EGYPT, JORDAN, ISRAEL 2018 Cycle Trip
Last Edited: Complete
Post #1-----------Arriving in Cairo
Sitting at the airport waiting to get on the plane to Toronto. Having a beer and clam Candra and I chinked glasses “On the road again”, here we are ready to start another adventure.
Bryce drove us to the airport, it was a beautiful sunny day. I spent the majority of the day packing, making sure everything was ready. Tents, sleeping bags, thermarests, cookstove, utensils. Tools, tires, spokes, Wow…… thank my lucky stars I have Candra.
There is no doubt that we are ready, Scout ( Candra ) has all the Maps and the sort of plan, I have rebuilt the bikes with the help of the store mechanic Brian Fish. New tires, brake pads, all new bearings in the headsets and bottom brackets. My 26 year old bike was sandblasted. It used to be after being painted, it went from red to black. It looks great with new yellow water bottle cages.
We are trying something different this time. I have a Bryton 530 GPS that I am going to use. Candra is using her phone and has Ride GPS downloaded, We will see what kind of info we can pass on with this???? Time will tell. I have HERE Maps on my phone and Surface Pro which give us maps offline. This worked really well for us on our previous trips.
Sitting in the Toronto AIRPORT now waiting for the long flight to Cairo. It has been an adventure just getting to our gate. Train rides, elevators and lots of narrow doorways with 2 bikes on a cart, these airports are getting bigger all the time. They have you trapped, Candra just had an 18 dollar salad and I had a 9 dollar cup of soup.
Gate E76 Toronto to Cairo, Egypt……..now the Journey really begins. It will be a 12 hour flight. We have 2 seats booked with a space in the middle, we are hoping it doesn’t get filled…….cross your fingers.
It was interesting watching the flight map on the airplane, We left Toronto and flew straight east over Fredericton. Then crossed the Atlantic and went over Amsterdam, Munich, and Athens and then into Cairo for a total of 9438 kilometers as the crow flies.
Flight was great we ended up getting three seats in a row for both of us. The flight was faster than we thought it ended up being just over 10 hours from gate to gate.
I am just trying to figure out how long we have been awake? I got up at 9am we flew out at 11:45am, I was awake through the night of the flight, got into Cairo at 6:30 am and stayed awake until 10 pm. I think that works out to 37 hours.
It has taken a few days but I think we have a normal sleep pattern going now.
Dani and Samir met us at the airport at 6:30 Sunday morning. Samir had secured a taxi for us but we soon discovered that he only had 1 piece of string to tie both bikes on the rack of his car. He was ok with that but I wasn’t. Dani and Candra hopped into another cab and went to her house while Samir and I waited until we could find another, hopefully, rope. About 30 minutes went by when he returned with another piece of string. I proceeded to tie the bikes to his rack and we were soon on our way.
Cairo was OLD. It was much dirtier than I imagined. We drove through some of the slum portions of Cairo as we made our way to their house, high rise after high rise made out of brick with clothes hanging from every window for miles, it didn’t seem to end. We drove through an Egyptian burial site that had used to be on the outskirts of town but was now in the middle of all these buildings. High rises on one side graveyards on the other for miles. As we crested a hill I said to Samir “Are those all graves”? He said yes as far as the eye could see. As we left the graves and brick high rises we moved into a newer Cairo, still high rise after high rise but newer shinier buildings, nice smooth asphalt roads and I also saw my first Camel???? What he was doing in town? I don’t know. We finally turned into a vibrant suburb of bustling little businesses in the midst of a bunch of high rises. Dani was on the 5th floor so we unloaded the bikes and bags and got ready to carry everything when the “Bawab” shook my hand and said “welcome”. He was the doorman? Handyman? Of the 3 buildings around us, Dani said he carried out garbage, fixed things was an all-around go-to guy. They each paid him 50 Egyptian pounds a month. Three Canadian dollars. We carried all the luggage and bikes up to the room. The Bawab wouldn’t accept a tip. Now we are officially settled in Egypt.
It took us a few days to get used to the time change. Cairo is 8 hours ahead of Saskatchewan. We were both waking up at 2:30 in the morning wide awake. We would read and finally fall back asleep after a while. It took about 3 nights before we could sleep through the night.
Dani and Samir are both working so we have been on our own. We have found a great coffee shop just down the road and a really good bagel place that Bryce liked when he was here, Jared’s Bagels. We have been trying to get Sim cards. Candras worked right away but mine didn’t. They are telling me my phone isn’t unlocked. I called SaskTel to check and got cut off before I could find out. So I am using Wi-Fi at Hotels.
We spent 4 days at Danis. They took us to some good restaurants, we got acclimatized and I got sick. I got the throat thing that Bryce had before we left.
Post #2------------ Our Day at the Pyramids
A couple days into our trip we made our way to the Pyramids of Giza. As you drive to them in a taxi you can see them from a long ways. They just keep getting bigger and bigger the closer you get. It is mayhem getting a ticket but once you are in the first and biggest Pyramid is “The Great Pyramid of Khufu. You can’t take your eyes of away from it until someone is asking you were you are from. German? Russian? American? ´Nice mustache you look like an Egyptian”. It is men with Camels and Horses trying to get you to ride there animals as they escort you around the Pyramids. They are everywhere. You see Japanese and Chinese people on them some galloping out into the desert and some just going from one Pyramid to another. We read about all this in the Lonely Planet so we were prepared……..so I thought.
We were walking along doing fine when a guy with a Camel spots me and says “Nice Moustache, can I get a picture with you?” He seemed ok so I said sure. Candra took a few pics and we were ready to leave when one of his buddies grabs the camera from Candra and gets us both to stand by the Camel and take some. As I am standing next to the Camel he tells me to lean closer. Before I know it he lifts me up and sets me on the Camel (yes lifts) says something like yabadaba doo and the Camel stand up. Now I am on this Camel and I can’t get down. I yell at them to let me off but they have my camera and want me to pose for a couple of pictures… so I do. They lead my camel so I’m behind a big rock. I can’t see Candra anymore. As soon as I get off the Camel they start demanding money. I tell them ok but first give me my camera back. There are 3 of them now and he says money first then camera. I lunge toward him and grab my camera and now tell him I will give him some money. As I am looking through the unfamiliar money one of them reaches in and grabs a bill from me. I don’t know what it is but I am trying to give him 20LE. I tell him “give it back” but he pulls out his wallet and puts it in. I put all my money back in my wallet and run at him as he is walking away. I grab his arm and pull his wallet from his hand, open it up, and grab my money. He had taken 200LE from me and was trying to get away with it. Now they all gather around me telling me to pay them money! I start to get really mad now and tell them all to “Fuck Off “and push the one guy away. I think they can see now that I am pissed. They start to back up and I put my 200 LE back in my wallet and search for a 20 but don’t have one. I find a 10 a 5 and a 1, my next smallest is a 50. I hand it to one guy and start walking away. They are not happy...but neither am I! As they chase me down I turn and stop and again tell them to F off! I didn’t want a Camel ride and my mustache isn’t that special after all!! All this yelling started to gather a crowd now so I just kept walking and found Candra. We got the hell out of there and went to see the oldest boat in the world.
It was nice to get away from the Touts, we went in the Cheops Boat Museum. Five large pits were found near The Great Pyramid of Khufu and they contained the Pharaohs Solar Barques. These are boats that were used to move Mummies across the Nile to the Valley Temples. It was brought up a causeway and into the Tomb chambers. The boats were then buried for the Pharaoh to provide him transfer in the next world.
They found these boats in 1954, there was 1200 pieces of Lebanese cedar which were carefully reconstructed and put in a museum for all to see. It was impressive, amazing craftsmanship, it looked like a great big boat puzzle bound together with rope.
We left the Museum and headed for the Pyramid of Khafre. It is 136 meters tall. As we walked we could see people climbing up the pyramid passing the signs that say “Do Not Climb on the Pyramids” It is unbelievable the size of the Rocks and perfection they are carved to make these giant pyramids. They have sat in this Desert for 4000 years. They say this pyramid is 9 meters smaller than originally built from the sand blowing over it all these years.
We are now moving to the pyramid of Menkaure it is only 62 meters tall originally 66.5. It is smaller because it was never finished, The Pharaoh Menkaure died before it was finished. Beside it is a smaller pyramid said to be the Queens.
We thought we were going to get to go inside of it but once we arrived we discovered our all-inclusive ticket didn’t include this one and they couldn’t sell us one there.
We went back to The Pyramid of Khufu because we knew we could get in and I had calmed down from my camel experience.
We climbed up the staircase to the entrance and I ducked my head as I entered. You could see the stone beneath your feet worn from all the people that have passed through before you over the last 4000 years. That’s History!!! We kept walking and came to a steel staircase that took us up a bit to a long tunnel carved perfectly out of boulders. As we climbed it got hotter and hotter, if you were claustrophobic you would be in trouble my backpack kept rubbing on the ceiling. We hit a flat spot and crawled through then went up a tall staircase that was wide open. Now you could really see the perfection of the cuts and the size of the blocks. Wow! Hard to imagine how this was done!! We got to the top and it was just a big stone room with nothing in it. It would have been a Tomb.
We made our way back down, by time we got out I was dripping in sweat. The only thing left to see was the Sphinx. This is the sculpture of a man with the haunches of a lion. It resembled their mythical winged monster who set riddles and killed those who couldn’t answer them. It is missing its nose, it is believed it was hammered off somewhere between the 11th and 15th century, it is rumoured the villain was Napoleon. I sat on a wall and watched Candra walk down to see the Sphinx, my throat was raw and I was worn out. I watched her walk amongst the chaos of the Giza Plateau. She was back in 45 mins. And we made our way to the exit just as everything was closing down.
