Ok so I'm actually in Nairobi writing this, but I've kept a diary at the same time so it's pretty much the same. Sorry if the tenses get confused.
Day 1 23rd May Heathrow-Cairo
Really the journey began yesterday. Mum, me and Caroline took the big van "big boy" down to Heathrow. I think any car trip that involves any length of time, bad singing (on mine and Caro's part) and a coffee break can be called a journey.
The adventure, however, began as soon as I got on the plane. I suppose things don't really hit me until there's definitely no going back. The plane was fun. I probably sholdn't have watched Avatar though as 1. I couldn't see it or hear it properly and 2. I was exceptionally tired. Flying out of Britain was amazing. Over the last few years I thought I'd developed a fear of flying, but as soon as you see the multi-coloured patchwork fields of Britain it's hard not to be transfixed and aware of any fear. One of the best parts was flying over the coast because it looked as if you could see all the way to Plymouth, and then just as you'd left Britain at one and the same time the view encompassed both the French and English coasts.
The flight into Cairo was pretty amazing too. Clearly designated green strips alternate with brown and then the cork like coloured houses cluster towards the centre. As the plane swung around the green gave way to desert, pyramids and heat.
Finding my luggage and driver wasn't a problem. It was quite nice really all I had to do was sit back and watch the city go by. My driver was called Wallid "small baby". He drove eractically, but calmly towards the hotel, in what appears the norm for Cairo i.e. if there is two lanes really it is three, four lanes five possibly six. He actually said to me road markings were more like decoration, I think the rest of Cairo agrees.
Cairo probably by most of the people reading this is dirty and looks as if it is in a permanent building state. And yet, there is a beauty to this as art nouveau like elements find echoes in the buildings and their writing. As well as this curious mixture of old meets new as in the shiny red facaded pizza hut directly opposite the Sphinx.
Eventually I arrived at the hotel. The first person I met from my tour group was my roommate Izzy, who I instantly got on with. She's lovely and ditzy like me, as well as weirdly being the only other English person. The rest of the group consisted of our very hardworking Irish tour leader Dave, the funny South African Johan, and the two lovely couples, in a round about way from Australia, James and Steph (erm maybe typical Aussies, refer to Felluca times), and Vanessa and Sam (oh and Sam's camera- if there was a picture worth taking Sam was there). Although Sam and Vanessa didn't arive until the next day.
Day 2 24th
Today has been jampacked with stuff - The Egyptain Museum, The Pyramids, Camel ride, The Sphinx, a Perfumerie and a visit to a papyrus place.
The Egyptian Museum was not like hope I'd imagined it, but I suppose it's like the rest of Cairo a liitle bit weather beaten and money obviously going somewhere other than on modernisation. But I still loved it. The sarcophigi, canopic jars, mummies, jewellery i.e. gold with inlays of colourful stone, all of the material culture really. I think I loved it purely for being my favourite part of any museum- Egyptain. Tutankhamun's mask was beautiful but like I mentioned before all the gold was so beautifiully done that any of the crafted work was wonderful to look at.
I would definitely recommend going into the Royal Mummy room because there's quite a few to see and, erm it's nice to put a face to the people you hear so much about. I also came to the conclusion Seti I was the best looking, even in death he had a very well proportioned face.
My diary is a little unsure of the exact order here, but I think it was the Perfumerie next. I think any girl would find it hard not to be enchanted by this place. Glass bottles of all shapes,sizes and colours line lit shelves with chemistry sized glass bottles on the very lowest of them. All of which you could purchase and here's the best bit the chemistry bottles contained the pure natural liquid ingredients of every well known perfume so any purchase is so much better value than back home as it's not diluted. I ended buying something for Mum which I hope is the one she really likes and one for me "Chloe".
The Pyramids were gigantic. I even went into one. It was a bit of a mission getting inside of it as you had to walk down for a while bent in two and then up for a bit. Inside it looked like someone had carved the inside of a house out of it and if I hadn't known any better I could of been standing in a chapel.
