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Egypt, Travel

Sailing the Nile on a Felucca

April 22, 2016

sailing the nile

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Four days of heavy sightseeing and one of those days being up at 3:30 AM, I was ready for a day of relaxing and doing nothing. The felucca ride was the perfect rest day in a fully packed schedule. We arrived at the dock and quickly got ourselves settled in for our day on the Nile. Since we were a large group, we were split onto two boats. The boats are long and shallow. Sitting on deck were large pieces of what I assumed was foam covered in sheets and blankets pulled tight to create a comfortable area to sit or lay down on. Overhead is a shade to protect you from the sun. The boats are simple, and there are no facilities on board, but a support boat would follow us for our meals and bathroom breaks. We set out from Aswan and headed north. Here is the video I shot throughout the day on the felucca.

Sailing the Nile on a Felucca

Some people asked me afterward if I found it boring, but it wasn’t boring in the least! I really enjoyed watching the scenery change along the way and seeing how people lived along the Nile. I loved seeing the green at the water’s edge and then the desert rising up behind it. Because it wasn’t high tourist season in Egypt, there were not lots of boats on the water, and it was quiet most of the day. It was wonderful to feel the wind and sun on my skin.

Sailing the Nile on a Felucca

We docked to eat lunch at an area with a small beach. Unfortunately, the water was too cold to swim despite having brought my swimsuit. I did put my feet in the water, though. I could go all the way to Egypt and not put my feet in the Nile!

Sailing the Nile on a Felucca

Most of us napped, took photos, read, or sketched the day away. The sailors had music playing out of a speaker that was in the shape of a dinosaur. Unfortunately, I failed to get a picture of the dinosaur. There was lots of Bob Marley played! I never did figure out the obsession with Bob Marley. In the video, you can see a Bob Marley flag with the Egyptian flag.

Sailing the Nile on a Felucca

We sailed until sunset. We then docked with the support boat and the other felucca for dinner and our overnight on the felucca. Both meals on board were simple Egyptian fare, but very good and there was lots of it. We had lots of options for drinks including beer and wine. The feluccas were wrapped in fabric by the crew for us for sleeping. It was still chilly at night in Egypt at this point, and this helped keep it warm. Although part way through the night, I had to get in my sleeping bag to keep warm. The only annoying thing was that large river cruise boats kept going by and rocking our boats. We could also hear the train going by. I was really glad I brought my noise canceling headphones! You do sleep on the deck with everyone on the boat and the crew sleeps on the support boat or underneath the deck of the felucca.

Sailing the Nile on a Felucca

I could have easily spent a few days sailing up the Nile on one of these feluccas. My tips for having a successful sail up the Nile are to layer your clothes, especially in winter, as it was cool in the morning and evening, but warm during the day. Bring your own snacks, earplugs to combat train noise and snoring fellow travelers, something to read, and an easy going attitude! I enjoyed this sail so much, it is what inspired me to go on the two-week sailing trip to Greece.

Have you been on a sailing trip that you loved?

Egypt, Travel

Yes, Egypt is Safe for Travel!

March 14, 2016

Egypt is SafeFrom the minute I decided to go to Egypt, people started asking me if it was safe to travel there. I have gotten even more questions since I got back. If I didn’t think it was safe, I wouldn’t have gone is the short answer. I know that isn’t enough for people and after visiting and seeing the decline in tourism, I decided that I need to help calm people’s fears and encourage them to travel to Egypt!

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It is true that Egypt has had terrorism lately and it can politically unstable, but I would say it isn’t any less safe than New York City after 9/11 or Paris after the recent terrorist attacks there. There has been stabbing of tourists in Cairo and Hurghada. These were the only two stabbings that came up when I Googled it and when I Googled stabbing in New York City, I got several returns including this one. I lived in New York City for 7 years and never had anything bad happen to me or any of my friends. Bad things can happen anywhere! Now I know you are thinking what about the plane being bombed last Fall in Sharm el-Sheikh? I would actually say that going to a place after a terrorist attack may be the best time to go. That is because they usually don’t strike the same place again quickly. Also, I went through at least three metal detectors along with my bags at the Cairo airport. Things felt very secure there. Don’t let a few things prevent you from going on a trip of a lifetime! You would be missing out on so many places right now.

Since we know that bad things can happen anywhere, and there is a heightened awareness of safety in Egypt, here are some tips for staying safe and enjoying Eygpt.

