Friday, December 23, 2005


Well, I am back home in Canada. Compared to the places I went and the things I was doing, it is a bit boring here. I guess that has never changed, though.
I was in Korea for Christmas the last two years. I actually get to be home for Christmas. :)
The tree is up and there are presents under the tree. I have always loved Christmas. It is a happy time of year.
In Korea, Christmas isn't really Christmas. It is just not the same.
I will be going back to Korea sometime in the new year. I love Korea, but it will be very different this time, due to a rather large change (in my personal life). Hopefully I will enjoy it regardless.
Things change in Korea fairly often. Because all of the foreign teachers there are on one year VISAs, there is a fairly big turnover even every month. Most of my friends from my last time in Korea have moved on to other countries, or have gone back home. Hopefully the new crowd will be just as fun.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

I hate goodbye

I am in Alexandria again to get my things together. I will fly out of Cairo on the 4th. Too soon. I am not finished with Egypt yet.
Most of my time in Sharm el-Sheik the past week, was spent at the cafe(s) in the Marina of Naama Bay, talking to Mohammed, Ehab and others.
Ehab came back to Alexandria with me and is staying with his brother, Mohammed, and his uncle, until I leave. He will go to Cairo with me, to help me with my bags and to see me off. I wish that Mohammed could have come back to Alex as well.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

back in Sharm... again.

In Alexandria, I spent some time with Kristen, one of my classmates from my first month in Egypt. She is back in Alex to do some teaching. After a couple of days there, I went to Cairo to meet Ehab. He and a friend picked me up at my hotel (Caio Hotel). I went there because I know that I am welcome there any time, and I can sit around there as long as I like. We went to the University to a little shopping mall to walk around and then eat. After that, we picked up my bags and Ehab and I went to his home.
It took a while to get to Ehab's home. He lives in a small village called Tabloha, near Tanta, somewhere between Alexandria and Cairo. There were goats, cows and gamoosa (water buffalo) tied up here and there along the roads, and were led home at the end of the day. Donkeys and donkey carts were everywhere.
I stayed in his home and every day we went around visiting his relatives and friends. We also went into Tanta one day to watch a movie and to another town to drive the bumper cars (at which I kick butt).
I am now back in Sharm el-Sheik for a week. I have been here a few days already, but was sick in bed. What a way to spend the time when the beach and the sun are right there. I am okay now, though.
I'll have to update this a little later. things to do, people to see, food to eat.

Friday, November 18, 2005

life in Egypt.

Mohammed did get to take his vacation, as the other guy managed to find his way back to Sharm. Mohammed's home is in a small city to the West of Alexandria. He has a wonderful family that I will remember forever. His mother, father and three brothers, as well as his aunts, and cousins that kept stopping by. They fed me too much though. Everywhere we went, it was "Eat!" "Eat!" "Eat!" If I stayed there much longer, I would have to buy a whole new wardrobe. The food, for the most part, was excellent. There were a few things, though, that I knew that I would not like and so turned down, even though they still kept insisting that I eat more. (Things in the meat department that kind of turn my stomach to think about, that are normal here.)
I met many of Mohammed's friends. Ahmed, Waleed, Mmdoaa, Masaood, Atteia, Ahmed, Mohammed, Romy, etc. He has so many friends and so had a few problems. A lot of his friends were upset that he couldn't spend more time sitting with them and talking with them. He didn't even get to see many of his friends.
Every day we went to Alexandria for a few hours to walk around or such. One day, I went with Mohammed (in the cap), Masaood (in the white shirt), Mmdoaa (beside Mohammed), Ahmed (infront of Mohammed) and Atteia. We walked around for a while and spent some time watching the traffic of the Corniche and the Mediteranean sea. Later, we went to a movie... an Egyptian comedy that , of course, was in Arabic. I barely understood anything that was going on, but the guys couldn't stop laughing the entire time.

Another day, Mohammed (with me), Masaood (middle), Mohammed and I went to Montaaza, the old summer palace in Alex (you can see it behind Mohammed and I). The guys are standing on the bridge at Montaaza. I had been there before, when it was warmer (during my course), to go swimming. This time, we walked around the huge park to enjoy the scenery and take a lot of pictures. A very beautiful place.

One night, I also went into Alex with Mohammed (on the left) and Waleed. We wandered around along the Corniche and then went to see the Citadel/Fort Qaitbey. The Citadel stands where the Great Lighthouse used the stand. Materials from the Lighthouse were used to build the Citadel.

The whole situation of me visiting Mohammed's home was very unusual. Guys (people) here don't take people, especially girls, home. There are no foreigners in Mohammed's town, so I really stood out. I guess when he told his mom he was going home for a vacation, she asked him what he was going to bring for her. He told her that he was bringing something very sweet. I guess there were many questions going around the town, as everyone knows everyone. "Who is that girl?" "Why is she here?" "Where is she staying?" Mohammed said that everyone there loves and knows him and his family so there are no problems.
Today I got to try sugar cane. I knew that they made drinks from it at the juice places here, but I had never tried it. Mohammed's brothers just took chunks of it, chewed on it, and then spit it out. I did smaller pieces. It is very sweet. When you chew on it, the juices come out and then you spit out the rest of it.
I drink too much tea here. The biggest problem with that is that here, they load it with sugar. In a small cup, they will put up to 4 heaping teaspoons, sometimes more. They think it is strange if you want less than 3. In different cities, the cup sizes are very different. In Alex, they use very tall glasses. In Cairo, the glasses are about half of the ones in Alex. In Siwa, they drink tea from very small shot glasses.
Mohammed is now on his way back to Sharm and I am in Alex. I have some things I have to do here, and then tomorrow I will head to Cairo for a night or two. Ehab, my other friend from Sharm will have his holiday when Mohammed gets back and will then meet me in Cairo to take me to his home.
Another adventure.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Back in Sharm