Next came the camel ride. Mine was called Casanova. I really wanted to grab the reins and go fast, but unfortunately we were all led. It was probably just as well as they are a bit higher than horses. The sacriest part though was my little dude leading me, I think he was five maybe. At one point he fell over and was nearly trampled by Casanova and then another point he dropped the reins and my camel's foot got caught.
Day 3 25th Aswan
Last night we got the overnight train from Cairo to Aswan, which started out comfy enough but it turns out air conditioning can get very cold. And yet, when I got to the hotel I went for a swim instead of sleep. It's wonderful the hotel looks out over the Nile and although there is green as soon as your eye moves away from the river the landscape turns to desert.
After lunch it was off to Philae Temple. We arrived there by motor boat as it now sits proudly in the middle of a small island. It was actually moved from it's original location when they decided to flood the area. Our driver was once agian a little dude, hats off to him though because when we got stranded he tried for ages to get the boat to work and he managed it, almost. The temple was lovely. Columns, heiroglyphics, depictions of gods what's not to love.
Egypt during the day is not surprisingly very hot so later after getting on another motor boat we stopped off at a beach and cooled off by swimming in the Nile. I've been told there's no-longer any crocodiles in this part but I can't help feeling still a little dubious to their total absence. There's also quite a strong current in there which made me feel a little bit dizzy when I got out. Although this also may have been a twinge of sunstroke as later when we were at the Nubian village Vanessa came down with it quite badly. Our Nubian host tried to help her which resulted in him biting her head, bless her, she had a bite mark on her forehead for quite a few days after.
The Nubian village was charming. Everything is painted and very colourful. Our host was actually the cousin of the lady's house we went and had dinner in, but their appears such a strong emphasis on family there that she was more than happy to cook for us and let us look around. The home's focus was an open plan living area with rooms going off to the right. A pale blue wash coverd the walls, and sand and carpets covered the floor and furniture. It was beautifual even though it was so simple.
Day 4 26th Abu Simbil
3 o'clock start. I woke up very dizzy this morning it was like being drunk. I couldn't stand up straight, my balance just wasn't right. Dave had me banging my heals on the floor for the rest of the day trying to get rid of the water. I decided though that I would still go to Abu Simbil and I'm so glad I did. Turns out when I arrived I was alright, although I still had water in my ears (note to self do not lie on back in water of Nile). The drive took three hours so we arrived there before the real heat of the desert took hold.
Walking to the temples was like being on some sort of pilgrimage as tourists followed each other down a winding path to the site. Whereupon you were then faced with the four colousel seated statues of Rameses II. Apparently the eyptologists called him Rameses the sex as he had so many wives, but also at this site is the temple of his favourite wife Nefertari. Both temples were beautiful, magnifcent on the outside and then amazing on the inside. The decoration was actually for me too much to take in, as if museums in Europe just can't prepare you for the volume of it in temples, context really does matter.
The afternoon was devoted to trying to sleep before heading to dinner and then the Souqs. The souq was funny as most shop keepers stood in the middle of the road either approaching you or blocking your path with the words "no hassle, no hassle". I did buy something though, my hat. Haggled for it and everything got him down from 180 to 40 egyptain pounds. I now can now look like Indiana Jones as I walk through the rest of the temples and more convincingly burst into the theme tune whenever I feel like it. Oh my name is now Chlori or England, sometimes Indy.
Day 5 27th Heading to Luxor
This morning once again instead of opting for sleep me and Izzy decided we would go on an early morning camel ride before the fellucas (the sailing boat we would be staying on for the next two days). My camel was called Cocowowha and Izzy's was called Alaska. My guide was lovely he can't have been more than fifteen but he got us mangoes and more importantly let me go fast. Cocowowha was only three so he was a lot less scary than Casanova. In many ways riding a camel seems to be like riding a horse, except no stirrups. Then again since I'm not particularly good at either being led and the occasional trot would be quite similar.
The experience was a little surreal- eating a mango on a camel surrounded by desert, but I would definietly do it again. I love Cocowowha.
