Into the dessert, on the nile and sightseeing a lot of temples :)
01.09.2010 - 10.09.2010 42 °C
1st of sept:
today i got up very early. The manager of the hostel again, helped me very well. Everyone is super friendly in this place. I got the taxi and went to the station. There, someone arrived very quick to help me to get the ticket and go to the bus. A long ride of 5 hours brought me to an oasis. I waited for 2 hours with the locals (that was a bit too much), for the bus after me, where there was a japanese guy, Hiroshi, who was going to do the same tour.
We went to a hotel, that was really good. Finally a good hotel . This afternoon and evening we spent here. After playing some ping pong, we went to bed. Hiroshi turns out to be 52, but he looks like 35. His english is not the best, but he is a good person.
The next day, just after breakfast, we had a tour int the surrounding area. Not the best. But ok. After, it was time to go to the real white and black dessert. I waited for this . It turned out that there were two Japanese girls also joining the tour, so we had Hiroshi, Haruki, Kaori and Ramon. And two Egyptian guys being the tourguide and one police.
We had a very nice group and drove for about 3 hours towards the real dessert. Had a shop at chrystal mountain where i took real crystals! And went on to the white dessert. This place is amazing! In the nice we set up camp. Just a big sheet next to and attached to the car, and something on the ground. No roof, so we could see all the stars. At this special moment i called my girlfriend That was very special. Also, we got company by some foxes. These dessert foxes ate the chicken from your hand. Amazing! The next morning, sunset was amazing. Around 6 am it came up, around 7 am it was freaking hot already. Over 40 degrees. We went back to the hotel, 3 hours. Than, in a big car to cairo, about 5 hours. My intentian was to buy a ticket straight to Aswan with the night train (12 hours), but it was sold out. I went to the Dahab hostel (where else?). Before, with the Japanese i went to a Japanese hotel (Crazy..only Japanese and Japanese books and signs)..very interesting. And met there with Tommy, or Tomiako. The japanese girls also stayed here. We would meet the next evening to have dinner.
2nd of september:
Today, i finally went to the museum. But first i had a long skype conversation with my girlfriend. It was really good to see her again after a while in the dessert.
The museum is walking distrance from Dahab hostel. It was very,very interesting. The museum is a bit old. Wooden closets, glass, criss cross put the pieces around. A lot of security, with big guns and bulletfree boxes (everywhere in Egypt actually). But if you wanted, you could just pick a spinx and put in in your pocket. I guess the security would notice, but it give the feeling what the museum is like. A bit unorganised. Some things just put in the corner. But amazing! Real historians would feel sad because of the way the museum treats these special pieces. But in a way, the experience is great, for you walk in between and most pieces do not even have glass around it.
Also i went to the mummy room (entrance 100 Pound extra, on the museum price that is 60 pound). It was interesting, but a bit scary also. Imagine seeing a skeleton that is 3500 years old, or older. The skeleton (Mummy), of Ramses the second is here. He lead Egypt to a very prosporeous time.
Later, i went out and searched for a telephone card. It took a long time to find a shop. The shop owner was not helpfull at all. Again the standard story. First, enthousiastic. When i asked what is the price to call to europe, he didnt know. But it is cheap. How cheap? He didnt know. I like to buy the Sim card, but only if i know the price. (Of course he says it is cheap; he wants to sell). So, after, he just starts sitting puts the product back in the package. No eye contact, no goodby. Really i get fucked up for these fucking annoying salesmen. What about service? People do not always buy when they enter your shop. Ok, be perfecthic, don't say goodby and have fun in your stupid shop. As you see, i am not so super friendly anymore to annoying people. The bad guys teached me to treat bad guys bad.
After, another shop, the guy was very helpfull. It took about 1 hour, but he really tried. Unfortunately the line was too busy, so he couldn't activate my card. I went to the real Vodafone shop closeby, but it was 1610, and it was closed. To be short, i spent 2 hours, and didn't have a phonecard still. Luckily, Ali, from my Dahab hostel helped me out. We bought a card and credit. But, since 4 months in Egypt, you have to give a copy of your passport to the phone company. So now in Aswan, i will give it to Vodafone. Why? You might think: well, i need to talk to my girlfriend And now it is probably freaking expensive. I dont know the prices, so i dont call a lot.
With the egyptian card is is cheaper. (Sms; call is still 50 cents in Euro, a minute--> A simple meal).
Well, i guess i mixed up the days now, because i wanted to write about yesterday, but thats the 4th of september. So i forgot to write about one day.
Anyway, 4th of september:
After the egyptian museum, i met up with the japanese girls and Tomiako. At first, i couldnt find their hotel and i knew i was very close. It was a bit frustrating, because i know my navigation skills are very very bad and i was close.
