About Me

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I'm a 30 something who loves to travel.  I have a full time job and enjoy writing (or blogging) about my travels.  I've traveled through several countries in Europe as well as Russia and Egypt.  I also enjoy domestic travel in the United States, including Disney.  My long term travel goal is to do a round the world trip.  

Friday, December 4, 2009

Egypt: Luxor 7

Day 7 (March 15, 2007): We visit the Valley of the Kings where King Tutankhamun was burried We continue to the Colossos of Memnon. This afternoon we check in to our hotel before leaving for the magnificent temple of Karnak. Later why not enjoy a camel ride through a local village in Luxor. (Breakfast included)

I was up at 4am so I could make sure I had enough time to shower and do my last minute packing. I had woken up in the middle of the night yelling, "No, No, No" then I woke up and was disoriented and asked, "hello? is anyone there." Tara told me I was fine and I went back to sleep. I had had a dream that I was at a market and someone was trying to all but drag me into a shop and I didn't want to go. I think that expresses how I feel about the markets! At 5:00 we had to have our bags outside our rooms and had to be in the lobby at 5:10. Once everyone was downstairs we were driven to a boat that was to take us to the West Bank of the Nile. Then we were driven to the hot air balloons, we were taking a green one. While on the boat we were given a little information about the ride. We were told there are 3 types of landings. I don’t remember what he called the first one, but it was where you slid into the next town. The second landing was where you kinda bounced a bit until you came to a stop. The third, Egyptian, is where you come to a gentle stop.

The balloon has 5 compartments, the pilot is in the middle one and the other 4 hold 5 people each, though 4 would fit more comfortably. I was with Natasha, Anton, Jason (SLC), and Karen. When we got there the balloon was mostly filled and we boarded while they continued to fill it. Then they unhitched the balloon from the truck (yes, we were being held down by a truck) and the guys working jiggled us a bit and we quietly floated up into the sky. I remember it as being quiet, but any time they turned on the propane it was really loud and hot. The hot was nice since it was chilly out, but it was annoying when it was loud. We got to see the sunrise over the Nile, people’s roofs, farms. It was fun and interesting, a totally different view of the city then you would get any other way. The workers followed us to the other side of the Nile by van since where you land depends on the winds. Our pilot pointed things out from time to time, like Karnak Temple. After 45 minutes we landed (second type of landing) in a sugar cane field (the sugar cane was already cut). When we landed we saw a couple kids running to us, along with the guys who work on the balloons, I would think since they do this pretty much everyday the excitement (for the kids) would wear off, but apparently not. We had to wait inside the basket until they had the balloon down and off. At first I think it was incase we weren’t totally stable, then I think it was because the workers were busy cleaning up the balloon. After we were all out and cleaned up they sang and played us music, not forgetting to collect baksheesh. After that we were driven to the place where we were supposed to meet Sherif and the 5 people who didn’t go on this optional.

At 8:00 we met up with everyone at Colossi of Memnon, took some pictures and then boarded the bus. Sherif told us a little about the excavation there and that every week when he returns they have found new items. This has made me realize that while everyone thinks of Egypt as a “once in a lifetime” vacation, you could come back here in 10 years and there will be new things to see.

Our next stop was Al-Deir Al-Bahari Temple which was built for Hatshepsut. As part of seeing the temple we had to take a tram (a new mode of transportation for the trip), which wasn’t totally necessarily as the walk isn’t that long. Unfortunately, Hatshepsut pissed her husband off by kicking him out of Egypt, he returned years later. She disappeared not too long after and her body has still not been found. Her husband attempted to erase her from Egypt by destroying or erasing anything that referenced her. In many spots in this temple there are areas where a figure (Hatshepsut) was erased off the walls. Otherwise the temple was good and seemed to be in good shape, it also seemed like the Egyptians were taking more then the usual steps (they roped off areas of the temple so you couldn’t touch things) to protect this temple.
On the way into the temple Adam got one of the guys in the market to agree to 2 scarves for 20 LE and the guy found Adam and I on the way out. However, the guy wouldn’t give us the scarves we wanted for 20 LE, he would only give us the cheap ones. After about 10 minutes of going back and forth with the guy we just got back on the bus, without scarves, and left for our next stop, the Valley of the Kings.

