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Trip Report Egypt & Jordan in Sept 2010 - Trip Report

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Finally, here is my trip report. I have posted my itinerary as arranged with Lady Egypt. My trip report is rather long. I have written it as a memory for myself so there may be some superflous information in there. Sorry if you find it long winded - just skip to the parts that interest you. I am too lazy to edit it for fodors...

Day 1 - Thursday 9th Sept: Cairo (No meals) Mena House Pyramids View Room
Arrive at Cairo Airport where our representative will meet and assist you through customs and then claiming your baggage. You will then be transferred to your selected hotel, where warm welcome, fresh flowers, fruit basket and a cake awaits your arrival. Overnight at your Hotel.

Day 2 - Friday 10th September: Cairo (B) Mena House
Free day today. This evening you will enjoy the sound & light show at the Pyramids. Overnight at your Hotel.

Day 3 - Saturday 11th September: Cairo (B L) Mena House
Today you will enjoy the legendary treasures of the Egyptian Museum - take a look at some of the most exquisite and ancient artifacts and statues in History. Enjoy lunch at Felfela restaurant (downtown). Return to your hotel to relax and prepare for the busy days ahead. Overnight at your Hotel.

Day 4 - Sunday 12th September: Cairo (B) Mena House
Today you will be transported back to the time of the ancient Egyptian, our friendly guide will accompany you to the awe-inspiring Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza, and then onwards to Sakkara to see the first pyramid ever built - the step pyramid of Zosser. Overnight at your Hotel.

Day 5 - Monday 13th September: Cairo (B) Mena House
Relax in your room where a special room service breakfast will be brought to your room. Today you will visit Islamic areas of Cairo including the citadel of Saladdin, the Ibn Tulun Mosque and the Khan Kahili Bazaar. Next, the Coptic area of Cairo to visit the Hanging Church and the Church of St Sergius where it is said to be the resting place for the holy family. Overnight at your Hotel.

Day 6 -Tue 14th Sept: Cairo-Al Amein-Alexandria(BL) Helnan Palestine
Morning transfer to Al Amein by private vehicle. Visit the WWII Museum (and cemetery if you like) and then continue onto Alexandria. Enjoy a seafood lunch overlooking the sea and then transfer to your hotel. Overnight at your Hotel.

Day 7 - Wednesday 15th September: Alexandria (B) Helnan Palestine
Today you will enjoy a drive through the Montaza Gardens (to see the Palace from the vehicle), visit the Catacomb's, the National Museum and famous Library. Overnight at your Hotel.

Day 8 - Thursday 16th September: Alexandria - Cairo (B) Cairo Marriott
Return to Cairo and check into your city hotel. Overnight at your Hotel.

Day 9 - Friday 17th September: Cairo – Aswan (B) Movenpick – Nile View
Transfer to airport for your flight to Aswan Departing 8.30 am. Arrive to Aswan where you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Afternoon excursion on a traditional felucca to visit Elephantine Island and Kitchener Island. Overnight at your Hotel.

Day 10 - Saturday 18th Sept: Aswan - Abu Simbel - Aswan (B) Movenpick
Morning excursion to Abu Simbel by flight departing 10.30 am arrives at 11.15 am. Enjoy your guided tour and then return to Aswan on 2.15 pm departure. This afternoon you will visit the Nubian Museum. Overnight at your Hotel.

Day 11 - Sunday 19th September: Aswan (B) Movenpick
Free day today. Overnight at your Hotel. (We ended up going on a camel ride, wandering around Aswan and the market areas and relaxing)

Day 12 - Monday 20th September: Aswan - Nile Cruise (B L D)
Today you will enjoy the sights of Aswan. Starting with the Unfinished Obelisk. Then transfer to your Nile Cruise boat, check in and enjoy lunch. Your afternoon tour starts with High Dam and its huge lake then take a short ferry ride to Philae Temple this Romantic and Majestic Temple. Overnight Nile Cruise.

Day 13 - Tuesday 21st September: Nile Cruise (B L D)
After enjoying your breakfast while cruising down the Nile. Visit the Greco Roman Temple of Kom Ombo dedicated to the two gods Sobek the crocodile God and Harveris the Sun God. Continue sailing to visit Edfu Temple – the best-preserved and second largest Temple in Egypt. Continue sailing towards Luxor. Overnight Nile Cruise.

Day 14 - Wednesday 22nd September: Nile cruise (B L D)
Optional balloon flight over the west bank of Luxor $165 per person
After a relaxing morning. You will then visit the East Bank of Luxor – Entry down the avenue of Ram Headed Sphinx to reach the Monumental Temple of Karnak and then continue onto Luxor Temple, followed by a free afternoon and evening to enjoy this vibrant and fascinating city. Overnight Nile Cruise.