I am in Sharm el-Sheik again... but will leave tomorrow.
I enjoyed the rest of my time in Nuweiba very much. I was the only guest my second and last day/night there. I got to know some of the people there fairly well in the 2 days. They have an excellent chef, Eid. He is, I think, 25 years old and has been cooking for many years. We had a good chat my last evening. I sat around with a couple of the guys in the back while they smoked their sheeshas.
Everyone here seems to be obsessed with either sheeshas or cigarettes. So many Egyptian men have REALLY bad teeth... black, gross, etc. I think it is a combination of the smoking, drinking tea with TONS of sugar, and not cleaning their teeth.
I am staying at a nice hotel here, downtown Naama Bay, the Kahramana Hotel. I got a fairly good deal on the rate because Ahmed, from Nuweiba, has a cousin/friend (Adel) that lives here and has contacts... he knows the manager or such of the hotel.
Today I spent the entire day lounging on the beach in the sun. It felt so nice. I have been spending my evenings in Sharm at a little Beduin cafe along the strip, with my friends Ehab (21) and Mohammed (22). I met them when I was here a few weeks ago. I have kept in contact with them. They are some of my favorite people that I have met in Egypt. I have such a great time when I am with them. I am supposed to go to both of their homes to meet their families in the next week... unless problems persist. I am supposed to go to Alex with Mohammed tomorrow. He is from a town/city near Alex. He has been planning on this vacation for a while, but another guy that works there was on vacation in Cairo and lost his money (and bags?). Mohammed is supposed to wait until the other guy is back, which seems to be a big problem. After a few days in Alex, Mohammed comes back to Sharm, and then Ehab gets his vacation. He lives in a town/city near Cairo.
In the cafe, there are no chairs. You sit on cushions and lean against palm trunks that are covered with blankets. They serve drinks and sheeshas. While I am there, the guys keep bringing me things: drinks (tea, juice, cola, etc) and snacks (chips and such) and if I am hungry, food appears. So far, I have not had to pay for a meal. It is quite nice. (I could probably have had full board at the hotel if I talked to the manager, as Adel suggested, but I wasn't planning on sitting around the hotel all day.)
I am going to meet a guy from the hotel in a bit. He works in the restaurant. I seem to meet a lot of people that love to talk to me, because I know that little bit of Arabic. I saw Essam on my way back from taking a long walk along the boardwalk. We talked for a short time before I went to meet my guys. This morning he asked me if he could go with me on my walk, or sit down for coffee. Many men here are creepy and expect certain things to happen, but my intuition seems to work quite well. I am very careful. It is nice, though, to talk to people. Because I am travelling along, I get a bit bored at times. After that, I will be back at my cafe.
It is very hot here during the day but then at night it gets very cold. Sitting in the cafe and watching people go by is very interesting. I see a lot of interesting things. Even at night, many people walk by still in their shorts and bikini tops/T-shirts/etc and seem to be unaffected by the temperature. On the other hand, there are people around in long sleeve shirts and sweaters and jackets. There was even one guy, an Egyptian that was working for one of the shops, wearing a down-filled parka. When I am walking, I am comfortable with a sweater on, but when I am sitting, I have 2 sweaters on and still feel very cold. I am not sure what the actual temperature is.
InshaAllah I will be on a bus to Alex in the morning.

Monday, November 07, 2005


I am in Nuweiba now. Nuweiba is a SMALL town on the coast of the Sinai.
The bus ride was about 8 hours long and I was frozen the entire way. There was a problem with the bus and cold air from outside was blowing in around the side door, making everyone on the bus cold. I was sitting beside a guy from Jordan. He let me know what was going on (where we were, why we stopped, etc.). A lot of the people on the bus were going to Jordan.
Nuweiba is very spread out. The whole area seems a bit deserted. Not many people are around here. I am not even sure if there are any other guests in the hotel tonight. It is late now and I have not seen anyone else around.
Earlier today, when I went for a swim in the pool, I met an (African) American woman (retired doctor) that is living in Jordan but is staying here for a few weeks. She has been living abroad for over 6 years and has lived in many Arab countries. A very interesting woman to talk to. She is staying in one of the camps (little huts on the beach) and is the only one staying there.
It is getting into winter here, so it is a bit cooler than normal, and gets quite cold at night.
During the day, especially around lunch time, my hotel gets a bit busy, as some tour groups stop here for a buffet lunch and a dip in the pool. There are coral reefs not far off shore. I am not sure, though, if I can find a snorkle set here. There are supposedly dolphins around. There was a famous one that was always around Nuweiba (friends with a blind man that lived here) but I heard that she died a while ago. Apparently, though, one of her children still shows up every once in a while.
Because I the only one around, I have personal service. I am here full board, so my meals are all included. They ask me what I want and then make it. The manager here, Ahmed, is very nice and is making sure that I get everything that I want.
Ahmed was supposed to meet me at the bus station when I arrived, but I didn't see him anywhere. I waited for a while and then phoned. He said that he was on the way. I felt very uncomfortable waiting at the bus station. There were people everywhere (mostly men), waiting for another bus, all watching me. Ahmed arrived about 45 minutes after I arrived. The car from the hotel got a flat tire and so he had to walk almost the entire way (it took him almost an hour) before he found a taxi. Because it is the slow season and there are not many people around, there are very few taxis. Poor Ahmed.
I can see Saudi Arabia (mountains) across the Gulf of Aqaba.
Tomorrow I will probably just sit around by the pool and relax in the sun.
Check out Eid the chef's blog:

Sunday, November 06, 2005

in transit

I am back in Cairo for a day. The rest of my trip to the south was great. From Aswan, I was on a felucca for 2 days and nights. A felucca is an Egyptian sailboat. For the first day and night, there were 6 passengers and then the 3 people from France got off. The remaining passengers were Mike and Milan. Mike is an American working in Iraq (keeping the generators on a base running). Milan is a student from Germany. He is living in Cairo for 3 months, doing an international studies project- he is interviewing Germans that are living/working here in Egypt. They were great company for my time on the boat and in Luxor.
The crew on the felucca couldn't have been better. Captains Ahmed and Khaled (Captain Bebo)and co-Captain Ghad (an 11 year old boy) were awesome. They joked around and made the atmosphere fun and comfortable. The felucca zigzagged along the Nile, downstream to the North. The first night, after we stopped and ate, Khaled started playing a bin (until a drum somehow appeared-from another felucca maybe) and singing. Apparently, during the summer, when tourism is down, he plays and sings at weddings.
The second night, we invited a honeymooning couple from the felucca next to us to join us for dinner. Jack is from Kenya and Solange is from Malta. The 5 of us were fast friends and spent quite a bit of time together that day and in Luxor.
There was drumming and singing the second night, too, only around a fire on a small beachy area across from Komombo, our destination. The crew from our felucca and 2 others all joined in. After a while, there was a bit of a problem. Some guy from the village above (Mustafa) showed up. We were told that on previous occasions, he had caused a lot of problems, harrassing the foreign women. The crew from the 3 boats didn't respond well to his presence and there was a lot of yelling and big sticks were in hand. The guy ended up jumping into the Nile and swimming away, only to return above us a little later, to taunt the guys. Magnoon.
Being on a felucca was great, but very cold. It is getting into winter here. Down that end of the Nile in Egypt, it is still very hot during the day, but at night it gets quite cold. And the breeze along the river is not exactly warm. It was a good thing that I had a sleeping bag with me, as they only had a few blankets.
The next day, we went to the temple at Komombo and then the one in Edfu. I don't have all of my info at the moment so I am not sure which temples are where. After checking into our hotels (both Milan and I were at the Shady Hotel on Television Street) in Luxor, we went the the temples of Karnak and the temple of Luxor, both in Luxor.
That was a lot to pack into one day. I don't remember much of what the guide said.
Later that evening, the 5 of us sat around on the roof of Mike's hotel (the Arabesque) drinking wine. A great way to end the day. That was the last we saw of Jack and Solange.
The next day was the tour of the West Bank- The Valley of the Kings, The Valley of the Queens and the funerary temple of Hatshepsut. We went into 3 tombs in the V of the Kings, and 2 in the V of the Queens. King Tut's tomb was not one of them, because there is nothing much to see and it is an extra 70 EP to get in.
The 3 of us had lunch/dinner at Murphy's Irish Pub in Luxor. Fantastic burgers!!! Just what we were all wanting. They left that evening, in their separate ways.
I spent one more night in Luxor and the next morning was in a convoy to Abydos and Dendara. I had my own private minivan, though. An odd feeling after being on crowded minibuses to go everywhere else. There were only a few people going there, so in the temples, I could easily see most parts free of tourists (a rarity anywhere else). The temple of Hathor in Dendara was amazing, complete with pillars, a crypt and a dark, winding staircase up to the roof. On the roof, a guard took me into a couple of rooms that were locked up, so that I could see more. He didn't speak much English but was able to get across what I was looking at, for the most part. He was showing me pictures that were on the walls (the more important ones). I was surprised that he wasn't pushy or anything, as most people are (they all just want baksheesh/tips). He was kind and when I did offer him a small tip (I didn't have much change to give), he was slow to take it. He was just full of smiles the whole time.
I spent last night on a train back to Cairo (10 hours). I was lucky and had all three seats to myself. Tonight I get on a bus for Nuweiba, in the Sinai. My friends at the Ciao hotel here in Cairo got me a great deal at their branch (a resort hotel) in Nuweiba... a deal for Laura only. They are the ones that arranged my trip to Aswan and Luxor. I found out that I really am getting good deals, because the agent in Luxor told me not to tell ANYONE what I was paying because I was getting too good a deal. All because I am me. :P