Along the way Sherif told us how thousands of years ago, during the bad periods of Egypt people would rob the Pyramids, to cut down on that they tried to hide the resting places of the Pharoses so they used tombs in the Valley of the Kings. But they were still robbed. When people found tombs they would build their house on top of the tomb so no one else could get to it and they have been there for thousands of years. In an effort to reclaim the tombs (and other parts of Luxor) Egyptian officials are moving entire villages of people, this year they are moving a village from the Valley of the Kings area. Last year they moved a village from the area of Karnak Temple.

The Valley of the Kings is an absolute highlight of the trip. When we got in Sherif bought us our admission ticket which includes admission to 3 tombs and gave us the option to purchase a separate ticket for King Tut’s tomb. Unfortunately, we were not able to take photos inside the tombs and since there were guards inside, it would have been pretty hard to take them without having to pay someone off. The first tomb we went to was tomb #2, KV2, Ramsses IV. Inside the tomb was exactly what I pictured a tomb being like, it had beautiful pictures and a bunch of rooms for the Pharoses stuff. The second tomb we went to was tomb #11, KV11, Ramses III. This one also had beautiful pictures and lots of rooms. What was unique about this tomb is that Ramses III died while they were building it so at the end there are rooms that were dug out, but were left unfinished.

Along the way we saw KV5 which was built for Ramses II’s children (he had about 100 – they were adopted and from around the world). When they initially found this tomb they only found a small part of it. In 1995 after massive rain (and flooding of the tomb) they found the whole network of rooms inside the tomb, unfortunately the tomb is still being fixed (most of it was collapsed from the floods) so you can’t go inside, but it's supposed to be really big with lots of passage ways and rooms. Our next stop was tomb #34, KV34, Thutmoses III. This tomb was designed to be well hidden to prevent grave robbing, the entrance was high in the mountain, we had to climb a large set of stairs, then climb down in what was intentionally designed to be a dangerous walk (they’ve found the bones of many who died trying to steal from the tomb). Inside it was really hot and smelly (I think one of the guards was to blame) and the pictures (which were covered with plastic) weren’t as detailed. The theory on that was that it was too hot to work for long periods inside so they made the designs simpler then was usual. Inside there were some guards and the one in the burial chamber was “helping” people by shining a flashlight inside the coffin. Naturally he wanted baksheesh and he didn’t give change. I know this because someone from tour got sucked into this and couldn’t get change. At that, he made the guard show everyone else from tour inside the coffin and got mad when the guard tried to ask other people for baksheesh.

It was pretty hot and people were getting really hungry so Sherif took us to a shady spot and spoke to us about King Tut’s tomb (KV62). In 1922 his tomb was found by Carter and is the most complete of the tombs that have been found. King Tut died young and there wasn’t time for a proper tomb to be built, they only had the 70 days it takes to mummify the body to make create the tomb, so they used an already existing tomb, which is one of the reasons it is so small. At the Cairo Museum we were able to see all the stuff that was inside the tomb and all I have to say is that it was probably worse then my storage unit is! Never mind that the body was inside 3 different coffins that were inside 4 or 5 gold boxes. But King Tut’s body is still inside the tomb and has only been out of the tomb twice, once when the tomb was discovered and once in 2005 to do a body scan on him. I can remember learning about King Tut as a child, that he was the boy King, he died and 16 and was probably poisoned. When they did the body scan of him they found out that he in fact died at 19 years old and that he died from gangrene caused by a broken leg. After our little talk we went inside the tomb. While the tomb was significantly smaller then the other tombs we had been in, this tomb was just as decorated and grand inside as the others and it had his mummy inside too. After that we left and finally had some lunch around noon.

We got to our 5 star hotel a little after 1:00 and the hotel was awesome! We had balconies in our room and used a few minutes of my free time to take some pictures of people on there balconies. Then it was time for a much needed nap.

At 4:00 we met in the lobby to take a camel ride. Sherif had told us to try and get smaller bills for our tips, but the money exchange place was closed. I somehow ended up talking to the car for hire guy, who exchanged some money for me. Then after about a minute of conversation he told me he loved me. Luckily Sherif showed up right after that so I could bail out since I was NOT in love after a one minute conversation. Sherif took us to a boat to take us to the other side of the Nile where we were meeting the camels. We had the option of taking a camel, donkey or a horse. Since I had ridden a camel and a horse I opted for a donkey, as did many other people. My donkey’s name was Bob Marley and my guide was Mohammed. Mohammed was 10 years old who showed me the different trees and sites, along with saying to me, “no woman no cry.” Previously Sherif had told us that in Egypt a couple years ago they had tried having woman Police Officers, but after 2 years they abandoned it because the men didn’t respect the woman enough. I thought that was sad and that I should send over some scary ass woman cops to kick some ass. So I asked Mohammed if I tried to arrest him if he would laugh at me and he said, “Yes.” I was shocked and horrified as you might imagine, and acted it, at which point he patronized me by saying he wouldn’t really, but I know he probably would. How sad that woman get so little respect. On the donkey ride we went through a little town, it was funny because many of the locals came out to see us and some of their doors were open so you could see in. While the houses seemed like simple mud brick, most seemed to have satellite dishes, which cracked me up.