Day 15 - Thursday 23rd September: Luxor (B) Steinberger Full Nile View Room
An early morning start as you cross over to the West Bank of Luxor, as you come from sun, sand and rugged mountainside you enter - The Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple and the Colossi of Memnon. Transfer to your hotel then afternoon is free where you can relax or, for the energetic, perhaps take a visit to the Luxor Museum. Overnight at your Hotel.

Day 16 - Friday 24th Sept: Luxor–Cairo-Amman (B D) Mariott
Transfer to the airport flight to Cairo depart 1.15 pm. Arrive to Cairo and transfer to the international terminal for your flight to Amman at 5 pm. Arrive to Amman Airport at 7.30 pm. Upon arrival you will be met by our representative's and then transfer to your hotel. Overnight at your Hotel.

Day 17 - Saturday 25th September: Amman - Desert Castles - Amman (B)
Today you will visit the Roman Amphitheater (which is dated back to the second century AD), the Roman Ruins of the Citadel Hill and the Archaeological Museum in Amman City. Then travel east of Amman to visit the Desert castles of the 8th century. The caravansary El KHarana, the summer residence of Qasar Amra and the fortress in the oasis Azraq give a very good overview about the history of this country. Overnight at your Hotel.

Day 18 - Sunday 26th Septan Amman–Jerash–Dead Sea (B) Marriott
Today you will be driven to visit Jerash which is known as the city of a 1,000 Pillars. You will also visit the Triple Arched Gate, the Huge Hippodrome, The Theatre and the only Roman Forum surrounded by 63 Ionic columns. Then we proceed to the Dead Sea - the lowest spot on the Earth Surface, 1306 feet below sea level. Check into your hotel and this afternoon enjoy the sensation of floating on water (swimming). Overnight at your Hotel.

Day 19 - Monday 27th September: Dead Sea - Petra (B) Marriott
Today we will be driven southward along the King's Highway, one of the oldest trade routes in the world which runs 200 miles along Jordan's hilly backbone. You'll stop at the Byzantine Church of Mt. Nebo, and then proceed to Madaba where you will see a unique Mosaic Map of Palestine. You'll visit the Great Crusaders Castles of Kerak, and continue to Petra. Overnight at your Hotel.

Day 20 - Tuesday 28th September: Petra (B) Marriott
Today you should wear good walking shoes! To discover this ancient attraction you will take a horse back ride through the Siq, the only access to this city carved out of the Rose Colored Rock. You will visit the Treasury, Theatre Tombs, Hall of Justice and Palaces. Overnight at your Hotel.

Day 21 - Wednesday 29th September: Petra – Wadi Rum (B D)
Transfer from Petra to Wadi Rum - a moonscape terrain of ancient riverbeds, towering cliffs and smooth, pastel colored sands. Arrive the camp, prepare for you Jeep tour in the desert for 2 Hours then return back to the camp for dinner with unforgettable party. Overnight Wadi Rum.
Day 22 - Thursday 30th Sept: Wadi Rum Amman- Cairo (B D) Marriott
After Breakfast, you will leave to Amman Airport departing at 12 noon to connect your flight back to Cairo. Arrive in Cairo where you will be met and transferred to your hotel. Enjoy dinner and show on one of Cairo’s famous floating restaurants. Overnight at your Hotel.

Day 23 - Friday 1st October: Cairo (B) Marriott
Free day today. Overnight at your Hotel. (We decided to go back to the Cairo Museum)

Day 24 - Saturday 2nd October: Cairo (B)
Transfer to the airport for your final departure flight.


Day 1 – 8th September 2010
We departed mid afternoon yesterday for an overnight stay at the Holiday Inn near Sydney Airport so we could have a relaxing getaway this morning. We woke at approximately 8 am and lounged around watching tv until we departed at 10.30 to return the hire car. We arrived at the Malaysian Airlines check-in dead on 11 am – the requisite 3 hours before the flight departure. We received a priority pass through customs and immigration and then looked at some of the duty free stores that seemed to only sell perfume, alcohol and sunglasses. Nothing grabbed our fancy so we left empty handed. Greg wanted a new camera lens but noticed there were hardly any stores that sold camera equipment, and the electrical equipment on sale was on par or more expensive than of that in Australia.

We hunted down the Malaysian Airlines Lounge an hour before the fight to relax. The business class lounge was relaxing and quiet but not overly glamorous. We had barely had a bite to eat and a drink when they called our flight so we wandered up and settled in to the top cabin of a 747-400 in seats 7A and 7C. The flight attendants were spectacular and looked like they had all come straight from a modelling job with perfect make up, all with blue eyeshadow. It must be company policy! The Flight attendant looking after us, Sarina, was delightful. She continually called us by name and was attentive without being overbearing.

The food was wonderful and plentiful. Our first meal, titled a “light refreshment” in the menu we were given , consisted of beef and chicken skewers with satay sauce. The next appetizer was a crab meat and potato salad dumpling, which even I loved! The main course was snapper for me and Malaysian chicken curry for Greg. I was so full after our first 2 appetizers that I could not eat my snapper. Greg indulged to see what it tasted like and said it was fabulous. For desert there was cheesecake and fruit. There was a range of French and Australian wines. Greg was not too keen on the French red, so decided to drink “something from home” . It was unusual to note that beer was not offered.