In the end, i went to my hostel and didnt expect to see them again. But, after a while, Haru came to my hostel and told me they were all having dinner close by. I met up with all three of them and it was very good to still say goodbye. After 1hour they left to a whirling dancing show and i went back to my hostel to wait to go to the train to Aswan.
Now, i am writing the long story since the 30th of aug in this train. The 12 hours long night train, that ends up being 15 hours now. Crazy. I am here in one coupe with 4 American-Indian (hindi) people and talked a lot with them. We had quite some interesting converations and until 300 am we were talking. After, i tried to sleep, but because there is not a lot of space, it turned out to be a bit difficult. The suitcases are in the middle, so i made those my bed, so that there was more space on the seat for them. The ride is long, but i am enjoying their company a lot. We talk about India, about life, travel, life in America. Simularities, dissimularities, marriage (Rahul is married and his wive is also travelling with him). Actually, his two cousins are here too. About my girlfriend, live in Europe, switserland (they have been here). Holland (amsterdam, they visited ). And a lot more. Very interesting. Just 4 hours of sleep, or less. But in a way, i feel very rested. Strange. I am enjoying this long ride in a way, although i prefer now to be at Aswan. Two more hours..oeff.
So, now time to look a bit forward. I am going to see Aswan, Abu Simbel (WOW!), going to do a feluca trip, the valley of the kings, hopefully the sound and light show at Abu Simbel or Aswan. And i am going to enjoy it. The american-indians also booked a tour. It would be nice if they are with me. We'll see. Insha'allah.
(It's interesting to see that it is very common to say this: Egyptians would say: The train will arrive in 2 hours insha'allah--> If Allah wants it to be). We will meet again, insha'allah. They are much more religious than the people in Istanbul. All my friends in Istanbul also ate food and had a drink during the Ramadan. Here in Egypt not. They dont drink and eat from sunrise to sunset.
Ok, time to close the laptop, 2 more hours. Time for a new, interesting experience and breakfast cookies, hopefully we will find something good in Aswan. During Ramadan it is very very difficult to find a decent meal between sunrise and sunset.
5th of september until the 9th of september.
Actually, i am writing this part, sitting in the overnight bus from Luxor to Dahab. Expected travel time: 18 hours! But since in the first 30 minutes, we already waited 15 minutes, i guess 20 hours for this bus ride will be more realistic.
So, time to take you back in time, to my exploration of ancient Egypt..
After arrival in Aswan, i was waited upon by Achmed. He brought me first to the Vodafone shop, so i could activate my card and finally talk to my girlfriend with an Egyptian card and later to my hotel. After a short refreshment stay, it was time for what were going to be 4 or 5 (i really am forgetting about days and time) unforgetable and amazing days. The exploration of upper Egypt starts..
In the ancient time, there were different dynasties in Egypt. Upper Egypt, represented by the waterlilly hat, and lower Egypt, represented by Papyrus (or the papyrus hat).
Ancient Egypt started about 3500 BC and I have to be sorry for not knowing all..but what i remember:
3500 years Before Christ, Egypt was very strong and had a lot of Dynasties. After, Egypt became weak when the invasion from the Asians started in Lower Egypt (the Alexandria, delta of the Nile region). Upper Egypt was still strong. During this time, there were also invasions from the south, the Nubians. Ramses the second, or his predesesor conquered back Lower Egypt and thus, reunited both parts. When you look at different hyroglifes, you can see how these kings lived and what they accomplished during their life. Ramses the second became 92 years, and had the trone for over 50 years. He is one of the famous kings and had over 200 children and a lot of wives. 92 at these times was old, very very old.
The Golden Age of Egypt was during the time of Ramses the second, Hotisu (i write incorrectly) and the famous queen (forgot her name now).
Egypt became weaker when the Greeks conquered lower Egypt, and later upper egypt. Alexander the Great did so, and build the city of Alexandria. Later, the Greeks were followed up by the Romans, with among others, Julius Ceasar, who married Cleopatra. Cleopatra was considered the most beautifull woman at her time. She was Greek, but ruled Egypt. Egypt was an important supplier of wheat and other sorts of food for the Roman Empire.
Egypt has later been a colony of both England and France, and since somewhere in the 1980's is independent. The current president is elected already for 29 years. The next elections will be in 2011.
Back to my adventures
After, the refreshing time, we went to some beautifull places. First the Aswan dam, which is not so interesting..It provides about 80%, yes, 80% of all egyptian electricity. Still, for Egyptians, electricity is expensive.
Just some extra info about Egypt: main income: Suez Canal (ships passing and paying a lot), tourism, and after (probably), electricity, deeds and farm products.
The Aswan dam is not so special to see. Just a big lake and a big dam.
