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  dinsdag 13 mei 2008 @ 00:13:16 #1
104963 ETA
European Travel Author

Zo, een mooie foto om de aandacht vast te grijpen.

Na mijn zeer uitgebreide verslag van mijn laatste reis door de VS ( Reisverslag: Op zoek naar de winterzon in West USA ), en het misbruiken van de StageSC voor het neerplempen van alle avonturen in Taiwan en hetzelfde voor het grote Poker topic voor alle Italiaanse avonturen, dan volgt nu:

ETA gaat zandhappen en cultuursnuiven in het Midden Oosten

In ongeveer 3 weken verken ik 10 plekken in Egypte en Jordanië. Natuurlijk komen alle standaard toeristische dingen voorbij, maar ik heb gekozen voor een basic type reis waarbij veel gebruik word gemaakt van het lokale openbaar vervoer en veel contact met locals. De reis is georganiseerd door Intrepid travels.

Korte beschrijving trip:
Vanuit Cairo richting zuiden naar Aswan en Luxor, dan richting de Sinai woestijn met bezoek aan de bijbelse Mount Sinai. Na wat rustdagen in een verlaten resort gaan de reis verder naar Aqaba in Jordanie. Van daar gaan we richting het noorden, via de machtige Wadi Rum woestijn en de verborgen stad Petra naar de dode zee. En we sluiten af met Amman en Madaba.

Voor de mensen die niet het geduld hebben om alles te lezen, alleen fotos kijken kan ook: Een klein rijtje fotos

Ja, het verhaal is in het Engels vanwege een breder publiek, en ik zal proberen om de dag een nieuw stuk te plaatsen. Het volledige verhaal zal zoals gebruikelijk uitgebreid en lang worden

En we gaan van start:


Almost there:

It is almost 2:00 in the morning when I arrive in Cairo. After I get of the plane, I'm pleasantly surprised to see someone holding a sign with the travel agency name. I expected someone to transfer me to the hotel, but I did not expect someone waiting for me before customs. His name is Ahmed, he's here to help me. He asks me for my passport, he will go arrange matters at customs while I buy a visa sticker. I hand him my passport and I go off to the bank kiosk to buy the visa. For s short moment I am worried, I just gave my passport to a unknown person who claims to work for a travel agency. It could be the start of a new scam story, but all turns out well. The customs guy doesn't even interrupt his phone call while stamping my passport. I am in Egypt.

Ahmed is not the most talkative person; I guess this is because it is in the middle of the night. A forced conversation about my travel experience and his work experience in Egypt ends in a repetitive "Welcome in Egypt". Every time a silence falls, he repeats "Welcome in Egypt". Ahmed is quite popular though, on the way to the car he stops several times to shake people's hands and kiss them on the cheek. "That is my cousin, haven't seen him in a long time". He has many cousins.

There is a driver waiting next to an old car on the dark parking lot, I half expect him to be Ahmed's cousin. We speed of into the dusty Cairo night. A brown haze is hanging over the bumpy road. The sporadic yellow streetlight adds no color to the environment. The dusty car I'm sitting in, blends in perfectly with its thick layer of dust and cigarette ashes everywhere. Cairo traffic is crazy I heard, but at this time there are no more then a handful of people walking over the streets (not on the sidewalks!) and a few cars. Small dented black and white taxis slalom around other cars and pedestrians, using the horn constantly. There are small group of people walking around with no apparent goal. When I see small groups of people roaming the streets at night, it gives me a unsafe feeling, Ahmed assures me Cairo is a safe city. When I look more closely I see that there are kids and old women among the groups, there are whole families walking around! It re-assures me a bit. We are getting near to the city center. I'm quite surprised to see the crowds in the city center at this time of night, there are even a few street stalls selling stuff.

It looks like quite a fancy hotel I'm staying in, including a proper doorman and security staff, there is even a typical brass bell on the reception counter. Before I can test the bell, someone arrives at the counter. Fortunately the paperwork is quick and easy, I'm way too tired for complicated tasks. Then the receptionist slams on the brass bell and an old man scurries into the lobby too grabs my bag. He reminds me a bit of Manuel from Fawlty Towers. He just grins at me because he doesn't speak any English. With a lot of effort and noise he manages to open my room, the lock is a weird one. At the room he franticly runs around to show me everything in the room and even finds me a German TV-channel. Assuming I have to tip him, I take my smallest note from my wallet and give it to him, it is only worth 1 Euro. His big smile reveals that I probably have paid too much. I'm too tired to care and go to bed.

Day 1: Exploring Cairo

It's cold when I wake up, too cold to get up and explore the city before the meeting at midday, especially since I was in bed at 3:30 last night. Finally I get up and open the window shutters, expecting to be overwhelmed by a Arabic street scene. Reality is different; I'm looking onto the roof of the neighboring building, which looks like it has just been bombed. There is rubble everywhere, half build or collapsed roofs, just chaos.

Just after breakfast I meet up with my new group in the lobby. Again a flood of new faces and names, which are forgotten almost instantly. Luke, the Polish tour leader, introduces himself and starts off with the paperwork. My knowledge of Polish vodka establishes an instant bond. He suggests a lunch before we go out to explore Cairo.

For the first time I walk into the crowded streets of Cairo. There are 16 million people living in Cairo, most of them seemed to be in the same street as me. Wrestling through the crowds, combined with the noise of the racing cars nearby was an interesting first experience.

We stopped at a small place around the corner for our first group lunch. Apparently a popular place looking at the crowds outside. First look on the menu made me really realize we are in a Arab speaking country, and Arab is not a language I have mastered. Fortunately there were some crude translations in English which helped me, together with the advice of Luke, to try out the falafel. The taste of it confirmed that it was a good choice.

A trip to a mosque was planned for this afternoon. In the hotel we met up with our local guide, Ola, a young girl who radiates enthusiasm about Cairo. With a private minibus we drive of to the Al Azar mosque at the El Hussein square, a one hour spectacular (in my eyes) drive through busy Cairo traffic. I spend most of my time just staring out of the window, trying to grasp what I'm seeing. A mix of people dressed in long robes, turbans, burqas and head scarves, are blended in the chaotic scene of bashed up taxi, overloaded donkey carts and large busses.

First surprising view over Cairo

Entrace to Al Azar Mosque

Inside the mosque

Outside the mosque

Inside the 1000 year old mosque there is a welcome serenity. We settle down in a corner of the grand courtyard to hear more about this place. Meanwhile we are attracting attention of the locals. While most give us just a stare, a young boy approaches us and starts taking photos of us, not one or two, but at least a dozen photos. He has a special interest in the ladies of our group. Ola snaps a few strong Arabic words to him and he disappears towards his friends, smiling. I try to focus on the story told, but I'm distracted by the people walking over the shiny marble courtyard. A trio of men is involved in a deep discussion, a Chinese person in Asian blue robes and Chinese hat, an Arab person with a turban and white dress, and a black man with brownish colored clothing who looked like he came straight from Central Africa. While most didn't even notice them, I found it a fascinating scene. Three different cultures with traditional clothing meeting in a mosque, this surreal scene looked like a dress rehearsal for a school play. I feel far away from home now.

We take a few snapshots of the mosque in the fading sunlight before we return outside. Before I get back on the hectic Cairo streets I need my shoes back. Lacking of 1 pound notes, I decide to give the shoe guy 10 pound tip, which was a bit much. From that moment onward I started to save up on small notes, cherishing them more then the big notes.

The rest of the day, we were on our own. Most of us decided to explore the busy Khan al Khalilli bazaar. A packed street with small shops on both sides. I'm not sure if it was a paved street, there could be some tarmac under all the dirt. The bad condition of the street did not stop young men with push carts racing through the street. A constant "psssst!!!!" came from every direction, meaning I was in the way of another push cart. And that they were serious about I found out when one cart hit me hard from behind. The guy pushing the cart, realizing I was twice his size, quickly apologized and sped of again.

There seems to be a mix of clothes shop, souvenirs and food stalls in the street. In the distance a loud bang and a flash appeared. Someone was firing some fireworks in the crowded street, must be crazy! When I come nearer I spot many stalls selling fireworks, from small crackers to large rockets. Apparently there are no restrictions on selling explosives here...

The street continued on for several kilometers it seemed, maintaining the same level of crowdedness. It was about time to return back to the hotel to meet the others for dinner. We had a map and directions back to the hotel, so it should not be too hard to find our way back, I thought. The lack of any street signs, let alone English written street signs, hindered our progress. Following the directions of helpful locals led us in general direction of the hotel, but we still seemed hopelessly lost. After an hour of wandering around without any real progress we tried to take a taxi. Trying to get a taxi at rush hour in Cairo is as easy as trying to find snow in a desert, meaning it is possible if you are at the right place at the right time, but it is very unlikely. Took us 10 minutes to realize that this was a impossible task for us and continued walking again over the busy streets.

Khan al Khalilli bazaar


It is interesting to see that there are more people walking on the streets between the rushing cars, then on the sidewalks. It gives a whole new perspective to the phrase "Walking like an Egyptian". We follow suit and try to navigate through traffic. This reminds me of the game "Frogger", jumping forward and backward to dodge the oncoming cars. A pedestrian overpass gave a brief escape from the crowds, and a overview over the streets. It was amusing to observe from this position. Cars didn't double parked, but triple parked bumper to bumper. I wonder how the cars on the inside would ever get out. We try to get our bearings and dive back into the madness. It took us over 2 hours to find the hotel back. It was a relieve to be back in the tranquil lobby of the hotel. Not much time to rest since we were meeting with the rest to go out for dinner, so back into the streets.