Now we were looking for Mena House Hotel, it was built in 1869 as a hunting lodge for the rich, we were just going there for a beer and some food. It was magnificent, well-manicured very ritzy and the prices weren’t really that bad. We finished our business while staring at the Pyramids, found a taxi and headed back to our Hotel.
Day 1 Cairo to Ain Sukhna
Yesterday after returning to Danis we took our bikes out and Candra connected to Google maps and we made our way to the highway that would take us out of Cairo at 7Am tomorrow morning. It was a good test ride making sure everything was set for the Journey.
We found the main street that we were going to exit on it was busy with traffic so it would be good to get an early start tomorrow. It was exciting to see the start we have been here for over a week now and are both ready to ride.
We were up at 5:30 getting ready to go. Had an oatmeal and fruit breakfast with a coffee, made sure nothing of importance was left behind and carried it all down the 5 flights of stairs to load the bikes. We gave Dani hugs and headed on our way.
It was a cool morning we both had tights and jackets on and as we hit the main road the Sun was shining right in our faces just coming over the horizon. Here we go.
It took us over an hour to get out of Cairo. The traffic was steady we were sucking in the fumes but we finally hit a ramp that climbed up onto the highway we were looking for, now we just had to make the 120 or so k to our destination.
I had a bit of a rough start. We were only 30k in and I was soaked and cold and not feeling very strong. My throats was sore I ached and I wasn’t feeling very confident about the next 90 k. We were in the middle of a desert, nothing around and I could see the fear in Candras face. She made me take my breathable jacket off that wasn’t doing a very good job, and my soaking wet shirt. I put on a dry shirt with my wool sweater and she gave me 3 Tylenol and we started riding again. It didn’t seem like very long after but a nice wind started blowing us along and before you know it we were cruising along at 28 30 k an hour. Well that starts ticking the k off. At 50k we stopped and had bananas and peanuts, at 80k we had Egyptian bread, tomatoes, onions, avocado and cucumber. The wind kept blowing us through the desert and it felt like we were between Chaplin and Swift Current with no vegetation just the sandy plains. At 110 k we could see the Mountains of Sanai and signs of some life ahead. When we could see Ain Sukhna we got excited. We rode through a Military gate without anyone saying anything and thought we were there. Google maps sent us one way we should have gone the other. We finally spotted a place that said “Resort” and rode to it. They let us in and exhausted paid for one night and hit the showers. 75 dollars got us a Cuba style room with supper and breakfast included. We had planned on staying 2 days but decided this wasn’t the place. It was beside the Red Sea but also beside an Oil Refinery We spent the night in an old bed, woke up and had our free breakfast and started riding again.
Candra had gone online and booked a place 60 k farther down the road. We took our time getting started and it was a beautiful sunny day. We were riding along the edge of the Red Sea, it was a change from the desert, a nice change. 20 k into the ride we stopped in a nice spot with a view and had coffee soaking in the sun. About 5 k later I told Candra to pull over because I wanted to take my tights of it was getting hot. I do believe it was this spot that my tights are laying right now. They fell off the back of my bike and I didn’t notice until we were 40 k down the road. Dam!!!
At about the 50 k mark we stopped for a snack that turned into an afternoon meal. We stumbled across a wonderful seafood restaurant with a pet pelican. We ended up having a great meal. Candra had Calamari that she picked out of a pile, I picked out 3, 8 inch Prawns. Candras side was a salad and mine was spaghetti with shrimp. Barbequed outside where we sat. It was awesome! Good thing we only has 11 k to go. The whole meal with drinks and tip cost 21 dollars.
We leisurely rode to Le Sirena. Now this is much more resort like and half the price. We will stay here for 2 days and rest. 187.5 k was a good first 2 days. We got ourselves a room with a view and a balcony. This room came with breakfast and supper included for 45 dollars. We went for a beach walk after showering. It was windy and cold it was only 15 degrees. We tried walking off of our beach property and where told where not allowed to trespass onto our neighbours. So our beach walk could only be about 400 yards.
The next day we slept in and went for a late breakfast at 8 am. Then we came back and did laundry in the shower and hung out reading until supper. Came back to the room and hung out watching a movie and to bed early we had another 120k plus day tomo.
We are on our way to Ras Gharib, it is a little town with a Hotel. We picked up some police today at a check stop. They made us wait until they could bring a truck to follow us. We argued with them but they insisted. They followed us all the way to Ras gharib and helped us find our Hotel. Then they came in and told the Hotel owner to call them an hour before we left in the morning.
The days ride was uneventful. We had a good tail wind behind us and we cruised. We had the Red Sea Mountains on our right and THE Red Sea popping in and out of sight on our left. Everything else around us was desert. At about 75 k we stopped at a gas station. Behind it was a Shisha Coffee shop so we decided to go there instead. Candra had a Turkish coffee which is really strong and I had a good old Nescafe…..real strong with sugar. We sat beside 2 guys smoking their shisha pipes, each with their own flavor added to the Tabaco. They are all curious as too where we are going. They can’t believe we rode from Cairo or why we chose too. We haven’t seen any other cyclists to this point so that might explain their curiosity.
We pulled out some bread and honey with peanuts and bananas for some energy before we headed out again, we haven’t seen the police so far today, maybe they are done with us.
The road continues to be the same mostly flat with some gentle inclines which turn into downhills and with the wind behind us we can cruise along for stretches at 30 k an hour.
We came across an accident which is hard to believe. The roads are mostly straight and if there is any kind of turn or inline they have speed bumps, 3 sets of 3 to warn you of a change in the road. It was a Jeep that had driven off the road and the passenger appeared to be tossed from his vehicle but alive. The police saw us, it won’t be long before they find us ha-ha.
Sure as shit about 30 minutes later they stopped us and asked for our passports, made a call and followed us all the way to Ras Gharib. It turned out good because they ended up taking us right to our Hotel which would have been hard to find. We ended up riding 127.2 k today and it was getting hotter at the end. Our hotel was a very clean place with a decent bed for 15 dollars. We showered up and went looking for a restaurant. There is no beer in this Muslim town. We found a little spot and much to my delight Candras ordered the assorted meat dish with salads and bread. It was awesome we had chicken, beef, some kind of sausage that was great and lots of it. We couldn’t finish it all we left stuffed and it was 12.00 dollars.
Now where in search of some fruit and some bread for the ride tomorrow. We found a market and got some oranges and grapefruit and right next door was a place that we got some honey and bread. Now we are set. Back to the room to get water ready for the next day and do some reading. This Hotel has a lot of Oil workers from all over the world, quite a few from Canada. Candras sister Dana was talking to her friend whose husband is here right now and he said he saw 2 cyclists the other day. He said it stood out because he doesn’t see cyclist that often. He is staying in Ras Gharib. It was likely us…..small world aye.
Ras Gharib to Hirgahda
This is going to be the longest day of the trip I believe. We think it will be 148 k. Hope all goes well.
We started of the morning bright and early. As we pushed our bikes out of the Hotel there was a bunch of Oil workers waiting for their morning ride in the lobby. They wanted us to wait for the police but we pushed on and told them they could find us on the highway. We worked our way out of the city with a strong crosswind which was great because as soon as we turned left on the highway it was blowing straight behind us. We are zooming along at 28 to 32 k an hour. After 2 hours we stopped and had some sesame seed snacks wen had found. We huddled in behind a sand dune to get out of the wind. It was chilly when you stopped but once you got going the same speed as the wind the sun would warm us. At about 75 k we went through a police check and they made us stop to wait for someone to follow us. We decided to have lunch here so we got out the bread, tomatoes, cucumbers and cheese and made some sandwiches. We had picked up a Melon and cut it up and took it to one of them to share, they nodded and said “you’re welcome”. They joined us after lunch for a while then all of a sudden took off? Must have had something more important.
We are making really good time with this wind, we are averaging about 30k an hour. Wow this could have been a really long day. At about 125k the police pick us up again
. We tell them where we want to go and they nod like they know just what we are talking about. At 135 they tell us to take a left and follow them. We do but now are pedaling with a strong crosswind. A few k in they tell us to take a “Schimel” that is left in Egyptian. That isn’t happening I say. Candra gets on google maps and sees that our Hotel is to the right. We insist so they follow us. At 145 k I am dying I am out of water and need a drink, we see a little store and cross the meridian to get to it. As we are sitting there we see the police go by band they don’t see us, 5 minutes later we can see them searching for use so we wave at them. They stop and walk over to where we are looking relieved. I don’t know what they bare saying ton the shop owner but I could tell by their hand signals that they were telling him how they lost us. We hoped over the meridian again and waited for them to turn around. Candra got them to phone the hotel so they knew where it was. We started riding through town, lots of traffic, exhaust Yuk. We went on for another 18 k until we finally turned down an alley where the Golden Rose Hotel was. They went inside and gave the hotel owners instructions on how to report on what we were doing.
We are going to stay for a couple of days in Hirghada. It was 14 dollars a night for the Golden Rose. We ended up riding 163.3 k today, my mission is to find a beer.
The Golden Rose wasn’t much of a Hotel but it had good people that where very helpful and it had an awesome bed for 14 bucks a night. Hurghada has a great Main St. Lots of places to sit and have a beer and people watch along with a wide variety of food to choose from. Our first night we had some good sea food before hitting the hay early. The first thing the next morning we started off with fresh squeezed juice from a street vendor. Then we went and found a coffee shop with a view and hung out there for a bit. It is a nice 20 degree morning so we just walked along checking out shops and seeing all the Russians and Europeans roaming the streets too. This is a short flight for them and the Euro is high so Egypt is dirt cheap for them.
We decided to walk down to the Marina to have a look, we are right on the edge of The Red Sea. We had to run our bags through an x-ray machine on our way in there is lots of security everywhere. Wow there is some large yachts in this marina, it is very blue. The Red Sea is a brilliant blue and crystal clear. We can see lots of fish right off the edge of the wharf. Sea on one side and an endless line of restaurants on the other with touts trying to lure you in with free drinks and lunch specials.
