli and I were crawling over each other. Paul, Michael, and Alli agreed with me that it was like Harry Potter’s train car to Hogwarts. Sherif showed us how to work the lights. He dimmed the lights and cracked a joke about romantic lighting. Alli and I declined dinner and tried to get ready for bed. That was easier said then done.

Megan lent me a pair of booty shorts to sleep in. Alexis brought me a skirt to wear the next day. We called for the porter to put down the beds, which gave us even less room. I finally got to see the bathroom and it wasn’t so bad. The toilet flushed and there was a sink with water. It was also somewhat spacious. I went back to the cabin and Alli and I proceeded to cough our lungs up over the cigarette smoke coming from the other cabins. We climbed into bed and I leaned outside of my bottom bunk to blow my nose when the heavy metal ladder came crashing down on my knee. THANK G-D IT WASN’T MY HEAD! The bruise started to form right away and I was in so much pain. We laughed about it though. What a night! I put on my headphones and called it a night.

8/1/13

Around 4 or 5 in the morning I wake up. I sneak out of the cabin and use the restroom. I walk the hallway a bit to ease my stiff legs and knee pain. As I walk the hallway I get a flashback of the train to Thessaloniki and seeing Mt. Olympus. This time however I see Re. I watch as the perfect orange red sun orb rises above the Nile and the land. It was beautiful. I could see why the Egyptians worshipped it. I sneak back into the cabin and eventually fall back asleep. Hours later Alli’s movement wakes me and I get up as well. I stay dressed in Megan’s shorts so I don’t drag Lexi’s skirt in train station nastiness. I knew Aswan would be hot in August, but the window is burning. They bring us breakfast. I pack up the bread for later and give Alli some of mine. Instead I have animal crackers and such for breakfast. Sherif comes around and warns us that we are getting close and should get ready to leave.

Images from the train in the morning:

Categories: Africa, Egypt, Travel, Trip with a Tour Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Pyramids of Giza

7/31/13
Next stop Giza! On our way out of Cairo we saw a man on a motorcycle with cages of chicken. We also saw a bunch of women with an infant in the back of a pickup truck. As we crossed over from Cairo to Giza we stopped to take pictures.

As we drove we passed a lot of rundown areas. Sonja and I eventually decided to use the restroom on the bus, which was an experience to say the least. We struggled to find the light and the flusher. We survived though!

Sherif had the bus make a stop at a clothing store so Nicole and I could pick up some items. I thought he wanted us to be quick about it so I tried to just pick up easy stuff. I picked out 2 Egypt t-shirts at 75 LE each and a pair of socks. The socks were 40 LE when I could buy them at home for 5LE ($1). I had no other choice. I didn’t buy anything else because I thought we were in a rush, it was expensive, and I hoped my suitcase would be arriving soon. Nicole wound up taking at least 30 minutes in the store. Sherif and I chatted while we waited for her. He asked me about my scarab necklace and laughed when I explained I won it at the Luxor in Las Vegas. I got some free postcards and Sherif told the owner of the store something about me so I got a free bottle of pretty sand.

After we finally left the shop we continued on to the pyramids. We got to catch glimpses of them as we got closer. I was so excited! We pulled up to them and had to get out of the bus to go through security. Then we re-boarded the bus. Sherif gave us each 20LE to tip our camel drivers. I took my epipen, camera, the tip, extra cash, and a water bottle with me. We got off the bus and were immediately hounded by vendors. I navigated my way through them and went to the camels, while most of the group purchased headdresses for 15LE. The camels only had one hump. The ones in Israel had two. The guy put my water bottle in the camel’s side pocket because he said I would need my hands to hold on. Thus, I put my camera bag around my neck. This camel was a lot taller than the one in Israel and way more uncomfortable. When the camels got up almost everyone freaked out a bit, but I was already used to it from Israel. My camel was led by a little boy, which scared me a bit.

