Egypt Part 2

Day 94: June 14, 2018

The sun and the noise in the kitchen woke us up around 5:30 am. I had a really good sleep, although I did wake up once slightly cold and the blankets were too far away. I cuddled into Danny and fell back to sleep.

We had breakfast on the support boat of our felukkas: fried eggs, buns with cheese spread and fig jam and yogurt. We packed up our stuff and said goodbye to the felukkas. The support boat took us across the Nile to a bus that was waiting. Sem Sem told us the bad news that his cousin had passed away that evening and he was working on getting back to Cairo. Funerals in their culture happen right away. He was arranging a different guide to meet us to take over.

We drove 45 minutes to Kom Ombo Temple. The people of the area had two gods, Sobek and Horus. Sobek is the god of fertility and water. He had the head of the crocodile. The people of the area decided they didn’t like him as their god so they switched to only Horus. The offerings to Horus were flowers and fruit. The Sobek priests weren’t happy and decided to have a battle. The temple of Horus ended up being destroyed. It was then decided no more agriculture for Horus, only mining for Sobek. The Supreme God then came and asked why the people weren’t using their fertile land. He told them the solution was to split the temple in half and Kom Ombo Temple was created

Kom Ombo temple was a daily life temple. It was built during the Ptolemaic dynasty (180-47 BC). The columns were damaged by age and floods. The engraving at the front of the temple shows King Ptolemy VI being perfumed by Horus at Thoth with drops of life and prosperity.

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Front of Kom Ombo Temple

An inside engraving shows the goddess of war, Sekmet, who has a lioness head (lioness’ are better hunters and more aggressive).

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Engraving showing Sekmet

There was an engraving of three lions showing the three season: inundation, plantation and harvest. To the left of that there are the different days of the year listed with the ritual that must be performed on that day.

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Engraving showing three season and daily rituals

In the below engraving, the woman with a chair over her head is Isis. There is a birthing chair beneath her. She is showing the ideal position for birth.

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Engraving with Isis near the middle

Next there was an engraving showing the first documentation of medical tools: glass flasks (for cupping), papyrus, scissors (for Caesareans), needles, spoons, tweezers, scale, hooks, thick needles (used to kill nerves after surgeries to stop the pain) and saws (to cut bones during surgery).

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First documentation of medical tools

There was a hole with a spiral staircase which was a nilometer to measure the height of the flood. We all walked around for a bit taking pictures. Then walked through the crocodile museum with mummified crocodiles.

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Inside Kom Ombo Temple

Back in the bus for a 3.5 hour drive to Luxor. We arrived and ordered food in the restaurant hotel then went to our rooms. I ordered a steak sandwich, but it was a hot dog bun with minced beef and mustard. Danny ate most of it.

Danny started a game of chess and I FaceTimed my mommy. At 2:30 pm we met to go to Karnak Temple. We met our new guide, Albert. We gave Sem Sem hugs good bye and he caught a taxi back to Cairo.

Albert told us how Luxor was the ancient city of Thebes and the capital of Egypt from 1550-1050 BC. Luxor means palaces as the people who arrived thought the temples were palaces. There is an avenue of sphinx connecting Karnak Temple to Luxor Temple. The avenue was excavated from 2008-2010 as it used to be covered by houses.

Avenue of Spinx

We arrived at Karnak Temple and Albert showed us a diorama to give an overview of the whole site. The gates were made of sandstone and the connecting walls were made of mud. Each king added to the temple. The first building was in 3500 BC. The Temple of Ramses is from the 11th century BC. There are many images of Amun who was the god of Luxor. He is depicted as a ram headed man or a man with two feathers on his head. The sphinx that lead into the temple had ram heads. Mut, the wife of Amun, is also shown inside.

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Entry to Karnak Temple

In the Great Hypostyle Hall there are 134 columns representing the papyrus flower. It was build by King Seti I (1313-1292 BC) and completed by his son King Ramses II (1292-1225 BC).

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Great Hypostyle Hall, Karnak Temple

A smaller obelisk inside was from 1500 BC and was built by Thutmosis. The larger obelisk was built by Hateshepsut. It is the largest in the world at 30 m. The granite for the obelisk was transported from Aswan along the Nile. They placed it on a barge on land then waited for the flood.

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Hatshepsut’s Obelisk

A smaller temple within Karnak is for Ramses III. His statue shows his foot forward depicting an live king. The statue with arms crossed is Ramses II. The double crown is for the north and south. Between the legs is a statue of his daughter.

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Statue of Ramses II

Merenptah succeeded Ramses II. He was the 14th son. The first 13 sons died during the king’s life. A statue by Ramses II shows Amun and Mut, the god of Luxor and his wife.C6E71551-00A1-4735-8053-FE65A646C797We were shown the names of the kings indicated by birth and coronation names. The disc and duck means sa rah or son of rah.

