Staying in the Sara Hotel, Aswan, Egypt
This morning at 2h30 Arina got woken in order to catch a bus to Abu Simbel to see it in day time and as it is 300km away from Aswan, the vehicles go very early before sunrise to make it there at shortly after sunrise. I went into town to find out why the internet SIM card I bought yesterday was not working when told that the Egyptian government has cut off the internet. Mmm, not very re-assuring. Switched on the TV and saw how the wave of protests against the government swept over from Tunisia into Egypt and Jordan. Egypt is now already 30 years under the rule of Hosni Mubarrak and it seems the people are fed-up of his heavy-handed ruling. We do not believe it is dangerous because it has nothing to do with us however we realise we have to stay far away from these demonstrations. It seems as if the Middle East is turning into a melting pot of frustrated people against their governments. We will watch the development very carefully and has all the intention to stay out of harm's way.
29 January 2011
Total Distance: 16772
Distance covered today:240
Start: Sara Hotel, Aswan, Egypt
Finish: Rezeiky Camp, Luxor, Egypt
Yesterday we got a call from our Fixer to say that the vehicle will be here in the morning and he will collect us at 8:30. Things went rather quick considering it is Egypt and a country who perfected bureaucracy and red tape. We could take the vehicle off the ferry but then the paperwork started. First an 'engineer' from the Traffic Department had to come and compare the chassis number against the carnet. If this job takes an engineer, you must know what kind of person it takes to run the country! After that we headed back again into town to the Traffic Department to buy insurance (no, they do not accept the COMESA Insurance we bought for ALL countries in Africa), then to get our Egyptian number plates as we cannot drive with our South African plates with its Western numbering system. The poor fixer was sweating running and shouting between the queues which were actually not queues but looked more like a rugby scrum of 20 - 30 people trying to get to the hole in the window. I sat back, had a laugh and promised never to complain again when going to our Traffic Department.
At 14h00, yes that is 5.5 hours after arrival, we were allowed to depart with our new plates.
We took the desert road which took us on the western side of the Nile to Luxor. Upon arrival in Luxor, we realised that getting to our accommodation which was on the north of the town would proof very interesting because the roads were barricaded by police who expected an upraise of the people against the government. We went past some mean-looking tanks not with its turrets pointing straight in our direction no 10 meters away. We drove into the gates of the Rezeiky's Camp and the owner could not believe we made it through the chaos outside. Soon after we heard teargas canisters shot at protesters and we were told in no uncertain terms by the police that we can't leave the property. We got the feeling though that the uprising was not as large as elsewhere.
30 January 2011
Total Distance: 17077
Distance covered today:305
Start: Rezeiky Camp, Luxor, Egypt
Finish: Sol Y Mar Ivory Suites, Hurghada, Egypt
We are realising that although we do not feel threatened that it might not be wise to stay longer in Luxor as the uprising is gaining momentum. Therefore we decided to just visit a few of the most important places in this absolutely amazing city which must be the most fascinating city in the world when looking from a historic perspective. Here are more than 67 tombs of pharaohs have been uncovered and many more are said to be still hidden, tombs of queens, temples that is mind-boggling and mind-blowing, countless statues and art pieces. History clings to every fibre of Luxor and to walk where kings and queens did for thousands of years, is amazing.
To get to the Valley of the Kings (where the pharaohs have been buried) we head to drive across to the Western side of the Nile. Here the pharaohs realised that to bury themselves under a pyramid like in Cairo was not a bright idea as the pyramids must be like a beacon for tomb raiders stealing all their wealth they need for the afterlife. Therefore they decided to dig extensive channels into shear solid rock deep into the mountains with precision that baffle experts even today. These channels are about 3 meters wide, 3 meters high and can be as deep as some 40 meters! But, it does not stop there - all the walls and the ceilings are painted in rainbow colours and looking at the drawings is like as if it was painted just yesterday with the colours still as vibrant as the day it was done. With no air or water reaching it, it maintained its tones and hues and the hieroglyphs cover every inch of the tunnel all the way down to the tomb where the mummified body was laid to rest in a sarcophagus decorated often with gold and other precious metals. Then the entrance was sealed and not until the 20th century were they discovered again.