We walked to the end to the Harbour Masters office was and found out where the Ferry goes from to Sharmel Shaq, which we will be looking to use in the near future. It runs Tuesdays and Fridays, we will have to plan around that. Sharmel Shaq is across the Red Sea in Sanai.
We walked back and picked a restaurant that had a very Egyptian feel. Couches with blankets hung around for shade with soft music. We ordered a couple Stella beer and looked out as boats came and went as we picked our lunch. I picked a seafood pasta and Candra had a big salad. After eating we made our way back to main st to have one more beer before bed.
Day 6 in Hurghada I was looking for a bike shop to see if I could find a bottom bracket tool, I had a knock coming from it and I could feel that the bottom bracket was a little loose. The guy at the desk had a buddy who rode a bike and he knew where some shops were. We rode all over Hurghada to 3 different shops but none of them had a tool for a one piece to tighten it or to take it off. So I guess I will be riding with a knock. Hopefully it doesn’t get any worse.
After I got back we loaded up a bunch of our laundry to take to a guy down an alley that someone had told us about. We found him with a bunch of cloth lines strung out. He said he would wash our 23 pieces for 110 pounds. That’s about 8 bucks. It was a little extra because we wanted it done today for we are going to leave tomorrow.
We walked around until supper time and checked out some of the fancier hotels that we walked by. Some of them go right down to the beach which was nice but they were getting old. We finally stopped and had Shawarma for supper at the famous Gads then headed to our favorite sitting spot bfore picking up our laundry at 7 then off to bed.
The next 2 days will be long. We will either be camping in the desert, which is what we want or the police will be following us the whole way and we will be camping at the police check point. This is at about 87 k which will be a good enough ride.
We are up early as usual on a departure day. Hurghada was a little more difficult to find our way out of. We zigged a zagged through streets and over bridges through the beeping traffic and finally hit the highway. It was going to be a warm day and we are heading into the Mountains, there will be some climbing today. We didn’t have a police escort yet but we knew as soon as we hit the first checkpoint that we would have a safety crew. They are always very friendly usually 4 of them. One officer a driver and 2 young guys hanging out the back. Some follow right behind us and some drive ahead and wait for us to pass then drive ahead again. As we hit each new area they switch off and we get a new group of guys.
We don’t have a tail wind today it is a cross wind so our pace is slower that it has been. It is a slow gradual climb up into the mountains. I think we will climb about 1200 meters today by the end.
The ride is out in the middle of nowhere. The mountains are in the middle of desert. No gas stations, buildings…..nothing for 87 k. After about 30 k I needed to stop, we pulled over to the left of the highway that was shaded by the side of the mountain, it was the only shade around. The police pulled over with us and we made small talk because of the language barrier. We got the odd policeman that spoke some English but mostly none did.
We continued on and it got warmer and warmer we stopped again at 50 k to have a snack but there was no shade anywhere we just leaned the bikes against a sign and turned our backs to the sun. I was getting hot and sweating a lot, Candra was hot but doing fine.
Off we went again slowly climbing all the time and going about 15 k an hour. In about 5 kn we hit a steeper climb through a narrow passage way and it got hot. There was no wind and the sun was beating on us, I could feel myself melting. I could tell Candra was slowing down waiting for me but there was nothing the old 67 Volkswagen air cooled guy could do. We stopped again with no shade and drank a bunch of water but as soon as we went 100 yards I was overheating. I finally told Candra to carry on and I called the cops over and put my bike in the back. It was hot in the back so I poured one of my bottles over my head to cool myself as we followed Candra up the mountain. It wasn’t 1 k later when it got steeper and I watched Candra climb to the top without me. I was proud to call her my wife, she is a strong woman. Candra rode 30 k without me until we finally came to a Police checkpoint that also had a tourist bus stop. This is where we would spend our night.
They dropped us off at the bus stop and we told them we would camp here for the night. They said the only place we could camp was in the police compound. We had a coke and some falafel and bread to eat while the police waited.
When we were done we rode about 1k down the road to the police checkpoint. There had to be a dozen police there doing vehicle checks. This was an old run down building that these guys called home for 20 days. 20 on 10 off is what one off them said. It is hard to describe how run down this was. The station was a 3 room building, a room with a table and fridge, a room that they called a bathroom and another that was locked and I assumed it was a cell. The backyard were we would pitch our tent was sand and garbage. There was another 12 by 12 building with no door that might have been were some of them slept. We cleared a spot in the sand as close to the only tree there was and pitched our tent. As we were putting it up one of our poles snapped……are you shitting me!!!!! Yes our North Face brand new tent pole broke!!!!~ I am sweaty, hot, anxious, still in our biking clothes and the pole snaps. Good thing for Duct Tape never leave home without it. After some help from the police hahaha and duct tape we got the tent up and mattresses pumped and sleeping bags out, it was time to see if we could clean up before bed. I asked one of the policemen if they had a shower and he took me into the building and pointed to a door. When I opened it I almost shit myself, I don’t know if I can actually describe this too you to give the actual feel of what I saw. There was a sink, very dirty, there was a pipe coming out of the wall with a string holding it up and the kicker was the squatting toilet…..a whole in the floor that you do 1s and 2s. The floor was like crumpled concrete and sand and it took me a minute to get my bearings. I decided right then that bare feet was not an option, my brand new Birkenstocks where going to get wet. I managed to get undressed without touching anything, put shampoo in my hair and turned on the water. It was cold and it felt wonderful. You know it is amazing in the game of life how a filthy bathroom in the middle of Egypt can feel like a spa. That was one of the best showers I had had in my life, it was unbelievable how refreshing that felt. I got dressed being careful not to touch anything and went and got Candra for her turn. She was a little nervous with all the men around but I sat outside the door with a guy in handcuffs and waited till she was done.
Feeling fresh as daisies we decided to walk back down to the bus stop and have some desert. When we tried we were informed that we had to go with the police not alone. So we hopped in their truck and they drove us the 5oo meters up the road and we sat and had a pop and some Oreo cookies and a bag of chips. Our police buddy was waiting so we got back in and he drove us back. It was business as usual at the checkpoint, vehicles lined up waiting to go through. I don’t think it will be a quite night.
We crawled into bed and I looked at my watch, it was 6:34. We both pulled out our Kobo’s and started reading in the middle of all the chaos. The sun had gone down and there was shadows from the yard light on the side of the tent. It kind of got your Spidey senses tingling for a few minutes but after a while you just realized it was men moving around doing their jobs…..noisily I might add.
During the night I was awakened by yelling from police and truckers, police on their phones standing beside the tent, I think it was the changing of the guard about 3 times. One guy would yell something at the top of his lungs and another would repeat it back and then a third. Maybe they were just making sure each was awake I really don’t know, it just rattled me out of bed. Candra had her earplugs and eye covers on so she missed a little of the excitement. At 5am the call to prayer voice came over the loud speaker and we were up.
It took us about an hour to tear down camp and load the bikes up and then another 15 minutes to explain to the police that we wanted to go to breakfast at the bus stop. We finally rode to the bus stop and joined a couple busloads of people for breakfast. We had falafel with bread and a one egg omelette and some cheese.
Now we loaded our bikes into the back of the police truck so they could take us back to the highway which was 8 k away. This is a 4 lane highway and this bus top was on the wrong way for us. To make a long story short they drove the wrong way down the north bound highway until it met the south that we wanted 17 k. They finally let us out and we began the days ride to Qena. It was now 17 k shorter. It was going to be 89k.
It was another day in the Desert nothing really different, you could feel the temperature rising so it was good that we had the early start. We pulled into the edge of Qena to another checkpoint. They wanted us to wait for another escort. They handed me a phone and a woman speaking English told me to wait there until a truck arrived to escort us. I told her NO!! You can find us at the first coffee shop we find, we need a cold drink. I gave him the phone back and said lets go and we rode off. We hadn’t gotten a k when a guy on a police motorcycle got in front of us a waved for us to follow. He took us to a coffee shop.
We finally ended up at our Hotel in downtown Qena. The Dream Hotel. It was nice and clean for 14 dollars a night. We are going to stay here for a day to see the temple complex at Dendara.
Qena for a Day
Qena sits on a huge bend in the river about 62k north of Luxor on a road that crosses from the Red Sea to the Nile River, it is a market town and a provincial capital.
Dendara Temple sits just outside the city, it is The Temple of Hathor. The Goddess Hathor had been worshipped here since the Old Kingdom. Hathor was The Goddess of Love and sensual pleasures and patron of music and dancing. The Greeks associated her with their Goddess Aphrodite’s. She was also daughter of the sun-god Ra.
There is so much history here it is overwhelming. The thing that stood out to me was the condition of this Temple. It is mostly intact with a stone roof held by massive columns. The painting is still colorful after thousands of years. We went up twisting stairways carved with hieroglyphs, burial chambers all with a story on the wall that I couldn’t understand. The engineering that went into building this, the perfection and man hours it took to do all this is just simply amazing. Just imagine….. Julius Caesar and Cleopatra walked these stairs and worshipped here. Hard to believe. I have only seen this in Technicolor with Charlton Hesston and Shirley Temple.
There were only five other people at this temple when we went through early in the morning. It was cool and very relaxing, we paid a local to explain some things to us which helped a lot. This is a much unvisited Temple… for now.
The day was getting warm so we made our way back to town in a taxi. We cleaned up a little and then headed down to the Nile to go for a little boat ride and enjoy the coolness coming from the Niles water. We found a boat and had a quite hour floating on the Nile, normally the boats play loud music but we told our driver we wanted silence. It was a nice hour.
Went out for supper and had some nice BBQ chicken with salad and bread then headed back to our room to get ready for another ride tomorrow. 67k into Luxor, I am excited to see it.