Monday, October 31, 2005


I am in Aswan right now. It is a very beautiful city.The train ride here was long and for the most part, without incident. It left Cairo at 10 pm and arrived here at about 10 am. In my cabin, there was an Irish family... Seamus, Margeurite and their son, a creepy Egyptian man (Ahmed the judge), and a Sudanese guy, Fadhi. The Irish are staying in the same hotel as I am so I see them around a bit. After arriving, I was instructed on my itinerary (the basics) and then had some time to settle in. I left at 1:30 on a trip to see a few things. The old dam and the High Dam were not much to see, really, but they are very important. The High Dam creates enough power for all of Egypt. Then I saw the Philae temple. It was originally on a different island but was moved after it was flooded by the old dam. A lot of temples and such here were moved because of the dams.When I got back, Margeurite was in the lobby of the hotel waiting for the guys. I spent the rest of the day with them. We went to Biti Pizza for dinner. Seamus insisted on paying. Then we went for a walk through the market where I bought a nice pair of silver Nubian made earrings. We tried to get into the Nubian museum (the book said it was open until 9 pm) but it closed at 3. So, we went to the Old Cataract Hotel, where part of the Agatha Christie movie "Death on the Nile" was filmed. There was a minimum charge of 55 EP for non residents. We had a couple of beer while watching the Nile float by. Seamus again insisted on paying for everything.This morning I got up at 2:30 am to have a shower and get ready. I had breakfast at 3:15 and then was picked up at about 3:45. Every morning at 4, a tour bus convoy organized by the police leaves Aswan for Abu Simbel. It is about a 3 hour bus ride to the site. Abu Simbel was moved due to flooding from the dam. You should know what Abu Simbel is... The giant statues of Ramses II carved into the side of a rock cliff, on either side of the entrance to the temple. If you saw the pictures, you would know what I am talking about. There are two temples there. I had about 1.5 hours to walk around and then it was back on the bus for the convoy back.When I got back I walked all the way from my hotel to the Nubian Museum. It is quite a long walk. I only had about 45 minutes to see the museum. I would have liked to have had more time, as I was very rushed. Then I went down behind the museum to look around the old cemetary. I will try to send some info about that later. For the sunset, I walked all the way up to the Nubian House, a restaurant/teahouse. From there, I had a great view of the Nile valley and of the sunset. Beautiful. I left there after dark. Not great thinking on my part, as a lot of the way has no lights. Nothing happened, though. They guys at the restaurant thought I was crazy for walking, though, and not taking a taxi. Taxis are not plentiful up that way. Walking up, I saw about 2 cars pass and about 2 or 3 people only. It seemed almost deserted. Tomorrow I will go to the two main islands in Aswan.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

a trip

This morning I took the train from Alexandria to Cairo. Tonight I will be on a train for Aswan. I will spend 2 nights in Aswan and then 2 nights on a felucca (an Egyptian sailboat) on the way to Luxor. I will stay in Luxor for 3 nights before returning to Cairo. I want to say what I will be doing, but I am currently having some problems with my wrist and am having trouble typing... the old tendonitis doesn't like me carrying my bags around so much or playing with the kids in Alexandria.I am not sure if I will have much access to my email until I return to Cairo, but I will try to keep you up to date with what I am doing.Love you all.

Friday, October 28, 2005

back in Alex.

I am back in Alexandria. I got here yesterday and will be leaving again tomorrow morning. I am going to Cairo to arrange my trip to Aswan and Luxor (etc.). I will only be in Cairo for the day and then will start my trip tomorrow evening.
I miss Siwa already. It is such a beautiful place. I stayed in the desert 4 nights. I went to 7 or so springs (one hot). I loved just walking around or sitting and writing in the sand and daydreaming.
The first two nights our camp was at the bottom of a giant sand dune. The third night camp was in an area that is littered with seashells and looked like I think the moon's surface would look like. It was so beautiful. The last night was just into the desert a bit, on a small dune, because we didn't leave the town until late because I was busy doing other things. I ate dinner at FatHi's home after the sun set, and his sister decorated my hands with henna. His sister is 18 and has been married for 4 months. They marry very young there and the men can have several wives (if they can afford it). The families in Siwa are all very big. Some people that I was talking to said that they met a man whose new wife is only 10 years old or so. Nasser's father had 3 wives but only one is there now. He has 10 sisters and brothers.
Then, after eating at FatHi's I went to Nasser's home for a while and met most of his family. The youngest is Mabrooka, who is 2 or 3.
The food was great the whole trip. They eat a lot of milk products. For fittaur/ifta (breakfast/the first meal after sunset during Ramadan) is generally fresh dates and plain yogurt, along with some sort of milk to drink. The dates that I had here in Alex are nothing like the dates in Siwa. I didn't like the dates in Alex, but the ones in Siwa are great. I heard that Siwa is famous for its dates. They were sooooo good. Take a bite of date and a spoon full of yogurt and it is sooo delicious. Generally we then ate rice and vegetables and chicken. That seems to be the usual meal there. At 4 in the morning, the before sunrise, the meal is then bread and cheese (several different kinds) and apricot jam. I miss the dates and yogurt. I am trying to find the same kind of dates here but as of yet, have had no such luck.
Nasser's mom made most of the meals except for one, when we were in the moon-like area. His aunt lives near there, so she made the food while we went around to the local sites.
My last day in Siwa, I went to the Mountain of the Dead. It is full of tombs that were cut into the sides and everywhere. Most of them are just simple holes or spaces, but a few of them are painted and decorated. I went into two of them. There is also one tomb that has mummies in it. There were 4 whole mummies and some parts (torso and head, a head, bones, etc).
I wanted to buy some things while I in Siwa (Siwan things) but ran out of money and the ATM there wasn't working. Poor me. :(
Well, that's it for now. I have to go buy a train ticket.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