After the donkey ride we stopped at a local house for tea and bread. I have to say I didn’t really like the bread even though it was ancient Egyptian bread, but the tea was good. We got a tour of the house. We saw the kitchen with the ancient (literally) oven and modern stove, the TV room, the other kitchen with the sink and fridge and the bathroom. I took a picture of my traveling giraffe on a couch and the grandmother there laughed at me – crazy Americans! Back by the Nile waiting to go back to the hotel we had the option to stop for 3 LE sodas, the local price, as opposed to the 10 LE that we usually had to pay in the tourist places. Apparently the guy tried to charge Anton more, but Anton told him that he was only paying 3 and he won.

Back at the hotel we had a few minutes until Gary (who decided not to go on this camel ride) met us at 6:30 to go to Luxor Temple. We got to take horse and buggies to the temple, my partner for the ride was Jacquie. Our driver offered to take our picture, which we both accepted. The picture he took with Jacquie’s camera was blurry and mine was crooked and then he had the nerve to ask for baksheesh. We told him our guide would tip him. Then some little kid handed me a flower and having a blonde moment I accepted it, then had to give him baksheesh for some dinky little flower I didn’t even want, Owell.

Once we got to the front of the Temple I recognized it immediately from Las Vegas, except something was off. The real Temple only has one Obelisk; the Egyptians gave it to the French in exchange for a broken clock, the French really made out on that deal! That obelisk can be found in Paris. The lighting at the Temple was great, too bad I didn’t have my tripod. The temple had a part in it where the Christians had cut out an area for use in religious ceremonies, we didn’t see anything like this in any of the other temples and it even struck me as a Christian type of design. The other thing that stood out was the god of fertility… At 8:00 we finally left the temple, Sherif had us come during dinner time so that the temple would be less crowded, so everyone was starved when we got back to the hotel for dinner.

Sherif arraigned for us to have table set up at the hotels Italian restaurant for dinner since dinner wasn’t included. I had pizza, which was surprisingly good. Jacquie and I explained a lot about the typical Contiki tours to Jen, who had never done a Contiki before, and we also gossiped a bit about the tour.

After dinner we all went back to our rooms to get ready for a big night out on the town which was to start in Adam and Craigs room. Tim, Ed, Tara, Jacqui, Sherif, Jen, Sharon, Alan, Kelley, Craig and occasionally Jenna and Adam were in Craig and Adams room. Adam and Jenna at one point decided they were going to go collect glasses for drinking and I gave them my key to the room and told them to be careful because Tara’s key was in our room (you had to leave the key in a slot in the room so there would be power in the room to recharge the battery for the camera I had lent to Adam), except they didn’t come back. After a while Tara said we had to go out to the bar so we left a note for Adam about our key and everyone went out. The bar was pretty much across the street – an Irish Pub in Cairo which didn’t seem all that Irish. Everyone danced a bit, but there really weren’t too many people there. Around 11:00 Tara asked if I wanted to go out for Sheesha, I decided to do that, with the intention of going back to the bar. We wandered for a few minutes and ended up at the hotel. First Tara and I got new keys while the guys went to find out about Sheesha, which they had just stopped serving. In the meantime we ran into Adam. When Adam got back to his room he saw the note about the key and thought it said to leave the key in our room, but when he got to our room he was afraid we were asleep so he just slid it under the door. When he got back to his room he realized he was supposed to leave the key in his room so he went back to our room and spent 20 minutes trying to get it back out for us. After all that I couldn’t even tell you if he did get the key back and it didn’t really matter since we had new keys anyway. Ed, Adam, Tara, Craig and I went to a Sheesha place that the guy at the hotel recommended. We hung out there until about 1am when Tara and I went back to our room, the rest of the guys went back to the bar where the rest of the group was. Apparently they didn't stay out much longer, something about Craig being drunk and a transvestite at the bar – I’m sorry I missed it.