Qena to Luxor
We left Qena at 6:50am on a sunny morning. It didn’t take us long to find our way out of town and our days ride had begun. This ride is along the side of a canal that is filled from the Nile. This means we will have lots of scenery the whole way to Luxor. Lots of agriculture because of the water, we can see and hear pumps going it seems every k filling the fields with water. Houses line the side of the canal with families busy feeding their livestock and waving at us as we ride by, “Hello welcome to Egypt” we hear all day long. It is interesting to see how the children participate in all the work that goes on. It is nothing to see 3, boys 6,8,10 years old driving a donkey cart by themselves down the highway with a load of long grass they have gathered for feed. We would never let our kids play along the highway like these kids do.
Every kilo we come to a bridge that crosses the Canal to where these people live. At the bridge this seems to be a gathering point for them to have tea and chat. So they put large speed bumps before and after these bridges to slow traffic. That includes us. So figure it out, this ride is 67k times 2 is 134 speed bumps if my math is correct, it slowed our pace a little.
We had started the day without any escort but after about the third checkpoint I could hear a vehicle behind us. As we crossed these speed bumps at the bridges we would see usually 2 men with shotguns sitting and they would always stand and wave at us saying” Welcome to Egypt.” These are all locals who volunteer to protect the highways to help the police out, got a great picture of Candra with 2 of them smiling from ear to ear. We haven’t been able to get many pictures of police, most of them say NO!
It didn’t take long to enter Luxor after the last checkpoint, before we knew it we were downtown and we are early. There really isn’t anything open and it is 10 am. Finally we find a place open and we carry our bikes up and this place is overlooking the Nile. Just right for killing some time until we can check in at our Hotel.
We order some coffee, one Nescafe black and ONE Turkish coffee. Yes Nescafe, it is at every coffee shop and the cheapest and biggest portion. Candra gets Turkish in a tiny little cup and really strong. Tea is the biggest drink here, you get offered tea all the time, and I mean all the time. Police, shop owners, people in their houses and all day long. It is great and they make wonderful tea with ground tea, you have to be careful on the last sip.
We sit for a half an hour and we decide to go look for our hotel, it is on the other side and we have to cross on a ferry with our bikes. As we are leaving when Candra was paying a man asked her if she knew any first aid and pointed a guy sitting in a chair seemingly passed out. She said no but my husband does and she yells and sends me in the direction of this man. He is in chair and a woman is standing beside him holding his hand looking very concerned. I ask her questions about him but she doesn’t speak English. Finally the guy behind the counter comes over and I ask him the questions then he asks her and then he tells me what she said. We discover that he didn’t eat breakfast, no he didn’t throw up (looked like he might have on the floor) no he isn’t normally like this, he is my cousin. Another couple had just came in and they came over right away and said she was a nurse, she was Irish. The guy was out of it when I lifted his eyelids his eyes were rolled back you could just see the white. Candra says “Could he be diabetic”? There is one way to find out, I ran and grabbed a bowl of sugar and a spoon and put some in his mouth. He wasn’t moving and it sat there so I put a spoon full of water behind it and repeated several times. His mouth started moving and you could see the sugar was helping. His eyes opened finally then closed. More sugar and he started moving GREAT and the ambulance finally shows up. They put him on a seated stretcher, I remind them to buckle him in, and they leave with him……wow it’s over. That is that, we will never hear from this man again or find out how he was?
On our bikes and we find the ferry and go to the west side of the Nile, We get off and ride a ways, stop to look at google maps and a guy with 2 kids on his motorcycle pulls over and says can I help you I am not a taut I don’t want your money. He ends up taking us to our Hotel which we would have had a hard time finding because it was through a maze of back alleys.
It is a beautiful 3 story apartment with 5 suites in it and ours is on the top floor. It has 2 double beds with a balcony out the back and a huge one in the front with an outside covered kitchenette. All this with a view of the Nile in front and a view of the Valley of the Kings out the rear. We will be staying here for 4 or 5 days. I forgot, a nice little pool down at the entrance surrounded with a wall of well-trimmed hedges.
The temperature had climbed and it was about 30 degrees so a dip in the pool was in order before a stroll on the west bank. The forecast looked like it was going to stay in the 30”s for a few days and it was hot.
We rode our bikes around and got a feel for our surroundings, then found a place for a beer in the shade. While we are sitting, the fellow that had helped with the incident this morning spotted us came over and properly introduced himself. He gave us some really good tips on the best restaurants and places to have a beer. He says “well done this morning” and off he went. We ended up eating supper at this place on his recommendation and it was great. We got a couple beer to go and headed back to our rooftop, the view was spectacular in all directions. I like this place.
Our Days in Luxor
Luxor has the greatest concentration of Ancient Monuments anywhere in Egypt. Candra and I will spend the next 4 or 5 days roaming the west bank in the Theban Hills climbing into the Tombs of the Pharaohs and their Queens in The Valley of the Kings. . Also the east bank walking through the giant columns of the Luxor and Karnak Temples.
Our first day is a hot one. The high will be 34 degrees. We decide to just roam around and get our bearings and wait for the temp to drop, this is unusually warm. Crossing the ferry to the east side we can see the Luxor temple, even from the outside it is huge. Heading into the City we find some back alleys that have the fruit and vegetables and they go on for blocks, everything fresh. Oranges, grapefruit, apples, kiwi, and strawberries the list is endless. Fruits and vegetables I have never seen, don’t know what they are? Move over 1 block and it is full of butchers, slabs of beef hanging from a hook with flies all over it, someone in the next stall hacking at a slab on a tarp with a clever. It is warm and not a cooler in sight. Three shops later a woman is sitting on the ground plucking feathers from a pigeon which is really popular. This is as fresh as you can get!
We walk the streets and stop and have a tea or coffee in the shade, people watching and just enjoying the culture, everyone is very friendly welcoming us to Egypt it seems at every turn.
We find the Karnak Temple so we know where it all is now and just need the temperature to lower a bit so we can begin another step back in time. Canada is only 240 plus years old so to see things 4 to 5 thousand years old is still hard to comprehend. It is not only the history it is the architecture, how did these people manage to build all this without technology?
Time to relax around the pool, eat, couple beers, and sleep. All in this wonderful setting. This place is awesome!!
Today we are going to visit the Luxor temples and Museum. These are on the east bank and right in the heart of Luxor City. In ancient times this Temple was surrounded by a brick city of houses and shops which now lie under the city. When you walk into the Temple you go down, what I mean is the sands of time and history have buried a lot of the Temple. In 1855 Excavation began to clear away the debris of centuries to uncover what can be seen of the Temple today. The avenue of Sphinxes, this is a 3 kilometer walkway with huge sphinxes about 20 ft. apart that has just been uncovered and it is 20ft below the streets of Luxor.
This Temple was largely built by the New Kingdom Pharaohs Amenhotep III and Ramses II (1390-1213 BC). I remember Ramses from the movies and he seems to have been a powerful guy. There is a huge statue of him amongst the Giant pillars, these guys wanted to be remembered. It seems that these places took so long to build that some of these guys died before their work was finished so the next rich pharaoh would take over and rededicate it to suit his fancy. The Luxor Temple was enlarged by Amenhotep III then added to by Tutankhamun, Ramses II, Alexander the Great and various Romans. There is a 24 meter tall solid rock Pilon that was raised by Ramses II which has been decorated with carvings of his military exploits.
There is all kinds of history and stories that go along with all of these Temples and it is probably hard to imagine unless you see it in front of you. I hope Donavan can match some of the pictures I have sent with the stories and facts. This place is incredible and I am glad we have taken the time to see this, amazing.
Ipet-Sut , meaning “The Most Esteemed of Places”. Karnak was the most important place of worship in Egypt during the New Kingdom when the Princes of Thebes ruled Egypt.
This is an extraordinary complex of sanctuaries, kiosks, pylons and obelisks dedicated to Theban Gods and the greater glory of Pharaohs. Everything in here is huge. The Temple of Amun is among one of the world’s largest religious complexes. This is where they believed god lived on earth. Built, added to, dismantled, restored, enlarged and decorated over 1500 years.
Most of what you can see was built by the powerful pharaohs of the 18th to 20th dynasties (1570 to 1090 BC).
What I saw was massive pillars, Ram headed sphinxes, the tallest Obelisk in Egypt 30 metres tall one solid piece of rock, 40 foot tall stone sculptures of the pharaohs that likely looked like them, everything on a giant scale. These guys wanted to be remembered. All of this has stood the test of time, for thousands of years people have come to look at this and pray or just stare in awe at the grandeur of it all. I think I said it before but it ceases to amaze me the artistry and architecture and the feat it took to do all this.
We spent hours roaming through all this and we hired a guide for 2 hours. There is so much to see so many names to remember, hieroglyphs that the guide showed us made a little sense of some things but overall just simply amazing. I know I have used that word a lot but it is just amazing.
VALLEY OF THE KINGS
It was the Pharaohs of the New Kingdom (1550 – 1069 BC) who chose this isolated valley as their burial site. The Valley of the Kings has 63 magnificent royal tombs.
We rode our bikes up the windy road and it was a dry hot climb. Once we arrived we locked our bikes to the entrance gate a proceeded through the gauntlet of touts trying to sell u their wares. Everything from scarfs to pyramids all at the “Best” price. Where are you from? Ahhh “Canada dry never die” I think I have heard that 10,000 times now or “Hey Mustache”. You just have to persevere and keep walking, do not establish eye contact. Once we are through we hop on a little train that takes you with all the other tourists up the hill to the beginning of the tombs.
These are not what you would think or it wasn’t what I thought anyway. There are 63 well-constructed tunnels in the side of the mountain. Some 20 feet tall some less. Some went 300 feet into the mountain down a staircase of carved stone with walls constructed if huge blocks with hieroglyphs describing each pharaohs life, the battles he won, how many children and wives he had, how many animals etc. There wasn’t an empty space on the wall. Some of them where in better shape than others, some in amazing shape as you can see from the pictures I hope. When you got to the bottom there was a sarcophagus, , a stone casket usually made out of granite or alabaster that they were mummified and buried in along with all their worldly treasures, pottery, beds, gold, whatever they valued.