Research and Plan! – Decide where you want to go and places you shouldn’t go. It’s that simple. By planning ahead, you can decide if you are comfortable traveling to that place. I would say that you should probably stick to the tourist sites at the moment and not go off the beaten path unless you are on a tour. Some areas of Egypt you are not allowed to go to while not on a tour the Abu Simbel temples is one of these places. Book hotels in advance so taxi drivers don’t try to take you to their uncle’s “hotel.”

Go on a Tour – Since I was going to be traveling alone, I decided a group tour was the way I felt most comfortable going to Egypt. I don’t usually go in for a group tour, but I loved my experience with G Adventures. Because I was with a local tour guide, I felt safe. He knew where to go and what areas where safe to go to. Not only that he has a degree in Egyptology, so I got a lot more information from him that from a sign or a guide-book! There were 14 women on this tour and only one man, so ladies Egypt is safe for you too!

Calm the Fears of Family – Believe it or not, my Mom is the one that suggested Egypt when I was trying to decide where to go! Thanks, Mom! I know that many people need to calm the fears of your family when visiting a controversial area. Show them this post and the many other bloggers’ posts about the safety of Egypt. Here are a few links. Is It Safe to Go to Egypt? and Why I Feel Safe in Egypt. You can point them in the direction of government websites, but they don’t always give you the best idea. Their job is to keep you safe and not get sued! So, they are going to say a place isn’t safe because they have to, but they do usually have reliable information. Instead, look at the United Nations World Tourism Organization and see what they have to say about Egypt.

Fewer Crowds – Because people have stayed away, everything was less crowded. There was only a handful of tourists at the Great Pyramids when I went and for a few minutes, I was alone in King Tutankhamun’s tomb. This means two things, you get to enjoy all these great sites with less people and fewer people means less likelihood of something happening and you can be more diligent in making sure you and your stuff are safe.

Be Aware of Scams and Touts – Just like most tourist locations; unsavory people want to take advantage of tourists. Taxis, seem to be the main culprit in Egypt. Taxis have been known to not turn on the meter and then charge you an exorbitant amount at your destination or try to take you to another hotel. If you are going to take a taxi in Cairo, negotiate the price before you get in. Then be firm when getting out because they still might try to get more money from you. My Egyptian coworker encouraged me to take Uber or Careem while I was in Cairo. Careem is the Uber of the Middle East. The offer to help.  Many Egyptians are extremely helpful and expect nothing in return, but beware the extremely friendly person who approaches you first. The will want baksheesh (a tip). Some will want to take you to their shop, and then you will feel the pressure to buy something. For something simple like directions, I don’t mind giving a tip. I usually gave one Egyptian pound, but I am not willing to get waylaid in your store and be pressured into buying something. Don’t be afraid to walk out. They may yell but just walk confidently on. Touts – These are the people trying to sell you something in the tourist site, like camel rides at the Great Pyramids. They will be relentless. Just keep walking or ignore them. The scam one guy tried to get me to go for at the pyramids was to shake my hand. When he shook it, he put something in my hand and tried to get me to pay for it by telling me to put it in my pocket. I declined and forced it back on him. My guide told us that if it happened and they won’t take it back to drop it on the ground and walk away. You will feel rude doing lots of things to avoid being sold something or pressured into talking, but do not feel bad! It will keep you from being taken advantage of.

What to Wear – Both men and women need to be aware of their clothing. You should always aim to blend in with the locals. For women, this means covering your shoulders and knees in Egypt. The majority of Egyptians are Muslim and dress more conservatively because of that. You will feel more comfortable that way as well. For men, this means not wearing sports baseball caps and white sneakers. Most of the men I saw in Egypt were wearing nice pants and sweaters; it was chilly when I went. My tour guide did wear jeans and younger men were as well. To be fair my tour guide did wear a baseball cap, but it was a black G Adventures cap.

Protect your Things and Money – First let me say, Egypt was the first place I didn’t feel like I was going to be pickpocketed in a long time! Both Paris and Rome worried me more about this than Egypt. I am not saying it can’t happen, though. Carry very little cash and leave your passport at the hotel. While out and about keep your money in sight. Women should carry handbags on the opposite side of the street so none one can swipe your bag from a moving vehicle. None of the hotels I stayed in had in-room safes, so you might want to leave your valuables in the hotel safe. I put everything in my bag and locked it. The hotels in Aswan and Luxor only had push-button locks on them, so I would recommend getting a doorstop alarm for when you are in the room.

Enjoy! – Egypt is the best trip I have been on so far and I cannot recommend it enough! Go now while it is slow and help Egypt recover from the downturn in their tourist economy! Egypt is Safe!

Feel free to ask me questions about my trip either in the comments or via email. I would be happy to answer any question or quell your Mom’s fears.

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?