The flight from Sydney to Kuala Lumpur was just over 7 ½ hours. Long but not excruciating. Our flat bed made things comfy as did the video on demand entertainment system. We arrived in KL at 8.30 pm and attempted to find the transfer desk so we could be issued with our KL to Doha, Qatar boarding pass. The transfer desk said they couldn’t help, and we should go down to Gate 2 as another Qatar Airways plane had just departed. We wandered down there and had to go through a security screening with x-ray machine and I stood at it waiting as the staff were not ready for us as the area was primarily empty. I motioned to the security staff that I wanted to enter the area so I could speak to the Qatar staff. He said “just go in” and motioned for us to take our bags through the electronic security thing. It beeped as I went through so I looked at the staff for guidance and he said “don’t worry”. We asked the staff about obtaining boarding passes and they said the flight at 2.55 am had not yet opened so we should come back at 12 midnight. We had booked in to the airport transit hotel that was located in the international departures area so we did not need to clear customs.

We napped for 3 hours then ventured back to the Qatar Airways check in desk at 12.30 am, but there was nobody there and nobody had arrived by 1 am when we decided to leave. We walked back to the help desk to ask and we received a nonchalant “ask the transfer desk”, which was of course empty. We decided to go to the Malaysian Airline Lounge that looked after their “code share passengers” on Qatar. We explained our predicament after the receptionist asked for our boarding pass to enter. We said we had been trying to get one but nobody was able to help. This galvanised him in to action and he started to call numerous phone numbers on the two phones on his desk until someone answered. He spoke in Malaysian and all I could understand anything he said except for “Murray”. He hung up and said “they’ve been looking for you to issue your boarding pass”. I have no idea who would be looking for us because there was nobody around the airport at all. He then went on to say that our boarding passes would be brought up to us and we should wait in the near empty lounge. This was service! I dread to think what would of happened if we had been “lowly economy” passengers without someone to run after us!

We finally stepped onboard Qatar Airways’ flight to Doha from KL. A pleasant 6 ish hours. The business class section was only half full and most of the passengers slept for the whole night flight. Economy seemed very full, in fact, I wondered how they would all fit on the plane. The plane was fabulously new but their flat bed seats were not exactly flat beds, and I found them to be very uncomfortable. Qatar advertised, and our itinerary said the plane would be a B777 with completely flat seats, however it wasn’t to be. (boo!)

Food onboard was once again a wonderful display of airplane catering.... I was not feeling well at this stage so declined, but Greg dined on omelettes, fresh fruit, bakery delights, toast.. one course kept coming after another. The service again was wonderful. Again the flight attendants were all stunning and beautifully made up and quietly respectful. Fabulous ambassadors for their airline.

We arrived in Doha, Qatar 20 mins ahead of schedule. The time was just 5 am. The weather, the pilot announced was a balmy and probably usual 32 degrees. We had to alight via stairs and the humid heat at that time was extraordinary. The business class passengers were ushered to their own bus to be taken to the Premium Terminal where first and business class passengers were segregated. On this leg, we were travelling First Class so we were ushered in to their lounge, which was decked out in soft sand colours, with leather armchairs, thick glass topped tables, lamps and potted palms everywhere. It was early and fairly deserted however, upon walking in there were a number of single men, including sheiks which made me feel uncomfortable. I wasn’t sure if I should of stayed in the “family section “ with other women and children. I was dressed modestly in three quarter length pants and a long sleeve linen shirt yet still felt underdressed. To my relief a number of women started to appear, mainly with male partners, but then there were a few single females. Onboard the plane there was an announcement that the Ramadan fasting had begun for the day so we should refrain from eating and drinking in public. We didn’t know that meant us non muslims should show respect and not eat, however the lounge had a vast array of fabulous food and drink on display, with chefs continually replenishing stocks. There were a few people eating so we felt comfortable enough to have a shower. One thing I have noticed is that people are willing to leave their luggage and handbags unattended.


Day 1 still due to time zone differences – Doha to Cairo
Our Qatar Airways flight at 1.50 pm left exactly on time. I was fresh and ready to go afte r a refreshing shower in one of their magnificent shower rooms the size of a bedroom! There was a frameless glass shower, with a 3 meter high glass door, that could easily of fitted 10 people . There was marble and timber giving it a lovely modern look without being clinical. I relaxed under the shower for 15 minutes then dressed and asked the room attendant for a blow waver which she scurried off to find. The bathroom also had a large, probably 15 person spa in one corner, as well as a sauna, which, if I had gotten in, I would never of gotten out.