The whole day I saw small restaurants, but now we are hungry and looking for one, they seemed to have disappeared. Luke, the tour leader, had to do some work and could not join us tonight, but gave us some advice on where to get food. An hour we walked around to find a place to eat before we turned around and found a small restaurant in a side street. We take a few seats upstairs and ask the waiter for the menu. He looks confused. He tries to ask me something, but I'm not sure what he is asking, I think he is asking "Small or large?". I try to make clear I want to see the menu, which he answers with a confused look. Then I realize he was indeed asking me if I wanted a small or large one. This restaurant only serves one dish, so the only option is small or large. I opt for a large bowl of food, not knowing what it was. Everyone was pleasantly surprised with the nice meal we got, a good mix of pasta, rice, tomato sauce, chickpeas and other unidentified stuff. Later we learned it was called koshari, a typical Egyptian dish, which would become a favorite dish among many of us. The bill was another pleasant surprise, everyone paying less then a Euro for his dinner including the drinks.

On our way back we stop at a small shop around the corner for some supplies. Ahmed, the owner, is happy to see us. The few Arabic words we can stutter are received with great enthusiasm by Ahmed. He forgets about selling his wares and starts a spontaneous language course. As a thank you we buy some of his wares and head back to the hotel for a couple of beers.


rest volgt later
Totaal Travel 04-17: 115 vliegtickets, 53 landen, 6 continenten, 812 reisdagen, 138.425 foto's
Mijn reisfotos!
  Moderator dinsdag 13 mei 2008 @ 08:24:06 #2
61302 crew  UIO_AMS
Dan volg ik de rest later ook. Mooie foto's ook.
Als niets meer baat kan een worst geen kwaad.
Op dinsdag 7 december 2010 12:50 schreef yvonne het volgende:
Beste moderator UIO_AMS
Stuur een mod weg.
waarom doe je eigenlijk alles georganiseerd?
  donderdag 15 mei 2008 @ 00:15:35 #4
104963 ETA
European Travel Author
Op dinsdag 13 mei 2008 08:31 schreef WooZ het volgende:
waarom doe je eigenlijk alles georganiseerd?
het is een bewuste keuze om sommige dingen georganiseerd te doen, en andere reizen weer niet. Heb ervaring met beide, en om deze streek te verkennen leek het me wel gepast om het op deze manier te doen. Het is dan wel georganiseerd, maar zeer kleinschalig en flexibel. Er is genoeg vrijheid om je eigen ding te doen, maar het meest lastige zoals vervoer is geregeld.

Het is altijd een afweging tussen de vrijheid om spontaan nieuwe dingen te ontdekken, en iemand meehebben met goede lokale kennis om juist kansen optimaal te benutten. Achteraf gezien was het een redelijk goede keus geweest om het op deze manier te doen, enige was dat het nog net iets te luxe voor mij was, teveel hotels, mocht wel iets meer basic
Totaal Travel 04-17: 115 vliegtickets, 53 landen, 6 continenten, 812 reisdagen, 138.425 foto's
Mijn reisfotos!
  donderdag 15 mei 2008 @ 00:24:55 #5
104963 ETA
European Travel Author
We gaan weer verder Ik vraag me eigenlijk af of er eigenlijk wel iemand is die dit serieus leest of alleen de fotos bekijkt


From Pyramids to Upper Egypt

It was a noisy and remarkable cold night in the hotel. The windows would not close properly, letting in the constant traffic noise of one of the busiest streets in Cairo.

This morning one of the most famous sites is on the menu, the Pyramids. During this trip we would be taking as much local transport a possible to enhance the experience. So we walked down the Cairo subway to take the metro to Giza. Here there was another example of the segregation between men and women; a special carriage was reserved for women. The ladies of our group followed Ola, who joined us today again, and the rest followed Luke in the far more crowded men's section.

The metro ran partly above ground, giving me the opportunity to see more of the suburban part of the city. In general it looks the same as the rest of town, small shops lining the streets with half finished buildings on top. Not before long we stop at Gizah station. Since the Pyramids are one of the most visited sites in the world, you would think that there will be a good public transport connection towards it. Not in Egypt. In a side street there are a few, probably originally white, Volkswagen vans. Dents, rust and rambling parts and the general look reveals something about the age of the vans. We should consider ourselves lucky that we have a door, which was not standard on other vans we passed.

Swerving over a long straight road, to avoid other traffic, is not a pleasant combination with the exhaust fumes hanging in the streets. My head starts to feel a bit light during the drive. An ominous triangle suddenly dooms up from the haze, it takes a second to realize that it one of the pyramids.

Via a road we walk up to the site. In the distance there is the silhouette of a man on a camel, nice sign, I think. A small security post and a ticket booth mark the entrance. The bored guards glance quickly into my bag when I pass them. Not that it helps, since I could also step over the 30cm high wall behind the security post like all the vendors are doing. I look back at the "sign", just to see it is not a sign, but a real camel with a policeman on it.

From a distance the pyramids looked impressive, from close up, they look even more impressive. Ola explains the history of the pyramids and at the same time she chases away small kids who try to make their next sale. "They are distracting you from my story" she says. After the explanation we are own, free to explore the pyramids.

I walk around the first pyramid, to see it from different angles. It is amazing how large it is. I try to capture the whole pyramid on a photo from the far end of the site. While I'm snapping away, a uniformed man is approaching me. He orders me to take a few steps back, not sure what it is about I take a few steps back. "Better picture from here" he says with a grumpy voice. I thank him with a smile and continue take a few more photos. He asks me to give him my camera, so he can take a photo of me. Well, it didn't sound like a friendly offer, more like a demand. Then I notice he is not wearing a "tourist police" arm patch, like all the other policemen. Because I stepped back a bit, I was now standing in a sheltered area. He gets more insisting to let him make a photo of me and tries to grab my camera. No good can come from this situation, so with a loud voice I thank him once more and walk away. The loud "thanks" turned some heads my direction and prevents the "policeman" to continue bothering me. I'll never know if he was sincere, wanted some bakshees (a tip) or just wanted to get my camera.

A small shack with rusted iron bars serves as the ticket office for the middle pyramid. For just a few pounds I could visit the inside of the pyramid, and of course I can't go to Egypt and not see the inside of a pyramid. Despite the chilling wind outside I'm advised to take off my jacket. Quite cold I make my way to the entrance where there is a slight chaos. A bunch of men is standing in front of the entrance, some of them are checking tickets, some of them are checking for sneaked in cameras and others are just there to create a chaotic scene. A small stair leads to the entrance of the tunnel. I hesitate for a second when I see the entrance, the tunnel is a bit smaller then expected. Hoping that I don't get a case of instant claustrophobia, I bend over and push myself into the tunnel. With every step the tunnel gets smaller and hotter. It just takes a few minutes to crawl through the whole tunnel, but I'm panting. The large chamber with the tomb does bring some relief, I can stretch my legs and back, but the humid heat is still present.

I try to grasp the importance of this room, the history, the treasures, the workers and the pharaoh, but the heat and the noise of other tourist doesn't make it easy. I leave the room a bit sooner then I really wanted, I couldn't bear it anymore. During the crawl to the exit I'm looking jealously to the small kids running around without any problems. Sweat is running down my back when I finally reach the cold outside air.

Mandatory photo with a camel in front the a pyramid.

Overview of the site

Looking over the expanding town...

It's big


Next to the pyramids is another famous landmark, the Sphinx. It seems far more crowded around the Sphinx then at the pyramids. A wide street filled with people, cars, vendors and donkey carts leads down towards the temple next to the Sphinx. We get another explanation about the history of the Sphinx and of course a few theories about how he lost his nose. It is safe to say that it was not Michael Jackson who stole the nose to replace his own. A small girl with necklaces and souvenirs approaches our group, Ola notices here and I expect a few harsh Arabic words from her. Instead she shrieks happily and gives her a big hug. Ola knows here since she was a small kid and they see each other regularly when Ola is guiding a group here. She tells us a bit about her school, her family, her history, growing up without much money. It shows there is a story behind every "annoying little vendor".

Ola promised a traditional dish for lunch. The place we went to near the pyramids had a few chairs and tables in a tiled room with no door. Koshari was the traditional lunch, exactly the same as everyone had last night, and eaten with the same pleasure as last night. The rest of the afternoon we spend in the Egyptian museum, with the tomb and golden mask of Tutankhamen, and on the streets walking around.

I walk back with Simon to the hotel. Of course we get slightly lost, but manage to get back in time. We even have time to get the necessary last minute stuff, Simon needs a diary to write down his adventures, and I need a new flashlight because I already lost mine at the airport. There was a busy street market at the square near the hotel, so we decided to go there. While in Europe you can buy those small LED flashlights everywhere, here they are well hidden. Most of the stalls sell batteries, socks, combs, toys and some unidentifiable things. We try to explore the streets around the market and see a alley with small shops, including a shop that sells agendas. So in the hope that they sell blank diaries we turn into the alley.

Suddenly three teenagers start shouting at us and making violent gestures. And then I immediately see why. The green tarp we are walking on is a prayer mat, there is a man kneeling on the corner of it. We jump off the tarp and apologize quickly. Woops. Down the alley we finally find what we are looking for. At a street stand in the small courtyard I find a dusty small torch. I'm ready for haggling to get the price down, but when he makes clear it costs 1,50 pound (18 eurocents), I'm so astound that I pay the "full" price. The batteries set me back 8 pounds...

Happy with my new purchase I return to the hotel, right in time to depart to the train station. Tonight we will take the overnight sleeper train to Aswan, all the way in the south of Egypt. My last experience with sleeper trains was not that positive, tossed around in my bunk bed while moving from Greece to Istanbul, together with grumpy customs officer waking me in the middle of the night. Hopefully tonight would be a bit better.

