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Girls welcomed to
the Land of the Pharaohs - Egypt 09
For such an ancient land, there are sure a lot of new things to see and do in Egypt! After a long journey we arrived at Cairo airport and were met by our assistant, Samir and our very capable driver, Hamdy of Goldenbird Tours. I have had the pleasure of having both of these gentlemen at our service for all three of our Girls On Tour trips and they are always courteous, efficient and on time. We also met Hossam, who would be our guide and friend, for the next 8 days and who was a delightful young man with a vast knowledge of his country. For me it was like coming home with several staff at various hotels, stores and on the boat saying “welcome home” when they recognised me and welcomed my group. I think this made the ladies feel safe and welcomed too, and it was the beginning of another wonderful adventure in this mystical land.
We spent the next 2 days visiting the highlights of Cairo including the Citadel, Memphis and the Hanging Church in Old Cairo before heading north to Alexandria. At the Egyptian Museum in Cairo we visited the masterpieces including the treasures of King Tutankhamen and also enjoyed sharing Hossam’s favourite pieces in the museum, some of which even I hadn’t seen after visiting four times.
A new museum, The Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), is being built at Giza to house many of the artifacts that are currently on display at the old museum and the giant statue of Ramses II has already taken pride of place at the entrance. It is said that the treasures of King Tutankhamen will be moved to the new museum but many others will remain in the old museum. The Girls welcomed to the Land of the Pharaohs GEM is scheduled to open in 2010 (Egyptian time) so will keep you posted.
In the meantime, you can find more information by clicking here.
We walked around the Great Pyramids at Giza before going in and having a look at the solar boat of Cheops which was found in a pit next to his pyramid in 1954. It is about 150 feet long and made of cedar from Lebanon. They have built the museum over the pit but I believe that it too will be moved to the new museum once completed. The boat was to carry the Pharaoh’s Ka or soul into the afterlife.
At Saqqara where the Step Pyramid of King Djoser, the oldest known pyramid was built by the architect and genius, Imhotep we went inside one of the tombs which has beautiful pictures and carvings of daily life including many species of fish, animal and plant life that we still have in the world today.
A relatively new museum to Imhotep located at Saqqara is well worth a visit and was a new experience for me as well as the ladies.
After visiting the old capital Memphis where the massive statue of Ramses II and the Alabaster Sphinx take pride of place, it was time to drive up the desert road to Alexandria on the shores of the Mediterranean. In Alexandria we visited the Alexandria National Museum, the Roman Theatre, Montazah Gardens, the catacombs and the Library. The museum in Alexandria is the only museum that we regularly visit in which you are allowed to take photos and has a wonderful collection.
After driving back to Cairo along the desert road we had an early night before an early start the next morning to fly to Luxor. I was very impressed with the brand spanking new Egyptair terminal and before we knew it we had landed in Luxor and were on our way to The Valley of the Kings. It was very hot at about 43°C but no where near as hot as last year when we came about a month earlier in the year. It was wonderful having our own guide Hossam with us for most of the time as we weren’t rushed like we sometimes are with local guides. He gave us ample time to have a look around at all sites and gave us plenty of information about the history and origins of each temple, tomb and location. When we visited the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut it was the realisation of a dream for one of my girls, Pat who had wanted to visit Egypt for as long as she could remember and who felt strong connections to this amazing country.
We visited tombs of three Pharaohs where we saw beautiful hieroglyphics and reliefs dating back thousands of years, still with beautiful colours and detail. In Luxor some of us ventured into the markets where we found a very friendly shop owner whose sign read “No Bloody Hassle Fixed Price” and it was just that. I walked in off the street and paid LE50 (50 Egyptian Pounds) for something that I had haggled hard for the previous year and still paid three times that so he was true to his word. His philosophy is that he might make a smaller profit but he sells more goods and that’s the way he likes it. Needless to say between us we bought lots of wonderful items and had a great experience to boot.
The next morning we visited one of my most favourite places in the world, Karnak Temple. It is the biggest temple complex ever built by man and covers some 247 acres of land.
After walking through the entrance (The First Pylon) past the avenue of ram-headed sphinxes and the Second Pylon, you walk through the outer court into the Great Hypostyle Hall with it’s 134 columns in 16 rows, each 10 metres in circumference and 24 metres high.
This awe inspiring vision gives you a glimpse of just how grand it may have been in ancient times. There is still original colour on the top of several of the columns and the carvings and inscriptions are just beautiful.
The Egyptian government is currently reclaiming homes and business in the area between Karnak and Luxor Temples as there are plans to reconstruct the avenue of sphinxes 3 kilometres long that joined the two temples and we will be able to walk between these magnificent complexes. So as I said earlier so many new things to see and do in such an ancient land. Sadly we were not able to do the hot air balloon this year but hopefully next time we go it will be available once more. When we boarded our Nile cruiser, Ti-Yi I was greeted with “welcome home” from several of the staff which was just lovely. Our rooms onboard were spacious and comfortable with big windows to view life along the Nile as we gently made our way down towards Aswan.