After purchasing a pair of Dior sunglasses and some perfume, we handed our first class boarding passes to the counter attendant for the Cairo flight and were ushered to a waiting bus, with sign writing on it that said “first class”. I didn’t give it much thought but figured it was just for business and first class passengers, however, in getting on, it was easy to see what it said first class on the outside. All of the inside had been customised to seat 15 passengers in luxury. Individual lounge chairs, with polished timber stands to store your carry on luggage with lulled us in to wanting this experience never to end. Our bus took us to the front of the plane where we alighted to a covered set of stairs to the aircraft. The economy bus was letting passengers on at the rear, however, they had to make the journey in the sun as they were without shade!
This flight was only a short leg, 3 hours. The majority of the flight was men and there was one other Australian couple on board in first class. Obviously they were doing exactly as we were! This airplane, whilst also an A330, had a slightly different layout with different, and far superior chairs, as well as more leg room. If only we’ d had this plane for our long leg.

We arrived in Cairo at 4 pm, after travelling across a large expanse of desert. We were herded on to a bus with only the priviledged onboard!! Some had individual pick ups with escorts, including one young guy in a headdress and robe with two women of similar age. I wonder what their relationship is. The pilot had announced that it was a pleasant 33 degrees celcius.

After lining up at the currency exchange and only getting our visas there when asked if we wished to purchase them. I figured we would get them from somewhere that said “visa’s”. That confused me. We walked in to the customs hall with huge lines. 2 other flights had just arrived at a similar time to us. We proceeded through customs and noticed a sign being held up with our names on it. We motioned that that was us and the gentleman scurried out to meet us and give me a bunch of flowers. He introduced himself as Ahmed our Rep. He expertly collected our luggage, albeit with a broken lock (but nothing missing). He weaved his way through the crowd, with my husband and I scurrying behind him, to the waiting Lady Egypt car. He introduced us to our driver Mohammed and told us that he wouldn’t tell us much as we’d probably had a long trip and were not prepared for too much information. Ahmed spoke virtually non stop from the moment we got in to the car to when we alighted at the Mena House Oberoi. I could not imagine how he’d be if he decided to give us the “full rundown”. He told us about the sights we were seeing as we drove across varying lanes whilst cars tooted and people attempted to wave us down. He also mentioned our itinerary and how he could change it at any time to incorporate anything we wanted to do. He discussed what we should wear to various sights, how he’d help us bargain so we wouldn’t pay too much, what to drink and eat, where to shop to get cheap snacks and bottled water. He gave us a cell phone with his and Lady Egypt’s phone numbers pre programmed in. He also gave us a well needed bottle of water and small wadd of small notes for tips, just in case we hadn’t managed to get any. A very nice welcome indeed.

We pulled up to the Mena House Oberoi, built in the shadows of the pyramids after our car had been searched underneath. Ahmed asked for our passports and said we should have a seat and someone would be over with a complimentary hibiscus drink as he checked us in. Ahmed said he would contact us tomorrow about what time someone would collect us for the evening Sound and Light Show at the pyramids.
At the outside of the hotel and in the street leading towards our hotel there were lots of men on the side of the road waving at cars. I asked if they were looking for a taxi. Ahmed said that they were trying to get us to stop so they could offer their services as a tour guide of the pyramids for a highly inflated price, or give you a camel ride that was super expensive. He said if you venture out, you will find many people waiting at the gate to talk to you and their aim is to get money from you. He advised if if we went out not to engage in conversation. He said once they hear you are Australian they will say “g’day mate” and you’ll never be rid of them until they give you money.
Ahmed also joked about us coming at a perfect time – the end of Ramadan . He said “us Muslims can function better with food or drink” so said we’d have guides and drivers who were refreshed, happy and “on the ball”.

A staff member then ushered us out to his golf cart and said he’d show us to our rooms. Ahmed said he’d wait around and call us to make sure our room was perfect. As we slowly weaved our way to our rooms we gazed excitedly around at the beautiful gardens illuminated by the dusk sunset. We were shown in to Room 336 – a pyramid view room on the 3rd floor. The room was fabulous – king size bed, couch, table and chairs and a bath. There was a balcony overlooking the garden courtyard and one of the great pyramids of Giza. We stood on the balcony, in the dwindling day light hours as the garden lights and lights of Giza took over. As our bellhop departed, I pressed 10LE in to his hand and thanked him for such beautiful surroundings. He beamed and took off.

Our bags arrived shortly after, and after tipping the bellhop, I could not find my purse. I hunted everywhere and told the “bag man” not to go as I had something for him, however I couldn’t find my LE. I said I was sorry and he cheerfully said “don’t worry” and departed happily. We thought we’d catch him in the lobby and give him a tip.
Our package was the “honeymoon dreams” package with Lady Egypt and everyone seemed to know. We were wished well by Ahmed obviously, as well as by the hotel staff upon check in. In the room was a congratulations cake, which was made by the hotel, and divine... I couldn’t stop eating! Later in the evening housekeeping rang to congratulate us and asked if they could bring some flowers over. I said certainly, however, I had just showered and was ready for an early bed. The housekeeping gentleman, scurried in with a bag full of goodies and proceeded to meticulously place candles on the table, as well as a beautiful arrangement of roses with a heart shaped light in it. We lit all the candles, then wished us well again and departed, with a tip.. At times like these I wish I had an unlimited supply of funds to give to these wonderfully friendly and helpful people who were making our stay fabulous.

