A Travellerspoint blog

Cruise Time

Yesterday, I left Luxor for a two day cruise on a riverboat.

I didn't have much hopes for this little cruise-but it has turned out to be quite a nice diversion.

The room was nice but not luxurious. there is good food on board which is included. I had a nice room with a porthole window. The only thing is that there is no daily program-so everyone else seems to know what is going on but i have no idea.
- I really am not familiar with the stops-so we pulled up to a dock yesterday, and I assumed we we're getting off-so I rushed down to my room and put on my pants and shirt (I just had my bathing suit on from the pool). I rushed up to the top deck, and saw that the deck was two stories higher then the pier-we we're just going through locks in the river.


- I didn't realize there was a free drink party until it was almost over. I grabbed one of the last free drinks-a whisky sour with almost as much alcohol as a cupfull of mouthwash.

Other then that it was fine. We passed by great scenery of towns, lots of mosques, minuetes, etc.n WE passed cows. At one point, two guys tied their rowboat to tour big boat, to sell their towels and other stuff. They would throw it up to the deck (hoping it lands on deck), and the purchaser would throw down the money (hoping it lands in the boat). At one point, some lady decided she didn't want one of their towels in a bag, she tried throwing it into her boat and it landed in the water-the guys got angry calling her a bad lady.
After the party, I Went to dinner. I found out there is assigned seating. I sat next to two Chinese woman who didn't speak English, and across from a mean looking white man with a white goattee and khaki shirts and pants. It was just the four of us initially. To break the ice, I made a comment to the guy "We are the luckiest guys in the world-with two beautiful ladies". That at least united the three of them-they all seemed confused by my comment.

Eventually-two German guys sat two seats down who spoke English, and an older woman from Massachusetts who was travelling alone. I normally like meeting people from around the world-but I enjoyed talking to that woman-as it is nice to see someone who speaks English.

We spoke for a while-then I went on deck and watched the silent night go by. With lights and minarets in the distance.

The second day of the cruise, I got up early to eat breakfast, which was good-there was cereal, eggs, and all sorts of fruits. today the river cruise would stop in two ports of calls along the Nile river. The first was the temple of Edfu. We had 2 hours to visit the temple, before the boat left, and it wasn't within walking distance of the boat. We had to pay a horse carriage to take me there. I was nervous about going alone-as if the horse driver decided to screw me over, he could leave me in Edfu-without my passport (the guest services deck on board had it), in a rural part of the country, where most people didn't speak English. So I sat outside and waited to see if anyone else wants to go to Edfu. Two couples and a baby left the ship-but one of them said there wouldn't be any room for a fifth person. But after that, my new friend from Massachusetts walked off-and she was fine with taking a horse carriage together.

We rode the carriage threw the town, past markets, poor houses, and a new school, and arrived at the temple after about 15 minutes. The temple was giant and imposing, with the normal columns, hieroglyphics. and pictures of boats, etc. We didn't have a guide-but a police officer showed us around. One whose English was ummm...limited. He would point at stuff and say words like "splitter...splitter!" Not knowing what he meant. Here in Egypt, a police officer doesn't show you around out of the goodness of his heart, he is in essence moonlighting, so we gave him a tip.

Anyway, the carriage took us back to the ship, and got back on.
After a hearty lunch of rice, vegetable saute, and nice deserts, We reached the second port of call, Kom Ombo-here we had an hour and a half-but since the temple was a 5 minute walk from the ship-this wasn't a big deal. I walked around the temple. A guide would have been helpful. But after all this time, it all starts to run together. I then went to the museum of the crocodile, which is dedicated to a God named Sobek, an God with a Crocodile head, There we'e displayed of mummified crocodiles. I liked this museums, not only because of the crocodiles, but because the museum was cool and dark (outside the temperature was 100+ and it was smokey and hazy).