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Column showing a king’s name

There are pictures of the great warrior king, Thutmosis III, smiting his enemies in front of Amun. On another relief there is a list of cities that Thutmosis III conquered.

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Thutmosis III

We saw the altar where wooden doors were opened in the morning and offerings were given. No human sacrifices occurred in Ancient Egypt.

In another location figures of Hatshepsut were erased by Thutmosis III, her stepson. Everything used to be coloured, but only some remains.

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Engraving with Hatshepsut removed

The extent of Karnak Temple was incredible. Around thirty pharaohs built on to the temple.

We came back to the hotel for a bit and chilled before heading for supper up the road. Danny had a camel burger for supper and I had a stuffed pigeon. The pigeon did not have much meat on it and was stuffed with basic rice. I would not suggest it to anyone. It was nice sitting and chatting with everyone.

After supper some of us went to an ATM with Albert. Danny and my cards didn’t work so we all walked to a different one. We were getting very sweaty on the walk. Our card finally worked at the third ATM. On the way back to the hotel, we squeezed into one of the public transport vans which was pretty exciting.

We got back to the hotel and Danny finished his chess game. He returned victorious and we went to sleep.

Day 95: June 15, 2018

We woke up at 5:30 am and had breakfast in the hotel. There were actual omelettes and other things, although the omelettes weren’t cooked through. We left for the Valley of the Kings around 6:30 am. It is the location of many tombs of kings mostly from the New Kingdom period (13th-2nd century BC) of Egypt. The king would start building a tomb and a temple at their coronation and construction would end at their death. There are 62 discovered and numbered tombs in the valley. Between 2005-2018, two more tombs were found that have not yet been numbered. There are presumed to be many more tombs yet to be discovered.

In the period before the pyramids, kings were buried in the sand in the position of a fetus. Then mud brick benches on top of a burial bed called a mustaba were used. The 3rd dynasty was the first royal tomb. It started as a mustaba, but stone was used instead of mud brick. Six mustabas were built on top of one another to form a stepped pyramid. In the 4th dynasty, Khufu, built the Great Pyramid.

In the New Kingdom, it was decided that pyramids were too visible so hidden tombs were created in the Valley of the Kings. It had a natural pyramid to point them to heaven. The entrances to the tombs were blocked by stones and covered by sand. The belief that workers were killed after the tomb was finished was not true. There was a worker’s village found 4 km south.

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Valley of the Kings

Funeral temples were built near the Nile, however, most were destroyed because they were on the flood plan. The Valley of the Queens is 5 km south.

Reliefs inside the tombs date to the New Kingdom. They show the journey to the afterlife. Lots of images show boats which were the way to the afterlife. It was believed that the sun crosses the sky by a boat as well.

The journey to the afterlife was not easy. There were twelve sections for the twelve hours of night. Many enemies would try to stop your journey. The form of a snake would guard every section and you needed a password to pass.

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Inside a tomb (Photo courtesy of Qingxia Liang)

There were also depictions of the sky goddess, Nut. She bends to rest her hands on earth and swallows the sun.

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Depiction of Nut on a ceiling of a tomb (Photo courtesy of Qingxia Liang)

The tombs were guarded day and night and the work was completed secretly. They depended on silver mirrors to get light into the tombs and burned sesame oil for light. All the tombs we saw were over 80 m in length.

All of the tombs were robbed except for King Tut’s. The first robbery occurred during the New Kingdom. The second robbery occurred at the end of the Ramses period. In the 4th century AD, coptic monks hid inside the tombs to avoid persecution by the Christians. They left some inscriptions on the walls.

We visited the tombs of Merenptah, Tutankamun, Ramses VI, Ramses IX and Ramses IV. They were all different sizes. It was incredible how the walls were filled with pictures and hieroglyphics everywhere. There were so many colours remaining on the images.

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Inside a tomb (Photo courtesy of Qingxia Liang)

King Tutankhamun (Tut) died when he was 18 years old. His was the only intact tomb. It was found in 1992 by accident. It had been hidden underneath Ramses VI’s tomb. Tut’s tomb was the most interesting because the relief behind the tomb was very bright. His mummy was also in the tomb. It was a very small tomb, but well preserved. We paid 80 EGP extra to go in his tomb. The guy inside was actually helpful as well and pointed out different things and described them. Other guys in the tourist spots point things out to take pictures of and then expect a tip.

We all went in the tombs as a group as only one of us bought a photo ticket. She was kind enough to share her pictures. It was interesting that we all stuck together. Usually, we just want to go off and be by ourselves. We aren’t sure if we have really been missing the socialization or we really like the group, probably both.

We left Karnak and went to the other side of the desert mountain where the Temple of Hatshepsut was located. She ascended to the throne as regent when her husband died. When it came time to hand the throne to her husband’s son, Thutmosis III, she created a story with a priest that she was the daughter of the god Amun. She ruled for 20 years. She had depicted herself in the form of a man with a false beard. It is unknown what happened to her. Thutmosis III destroyed many of her figures after he came to power.