Once again it was the skills these people had to build these and have them last this long, thousands of years with people walking in and out daily. These tombs have suffered greatly from treasure hunters, floods and in recent years from mass tourism, people touching and sweating and carbon dioxide. They have now closed some to restore and safe guard them for the future. Again I could go on and on but it is just one of those things you have to see for yourself. Amazing.
We have taken 4 days to see all this while staying in this great place. We have met a foursome from Denmark that speak good English, three of them originally came from Argentina and are CHEFS. They have invited us to supper tonight. We are going to BBQ chicken. Candra is making a salad and we are chipping in on some beer. Should be fun.
It is very hot today so have spent the afternoon lounging around the pool with my new friend Sebastian. This is what I like most about traveling is meeting new people. I have found a new way to BBQ chicken that I will be testing out when I get home.
Tombs of the Nobles
Not only did Pharaohs have tombs but the wealthier nobles thought they should have some too. We rode our bikes to these and climbed up into the hills to check them out. They are not as elaborate as the pharaohs but still pretty impressive. My favorite part was climbing up and having the awesome view of Luxor. The Valley of the Kings is just what it says a Valley that you can’t see until you ride into it. The Nobles are right on the face overlooking Luxor from a distance. We now knew what the lights are that we see from our rooftop each night.
Last day in Luxor
This is our last day in Luxor. Our chef friends have moved on to go to the beaches in Hurghada and we are going to take a bike ride to Medinat Habu, which is Ramses the III, s magnificent Memorial Temple. With the Theban Mountains as a backdrop and right beside the village of Kom Lolah it was a wonderful place to visit.
This is one of the first places to be associated with the local god Amun. It is most famous for the funerary temple built by Ramses the III. At its height there were temples, storage rooms, workshops, administration buildings, a Royal Palace and accommodations for priests and officials. It was the center of economic life for centuries. When pagan cults were banned it became an important Christian Centre and was inhabited as late as the 9th century AD.
Each and every time you enter one of these places your brain starts to reel. The people that have walked on the ground you are walking on, how many thousands have walked in your steps? Again the craftsmanship and immenseness of it all you wonder how many more thousands of years it will still be here?
We left after a few hours now hungry looking for some food. It was a dirt road we had ridden down to get to the temple and on our way back we saw a sign for a restaurant and as we approached there was a fellow sitting on a bench beside a tree smoking shisha. We asked him if he was open and he said “yes welcome, come come”. The first thing I noticed was how well the place was shaded, lots of trees with limbs spread across the backyard creating the shade. On the biggest tree someone had put a sign on it that said “This Tree is 611 years old”, that explains Egypt a little, and it was a young tree. He asked us what we would like and we told him to bring us something traditional.
The meal started off with a big jug of freshly squeezed lemon juice. Then a couple fresh salads with tomatoes and cucumber and a plate of pickled vegetables and one of olives. Then a plate of beans and some Egyptian bread, finally a big plate of Kofta. He said he made the kofta himself. It is ground meat wrapped around a stick and cooked over fire. It looks like a sausage with a hole down the middle when it is done. His was great it had its own special flavor, I have eaten a few of these, ha-ha surprise aye.
We didn’t even come close to finishing this meal and when he brought us the bill it was 120le. That is about 8 dollars and fifty cents. We left him a good tip and headed on our way. The ride back was pleasant we stopped and bought some bread, yogurt and some fresh fruit for breakfast tomo so we could fill our belly before riding again. Tomorrow we are off to Edfu which is about 112 k and then to Aswan which should be about 116k.
The temperature has dropped down closer to normal it only got to 26 today and tomorrow is supposed to only be 24….. Perfect for the big guy. It was windy today, cross your fingers tomo is too. We stopped and had a beer at the Nile Hotel it has a balcony view of the Nile that we like and a great breeze. We ended up staying there and watched the sunset, I hope I can lock this in my memory bank.
Back to the hotel we said our goodbyes to the owner and staff and paid our bill. 250 le a night. That is 17 dollars and 85 cents a night for this great stop over. WOW. We gave the staff a great tip which they didn’t want to accept but we got the owner to tell them to take it, they deserved it the place was spotless.
The owner told us to throw the keys over the gate when we left in the morning because no one would be up. We planned on leaving at sunrise.
The Road to Aswan
Up at the crack of dawn, actually before, we hit the road at 640 Am. It was a fresh morning as we passed by the locals setting up for the day’s business. Not many out mostly food guys selling falafel with bread and beans and some mixed vegetables. It is quite at this time not so much traffic and a lot less beeping. I think today is about 110 k through a few little towns so more to see as we cycle along. Today we will only make it too Edfu, we will pass through Esna along the way and will probably stop there for something to eat to keep the legs moving.
We are greeted as usual by anyone who sees us “Welcome to Egypt, what is your name? “ We also picked up a fresh convoy after we passed through the first police check. They didn’t stop us this time they just showed up behind us, we could hear the engine running. Same as all the others when we stop for a break every hour and a half they want us to put the bikes in the back of their truck. We decline and they wait for us to finish and carry on.
It is another day on the road. We pass at least 10 donkeys pulling carts, usually one will try to get his poor donkey to keep up with us. We know now the best thing to do is ride fast and get away from them and then they quit otherwise they keep whipping the donkey thinking he can do it. We pass the guys with shotguns at each speedbump section waving “Welcome” and a lot of people just staring wondering where we came from. We still haven’t seen any other cyclists so far.
We ride into Esra at about the 60 k point and find a busy little Tea/food joint. It is the picture with the guy standing beside Candra. He is very friendly and whips us up the meal I spoke about earlier falafel beans with a salad, what you do is open up the small pita and put in the falafel and salad and maybe some beans and you eat it like a sandwich. I watch him as he grabs a couple glasses from a table and heads to the filthy sink. He turns on the water and washes the glasses with no soap and his dirty hands and then fills them both up from the sink and brings them to the table with a big grin. We are getting the special treatment. Needless to say we finish our meals and neither one of us touched our glass of water.
With the crowd of men and our police buddies anxiously awaiting we hit the trail with cries of “Welcome” I think they are saying goodbye.
The rest of the afternoon is more of the same. We arrive in Edfu at around 11am and there is a traffic circle as we come across a bridge and it is packed with cars and motorcycles, trucks all beeping at each other taking turns squeezing into any space they can find. Halfway through we pull off to the side to figure out which way to go. Now everyone and their dog wants to help you and we gather a small crowd. As usual one guy can speak some English so we tell him the name of our Hotel. He asks in Arabic and someone answers. Soon we are following a van racing to keep up as they wave out the window at us “Come come”. We lose them after a bit but they get us in the right direction, with the help of google maps we find our Horus Hotel. It is on the second floor above the Baby Clothes Store, again we have to carry our bikes upstairs. This isn’t the nicest place we have stayed at along the way! Oh well it’s only for one night and it is 15 bucks.
We shower up and head out for some food. Not feeling like going far we spot a street vendor making Crepe sandwiches that have vegetables and chicken with cheese. Perfect, we get 2 of those with a pop and some peanut snacks and head back to our room.
The TV works, the pillow is a couch cushion and the comforter worries me!! Good thing the bed is soft. Seems that all the worst places have the best beds. Eat our supper, watch a little CNN to see what that idiot Trump is doing, read a little and asleep before 9pm.
We have decided that this might be our last day of riding tomorrow. Things are heating up in Israel and Syria. Egypt is moving troops and medical people into Sinai. All this and the fact that our tent is broke, we would need it to ride through Jordan because we would have to sleep in the desert which now didn’t seem so appealing. We have also seen a lot of desert in the last 1200k. So we will get to Aswan and spend 3 or 4 days there seeing what there is too see and stay at a NICE hotel.
Up and at it early again, on the road at 6:20 we are excited to get to Aswan. As we leave town there is very little traffic except the horse and carriages are everywhere. They are full of Chinese people that are on the River Cruises and it is part of their packages. We leave town with no escort again, they seem to be a little less worried about us in tourist country.
As we are leaving town we go by a school and a group of little boys see us we wave as they seem to be saying hello and they start throwing rocks at us. We are startled this had never happened before. I yell my loud yell and an older gentleman that was standing there saw what was happening yelled at them and they stopped. We had rocks bouncing off of or wheels, it was crazy. Where are the police when you need them?
We were going through the next little town about 20 k later and we has a couple Tuk tuk drivers (10 or 12 year old kids) drive by us swerving at us a poking at us with sugar cane sticks. These kids would turn around and come back at us driving really close to our bikes poking at us, again I gave my loud voice as they squalled with laughter and they finally left us alone. 1200 kilometers with no problems and a police escort and in the last 25k without one this happens.
We arrived in Aswan last night and checked in to our Hotel after a ride around the city. The police knew where we were staying and told us to follow them, hahahaha should have known. We rode all the way through Aswan about 6 k and them saying “ a la toole” which means straight ahead, only to watch them stop and ask for directions and then say “ shcmell schmell” which meant left and we turned around and went back 4 k and finally found our hotel which we had gone right past. We thanked them and of course they said “welcome welcome”.
Candra went into check us in and I sat with the bikes as usual but it seemed to be taking a long time. She finally came out and seemed a little mad. We took our bikes in and got them tucked away and headed to our room. The bell boy was very helpful and carried bags to the room, he also offered to set us up with tours or Felucca rides the next day. After he left Candra told me why she was mad. The guy at the front desk had just ignored her and left her standing there for 10 minutes until she finally interrupted him.