We had a long ride to get to the best spot for pictures. The ride was not comfortable and though I was looking at the pyramids my mind was distracted by the camel. The boy told me his name was Abraham and he was 10. He also told me the camel’s name, which I don’t remember. Halfway through our journey the camel handlers got into a fight. From what I could make out between Arabic and gestures, one of the small boys was leading a camel and they deemed him to be too young to help out. At this point Abraham took some pictures of me and we rode on. I kept trying to focus on the pyramids and their beauty, but something related to the camel always seemed to distract me. I also kept wishing I had on the jeans I packed instead of the sweatpants which caused me to feel everything. My butt and legs were killing me!

On the way back Abraham was now in charge of the little boy’s camels as well. Sonja’s money blew away, but Abraham got it. When we got back it was time for the tip and the group picture. I gave Abraham the 20LE, but then he had a sad look on his face. I felt bad and he reminded me of the poor children in Chichen Itza, so I gave him an extra 5LE. His whole face lit up and he looked like he wanted to hug me. He shook my hand and hid the money. That was the best $1 I have spent in a while. His reaction was priceless. I had to get back on the camel for the group picture.

Then we headed off to a ramp for more pictures with the pyramids. The vendors of course followed. I saw the postcards I wanted and spent either 5LE or 10LE for 10 postcards. We took more pictures and boarded the bus to drive right up to the pyramids.

The pyramids looked less impressive up close because you really couldn’t see high they were. We were able to climb on the pyramids and take pics. I wish I could have spent every moment of down time looking at the pyramids instead of talking to people. I really needed more time to soak them in. Then Sherif took us to a pyramid that we could go into. At that point I was feeling way too hot to go in. I knew there was nothing inside, it would be super hot, and very clastrophic. We headed back to the bus and there were no vendors in sight.

I asked Sherif for an update about my bag since it was after 2pm. I also texted my mom. Sherif tells me that the plane is late so it will be closer to 3pm. He gives us our tickets to the Sphinx. My mom calls me and tells me that my bag wasn’t put on the plane. My head starts spinning. What now? When will I get my bag? I had to hang up because we were at the Sphinx. I get halfway down the block and realize I left my ticket on the bus. I turn around, but the bus is gone. I run to Sherif and tell him about my bag and ticket. I’m completely out of it and he can tell. He tries to calm me down and tells me they’ll have the bag flown to the cruise. He also tells me not to let this ruin my trip. He’s right. I have spent my whole life dreaming about this trip and I can’t let KLM screw it up. He shakes me a bit and I realize that I am in front of the Sphinx! He tells the guard about my ticket situation. He lets me go in.

I walk in and it just doesn’t seem real. We are immediately hounded by kids who want 5LE to take our pics. All I want to do is be left alone and I tell them no, which was a super big mistake. Sherif feels bad for me and convinces me to take some pics with him. I eventually just sit with him and stare at the Sphinx. We talk about Zahi Hawass for a bit. He points out the dream stone. I never realized it was between the paws. I knew the story though. So Sherif has me tell the story to whoever was listening.

On our way back to the bus a guy offers Mat 100 camels and 1000 chickens to buy Lexi. I buy 10 Papyrus bookmarks for 5LE. (In hindsight I should have bought more). We board the bus and I fill everyone in on the news about my bag. We drive to Felfela. Sherif gets a call from Heather at AMEX. They are trying to get me my bag in Aswan or Luxor. Aswan would mean Monday or Tuesday. Luxor would mean Wednesday or Thursday. Oy! I decide not to eat in the restaurant. I use their restroom and then sit with Paul and Michael at the table. We recreate the pyramids with 3 water bottles and flan. Sherif tried to get me to eat. The guys then offered me clothes out of their suitcases. Aww!

After they finished eating, we went and sat in the restaurant’s garden area. Nicole smoked Shaseesh (the water pipe). We went around and formally introduced ourselves and said a bit about ourselves. All Australians except for Paul, Nicole, and me.

Lamps for Ramadan

Solar Boat Pit

Categories: Africa, Egypt, History, Travel, Trip with a Tour Group | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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