Day 5 and 6 was the Felluca. It was so much fun, not because we particulaly did anything just we really all had a good time. The first day I think most people were drunk off the heat. Everything seemed funny and no-one made sense, although this may have been me. I've been told I have to write this. In a discussion on which way the sun set I said west "because the teapot told me". For anyone that has seen Beauty and the Beast this reference would make sense, but I think I just came across a little crazy and all consultation from then on had to be approved by the teapot.
There was also lots of card games, but day 1 on the felluca no-one seemed to get them either they were too hard or there was a contradiction in the rules. In the end we were only able to play 'sticks' basically 'spoons', a bunch of sticks in the middle one fewer than the people playing then the aim of the game is to get four of the same cards passing the cards along in a circle. This game inevitably ended in a little bit of violence which is when Steph's immortal line came about "hit her in the face! Hit her in the face!". The funny thing is Steph is actually really laid back so it just made it all the more funny. James and Steph were in their element on the felluca, their favoured position was laid down with a bottle. I think they were advertsing themselves as ambassadors for Australia.
The first day we couldn't really go anywhere because there was a stand strom making visibility bad and any form of sailing dangerous. By day 2 though we were able to drift and I got to swim in the Nile again (still very aware of the dark shapes below me and anything my leg got tangled on). The day ended like the one before with alcohol, but then we joined Wallid, our captain, and the Chef on the river bank for dancing and singing around a fire. I say dancing, me and Izzy danced to the most random version of 'she'll be comin' round the mountain' I've ever heard before sitting down. I had a go at playing the drum and Izzy quite contently spent the rest of evening pulling very long sticks out of the sand. I think Dave thinks we're all a bit mad.
Day 7 29th Edfu and Luxor
I awoke this morning to the gentle feeling that we were moving, rowing across the water, which surely enough when I looked overboard (not that hard to do in the felucca) we were. The early start this morning, six, was to get to Edfu Temple. No change in clothing or anything befor we went so I can safely say we were the dirtiest people there that morning.
Edfu was magnificant, I really love the temples. There was a grandbuild up to reaching the temples and then it's facade was gigantic. Paint was still present in places, with some of the ceilings covered in white stars and others I persumb Horus type wings (it was his temple).
Today was also the day that Egyptian men just wouldn't leave me alone. The first guy was a military guy at Edfu who seemed to like taking my picture and pointing out the gods and things, bless him he was sweet though he didn't ask for money like so many of them do. This is one of the cons in Egypt in the temples and the pyramids they tell you to take their photo and then charge you for the priviledge. It only happened to me once, but to be honest I kind of didn't mind as I got a photo of two of them and one of them with me. I think you need one photo like that just because it happens so regularly it seems part of the experince.
The next two guys were at Luxor Temple. The first performed somesort of 'ritual', which involved me touching stones, crossing my arms, eyes and then him kissing my cheeks. He was about to go in for the lips but I quickly pulled away, cheeky git! It's not the idea of cheek kissing that appauls me as I do greet people like this, but the point is he would not do this to a Muslim woman. So he totally took advantage of the 'ritual'! The third guy wanted to take pictures with my camera. I told him I was perfectly capable of taking pictures with my own camera even to his protests that he was a photo master. Anyway he told me I had beautiful eyes and asked about a husband. My answer was yes, yes I definitely do. Oh the second guy was keen to know this too he either said something about me being pregnant or I would become and me being (his) wife (creep creeep creeeeppp!!)
Luxor Temple itself was great, apart from the creepy men. It even had a little Christian art left on some of it walls where Christians had frescoed over some of the decoration. I liked our guide for this one, not that the others weren't good because they've all been really helpful, but he was really good in his explanation of Hatshetphut being a wife, sister and aunt to the King. Heshum I think his name is, lovely friendly eyes.
Today was also the first of our visits to Tarekeg's silver shop, but I had a bit of a runny nose and funny tummy so I wasn't in the best of moods, the creepy men probably didn't help either.