We showered and headed out to see the town and find something to eat. As we walked by the front desk I asked for a business card that had their address on it. This seemed to frustrate the guy, he told me to wait for a second and called another guy over. After a minute I finally walked behind the counter and grabbed a card myself. We walked out the door and decided we would be leaving this place to find another tomorrow. It was supposed to be one of the nicest places in Aswan. Not only was the front desk a grouch the room wasn’t that nice or clean and it was 65 bucks a night!!!!!
We found a floating restaurant on the edge of the river Nile and sat in the sun drinking Stella beer and watching all the ships and sailboats cruising by busy with their day. It was nice to relax.
Aswan is the countries ancient southern frontier. In ancient times it was a garrison town for the military campaigns against the Nubians. This is the place where granite for the many sculptures and obelisks around Egypt comes from its quarries. It was also the crossroads for many of the ancient camel routes coming to its huge markets. The Nile is wide here with many islands that are inhabited by Nubians, their villages very colorful and stand out against the backdrop of the desert on the west bank.
After our beer we head up onto the corniche and walk along the Nile. We are constantly approached by men in Gallabiyah (men’s full length robe) which is the norm for men here. They are asking us if we want to go for a felucca ride. This is an Egyptian sailboat. There are hundreds of them sitting in the water and sailing on the Nile. The other ones we get approached by are the horse and buggy guys. They are obvious not only because you can see them but you can smell the horse urine and poop along the roadway, this would never happen in Canada hahaha. There are restaurants all along the corniche, fruit juice stands everything from Kleenex to MacDonald’s.
We are going to stay here for a few days and relax and see Aswan. We have decided we are going to end the cycling here. Watching the news we see what is going on in Sanai, our tent is broke which we would need every day through Jordan and we have cycled 1300 plus k through desert and feel we have seen enough. We will see if we can take the train back to Cairo and try to hook up with Dani and go to Siwa which is a desert Oasis. We will maybe spend a week there and then head to Dahab to end the trip snorkelling every day and hopefully hit some yoga classes.
While walking the corniche we spot a Hotel that was in the guide book so we cross the street to see if they have any vacancies. It looks nice and clean when we enter and the staff is very helpful so we book for the next 2 days here. Good this will be better. Back across the street we decide it is time for supper. We find another floating restaurant and order the mixed grill. It comes with kafta, chicken and beef along with a salad and rice and more Egyptian bread than 4 people can eat. All this while sitting beside The Nile amidst all this history. Ahh I could go on and on as you know but I won’t this time. We finish our supper and go for a bit of a walk and head back to our room. Time to see what Donald Trump has done today on CNN. It has been my TV entertainment along the way. I like Al Jazeera news when we can get it, it is good to see an outside view and good to see they think he is an idiot too!!
We wake up and pack our gear, load the bikes and head to the Philae Hotel. They great us with smiles and help us carry our gear to the room. Sarah at the front desk tells us that we will have to move to another room tomorrow as they have this one booked for the next night. The room is nice on the second floor with a balcony overlooking the corniche and the Nile. This is way nicer than the other place and half the price. It is 32 bucks a night.
We now need to find the Train Station to see if we can get our bikes on the train for the trip back to Cairo. Strolling down the corniche beside all of the cruise ships we see people on the upper decks swimming in the pools or enjoying a morning coffee in the warm sun. You can take cruise ships from Aswan to Cairo and they stop in all the spots along the way to see all this history. We have been told that you can even get a Felucca to sail from Aswan to Luxor, you would sleep on the deck under the stars. Along the corniche there is everything you can imagine to eat or drink, even a MacDonald’s.
Along the way we see our second Cilantro, this is Egypt’s answer to Tim Hortons. It is up on the second floor of a Mall with glass windows overlooking the Nile so we head up for a cup of coffee. I get the Americano which is really strong black coffee and Candra got a Cafe lahte. Each comes with a little chocolate treat and cost about a dollar each.
We finally make it to the train station (life is good when time doesn’t matter) and find the ticket booth only to be told that we couldn’t take our bikes on the train……bummer! Now we would have to decide how to get back to Cairo, I really wanted to take the train.
With plenty of day left we set out to see some of the sites. Taking a ferry across to the west bank to see some more Tombs. These are also called the tombs of the nobles and are in the midst of being excavated, as we climbed the steep we came across people working with pulleys and rope removing pottery and artifacts from a deep whole to a tomb that had been discovered. We saw the adjoining tomb of a father and son Mekhu and Sabni both governors, date from the long reign of 6th dynasty Pharaoh Pepi II ( 2278-2184 BC) the walls of the tomb record how he led his armies and some hunting and fishing scenes that still hold their original colors after all this time. Once again, worth the climb!! We could have taken a Camel ride but we saw how it worked. They got this couple up on 2 Camels and then walked them by a rope up to the top. It somehow didn’t seem very authentic.
A point worth mentioning was the ferry. When we ride on the ferry the men and the women are separated. Men in the front women in the back. On the bigger ferry in Luxor it wasn’t as obvious. One more funny point. As we were getting on the ferry we knew it was 2le each. Candra paid and the guy short changed her, she looked at him and said “No 2 le each” he reached into his tray and gave her the correct amount while listening to his 4 old buddies behind him laughing at him. I believe they were teasing him for getting caught trying to rip off the woman.
Aswan is the source of Egypt’s finest granite. In one of the Northern Quarries about 1.5 kilos from town lies the “unfinished obelisk”. This obelisk would have been the biggest in Egyptian history. It is 42 meters long and would have weighed 1168 tonnes. While beating it out of a huge piece of granite a flaw appeared after they had finished 3 sides. It sits there today still just as the stonemasons had abandoned it thousands of years ago. This quarry was very cool, you could see all through it as we walked the giant chunks of granite that had been removed over the centuries by stonemasons with simple tools and what must have been thousands of man hours. The list keeps growing of things that I am glad I got to see.
For supper we searched out a Fiteer, it is a pizza that has a thin flaky pastry base and is topped with salty haloumi cheese and olives and your choice of meat. You could also get it as a desert with jam coconut and raisins. This place is near the train station so we decide to go and see if we can talk to someone other than the ticket guy. We arrive just as a train is pulling in. People are rushing off heading for the exit. When the crowd clears we see the train guys getting the train ready to go back the other way and we stop one of them and he speaks a little English. We show him a picture of our bikes and ask him if we can get them on the train with us to Cairo. He calls another guy that I assume is his boss. They have a conversation and he says “yes you can” and rubs his fingers together “for some backshish” which we have learned means money. Well that is great, so we head to the ticket booth and buy 2 tickets on the night train to Cairo for tomorrow night. I have been looking forward to this haha.
After a good night’s sleep we have breakfast and pack because we have to change rooms. I call the front desk and tell them we are ready. Sarah comes to our room and they move us just down the end of the hallway……..to a suite. No extra charge it was great. Had a kitchen, big screen TV, 2 king size beds and a great bathroom, with 2 decks overlooking the corniche.
Today we are going to go for a Felucca ride in the afternoon so we can enjoy that cool Nile breeze. This morning we are going to walk through the Sharia as-Souq which is a huge tourist bazaar. Candra needs a new purse and they are really cool, it has every souvenir you can imagine from Egypt and some really good street food. Fruit, vegetables, chicken, fish, goat, camel, pigeon and a lot of things I don’t know what they are!! Then we are going to go to the Aswan Dam.
We start off with the Souq. I could walk through these for hours, this is just something you don’t see in Canada. As the day progresses it gets busier, things don’t start till about 11 am. I think it’s because every morning at 5 the call to prayer is announced EVERWHERE you can’t miss it. This is the first prayer of the day. I think they all go back to sleep after this until 10, I am guessing? Like I said earlier you can find whatever you need at the Souq. It is all section off. Wedding dresses all together then shoes, then men’s clothes etc. for blocks. My favorite is the vegetables, the colors are amazing. Candra finds a purse and begins the haggle, the guy started at 225le and she ends up buying it for 125le so a little less than 10 bucks, perfect.
Now we head out onto a main street and find a taxi that will take us out to the Aswan Dam. It is about a 2 hour round trip there and back with a stop at the dam. We make a deal for 200 le about 14 bucks and we are on our way.
Just a little history about the dam. Sir William Willcocks started construction of the original dam in 1898 and it was completed in 1902 and was the largest dam in the world measuring 2441 m across and 50m high and 30 wide and was built entirely with Aswan granite. In 1952 Gamal Abdel Nasser and made plans for a bigger dam 6 k upstream. In 1960 it was started and completed in 1971 and it created the world’s largest artificial lake, Lake Nasser. It is huge as you stand on the top of the dam, it looks like an ocean nothing but water as far as the eye can see.
Time to head back to the Hotel and get packed up for the train and find some supper. The train leaves at 830 pm.
Night Train to Cairo
Just to make sure that all went well we showed up to the train station a couple hours early. We were worried about getting everything through the x-ray machine with all of our panniers and bikes. We thought we might have to do some explaining or maybe just be told that we couldn’t take our bikes on the train. As we rode up nervously there was very few people at the entrance. We walked to the x-ray entrance and the guy looked at us and waved telling us to go through the next door. As we approached it the guy there just waved us through. We looked at each other and I said “don’t make any eye contact and keep walking.” Entering the station we showed a guy our ticket and he said yes wait over there. So that is what we did. As we were waiting a young well-dressed man sat down across from us, he lit a cigarette and read a book. I watched him thinking that maybe he could confirm our tickets if he spoke any English. Finally I walked over to him and showed him my ticket and he did speak English. He told us that we would need to go to section 2 when the train arrived. He asked about our bikes and we explained we had ridden from Cairo, as usual he was amazed that someone would even want to do that.