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Temple of Hatshepsut

The Temple of Hatshepsut was built in 1480 BC. There was a temple beside it that was 500 years older, but it is now in ruins. Hatshepsut completed an expedition to Punt (modern day Somalia) and brought palm trees back to place in front of her temple.

In front of every pillar was a statue of Hatshepsut. There were plans to link the temple to her tomb in the Valley of the Kings by a tunnel through the mountain. She died before it was started.

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Statue of Hatshepsut

It was boiling hot there and there wasn’t much shade. The workers there making sure you didn’t touch anything would lift the ropes so you could see a room that was ribboned off. They would expect a tip though. This got pretty annoying because they would keep asking. We just wanted to see the temple.

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Image in a side temple at Hatshepsut Temple

On the way back, we saw the Colossi of Memnon which were statues for Amunhotep III. They were huge, 18 m in height and weighing approximately 720 tons each.

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Colossi of Memnon

We drove back to Luxor and went to an Irish pub for lunch. It took an hour and a half to get food, but we were used to that from our last couple of trips. I had fish and chips which was really good. We played a game of pool while the Egypt vs. Ecuador World Cup game was on.

We had cake to celebrate one guy’s birthday. They played Happy Birthday in the restaurant over the speakers and we sang along.

After lunch we went back to the hotel. We said goodbye to one of our new friends who was leaving early. We went up to the pool and got in a game of chicken. Then we tossed the frisbee for a bit and played piggy in the middle. After a week together we were very comfortable jumping on each other to win the disc. We sat and chatted for a bit then went to shower.

At 6:30 pm we walked down the street to Luxor Temple. It was constructed around 1400 BC. The sun was just going down and the lights were shining on the temple. It was incredible. It was also the feast day of Ramadan so tons of locals were visiting the temple.

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Luxor Temple

Danny saw a couple of young guys looking at him with their phones out and so he said, “Do you want me to take a picture of you?”. They kind of understood picture so nodded. Danny then took their phone and took a picture of the group of boys. They shook their heads no. I then said, “Danny, they want a picture with you.” He then pointed at himself and they nodded yes. So Danny took a selfie with them. Another boy came up to another guy on our tour and wanted a selfie. There was then a group of young guys around waiting for a selfie with him. Danny missed his opportunity at fame and the other guy really embraced it.

Danny had a few more selfies and I joined in to a couple. They never asked us girls, maybe because it would be inappropriate in their culture. We think they were amazed at seeing white people. With the revolution only seven years ago and the decline in tourism they may not have seen white people before. They also could have been from the villages and were only in town for the festival.

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Danny feeling famous

The temple was quite large and so beautiful at night. The statues lit up were amazing.

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Statue outside Luxor Temple

We entered the courtyard and a boy, about 16 years old, came up and asked a girl in our group, “What is your name?” She replied and then he asked, “Where are you from?” She replied, “Canada”. He then said “Thank you,” and walked away with his family. His mom smiled back at us. I realized after that those are the basic phrases you learn in a new language and he was likely testing his English which was really cool. There was no one trying to sell you anything in the temple. There was just locals visiting which made it feel very calm and safe. This was perhaps my favourite experience in Egypt.98FE32BA-AEB9-45E0-A73D-6C62B4BE54B3We exited the temple and walked over to some carnival rides. There was a guy standing on a swing and he was almost looping around. Quite a few teenagers were staring at us and some cops came by and shooed them away. We felt a bit bad so we left and walked over to the market. The market was a bit exhausting. I stopped at the pharmacy for some feminine hygiene products. I got some pads for 20 EGP ($1.50). I asked for tampons, but they were 100 EGP ($7.50 CAD).

We went to the same restaurant as the night before. Danny and I shared chicken tajine. We went back to the hotel after and got our bags ready to catch our over night train to Cairo.

At the train station we sat chatting with the others. Danny and another guy played a game of chess. We boarded the train around 11:00 pm. We were given a supper of chicken fingers and fries then they made our seats into beds. We went to bed right away as we had a very long and eventful day.

Day 96: June 16, 2018

I slept very well on the train this time. I had my ear plugs and face mask which probably helped. I woke up at 5:30 am and read while Danny slept some more. We had breakfast around 7:30 am. Lots of bread.

We stood in the hallway chatting with the others. We arrived in Cairo around 9:30 am. Our guide, Albert, made sure everyone got taxis and we hugged everyone goodbye. We stuffed into a taxi with Albert and two of the other girls. The driver had to strap his trunk closed. We sat three to the back and three to the front.

We arrived at our original hotel in Cairo. Danny took out cash and I stored our bags. The girls were asking about the train to Alexandria so Albert offered to help them get there and get their tickets. We all hopped in a taxi again and they dropped us off at the Egyptian Museum on the way to the main train station.