With a van we arrive at train station. Without many problems we find the correct platform, it is not so hard since all the platforms are empty except one. We merge with the large group of waiting people. A interesting collection of people, people from all walks of life with one thing in common, a huge amount of luggage. I am really starting to wonder how everybody was going to fit in the train.

We walk to the end of the platform, where it is a bit less crowded. And suddenly a train enter the station, right on time, I thought. It was not our train... Though this train is also going to Aswan, it is a seatertrain. Apparently on paper it belongs to our train, but all classes are on separated trains. So we are not sure when our train arrives. Another train enters the station, hope rises and quickly disappears after Luke inquires at the conductor if this was the correct train.

While waiting on the platform, it gets colder. We are all hungry since we expected to have dinner on the train that should have left 2 hours ago. The discomforts of the cold and hunger are joined with the sound of a jackhammer a few meters away. A bit surreal feeling standing there in the ever darkening platform with the noise of the jackhammer mixed with all the Arabic chatter on the background. Meanwhile bags with snacks, bought at Ahmed of course, appear from the backpacks, it lightens the mood a bit.

Coming from a safety conscious country, I am amazed to see people hanging out of open door in moving trains, and even people jumping into moving trains. I wonder how many people die or get injured every year doing this. The answer is probably quite a lot of people. Right at the moment I am thinking this, a man shows up with a large box chasing the just departed train. He manages to throw the box into the open door. He tries to grab the handhold of the door to pull him in, but he misses. Like in slow-motion he losses his balance and falls forward. The man's body has already half disappeared in the gap between the train and the platform, when suddenly another man in the door opening grabs his jacket. With a loud metallic shriek the emergency brake of the train is activated and halts the train. The man who was inches from death was pulled out of the gap, and amazingly he ok. A bit shaken he dusts off his clothes and steps into the stationary train. "Did you see that??!" I ask one of my travel companions excited, "What?" she answers slightly confused. Apparently most people on the platform didn't even see it happen.

Another 4 trains pass before our train finally arrives. Inside the train there were nice cabins for two. And on top of that, dinner was served by the train attendant right after we departed. After playing some cards, most of the people wanted to get to sleep. A small sign in the cabin got my attention, it mentioned something about a belly dance competition in the bar carriage. So I decide to check out the bar before I go to bed. It was a bit disappointing; in the bar there was only a group of Chinese tourists who were drunk on Jack Daniels, no belly dancing at all. Time to go to bed.

Ehh... what?!

Arriving in Aswan

It was far more comfortable to sleep in the train then expected, but I still woke up early. With my foot I slide open the curtains a little bit, expecting to see spectacular desert scenery. The scenery is indeed spectacular, but totally different then expected. Instead of endless sand dunes there are lush green fields, palm trees and farmers. The sun has just risen, but there are already many farmers busy in the fields. Most of them kneeling down in the fields fiddling around with the crop, others are loading up a donkey. Donkeys seem the primary source of transportation, every few minutes we pass a fully loaded donkey walking down the sandy path next to the track. As we pass the mighty Nile river, I see small fishing boats mixed with tall feluccas.

To wake up and see this view is great

Green fields and donkeys

Aswan is just a small city, and so is its train station. With a van we are driven to our hotel that is located just of the main street. Despite it is February, it is quite hot outside. I am happy to plunge down on one of the sofas in the hotel lobby. Cold welcome drinks are passed around. The handful of birds in the lobby are very competing to be the loudest, but it is a welcome sound after the constant traffic noises of Cairo.

Check in is quickly arranged and I step out to explore the neighborhood. The unpaved street is not more then an alley. A few steps next to the hotel is a fish stall, accompanied with the complementary smells. The man behind the counter tries to sell me his wares, but I refuse politely and walk down the alley. Many men are wearing their traditional long robes, like the farmers this morning working along the railroad. The younger men tend to wear the more western style jeans and shirts.

I'm welcomed by eager vendors as I turn into a shopping street. Though not as aggressive as in Cairo, there is still the constant shouting of "where you from?", "please come look at my store, it's free!", "very nice price for you!". I take my time and stroll down the street and replying all the questions with smiles. There are hardly any locals in this street, until I reach the end of the street where the nice paving changes into dirt again. Dozens of people are queued up in front of a bakery, in between them are men walking around with large baskets on their head filled with bread. This is the place where the locals get their bread for subsidized prices, for just one pound you can get an armful of bread. Strangely enough the bakery seems to be closed. As I look in, I see all the staff kneeled down the on floor. It is prayer time. Since muslins have to pray five times a day, the bakery has to close during the day to let the employees to pray. The customers are all used to it and are waiting patiently outside.

On the way back to the hotel I'm approached by another vendor. He has a spice shop he desperately wants to show me. I make clear I am not going to buy any spices, but he insists I see his shop. I have still got 15 minutes to kill before I have to meet up with the rest, so I oblige and enter his shop. Three walls are filled with jars, from the ground up to the ceiling. All kinds of spices, oils and unidentifiable stuff are in the jars. He is eager to show me his perfume section, especially his own copy of the famous Chanel perfume. I'm no expert, but it didn't smell too bad. He continues to show me other spices and lets me guess what it is. All in all a very friendly conversation, even when I leave he gives me a gift, a incense candle. I promise him if I am going to buy spices, I will do it at his place. I never did buy any spices in Egypt.

View over the city, again going for the "just bombed" look

Streets in Aswan

The busy Nile river, healthy mix of modern cruiseships, small ferries and old feluccas

Back at the hotel we were getting ready for a boat trip on the Nile. From the window of the hotel lobby I spot someone walking around in a bright orange sweater with "Holland" printed on the back. He walks towards the hotel and enters. It is Ali, he will take us to the boat. He is excited to hear I am from Holland and immediately wants to try out his Dutch sentences. He only knows two sentences, but that doesn't stop him from using them all the time.

At the river bank we're waiting for out boat to arrive. In between the large luxury cruiseboats we step onto the small "Jamaica Family", owned and run by JJ. He is a big guy dressed in a long white robe, with a constant smile on his face. Besides Ali, there is also a old man sitting in the corner. With his large cane and traditional clothing he radiates knowledge and wisdom. He will be the guide of today and explain the rich Nubian history. He is not just a random guide. Oh no, he is mentioned in the Lonely planet, and he is clearly proud of it, he knows the exact page on which he is mentioned.

While Ali pushes us off, we start on the lunch. On the table in the center there are a few pots with awful tacky decorations, but with good tasting content. There is a mix of soup and stews that taste excellent. Meanwhile we are drifting along the busy Nile river. This part of the river is packed with other ferry boats, fishing boats, feluccas, rowing boats and large cruise ships.

We sail passed Elephantine island towards a more quiet section of the river. On the river banks children are playing, women are doing the laundry and cattle is grazing. There are no large luxury cruise ships in this section of the river, only traditional feluccas and small rowing boats. We pass a kid in a extremely small boat that floats low in the water, he has 2 pieces of plastic he uses as oars. He is too busy to wave back at us.

Local transport. I just hope we don't have to take that kind of local transport.

Enjoying the scenery

Watery Nile and the sandy Sahara meet

Fishermen on the Nile banks

The "Lonely Planet" guide

On one side of the river there is a green line of palm trees and a road, on the other side looms the Sahara desert. Old defensive structures are scattered high in the hills along the river. The large sandy hills drop steeply into the river. We stop at the Sahara side of the river for coffee. We walk up the hill and see a small café hidden between the palm trees. It is almost empty except for a few locals. Under the thatched roof we sit on a few pillows. This place is abundantly decorated with colorful tarps, scarves, straw hats, paintings and other unidentifiably paraphernalia. Our Nubian host is preparing a traditional Nubian coffee for us. He places a few clay kettles filled with herbs and coffee on the hot coals in front of him. This traditional way of making coffee is interesting to observe, I have to accept that inhaling the suffocating smoke of the coals is just a part of this experience. The coffee is filtered with a small bunch of straw and is served boiling hot. After the coffee stop we board the boat again and sail off to most cliché thing to do in Africa, riding camels.

Camels are tall animals and sway quite a lot when walking. I found this out after we departed straight into the Sahara desert. Nothing to do except hold on to the small stump on the saddle. The desert is not full of soft sand to fall on, rather full of sharp rocks everywhere. During the walk I get the hang of it and sit more relaxed in the saddle, enjoying the sandy views. On the background the young camel drivers are singing songs to fight their boredom of walking the same trail day after day. With the view on a old monastery we stop for a photo opportunity. The camel drivers are eager to run around and help us taking photos, probably with the anticipation of a large tip. We continue walking down towards the river. My hands are cramping up from holding myself on the swaying camel. I decide to walk the last section. So I strolled down the Sahara desert towards the Nile river...

Part of the monastery

JJ had a surprise for us. He invited us over to his house in Elephantine Island, something he almost never does. On the island we find a typical Nubian village, narrow streets, mud brick walls hiding small court yards, kids playing around, women cooking in their small kitchens and brightly painted houses. The kids are not shy to approach us, they see it as a opportunity to practice their English skills, which consists only of "Where you from?" and "What is your name?". Interacting with them is fun, they are happy to pose for a photo.

We take place in the living room. There is just enough room to fit us in. White lace is everywhere, hanging down from the mint green wall, on the couch and on the tables. JJ is keen to show us his wedding photos and wedding video. While sipping from a cup of tea we watch the video, narrated live by JJ. He talks about the heat, the many visitors from villages around and all the dancing. After more questions from our side, JJ is happy to continue explaining about Nubian marriage traditions and how he and his wife met. When the girls have gotten a few henna tattoos, it is time to leave. JJ takes us down to the dock to takes us across the water, almost forgot we are still on an island. It is already dark outside; it adds an extra dimension when walking through this village.