When the train arrived we gathered our bikes and headed down to section 2, so did the man we had spoken with. When we got there we waited for everyone to exit and then found our Porter and explained we wanted to take our bikes on the train. There was some confusion, he was calling someone on his phone when the fellow we had been talking with earlier walked over and it was then that I realized that he was a porter too. He was in charge of section 1. He explained to the other porter what we wanted and the next thing we knew he was pushing Candras bike on the train. I followed with my bike and Candra followed with our bags. The bikes barely made it down the hallway of the train. We got to the end and he pushed Candras bike into a compartment with great difficulty. I squeezed past my and helped him get it in. Then I got my bike and took the front wheel off and it made it into the space much easier. He explained that this was his birth and that he would work around it. I thanked him and told him I would make it worth his while. He thanked me and I went back to our birth. It was a little room with a sink, mirror, running water and a place to hang some clothes. There was also a large shelf that held all of our panniers. He walked by and told us supper would be served right after the train got rolling and after supper he would come and make the beds.
Supper was OK? It was chicken nuggets with bread and vegetables and a piece of cake for desert. When we finished he asked us if we wanted tea and we said ok. When he brought it he asked for money……the tea didn’t come with supper hahaha.
We strolled down to the lounge car which was 9 cars ahead of us. The train was rocking back and forth we laughed as we bounced our way up. Every time we opened a door to move to the next car it was loud and we jumped over the cover not trusting it would hold us. Finally we made it to the lounge and we were disappointed. It was all men and they were all smoking cigarettes, the place was full of smoke and offered very little for refreshments. We left right away and made our way back. The Porter had made our beds while we were gone. It turned the place into a cozy little bedroom with a bunkbed. It was dark now and you could only see some lights out the window now so we closed the blinds and turned on our reading lights and snuggled in for the night.
At about 5 AM there was a knock on the door. It was the porter, breakfast would be served in 15 minutes and we would be arriving in Cairo in an hour.
We cleaned up had breakfast and got ready for our exit. We are getting off at the first stop because it is closer to Danis house. We will try to find a taxi to load the 2 bikes and our gear. Hope there are drivers at 530am.
We get off in a rush, the porter helps and I give him a 225 dollar Egyptian tip which makes him smile. Now we are standing on an empty platform in the dark looking for a way out to a Taxi. We go to the exit and it is a long stairway underground, this would be difficult with loaded bikes. Candra sees an open gait at the end of the platform so we push our bikes that way. When we get there it is a bunch of taxi guys drinking tea. We get the bikes down and find this older guy that has a roof rack and no rope. Good thing we have bungee cords. He tries to help me but I tell him I will do it, so he watches. I get both bikes on the roof (my new paint job is taking a beating) and use the 4 cords to hold them down and we are off. We end up arriving at Danis place at about 630 so we get unloaded, hide the bikes and gear in the bushes and head to the local coffee shop. That was a pretty relaxing ride!!!
Now we will spend the next couple days doing laundry, a little shopping and we will head to Siwa.
Siwa is a fertile basin sitting 25 meters below sea level. Full of olive and palm trees, slouching mud brick buildings that are all connected by winding dirt streets seemingly built without any thought. This is where donkey carts are as much part of the street as 4 wheel drive Land Cruisers. No stop lights, no parking spaces and lots of speed bumps. All around the oasis are crystal clear springs giving relief from the heat. Just outside the oasis lies the Great Sand Sea, the swells of sand calling you to explore it.
We got off the bus after a long 10 hour ride through nothing but the odd sheep herder and the Bedouin camels roaming free and police check points. There was 2 bathroom stops along the way that served some simple foods and Egyptian junk food. They had relatively clean bathrooms that only cost 2 le to use. We stayed long enough at each of them for the 2 bus drivers to eat.
At the checkpoints we had the police come aboard and check every ones passports and on occasion take someone off the bus and check there luggage outside. On one occasion a man was really upset that they had taken him off and he made quite a stink but we could not understand a word that was spoken. After we started again many of the people had something to say to him, it was a conversation that lasted awhile, he was pissed off. He got off about an hour later at a place in the middle of nowhere that looked like a work place of some sort?
We arrived in Siwa at dusk and got dropped off at a corner that was the bus stop. There was a bunch of Motorcycle trikes with boxes there calling themselves taxis. We are asking them if they know the Relax Retreat. Some other people are hopping in and leaving for their Hotels but we are about 10 k out of town. As we are trying to figure out if they can get us there a guy pulls up in an SUV and says can I help. I say yes and tell him were we want to go and he says he can take us for 100le. Sold. We load up and in 20 minutes we arrive at Relax. It is dark but the place is lit up with lanterns hung from the palm trees, it looks beautiful. A guy comes and grabs our bags and takes us to our room. They ask us if we need anything and we tell them some supper after we get settled in.
The room is built from stone and has a sand floor with a carpet on it. It has 2 single beds with handmade end tables and candles for light, there is no power here. We don’t have a lighter hahaha. Good thing we brought our little lantern/charger with us. After digging through the bags in the dark we find it. This place is cool. A wooden door and window the room was about 12 by 12, and it was very quiet.
We head over to the kitchen building and meet the cook Atrise. He is a talkative guy and asks us if we like ravioli. We say yes and he says well that is what I made you. We get 2 platefuls, bread, and a salad with dips and olives. We are starving and the food is great. These are homemade ravioli, he is a real chef we discover and he has worked all over the world.
It is 730am when we wake up after my best sleep of the trip. It was absolutely silent. No dogs or chickens or donkeys through the night…..silence.
At the cook house there is hot water in thermoses that you can make tea with or mmmmm Nescafe coffee. I make a coffee and walk through the salted ground to the end of an earth dock and sit beside the lake. The sun is very warm already it is going to be a warm day.
After coffee we head to the cook house and Atrice is waiting. He asks how many eggs would we like. Candra says 2 sunny side up and I say 3. He looks at me with a big smile and says “now that’s a man”. The eggs come with a basket of Egyptian bread, a soft cheese with pepper and cucumber on it, 3 kinds of jam made from olives and green peppers and tomatoes with the eggs and fresh squeezed juice. All this with Atrice chatting away from the kitchen with soft sultry music playing in the background. The floor of the kitchen is also sand and the furniture is hand made out of bamboo. The knife fork and spoon are neatly placed in a little burlap sheath and the place mats are made from burlap. This is the only place in the compound that has power. If you need to charge anything this is where you come. There is a power bar sitting on a table in the corner and no Wi-Fi. The perfect RETREAT. We will stay 4 days here until Dani arrives in Siwa.
After breakfast we go for a long walk along the side of a quite road, the sun is hot but the scenery is beautiful. Remember we are 25 meters below sea level walking through what used to be the bottom of the sea. There are mountains that look like giant coral reefs, you can see all the layers of what used to be, it is cool. We will climb one of these at sunset when it cools down, now it’s time for a dip in the lake.
The water is nice and cool and as I walk along what I think is a hard bottom I break through and sink knee deep in to salty sand. It is like breaking through ice only in bare feet. This lake only gets about 3 feet deep and is high right now we find out. It is more for soaking not swimming. It is also very very salty. When I sit in the sun and my shorts dry you can see the salt. This is supposed to be really good for your skin. Walking on the salt is also good for you. All part of the retreat. Oh yeah, we had a common bathroom that was outside of our room about 25 yards down a path, a men’s and a woman’s, it also had 3 showers that were great, all very clean.
Over the next few days we soak we walk, take naps and read. Each night after supper we climb the mountain and watch the sunset. The food is excellent, you just tell them what you want and they cook it each day. This is RELAXING, the silence is really nice after riding on the highway and the noise of the city, I like it!!
On our last day here we head into Siwa City to find a place to stay with Dani for a few days while she is here. She is going to introduce us to the friends that she has met here. All of our children have been here so we have heard lots about it.
To make a long story short we roamed around town looking for a place to stay. The streets wind a twist with no real logic. One of the first places we looked at was Nour al-waha, it was ok but more than we wanted to spend for what it was, after looking at a few and seeing lots of Siwa which was very interesting we called Danis friend Ali. We got in his Land Cruiser and he drove us right to Nour al-waha. He spoke very good English and seemed to know everyone at this place. The price we had been told was 850 le for a single room and a double, when Ali told us the price it was now 650, so 45 bucks a night for 2 rooms both with 2 beds. Great Dani was bringing a friend. Sold. We told them we would be back the next day and would stay for 3 days. We had tea with Ali and he spoke highly of all three of our children. He also told us he had many plans for us and that we were invited to supper with him tomorrow night. Alright time to head back to the silence of the retreat, and some of Atrices good cooking.
There is an American couple here that I should mention because they were nice and very interesting. Julian and Leslie. Julian had ridden a penny farthing across the USA and Leslie was working in Egypt. We wanted them to meet Dani.
I ate the best vegetarian meal of my life tonight. The beans were incredible. I was stuffed. Atrice had outdone himself. We are always the first to eat each day. We like our supper at 5 everyone else eats at 7 or 8pm. We are coming back from our nightly walk just as they are getting started.
We are in bed again reading with our headlamps before 9pm and we will be up by 6 or 630 enjoying the morning light, Atrice has the water ready so life is good. Tomorrow we head to Siwa to meet Dani.
The Desert & Siwa
We packed up early and had breakfast and said our good byes to Atrice. We told him we would bring Dani back to meet him so he could cook for her. We walked out to the road to wait for our ride, Ali had sent his guy to pick us up. Arriving at the hotel we found Dani and Sarah still in bed, they had arrived at 5 am and were still sleeping. We sat in the shade of the palm trees with Ali and had coffee and chatted till they arrived. Ali had a circle of friends that came and went that we would soon get to know.
Siwa has a long and ancient past, in 2007 a human footprint was discovered that is thought to date back 3 million years and is one of the oldest known human prints on the planet. One of the oldest monuments is The Temple of the Oracle from the 21st Dynasty. The Amun priesthood was prominent throughout Egypt. The Persians invaded Egypt in 525 BC. One of the Western Desert most famous legends is of the Persians sending an army to destroy the Oracle, King Cambyses led the army across the huge desert never to be seen again. The Oracles power and with it Siwa fame grew throughout the world.
