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Egypt, Travel

You Can Move Mountains! The Abu Simbel Temples

March 7, 2016

Abu Simbel Temples

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Not only are the temples at Abu Simbel impressive, but they have also been moved from their original location! Between 1964 and 1968, both temples were moved due to the creation of the Aswan High Dam. The temples would be underwater if they had not been moved. The move was to raise them 65 meters. Each monument was cut into blocks and moved piece by piece into their current location. In some places, you can see the cut lines, and they are more obvious inside. However, great care was taken to make sure their positions facing the sun was preserved as the sun enters the larger temple the right way. This happens twice a year, usually around February 22 and October 22 and there is a large festival that takes place at the temples on those days.

Abu Simbel Temples

Abu Simbel Temples

Abu Simbel Temples

The larger temple is the Sun Temple of Ramses II. This is Ramses the Great. The smaller temple is Nefetari’s Temple of Hathor. Ramses’ temple is built to celebrate three gods, Amun, Ra-Harakhty, and Ptah. Ramses is also depicted in the temple as a god. Nefertari was Ramses II favorite wife. Hathor is the wife of the sun god. Archeologists estimate that it took over 20 years to build these two temples. When originally built they were built into the side of a mountain. What you see now is an artificial dome, built to house the temples. The temples are even more beautiful on the inside. Ramses’ temple is large and heavily decorated and has several rooms. Nefertari’s temple is smaller but no less beautiful. Unfortunately, you cannot take photos inside either temple. Ramses also picked a beautiful setting for his temples. They would have overlooked the Nile River, but now overlook Nasser Lake, which is no less beautiful.

Abu Simbel Temples

Abu Simbel Temples

Abu Simbel Temples

Abu Simbel Temples

Abu Simbel Temples

Abu Simbel Temples

Don’t forget to look up! On the very top of the Ramses’ temple is a row of baboons! In several places on this trip, I saw baboons represented and one of the queen’s had her pet baboon mummified and buried with her. I have looked to see why baboons, but there isn’t a clear answer. Some say it was because they are smart, and some say it was a fertility god. There was a baboon god in their culture, so it could be as simple as owning a god. Just be on the lookout for baboons everywhere in ancient Egypt.

Abu Simbel Temples

Getting to Abu Simbel is a task. Tourists are not allowed to make the drive by themselves to Abu Simbel due to security concerns. However,  my guide stated nothing had happened on the route for a very long time and that we had nothing to worry about. Tourist can fly to Abu Simbel from Aswan, which is a faster option. To drive, you must be a part of the convoy. You should hire a private car or be on a tour. Apparently there is a public bus that leaves from Aswan at 8 AM, but it only allows you an hour and a half before the bus returns to Aswan. It is about a 4-hour drive to Abu Simbel from Aswan. There are two convoys a day, one at 4 AM and one at 11 AM. While getting up that early was a challenge, I think it is better to go on the earlier one as it wasn’t hot and it seemed like it would be less crowded. We were allowed about two hours at the site and that was plenty of time. Sleep on the bus in the morning and enjoy the desert on the way back. If you get car sick, I highly recommend motion sickness medicine. The road was quiet bumpy, and even I was feeling a bit sick on the way there. I got a Sprite for the way back. We did not stop on the way there, so you need to be able to make the trip without the need for a bathroom. Luckily, our driver stopped when we asked on the way back, but we squatted behind a building that wasn’t so sanity or private. Overall, the getting up early to see Abu Simbel was worth it. Not only did I see two amazing temples, you get to see a part of Egypt people rarely go to now, and the landscape was intriguing to watch. You can also go at night and see the light show and hear a narration of stories. I would only do this if you have seen the temple during the day though as it will look very different.

Have you been to the Temples of Abu Simbel? What did you think?

Egypt, Museums, Travel

Stepping Back into the Past at the Egyptian Museum

February 29, 2016

Egyptian MuseumWalking into the Egyptian Museum feels like you have stepped back into the past. The museum was the first purpose built museum in the world. It doesn’t look like much has changed since it was built in 1902. Being a former museum person, I was in awe of all the artifacts on display. You could never see it all in one day.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Egyptian Museum

Egyptian Museum

The first floor is laid out in chronological order. The scale of the artifacts on this floor is what struck me the most. Most of the artifacts were large stone pieces. Many of these were heavily inscribed with hieroglyphics.  The statues and sphinxes were mostly made of granite and must of weighed tons. Other pieces were also stone and consisted of pieces of buildings and stelas. This stone sculpture is of King Khafre, who is the builder of the second pyramid at Giza. There is also several sculptures of King Hatshepsut, a female king, shown below!