We bought tickets to enter the museum and mummy room and another ticket to take pictures inside. The museum had a lot of stuff we felt like we had already seen, but it was interesting reading what things were as we could piece together who the different people were.

Exploring the Egyptian Museum

The mummy room had about twelve mummies of kings we had heard about the whole trip. It was very creepy seeing the mummies. I asked Danny how he would feel having his body displayed 3,000 years later. We both agreed we wouldn’t want that. Regardless, it was very interesting to see how well preserved they were after 3,000 years. There were hair and eyebrows on some.

On the second floor of the museum we went very quickly. We saw the room with King Tut’s treasures including his gold mask.

We left the museum and a guy right outside asked if we wanted a cab. He said, “100 EGP”. We said, “40.” He said “80” then we said “40”. He said, “No, ” so we walked out to the Main Street. Another guy came up and we said where we were going and he wasn’t sure where it was so asked a friend. He then said, “50 EGP, ” so we agreed as we had paid that to get there.

As we were driving the driver said, “50 for you and 50 for you.” Danny said, “No, 50 for both.” The driver replied, “No, 50 each.” Danny then said, “Okay, then we are getting out and started to open the door. The driver said, “Okay. Okay, 50 each. 20 for parking.” Danny said, “No,” and opened the door again. The driver then said, “Okay, 50”.

He dropped us on the main street rather than in front of the hotel, but we didn’t complain. We bought some water on the walk back then had lunch in the hotel. I had fattoush salad and samosa. It was really good.

We enjoyed the wifi then got our bags. We called an Uber to take us to our hotel near the airport. The Uber was way easier and way less hassle. We only paid 60 EGP to get 30 minutes. On the drive we saw a family packed into a car: three kids in the trunk with their legs hanging out. Danny asked if we could ride like that and the driver laughed and said, “No, they’re crazy.”

Cairo traffic

We arrived at the hotel and checked in. It was a fancier place which was nice although there was smoking on our floor. We were too late to have our laundry done and the prices were insane anyways: 30 EGP for one shirt. We got out our laundry soap and filled the sink. Hopefully our clothes will dry by the time we leave. We didn’t have a balcony so we had to lie the clothes near the window to get some sun.

We enjoyed the wifi and I FaceTimed my parents and posted a bunch of things to FaceBook. I had a shower to rinse off the train and sweat. The hotel we stayed in had a couple of restaurants and a casino. We went to an Italian restaurant and had pizza. I also had a strawberry juice which have been really good here, basically puréed strawberry. We went back to the room and Danny called his parents. We went to bed right after knowing we had to wake up super early for our flight.

We have learned so much history in Egypt. There was so much I didn’t know and I had so many false ideas. I loved visiting all the temples and tombs. They were amazing. I was glad that we did a tour because our guides provided so much information and it also made me feel much safer to be with a group. I never felt unsafe in Egypt, but there were lots of times I felt uncomfortable. The markets were definitely not somewhere we wanted to spend a lot of time. Tomorrow morning we fly to Casablanca for our next GAdventures tour in Morocco. We are excited to see what awaits.

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Egypt Part 1

Day 89: June 9, 2018

Up at 5:00 am for our flight. Luckily our clothes were mostly all dry from washing them the night before. We drove fifteen minutes to the airport and dropped off the rental car. We dropped our bags and went through security. Some of the check-in desks had huge lines. I wonder if they were tour groups with all the people dropped off at once.

On our flight to Athens we received cookies and a drink. I like to highlight this since it is rare to receive anything nowadays on a flight. The flights with Aegean were not super cheap though so maybe we paid a lot for those cookies and a drink.

In Athens we grabbed our bags, but had to wait an hour to check in. I went up to McDonald’s hoping to get an English breakfast tea, but it was just a regular tea. We checked in and went through security. I did some yoga on the other side. I remember watching a girl doing yoga in the airport when we were in China and thinking she looked funny. People probably thought the same about me. When you are travelling you stretch wherever.

We ate at a pub and Danny had lasagna while I had a stuffed pepper/tomato. Neither were amazing. On our EgyptAir flight we received an unexpected lunch and beverage. It was only about a two hour flight.

We arrived in Cairo and right before immigration there was a man with a board with our names. He checked our landing cards and e-visas. We stood in line and he said that it was usually much busier. We got through no problem and collected our bags. We would have been able to get through the airport quite easily by ourselves, but were worried about bartering for a taxi.

We met our driver and our transfer guy explained some things about Cairo to us. Our hotel was located in Giza, on the opposite side of the Nile from Cairo. People living in Giza still say that they live in Cairo. The population of Cairo is 20 million. The population of Egypt is 100 million.