I love Siwa... I love the desert

I am still in Siwa. I planned on leaving here sooner, but I love it here so much. I had only planned on staying a couple of days but added another and then another. I can't get enough of it. The desert sand is soooo nice. It is so soft and smooth. I have spent two nights already, sleeping in the desert, with my driver, Nasser (18) and my guide/donkey taxi driver, FatHee (17) for company. I was calling FatHee my little brother. The first day, he took me all over Siwa with his donkey cart taxi. He speaks English very well.
The first 2 nights here, I stayed in a hotel. FatHee suggested the desert trip and Nasser was the driver for the first night. There was a Japanese girl, Maki with us the first day in the desert, but she had to come back into town. I had so much fun with the two guys, and trust them. I could pay less to have a different driver, but I like Nasser so I am paying the 50EP extra. It is his father's company and his father's 4X4 so he has no say in how much is to be charged. Nasser let me drive the 4X4 a couple of times. Driving in the desert sand is different from anything else. The tires have to be very low on air and even then it takes a lot to get going. Going up and down the dunes is a bit scary... it looks like it is straight down, and then Nasser stops halfway just because I think it is scary. What a funny guy.
I will catch a bus back to Alex tomorrow night. :( I wish that I could say longer.
It is very hot here during the day, with clear skies all the time. At night, because winter is coming, it is getting colder... very cold, actually. I had 3 blankets on me and was still cold. The first night in the desert, I slept in the tent, but then decided it is better (even though colder) to sleep outside. I figure it is nice to wake up and see the stars.
Because I am here and spending my days with Siwans, I am observing Ramadan with them. We have a big meal after sunset (around 6pm) and then a meal at 3:30 or 4am, before the sun rises. Then it is no drinking or eating all day. So hungry. So thirsty.
Every day we stop at 1 or two springs (different every time) in the desert (mostly cold, salty) Anyway...

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Siwa Oasis etc.

Bokra/tomorrow, I will go to the Siwa Oasis to the west. It is near the Libyan border, 12m below sea level, stretching for aobut 80km. It is supposed to be the nicest of the oasis. It is famous for its dates and olives. According to my book, it has more than 300,000 palm trees and 70,000 olive trees, along with many fruit orchards. My bus ticket cost me about $5 Canadian. I am not sure how long the ride is, but I think it is about 8 hours or so, along the Mediterranean coast for a while and then down through the desert. I leave at 2 pm, so it will be getting dark by the time the bus starts heading down. I will have to snack before I leave my room, as I won't be able to eat or drink anything on the bus until fittaur (breakfast/first meal) after the sun sets.There are date palms almost everywhere I have been. They eat the dates fresh off the palms, or dried. I prefer them dried, but am still not a big fan of them.I am already starting to wish that I had more time here because there is still so much to see and do and I am still planning my trip to Tanzania. Poor me. :P

If you have time or want to know more about the things I am seeing and the places I am going, here are some sites that I have found.
The Citadel, Cairo:
The National Museum:
Khan al-Khalili (marketplace/bazaar):
Pyramids in Saqqara: (I went into Teti's pyramid) step pyramid:
Pyramid of Teti:
Pyramids of Giza:
Khafre's pyramid/middle pyramid (I went into this one):
The pyramids at Dahshur (I went into the Red Pyramid):
Sharm el-Sheik (I stayed in Naama Bay):
Siwa Oasis:

Monday, October 17, 2005


Egyptian men are of another sort altogether, but for the most part, I can deal with it. I have been proposed to more times than I can remember.... a lot of men here want the VISAs, or just foreign women. I have heard that because Egyptian women are very protected by everyone (they must be virgins when they get married) many Egyptian men think foreign women are a way to get around that. They have a very wrong stereotype that all (or most) foreign women are easy. Just as many foreigners think that all Egyptian men are pigs. Egyptians hiss and whistle and make all sorts of comments or sounds. odd. Walking down the street is an experience on its own.Last night I went to Khan al-Khalili, a giant market place in Islamic Cairo. It is not the best place to wander around alone, I suppose, not that it isn't safe. The shop owners heckle everyone that walks by, especially foreign women. I didn't actually buy anything as I didn't want to deal with them. It is like a maze in there. I was dropped of on a side that I wasn't familiar with and it took a lot of walking and a lot of time to find the area that I know. The taxi driver on the way there wanted me to be his 'friend'. As soon as I got in, he stopped and bought two cups of mango juice, one for him and one for me. A bit odd. Then he wanted me to sit in the front. No thanks... La'a Shukran. Then he wanted to park and go into the market with me to have a sheesha. La'a shukran. The traffic here is like no other. There are lines on the road but they are generally ignored as are most traffic rules. Also, there are no traffic signals/lights anywhere. There are huge intersections with no lights and cars going every which way. Cars, trucks, buses (big and small) and throw in a few carts pulled by horses and a few pulled by donkeys and then add a great number of people trying to cross the road, jump on the buses, etc. Not a nice scene. It is sad to see horses running their butts off down the road, trying to stay with the traffic. In the country there are a lot more donkeys and such.It is mid Ramadan right now. For those of you that don't know, Ramadan is an Islamic holy month in which they don't eat or drink or put anything in their mouths from sunrise to sunset. They have a large breakfast at about 4 am or so and a feast at about 5:30 pm. They have to wait for the announcement from the local mosque or what ever. In Alexandria, cannons went off to announce that people could begin eating. I eat breakfast when ever I get up but after that, I try not to eat or drink in front of anyone (unless I know that they are Christian and therefore not observing the fasting). It is difficult at times, especially when it is so hot during the day. It is starting to cool off a bit at night.I will be staying in my hotel (Ciao hotel) for one more night and then I will go back to Alexandria to sort out my things. I am storing a suitcase at the school in Alex and can leave what ever I want there.I have been in the same hotel since I got to Cairo with 3 others. I am still in the same room but they are charging me for a single: 50 Egyptian Pounds (about $10) a night.Well, that's all for now. I want to actually do something today and it is already the afternoon. Because of Ramadan, things close at 3pm or so.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Saqqara, Dahshur, Memphis

[the Step Pyramid (Zoser) at Saqqara][the Red Pyramid (Sneferu) at Dahshur][the Bent Pyramid (sneferu) at Dahshur][our taxi (I'm in the driver's seat for the pic)][colossal statue of Ramses II in Memphis]