Interesting to peek over the mud walls and into the open doors

Elephantine Island after sunset

Everyone was hungry so we decide to hit up the first restaurant we see. A large barge functions as a restaurant. Though almost empty, we still decide to eat here. A confusing hour follows, orders are wrong, waiter asks US to borrow him money, little kid waiter is trying to get under the skin of another waiter and much more. Highlight was when we left, the head waiter wanted to speak to our tour leader. He explained that we didn't left a tip. Our tour leader Luke kindly explained that on the menu and on the bill 20% extra was already charged for tax and service. All he got was just a confused look of the waiter. Luke continued explaining that service charge is the same as a tip. The disappointed head waiter immediately took all the menus and crossed out "service charge". We left laughing. Not the first time, and definitely not the last time we encounter "funny English".

The Africa Cup had just started when we arrived in Egypt. And tonight Egypt is playing Sudan. Of course it is a fun idea to go out and watch the game. With a football game there should be a beer. Luke knew a hotel bar where we could get a beer and watch TV. Via a elevator located in a back alley we end up in the bar, which is almost empty. Just a few staff members clutched to the TV and an elderly French couple. A bar with alcohol is not very popular in this country. We empty their beer supply and enjoy the match; Egypt beats Sudan with 3-0.


Volgend hoofdstuk: Meer avonturen in Egyptische taxi's, tempels, felucca's en vliegtuigen.
Totaal Travel 04-17: 115 vliegtickets, 53 landen, 6 continenten, 812 reisdagen, 138.425 foto's
Mijn reisfotos!
  Moderator donderdag 15 mei 2008 @ 08:33:01 #6
61302 crew  UIO_AMS
Ik lees alles.
Als niets meer baat kan een worst geen kwaad.
Op dinsdag 7 december 2010 12:50 schreef yvonne het volgende:
Beste moderator UIO_AMS
Stuur een mod weg.
Ik vind het leuk, maar teveel lees werk. Misschien dat dat nog wel een keer komt.
Op donderdag 15 mei 2008 schreef Fogel het volgende:
Ik ga vanavond alles lezen.
I'm surrounded by morons!
TRV [2016: Nederland, Portugal, België, Nederland, Nederland, Oostenrijk, Nederland, VK, Nederland, USA, Zweden, België, Japan.
TRV [2017: Frankrijk, Duitsland, Duitsland, Zweden, Nederland, Japan, Duitsland
TRV plannen 2018: UK, UK, Hongkong, Nederland
  donderdag 15 mei 2008 @ 14:40:31 #9
161096 OA
O........ Agent
Op donderdag 15 mei 2008 00:24 schreef ETA het volgende:
We gaan weer verder Ik vraag me eigenlijk af of er eigenlijk wel iemand is die dit serieus leest of alleen de fotos bekijkt
Dag 1: foto's gekeken + verhaal gelezen. Dag 2: alleen nog maar foto's gekeken. Verhaal ga ik iiig nog wel lezen!
Mooie foto's, leuk verhaal.
Op zaterdag 15 augustus 2009 23:05 schreef eer-ik het volgende:
Ik vind je sig nogal denigrerend.
TVP....mooie foto's hier, ik lees het later even door als ik meer tijd heb
  donderdag 15 mei 2008 @ 17:23:28 #11
16918 flipsen
Zekers dat ik alles lees

Vraag me wel af wat nou die 2 Nederlandse zinnen waren die Ali sprak
Ik hou me bezig met het organiseren van reizen naar Argentinie, Chili en Peru voor Tipica Reizen.
  donderdag 15 mei 2008 @ 18:05:15 #12
14376 BlaatschaaP
Elephant of joy.
Leuk! En ik lees alles. Je schrijfstijl is prettig.
  zaterdag 17 mei 2008 @ 17:36:44 #13
104963 ETA
European Travel Author
Gelukkig dat er mensen zijn die het lezen en het waarderen Ik probeer het wel zo vermakelijk mogelijk neer te zetten, meer te focussen op kleine interesante gebeurtenissen dan het uitgebreid beschrijven van hoe een pyramide eruit ziet.
Op donderdag 15 mei 2008 17:23 schreef flipsen het volgende:
Zekers dat ik alles lees

Vraag me wel af wat nou die 2 Nederlandse zinnen waren die Ali sprak
"Hallo, hoe gaat het met jou" en "Waar kom jij vandaan?"
Totaal Travel 04-17: 115 vliegtickets, 53 landen, 6 continenten, 812 reisdagen, 138.425 foto's
Mijn reisfotos!
  zaterdag 17 mei 2008 @ 17:39:01 #14
104963 ETA
European Travel Author
Abu what?

Abu Simbel, never heard of it until I got offered the opportunity to go there today. Sure why not. I had the option to drive or fly the 300 kilometers southwards. If I want to drive there, I had to join the convoy around 3:00 at night, I don't think so. Plane it is, though I am not sure about the timetable, the receptionist promised me three times already to find out the exact timetable.

It takes me a full minute to realize I am not dreaming and it is the phone in my room ringing, wake up call. Around 7:00 in the morning I'm waiting with Simon in the lobby for our ride to the airport. To my surprise the driver is on time. As a true Egyptian driver he drives around like a drunk. I'm starting to get used to it, but there is one action I still don't understand. At one point on a 2-way road he veers on the opposite lane and drives straight towards an oncoming vehicle. Though we slow down, he still drives on the wrong side of the road towards the other vehicle. There we are, 2 cars facing each other on the road. When we stop, and forcing the other vehicle to stop, our driver lowers his window and starts shouting angry to the other car. Simon and I look to each other in confusion. The other vehicle backs up and drives around us. Without saying a word, we drive on, this time on the right side of the road.

Last night, when searching desperately for an ATM machine to pay for the flight, Simon and I fantasized about a small, with duct tape fixed African plane. There was a slight disappointment to see a modern Airbus waiting for to make the short Aswan – Abu Simbel hop. With a matrix printer printout we receive our boarding passes and join the group of waiting tourists. The flight was not more different then other flights, just the view makes it totally different. Instead of seeing endless stretches of sand dunes, there is water, a lot of water. Apparently someone dammed up the Nile River south of Aswan and created this large reservoir. We follow the water mass south towards Sudan, and then suddenly the temples loom on the lake banks.

The plane lands a few kilometers north of the temples with such a large smack on the tarmac, I thought we'd just crashed. Since we have no luggage, we pass through the small terminal quickly. And then we are outside, expecting at least some signs on how to go to the temples, but no, this is still Egypt thus no clear signs. There we are, outside this small terminal alone, a few miles from the Sudanese border, feeling a bit lost. It takes a few minutes for the other tourists to pour out of the terminal, and they are herded into a bus that looks like a shuttle bus to the temples. We decide to follow them.

Help, I'm lost

It is the correct bus and it goes to the temples. The bus takes us through the small adjacent village, which seems to be not more then a collection of shabby shops and tea drinking men. But there is no time to stop, the plane is leaving in 2,5 hours again.

The temples seems to be taken straight out of a movie, they look surreal. Four statues, each ten meters tall, have been carved from of the rocks guarding the temple entrance. A small doorway in the middle leads to the inside of the temple. I raise my camera to take a photo of the statues and colorful hieroglyphs inside, unfortunately the security guard stops me. "No photos inside" he kindly mumbles with a strange accent, "but you can take picture from here" as he points to the doorstep. With my feet just outside the door, I lean in to take a photo. Despite the photo was a failure due to the lack of light, I thank the security guard and walk in again. Again he stops me. In a less kind voice he demands money for his advice. Yes, everyone here is fighting for some baksheesh. I reply with a confused smile and step around him. Inside the temple I continue to explore the many rooms and gaze at the amazing hieroglyphs and drawings. As soon as I reached my daily dose of ancient Egyptian culture, I head back outside. There is a second temple that looks like a smaller copy of the first. It takes just a few minutes to also explore this one. We still have another hour before the bus departs back to the airport. The clear blue sky and the warm temperature invite us for a walk around the peninsula. Not before long we end up at the lake banks. We sit down, enjoying the view over the water, relaxing in the sun and thinking about the cold weather back home...

The larger temple

"Inside" the temple

At the lake

Another semi crash landing brings us back in Aswan. In the hotel we see a few others who took the car this morning, well actually it was last night. They are knackered from the long drive over the Egyptian roads. The koshari in Cairo was well received, we head to out to find some more for lunch. Though we are still in Egypt, the food is different from Cairo, there is almost only Nubian food here. There are enough small restaurants, but none serve the koshari. Finally at the river bank we find a small restaurant where we use our feet and hands to make clear what we want. Hoping the waiter understood us we sit there in this peculiar restaurant. Actually restaurant is not the correct word for this establishment. A small food stall with a few white plastic lawn chairs in front of the door, and inside there is not more the 2 tables, an antique coke fridge and lots of flies. The waiter came with our food. Slightly surprised we see that it is the correct food, and tasted good. We made a small mistake though, negotiate about the price before ordering. We manage to get the bill with tourist prices down to half. Still the owner and us parted happily.

Something I promised myself not to do is check my email when traveling. Nothing is more horrendous on a trip then reading you almost missed a deadline, or some bad news from back home. I was too tired to walk around the city more, but too restless to go to sleep, so I went into the internet café. This immediately reminded me about my job applications I just sent out before departure. And there was the email with confirmation of a job interview 2 days after I return from this trip... I promised myself again not to check my email anymore for the rest of the trip, which proofed not to be difficult because for the next 2 weeks the internet was cutoff in the Middle East. I spend the rest of the day on the roof of the hotel, watching the sun set over ancient Aswan. Surrounding mosques are lit in a warm yellow light and the evening prayer is being called.