We drove about 25 minutes to our hotel. We checked in and were taken to our room. This culture is already much different than Greece. It is a tipping culture so we tipped the driver and the bell hop. We were told later that in Cairo, a hotel concierge would make about 160 USD/month.

In the hotel room we discussed how we were super excited about actually being in Egypt. It is somewhere I had always seen in pictures, but never actually even dreamed I would be. We chilled for a bit then asked the front desk where we could find water. They replied that they could send some up. We also asked about an ATM and they said there was one on the next street.

Before we went out I wasn’t sure if I should be wearing a head scarf or not. I had read that it’s polite to wear one, but we saw lots of women around Cairo without. I put one over my head and we went out.

We weren’t sure what “next street” meant so we walked up the road a bit. Everyone we asked along them kept pointing us further up. At a gas station they pointed across the street to a large bank building. We crossed the street at the cross walk. It was very similar to crossing the street in Nepal. You walk lane by lane behind a vehicle and hope you don’t get hit.

In front of the bank we noticed a man following us. We were looking for the bank’s ATM and he started chatting to us, asking where we were from. We were vague in our answers. We said we were going to the ATM, to which he replied, “This one isn’t an international ATM. I’ll show you where one is.” He was friendly and showed us an ATM, a market and a cheap place to eat. Then, what we were waiting for, he showed us to his shop. He explained that the paintings in his shop are on papyrus and how you would pay 40 USD for one at the Great Pyramids. From him, they would only be 10 USD. His friend brought us tea which was very tasty. We flipped through trying not to be rude. He made us pick out the ones we liked. In retrospect, I was too off guard. Danny was on guard and turning him down. He said a price for the four that I had picked out as the best. Danny said, “We only want one”. He then said, “Okay, two for 450 EGP”, and Danny said, “No, just the one.” We agreed to 250 EGP for one and Danny gave him 300 EGP and waited for 50 EGP in change, but he said he didn’t have change. The man said, “Two for 300 EGP”. Danny said, “No.” The man called his friend over to get the 50 EGP change. He opened his wallet and said, “I don’t have 50 EGP”. I said, “Just forget it. 300 EGP for two”. I don’t like the arguing and was worried it would escalate. Danny was upset because we were being taken advantage. It is frustrating when you think someone is just being nice, but they’re really just trying to sell you something. The 300 EGP equates to about 20 CAD so we did get ripped off a bit.

As we were leaving, the man’s friend brought out perfumes for us to buy. They were actually nice smelling, but we said no and walked out. We picked up some money at the ATM then walked back to the hotel.

At 6:00 pm we met our GAdventures group and our CEO, Sem Sem, in the hotel restaurant. The CEO is what GAdventures calls the tour leader. The group has a total of thirteen people: two other Canadian girls, a couple for New Zealand, an Australian guy, two British guys, a South Korean guy, a Chinese girl, a Danish girl and a German girl. The smaller group seems like it will be nice.

Sem Sem told us a couple of things about Egypt. About 90% of the population is Muslim. The country is not governed by Sharia law which takes its laws from the Quran. Egypt is a democracy.

In 2010, there were 17 million tourists that visited Egypt. In 2017, there were 3 million tourists which was the highest number since the revolution. I had read about the huge decline of tourists visiting the Pyramids and the article I read said the time to go to Egypt was now.

We were told about the additional sites we could see so that we could take out more cash for them. The tour was called “Egypt on a Shoestring” so it’s more bare bones and then you pay for any additional sites you want to see. It’s nice to have the option to make it cheaper, but you usually want to do all the add-ones anyways.

We ordered supper and then a couple of us went up the street to an ATM. The Canadians cards didn’t work on it. We went back to the hotel, thinking our food would be ready, but it took a lot more time. We had baked chicken and fries. I had a guava juice which was more like guava purée.

After supper, our guide said he would take the Canadians to another ATM. We had to take out 2,000 EGP four times to get enough. It was nice chatting with the other Canadians. Our humour is the same and it is easier to find things to talk about. We went back to our rooms and went to bed.

Day 90: June 10, 2018

Breakfast in the hotel and then we hopped on the bus. We drove about 15 minutes to the Pyramids of Giza. On the edge of the city before the Pyramids were a bunch of half-built brick buildings. They were put up after many homes were destroyed in an earthquake in 1992. Most of the exteriors were only half built so that the residents would only need to pay half of the taxes. Many people from villages around Cairo will rent a room in the buildings while they are working in Cairo. They will only have the necessities: a mattress and small stove.

As we were driving up to the Pyramids of Giza I got super excited. My heart rate went up and I was bouncing. The Pyramids were something you only saw in pictures; I never thought I would actually see them.

There are 117 pyramids in Egypt. The shape of the pyramid was to take people to the after life, pointing to the heavens. Ancient Egyptians believed you would live the same life you lead on Earth in the after life, but the after life had no end.