Got back on the ship-Sayan, the room steward, made the typical towel swan on the bed, but this was surrounded by roses.


so it was dinner time. There was a typical buffet dinner-but this time the lights we're off for a romantic ambiance. I went back to the room, and feel asleep. While it was nice-I wasn't feeling well. The constant and unrelenting heat was getting to me.

Posted by DavidPearlman 01:28 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Day in Luxor

Yesterday I had an all day tour to different sites in Luxor-namely the West and East banks of the Nile. I went to a few incredible Temples on the West Bank of the Nile, weather that was incredibly hot, and air that was incredibly smokey. The bus picked me up at 7:55 am-and picked up a bunch of others are other hostels in town-there we're about 9 of us on the van-2 Chinese girls, 1 Taiwanese girl, 1 Japanese girl, 2 Spanish girls, and a couple of guys from India and Vietnam-and myself.

I am pretty sure I am all alone here at the hostel. While to have my own room and bathroom for approximately $5.00 per night is nice-it would be nice to be with others-so I was sort of happy to do this group tour. We saw the Colossi of Memnon-two giant statues. Then we went to two other sites-Temple of Ramses II, and Temple of Hatshepshut-both of which are death temples. These we're the shrines for the funerals of these great Pharoahs of Egypt, I learned that on the west bank, all of the temples are Funeral temples, simply because the sun sets in the west, and that is where death is symbolized. We went to a place called Valley of the Kings-where the tombs of 62 kings are located underground, and their are vast pathways to many. We only saw 3-but the detailing was intense. We weren't even allowed to take pictures.


Then, We went to a shop selling little models, They showed how the models we're built, and they had musicians playing-yeah-same as all places-the tour guide is payed to take us to a shop.

Afterwards-we went to lunch at some buffet restaurant-yeah-tour guide gets a free meal there-it wasn't real expensive-about $5.00 for the buffet.

After lunch-some of the group actually went back to the hotel-we picked up some other guys. A Mexican guy in his 50's who lives in Miami and some hippie-looking 30ish dude from Michigan. Of course-I talked with the Mexican guy about home-which might seem nice-but that is why I don't like group tours-I like to meet others from around the world and examine the scenery-not talk about home.

Then we went to two other temples-these we're actual prayer temples-where each of the Pharoahs made their own contributions to the temples. So each temple may have statues from 30 different Pharaohs.


Then I walked back to the hostel-I found a nice place for dinner where I met the Vietnamese guy from the group.

Posted by DavidPearlman 22:57 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Cairo to Luxor

Yesterday, I flew to Luxor from Cairo. The taxi picked me up at 11:40 for a 2:00 pm flight-and the traffic was horrendous.

The driver said to me "You should have left at 11:00-who told you to leave at 11:30? (the original pickup time)-I mentioned it was the hostel.

The traffic was horrendous due to a motorcade for the President-who is running for re-election (vs nobody, or a really weak candidate-from what I understood). There are billboards and signs for Cici, (the President) everywhere.

I did make it to the airport on time. i didn't print out a ticket-I took a copy of the record locator and presented it to the security officer at the airport-and that wasn't enough-so I had to go to an Egpytair office at the airport, and have a ticket printed.

At the airport, I met a Yemenese girl living in Egypt now who was working, and was hoping to study in the US or Canada. She mentioned how Yemen is totally destroyed, and how the glamour or Dubai is a position for the entire Arabic world.

The one hour flight was uneventful, and landed in Luxor a few minutes late for some reason. I found the driver to the hostel. The hostel gave me an upgrade to a private room-I think I am the only one staying here.

I walked around downtown, towards the Luxor temple, which is on the Nile Riverfront, and beggars, horse carriage drivers, sail boat captains kept begging me to give money, get a ride, etc.

I ate dinner at some restaurant of lamb-I have eaten too much meat but most food here is-and then went back to the hostel at about 8:00 pm to get away from the beggars.

Posted by DavidPearlman 21:07 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Cairo-not for beginners

Another day in Cairo.

