A Travellerspoint blog

Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt

Day 18, 14 Apr 2009


View MV Discovery - 2009 on dpedler's travel map.

Back at Sharm el-Sheikh again, on the southern coast of the Gulf of Aqaba. The tour guide describes the place as “Egypt’s version of Vegas” – I’m not too sure about that!

Today I walked into town to do some shopping in the Sharm Old Market; bombed in 2005 and now heavily guarded.

Posted by dpedler 22:29 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Safaga, Egypt

Includes Luxor and the Valley of the Kings


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Day 15 Safaga, Egypt, 11 Apr. 09

As a group of four headed for Luxor this morning planning to stay the night, then two of us to head early to Cairo and Alexandra before meeting the ship again at Port Suez - we didn’t make.

We hired a taxi at the port where this vehicle took us up some very narrow streets to the real taxi. The owner’s children had to push start the car. Stoped at the first check point just out from Safaga and had to return.
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The original driver then organised a different vehicle and driver and we were off again. This attempt also failed; so my plans have all changed. I’m now booked to travel for Luxor and the Valley of the Kings on the cruise excursion in two days.

I was very tired from the past few days and not getting much sleep in the shared cabin. The good news is that I’ve organised my own room until at least Athens.

Day 16 Safaga, Egypt, 12 Apr. 09
Easter Sunday

It was great to sleep in my own cabin; it’s been the first good night’s sleep in two weeks. The cabin has just been freshened up and still smells of paint – I don’t care that smell will fade.

Staying on the ship today to wish many of the passengers off. It’s the end of leg one and the start of my leg two. No loss staying on board as I need the rest and Safaga is very unimpressive after all my previous experiences. Looking forward to the Valley of the Kings tomorrow.

Day 17 Safaga, Egypt, 13 April 2009

Luxor and the Valley of the Kings today. A long 3.5 hour trip in the bus today to Luxor to visit the Valley of the Kings and the Temple of Karnak.
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An hour at the Valley of the Kings allowed me to visit the tombs of Ramses IX (KV6), Ramses IV (KV2), and Ramses VII (KV1). 62 tombs have been found so far numbered from KV1 to KV62. KV62 is the most recent tomb of Tutankhamum and was discovered in 1922. One more tomb is believed to exist and digging is occurring beside Ramses IV. The isolated valley is a place of death where nothing grows on its scorching hot hills.

Ramses IX (1126-1108 BC), although the tomb is unfinished it is the most decorated. Ramses IV (1153-1147 BC) died before he tomb was completed. This tomb has graffiti on the walls dating back to 278 BC. Ramses VII (1136-1129 BC) is a small unfinished tomb only 44.3m long due to his sudden death in the 7th year of this reign. All three are very similar in their basic plan.

A wonderful lunch at the Nile Palace hotel before we head for the Temple of Karnak.

The Temple of Karnak was amazing and everything gigantic; the pylons, the two standing obelisks, the statues. The area is 1.5km by 800m and Amelia Edward (19th-century) describes the temple perfectly:
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“It is a place that has been much written about and often painted; but of which no writing and no art can convey more than a dwarfed and pallid impression … The scale is too vast; the effect too tremendous; the sense of one’s own dumbness, and littleness, and incapacity, too complete and crushing”.

The oldest parts of the temple are almost 2,000 BC. The major additions to the complex were constructed by pharaohs between 1570 and 1090 BC. The names of the Kings and queens and occasionally gods are contained in the protective oval shape called a cartouche.

The sandstone obelisks of Hatshepsut are both 25m high – see the picture of me with one; the other lies on the ground by the sacred lake.

Four counter-clockwise trips around the Statue of a scarab beetle is meant to bring good luck and your wish is granted – time will tell...

The Temple of Karnak is truly amazing and well worth the visit.

Posted by dpedler 22:27 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Aqaba, Jordan

Day 13 and 14 Aqaba, Jordan, 9-10 April 2009


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The plan for Jordan is two days at Petra. Three of us caught a taxi to the Petra Gate Hotel. It’s a very plain hostel. What the hostel lacks it is made up for by the hospitality of the proprietor and staff. A lovely man who couldn’t do enough for us. If you are ever in Petra you must stay here.
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When we arrived they made us some gahweh; their traditional coffee in a small cup; very sweet and think. As someone who never drinks coffee, I did this time and it was wonderful. Very impressed.

The owner has a lot of Aussie backpackers stay and he has heard of Vegemite but never tried. Glad I had my tube of Vegemite in my emergency pack for him to try; he even liked it – he came back for seconds.

For the afternoon the owner drove us to Little Petra (Siq al-Berid) and picked us up two hours later. Little Petra is around 400m long; not as dramatic or extensive as Petra but well worth the visit. At the end of the siq are some steps that I climbed to the top for some great views. The area was very peaceful and two Bedouin people were there. One selling his wares and the other, I assume, his wife who played me a tune on her flute. The Bedouin are a nomadic people who live in desert areas within a tribal social structure.

Around the corner from Little Petra along a goat track for 15 minutes are the Neolithic ruins of Al-Beidha which date back around 9,000 years - one of the oldest archaeological sites in the Middle East. Abandoned around 6,000 BC, it is why it is still intact – ie latter civilisations never built upon it.

