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Monday, January 31, 2011

On my own….

October 13-15, 2010

Day 137-139



Adjusting to life without Lee was hard. On my first day alone, I decided that I would go to the Egyptian Museum since I was close by and because Lee and I never made it in the end.  When I finally got out of the hostel and headed there it was past 1:00PM; the guards stopped me and told me that the Museum closed at 1PM due to renovations. WHAT? So, I decided to make my way down to the bus station to get tickets back to Nuweiba port (finally going back to Jordan) then the train station to look for tickets to Alexandria.

I ended up finding my way first to the bus station then to the train station by foot.  Everyone was helpful and helped me to find my way. One lady even left her little food stand and walked with me for a good 200m.  For a moment, it seemed almost easier to be by myself and without Lee; I felt as if I had better treatment being a female traveling alone….I still missed him though! When I finally got to the train station, I solicited the help of a young college student who spoke English and was kind enough to show me where the ticket window was. It was a good thing he did because the train station was under massive construction and there was no way I would have known where to go.  I managed to buy my ticket for Friday, leaving the following day open for the museum. 

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

All Good Things Must Come to an End…

October 10-13

Day 134-137

We arrived in Cairo by taxi, going by minibus was not an option since we had all our luggage.  We had found a place that looked pretty decent - Arabian Nights - located in Islamic Cairo near the Khan El Kalili Markets.  We got lost and drove around in circles…eventually we found it and it was exactly where I thought I had seen a sign that read “Arabian Nights”! We had driven by so quickly and it was a bit tucked away so I thought I surely made a mistake but after driving around, down one-way streets causing the meter to go up exponentially, we finally found the place.

We hadn’t made any reservations but didn’t think it would be a problem. When we got there, the surfer looking Egyptian at reception was rather rude and told us that he had a room for us for 100EGP ($17.85).  We tried to bargain but he insisted that it was his best rate. We offered to go without the TV but he told us that the TV in our room was broken anyway and that’s why we were getting the cheaper rate.  Having come out of paying only 50EGP for the two of us, the price seemed outrageous.  After weighing our options though we decided to just stay there because it included breakfast and we were tired since it was already close to 6PM…getting over from Giza in traffic and the fact that we got lost, our journey there had taken us over an hour.

The room was small and we had to use the bathroom down the hall.  We figured we would just stay there the night, explore Islamic Cairo and then try to research for another place to stay.  At least the hostel had a nice rooftop that no one else seemed to take advantage of except us.

The following day, we had planned to go out to Alexandria which is 3 hours away by train.  We were supposed to take the 6AM train so that we could arrive at 9AM and spend the whole day touring around.  Sadly, that didn’t happen and we woke up at 9AM. By the time we got ready and made our way to the station, we would probably arrive in Alexandria around 1PM and it just wouldn’t be worth it since some places closed at 4PM. So we had our breakfast of instant coffee and bread - the bread was memorable! - IMG_2747

and decided to walk around Khan El Kalili which was the open market nearby selling almost anything you could think of. We then walked around and then ventured out to the Citadel since Lee missed it the first time around.  We also got to walk into the mosque….although I’m not Muslim, there was an incredible sense of peace that came upon me entering the praying hall.  Needless to say, Islamic architecture is amazing.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Random Sleepovers

October 9 - 10

Day 133-134

And so it turned out that we had no where to sleep the day after my birthday.  We could have easily gone into Cairo and slept at one of the many hostels that dot the streets of Cairo but no, that would be too easy. No, actually, I hadn’t seen the pyramids yet!  Since I chose to make the most of my 5-star stay, I barely emerged from the room…come on, this was the FIRST TIME since I left home, 4 months, that I was able to stay in a nice hotel! I was going to make the most of it!  That was my birthday wish! So, I didn’t want to leave Giza yet.  I didn’t want to go back and forth to Cairo, only to come back to Giza, lose sleep, spend money, carry my bags, etc.  So…I was determined to stay in Giza.  It wasn’t so easy finding a place though…

We actually had a late start the morning after, following our breakfast buffet - we were going all out at this hotel! Well, it was my birthday! The wireless internet at the hotel was €25 for a 24 hour period so we decided to go and patronize our friend from the night before. Around noon we found their perfume shop and their sole computer hooked up to the internet as promised.  We were allowed to get on so we quickly checked our emails and attempted to find a hostel for the night.  We got completely side-tracked though as Lee tried to show me his strategy in climbing the Pyramids.  This was no joke for the young man as he was determined; it was apparent that he dedicated several hours to this topic having studied youtube footage and well-read on a handful of blogs written by successful conquerors of this seemingly impossible feat. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Birthdays Only Come Once a Year

October 7 - 9
Day 131 - 133

We were on our way to Cairo…finally! I had been in Egypt for almost 2 weeks and I still hadn’t see the capital city.  We had the option of going on first class which included dinner and breakfast and a bed but it was way more than I was willing to spend. So instead, we opted for the first class seating which didn’t include a bed or meals. We had met some guys at the local restaurant who said that they were going to be on the same train as us. We tried to look for them but couldn’t find them. We were a bit wary about the people that were sharing the car with us but managed to fall asleep without exchanging any words.