After arriving at approximately 7 pm, we showered and changed and wandered around through the gardens to Sultan’s lounge for a few drinks. We went via the pool area and it looked magnificent in the fading light. Tomorrow we had an easy day so we thought we’d make use of the pool facilities on our untanned bodies, fresh from a winter in Australia.

We sat down and ordered from the smiling bar attendant a diet coke, which cost 22 LE including taxes and my husband a Heinekin at 45LE. The surroundings were opulent looking - small tables and chairs of gold, embroidery, wooden gold walls, large hanging lights, detailed wooden ceiling. There was a piano in the corner, which midway through our drinks, an Australian, in his 60’s, I assume Australian as he had an “Aussie-t-shirt” and shorts on sat down at the piano and started to play. His friends gathered around as did other passers by. He played 3 songs and at the end stood up as the crowd clapped. He said “folks, don’t clap, throw me money”, to which everyone laughed and he departed with his friends with a lot of “back slapping!” We paid our 113 LE bill and left a 17 LE tip.

We changed our 100 LE notes to something smaller, and I had so much money I could not close my purse. I had asked for smaller change and had been given 20’s. At the end I asked if he could change a 100 LE for ones. He said quite annoyed “I gave you what you wanted and you didn’t stipulate”. Well, just break this down for me a bit more. He did so and gave me some 5’s and some coin. I told my husband to go back and change a hundred into ones if possible. He to got some ones and 5’s. Oh, well, who cares... it’s holidays and 5LE is only about 1 Aussie dollar so I didn’t worry if I had to “overpay” for the toilet. In our time in Egypt we found the Mena House “bank” to be the most generous in giving you small change. I really had no problems but probably should of changed more money here to small notes.

We arrived back at our room and again looked at the pyramids that felt within reach from our balcony as they were bathed in light from the light and sound show. We climbed in to our king size bed and drifted off to sleep. I turned the airconditioning off as I thought we wouldn’t need it, and we didn’t.

About the heat. I had been told it was a dry heat, but to me it feels humid. The 33 degrees was not unbearable, after all I am used to 40 in an Australian summer. There was a haze which blocked out the direct sun which made it pleasant. I am sure when we visit other places there will be full sun and I’ll be complaining.

Day 2 – Mena House Oberoi & Giza Sound and Light Show.

I woke at 6 am and figured that as I had slept for 9 hours I would get up. I crept past my sleeping husband and went out to the balcony. The pyramids were bathed in the morning light as the loudspeakers chanted prayers. The sound was beautiful in the quiet morning where I seemed to be the only one awake at the hotel at that time. As 6.15 passed, slowly people started to emerge and walk through the gardens to the lobby to have breakfast or meet their guides. It was so peaceful that I sat on the balcony for an hour (typing this).

Greg surfaced at approximately 8 and we meandered to the lobby in search of breakfast. We were, yet again, attended to by helpful staff. Our service buzzed around us making sure we were satisfied and full. He spoke to us about where we were from and he commented to me that I look like an Egyptian woman. Now that is a new one to me... being green eyed and blonde. My husband said “see, I told you that your nose was as big as the Sphinx’s, that’s why he thinks you’re Egyptian”. (my nose is small and nice, the perfect nose for plastic surgeons to use as a “sample nose” so I am not offended by the joke!). He thought my fair haired husband was British. He wished us many happy tidings in Arabic and we tried to copy what he was saying, with disastrous results mind you. I still just have shukran and la shukran under my belt... I haven’t progressed any further than that despite reading the list of useful Arabic words that Ahmed provided us at our first meeting.

Breakfast was laden with all kinds of food from the usual continental fare to Arabic goodies. I am a toast and juice gal, so I’ll leave the exotic sampling to Greg! He assured me that he was going to try something different tomorrow. He was amazed at the array of spices and condiments available for breakfast. He thought they would be more suited to an evening meal.

After breakfast we looked around the original areas of the hotel and were amazed at the architecture, which appeared very Indian like, and the detail. Magnificent arrangements of flowers were everywhere and we noted later in the day that one arrangement had been changed, even though it was still spectacular yesterday and in full bloom. Obviously the hotel deems this a very important aspect. We noted there was a guided tour about the history of the hotel from 5 pm to 6 pm and we planned to attend one evening. (unfortunately we didn’t make the guided tour) During our wanderings we walked down to the front gate and looked at the busy street outside. A number of men saw us there and slowly meandered their way through the busy traffic to ask us if they could take us somewhere. We shook our heads and said we already had a guide. Even as we turned to walk away, one was still calling out to us so we ignored him. My husband was keen to venture “outside the gated walls” but I was not so enamoured with his enthusiasm. I commented to him that in the street, there was not one woman to be seen and I would stand out. In my short time in Egypt and Qatar, I had already felt uncomfortable at being the only female a few times and didn’t want to put myself in to that situation “just yet”. Perhaps after a few days out and about with our guide I would feel more confident.