That evening after dinner the most of us went out for a beer, which is more difficult then it seems in first place. We walk through the busy tourists streets to the other side of town. I love how the shop owners try to convince you to come and look at their shop. Shouting "No hassle, please come look! No hassle" while grabbing your arm is a bit strange though. There is even a sign offering a no hassle service for a few extra pounds. It is all part of the game and I enjoy it. The bar is located in a back alley, literally. We are led into a darkened back room where we finally can get a few beers. This is one of the most depressed places ever where I had a beer, it comes close to that grunge basement bar in Russia a few years ago. The light is probably dimmed on purpose to cover up the dirty old tables, the cracked tile floor and the crawling critters on the walls. There is no music or other customers, every now and then a few heads peak into the room to see the alcohol drinkin foreigners. Few beers later it is time to go to sleep.

Gone sailing

Due to the early departure yesterday, the breakfast then consisted of a few eggs and some old rolls from a cardboard box. Today it was much better. While sitting on the hotel rooftop we got served a delicious breakfast with pancakes and fresh rolls. Today would be a relaxing day, sailing a felucca over the Nile. We are going to sail north till sunset and spend the night on the river banks.

All packed up we walk down to the river. JJ and two assistants are already busy with the preparations. With care we board the boat via a narrow plank. The felucca is slightly bigger then the feluccas we saw yesterday, I guess 12 meters long and 4 meters wide at the widest point, ample space for the 13 of us. Almost the whole deck is covered by a large mattress, and the roof prevents us from standing up, so there is nothing to do but lie down and relax. JJ is not joining us and let the sailing be done by his 2 assistants. With a big push we set out to middle of the Nile.

The sails are hoisted and the wind accelerates us northwards. From nowhere Ali appears in the "Jamaica Family" boat. He spotted us from the banks and took the boat to say goodbye to us. He shouts goodbye in Dutch to me, and I reply in Dutch which is received with a big smile.

Once out of the city the river becomes much more tranquil. But we are not there yet, there is a mandatory check at the river police station. “Just a formality, it takes only a few minutes” the captain assures us. On the one hand, I’m not surprised it takes longer then just a few minutes, on the other hand, I didn’t expect it because of a safety inspection. Safety in Egypt? I read in the morning paper that another bus of tourist has crashed in the desert, safety appears to be non-existent utopia here. It takes over an hour before the papers are checked, the life jackets counted (which are conviently stowed deep inside a unreachable spot in the hull) and other safety equipment has been checked. Finally we can set off.

Typical scenery

The scenery stays quite the same, on the left the Sahara desert abruptly stops, and on the right a strip of palm trees and lush green fields. Kids are playing on both sides of the river, men are working in the fields and women are doing laundry in the water. Slowly but surely we head north. There is a good wind blowing, unfortunately it is blowing in the wrong direction. I was too optimistic when I decided to only wear a t-shirt on the boat, the desert wind was colder then expected. It promised to be a cold night.

While one of the sailors was on the rudder, the other was cooking lunch on deck. We stopped at a green patch on the western bank for lunch. It was a typical Nubian lunch with mainly vegetables and soup. A great culinary discovery for me was the baba ganoush, a unpleasantly looking mash of eggplant, but with wonderful taste. Our noise of laughter and chatter attracted a few local kids. They stay on the banks staring at us. After we have stuffed ourselves, the 2 sailors take the leftovers and share it with the kids who waited patiently and probably knew what was coming. The beers are taken out, but most of us wisely to wait until the evening. There is no toilet on the boat and the next stop is at sunset… We push of and sail further. Landscape remains quite the same, green on the one side, sand on the other side. While seeing the scenery drift by slowly, I lie down, read my book, talk a bit and write in my journal.

A few hours later the sun is low on the horizon, the temperature drops and we start searching for a open spot on the banks. Near a stone quarry we find a good camping spot. Via the slippery and quite wobbly plank I make my way to shore. I take a look to the workers at the quarry, they pick up a large rock and carry them to a pontoon. Hard labour, and apparently it doesn’t end till sunset. While there is still some light, we need to gather wood for the fire. Because we ended up on the sandy side of the river, there are hardly any trees. A twig here and a palm leave there, but nothing substantial. I walk inland, plowing through the loose desert sand. I spot a small group of palm trees that have been burned down recently. As I come closer to this “oasis”, I notice a few large unburned bits, perfect for a campfire. I try to drag the top of a medium size palm tree, it is way to heavy to drag it back to camp. Ok, the little palmtop will do. In the Western world a “palmtop” is known as a handy device that is easy to carry around. A palmtop here is a bulky piece of fuel found in the desert.

What an image it is, there I am in the desert, dragging a blackened top end of a palm tree. A small hill separates me from the campsite. The palm tree is not cooperating and is digging into the sand. I grab one of the pointy branches and try to pull it up the hill. As I am almost over the hill, the branch breaks off, leaving me on top of the hill with a piece of wood in my hand and the rest rolling down the hill… My second attempt is more successful and I manage to get everything back to the river bank.

Meanwhile dinner was ready. With improvised candleholders we sit on the boat eating a rice, vegetables and soup while the sun goes down. I’m still not comfortably sitting on the floor eating with no table, and I’m not the only one, everyone is struggling to fold away their legs and sitting comfortably.

After dinner the campfire is lit and percussion music starts. A bit of singing, a bit of banging on the bongos, the crackling of the fire, stars are appearing in the sky, a night on the Nile. The air smells sweet from the burning palm tree top I dragged to camp. There is not much more wood and it is getting cold now. A few tarps are raised around the deck to shield us from the wind, though there is still a cold breeze seeping through it. As I prepare to go to bed, I decide to put on all the clothes I had brought with me on deck, all 7 layers. Last time I slept in the open air, which was a few months ago also in a desert, I almost froze to death. Not very comfortable I crawl in my sleeping bag and try to sleep.

Totaal Travel 04-17: 115 vliegtickets, 53 landen, 6 continenten, 812 reisdagen, 138.425 foto's
Mijn reisfotos!
  zaterdag 17 mei 2008 @ 21:13:35 #15
16918 flipsen
Brrrr, krijg het al koud als ik eraan denk
Ik hou me bezig met het organiseren van reizen naar Argentinie, Chili en Peru voor Tipica Reizen.
  zaterdag 24 mei 2008 @ 00:26:38 #16
104963 ETA
European Travel Author
Het schrijven gaat momenteel iets langzamer, te druk met andere werkzaamheden. Maar hier het volgende deel

En we zijn pas op 1/3 van de trip, gaat wel een erg lang verslag worden Kan het bijna in boekvorm gaan uitbrengen, watch out Michael Palin


Day 6: going to Luxor

Seven layers of clothing and a sleeping bag, and I’m still cold. I manage to get a few hours of sleep, and spend the rest of the night peeking under the tarp to the night sky. The slow rocking of the boat is comforting, the not-so-soft deck is not. I’m really happy to see sunlight appearing from the east.

Leftover bread and pieces of cheese form the breakfast this morning. As we eat, we hear the men have already started to work in the neighboring quarry, true from-sunrise-till-sunset working hours. Not much sailing this morning, we just cross the Nile to join the convoy to Luxor. There is no path from the river bank to the road, so with our backpacks we have to walk through the crop fields to reach the road. As we exit the green fields and reach the road, the magic of overnighting in the desert disappears.

A van picks us up and we head out to meet up with the rest of the convoy. With other tourists we head to Luxor. As we pass many small villages, we also pass a few security check points. They are quite serious about these, soldiers armed with AK47’s and jeeps with large machine guns mounted on top. And escorting us are a few jeeps with armed soldiers. It gives a double feeling, I feel safe because there is so much security, but I also feel very unsafe because there is so much security.

Typical village along the road

We make a mandatory coffee stop along the road. There is not much around, a coffee shop, a few souvenir shops and some toilets. I see young Egyptian kids rushing to the toilets with toilet paper under their arms. They block the entrance a try to sell a piece of toilet paper for a pound. A well, what is a few cents anyway. There is a organized chaos at the coffee counter. I manage to order a tea and find myself next to Luke. Price of the tea is of course a close kept secret. The local drivers pay the normal price, tour guides who speak the language pay double, unaware tourists pay 5 times the price. Next to us a French tourist has no problem paying for the overpriced tea. Is it fair to point out that she is paying too much, or is it stealing potential money of the bar owner?

A pickup truck passes us on the crowded road. In the front 3 men, in the back 3 cows. Three skinny cows are packed in the back of a small pickup truck, for me not a every day sight. "If cows on my farm were in this state, I would shoot them" Simon from Australia says. As we pass another colorless village, we see a small cattle market. All the other cows and goats are not much better. We pass many villages that look the same, grey, no paved roads, no cars only donkey carts, but surprisingly many houses have satellite dishes on the roof.

Around midday we arrive in Luxor. I'm sharing the room with Frank, the Vietnam veteran and architect from the US. We heard there was a restaurant on the roof of the hotel, so why not take this opportunity to eat with a great view? The elevator should take us to the 8th floor. It should, but somewhere between the 4th and 5th floor it stopped. Great.

It takes a few minutes fiddling with the elevator door to open it. We crawl out the elevator and make our way up, via the stairs this time. The view is worth the climb, the city on one side, the Nile on the other side banked with the characteristic green fields and yellow sand dunes. Except for a naked Russian guy sunbathing, there is not much up here. Also no restaurant. But the the Egyptian poolboy is kind enough to arrange some food delivery to the roof.

In Luxor, formerly known as Thebes, stands the large temple complex of Karnak. I love to use the ancient names of cities, gives much more drama to it, like Constantinople instead of Istanbul. Only a small part of this huge complex is open for the public, nevertheless there is a lot to explore. This is one of those tourist traps, busloads of tourists are lined up to enter the site. Well, I came here to see a bit of the ancient culture, so lets join the crowd. A grumpy looking guy, named Achmed, shows us around a bit. While walking between huge statues, columns and hieroglyphs, Achmed proves to be a guy with humor. His favorite thing to do is mess with Americans. The sentence "Where is this America you speak of, I never heard of it, are you sure it is a country?" leads to hilarious attempts of Americans to convince him that the USA is a real country.