Dinner Cruise on the Nile

[Bryn, Kate and I at the helm][dancers and drummers][belly dancer][dancing with/twirling poles][belly dancer again][whirling dervish][whirling dervish and Kate]

at the Citadel in Cairo

[Mosque of Mohammed Ali][view of Cairo. If you look very closely, you can see the outline of the pyramids in the distance (just left of center)]

Sharm el-Sheikh

[Bedouin (sheesha) cafe decor][Mohammed, Megan, Ehab and I dancing in the cafe][the beach][Alex looking spiffy][dancing lessons at the beach][at the Bingo Cafe: Mohammed, Me, Ahmed, Megan, Ehab][waiting for the bus]

alone in Egypt

Well, I am alone now. I am more alone now than I have ever been in my life. It is kinda scary to think about it. The course I took had some perks... they offered complementary trips: a one day trip to Cairo to see the pyramids, the sphinx, and the Egyptian Museum, and then a 3 night trip to the Red Sea after the course (staying at the Marriot Beach Resort)After the course finished in Alex, we all went to Sharm el-Sheik (near where the bombings were in the past). The Red Sea is so beautiful. We spent a few days there lounging around on the beach and snorkling in Ras Mohammed national park (coral reefs). The snorkling was amazing. I bought a snorkle set but some guy on another boat stepped on my mask and the glass shattered (several boats were tied together when we were eating). The company said they would do something about it, but when I was supposed to go check on it, I wasn't able to because of a screw up with our bus tickets to Cairo. Ian and Kristen both had to leave Sharm a day early to make their flights. Back in Cairo, Megan split off to stay with Taha, her American/Egyptian boyfriend. Alex had only one full day here. We checked out the Citadel and some Mosques. We got to go up into the minaret (sorry, don't know how to spell it) of one. The next day, Kate, Bryn and I went to Saqqara, Dashur, and Memphis. The step pyramid is in Saqqara. We went into one of the pyramids there. To get into the pyramids, we had to go down a very long, small shaft, crouching the entire way. The air is very stale. There were hyroglyphs everywhere inside. I got to ride a donkey around the area. So fun. I rode a camel in Giza and wanted to ride something else. Then we went to Dashur to see the bent pyramid. We went to the Red (?) pyramid first and went inside. This one, we had to climb stairs quite a ways up the side before going down an even longer shaft. There wasnt' much to see inside, though. From there, we went to the outdoor museum in Memphis to see the giant statue of Ramses II. Kate left the night before last, so yesterday Bryn and I went to Islamic Cairo to see Beit as-Suhaymi, a traditional family mansion. It was like a maze that seemed to keep going. Once we saw everything there, we went to Coptic/old Cairo. I went there the last time I was in Cairo, but Bryn wasn't here then. We spent her last evening at a little coffee shop in Khan al-Khalili (a giant market place) smoking a mixed fruit sheesha and talking to the Egyptians that we ended up sitting with. The coffee shop is in an alley and there is very little sitting room. I am going to spend a couple of days here in Cairo just trying to figure out where I want to go and when. I don't want to just float around as I want to see as much as I possibly can. I want to go back to the Sinai because I want to go on the Mount Sinai trek... Up the mountain on a camel up to the last bit which is a 1 hour hike to the top, where I will see the sunrise.I will probably go back to Alexandria first, because I want to change some of the things that I am carrying. I can leave stuff at the school, which is a good thing. I bought a suitcase to leave there... For some reason, it is almost full. Somehow, the things that I came with and the few things that I have bought so far, have expanded. I will either go to Siwa oasis first or go down to Aswan to start.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