On our way down the Nile towards Aswan we stopped at Edfu Temple dedicated to the Falcon God Horus. It is the most completely preserved temple in all of Egypt due to the fact that when it was discovered it was completely covered in sand and therefore protected from the elements. It was built during the Ptolemaic period between 237BC and 57BC of sandstone blocks and has beautifully carved columns and it is covered inside and out with thousands of inscriptions. The façade entrance is approx 37m high and has depictions on both sides of Ptolemy VIII smiting his enemies before Horus the Elder.
Continuing our slow passage down the Nile we waited our turn at the lock at Esna and were entertained by the local traders throwing their wares up on deck trying to make a sale. It is very entertaining but mostly the goods are overpriced and of a lower quality than can be purchased in the stores onboard but it is a bit of fun.
We visited the Temple of Kom Ombo dedicated to the Crocodile God, Sobek and I took this photo of a beautiful lady that is here in the same spot selling her wares every time I come to this temple and always smiling.
The Nile cruise is a relaxing way to see Egypt. The boat has lovely food, friendly staff, enough entertainment and comfortable common areas and staterooms.
Up on deck you can swim in the pool or sit in the shade with a gin and tonic in your hand and watch the world go by while enjoying the company of the wonderful girls you are sharing the experience with.
On board Ti-Yi we had a Gallebea party which was a lot of fun complete with both male and female traditional dancers. We all dressed up in costume and had a fun night.
When we reached Aswan there was plenty more to see and do. We visited the Temple of Isis at Philae which was dismantled and moved when it was threatened by the construction of the Aswan High Dam. This is a lovely temple to visit as you have to go by boat and it is a beautiful island setting and a very serene place. Like all of the sites in Egypt there is always a “temple of Coca-Cola” at the end of each visit but this one is perched on the edge of the lake under some shady trees and is a lovely place to sit and reflect and take in what you have seen and heard during the visit.
All the girls enjoyed the felucca ride on the Nile as this is always so calm and quiet and the boat men will usually pull out a small drum and sing some songs in both Arabic and broken English which makes for a very pleasant sail and adds to the experience. They will also usually have some trinkets for sale at a good price. Something new that we did this time in Aswan was visit a Nubian Village.
Many thousands of Nubian people were displaced when the Dam was made and have made their homes around the 1st Cataract in Aswan. Nubians speak their own non-Arabic language.
We went to the village by small motorboat late in the afternoon and it was a very pleasant experience. When we first arrived we were sent back to school where we were taught to count in Arabic and Nubian. As I could already count in Arabic I got a nod of approval from “Sir” but I had no idea when it came to Nubian. We visited a Nubian home where the little girls of the family were in charge of showing us through each room and took great delight in showing the girls their school books. We all really enjoyed this experience.
Sadly it was time to leave Ti-Yi but we were off on another exciting adventure, this time to Abu Simbel one of the most magnificent monuments in the world. It was saved in 1964 when the Egyptian government and UNESCO undertook a 4 year project to move the temples of Ramses II and his Great Royal wife, Nefertari 60 metres up the sandstone cliff to save them from flooding when the Aswan High Dam was built.
The temples were disassembled and reassembled with the same relationship to each other and to the sun and covered with an artificial mountain.
In 1998 when I visited Abu Simbel for the first time with my son we actually went inside the artificial mountain as it was the exit from the site but this is no longer the case. Some of the James Bond movie “The Spy Who Loved Me” was filmed inside the artificial mountain. Having our own guide Hossam accompany us to Abu Simbel was an added bonus as we weren’t as rushed as we usually are when we have to use a local guide so we had plenty of time to walk through each of the rooms in the temples and look closely at all of the inscriptions and pictures of the gods and goddesses that we have come to know and decipher and admire the work of such great artists and rulers.
On our return from Abu Simbel we checked in to the Pyramisa Isis Island Hotel which is set amongst beautiful gardens and surrounded by the river Nile.
What a tranquil and relaxing setting to regroup and recharge after a wonderful 9 days of exploring Egypt, her people, her history, her culture, her architecture. Sadly this was where we had to say farewell to Hossam who had not only been our minder and teacher but our friend. We spent one and a half days here before heading back to Cairo where we enjoyed 2 nights at the Shepheards Hotel in the heart of Cairo overlooking the Nile. This city of 21 million people never sleeps I’m sure. We were in for a wonderful surprise when we checked in as due to our assistant Samir’s contacts with the hotel all of the girls were upgraded to suites and each room was 3 levels and very flash. All too soon it was time to head home and farewell this magical land. At this stage we do not have a 2010 tour planned for Egypt however if there is enough demand I would be delighted to escort another group and share with them this wonderful land and it’s friendly people.
"Giza Sound and Light Show"