Family Trip: Part Two--Victoria Falls (more pics), Aswan, Luxor, and
I received the CD with my family's
pictures from the trip, so this update will mostly be a showcase of
some of those pictures (all courtesy of my dad). I will also talk
about the rest of the
trip after Victoria Falls (yes, there was more!). Remember that
my two sisters returned to the U.S. after Bahariyya, and then it was
just me, my mom, my dad, and my brother.
Click the pyramid for more pictures from Cairo, Alexandria,
Click Dad and
Livingstone for more pictures from Victoria Falls
and Bahariyya. (See the small blue speck at the bottom?
That's my dad.)
After we returned from Victoria Falls, we hopped on a sleeper train
from Cairo down to Aswan. It's about a 13-hour train ride, so
having the sleeper option is definitely a plus. I had never been
on a sleeper train before, so it was a nice experience! We had
two compartments, and each one had a couch that converted to a bed, a
sink with mirror, and a top bunk bed that came down out of the
wall. Dinner and breakfast were included as well. I would
highly recommend the sleeper train to anyone needing to travel a long
distance along the Nile...it was great!
We pulled into Aswan the next morning and checked into our hotel.
We then took a tour of the Old Dam, the High Dam, the Temple of Isis at
Philae, and the Unfinished Obelisk at the marble quarries. The
Temple of Isis was neat because it had been moved from the original
island of Philae onto another island when the High Dam was built.
Many countries contributed to rescuing as many of the ancient sites as
they could before the completion of the dam would flood them. The
Temple of Isis was deconstructed piece by piece and reassembled on a
different island. The new location was even landscaped exactly as
Philae had been. They did this with several sites. For some
sites, there was nowhere in Egypt to relocate them, so they gave them
as gifts to the countries that had helped with the project. So in
certain museums around the world, there are whole Egyptian temples
reconstructed inside the museums! Of course, there were several
sites that were not able to be rescued before the completion of the
dam, so those were lost forever. =(
To get to the Temple of Isis, you have to take a boat from the mainland
out to the island. There are several boats there to choose
from. You can get a ferry-type boat, or a private boat. If
you take the ferry, you have to wait until the boat is full. We
opted to take our own boat, since there were four of us and we got a
pretty good rate. Well, it being my family, we of course happened
to pick the slowest boat on the water. As we got underway, we
soon noticed that the ferry boats which were empty when we took off had
filled up, departed, and were now actually passing us! The poor
boat guy said he was going as fast as he could, but his motor wasn't so
good. Oh well, we got there eventually, so it was fine.
Later that night, we went to the Nubian Museum in Aswan, which is one
of the best museums in Egypt. Everything is clean and displayed
nicely and clearly labeled. It puts the Egyptian Museum to
shame! After the museum, we were trying to figure out where to
eat dinner. My guidebook
mentioned a nice restaurant near the museum that had
a great view of the Nile, so we thought we'd try to eat there. It
took us a while to find a taxi driver who knew where it was, then we
started driving. We came into a dark neighborhood and started
winding our way up a steep mountain. He parked in front of a
dark building where there was absolutely no signs of life, and said,
is it." We were a little apprehensive, so we told him to wait
while we decided if we wanted to eat there. We got out of the
car, and soon a man came out of the building to greet us. I asked
if this was the restaurant and if it was open. He assured us it
was, and led us around back. Well sure enough, there was a
restaurant there. However, there were no people. It was
only 9:00 or so at night, so I thought there would be more people, but
apparently Aswan dies down a lot earlier than Cairo and
Alexandria. There was a
nice view of the Nile, but since it was so dark, you couldn't see
much. We looked at the menu to see if we wanted to stay there,
but were still feeling a little wary about the lack of other people and
the remoteness of the restaurant, which meant that it might be hard to
get a taxi back to our hotel. After my brother observed that this
setting and these factors reminded him of the beginning of a horror
movie, we decided not to eat there. =)
So we returned to our taxi and drove back to civilization. We
found a nice restaurant in a boat on the Nile, which was also highly
recommended in my book. There were a few other people there, it
was close to our hotel, and the food was good.
The next day we were going to try to get over to the West Bank to see a
few sites there. My guidebook said we could take a ferry to
Elephantine Island, and then another ferry from there to the West
Bank. The book also recommended walking through the Nubian
village on Elephantine Island in order to get to the other side where
the ferry to the West Bank was located. Well, we got on the ferry
from the East Bank and made it over to Elephantine Island okay. Then we
started walking through the Nubian village toward the spot where the
other ferry was located on our map. We kept walking and walking,
and we made it to the other side, but there was no ferry. We
asked someone, and he said there was no ferry, only felucca
boats. So we went back to where the felucca dock was (cutting
through someone's farm on the way), and made a deal for a boat
ride with a man who said he was the chief of the Nubian village
there. We were thinking we would go to the West Bank, see a
of sites, and then hit Kitchener's Island on the way back to the East
Bank. Unfortunately, we greatly underestimated the speed of a
felucca boat. There are no motors on these sailboats, so it has
to go with the current and the wind. It takes the boat forever to
get anywhere, as it has to go in a zig-zag pattern instead of a
straight line. These boats are wonderful for relaxing and
sight-seeing from the water, but I wouldn't recommend them if you are
just looking to get from Point A to Point B quickly. Our train
from Aswan to Luxor was leaving that night, so we didn't have a lot of
time to spare. We ended up getting to the West Bank, but
since we had learned that the sites we wanted to see were a good
distance from the shore, we didn't actually get out of the boat.
We then went to Kitchener's Island, got out and walked (rather
quickly) through the botanical gardens there, got back in the boat, and
returned to the East Bank and our hotel. So it was a bit
disappointing not to see the sites of the West Bank, but there was
nothing there we were really dying to see. The boat ride was very
nice--the weather was perfect, the water was a pretty blue (not
the dirty brown like in Cairo), and it was relaxing just to float along.
