Our clients – Kathy & Larry from Texas – have been sending us daily updates from their Egyptian cruise! You might remember that they recently shared their story about their Danube cruise. Now they’re in Egypt! We’ll share a few of their trip highlights with you. Kathy & Larry are cruising the Nile River on Viking River Cruises aboard the Viking Ra. Kathy & Larry also purchased a pre-cruise hotel package, giving them extra time to explore Cairo, and a post-cruise package to Jordan!
From Larry at Nile Ritz Carlton:
“We arrived in Cairo and we were taken to the 5 star hotel, the Nile Ritz Carlton. We thought we were going to stay at the Pharoah’s Tomb, but it was occupied. Our hotel is located right on the Nile and is very famous because of all the celebrities that have stayed there, the most famous is Moses.”
“Our hotel is fabulous but Egypt is a third world country, still using donkeys pulling carts alongside dump trucks. There has been no problems communicating and no problems using the dollar… We finished the day in the salon with a BLT and a glass of Merlot, listening to a cello and violin playing American love songs.”
From Larry in Cairo:
“Some of the delicacies you can experience in Egyptian cuisine are: sheep and cow brains, bird tongue soup, pigeon rice, falafel or koshari. But if you are not that adventurous there is a McDonalds just around the corner. Cairo is one of the largest cities in Africa and the Arab world and is 95% Muslim (mostly sunni). The people do know who Americans are and what a dollar is. You will hear ‘only 1 dollar’ over and over and all the slang for it: a buck, a George Washington, a greenback, etc.”
“Today we visited the Sakkara Pyramid which was the first pyramid 200 years before the great ones. Just on the edge of town, on the Giza Plateau, stands four colossal pyramids, the largest standing 448 ft tall. There are numerous smaller pyramids that were for the wives of the kings. And lying in front of all of this is The Sphinx which was hidden under sand until the 1800’s. Even though this is the Sahara Desert, they all set on solid rock and were able to quarry the rock right there and chisel the Sphinx down thru the rock. We also had the opportunity to ride a camel today. The saddle was a horn on the front and back. When I tried to gracefully dismount with one foot on the ground and the other stuck on the back horn because I could not get my leg high enough, even by hopping, everyone thought it was funny. Luckily I brought plenty of Motrin.”
From Larry at the Cairo Egyptian Museum:
“We went to the Egyptian Museum and I could not but stop and reflect on how many of the best relics are not in Egypt, but are in the Vatican Museum, in France at the Louvre (The French were the first to start the excavations in 1822), the London Museum (while under British colonization), Vienna and all over Europe as Egypt’s antiquities were appropriated by European powers. In 2011, the revolution in Egypt stopped everything as unrest disrupted every phase of Egyptian life. Egypt is now a Republic and is recouping from all the unrest. Their tourism is still recovering from the 2011 revolution with multiple river boats moored side by side, idle and deteriorating. I was surprised by how many people spoke English, by the friendliness of the people we meet, and by the lack of industrialization.”
From Larry in Luxor:
“The Temple of Karnak is the largest religious building ever constructed. It was started in the 16th century BC and continued for almost 1300 years. It’s dimensions are 1 mile by 2 miles with the Avenue of the Sphinxes that link it to the Temple of Luxor.”
“Since the Rosetta Stone was discovered with the same story written in 3 languages (Greek, Egyptian, and Hieroglyphics), they are now able to read the hieroglyphics like a story book in a library.”
“We visited the Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut and Queen Nefertari’s Tomb in the Valley of the Queens. The pharaohs were buried in elaborate tunnels carved into the rock in the canyons adjacent to the Nile. The Valley of the Kings was constructed from 16th to 11th centuries BC. Nefertari was the wife of Ramesses. Her name means ‘beautiful companion’. She was highly educated and able to both read and write hieroglyphs (which was rare) and her tomb is one of the largest and lavishly decorated tombs in the area. I wanted to have my picture taken with her but she was with her ‘mummy’ and pictures were not allowed. All of the paintings done over 3000 years ago are still brilliant in color and detail.”
“Today we went to Dendara Temples which is surrounded by a mud brick wall and is almost entirely intact. Constructed with cut stone with a stone roof, and every inch inside and out covered with heiroglyphs, it tells the stories of Egyptian and Roman gods. One depiction known as the Dendara Light where some believe that it is a depiction of an electrical light and proof that the ancient Egyptians were highly advanced. All the tombs I saw had electric lights bulbs.”
From Larry in Esna:
“Esna is located about 50 miles from Luxor and has the Temple of Esna that is from the Greco-Roman era (which means it was built by the Egyptians during the rule of the Romans and Greeks ) about 300 AD. Only one part of the Temple has been excavated; the rest of it is still under the town of Esna 50 ft down. It is amazing to see 70 ft columns supporting a solid rock roof.”
“Any town that you go to has lots of street vendors trying to sell you Egyptian artifacts made in China and long fiber Egyptian cotton products. They bombard you like a swarm of mosquitoes trying to get your attention. I have found the best defense is not to make eye contact, and if pressed, point to Kathy and say, ‘She has all the money’ and run toward the tour guide for protection. That seems to work, but sometimes makes lunch together a little tense.”
From Larry in Aswan and Abu Simbel:
Friday we got up at 5:30 to catch a flight from Aswan to Abu Simbel. There and back I think we went thru security 5 times. This area of Egypt is more like a resort for the more affluent. When they dammed the Nile they created a Hugh Lake that is sprinkled with rock islands all over. A very famous Temple of Rameses and Nefertari were going to be under water, so with help from all over the world, they spent $60 million to cut the Temple out of the side of a mountain and relocate them on higher ground. The statues and colors of the 2 temples is the best of Egypt.
When we returned – and after a short nap – we took a boat (I use the term loosely, it would not pass any Coast Guard inspection, with no life preservers I might add) to an island for the Temple of Philae Sound and Light show. When it was dark they used lighting to highlight the different areas of the complex and used multiple big speakers to tell the story of the God of the Nile and Iris and the other Temple gods in their own voices. It was awesome. These temples before they dammed the river spent 9 months of the year under water and would have disappeared after the dam so they also had to be moved to higher ground. I do not now how they did it.
From Larry in Cairo:
The last couple of days we have been cruising north (down the river) back to Luxor with a few stops to see more temples. One night they surprised us with a big ‘Happy Anniversary’ cake and everyone danced with us. It was a fun night. We flew from Luxor to Cairo this morning and have to have our luggage out at 3:15 in the AM for the flight to Jordan.
In reflection, to visit Egypt you could fly into Cairo and see the pyramids, the Sphinx and Valley of the Kings, and then fly to Luxor and see the Temple ruins and be satisfied that you have been to Egypt. But we have enjoyed all the little side tours and the people on the ship. There were only 52 people on our ship. I was shocked on our return to Luxor to see so many cruise ships working, as many as 10-15 in some ports. And they are not working at full capacity, for we have seen dozens stacked along the river banks. I can not tell you how many times children and adults would smile and wave as our bus went by, or the number of times people said, ‘Good morning,’ or ‘I love America,’ but it made you feel good.