Today was just a relaxing day. We were not sure how we would pull up after our marathon flight of 30 plus hours so we didn’t want to see a “big ticket” item on the first day if we were too jet lagged to enjoy it. Surprisingly we both came out winners on the jet lag front after an early night last night. We planned to spend it around the pool swimming and arrived at the lavish pool area at approximately 11 am. We were greeted by a pool attendant who issued us with beach towels and noted our room. He didn’t say if there was a charge but I figured there was as he scurried over to the towels if anyone hovered by the “towel table”.

We settled down on reclining chairs and slathered ourselves in sun block, nevertheless we still got burnt. I suppose it was bound to happen as we stayed at the pool until 5 pm when we thought we’d head back to our room to refresh and cool down after all that sun. The sun was warm but not excruciatingly hot. Good old “Aussie summers” have made me immune! We ordered drinks throughout the afternoon from one handsome young Egyptian gentleman who I nicked named “my boyfriend” as I liked him and his quiet gentle manner. If anyone could of heard us they’d of been wondering what was happening as I would say to my husband “darling do you want another beer.. my boyfriend is coming”. We gave him a 5LE tip for every 45 LE beer he bought. One time he had taken our order and bought the beer back, and I got the 5 LE ready in my hand, then an older barman came over and shooed my little friend away after he had placed the beer on the table and proceeded to make a production about pouring it. I felt he had just taken over as he saw me with money and thought he would then get the tip. I have no idea if the tips are shared or what happens, so I decided not to tip. When my favourite friend passed by, I called him over and gave him the 10LE and said “that’s for the drink earlier”. He thanked me profusely and continued to keep an eye on us.

We were offered a menu for lunch, and as I didn’t each much at breakfast, I was starving. I had mini beef burgers with fries! They were wonderfully presented and tasted fabulous. All for the price of 100 LE. I would definitely order that again! As you can see, I am hardly a food gourmet!

During the afternoon, Ahmed called to let us know that our escort for tonight would arrive in the lobby at 7.45 pm for the 8.30 Sound and Light show. He wished us a pleasant evening and thanked me for my text I had sent him early saying “Happy Eid”. He said he showed his family and said he thought it was lovely! He said he would see us tomorrow at 8 am to introduce us to our Guide, whose name I believe is Hamdi.
As I write this, at 6.45 pm, I am watching a slowly dwindling parade of cars and buses leave the pyramids via a road high in front of our hotel. One funny observation so far. Every time we leave our room we turn off the air conditioning because we really don’t need it when inside. We don’t think it is hot enough in our room to warrant it (I must be worried about greenhouse gases in my old age), however each time we return and something has been done in our room, like laundry being returned, or the beds turned down at night, they have turned on the air conditioning! They probably think we’re hot frazzled tourists in DESPERATE need of cooling!

We met Abdul, our second Lady Egypt rep tonight at 7.45 pm in the lobby. Our regular rep, Ahmed was spending Eid with his young family and would be back to see us tomorrow. Abdul explained that the Giza Sound and Light Show started at 8.30 pm, and he suggested we sit to the right in the outdoor seating area, up near the front. As we drove along what appeared to be, a major road, we were amazed by the number of people, mainly males, walking along the road or weaving through traffic. People just seemed to stop their cars wherever they wanted to and we had to weave around them. There were people eating at tables set up in the grassy areas in the middle of the road as well as sitting out front of cafes and shops. There were many horses being lead by young boys riding the “lead horse”. I was pleased to see that the horses appeared to be in good condition. We pulled up at the front entrance to the pyramids and followed our guide who bought our tickets. We arranged a meeting place for 9.30 pm just outside the entrance.

This was the first time we had seen the pyramids and Sphinx, albeit in darkness. The Show was about the history of Egypt. I felt the show as okay but not mind blowing . Being on holidays, we felt we had to do it but if we had known what it was and had missed it, we would not of been disappointed.

We met Abdul as arranged and weaved our way through the parked cars outside the entrance gate. One site melted my heart... there was a baby donkey standing in the busy car park pressed up against the back of a bus. He was so still and quiet I thought he must be frightened. I wanted to get out of the car and lead the little donkey to the side of the road. For all I know he might of been quite happy safe in the car park and just like pressing up against cars! As we drove off we saw an array of animals including a camel, horse and grown donkeys. I thought the cute little donkey must of wandered away.

All of a sudden I felt tired so we decided to get room service and go to bed. I ate another burger for LE70.