The Pyramids were tombs for one person: a king or a queen. The first person to write about the Pyramids was a Greek in the 4th century BC. He described them as being very white with carvings and inscriptions everywhere.

The Great Pyramid of Giza is the oldest and last of the ancient wonders of the world. The largest pyramid was built by Pharaoh Khufu in 2500 BC. It was initially 146 m in height, but lost a 9 m solid gold pyramid cap. Gold was used as it represents something as divine as Ra. Ra, god of the sun, had his body made of gold. There was nothing taller than the Great Pyramid for 4,000 years.

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Merai standing on the Great Pyramid

More than 10,000 workers would have helped to build it. Workers tombs were found nearby with their names listed. Their names include the names of Egyptian Gods showing that the workers were Egyptians. They also found a half squashed worker that was mummified. This shows that the workers were not slaves as the Pharaoh cared enough about the workers to entomb and mummify them.

The Great Pyramid consisted of 2.3 million blocks, each with an average weight of 2.5 tons. The burial chamber ceiling had blocks exceeding 20 tons. There are many different theories on how the Pyramids were built. The one theory that our guide thinks is the best is the use of straight ramps for the base, then spiral ramps for the roof.

The main entrance was below the triangle in the below picture. A giant piece of granite was in the hole so if a tomb raider tried to jump inside they would hit their head. We were able to climb through a different entrance that was created by tomb raiders. We climbed up along planks to reach the tomb. It was only a dark room (about 10 m x 5 m), but you could see where the body would have laid. The climb up was very hot. We were quite sweaty by the time we got out.

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Danny outside the Great Pyramid

We took some pictures outside. There were a couple of other tour groups there, but it wasn’t too busy.

We drove up to a viewpoint where you could see all three large pyramids. The second largest was built by and for Khufu’s son: Pharaoh Khafre. His pyramid was smaller to not overshadow his father’s, but it was built on higher ground. The third pyramid was built by and for Khufu’s grandson: Pharaoh Menkaure. There were also smaller pyramids around the area for the queens. Some people on our group took a camel ride back to the third pyramid. We took the bus back and took some more pictures. Sem Sem told us when he was a kid you could climb all the way up the Pyramids.

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Pyramids!

We moved on to the Valley Temple which was used for ceremonies. It was the first building made of granite. The granite was brought from Aswan and cut using a chisel and hammer made of hematite. Wood would then be put between the cuts and water added. The water would expand and crack the rock. The quarry would be connected to the Nile river using canals to bring the granite to Cairo.

Purification was the first ritual completed after death. Lotus flower oils, representing love and eternity, would be rubbed over the body. Almond oil would be rubbed on the palms to make soft hands for greeting the other Gods in the after life.

Mummification would then take place. A 12 cm cut to the left abdomen would be used to take out the liver, lungs, stomach and intestine. They would be mummified separately to prevent the body from rotting. A crack would be made at the back of the skull and the brain would be pushed until it rested against the forehead. The eyes would roll back until only the white would show. The nose would be broken, then cleaned and the brain pulled out through the nostrils. The body was covered with layers of resin and linen. The resin caused the linen to be black; mummy means black. Later they learned to bleach the linen white. The mummies teeth were so white because fibres from the branches of lemon trees and soda salt were used to clean the teeth.

The process would take 70 days: 30 days of preparation and 40 days of mummification. The son would become the king 70 days after his father died.

The final judgement in the afterlife would put the heart on a scale next to a feather representing good and justice.

Next we saw the Sphinx. It was much, much smaller than I imagined, but it was cool to see. The Sphinx is the biggest ancient statue and was the creation of the architect. It has the body of a lion to represent strength and the head of a man to represent intelligence and wisdom. The large ears are so that it can hear all the prayers. There are three theories to what happened to the nose: Theory 1 – Napoleon took it which was a British rumour to make Egyptians hate the French, Theory 2 – Sa’im al-Dahl took the nose, Theory 3 – Age broke it off.

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Sphinx

We loaded on to the bus and drove to the market in Cairo. We had lots of free time to walk around. It got a bit exhausting as everyone wants you to come in their store and some follow you asking questions. Some say, “I only want your money”. Others say, “Where you from? The moon?”.

We finally decided we would go to the cafe where Sem Sem said he would be waiting. We thought it was one way, but every street we took that way dead ended. We must’ve gone up the same route three times. Sem Sem had said to remember the tower where we drove in. We were aiming for it, but then started doubting it was the right one as there were others that were very similar. The panic started to set in a bit. We were thinking what do we do? Google Maps doesn’t work on our phones. We can’t call anyone. Will the locals try to scam us if we ask for help? We don’t even remember the name of the square we want to get to!

Finally, we saw some other tourists coming along a major route. We decided to walk that way and we might find where the bus came in. Thankfully, it was the right place! We walked to the cafe and I ordered a strawberry juice. It was just strawberry purée which was amazing. We shared a dessert of couscous with hot milk, icing sugar, nuts and coconut. We sat and chilled in there for awhile avoiding the heat outside.