a weekend in Egypt

The weekend was great. Friday after classes, we went out for dinner with Taha and his friends. Taha is Megan's boyfriend. He is Egyptian but went to University in the States (that is where they met). We went to a fish restaurant on the Corniche.[Alex and the fish. Notice the pacifier in the mouth of the fish on the wall.]
A few of us don't like fish, so we just had rice, but it was very good, flavored rice.[They just happened to put the fish in front of Ian]
After the restaurant, we went to another place for a sheesha-I had peach flavored this time. It was also right on the Corniche. Taha's friends said that the place had the best sheeshas.[Ian, Kristen and Alex]
Megan spent the weekend with Taha at their summer cottage, at a compound somewhere about 40 minutes away. It is right on the Mediterranean and has private beaches and swimming pools.
The ride home was about the craziest taxi ride ever. The guy was weaving in and out of traffic, honking the entire way. I am not sure how fast he was going, but it was a lot faster than the other cars. Scary. I guess it is always like that in Cairo.[Kate posing infront of Montaza]
Saturday morning, Hussein picked the rest of us up and we went to a beach at Montaza (It was the summer palace of the King).We drove through the Montaza gates into the gigantic, beautiful park. The beach was at the far end of the park. The beach is in a little cove, so it was not all waves. The sand was a bit dirty, though (garbage and such).[Kristen]
Egypt is very conservative, so most women here go in fully clothed. Some have old style swimwear-covering shoulders and upper legs.
After a few hours there, we went back for a quick shower and then went to another area of Alex. to go to a restaurant called Mohammed Akhmed, that is famous for its fast service and good food (falafel, hummus, etc).We went there to meet 2 Swedes that we met at the beach. After we ate, we went back to their hotel, the Windsor Palace Hotel, for a beer.[Kristen and Kate]
Because of their religion, most Egyptians don't drink, so there are not many places to get a drink. The place was so fancy with painted ceilings and fancy furniture.
Today, Hussein picked us up at 10 and we went to the catacombs. They were discovered in around the 1900s when a donkey fell and disappeared into a tunnel. We couldn't take our cameras in but we did manage to get some pics with a camera phone that one of the girls had. They were built during that time that the Greeks and Romans were here. It was an amazing place to see... all underground, of course. Then we went to Pompei's pillar (which really has nothing to do with Pompei) and then the Graeco Roman amphitheater.[Pompei's Pillar][Alex and I at the Graeco Roman Amphitheater]
They were both very cool. I would describe them but am short on time at the moment.
We had lunch at a fabulous restaurant on the sea side of the Corniche. They had western and Egyptian food on the menu. There was a little man-made stream type thing (with no water in it) down the middle of the restaurant, and there were 3 ducks and a white flamingo wandering around. Very cool. We will have to go there again during the week. We then tried to go to Fort Qaitbey, where the Lighthouse was, but it was closed. We will try again another time.[infront of Fort Qaitbey]
Anyway, gotta go. Keep in touch. Love you all.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Well, This has been the absolute strangest couple of days in my entire life. If I tried to explain it all, it would be the length of a novel. Joanna is really ABSOLUTELY crazy. Yesterday in class she was a bit strange and slow but she seemed fairly normal.Then we went to Carrefour, a big western style shopping mall downtown Alex. When ever we went out, she covered her head and pretty much hid her face. She didn't seem to want to actually walk with any of us, and seemed a little paranoid. At the mall, half of the group went to the grocery store with Hussein, our wonderful driver (he loves us all... except for Joanna). Bryn, Ian, Joanna and I wanted to wander around and window shop. Joanna really wanted to buy some clothing because of the situation of having to flee Dubai without her luggage(as she claimed). She wouldn't walk with us there, either. She walked a few feet behind us, keeping her head covered. When we went to look at anything, she stayed well away and when we were finished, she would go take a look. She does everything so slowly, including walking and eating. We were hungry so we went for a quick snack, a cinnamon bun. She ordered a chicken crepe dinner. She moved like a snail while she ate because she was too busy watching everyone that came near or walked by or even moved in the distance. Eventually, after eating, Ian and I got separated from Bryn and Joanna. We went into the grocery store (it had everything from food to clothes to cds. We each bought a notebook. When we all found each other again and were ready to leave, Joanna had bought a new outfit. Actually, Bryn had paid for it because Joanna had forgotten to bring cash and didnt' want to use her credit card because it could be traced. After we got back, she came to our room to join us while we were doing our homework. She said she wanted to show us something and broke out into a very long story. To make a long story short, she claims that she unknowingly helped Saddam Hussein in New Zealand a couple of years ago, and so became sort-of part of his group. She worked with and taught Iraqi refugees. While whe was there, she had a few problems (was attacked by a mother of a 16 year old drugged up girl that she had helped) and the only ones that would help her were a group of Iraqi refugees, of which one was Saddam Hussein, using the name Hassam. She spent time with all of the refugees there. She claims that since then, every where that she goes, she sees people from his group and communicate with them using hand and body signals. Apparently, she saw people from the group at Carrefour (4 of them, to be exact), and they communicated to her that they wanted her to talk to Saddam about the situation with the refugees. She says that she is wanted because of her associations and is worried that the Egyptian gov't will come and take her away because of it. She went into a big long speech about how the Arab troops were mobilizing in Dubai and in Cairo and that they were going to make their big move after the Rammadan, a month long religious period starting next month(?). She wouldn't leave our room until very late and after every one else had gone to bed, she told Megan and I that she was going to flee the country. She walked into Megans bedroom and was standing at her window for about 15 minutes or so and when Megan tried to talk to her, she said to be quiet. When she finally came out, she asked if the guys downstairs would be asleep, because the coast was clear outside. She then hugged each of us and tried to give me her cds and watch. She wanted to trade bags with us but we suggested that if she wanted to do something like that, she should use shopping bags. In the morning, she was gone, her key was on the table and the clothes that she had been wearing were left with her bag and some other things in her room. She left the door open. We had a big discussion when we got to the school. Then she phoned the school to say that she was having family problems and would miss the day but would be back tomorrow. She phoned the school again, a little later, to say that she would be there in the afternoon. The made her go to the apartment to pick up her things and then she did show up. She is now staying in a hotel a short walk from the school. Everyone is a bit freaked out by her. She is very creepy. We are hoping that she will stop coming, as it makes us all uncomfortable. We have to actually work with her, as we do partnered work in the class. It is hard to explain because she did say a LOT more than that. She is obviously delusional but there has to be some sort of truth behind her behavior. Maybe something happened to her and she has become paranoid. Who knows. We do have a lot of people looking after us, though. Egyptians are very protective. We love all of the Egyptians that we have met. They are such great people.Anyway, I should go now. This is getting a little long. Tomorrow night we are all going out. And then it is our weekend (Friday and Saturday). Yay. We might to go the beach and a museum or two.Love you all. Keep in touch.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