Egyptian Museum

Egyptian Museum

Egyptian Museum

Egyptian Museum

Treasures abound on the second floor. King Tutankhamun’s tomb items are displayed here including the famous mask. Unfortunately, photographs are not allowed in the area where the mask is kept. This room was also slightly more modern than the rest of the museum, and it displayed much of the smaller pieces found in his tomb. The large golden shrines are outside that encased his sarcophagus are outside the room and go from large to small. The canopic jars that stored his organs are also on display next to the mask room.

Egyptian MuseumEgyptian MuseumEgyptian Museum

Egyptian Museum

The second floor also houses the Royal Mummy rooms. They are split into two rooms that are across the museum from each other. Not everyone on my tour opted to do the mummy room as it was an extra charge. However, it was worth it to me. I am fascinated by the mummification process and how it preserves the bodies so well. It was also interesting to read the descriptions of the person’s health, which they have gleaned from x-rays and MRIs. Some of them had hair, and one had a very impressive set of white teeth! There is also a room of animal mummy’s that I did not visit. The other people on my tour said they mummified every kind of animal. This room was included in the price of the regular admission ticket. To help preserve the mummies, there is no photography allowed in the rooms.

Egyptian Museum

Egyptian Museum

Egyptian MuseumThe rest of the second floor contained many more sarcophagi and hundreds of cases of smaller objects. Not only was the collection large, but it was deep. It seemed everything in the museum’s collection was on display. Each case held several pieces and in some cases, there was much more. The items ranged from scarab beetle pendants to shoes to small statues to wigs! Some were simple, and some pieces were very elaborate. There were rooms I didn’t even go into because I didn’t have the time and not even sure what was in them.

Egyptian Museum

Egyptian MuseumEgyptian Museum

Every time I see things from ancient civilizations, I am always in wonder of the skills and tools they used to make them. Also, the patience! Never in today’s world would we have the patience to build on person’s tomb for 20-30 years!

Getting there and tickets: My advice is to take a Uber or a Careem there as taxis may want to negotiate the rate and not turn on the meter. You are assured a fair rate if you use Uber or Careem. There will be a line to get through security right when you get there. If you want to take pictures inside, go to the ticket booth to the right of the security entrance. The cost is 50 Egyptian Pounds. This is a new procedure as of January 2016, as before photographs were not allowed. If you are buying an entrance ticket, you can do it there as well. Ours had been purchased in advance. I believe the price is 60 Egyptian Pounds. The cost of the Royal Mummy room was 100 Egyptian Pounds, and you buy the ticket at the door. You will go through security one more time before entering the building, and they will ask for your photography ticket if you have a camera. You will also have your bag inspected when you leave. I would recommend paying for all the extras as it was great to see the mummies and to take photos.

Have you been to the Egyptian Museum? What was your favorite part?

Egypt, Travel

The Great Pyramid of Giza

February 22, 2016

The Great Pyramid of Giza

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Driving through the streets of Cairo in the morning rush hour traffic, I began to glimpse the Pyramid tops through the haze of dust and pollution before we had even arrived at the gate. The gate brought more traffic as police inspected each car and van for anything out of the ordinary. The van made its way up the hill to the ticket area bringing more of the pyramid in view. We passed through security again and turned to walk to the Great Pyramid.

The Great Pyramid of Giza

The rising sun hit the side of the Pyramid, and I realized it is much larger than I expected it to be. The stones at the based of the Pyramid are almost as tall as I am. It is so large you can’t take it all in at once and must walk the perimeter to see it all. The guide began to explain the history of the temple, but I can’t stand still to listen and roamed the outside of our group taking photos while listening. Not only did King Khufu build the tallest structure on earth for his time and for 3800 years after it continued to be the tallest structure, but he also picked a spot with what must have been an amazing view of the Nile River. The view now is the sprawling city of Cairo and the town Giza, which have grown almost to the base of the Pyramid.

The Great Pyramid of Giza

The Great Pyramid of Giza

The Great Pyramid of Giza

The Great Pyramid of Giza

From the west side of the Pyramid, you begin to see the other pyramids in the distance. From photos, it seems close to the Great Pyramid, but in reality, it isn’t that close and walking there in my limited time frame wasn’t an option. Later in the day, it must stand in the shadow of the Great Pyramid. However, it is no less grand and still retains some of its outer limestone casing at the top. The third pyramid is not even visible from the ground in front of the Great Pyramid.