The site is big enough to wander of alone between the old walls full of hieroglyphs. I can type that it is so special, spiritual, serene to immersive myself in this tangible history, but somehow it was not. Sure, it was carved by workers with great care 4000 years ago; it would have been full with worshippers, priests and workers walking over a perfectly polished marble floor. Even when the sun is casting her last rays over the site and swaying palm trees, I still can't grasp this place. Maybe it is the overkill already on historic sites, maybe I'm to annoyed by the other tourists who run around and take useless snapshots of every statue, maybe it is the school class of children climbing around everywhere, or maybe my mind can't comprehend it is al real and I'm not in Disneyland.

As we walk back to the center of Luxor, the sun is setting over the Nile river. The street is filled with carriage drivers, looking for the next couple who want to make a romantic sunset tour. I notice an imposing building down the street, it is the Winter Palace hotel. This 120 year old building from the British occupation era looks inviting. What are the chances that we, five travelers dressed in shabby t-shirts and shorts, are allowed to see the inside? We have to try. As soon we set foot inside, we are approached by the concierge. I guess we don't look like the folks who stay in this 5-star hotel. The concierge is friendly but he can't allow us to linger in the lobby or the rest of the hotel, we are not wearing the "appropriate attire". However, we are very welcome to look around the botanical garden in the back. The garden is a lush and green oasis, the perfect place to cool down after a long day in the sun.

Having someone with you with local knowledge helps, especially when trying to find the good places to eat. Luke took us away from the tourist infested Nile embankments. While walking away from the river, the scenery changes. Less and less tourists around, souvenir shops turn into grocery shops, the street vendors aren't speaking English and are not approaching you anymore. It is a bit like the wet dream of any intrepid traveler, away from the tourists and seeing the local life, this is how it feels. Even the restaurant feels "authentic", but the English menu and the large group of Russian tourists on the next table pulls me rudely out of this dream.

To expand my list of different transport types, I decide to take the balloon flight next morning. It should fit in perfectly in the list of transport types we will be on this trip. At the end of this trip we will have been on camels, donkeys, a normal car, taxi, motorboat, small ferry, large ferry, felucca, minivan, in the back of a pickup truck/taxi, metro, antique VW bus, a coach, 4x4 jeeps, and even on the back of a Fijian soldier. So why not a hot air balloon?

Day 7:Another day in Luxor

Ain't that fun, getting up at 4:30 in the morning, crossing the river in the dark and waiting for 1,5 hour in a crop field for a hot air balloon ride. The weather isn't cooperating and everything is cancelled. At least I saw a beautiful sunrise.

I meet up with the rest to explore the Valley of the Kings. My donkey riding skills are not optimal, I opt to drive into the valley instead of riding a donkey over the mountains. Even with the old pick up truck, I would arrive in the valley way earlier then the rest. The old pick up truck has been converted to a kind of taxi, benches and a roof has been installed in the back to provide some "comfort". So Achmed, the same guy as yesterday, invited me for a cup of tea at his cousin's place. We drive into one of the many small villages in the hills. His "cousin" has a large house with a workshop next to it, like many others here. I'm taken into a lounge, where an elderly man in robes is sitting. He introduces me to his cousin and leaves to get some tea. The cousin doesn't speak any English, so we watch TV instead. A black car with red lights in the front races across the screen, it is KITT. Haven't seen "Knight Rider" for a long time. The cousin points and says "David Hasselhoff!!" with a big smile on his face. Another man walks in and introduces himself also as a cousin of Achmed. He spots Knight Rider on the TV, and it sparks off an interesting discussion about American TV shows from the 80's.

After the nice conversation it is time to drive up to the Valley of the Kings. A winding, but well maintained, road takes us to the hidden valley. In the distance I can see the others walking down the mountain. We meet up in front of the tomb of Tutankhamen. Achmed gives us the story about the valley and the tombs. One of the girls asks if they are still digging here for new tombs. A loud crash answers that question. I turn around just in time to see a large boulder rolling down the mountain. There is a group of people with shovels and pick-axes digging high up the mountain side. That are the archeologists, Achmed explains. Somehow I never imagined archeologists looking like these guys in grey robes and turbans. Indiana Jones messed up my world view.

A few of the tombs are open for the public. Steep stairs lead to the entrance. Memories of the narrow and hot tunnel in the Pyramids resurface. Fortunately these tombs are much wider. Long tunnels lead deep into the mountain. The walls and ceilings are surprisingly colorful. Hieroglyphs and paintings in bright colors attract all the attention. The rest of the tomb is empty, I guess everything that was here before, is now in the British museum.

When I'm outside again, waiting for others to finish their exploration tour, I notice the amusing battle between vendors and soldiers. The young vendors enter the valley via the steep mountain sides; unfortunately for them they are not allowed to sell anything to tourists here. Soldiers, with AK-47's of course, are here to prevent this. Every time a vendor is spotted by a soldier, the vendor runs back onto the mountain side, unreachable for the soldier. If one soldier is brave enough to give chase a bit longer, the vendors just climb higher on the mountain to sit there and laugh at the soldier. As soon the soldier gives up the chase, the vendors run back into the valley trying to sell their stuff. This process repeats itself all day.

With everyone packed in the back of the pick up truck, we head to another temple. Nothing special compared to the last temple, more columns, statues and hieroglyphs. So I start making photos of hieroglyphs resembling faces... fun.

All this cultural stuff makes us hungry. Achmed takes us back to his village, where his wife has prepared a proper lunch. While this is a standard part of the tour, it is still nice to have a lunch inside Achmed's house. A long table is prepared in the living room. Their favorite color is mint green, as all the walls have this color. His wife and children bring out the pots and pan full of food. Under the watchful eye of the national football team and the president of Egypt, whose pictures are hanging on the wall, we start eating. Politics and family life seems to be doing well as discussion subjects.

The food tasted excellent. It is a nice village. A few sweaty guys across the street are working hard on building a new house. Achmed and I discuss the housebuilding market a bit. He is surprised to hear the prices from back home. Kids are playing around and are chasing us while we drive away. Via a quick stop at a papyrus museum, we end up at the alabaster workshop next to the house where I was this morning. A few men sit in front of the workshop working on alabaster vases. It is kind of a mandatory stop for the guides to make some extra money. We're led in the adjacent shop. I'd rather hang out at the workshop. Surprisingly the workers speak a bit of English. They are keen to talk to us about their work. It is quite interesting to see the different steps of the creation process of an alabaster vase. There is a nice buzz around the workshop, kids playing, men talking, some other working on a old motorcycle. Sure it is kind of a tourist trap, but a nice one.

It has been a long day. We squeeze ourselves into the back of the pick up truck again and drive off. And again, the scenery is gorgeous. The sun is low and radiates a warm yellow light. As we drive on a dirt road between the green fields I just can't stop looking out of the back.

Tonight we are leaving Luxor, back to Cairo by a overnight train. But first, we have some time to kill, and Egypt is playing Zambia. A hotel nearby serves beer AND has a TV with the game on. Well, that is the evening program planned.

At the train station it is another waiting game. However, there is enough entertainment. A shoe polish kid desperate to find a customer drives a hard bargain with one of our Aussies. A newspaper salesman sells yesterdays newspaper and runs off with the change. But the best show was still to come. A passenger train stops at the opposite platform and a few guys start unloading the baggage car in the typical Egyptian pace. So not surprisingly it takes some for them to unload, too much time it appears. As they start to unload bags with money, the conductor blows the whistle. Inside my head I'm thinking that the train would surely not drive off while they are still unloading? The panic on the faces of the loaders tells me a different story. A scene taken directly from a slapstick movie follows, they start to unload much faster, but they are too late as the train starts to roll. The men are running beside the train, pulling bags of money from it and put it on a cart. As the train speeds up more, the men can't keep up. The last loader, who was still on the train, does the desperate thing... and start tossing bags of money out of the train. So, bags of money are flying out of the train and men running along the tracks to pick up the bags, you can't buy that kind of entertainment.

To experience another type of local transport, a overnight seater train is chosen instead of the luxury sleeper train. A sleepless night follows.

Totaal Travel 04-17: 115 vliegtickets, 53 landen, 6 continenten, 812 reisdagen, 138.425 foto's
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  maandag 26 mei 2008 @ 16:24:00 #17
16918 flipsen
Hij is weer fijn Jammer dat de balonvaart niet doorging, had ook mooie foto´s opgeleverd I´m sure (wat voor camera gebruik je eigenlijk?).

En die smilies van 4000 jaar oud zijn natuurlijk geweldig

Hoe wist je dat het zakken met geld waren die uit de trein werden gemikt? Waarom zijn er uberhaubt zakken met geld in een passagierstrein
Ik hou me bezig met het organiseren van reizen naar Argentinie, Chili en Peru voor Tipica Reizen.
  dinsdag 27 mei 2008 @ 18:35:23 #18
104963 ETA
European Travel Author
Op maandag 26 mei 2008 16:24 schreef flipsen het volgende:
Hij is weer fijn Jammer dat de balonvaart niet doorging, had ook mooie foto´s opgeleverd I´m sure (wat voor camera gebruik je eigenlijk?).