I managed to have decent sleep even though our chairs could not recline. I woke up the following morning and started to befriend our carriage neighbors. To be honest, they were quite entertaining; fighting over each others chairs and trying to catch our attention.  We had some pretty strange conversations with them; not sure if it was that it got lost in translation or if they were really that tactless to ask us the things they did. We laughed it off but it was a bit uncomfortable but at the same time interesting insight into their culture. They bought us coffee and took photos with us.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

Adventures to Aswan and Abu Simbel

October 5-7
Day 128 - 130

We arrived in Aswan about 3 hours later, it was hot on the train and we were ready to get off.  We hadn’t really figured out where we were staying in Aswan and again, I took for granted the fact that I’d be able to find a wi-fi signal to look up places to stay.  We weren’t particularly worried though because our guide, had given us a name of a place to stay.  The problem that we had when we arrived though was that the tourist office was closed and we couldn’t find this hotel that was recommended to us.

Outside of the train station we were approached by a man who asked us if we were looking for a place to stay; I usually stay clear of people who try to offer us places to stay near the train station because the places are usually overpriced (they have to pay a commission to these people who bring in customers) and If they need to have salespeople to actively bring people into their place, it’s usually not that nice. So Lee took his card and we never gave it a second thought. 

We walked around but really didn’t know which way to go. We had all of our belongings and it was getting tiring walking aimlessly around the city.  We decided the easiest thing to do was to have someone watch the bags as the other walked around to gather information.  Just then, we saw some people who looked familiar! It was the Japanese couple and the Chilean mother and daughter from our tour to the Valley of the Kings and Queens the day before! They were walking around Aswan. I told Lee I would watch the bags as he went to catch up with them.  We found out that they were also looking for a place to stay.  The Japanese couple who had their Japanese guidebook had already been sorted but the Chileans didn’t have a place to stay and were looking for something a little nicer than the hostel the Japanese were staying at.  We decided to walk around with them for a bit then realized we didn’t want to spend extra money and knew that we weren’t going to want to stay in the same place that the Chileans were going just because we had different budgets.  So we ended up splitting up and finally finding the hotel that our guide in Luxor had recommended.  The place turned out to be really dark and dingy and nowhere near the price range the guide had told us.  The receptionist at the hotel also didn’t know our guide…so we decided to leave and find somewhere else.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Big Ships, Big Balloon and Big Graves

October 2 - October 5, 2010
Day 125 - 128

The next morning, we were taken to the bus terminal and ran into our Greek friend from the Mount Sinai tour; he was trying to get to Alexandria and thought he could go up through Port Said, north of Suez.  It seems a bit ridiculous but our route was via the south bit of the Sinai Peninsula to get up to Suez which is in the north. I feel like there could have and should have been a faster route (cross straight through the northern part of the peninsula) but we couldn’t find this option. It took us approximately 9 hours to get to the Suez via Sharm el-Shiekh.  Either way, it was a nice ride through the desert and the mirage that is so often talked about when you’re going through the desert, we saw! The big ships out in the Gulf of Suez appeared to be floating over the horizon.  It was neat but we couldn’t really seem to capture it on camera.

We arrived in Suez at around 5:00PM, and quickly tried to find a ticket for our bus ride out to Luxor.  We were told that the night bus to Luxor was at 10:00PM but upon arrival, found out that the only bus was at 8:00PM. We quickly purchased our tickets and tried to make the most of our 3 hours there.  We tried to find a taxi driver that would take us to the port area where we’d be able to see the large boats coming in and out.  We found out though that most of the ships would be coming through around 8:00PM which was when our bus was scheduled to leave.  We were also told that the best views of the boat action were from Port Said, further up north, but we didn’t have enough time to go out there because it would have required us to spend the night there and we wouldn’t have been able to get out there until the next day. So after several taxi drivers, we finally found our man who agreed to drive us to the port and then to pick us up.  It was quite funny because we couldn’t really communicate with him so when we negotiated for our taxi price, we settled with drawing out numbers in the dirt.  In the end, I won and he dropped us off and picked us back up for 20EGP ($3.60)!  It was a good thing because I wouldn’t have wanted to have to negotiate in the dirt all over again! He actually turned out to be a really nice guy, and on our way back to the port, he stopped at his family’s shop and offered us soda!
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                                                                These local boys were so excited to take photos with us!
                                                                          Our nice driver
Three hours later, we were back on the road heading for Luxor.  We still hadn’t figured out what we were doing there but we were going!