Posts Tagged ‘Egypt’

Reflections on the Middle East

My Middle East includes Egypt, Jordan and Syria because those are the countries we went through. Turkey doesn’t really make this list for reasons I’ll describe in my next post.

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Diving Dahab

stretch of Dahab

Our destination after Cairo was a seaside town, called Dahab, for some solitude away from the truck, rest and relaxation. Dahab is a chilled out town on the Red Sea, catering to backpackers and holiday goers. There are so many tourists here that in spite of it being Ramadan, the restaurants and shops are all still mostly open. The restaurants line the shore, where you can relax on oversized cushions, sip a cool beverage, dine on fresh seafood and smoke a shisha. Dahab is notorious for it’s top-notch snorkeling and diving. Our decision to not dive with Mike and Sarah in Thailand has been eating away at us ever since we said our goodbyes. But since we can now reasonably budget for the last couple months of our travels, we were able to scrounge up the funds to take our PADI Open Water Course in Dahab to become certified scuba divers.

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The Great Pyramids of Giza

That's a big pile of rocks
 
Cairo, Egypt: the place is synonymous in many peoples minds with one thing — or perhaps more exactly, three. It is home to the Great Pyramids of Giza, those icons of Ancient Egypt that are now over 4500 years old and still standing. As we drove into the city of Cairo, the peaks of the Great Pyramids could be seen as hazy silhouettes above the skyline of buildings What a sight! They seemed to welcome us, as though driving the length of the African continent had served only to bring us to this moment. It was the end of our journey with Oasis Overland, but only the beginning of our experience in the Middle East, of which Egypt feels more a part. On our first night in Cairo, we had the trip end party at a nearby hotel, and enjoyed Egyptian food and wine along with each other’s company. But it was the morning that we most looked forward to — the only surviving Wonder of the Ancient World awaited us.
 
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Egypt's Western Desert

After nearly four months of driving through Africa, the last leg of our Oasis Overland truck journey had finally arrived. We set out from Luxor after a too-brief visit and headed into Egypt’s Western Desert for four days of travel on our way to Cairo. I have to admit that it was a leg of the journey that I was not too excited about at first. Our time in Aswan and on the felucca had gotten me used to the trappings of civilization again, and I didn’t relish the prospect of heading out into the unrelenting heat of the desert for another stretch of several days. On the other hand, there were a few things to look forward to on the way: we would be driving through the White and Black Deserts, and hopefully getting a few more nights of desert bush camping along the way. This was the home stretch, and Cairo was the ultimate destination, the end of our marathon overland crossing of the African continent. Only one little desert left to cross…

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Really really old

Kom Ombo relief

We got our first glimpse of ancient Egyptian edifices on the ferry from Sudan, as we passed the magnificent Abu Simbel, beautifully lit up, at night. Between Aswan and Luxor (upper Egypt), we have expanded our repertoire by visiting Kom Ombo Temple, Edfu Temple, Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Workers, Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple — all constructed during the Middle and New Kingdoms.

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Sailing on the Nile

After arriving in Egypt via the overnight ferry across Lake Nasser, we spent three very relaxing days in Aswan. Compared to the Sudanese desert and Wadi Halfa, our accommodation in Aswan was pure luxury: our room had A/C, an ensuite washroom with shower, a fridge, clean sheets, good mattresses, a rooftop swimming pool, and even cold beer! On reflection, that description might be misleading to some: if, for example, you’d booked 2 weeks off of work to travel across an ocean and live in high style in Aswan, you would likely have considered the hotel a little shabby, maybe rough around the edges, or just straight up disappointing. But after a week spent camping in the desert in 47¬∫C heat, believe me when I say that it was a palace in our eyes. Welcome to Egypt indeed!

Feeling recovered and somewhat less cooked, we departed Aswan not on the big yellow truck, but on a felucca. For anyone who has never heard of a felucca before, it’s a sailboat, and there are hundreds of them on the Nile in Egypt. We had two boats for our group, each one big enough to hold about 12 people plus a crew of 3. What was in store for us was two days and nights of sailing on the Nile. It was something we’d been looking forward to for some time, but it well exceeded our expectations.

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Tourists

Show off

It feels a bit strange to be back in a land of mass tourism. It’s nice to have modern conveniences once again, especially fast internet, but we’re also subject to rip off tourist prices and swarms of inappropriate tourists. We’re still in an Islamic nation where women and men are encouraged to cover their shoulders and knees. However, 95% of the tourists either choose to ignore this or are completely clueless. Check out this dude strolling through Edfu Temple.

Shop on Main Street Wadi Halfa

We arrived in Wadi Halfa after what felt like our longest marathon journey to date: seven whirlwind days around Ethiopia, followed by a two-day long border crossing and four continuous bushcamps across a stinking hot desert. Our arrival was welcomed, yet still somehow anticlimactic. We were onto the homestretch, getting to Egypt, but the some of the worst was yet to come. Don’t get me wrong here, I am loving traveling through these parts of the world, but it is full-on. There is very little relief from the skin-melting, life-sucking, dry heat of the Nubian desert. After a while, even the hardest-worn traveler craves staying put in one place, a little shade, a cold beverage, a bucket shower, bare shoulders and knees, and sweet, sweet air conditioning…to name a few.

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The faces of Alexandria

Alexandria waterfront

After a day and a half at sea, we disembarked in Alexandria. We had only twelve hours to see what we could see, so we decided to walk as much as we could through the city. We didn’t try to arrange a visit to the pyramids or the desert, since we will be coming back through Egypt on our African overland journey next summer. Instead, we tried to soak in as much Alexandrian experience as we could.

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