En die smilies van 4000 jaar oud zijn natuurlijk geweldig

Hoe wist je dat het zakken met geld waren die uit de trein werden gemikt? Waarom zijn er uberhaubt zakken met geld in een passagierstrein
ik gebruik een canon powershot G7, een compact camera die aan de top end zit. Bewust niet voor een DSLR gekozen omdat het dan te groot word. Deze powershot past perfect in een broekzak en je mist dus bijna geen kans

Het waren zakken met muntgeld die in de bagagekar tussen de loc en passagiers rijtuigen zit. Je hoorde het leuk rinkelen en navraag bij een van die gasten bleek het idd om geld te gaan. Echter de muntjes zijn haast waardeloos, ik dacht een halve pond ofzo = 5 cent
Totaal Travel 04-17: 115 vliegtickets, 53 landen, 6 continenten, 812 reisdagen, 138.425 foto's
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Mooi verhaal. Je zou eigenlijk ook een stop hier in Oman moeten maken. Minder toeristisch dan Egypte, maar toch erg mooi
Cool story, Hansel.
  woensdag 28 mei 2008 @ 21:42:42 #20
6280 k_man
pedante eikel
Ik heb alleen ff de foto's bekeken (voor nu).

Ik zie dat kennelijk bijna alle Arabische steden er (buiten de bezienwaardigheden) hetzelfde uitzien. De plaatjes van 'the just bombed look' en 'chaos' kun je bijv ook maken in Damascus, waar ik onlangs was. Ik vind dat wel charmant. Het is niet mooi, maar de sfeer in die steden bevalt me wel. Zolang je maar niet overal aangeklampt wordt. In Syrië gebeurt dat niet, in Egypte volop, begreep ik?
I got the style but not the grace - I got the clothes but not the face
  woensdag 28 mei 2008 @ 21:45:15 #21
6280 k_man
pedante eikel
Op dinsdag 27 mei 2008 19:05 schreef wikwakka2 het volgende:
Mooi verhaal. Je zou eigenlijk ook een stop hier in Oman moeten maken. Minder toeristisch dan Egypte, maar toch erg mooi
Oman lijkt me nou juist zo ongeveer het saaiste land op het hele schiereiland. Wat is er in Oman te zien, dat je niet net zo goed of beter in een ander land kunt gaan bekijken?
I got the style but not the grace - I got the clothes but not the face
  woensdag 28 mei 2008 @ 21:59:33 #22
61944 Freeflyer
Vallen doet geen pijn...
duidelijke tvp!

leuke schrijfstijl ook!
Neerkomen wel!
  woensdag 28 mei 2008 @ 23:13:29 #23
71166 AKnynke
is lang niet gek
Ik heb eerdere verslagen altijd met veel plezier gelezen, dus ga deze tijdens rustige uurtjes opm'n werk ook eens lezen!
Ik ben niet gek, ik ben een vliegtuig!
  vrijdag 30 mei 2008 @ 01:21:32 #24
104963 ETA
European Travel Author
Op woensdag 28 mei 2008 21:42 schreef k_man het volgende:
Ik heb alleen ff de foto's bekeken (voor nu).

Ik zie dat kennelijk bijna alle Arabische steden er (buiten de bezienwaardigheden) hetzelfde uitzien. De plaatjes van 'the just bombed look' en 'chaos' kun je bijv ook maken in Damascus, waar ik onlangs was. Ik vind dat wel charmant. Het is niet mooi, maar de sfeer in die steden bevalt me wel. Zolang je maar niet overal aangeklampt wordt. In Syrië gebeurt dat niet, in Egypte volop, begreep ik?
Een van de lokale gidsen vertelde mij dat de reden achter de verwaarloosde daken een of andere wet is. Zolang je gebouw nog in aanbouw is, hoef je er geen belasting over te betalen. Dus wat doen ze? Ze bouwen een heel gebouw, maar de bovenste verdieping laten ze dan half af. Daken zijn dus nooit netjes afgewerkt en ziet er altijd crap uit. De rest is gewoon verhuurbaar, maar er hoeft toch geen belasting voor het bezit van die gebouw te worden betaald. Rare regel? Zeker. Verbazingwekkend? Niet in Egypte.

Het draag zeker bij aan de atmosfeer in zo'n stad. Je hoeft het inderdaad niet mooi te vinden, maar ik kan het zeker op een of andere manier waarderen. Hetzelfde geldt voor het constant lastig worden gevallen door verkopers in bepaalde gebieden. NAtuurlijk is het niet altijd leuk, maar ik zie het als part of the game. Met beetje relaxte instelling kan je gewoon genieten van zulke praktijken Overigens vind dit alleen plaats in de toeristische plekken, zodra je een paar straten verderop bent, dan spreekt geen hond Engels en komen ze niet naar je toe. Hun altijd aanwezige vriendelijkheid komt dan ook wat oprechter over omdat ze niet meteen op een sale uit zijn (of ben ik nu naief?).

En bedankt voor de complimenten Ik probeer het meestal mijn eigen mening/ervaring in elke alinea te stoppen, hoe ik het heb beleeft. Er moet wel iets "unieks" in elke alinea zitten, op een recht toe recht aan verhaal van "we gingen van punt A naar punt B, daar hebben we dit en dit gezien." zit niemand op te wachten, kan je net zo goed een reisgids gaan lezen
Totaal Travel 04-17: 115 vliegtickets, 53 landen, 6 continenten, 812 reisdagen, 138.425 foto's
Mijn reisfotos!
  vrijdag 30 mei 2008 @ 01:36:43 #25
104963 ETA
European Travel Author
En weer verder, met de trein terug naar Cairo om vervolgens de Sinai schiereiland op te gaan.


Day 8: Back in Cairo

I managed to get a couple of minutes of sleep. The light was on all night, people constantly walked by and the train itself was not the most quiet one. Let's list this under the header "been there, done that" experience and move on.

The trainstation is not far away from the hotel, so we walk. Now the benefits of having a backpack instead of a suitcase becomes clear. It is immensely crowded in the streets, even this early in the morning. It takes some elbow work to reach the hotel. The rooms are already available, so first thing is to take a hot shower. But of course, when you most want it, it's not there. No hot water in the hotel today... Sleep deprivation and traveling seems to be intertwined, I'm getting used to it. After a quick nap, it is time to explore Cairo once more. I tag along to the Coptic area of Cairo.

The Coptic area in Cairo seems to be a different world, less people on the street and of course a Coptic Church instead of a mosque. First thing first, a cup of coffee is needed before exploring the area. There is enough choice, and we choose a small place in a side street next to the church. A good choice it seems, there is a small garden hidden in the back. Also entertainment is provided. The owner keeps coming back with a small flask with oil in it and started a guessing competition. The girls were hesitant at first, but what could really happen when a stranger puts a strange liquid under their nose? It was fun to fool around with the oils a bit, and I even managed to get a keychain out of it.

At the Coptic Church we walked around a bit with a guide we met there. There is basically a bunch of churches built in a Greek Orthodox style. One is called the hanging church, which is suspended over ancient Roman ruins. A small glass pane in the floor shows the ruins underneath. This is such a different world compared to the rest of Cairo. The guide did a good job on explaining things about the church. He left us with some advice to get the a taxi to our next stop, the citadel. The guide predicted exactly the whole haggling process of getting a taxi. When walking towards the main street, we are going to be asked if we want a taxi, and of course this happened immediately. Then the negotiations for the price starts, first they'll ask 100 pound, then 70, then they will walk away angry, and finally they come back and accept the initial 50 pound bid.

The Citadel reminds me of the Acropolis in Athens, a large hill in the middle of a city with an impressive sacred building on top. The hill provides a great view over the large city. A brownish haze covers the buildings. A neighborhood nearby looks absolutely dreadful, I joke to one of companions not to visit that area. It takes me about an hour to explore the large mosque on top and the adjacent buildings. Not much special here, except for the large groups of Egyptian school kids. The boys are not shy, especially when there are blonde girls with us. Two kids are brave enough to ask ME if they can get a photo with the girls. Kinda strange to ask me, but I don't see any problems with it. The girls don't mind too, and that leads to a long photo shoot with all the kids around. Every boy wants his photo with one of the ladies. Me and the other guys try to charge them a few pounds for it, but we don't succeed in that.

There supposed to be some kind of museum nearby. With just a lonely planet as a guide we try to find it. But as usual, we get lost. The lack of any English written street signs gets us confused. The local street vendors are not very helpful, they just reply with a blank stare. A random direction is chosen and we start walking away from this extremely crowded area.

At the next intersection we are approached by a middle aged man who speaks perfectly English. He introduces himself as a English teacher on a nearby high school. He asks if we are lost. Well, we are all surrounding one Lonely Planet and walking in circles, so yes, we are a bit lost. "Why not visit one of the oldest original mosques in Cairo?" he asks. It is nearby, in the oldest part of Cairo. He has some time, he could take us there. Hmmm... scam alert alarm bells are going off in my head. "No, no, I don't want your money, I just want to practice my English". We are with 7 people, he is alone, so why not.

Just a few streets away a whole new world opens up. The streets are getting more narrow, almost no cars, just a few scooters racing by, small shops everywhere and laundry hanging out of the windows. Our friendly English teacher explains a bit about this neighborhood. He encourages us to take photos, people here appreciate the interest in their streets, and indeed many people respond with smile when taking photos. In contrary to the city center, there are a lot of workshops. There are many furniture workshops, but also a few alabaster workshops. In front of one the workshops a guy is sanding a alabaster vase. He is whiter then a ghost, he is covered from top to toe in white alabaster dust. His big smile reveals his strong contrasting yellow teeth.

There are many gates blocking the path to the courtyards. One is open, and I take a peek around the corner. A familiar sound reaches me, and then I see three pool tables and a snooker table. It is a pool hall! Well not really a hall, it is the open air and small thatched roofing protects the tables from the occasional rain. Pool tables are leveled by scraps of cardboard; the dirt floor doesn't really help. It doesn't prevent the kids from having fun on the tables, they are dancing around the tables with a lot of noise.