Day 3 Cairo Museum

We woke at 7.15 am and headed to breakfast for another large breakfast. The service today was completely different from yesterday. They were pleasant and helpful, but not exceedingly so like yesterday, hence I adjusted my tip by a couple of LE.
Ahmed was going to meet us in the lobby at 10 am to introduce us to our guide who would then be taking us to the museum to see King Tut in all his glory. Ahmed arrived and spoke to us about our tour for half an hour and explained that we can make any changes, inclusions or exclusions that we liked. He said the only time it would cost extra is if there were entrance fees.

After our chat we we were introduced to Hamdi and then we were off. After chatting on the way to the Museum, by the time we arrived we felt confident that we would really like Hamdi and the guiding services he would provide.

The road towards the Museum was the only way in and it was a mad traffic jam of people, buses, cars, police, tourist police and the odd tourist hawker here and there. The entrance of the pink coloured Museum was crowded with people sitting around, people snapping pictures and videos of the statues and monuments and groups of tourists leaving, luckily for us. The great thing about our private driver was that we could leave things in the car without fear of it being stolen. We left the large Nikon camera and video camera and took my small cam to snap some pics in the entrance then check my camera as cameras are not allowed in the museum.

After passing through a metal detector at the entrance Hamdi gave us a brief explanation of what we would see today. He suggested that he show us the main pieces of importance and then we could have a look around on our own, including the Rosetta Stone (replica) and King Tuts throne. We agreed that this was a good idea. Hamdi always asked us what we thought and gave us the option of doing something completely different. Hamdi explained how to read heirogliphics and pointed out a section from a tomb that showed a “shopping list” of what the pharaoh wanted to take into his next life. He explained that in would not of been possible to put all different kinds of foods in the tomb, so just like we do in modern life, he wrote a shopping list of foods .

We looked at the mummified animals, a multitude of sarcophagus and burial coffins and also the Royal Mummies Room for an extra 100LE. They were amazing to see as some still had hair on them or you could see their teeth and facial features clearly.
We arrived at the Tutenkhamun exhibit and again Hamdi explained in detail about King Tut, his treasures and the Pharoah lineage. The museum was making preparations for the move to the new museum sometime in the next year or so and they had haphazardly cordoned off areas they were working on. It was unbelievable that these priceless treasures just seemed to be thrown together in to a room, without clear labelling and with workman’s “stay clear” tape weaving through the display cases.
We were amazed by King Tut’s throne and the detailing. We received a lesson on what the picture on the thrown meant and it was so mindblowing to think that I was standing so close to something that was thousands of years old and in my mind I visualised it being moved in to his tomb. I remembered so many treasures from books I had read and many of them seemed so much bigger in real life. I could not believe that so many wonderful treasures could fit in his tomb.

We slowly headed towards the most famous exhibit in the museum and one synonomous with King Tut, the death mask. I was amazed that the wooden coffins that held the stone sarcophagus were so big. I had seen pictures of Howard Cartner crouching in front of them but had no idea they were so big. We eventually were ready to head in to the room with the death mask and as I walked towards the entrance, a security guard held his hand up to say we could not go in. Hamdi said to us that it was likely that the room was full, although it did not look full. Hamdi went to ask a security guard as to what the problem is and we watched his animated words with the guard and he said we could now go in. We walked in to the room, which was not full, and there was a commercial video camera filming as well as a professional camera man. There were people in suits, with ear pieces who watched me intently as I rummaged through my bag as I looked for a tissue. They seemed to be fawning over a casually dressed man and he stood dead centre in front of King Tuts Death Mask. Then people started to take his photo, then when he moved to look at the rear of the mask, others stood in front of it and had their photo snapped – with a flash – and also on their mobile phones. So much for preserving history and not allowing cameras in! We did not know who it was but someone said “president” and there were people wearing the flag of Ecuador. (About 2 weeks later we saw the President of Ecuador on the news and it was the same guy from the museum).

After gazing at the two coffins and the death mask we headed outside. We asked Hamdi about the hold up at being allowed in the room as we couldn’t understand what he said. He told us that he told the guard that we had finished the tour and were leaving and we could not wait 10 minutes to enter the room. He said he explained that we were American tourists (we are actually Australian) and said he did that because he said they were more likely to let American tourists in because the USA is such a world power and they don’t want to annoy anybody connected to the USA.

By now, we’d been at the museum for over 3 hours and we were “mummied out” so we decided Hamdi’s suggestion to look around on our own. We said we had a free day one day and we might come back to the museum that day.
At the museum I had my first foray into the world of Egyptian bathrooms! Hamdi advised me that although the sign above the bathroom says “no tipping” they will expect a tip so I should take a 1 LE. The toilet was not as gruesome as what was made out in a travel book, actually it was very reasonable. When I went in I paid the lady standing in the doorway my LE and walked through to the cubicles. The attendant sung out “lady, lady” and scurried to get me some toilet paper, even though I had bought my own.
We then went to lunch at Felafel in downtown cairo where Hamdi ordered us a traditional Egyptian feast for us. We were disappointed he was not going to join us but he said that after Ramadan he elects to fast for another 6 days. The meal was wonderful. I am not such an adventurous eater and just ate the “basics” however Greg ate everything and loved it. Hamdi had obtained a “doggy bag” or whatever it is called in Egypt and I queried him about it. He said that Lady Egypt was buying him his lunch today. As we had to pay for drinks, but our meal was included in our tour cost, I asked if he’d like a drink and I would buy it. Hamdi thought that was a lovely gesture and suggested we go outside to get it so we can get it cheaper.