From there we drove to a grocery store to pick up snacks for the overnight train. Then we drove to the train station. We were quite early so we all ended up sitting around playing British Cards Against Humanity. It was pretty fun although most of us didn’t understand the British humour.

The train was a bit late, but we were ready when it arrived. Danny and I were in Room 1/2. The room was quite small and old. It had a small sink and window. We were brought supper in our cabin: chicken, rice, veggies, chickpeas, a bun and cake. I really liked the rice. The attendant then took our trays and made the seats into bunk beds. At least the sheets were clean.

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Danny enjoying supper on the overnight train to Aswan
Day 91: June 11, 2018

Neither of us slept very well on the train. At the corners you would wake up because you would roll slightly. When another train would pass I felt like I was on the train at the end of Anastasia that was out of control. I wondered if it was a dream or real life in between sleep.

We were roused by a knock at the door and breakfast was brought to us. It was lots of rolls and some feta. We packed up our stuff and got dressed.

We arrived in Aswan in Southern Egypt around 8:30 am. We were led to a bus that took us to our hotel. The room is old looking, but the sheets are clean and the air conditioner is working. We were given some free time. Most of us went across the road to another hotel to use the pool. We threw the frisbee around for a bit then ordered lunch. The temperature peaked up to 48 degrees. We couldn’t stay out of the pool very long even in the shade. There was a shallow end of the pool that was in the shade in the afternoon that we lounged in.

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Pool time in Aswan

We went back to the hotel and got more cash from the ATM then had showers in our room. At 5:30 pm we met the group and took a boat along the Nile. We saw a brown building that was the palace of the last king of Egypt: King Farouk. It is now a hotel.

We saw Elephantine Island where monuments showing the history of Egypt were located. Along the stone walls we could see some marks that would show the level of the flood. This was a nilometer. It was used to determine the amount of taxes the area would pay: low water = low taxes, high water = high taxes. The water level would directly impact the crops.

Next we visited a Nubian village of 4,500 people. The Nubians moved into Egypt from the South Sahara in the time of Ancient Egypt: 2700 BC. In 1900 BC when the Egyptians wanted to build an empire they trained Nubians to be archers. During that time, there was intermarriage between Egyptians and Nubians. The Nubians soon felt they should be independent and there were many revolts. After Alexander the Great, the two groups united against a common enemy: the Greeks.

In the 1950s, President Nasser wanted to build a dam and chose to flood the area where Nubians lived to affect less people overall. The Nubians were promised land and houses, but were given them in the middle of the desert. They were used to living beside the water. Many Nubians left for Sudan or moved west. There are now twenty Nubian communities in Egypt. The 1973 war brought the Egyptians and Nubians together again.

Nubians are Muslims, but they were the last to convert to Islam. Nubians mostly work in tourism because of their hospitality. There are also Nubians in agriculture and fishing. They have managed to keep their culture alive. A Nubian man can marry a non-Nubian woman, but his family would not be happy. A Nubian woman cannot marry a non-Nubian man or she would be disowned.

We walked to watch the sunset, then a Nubian man, Mohammed, led us to his house for supper. We sat on the rooftop and were brought hibiscus juice made by boiling the hibiscus flower. Then we were brought puréed bean soup and bread. Then rice, chicken, French fries, eggplant, white beans, phyllo pastry with minced meat (almost tasted like pizza). Then we were brought very hot tea.

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Sunset on the Nile

One of the women offered to do henna and I got a little elephant for Elephantine Island. We got in the boat to go back then walked back to the hotel for sleep.

Day 92: June 12, 2018

Early early morning: up at 3:00 am to leave at 3:45 am for Abu Simbel which are two temples on the western bank of Lake Nasser. We all fell asleep on the 3.5 hour drive. We were given breakfast in a box that we ate right before we arrived.

In Egypt, once you have a child, your name becomes, “Father of ‘first born daughter/son’s name'”. Abu means father of and Simbel was the son’s given name. The entire area is called Abu Simbel.

We walked down to the temples and Sem Sem showed us where the temples were originally located. They were relocated as they were going to be under water, due to the dam construction. It took four years to relocate the 10,000 pieces.

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Previous location of the temples is now underwater

The temples were built in Nubian land, but not by Nubians. They were built by King Ramses II, one for him and one for his favourite wife, Nefertari. He had many other wives for political reasons.

In 1530 BC, Ramses II moved towards Turkey. He built the temple at Abu Simbel to show the Nubians in the area his strength and to bring Egyptians there to settle. High priests acted as doctors, royal scribes acted as teachers and the temple acted as religion for the people. Who wouldn’t want to live there once the temple was built?