For my stay here in the hostel, the staff has been trying to convince me to go on a tour of Egypt that includes a cruise for like $405.00. I want to see Egypt but I am naturally skeptical-I don't like group tours, but I would like to see more, and I have been given the hard-sell for the 4 days I have been here.

Yesterday morning I did some research on going to Luxor myself, a major part of the cruise. I found it was easy and not expensive. So I booked a flight inpulsively for the cost of what I thought was $45.00, (I found it was $133-I had the exchange rate wrong). I tried to cancel the flight. (It was on Egyptair's website)-plus my name was wrong on the ticket. I put my last name first and first name last.

I really wanted the flight cancelled. I sent an email to Egyptair (there is no phone # on their website-and I couldn't make calls in Egypt anyway)-but the email was returned because it was a bad address. I found Egyptair had an office a few blocks away from the hostel, I went there-told the person at the desk I wanted to cancel the ticket. Her English wasn't good-but she asked me to go to the accounting office-just behind the counter, and talk to someone there. I sat next to that lady, and she tried calling three people to cancel the ticket. Nobody picked up. Finally, she gave me another email to send to request a cancellation-but she wouldn't send the email for me. I had to go back to the hostel-send the email from there (since that is where there is wifi). Of course-a minute of two sending it I heard the ping that I received a new email-so that email was returned to. I did find a online refund request form on the website-so I sent that in, and received an auto bounce back-that the email was received.

Anyway, I found I was able to book a new ticket with my name correct for only $60 (I checked this time)-so that is what I did.

After all that-it was roughly 10:00 am-I went back to the Museum to finish the guide tour-for "People in a Hurry section" at the end-which I started the day before. I was able to see some of the King Tut exhibition-including his tomb-(King Tut wasn't a significant ruler in any way-his tomb is famous because most tombs we're raided for all the valuables-his was was one of the very few left intact). I also saw famous Jewelry and other tombs. I also saw portraits of some Egyptians after they started comingling with the Romans-and how some Egyptian features we're disappearing.

After the museum-I bought another guidebook (I left my original at the Egyptair office that morning), at the bookstore from the American University which is across the square. They have a nice bookstore, I found a cheap guide which listed the Medieval quarter. I asked the bookstore young lady how to get there. She said take a cab. I asked if the Metro goes there (which I preferred), but she said a cab would go there, which should be about 15 cents. I found a cab (which wasn't marked-my mistake-which I found out). The cab driver told me it would be approximately 17 Egyptian pounds (like $1.20) to get there, which I agreed to. Once we got going-he told me it was 100 Egyptian Pounds ($8 US dollars)-I told him no-$17. He kept saying $100. After crossing a bridge and driving through interesting neighborhoods for like 20 minutes-We arrived at the walls of the ancient city-abiet a nearly deserted one. I gave him the 17 pounds. He was obviously pissed off. He got out of the cab-and then insisted if wasn't 17-it was 70 pounds. I gave him the benefit of the doubt and gave him 70 pounds. I tried to run off, but some local kids found out what was happening and figured this westerner was stiffing the driver, and one started following me. This was a piss-poor place I was at. I walked to another gate-and found out he wasn't chasing me any more. I saw this was because there was a huge police presence at this gate, where more tourists went-And the quarter was nice. Cobblestone lanes, old buildings, including Mosques, and large markets with lots of things for sail. I found a modern looking two floor market, and took a nap in an alleyway with a store in the corner. I found out the store owner took my camera (Which was out), and hit it-so nobody would steel it while i was sleeping. I tried to give him money but he wouldn't take it.