That evening I witnessed the most spectacular sunset I have every seen. Even the photos don’t completely describe the amazing view.

We drank marrameeya before dinner, also known as sage tea – black and sweet. I like sage tea.

We asked for “upside-down” for dinner when we arrived. It is a traditional meal for the area they call “magloobeh” which literally translates to “upside-down” as once the chicken on steamed rice with strips of grilled vegetables is finished, it is turned upside down into a shared plate.

It turned out that they cooked that meal the previous night, but they didn’t tell us so they cooked the BBQ Chicken for the other guests and a special dinner just for the three of us. They are the nicest people.

That night we did Petra by candles. We walked down to the famous Treasury building with thousands of others. Petra is often called the “Rose-red City” and the Treasury by night is a red glow.
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The call to prayer from the mosque went out at 11:10pm and was woken at 4:20am. The mosque is just next door to the hotel.

That next morning I was up very early to be down to the Petra entrance just after 6:30am to get a good start. The plan was to get to the Treasury before everyone else and get a few good pictures, then onto the Monastery – more than 800 steps to reach.
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I was one of the first to reach the Treasury (Al-Khazneh) that morning; construction is subject to some debate: estimates range from 100BC to AD200. Petra is overwhelming – carved ornate classical facades into desert cliffs.

Next impressive construction is the Theatre, built over 2000 years ago. It has a capacity of about 3000 in 45 rows of seats.

I then realized I had left my hat and sunglasses at the Treasury when I was taking photos – back I race. I return to find it gone and none of the locals (Bedouin) had seen it. I then ask a boy with his camel and he took me to his father who had my glasses. The boy then retrieved by hat from under a rug on the back of a camel.
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I tipped the boy and bought a 30 minute ride on his father’s camel. What a ride back down past the Theatre to the low point (Qasr al-Birt) of the Petra area. Then I was off heading for the start of the track to the Monastery (Al-Deir) - 220m above the elevation of the Qasr al-Birt. To reach it requires the climbing up the spectacular ancient rock-cut path of more than 800 steps.
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Similar in design to the Treasury but is far bigger (50m wide and 45m high) and just as impressive. Built in the 3rd century BC as a Nabataean tomb.

“It was once possible to climb up a steep trail to a point above the Monastery, but this is currently not allowed for the sake of preserving the Monastery and its tourists – with one visitor falling to her death a few years ago”. I climbed it – there were a few warnings that it could be dangerous – I just had to be careful with some huge drops.

At the top was another Bedouin and his tent. It was a black goat-hair tent (translated from Arabic as “house of hair”) where he lives his simple life (he was until recently an archaeologist but decided to go back to his Bedouin roots).

The Bedouin are known for their hospitality, I can confirm it is all true. I had sage tea cooked in an iron kettle on a small open fire. At was very hot and very refreshing.

Posted by dpedler 06:41 Archived in Jordan Comments (0)

Sharm el-Sheikh

Day 12 Sharm el-Sheikh Wednesday 8 April 2009

My first day in Egypt today. It was a very full day starting at 4:30am when I was woken by my room mate! Oh well. I went to St Catherine’s Monastery in the Sinai desert by taxi – 3 hours each way. So many people in such a small place – I have some great pictures of it and the desert. The desert has an extraordinary beauty and I hope the photos will reflect the environment.
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There is rubbish all across the desert – plastic bags and bottles, paper and cans. It is amazing how much.

Posted by dpedler 06:38 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

"At Sea"

Day 8-10, 4-6 April 2009

Day 8 “Day at Sea” Saturday 4 April 2009

Due to the recent kidnapping of foreign nationals, the British government has advised against “non-essential travel to the whole of Yemen”. The ship will now skip both the scheduled Yemen ports of Aden and Hodeidah. Unfortunately I will miss the old walled city of San’a but this cannot be helped.

Instead the ship is heading for Sharm el-Sheikh – the southern end of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt - scheduled to arrive on the 8th April. Then an earlier than scheduled arrival into Aqaba, Jordan – thus giving us 2 days to visit Petra, instead of the previous 1.5 days.

Day 9 Sunday 5 April 2009

The pirates did attack a ship just behind us with no luck. We were told the military helicopters scared them off.

Just leaving the Gulf of Aden now – all safe. Not stopping at Yemen now. Heading for Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt in a few days time.
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Day 10 “Day at Sea” Monday 6 April 2009

The theme for today seems to be Australia. An Aussie barbie for lunch and the movie Australia on the cabin TVs. The barbie was very well done with an Aussie doing the meat cooking on the bbq; and pav and real cream for desert.

The glorious pale blue waters of the Red Sea today are dead calm with hardly a ripple. Whereas in the Gulf of Aden there is a continuous stream of ships (around 120 ships traverse the Gulf very day), I haven’t seen a single ship all day – no doubt due to the shear size of this massive body of water.
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The Red Sea is a salt water inlet of the Indian Ocean between Africa and Asia. It has a surface area of 438,000 km2, roughly 2,250km long, widest point is 355km and its maximum depth is 2,211m (average depth is 490m).

Posted by dpedler 06:35 Tagged cruises Comments (0)

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