The Great Pyramid of Giza

After taking in the size of the Great Pyramid, I climb the stones to enter the Pyramid from the robber’s entrance not far from the base. The original entrance is much higher and is closed to the public. The tunnel is low and dark, and I have squat to climb it. After a few minutes, there is a much-needed break in climbing, and then you climb a ladder and squat climb again for a few minutes. Looking back, you realize you can’t see the entrance anymore, and you still aren’t there. I bent down under a giant granite stone into a small place to stand and then bend down again under another granite stone to enter the King’s Chamber. Inside is a room of granite. The whole room is made up of black granite stones that are perfectly smooth. The King’s sarcophagus is the only thing inside the chamber and is also entirely made of granite. Unlike the sarcophagi found in the Valley of the Kings, it is plain and is not smooth like the walls. The room is large and tall. King Khufu had a sense of space and clearly understood that grandeur does not need to be overdone.

The Great Pyramid of Giza

The Great Pyramid of Giza

Climbing down the tunnels is more difficult than going up, and I struggled not to hit my head or slide down the tunnel. As the day wore on, more people are entering the tunnel, and I have to share the climb down with people going up. However, my sore thighs the next day are worth it. Nothing could have prepared me for the size of the Great Pyramid or getting to see the inside of this amazing structure.

Getting there: You can take a taxi or public transportation to the Giza Pyramid complex, however, if you are not on a guided tour, take an Uber or Careem (Careem is the Uber of the Middle East). It is the best way not to have to haggle with a taxi driver. You can buy a ticket once you are there. The ticket for going inside the Great Pyramid is an additional cost and must be bought at the ticket counter. You cannot take your camera inside the Great Pyramid, though. You can walk to the rest of the Pyramids and the Sphinx or hire a camel or horse cart. Be careful though as these people may try to charge you more at the end of the trip. Negotiate the price before you get on anything there and be firm with them. You are not being rude. The touts there are very aggressive and will try everything in the book to get more money from you. Do not let them follow you around giving you a tour, as they will want more money or baksheesh (tip) from you. Go early and catch the sun rising over the pyramids and before it gets hot and more tourist show up.

Egypt, Prep, Travel

When Planning Goes All Wrong

February 12, 2016

When Planning Goes All Wrong

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on the link and make a purchase, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

I have a secret to tell you. A travel secret…

I have never backpacked on a trip. Most of the travel bloggers I know have backpacked most of the places they have been. Of course, a few are luxury travel bloggers, and they probably don’t now, but they probably have at some point backpacked on a trip. I have done weekends away in large tote bags, but I have always traveled internationally with a rolling suitcase. So this trip to Egypt has proven challenging for me.

When signing up for the tour, I am going on; the packing list stated that I should pack in a backpack or a duffel bag. I immediately thought, oh great how I am going to do that. I own a backpack, but it is more like something you pack school books in, and I have only ever used it as a carry-on. At first, I thought, I will just buy a backpack, but then I realized that I knew I would never voluntarily pack in a backpack again and didn’t want to spend the money on one. So I borrowed one from a friend. It didn’t need to be a perfect fit as they only requested this because it is easier to pack a van with soft luggage than with hard luggage with wheels. Oh and I am going on a sailboat and who wants to roll a suitcase onto a sailboat.

When Planning Goes All Wrong

The weeks wore on, and I kept looking at the backpack thinking, I don’t want to pack in that. I will never find anything. My back will hurt. So last week, I convinced myself I needed a duffel bag instead. The hunt was on, but shopping in Qatar is difficult, to say the least. And apparently the market doesn’t call for duffel bags that don’t have wheels built into them. Then I got sick at the beginning of the week and the day before a holiday, in which I had planned to go looking for a duffel bag and write-up all my posts for while I am gone. (This is why there was no Monday post this week.) The day off came and I dragged my ill self to the mall and looked for a duffel bag. In the end, after wandering around for about an hour and feeling pretty awful, I bought a cheap duffel bag at Carrefour (the French version of Wal-Mart) and decided it would do. I am packing today and we will see how that turns out, as I am still trying to wrap my head around how it will all fit. Wish me luck!

The other issue with this has been the weather. For weeks, the weather in Egypt was going to be warm during the day and cool at night. That also means for me, cold at night as it rarely goes below 60 degrees Fahrenheit in Qatar and I get cold easily. I had shopped for thermal underwear for the night on the boat and a suitable sleeping bag. Now, as of yesterday, the highs are in the 90s and the lows in the 50s! Why does there have to be a 40-degree temperature swing on my trip! It’s like I am back in Texas!  So now all the planning of what clothes to bring is out the window and the day before my trip, I am having to rethink this all. The real question is how do I fit all my layers for the different weather in a duffel bag!

Do you have any packing tips for us inexperienced backpackers? Leave a comment!