20 June 2012

Hotel lock down, great pyramids and Nile cruises

The country I’ve always wanted to see first was Egypt. Why? I can't pinpoint the exact moment of realisation but when I saw The Mummy (not the best action movie, but it did produce a sequel and spin off movies) I became obsessed with Egypt. I was obsessed with the ancient history. I was obsessed with the locations. I was obsessed with the gods and everything in between. Egypt sparked my imagination and wonder. I just wanted to go there.

With that bar set I was ready. Except the bar was set too high.

Leaving Turkey behind to arrive in Cairo and find ourselves on hotel lock down. Not the best start. Planned protests aka riots in Tahrir Square, on the other side of the river, were scheduled and not the most welcoming. Traffic was a nightmare too. Hilarious with taxi's even trying to turn around to get out of the traffic managed to drive down the street backwards! Leaving Cairo was a rush, cutting it a little too close in checking in for our flight. The small ventures taken in Cairo were to do laundry and get food. One jewel of the Nile found was KFC… typical for Kiwis to find. This KFC run by deaf locals as part of an organisation to help the deaf be independent workers. One server even pulled a prank on us by giving an empty popcorn chicken box; of course it took us awhile to click what he was signalling!

I didn’t love all Egypt had to offer. I hated the pushy sellers; it put me off wanting to buy anything. Those people ruined the experience of seeing the temples and pyramids. I understand their desperation to sell but I do not appreciate the rudeness and in your face intimidation.

Never bothering to research the crisis or trip expectations was a mistake. Do your research, I read my copy of the Top 10 Cairo & The Nile on the bus to Luxor and learned why the trip leader mentioned certain facts. Things to avoid:   losing your temper (happened at the Pyramids), believing all your told (fake guides selling a better tour, I heard him out then got the hell away!), and being gullible. You will get bargains sometimes and sometimes you’ll pay way too much. Hey it’s ok the conversion rate still leaves you with a good deal!

You can enjoy Egypt remembering these lessons.

And never forget that Egypt is a third world country. The riches of the ancient world are exactly that ancient. My travel grievances can be forgotten. I will go back. I’ll just be better prepared.

Egypt unwrapped:

E is for evil camels. I suppose not all camels are evil, they’re not even native with Egypt! The afternoon spent on felucca boats was relaxing. I even braved the waters and went for a dip in the Nile…it was cold and full of weeds! The highlight was touching Sahara Desert sand. The camel ride to the village was the lowlight. I led a group of camels with the guide at the reins. The guide went off, first mistake. The camel saw food, second mistake. Down it went to eat and down I went with it. Off the side and the guide jumped in front to catch me. I was fine, the guide then did his job and led and I swore I would never go on a camel again!

G is for Gypies. Our nickname for Egyptians invented by one of the boys and it took like wildfire and spread. Not Gypsies. The common phrase used when approached by Gypies is “No thank you”.

Y is for You should still go. Two hundred million visitors used to enter Egypt a year, now they’ll be lucky to see 200,000. Don’t let the unrest in Cairo stop you. Go on a cruise down the Nile. See the east coast beaches.
P is for Papyrus. The budget blown when we stopped to visit one of the many essences and essential oil shops. Expensive in Egyptian pound but for 70 Sterling I walked away with 100mls of the beautiful essence of the Papyrus flower, only sold in Egypt, and two other scents. Top designer perfumes contain the essences exported from Egypt; you can create your own cheap replica! The poor boys waited a longtime for us girls. They played with a rugby ball outside. Another store visited was the papyrus art store. Again I blew my budget but you couldn’t leave Egypt without your name in Hieroglyphics.

T is for Temples, Temples and yes more Temples. Top Temples:
Edfu: The temple of Horus, my favourite God, dating back to 237BC when Egypt was ruled by the successors of Alexander the Great. This structure is the most intact of all Egypt’s temples and the most underrated.

Philae: The temple devoted to Isis. The most picturesque and you see the Pharaoh’s propaganda all over the walls. The Graeco-Roman era site is on a Nile Island. After building the Aswan Dam the temple began to flood part of each year. The temple relocated to Agilika Island once the High Dam was built that flooded Philae Island.

Abu Simbel: The High Dam formed Lake Nasser. This largest water reservoir in the world then threatened the temples and UNESCO stepped in cutting the mountain in sections to rebuild the pieces 210m behind and 65m above the original site. You never would have known! The four 20m high colossi show the likeness of Ramses II, an amazing entrance into the Sun temple. The temple of Hathor built to the right honours Ramses II's wife Nefertari, not to be confused with Nefertiti.

Karnak: A vast site consisting of many temples. One open to the public and the best is the temple of Amun. Full of pylons, obelisks, courts, colonnades, chambers, a sacred lake and a wishing well. An avenue of ram head sphinxes’ used to connect the entrance with a canal from the Nile. Visiting on hot days, any shade found will be taken by wild dogs.
Hatshepsut: The only woman to reign Egypt as Pharaoh. Statues depicting Hatshepsut show her feminine face with a beard. Stories of her birth are carved in the walls telling she was the son of Amun, then becoming a man not a woman. The series of terraces and temples set upon a mountainous backdrop is stunning. The temple of Anubis, my second favourite God, still has colour on the walls.

Luxor: They say is unmissable. The last temple scheduled when you’ve seen two temples and Valley of the Kings already, it is miss-able. Photos snapped from the bus, so not entirely unseen.