Many have tried through the years to conquer Siwa but none have succeeded. To this day Siwans speak their own Berber dialect and have a strong social culture quite distinct from the rest of Egypt.
After Dani and Sarah woke and had breakfast we headed out on a walk to see the Oracle and to find Cleopatra’s Bath. The Oracle is on the way to Cleopatra’s which is good because it is a warm day and we will swim at the bath which will be a welcome relief from the heat.
The Temple the Oracle is one of the most revered oracles in the ancient Mediterranean, although treasure hunters have destroyed portions of it, it remains an evocative site, steeped in history surrounded by ruins. You can see across Siwa amidst the tops of palm trees from the top of the temple.
We carry on down the windy roads getting lost every now and then and we stop people to ask for directions until we finally find Cleopatra’s bath. We change into our suits and jump in. You can see the bubbles coming from the spring underneath you and it feels good to jump into some fresh water.
After swimming we go to the rooftop of the juice shop and sip on our drinks enjoying the shade and the breeze and people watch for a while. I will miss the juice shops when I get home, they are so healthy and refreshing, oh ya…….and fresh.
Taking the scenic tour again we make our way back to the hotel, Ali is sitting under the palm trees in the courtyard with his friends and they welcome us with big smiles. “Does anybody need a tea or coffee”, we all agree on a pot of tea in the shade. Now this is relaxing, there is about 12 of us sitting on cushions around 3 low tables with cushions everywhere, it is so comfortable. You can sit, lay and spread out however you want. I think we are going to have to try this at home!
After tea we clean up and it is time for supper. We head to another space in the compound which is much like the one we just left. When we arrive Ali tells us to sit, there is about 8 or 10 people in the room on cushions. Soon they are bringing the low tables in and then start filling them with food. Our meal will start with Egyptian soup and bread with all kinds of dips like baba ganoosh and tahini. Then came the marinated Camel, stuffed duck, lamb with stacks of Egyptian rice, salads, stuffed zucchini and green peppers that were to die for ,oh ya and a cabbage roll thing mmmmmm I probably missed something but you get the idea. We ate all this Egyptian style, you reach in and eat of each plate using your spoon or a piece of bread to wrap around what you want and eat it. There had to be 20 people around these tables passing stuff back and forth reaching in with spoons or hands to get something, I fit right in here hahaha.
After eating we all pushed away from the table back to the cushions against the walls and toothpicks were passed around. I needed one I had Camel stuck in my teeth. Once the plates and food were cleared out came platefuls of fruit. Bananas, strawberries, melon, oranges etc. This was a great meal.
Now it was time for a drink. Not all Muslims drink but some do. Dani had told us to bring a bottle with us from Alexandria because you can’t buy it in Siwa. Ahmed one of Alis’ friends is called the Sultan. The Sultan is the one who mixes the drinks. Ahmed was mixing Vodka with 7up in a tea pot and pouring it into small glasses and passing it around the room to those who wanted to partake. He had been pouring the booze from a plastic container and it was running dry so I went to our room and brought out a bottle of vodka in a backpack and slid it too him across the floor. His eyes lit up when he saw it and he gave me a big smile and made a fresh batch of “Green Tea” he called it. I got the first drink.
After a few green teas one of the guys called “Quality” brought out 2 drums and sat in a corner. Both had single heads one being a bass drum. Another fella grabbed the bass drum and they started playing. Before you knew it the whole room was singing. This went on for an hour, some got up and danced, men with men and women with women everybody with everybody the place was ALIVE. The Sultan was mixing tea, there was shisha pipes flowing and of course people smoking, this is Siwa, the Berbers know how to have fun.
We left the party with the sound of drums and singing behind us, I had left the Sultan in charge of the bottle, I was sure he would take care of it.
The next day Candra and I were up bright and early, you could see the residuals of the party. The guy that ran the place was sound asleep on the cushions with a blanket over his head. Candra went into the kitchen to see if she could boil some water for coffee and came out saying “Men, they need a woman working here”, the kitchen was a mess. So off we walked to find a coffee shop. We found one and sat there drinking our coffee watching the donkeys and carts go by with families in them eating there morning bread. Across the street was a bread store making that tasty Egyptian bread A’aish like a small pita only better. You could by 4 pieces for 4 le, that 50 cents. On the corner there was a guy making falafel that he sold with the bread and mixed vegetables and dips, hummus, tahini (a paste of sesame seed with garlic and lemon), baba ghanoog (a puree of aubergines with garlic and oil), Bessara (mixed beans) Torshi (crunchy pickled cucumbers, carrots and turnips) and you could buy a whole breakfast for a buck fifty. Some people filled the bread and made a pita and some ripped and dipped, I tried both.
Time to go get Dani and Sarah going, we are going on a desert cruise with Danis friend Yousef. He is giving us the trip as a gift. He picks us up at 11 and takes us to see his date factory that he started since Dani was last there. He is shipping containers full of Date juice to Italy and has about 100 locals working for him now. Very interesting.
Yousef doesn’t come with us but he sends his best driver he says and we head off in a Land Cruiser. We go to a place to sign in, you can’t go into the desert whenever you want anymore, and it is only 50k from the Syrian border. We check in and lower the tire pressures to 20lbs, I guess it works better in the desert you don’t get stuck as much.
Within minutes we are cruising over sand dunes at 60 miles an hour, windows open, tunes blasting soaring through the desert. Up and down over huge dunes sometimes stopping at the peak and lunging over it free falling down the steep banks with screaming coming from the back seat, I am holding on to a handle and laughing out loud, this is better than any fair ride I have ever been on. He drives along the edges then zooms down the banks we turn and climb up and launches over the edge with the motor racing as we shoot sand into the wind and speed on to the next dune. This spectacular it is just like the movies, sand as far as the eye can see, hey another one I am glad I got to see!
We stop at a fresh water spring and then he takes us to a hot water spring all busy with Egyptians because it is Friday their first day off. They work Sunday to Thursday and take Friday Saturday off. A little more zooming through the desert and it is time to head back. Ali has some plans for us tonight.
At about 8pm we load up into 3 land cruisers and head out into the desert again. It is dark now with a full moon. As soon as we hit sand everyone turns their lights off and we cruise by the light of the moon. I am not sure where we are headed but they brought food and drink. I also brought our last bottle of booze, Ali says we will howl at the moon tonight. We cruise across the dunes not doing anything crazy for 20 minutes when all of a sudden you can see some lights in the distance and we head for them. As we get closer you can see it is a bunch of tents beside a mini mountain all lit up with candles and torches. We pull in and there is also a big fire pit blazing with a bunch of people sitting around it. Inside the tents and around some tarp walls are cushions and pillows Egyptian style with a bunch of low tables.
First food and then as the night before a circle gathers the drums come out and everyone starts singing and dancing. Some of the other groups that are there join in until there is 30 people singing, the green tea is flowing and everyone is having a great time. Someone hands me a drum and I join Quality and we drum a song together, everyone gets a good laugh as the night carries on. Finally at about 1 am Ali says “it is time” and in minutes everything is loaded and we are on our way home. Ali tells us we will hit the desert tomorrow with the 2 best drivers in Siwa, “The Desert Foxes”.
Candra and I are up early as usual but we are alone. It is about 9 before Ali shows up and 11 before the rest of the gang. It is about 1 pm when we finally hit the road with bathing suits in hand ready for a dip at the Cold Spring. Before we can do that we have to do some zooming. The desert foxes know how to drive. The screaming from the backseat is steady and we are flying around the desert again. We go to some spots with huge dunes with 80 degree drops it is like we are riding skidoos thru the dunes and it is hot. We finally stop at the Cold spring and I am in the water in a flash, it feels so good. Not one of these guys come near the water they are still wearing their leather jackets. We swim we eat we drive until just before sunset and we park. The foxes start a fire and make a big pot of Bedouin tea and we sit on a giant tarp they have laid out and relax and watch the sun go down. I nodded off and woke up to a sky full of stars. Everyone was laying on their backs staring up at the stars. The big dipper is upside down!
Again we load up and head across to another hot spring that has a restaurant. Tonight we eat and head back to the Hotel it has been a busy couple days and we are tired. Tomorrow we head back to Cairo. Instead of the 10 hour bus ride and 3 hour train ride, Ali had lined up a Van to take us straight to Cairo in 8 hours.
In the morning Ali the King of Siwa is there when we get up. We sit and have tea and talk. Ali wants us to stay a few more days. He tells me what a great family we have and says he is happy to have met us all. Dani has been here 3 or 4 times and Ali is very fond of her in a fatherly way. I thank him for being so kind to us and for being such a friend to my kids. I do hope someday to stumble across him again. I told him he has a place in my home if he ever comes to Canada.
Some of the gang slowly show up and sit and drink tea. It is comfortable here, it reminds me of home the way everybody knows everybody. Wish I could bring some of these palm trees home.
The Van shows up and it is time to say goodbye. With hugs all around we promise to stay in touch we drive off. Another place I am glad I got to see!!!
It was a long drive back to Cairo but way better than the bus. We are going to fly to Dahab instead of the 8 hour bus ride. It is 200 dollars for the flights. We will stay there for a week and Dani will join us for the last 4 days. It will be nothing but eating walking snorkelling and sleeping and reading in a nice place right beside the Red Sea 15 k from Saudi Arabia, Jordan and just down the coast from Israel, on a clear day we can see all three. I will put pictures on Facebook and the website.
For those of you that have followed I hope you got the jist of my writing. It all came from the heart. Hopefully you understood most of it. Some of the smart stuff came from the Lonely Planet and some from Candra. The funny stuff was from me. Love you all, especially Mom & Dad. Bernice & Cliff I hope you got this. Hello all you Mangs. See u all soon Neighbours.