Via many narrow streets we reach the mosque. It's old indeed, and inside we meet the imam and talk about the mosque. According to him it is the oldest mosque in Cairo, something I could not confirm in online later, so I'm still not sure if it was the truth. Before we entered the mosque, the teacher asked us to make a donation to the imam. Now he suddenly reveals that the donation has to be double from what he first mentioned, oh and that price was for students, others have to pay even more. Hmm... for me the money is peanuts, but for their standards it is quite a lot. But for that money we can have a look on the roof and climb up the minaret.

While the imam summons one of his helpers to get the key, we walk around the mosque a bit. It is totally different from the large touristy ones, the paint is almost falling from the walls, large cracks in the wall and a very sad looking tree in the courtyard. With the large metal key the imam opens a wooden door leading to a small winding stair. Once up there, the view is great. In the fading sun light the minarets of other mosques are clearly sticking out and the citadel provides a nice backdrop. Here I really have the feeling of exploring the real Cairo. There is also a nice view on the busy streets below. Men with carts racing through the crowd and noisy scooters in their slipstream.

Our new "friend" the teacher has to leave. I was still wondering if it was a sincere man who wants us to show Cairo, of someone who worked together with the imam to scam us out of some money. Despite constantly claiming not to ask money from us, at the end he comes up with a great story. He has to go home because he just got a new kid, scam alarm bells go off again in my head. "Can you please give some money for my kid and wife?" Normally I would not doubt him, but it just the 4th time I hear the exact same story in a week... He is very persistent and is clearly not satisfied with the 20 pounds we give him. To bad it has to end like this, but I still enjoyed my time on the roof and walking around this area.

Without the help of our "friend' we now have to find our way out of this maze. Knowing that the sun sets in the west is helpful in cases like this. There was no time for lunch this afternoon, so everyone is starving. An open air bakery looks inviting; all kinds of sweet rolls and bread are displayed on large metal plates. Someone got the genius idea of getting a few pieces of everything, yeah why not taste everything. For less then a euro we get 2 large bags with bread and pastries, and it forms a delicious delayed lunch.

It takes over an hour and some fierce negotiating with the taxi driver to get back to the hotel. Unfortunately there is still no hot water in my room. "Tomorrow morning, hot water" the desk clerk promises me; I'm not getting my hopes up. Normally I don't really care about hot water, but this time with the anticipation after the long train ride, it is a bit disappointing.

Koshari for dinner and a quick visit to Achmed, who still remembers us, fills most of the evening. A few beers in the hotel conclude the last evening in Cairo.

Day 9: Driving to St Catherine.

Another big drive today. In the early morning we leave Cairo for a drive eastwards to Saint Catherine, in the middle of the Sinai peninsula. Though we have a private van, the space is limited. Half the luggage is tied on the roof, and the rest is squeezed in the van with us. I have to fold my legs in an awkward way for the 7 hour journey.

In the morning we pass the Suez Canal. Again expectations don’t match the reality. In the middle of nowhere (I have a tendency to end up in these places) we stop. Nothing to see here except the lonely road and sand dunes. The patch of sand next to the road is covered in white crystals, I’m not sure if they are salt crystals or ice crystals, at least it is cold enough for the latter. It doesn’t really matter, it still looks nice and unexpected. We climb the sandy embankment and try looking for the canal. As I reach the top, the canal itself is not visible, but the large containerships are. This resulted in a strange scenery, flat and bare desert with large ships magically moving across the sand. We move on, still a long drive to go. Of course during the coffee stop ridiculous high prices are demanded for basic necessities like coffee and tea. Paying the regular 5 pounds per drink instead of 50 results in a angry looking owner, but he accepts it without too much problems.

As we pass more security checkpoints, the landscape changes from flat sandy desert into a more mountainous desert. We talk about how it is remarkably similar to Arizona, except for the camels and nomads of course. Large layered rocks with a reddish pink color, deep valleys, small villages and the sporadic single traveler along the road.

Saint Catherine is located 1,5 km above sealevel and is lodged between the mountains. It is quite cold as we arrive at the lodges. It is not that surprising to see ice on the stairs leading to the reception building. It is not that common to have sub zero temperature, and the employees are puzzled about what to do about the icy stairs. They have tried hot water to remove the ice from the stairs, resulting in more ice… Suggestions to use salt are received with a suspicious look.

We settle in our freezing cold lodges. There is no proper heater, that’s going to be cold night. While we wait for lunch, I start talking with the owner. He has lived in the Netherlands for a while. We talk about life here and life there. I ask him why he returned back to Egypt while he is so positive about the Netherlands. Apparently he married 3 different wives. All at the same time. As a result he got deported back to Egypt. At least, this was his story.

After lunch we would climb the famous biblical Mount Sinai. The mountain where Moses supposedly got the ten commandments of God. The plan was to hike up the mountain and see the sunset. Because we head back in the dark, it could get cold, so I stuff my backpack with clothes. A really short drive of 2 minutes brings us to the entrance of a valley. We walk up the valley passed another historical landmark, Saint Catherine’s monastery. No time to linger here, tomorrow we would have to opportunity to explore this place.

There are 3 options to get up Mount Sinai, a short route walking up via a set of stairs carved in the rocks by a monk, walk up via a longer route but less steep, or take a camel. The steep stairs didn’t sound attractive and taking the camels was to easy, the long less steep route it is.

With the three of us and a local Bedouin guide, we started walking to left, while the rest was heading to the right for the stairs. It is almost a vertical kilometer we have to climb, but the path is easy. The guide is keen to point out interesting places, like a small chapel for monks who want to seek a period of solitary. There are not a lot of people on the mountain, sometimes we pass a handful of Egyptian tourists resting at one of the few tea houses along the trail. It is tempting to sit down and have a nice hot cup of tea, but we have a deadline to catch, the sun will not wait for us. In the sun it is quite warm, but once out of the sun we get a little taste of what is awaiting us higher up the mountain. The first patches of snow are appearing left and right.

The benefit of climbing mountains is the higher you get, the better the view. In the distance we can see a small Bedouin village. I ask our guide if it is his village, it is not, but he has family there. There are many small villages spread out in the mountains. Our guide grew up in the mountains, and it shows, while we are breathing heavily, he walks up the mountain with extreme ease. We have backpacks with extra clothes, bottles of water and all kinds of snacks, he just has a coat that he hangs casually over his shoulder. Well, he climbs the mountain 3-4 times a week.

In just 1,5 hour we reach the point where the 2 paths meet. From here it is another 750 steps to the top. The steps are roughly cut and are flanked by snow and ice. It's a good cardio work out. We pass a group of totally exhausted Egyptian students. They have been climbing for 6 hours already; it has been a tough climb. They are doing a true pilgrimage. I don't have much air to spare for a long conversation, so I say goodbye and leave them with their friend who is about to collapse of exhaustion.

The top is not far away, and the sun is still an hour away from setting, so there is time for a hot cup of tea at one of the teashops. The two girls with me opt to sit inside on the comfortable pillows and the guide is chatting with the owners, but I didn't walk all the way to just sit inside a tent. I choose a comfortable rock to sit on and start sipping on my hot tea and enjoying the view. People are passing me on their way up to the top. I wave to the group of Egyptian students who are passing on a slow pace. They are followed by two Japanese ladies with white dust masks. The two ladies are panicking a bit, they have lost their group and with their worst Engrish they try to ask for directions to the top. I just point to the top and they scurry of, funny bunch those Japanese people. And finally two soldiers from Fiji, they insist I come their way to make a photo with them. I can't refuse these two big guys, build like rugby players and carrying a big smile.

The summit, not as spectacular as Mount Everest or the K-2, but it definitely has it charms. On the top there is a small Greek Orthodox chapel, unfortunately not open for public. It is built on the exact spot where Moses got the ten commandments. There are quite some people on the summit. We have the group of Egyptian students, the Japanese and of course us, I think in total 25 people.

After the obligatory photos the wait for the sunset begins. It is getting cold, and I decide to put on every piece of clothing I managed to drag up the mountain, but it is still cold. That promises a cold walk down. One of the Aussies gets the idea to start a bet on when the sun sets exactly, sure why not. As he is taking bets for 1 pound, the Egyptian students are starting a prayer on the background. Hmm, maybe not the most suitable place to be gambling.

The sun sets and I didn't win the bet. Time to head down while there is still a little bit of light left. And yes, walking down is almost as hard as walking up, especially in fading daylight. It is getting harder and harder to see where I put my feet. The small torch I bought in Cairo can barely light the ground one meter in front of me. At least that is more then what the Japanese have. They have come unprepared and almost none of them have torches. It takes just a few minutes before it becomes pitch black. The Japanese group descends in a extremely slow pace and is blocking the whole path. There are times to be polite and times to be impolite, and this is one of them. With a gentle push I manage to get passed the group.

It is pitch black, walking goes slowly. Halfway down I need a short break. I turn off my torch and look back to the mountain. Small flickering torch lights dot the mountain side. The view above the mountain is even more amazing. There is no light pollution and the sky is clear. The silhouettes of the mountains are clearly visible with the star filled sky behind it. It is the most spectacular view so far on this trip. I have to move on; I don't want the Japanese group to overtake me. It takes me another hour to get back to the monastery, I'm tired and longing for that hot shower.

Camera could not catch the impressive view, a paint substitute has to do

I'm happy to find out that there is hot water back at the cabin, my first hot shower in days. Dinner gives me two things, first a new friend in the form of a cat, and secondly it gives me food poisoning. I turn in early for a freezing cold night.


En we zijn halverwege

[ Bericht 0% gewijzigd door ETA op 30-05-2008 01:43:58 ]
Totaal Travel 04-17: 115 vliegtickets, 53 landen, 6 continenten, 812 reisdagen, 138.425 foto's
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