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Abu Simbel’s Temples (King’s on the left, Queen’s on the right)

The hyroglifics across the top of the King’s temple display names, titles and wishes for the king. An earthquake during Ramses II’s rule destroyed the second statue of the temple and he died before it was fixed. The statues show Ramses from young and smiling to old and with less of a smile: showing he was not as pure as in his youth and had made some mistakes.

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King Ramses II’s Temple

A straight beard shows a living king while a curved beard shows a dead king or God. Between the legs of the statues are his wives and daughters. The bird head with the sun above is the God, Ra-Horakhty.

Many of the paintings inside the King’s temple show a famous battle (Battle of Kaddish) between Ramses II and Muwatalli II. They all shows Ramses II’s power and strength. In one painting there is a lion. The Ancient Egyptians taught dogs, jackals, leopards and lions to attack anyone not wearing their troop’s colours.

We entered the Queen’s temple first and saw all of the paintings that were etched into the walls. They were hard to see close up, but farther away you could take in the whole scene. We walked back and entered the King’s temple It was larger and had statues as well as paintings.

It was already super hot at 9:00 am. We went back to the cafe near the parking lot and waited for the rest of the group. I bought us Kit Kat ice cream cones. Danny gave me 70 EGP to pay and went I went to pay the guy said they were 90 EGP. I countered with, “I only have 70 EGP”. He replied, “Okay, 70 and you take a picture with me”. I said okay and we took a selfie in front of the Coke cooler. Then he said, “How ’bout a kiss?” Then he pointed to his cheek. I said, “No, I’m a married woman,” and walked away with all his friends laughing.

We road in the bus back to Aswan. It was basically desert the whole way. We napped for a bit along the way. In Aswan, we went to a restaurant beside the river. They opened just for us as they were closed for Ramadan. I had a margherita pizza and Danny had a four seasons pizza. When they came out they looked exactly the same. It is unknown if the different pizza types were lost in translation or if they didn’t have the right ingredients.

After lunch, we went back to the A/C in our room. It was 43 degrees outside which is way too hot. The wind blows, but it’s like a hair dryer right in your face. It burns your eyes.

We met the group at 6:30 pm and Sem Sem showed us some places for supper. We all walked together through the market. None of us were really looking for anything. At the end, we walked back to the first restaurant we were shown. We sat at two tables each with six people. We chatted about our jobs which was a little depressing as many of us were at points where we are unsure of our next move. I had lamb with rice and some sort of veggie in tomato sauce. After dinner, we walked back to the hotel and then went to bed.

Day 93: June 13, 2018

We woke up and had breakfast downstairs: yogurt, cheese spread, fig jam, banana, beans and buns. Our A/C in the room stopped working in the night so we woke up pretty hot. We did end up sleeping in until 9:00 am.

At 10:30 am we got on the bus and went to the river. We were split into two groups. I was on the boat with all the guys. We took of our shoes and boarded the felukkas. We set sail on the Nile with our two Nubian sailors: Eid and Ahmed.

Felukka on the Nile

We had all been a bit nervous that it would be hot on the felukka, but there was a nice cool breeze from the river. We started our ride with a card game then we met up with the support boat which had a bathroom and bar. We then played Cards Against Humanity. We stopped for lunch on the support boat: mashed potatoes, feta and canned tuna. The feta in the potatoes was really good. We returned to our felukka and did some reading and napping. The felukka had a large mattress area in the middle that we occupied.

Our set up on the felukka

Danny got to help pull the ropes a couple of times. We parked on a sandy beach and everyone except a couple of us ran up the sandy hill to the top and then back down to stick their feet in the water. The sand was burning hot. Some of the guys had blisters on their feet later.We were able to get out and swim for a bit, but not too far from shore as the current was quite strong. In the afternoon the sun was a bit lower so it hit us more. We were a bit hotter, but it was nothing like being in Aswan.

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Swimming in the Nile with our felukka behind us

Near the end of our ride two of the guys went to the front to take some Titanic pictures. Then one climbed the mast a bit. He made it what we thought was pretty far until one of the other guys came over and doubled his speed and height. Then we all sat at the front of the boat and listened to some tunes. We decided to take a group picture that turned out with us looking like a band.

Band picture

We arrived at the pump house where the support boat was hooked up to the electricity. We had supper there: chicken, rice, veggies, orzo soup and pita-like bread. The food in Egypt has been good, but nothing jaw dropping. The other boat was playing a word guessing game so we played Hidden 31 with beer cans for lives. Danny ended up winning. We all went to bed around 11:30 pm. I was worried I wouldn’t sleep as all the boys were snorers so I took out my ear plugs. We slept aboard the felukkas with sheets covering us.

What an amazing couple of days it has been in Egypt. We have already seen so much. The Pyramids were a big highlight as they would be for anyone and we loved the chilling on the felukka. We know a lot less about the places we are seeing on the second half of our trip in Egypt so we are hoping they will be just as incredible.

M