a great day in Egypt

For those of you that asked, I am studying in Egypt for one month, not teaching. I am learning how to teach English. The new student finally arrived (she was supposed to arrive yesterday). She is in her 50s and is very strange. We are not sure if it is just because she was tired or if she is schizophrenic or something... I am not talking a little bit odd... VERY odd. She stayed for part of a class and then left because she was falling asleep. I will wait and see how she is tomorrow after a good sleep to make any real judgement, though. Other than that, today was such a great day. Classes went well. I had McDonalds for lunch because we were short on time. We had Hussein, our driver, take us to an ATM during the lunch break. After classes, we went back home and then headed out for some shopping, etc. We split into 2 groups because Bryn and Kate just wanted to go shopping but the rest of us were hungry. We wandered around until finally we found a 'Fat Boy' restaurant. We sat down outside and ordered our food and then a woman, Diaa walked up to us and started talking to us. She speaks English fluently. She is the manager of the restaurant, and she is a lawyer. She moved us upstairs so that we would have more space. Just after we got our food, a man walked up to the table to talk to us. He is the owner of the restaurant and several other branches. He lived in LA, where Alex is from, and where he owned a 20 foot yacht, and in Edmonton. What a coincidence. He owns several pharmacies in different places as well. He is a pharmacist. They told us to go there when ever we wanted and they would give us a discount and if we ever needed anything, to call them. Diaa wants to hang out with us. While we were there, there was a birthday party going on for a 9 year old boy. The 3 women that were there insisted that we join them. It was so fun.There was impromptu belly dancing and other dancing, singing and such.The cake was beautiful (and delicious). The women want to hang out with us. They work in a hotel somewhere. They said that we should go there before we go home. Other than the new student, everything here seems to be almost perfect. Hopefully her participation and attitude will be different tomorrow. Love you all and miss you.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Egypt... getting into the groove

Our driver found my ticket. It fell under the front seat when he dropped me off, I guess. What a relief. The people in the course are all so great. There are 7 of us so far, 2 guys and 5 girls. One more person was to arrive today but we haven't met her yet. We all get along so far and feel like we have been together for a lot longer than just one day. We are all so different, but we all clicked instantly, which is a great thing since we will be seeing a lot of each other. Ian is from England and the rest are all American. I am the oldest. I hope that we don't scare Joanna, the new girl. Hopefully she will fit in like everyone else. After I got back to the apartments on Friday, I met Megan, one of my roommates. We went out Friday night for a sheesha (a flavored water pipe-we had strawberry) and some mango juice. The place was right on the Corniche, the main street that goes along the Mediterranean coast. When we got back, we moved to another room, cleaner and with working everything. Last night we all went down to a place on right beside the sea for a sheesha (orange flavored) and coffee/juice. We didn't realize that there were places to go under the corniche, so we were following the Egyptians that were running across the busy road,dodging traffic... a bit scary. The room that I am in now is relatively clean and everything works. Megan and Kristen are my roommates.Our room has become the hangout. This morning we all had breakfast/coffee in our kitchen. The course I am taking is how to teach English. Today was the first day of classes. It was quite amusing at times. They wanted us to experience the different types of learning, so we had a short lesson in Swahili and a short lesson in German. Then we were talking about different games to play and ways of having students interact... so we were making skits and such. We were all laughing so hard. The instructors are all pretty nice, too. I think we intimidate them because we are all so close already. Anyway... enough for now. I am tired as I didn't get enough sleep last night and we have to get up around 7:30 or so.

Friday, September 09, 2005

I am in Egypt

I am in Egypt!!! Getting here was so stressful. I was in transit for about 26 hours. When I got to Calgary, I realized that I forgot my credit card that I was going to put my course fee on. I had it out before I left to make sure that the second half of my flight went through. Then the flight from Calgary to London sucked. My console wasn't working so I couldn't listen to the radio or the movie, and my light kept blinking on and off so I had a hard time sleeping. Then the plane had to circle for about 20 minutes before landing, making me feel very sick. I had a 4 hour stop over in London and then a 3 hour stop over in Vienna. The Alexandria Airport is tiny!! The planes stop out in the middle and then a shuttle bus takes you to the building, which is one room with dividers between the sections-immigration, luggage, customs. The traveler's VISA is just 2 little stamps that cost me $15 US. The school sent a driver (Hussein) to pick me up at the airport. I guess he is the main driver for the school. He has been in several countries around the world, including Korea, because he coaches discus throwing and javelin and such. I am in a very old building with a very old elevator. My room is on the 7th floor. It is soooo dirty.There are 3 bedrooms. 2 of the rooms are nicer but the fans in them don't work. The bathroom is very dirty, too. It is fairly big but the shower stall has no shower curtain (it has parts of a pole stuck on the wall. Half of the lights in the rooms are burnt out or missing and there is a leak in the kitchen ceiling, so there is a puddle in the middle of the kitchen floor. There is a tiny TV and a little fridge. There is a very small 4 burner gas stove/oven. After getting into my room, I realized that somewhere between the airport and my room, I lost my plane ticket (for my return flight). It somehow just disappeared. I was distraught. I tried to use the phone to make an international call and a guy answered... speaking English. It is a guy that took the course before and is leaving for Cairo tomorrow. It was about 4AM when I used the phone, but I guess he was up because he said he was downstairs. He was staying in the room next to mine. Today, I met up with him and he is showing me around a little bit. Some of the other students should be here by now. The driver said that some were arriving today and some tomorrow. Anyway, he showed me where a couple of Internet Cafes are and a few other places, such as a juice bar (I had fresh pomegranite juice), a great place for getting sandwiches, and a market. My room is very close to the sea (Mediterranean).The tram is very cheap... about 25 piestres. (I am not sure what the exchange rate is but the guy said it was about 5 Egyptian pounds per US dollar. 25 piestres is a quarter or a pound. Alexandria is not a clean city but the old buildings make it very interesting. I have heard that the people are all very nice and helpful. The city is a bit breezy because it is on the sea, which I guess is a blessing since it makes it a bit cooler. A lot of people come here from Cairo and such for their summer vacation. I have an orientation at the school tomorrow.I am in an Internet Cafe now, obviously. I think this one costs about 1 pound for half an hour. There is another one closer to my room that is only 50 piestres per half hour but it is closed on Fridays. Fridays is prayer day so a lot of shops are closed. Anyway... I have access to email at least while I am in Egypt. Keep in touch. Laura