Click the picture of Philae for pictures from Aswan.
After the boat ride, we went back to the hotel to get our things, and
then caught the evening train to Luxor. On the three-hour train
ride, we met
a nice family with a young daughter, and my parents really bonded
with her. Since they lived in Luxor, the father gave us their
phone number and told us to
call when we
were ready to head back to Alex, and they'd give us a ride to the train
station. When we arrived, we got checked into our hotel, had some
dinner, and then went to sleep.
The next day, we focused on seeing the sites of the East Bank. We
saw Luxor Temple, had lunch, and then went to see Karnak.
However, Karnak closed earlier than we had thought it would, so all we
could do that night was see the Sound and Light Show. (We had
wanted to do that anyway, because I had heard it was good and that it
was neat to explore Karnak in the dark.) This show took you
through Karnak in stages, and they would light up certain things as
they talked about them. Then at the end, we were herded into some
bleachers to listen to the final part. From the bleachers, you
can get a good view of the expanse of Karnak. Then afterwards,
they were trying to herd us out, but my brother and I broke away from
the group so we could explore a little on our own. We wandered
around for a bit before the guards found us and made us leave. Oh
well, it was fun while it lasted. =)
The next day we focused on the West Bank of the Nile. We actually
hired a driver and tour guide through the hotel, so that was
nice. We saw the Colossi of Memnon, the Valley of the Kings (we
each saw 3 tombs there), the Temple of Hatshepsut at Deir-al-Bahri, and
the Medinat Habu temple. Then we returned to the East Bank and
went back to Karnak Temple to see it in the day time and have more time
to wander around there.
We went back to the hotel to get our bags and called the friend we had
met on the train. When he came to pick us up, he said he wanted
to take us to his house first. Well, that was a surprise!
We were a bit nervous because it was almost time for the train, but we
went anyway. They served us some cake and soft drinks, and we had
a nice time talking with them. Then he rushed us to the train
station and made sure we got the right train (which ended up being
delayed anyway, so there was no need to worry after all). This
was another sleeper train, and we rode it all the way back to
Click on the picture of Luxor Temple for pics from
Luxor (and yes, that IS a McDonald's sign peeking between the
columns....and yes, we ate there).
We then enjoyed a few days of "down time" in Alexandria, which we spent
resting, visiting with my friends, and doing laundry. Then it was
off to the Sinai! We were able to ride over there with some
friends in their cars, so that was a blessing since it is quite a long
drive. We first went to Dahab and visited with some of the locals
there. We also enjoyed eating dinner on the boardwalk along the
sea. (This is the town on the Gulf of Aqaba, where you can see
Saudi Arabia across the water.)
We went over to St. Katherine one day and visited the monastery at the
base of Mt. Sinai, as well as a Bedouin handicraft shop. We
explored around some of the hiking trails there, but did not climb the
mountain itself. We returned to Dahab to spend the night.
When it was time to go, we took the bus from Dahab back to Cairo.
We said good-bye to my brother before leaving Dahab, since he was going
to be staying in Egypt a bit longer and he was going to hang with
one of my friends there in the Sinai for a little while.
The bus ride was long, made even longer by the breakdown of our bus
somewhere on the west coast of the Sinai Peninsula (it's my family, I
tell you!). Fortunately, it broke down in an actual town, where
there was an actual bus station, so we had somewhere to sit and grab a
bite to eat while they figured out what to do with us.
Eventually they brought another bus for us, and we took that one all
the way back to Cairo.
Now, this bus ride was on the day that Egypt was to play in the
in the African Cup of Nations, a huge soccer tournament. Egypt
was also the host country, and this final game was in Cairo. We
were originally scheduled to get back to Cairo before the game started,
and we were going to watch it at a friend's house. But since we
were delayed, we didn't get back until the last half of the game.
The bus driver was driving VERY fast so he could get back in time to
watch it. He kept trying to catch it on the radio, but there was
no such luck. When we finally arrived, everyone rushed over to
the TV at the bus station to see what the score was. (When soccer
games are on TV, they are on in every little business on every
street--pretty much EVERYONE has a TV in their little shop.) It
was still scoreless. So we got in a taxi to head over to my
friend's house. We had to stop on the way for gas, so we checked
out that TV too. Still scoreless. As we were nearing my
friend's house, we heard a big cheer and wondered if Egypt had
scored. We reached my friend's house and rushed in asking what
the score was. (Looking back, I guess we should've said, "Hi, how
are you?" first.) Can you believe she hadn't even been WATCHING
it? Well, she went to turn on her television and it DIDN'T
WORK! We about DIED. (She hadn't watched TV in a while, and
the last time she had watched it, it was working. Strange.)
So we got on the internet and "watched" that way.
The game was in overtime. Turns out the cheer had been for a goal
that Egypt THOUGHT they had scored, but which was not counted.
The game went into penalty kicks, and eventually Egypt won! Well,
there was a big party in the streets after that! We saw some
make-shift "parades" going by outside my friend's window. It was
quite a sight.
Eventually, it was time for mom and dad to go to the airport, and we
said good-bye. But not before checking my email, where I saw a
message from the American Embassy in Cairo advising that we not do the
following three things on that day: 1) Go to Cairo, 2) Gather around TV
screens with groups of Egyptians watching the game, and 3) Go to the
Cairo Airport. It's too bad that I didn't check my email the day
before, because we did all three of those things! What can I
say--we're a bunch of rebels. =)
Click on the bungee penguin to view
the video of my bungee jump at Victoria Falls (right-click to
download). It's 3.6 MB and in the
Quicktime .mov format.
Click the arrow for previous updates.
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