I had to get home from the old quarter. Once again, I hailed an unmarked cab (there weren't many cabs here-and once again my mistake). This guy didn't speak English (I told him I waned to go to Tahrir Square-which has the museum on one side, a Ritz Carlton on the other, and an Intercontinental hotel on the other-the revolution happened there in 2011). A taxi driver not knowing where that is is akin to a NY cab driver being unfamiliar with the location of Times Square. He didn't know. He asked me which way to go-and I told him I didn't know. He asked other cab drivers how to get there (at least 3 times). Finally, after approximately 1/2 an hour of driving, he dropped me off at a nice neighborhood, but it didn't seem like Tahrir Square. I figured this was a side I haven't seen before-but after a minute it became clear this wasn't it. I gave him the 50 Egyptian pounds I promised (like $3.50), and wandered down a hill. I found a city bus, and got on-hoping that it would at least take me to the Metro where I can go back. After 10 minutes of riding-I was hoping someone would speak English-I said "Metro" to a lady besides me", she repeated it back-and pointed to the side of the bus-it turns out the bus was on a street that was paralleling the Metro tracks. So I got off the bus at the next stop, next to the station-and took the Metro back (While I wish the cab driver knew where he was going-taking the bus and the metro set me back only about 30 cents).

I finally reached Tahrir square which was near the hostel. I took a walk to the tour of Cairo-which was across the bridge, and went to the top (it was about a 45 minute walk-the tower was only about 30 stories tall), looked at the view,had dinner, and came back to the hostel.

Posted by DavidPearlman 21:56 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Cairo Museum Day

Yesterday, I went to the Cairo Museum which was a few blocks from the hostel. The museum is in a big imposing building in the middle of downtown, and appears to be like a museum of any city, except this one is famous for all of the sarcophagus , tombs, and mummies,

Walking in to the gateway of the museum, I went through a metal detector, and then to the courtyard. Here at the museum, you are besieged by guides who want you to hire them, for about 18 per hour. This is a losing proposition when alone-because 10 people can chip in and get the guide for the same price. But it was only me. I tried to reach out to others at the museum to see if they wanted an English speaking guide, but got no takers. I just wasn't interesting in paying someone by the hour.

I entered the museum, and one thing you realize is-a guide is needed. Thousands of artifacts which run together. I asked if a guard if there is a guidebook I can purchase-he said I can only hire a guide. After a while-I found an exit to the giftshop (like all museums), and did find a guidebook to purchase (it wasn't cheap-it was about $30,, but if was quite large and had pictures of everything) . I re-entered the museum. using the guidebook, which had a map, and diagrams of where everything was. I found some and couldn't find others-I went through the guidebook, beginning with the first part which was the 1st and 2nd dynasty.

After about 45 minutes, I burned out-I left the museum pissed off-because it seems like everyone wants money for everything. I went for lunch on the opposite side of the square to a Egyptian food place where the menu was in Arabic. (I asked about Falafel-and was able to get 2 and a bottled water for roughly $2.00). I took a nap on a bench near the government building on the opposite side of the square-and went back to the museum for a third time after I was in good and refreshed. This time I went straight to the mummy exhibit-which was fascinating. The skin and teeth we're still intact. I learned mummifying is a process of keeping the body preserved with some formula of salt and flour. All vital organs are removed, except for the heart (Which is the center of the body). To see skin and teeth from those dead for 500+ years is beyond cool.

After the section on mummies on the guidebook I purchased, there was a section on how to look at the museum if you have limited time-just focusing on the most renowned works. I went back downstairs to the start of the museum, just to look at the museum in this lens. this I found much more helpful, and looked at the relevant works. This was made more helpful by the fact that all of the English-speaking guides we're bringing their hires to these same works to talk about then, so I could piggyback on their conversations.

I actually stayed at the museum until I was kicked out at 5:00 pm-so I intend to return today.

Last night, I went on a 2 hour Nile river cruise-for $30-it includes unlimited buffet dinner, and a belly dancer. The food was good but I ate too much. It was a typical tourist trap-for a 3 hour cruise.

Then I went to bed-I have come down with a cold and light headaches, due to the combination of walking down the street and constantly being solicited services, Egyptian/Arabic music being blasted everywhere which sounds good to some I guess but sounds painful to me, and people smoking everywhere.

Posted by DavidPearlman 22:42 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

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