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.