After, we went to Philea. A very interesting Nubian place. Actually this temple used to be somewhere else, but because the Aswan Dam was build, Egypt, together with Unesco, moved to whole temple and rebuild it higher up, to prevent it from being flooded by the lake. Unfortunately, other Nubian monuments have been destroyed by the Lake. Lake Nasser, named after the president that ruled during the building of the Aswan Dam.
Philea is a very intersting place. And actually you will see not only Nubian influences. Also, Egyptian hyroglifes, and from later, Christian influences.
After Philea, it was time to back to the hotel and have a rest. The next day, it was time to go to Abu Simbel. A magnificent temple in the south of Egypt, near to the Sudan border. Wake up call at 2.45 am. Leaving at 3.15. And then, after waiting too long for the Egyptian police or army, we left at 4.30 am to Abu Simbel. In convoy, with some police with big machine guns in front of the line of busses, and in the back. Egypt has been safe for over 15 years. But since somewhere in the 1990s, Germans were shot by outlaws, the Egyptian government is not taking risks anymore. Tourism is very important, and everywhere in the street you will encouter policemen. Sometimes with a handgun, often with a half automatic machine gun. And sometimes, hidden behind a bullet free square on wheels. Hotels, banks, streets, and roadblocks on the mainroads, or even in the dessert. The police is everywhere. And i mean, everywhere. But, luckily, they are always friendly and helpfull and will never ask for bak'sheesh (tips..annoying Egyptian habbit).
A three hour drive brought us to Abu Simbel. The temple is magnificent, incredible . Big pharaoic statues in front of the gates. Inside, big, big statues again. And a lot of beautifull hyroglifes. Actually, this temple is not at its original place. Unesco and Egypt also moved this monument also, to prevent them from being eaten by the water that was coming closer.
After about two hours, it was time for the 3 hour busride back.
After arrival, we immediately went to our boats, or Feluca as they are called. Small ships with a big sail that either sail on the wind, or go downwards on the stream of the Nile. About 2500 years BC, the rocks for the big pyramid were cut in Aswan and sent in Feluca's to Giza where they were used to build the big pyramid and also the other pyramids. An amazing piece of work!
Arriving at the feluca was a bit weird. After finding the right feluca and introducing me to the other travellers, an Egyptian guy came with his outfit (kind of Jelaba, all over with blood. So i, and some others of the newcomers asked the Aussies that already were on the feluca what happened. Well, the story (if correct) is that some tourist gave a tip (bak'sheesh) to one of the crew members of the Feluca. But this crew member refused to share the money with the other crew members. At first it was shouting, later one of them took a knife and the other a stick. After about two hours (Crazy, and time wasting..) of shouting, with tourist around, and being crazy, at first, they started to poke a little bit and showing off. But later, the guy with the knife became serious and started stabbing the other guy. Not too strong, or with intentions to kill, but still, a lot. Apparently, because of ramadan, blood sugar is low, and this happens more often. I have seen it in the oasis before the white dessert that guys were shouting and screaming for absolutely nothing. Like small children. Well, also this is because of low blood sugar (according to someone there that i asked), due to ramadan. Than my question is: Ramadan is supposed to respect everyone, mostly, poor people that do not have food or water. Then why do you need to stab, shout, scream, or be annoying or bad to someone else? I don't understand..
Well, after a whil we sailed away and it was beautifull. I enjoyed a lot. The not so good thing was though, that we only sailed for two hours and then stopped. We had a meal, and everyone was too sleepy because of the early morning ride to Abu Simbel. So a very early sleep. The next morning was not so promising on the sailing also. First it took the guys about 2 hours to get ready, and take food in a nearby village. After a lot of Hakuna matata (relax enjoy life), finally we began sailing for about 1,5 hours. And then, stopped again. Why?
In the end, i really enjoyed being on the feluca. But i expected a sailing trip and not a waiting trip.
The funny thing is though, that when they were ready to leave, it was; yella yella. Hurry hurry.
Customer service is yet to be found in Egypt. Anyone who wants to serve customers well: feel free and i am certain that you immediately differentiate from anyone else.
This afternoon, we drove by bus to Luxor. First we had a stop at Edfu. Another truly amazing temple. In this temple, you can still see a lot of well preserved hyroglifes, with paint. Another amazing place with lots of history. I walked around an noticed two girls being tourguided aroudn. Normally i don't like being tourguided. But this guy talked with so much passion that i joined. He explained a lot. This is the only themple in Egypt that has two main gods. The evil one with the Jackal head and the good one, Horus, god of prosperity. I made a short movie of the guide explaining and you see his absolute interest and passion about ancient Egypt!Then, we went on to Luxor.5 minutes after arrival in the hotel, i was picked up to go to Karnak. Karnak was also truly amazing! It is a huge temple complex where you can see coloms erected and even at some places, still the roof top. At the rooftop, you can still see the hyroglifes in their original form, with paint! Two big sort of needles are still standing up high. Made out of one piece of stone, shipped all the way from Aswan to Luxor. Amazing, amazing!
