Like I've written earlier, leaving Morocco and our friends was sad, but we were ready for our next adventure. To get to Egypt required three flights. The first was from Tangier to Madrid, which was delayed a good two hours due to "technical difficulties." After EasyJet sent over a new plane from Lisbon, we took the short flight to Madrid where we took our second flight to Stuttgart, Germany. We didn't land in Germany til 11pm and our next flight wasn't til 9am so we found some semi-comfortable benches and called it a night. The next morning we awoke early, checked in, and waited for our final flight to Luxor, Egypt. The flight was full of tourists so we felt reassured that we weren't the only crazy people visiting Egypt in the middle of August. Of course when we landed in Luxor, out of a full plane, maybe 10 of us got off. The rest remained on board where they then flew to the "Cancun" of Egypt and the Red Sea. It was hot when we stepped off the plane, but it wasn't really that much worse than what we faced in Morocco, plus sometimes there was a nice breeze from the Nile. But anyways, we took a taxi to our hostel where we were greeted by the owner Mohamed, who quickly became one of our favorite people. We spent most of our nights in hanging out, talking to him about a wide array of topics. Politics, obviously, was one of the main topics of the night. One thing we both definitely agreed on was that people don't have an understanding of one another's cultures anymore, and that perhaps if we stopped and took the time to really learn and understand each other and our differences, there may not be as much conflict in the world. But what are the chances of that really happening?
Our time in Luxor was spent visiting all of the ancient historical sites. We visited Hatsheput's Temple, which was built for the sole purpose of her mummification. In a nutshell she married her brother, her brother was weak and sickly, died, she decides to portray herself as a man, rules as king, makes her step-son act as regent (he should have been King), and ultimately ends up being one of the two women to be buried in the . Her step-son/nephew ended up avenging his fathers death by defacing her in her temple and scratching off all the depictions of her face. But her temple was pretty cool and we had an awesome guide who told us a lot of information.
At the we visited four tombs: Ramses IV, Ramses IX, Ramses V & VI, and Ramses I. Cameras aren't allowed in any of the tombs, and for the Discovery Channel to videotape inside a tomb for a TV special, they had to pay 50,000L£. As you walk into the tombs, you can't help but be astonished. Somehow after 4000 plus years the paint on the walls and ceiling is still intact. Hieroglyphics adorn the walls, giving the dead Pharaoh instructions from the Egyptians book of the dead. The ceiling is painted blue with yellow stars depicting the night sky.
We took a 3 hour trip north to see Osiris's temple in Abydos. It's said that where the temple is built is where Osiris, the first man on earth, was "born", lived, and upon his death buried there. When he died he became the first human to be a god. Again we had a really good guide who explained what a lot of the hieroglyphics were saying and what the paintings were depicting. On our drive back to Luxor, we visited Dendara Temple, which is dedicated to the goddess of love, Hathor. The amazing part of this temple is that it is fully intact. It was built during the period when the Romans occupied Egypt and some of the walls have pictures of Caesar and Cleopatra etched into their sides. Archaeologists found this temple buried completely under sand which helped keep it so well preserved.
Since we were in Luxor, we obviously had to visit Luxor temple, which we got to do at night. The perks of going at night are a. much cooler outside and b. less tourists. The temples lit up with floodlights so you can still see everything, but it just gives it an ancient vibe, it's kind of hard to explain. Luxor is also home to Karnak temple which we visited during the day. Karnak Temple is huge, it takes up over 2km which means it took forever to build. Over ten Pharaohs worked on, all usually destroying something their predecessor had built. We spent a lot of time running around the columns just because it was shady and at 10am it was already 110 degrees. We visited the Luxor museum, which isn't very big, but still holds a lot of important pieces. There are some items from Tut's tomb, a couple mummies, and then your usual ancient Egyptian artifacts. And the museum was air conditioned so that was a HUGE plus.
But besides all of the ancient history that this country holds, Egypt itself is a pretty cool country. Although we are here during the hottest time of the year, we aren't surrounded by tourists. During the peak season, 50,000 people a day enter Luxor, eager to see all of the ancient sites. Luxor isn't even a big city, it can't even remotely be compared to Cairo, and with all of those tourists around, everyone says it's crazy.
The next part of our journey took us on an overnight train from Luxor to Cairo. From Cairo we went to Giza to see the pyramids. When people think of Egypt and the ancient Egyptians, the pyramids are usually what pops into mind. Naturally, if I were to run into you back home and you knew I went to Egypt, the first question you would ask: how were the pyramids? I would respond, well, cool, but overrated. You would probably stand there shocked and aghast that this is how I just referred to the only remaining . Ask anyone who has went there and chances are you'll get a similar response. Maybe it's because the pyramids are surrounded by the smog covered city of . Maybe it's because the pyramids and the Sphinx are kind of randomly located for ancient Egyptian times. Maybe it's because we went to Luxor first and saw everything there. I can't really pinpoint it. Don't get me wrong, standing along side one of these pyramids with your neck arched back, you can't help to be impressed with how no present day technology they were able to construct these huge monuments. My reaction is the same regarding the sphinx, it's cool but eh. Basically, I'm really glad I was able to see them, and I would recommend visiting them, but in no means was this the highlight of my Egypt trip.
We also went to the bazaar in Islamic Cairo. The bazaar sells everything. It's tons of stalls and small shops that sell everything from toys to kitchen appliances to souvenirs. We walked around and did a lot of bartering trying to get some good prices on souvenirs. It's a huge game that is sometimes fun, sometimes annoying. We made off fairly well so we were proud of ourselves. But no trip to Cairo is complete without visiting the Egyptian museum. The museum itself isn't that big, but if you were to spend a minute looking at each piece, you'd be there 9 months. Seriously, that's a fact and not an exaggeration. They pack a lot into this museum. Which means half the things aren't labeled and sometimes it feels like things are just thrown on top of each other. But they have almost everything from Tutankhamen's tomb, which is gold, gold, and more gold. There is a room on animal mummification which was really cool. The highlight of the museum has got to be the rooms of Royal Mummies. Home to eleven mummies such as Ramses II and Ramses V, whose chicken pox scars are still visible. It's hard to believe how intact the bodies were. You really have to hand it off to the ancient Egyptians, they sure knew how to mummify.
And now our story brings us to Dahab. Dahab is lazy. It's a vacation from a vacation. We've been here a week, and I can't believe how fast time flies when you aren't doing too much of anything. Life here isn't too exciting, it's just relaxing and calm. We swim, we snorkel, we read, and we eat. One can't find too many complaints with life here. There are hardly any tourists here, just other backpackers and hardcore divers. It's just a laid back atmosphere, which couldn't be more perfect for us. We're having a great time and loving every minute of it.
Until the next blog..