Tourist Highlights - Egypt 2009

Group at pyramids.
Group at pyramids - Jess, Jo, sphinx, Leona,Helen
seated: Amy, Koby
On our first day Nibal (our main guide) took us to a Moroccan Day Spa (ie a hammam). I was expecting a bit of steam and a slosh down. Instead, we were rubbed with some special slime gloop then steamed for about 15 minutes. Then we were rubbed down with something like a loofah - taking all the old skin with it, another slosh down, hair washed, recoated - this time with something like oatmeal for another steam and then another wash down. Finally we were led to couches to relax on. We also had the option of massage, sweeting (ie hair removal by a mixture of sugar and lemon), or work on our hair or nails. Unfortunately, there's no photos. They had only two rules - no men and no photos.

Day two most of the group went to the pyramids but Karen and I had private lessons with Yasmina instead. We caught up with the others for lunch (and shisha) then some gallebaya shopping.

Mosque of Mohamed Ali.
Inside the Mosque of Mohamed Ali
Day three is Islamic Cairo - the Citadel and the Mosque of Mohamed Ali. The Mosque is a place of amazing beauty - what amazed me is they were quite happy for non-believers to enter - providing they removed their shoes and covered their arms and legs.

Lunch at the Al Azhar Gardens then onto Khan el Khalili - not to shop this time but to learn about its history - and the essential stop at the coffeehouse for shisha.

There was a choice of horse or camel riding at the pyramids at sunset. In the end I went with the camels - after all we were in Egypt which left only the real horse women on the horses. It was pretty controlled. The four of us were roped together - no freedom riding. I got the old lady's camel. (no biting or spitting) and when we stopped my camel decided to have a lie down. After that we went to Barry's and overlooked the Sound and Light Show.

I was looking forward to seeing the Egyptian Museum again - but the day started badly and got worse. The traffic meant we started late. Then it took over an hour to get there. We rushed through in under an hour. I did pay the extra 100 pounds to see the royal mummies this time - and it was interesting - creepy but interesting. Not something I'd do again though. Fortunately we were given another chance to redo the museum later - for another entrance fee but with free transport and guiding. The second time we got a slightly different - and much longer view. I could have stayed longer - but my feet in my cheap light shoes objected.

Camel riders.
Camels and riders - Leona, Jess, Jo, Judith
We also had a quick visit to Coptic Cairo and while there also checked out an old synagogue and a chapel which was the reputed resting place of the "holy family".

We left Cairo for two day trips. One to Al Fayoum - the oasis about 100km south west of Cairo (about 45m below sea level). For this we changed guides to Hani who had an amusing line of patter most of the way (we learnt for instance that the white lines on the roads and the occasional traffic lights were a form of Egyptian decoration). Once out of Cairo we also picked up an escort - a truck load of armed soldiers and an extra tour member - Mr Killer Force with his gun in the waistband of his trousers.

Just norther of the Al Fayoum city, we visited Karanis with the remains of Ptolemaic and Roman mud brick houses and temples. We drove out across the desert and were shown a waterfall - which was very popular with the locals. Then we were rowed out onto the lake. Finally we stopped at the Meidum pyramid - which was the first real pyramid ever attempted. They had a few goes at trying to get it to work which lead to it partially collapsing under its own weight.

Meidum near Al Fayoum.
Meidum near Al Fayoum
Our other day trip was to Alexandria - the catacombs, Pompey's pillar, the Roman Amphitheatre (Kom al-Dikka - mound of rubble), Fort Qaitbey (on the site of the old Pharos Lighthouse) and the and the Alexandrian Library. (Rather than repost - check out the 2003 photos of Alexandria - things haven't changed much!)

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