Here you will also see the long road with the sfinxes.Originally this road was 3 km long, all the way to the Luxor temple. Now, you only see a part of it. In Luxor they are doing excavations to find the other sfinxes that are under the ground now. After, we went to Luxor temple. This one only from outside. No one felt like going inside. It didnt seem that special.
The day after was an incredible day too. First, the valley of the Kings. Wonderfull. In the middle of the mountains there is a valley where a lot of kings have been burried. In their tombs, together with a lot of precious stones, gems, their masks, etc. Mummificied to meet up with the afterlife. During this mummification process, that took 70 days, the brain was taken out troug the nose. The stomach, liver and all other insides were taken out by a cut of about 12 cm on the left side of the body. All was preserved in 4 jars. All four had different heads: one human, one horus (eagle) and two other ones.
The heart was put back in the body after the skeleton was put in some kind of salt to kill bacteria. All was done to prevent the body from evaporate. The ultimate reason was so that all was preserved for the afterlife. After the mummy was put in his tomb, together with a lot of food, water and precious things, the tomb was closed. Usually, jackals would dig in the ground to find the mummy. Therefore, it is believed, that the jackal is represented as the god for the afterlife. If your heart is good, he will let you go to the afterlife.
Back to the tombs. We visited 3 tombs. Ramses the 9th, Queen Nephosoparus (incorrectly spelled) and another one. The reason why there is one queen in the valley of the kings is because she ruled and depicted herselfa always as a man. Actually, her stephson was the king, but she was a strong twomen, making a puppet of her stephson. Actually, after she ruled for 20 years and died. Her stephson tried to erase as much monuments about her as possible.
The tombs are amazing. It is the only place were i have been were the hyroglifes are painted and preserved so well. Most placed you see a little bit of paint. Here the paint is all over! Incredible. It is still a grave, so i entered with respect. But it is unbelievable how people enter and talk, laugh, make jokes, talk loudly etc etc.
But even the people who work there are unbelievable stupid. One of the tombs,there is a side that is blocked by a fence. A very small wooden fence, where you can easily step over. So what does the egyptian guy that works there? Try to get people over the fence. I watched it for a while, because i knew what was going to happen.And yes, after 5 minutes: bak'sheesh. TIP. Blugh..again...always, beggin for money. TIP TIP TIP. It is really annoying. Later, at the amazing tomb of the queen, this guy has a flashlight, so you can look in the tomb. Everyone knows it is robbed by tomb raiders, and empty, but ok..Yes, people look and..2 minutes later..bak'sheesh. I found the interesting moment of seeing the incredible tomb on the right and the creep Egyptian guy with his flashlight counting his coins and paper money. Next to the grave of an incredible old queen..Without respect.
And..this guy is even smarter, after he put som people over the fence (written before) and they come back, he puts his finger in front of his mouth..hushhh....(like, quiet, don't tell anyone)..everyone is passing by, but ok..all to make it look even more like it is sooo amazingly special to go over this fence helped by this creep to give him more money. And actually, they do make some good money with it.
After, we went to another temple on the other side of the valley of the kings. This is the place were the kings (and one queen) were mummificied. Also, this was the place to give respect to them after their dead. Because no one should know about their real burrial place. Nevertheless, a lot of graves haver been robbed. In 1995 a new grave was found, totally intact: that of Tutanchamon.
This temple was not so special in my opinion. But maybe that is only because i have seen a lot of temples by now. But i am inpressed. I love the history of Egypt! It is a place that has an incredible number of temples, pyramids and other incredible buildings.
Now i am in the bus from Luxor to Dahab. I quess my 18 hours was correct, because already we waited a lot of time and now, just before sunset, the two drives had a fight. (of course, stupid low blood sugar again). Well, after 20 minutes, now they just return and it feels like we are going to drive again. Tomorrow finally ramadan is over. Food everywhere, also for tourist and no stupid low blood sugar excuses anymore. I hear a lot of tourist complaining about 3 things: 1) no food during the day because of Ramadan. Tourists have to live on cookies and chips. 2) Bak'sheesh. TIP TIP TIP. Tip for everything. Annoying. 3) the egyptian 5 minutes. Yes, 5 minutes here means 30 minutes minimum.
Even one Italian guy from the feluca tour is a diving instructor here and knows the culture a bit. He was saying, after he waited for his pizza for 40 minutes, and asked how long it would take..coming back smiling...it will take 5 minutes..5 egyptian minutes.
And he said: I like Egypt, but what i hate about Egypt is when you say you will meet tomorrow at 3pm. They answer: Insha'allah. If god wants to. No, if YOU want to.
Wow, incredible how someone who works here 4 years, every year 5 months, thinks the same as the tourists. If Egypt can improve the customer oriented view, i am certain they will gain a lot from this.