Unfortunately no cameras are allowed inside these tombs in order to protect the colours.
Afterwards we headed to the façade temple of Hatshepshut or as most of us stupid tourist call it 'Hot Chicken Soup'. This was once the backdrop to the opera Aida.
With more pictures on our camera we headed back to the eastern side to one of Egypt's most impressive temples - Karnak. This temple is one of those places that must be seen as no description will do it justice. During the pharaohic times a channel was built from the Nile to the entrance of the temple and a 2.5km lane connected it to Luxor Temple, another very beautiful temple further south. At the entrance 2 lanes of huge lion bodies with ram heads welcome you and behind them the walls on both sides reach to the heavens and beyond that 60 acres of land is covered by walls, pillars, statues, obelisks, pools and afterwards one need to visit a chiropractor as one's neck and spine are the whole time in awkward positions to see to the tops of the pillars. Not one but more than 60! Then there is huge needle-like obelisks which one has to wander - how did they lift it up?!? Try figuring that one out.
As these temples were open to the elements with no closed roof, the brilliant colours were washed away except underneath some parts of the cross beams on top of the pillars. What we would not have given to have seen this with the procession arriving on a barge and the king and queen walking down on shining granite tiles and walls and pillars covered in colours. In the main hall where the pillars are, one is truly impressed by the advancement of the Egyptians - each is about 1.5 meters in diameter and some 10m in height and covered from top to bottom with hieroglyphics. They are perfectly aligned with one another and perfectly vertical.
Afterwards we drove past the same tanks again and headed for the desert to get to the Red Sea coast where we hear things are stable and relaxed. The eastern desert is rather impressive with massive mountains bisected by a pre-historic river and the road following this river. In fact one climbs from about 150m at the river to about 700m before dropping down again to sea-level.
We reached Hurghada without any hassles and thanks my brother Adrie who could book a very nice apartment via the internet on our behalf we are staying for 4 nights in relative luxury. The apartment has a kitchenette, a nice large lounge and dining area, bedroom, balconies and massive shower (with HOT water!)
31 January - 2 February 2011
Days to relax and watch with open minds how the situation unfolds. Hurghada is a bit of oxymoron. A super rich hotel with all bells and whistles covered in gold next to a hotel which is falling apart even before it opened its doors. A massive shopping mall but inside most shops have closed already with posters 'Opening Soon' not believed by anyone.
The day we arrived and the day after there were still plenty of people walking along the promenade just behind the 15km line of hotels looking at the stalls. Today, the streets are deserted and most tourists have left for home and they are not replaced by new visitors.
One day we went to a resort called Aqua Marine. The word 'massive' is not big enough to describe this place. It has no less than 8 swimming pools and off course the sea in front. Pools are heated as well. We relaxed next to the pool for the whole day and did nothing but sleep, read and watch people. Never seen so many tourists they entire trip combined!
We also took a sort of submarine which is a boat with a very deep hull and the hull has massive windows. One can then sit here and they take you pass the corals without getting wet yet coming within a meter or 2 from the corals and fish and more fish and more fish! Visibility is incredible way into the blue yonder of the ocean. The corals are like rows of colourful cauliflower stalks in various colours and the fish looks as if they swam through a rainbow.
But in the end we cannot get away from what is happening around us. We are often watching the news and daily we are looking at ways to get to the next country. Our first option was to go via Libya as this is still in Africa and some amazing Roman cities. Then on to Tunisia which has calmed down and then a short ferry hop to Italy. However today we called and the Libyan border has been closed, so no go. The option to take the weekly ferry from Alexandria to Venice in Italy has been sunk as well when the ferry was cancelled. Israel is out of the question because there is also no ferry to take one to Europe as per latest internet info. Our only and last resort is to go via Jordan to Syria then Turkey, Greece and onto Italy.
As the news in Cairo is getting worse now that Mubarak has played an excellent hand of 'divide and conquer', the people until yesterday united, are now throwing stones at each other. Not a place to visit so in the end, Cape to Cairo is now becoming Cape to …
At least we have internet again, not sure for how long, but do rest assured again that we are not taking any chances, we are in contact with people in Cairo and the South African embassy to keep us updated.