Day 8 30th
Technically my last full day with the group. Steph and James are leaving tonight because they're heading to South Africa for the World Cup and Vanessa, Izzy, Sam and Dave will be heading to Dahab. I'm quite sad about it really, all I can hope is that the next group is as fun.
So back to the itinerary. This morning was another early start so that we could get to the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Workers before it was too hot. Heshum picked three tombs for us to go into at the Valley of the Kings, which I think were all Ramses'. If I looked on a map I would know whose. All of them were wonderful though, different amounts of decoration, but all breath taking. Paint covered the walls as well as deep relief carving in the last two tombs. The paintings made my mind sing and my fingers itch wishing to paint themselves. The brush strokes, width of brush used, the attention to detail in the animals- I absolutely adored it and would love to go back again. One thing that particularly struck me was one of the hands in the second tomb. It was in relief of the surrounding stone, but also painted brown so that it looked as if it could be real, or have a mummy moment and break away from the wall.
At the Valley of the Workers we only went into the Chief's tomb and although not my favourite lovely in its difference. The tombs walls were much more personal, depicting his family and his idea of paradise, him working in the fields.
The rest of the day involved a trip to an alabastor workshop followed by a donkey ride and then a trip to Sunshine Orphanage. The orphanage wasn't how I'd imagined it at all. With it's bright rooms and open courtyard it actually reminded me of garderie. I'm glad I went, it was fun. I got to play with the toddlers, which I'm not going to lie I had know idea how to do at first. Turns out children like being tickeled and lifted into the air so it wasn't long though before I became a human climbing frame.
After Sunshine we went back to Tarekeg's, he serves very yummy hibiscous tea, and because I was feeling a lot better my awareness of being in a jewellery shop kicked in. I ended up buying a ring and a pendant. The ring is art nouveauish in style with a green oval stone at it's centre and the pendant is a scarab beatle, they're both really lovely. I fell a bit mean though I haggelled and may have been a little harsh. I blame this on my ridicously careful attitude to money the past two years. He said he could tell I had Scottish blood in me. I'm a bit embarressed.
Day 9 31st
4.20 start this morning, but totally worth it. I got to go up in a hot air ballon as the sun rose over Luxor. Again at first I was a little scared of the height, but the gentleness of the ballon and awesomeness of the surroundings took away any of my fears. The view took in the Tombs of the Kings, Queens, Workers, the Nile as well as Luxor and it's surrounding green fields and desert. I took so many photos and films.
The last temple of the tour was Karnak. It's huge. Heshum was once again our guide and wisely split his tour into two so that we could explore inbetween his explanations. The colonade part was particularly magnificant being made up of 138 columns I think. This was also apparently where a shootout occurred in 'The Spy who loved me', think I might just have to watch that now.
After our ride back (we got to go there and back in a horse drawn cart) it was time for the others to leave. It was like they'd left me and Johan behind. We all have each others email adresses though so keeping in touch wont be a problem.
The rest of the afternoon I just spent getting ready. Then before dinner it was back to Tarekeg's me and Johan spent ages there, but it was really nice we talked about all sorts of things including the no hassle no hassle appraoch of most sellers.
That evening we had to take the train back to Cairo and poor Johan as soon as I got on the train I was rubbish company I just fell asleep.
Day 10 1st June
Officially my last day in Egypt so time for one last pyramid. I took a taxi with the worst taxi driver I've had this trip to Saqqara. In the sp[ace of going there and back he nearly ran three people over, actually speeding up as they were crossing the road, almost crashed into a van and then to top it off squeezed my leg (major creep, git!!!), I complained to the hotel guy about that.
Saqqara was good, very windy and hot when I got there, but still interesting. It was the first pyramid type structure so is a little different to the others in that it is graduated along it's sides, this probably explains why it's refered to as the 'Step Pyramid'. My favourite part though was the Imhotep Museum. It had alsorts of interestings things in it including some lovely duck egg coloured tiles they had found in the tomb and two lifesize figures of Imhotep. They scared me a little for being so life like, actually in general it was a little creepy being in that museum as I was the only one there.