Hamdi suggested Greg go with him and Mohammed, our driver stayed behind with me. As Hamdi got out of the car, he spoke to Mohammed in Arabic, and I assumed he was telling him to get out of the car and not sit alone in the car with me. Each time we were alone in the car after that, when Hamdi had to get tickets or whatever, he got out and left us in the car alone in private. Greg came back with 2 large bottles of water and 4 cans of soft drink, which was cheaper than one 1.5 litre bottle of water from the Mena House.

We arrived home at approximately 3 pm and spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool, followed by pre-dinner drinks in one of the bars and a quick dinner. I was happy to climb in to bed after a tiring day.

Day 3 Pyramids, Sphinx & Step Pyramid at Saaqara.

We met Hamdi in the foyer and departed for our day at the pyramids. Mohammed dropped us off right near the entrance and parked the car in wait for us. Hamdi discussed going in to a pyramid and showed us a pic of what we could expect inside, i.e. crouching down and the distance. I decided that I didn’t think I could do it, but my husband would love to do it. We could just get tickets for the second pyramid at 30 LE
We slowly walked up the path towards the great pyramid and Hamdi talked non stop about its history. It was fabulous to have our own guide as opposed to others we had seen on a big group tour trying to scuttle after their guide and keep up with a group of 20 or so people. We were able to ask questions at any stage, which we did and direct conversations to suit what we were interested in or wondering about.

Standing at the base of the great pyramid, was amazing. The shape of the pyramid looked different than what you see when you look at it at a distance. Hamdi suggested that we climb up the steps towards the entrance to “get a feel of it” and how big the stones were, and he’d take some pics of us with our camera as we did. There were a number of tourist police in the area of the entrance and they were chastising young middle eastern men for climbing too high into a restricted area and for taking to long to walk down the steps. It was good to see that they were doing everything they could to protect the pyramid.

We walked along to the corner of the pyramid and took some more snaps. Hamdi showed us the 2 holes in the ground that they thought once would of held boats but were empty when they opened them. He told us about the Solar Boat as we walked closer and could see the large building it was housed in. It was amazing to think that it was found in the 1950’s, hardly any time ago. The boat was amazing – it was so big. Hamdi said that they had tested the wood and it had touched water so they assumed that the pharaoh had actually used the boat before it was buried so he could take it with him in to the afterlife.

We walked across to the second pyramid, the slightly smaller one than the great pyramid. The vendors were out in force here and were quite persistent. I scurried behind Hamdi as the vendors seemed reluctant to approach us as he was with us. Hamdi had warned us that the vendors will say something is for free and then when we take it they will demand money. One actually put a t-shirt into the crook of Greg’s arm as he was taking a photo, then demanded he pay. Hamdi had to step in and say no we did not want it and we were not paying for it so he reluctantly took it back.
Along the way I had had a group of young middle eastern boys who started to smile at me and chat in English. I replied briefy as I followed Hamdi. They asked if I could take their photo, then they asked if they could take my photo with them so one at a time they stood beside me as each one took the photo. When I got to Hamdi he said he didn’t realise that he had such a famous person with him on a tour! I asked what the attraction of pictures with strangers and Hamdi said I was just different to what they were used to and thats why they wanted some pics.

We arrived at the entrance to the 2nd pyramid and watched Greg descend into the darkness. Hamdi said he’d be back in 15 minutes, however, he was not that long. He said the lines were pretty small and the crowd was moving quickly. Greg was annoyed that people had ignored the warnings to not take their cameras in as the flash can destroy the delicate tomb. Hamdi agreed and said he would like people to respect the relics so that they are still here for future generations. Greg said that it was really hot in the tomb. I told him that everybody that came out was fanning themselves and sweating. He said there really wasn’t anything to see but just wanted the experience of being in the tomb. He said he got exactly what he was after by visiting the tomb.
We wondered back to the designated spot where our driver was waiting with our air conditioned car. Hamdi said he’d now take us to a viewing point where we could see all the 3 pyramids. It had a special name, but I forget it. This area was crowded with buses and vendors, although this time most of them had licences to sell and were supposedly reputable, or so Hamdi said. We did the obligatory photos with us touching the top of the pyramid, as were everyone else around us.

We hopped in the car and Mohammed, our driver, weaved his way around horses, camels, donkeys, cars, buses and people towards the sphinx. I was amazed that the sphinx was not as big as I envisaged. If you looked at him closely you could see the detailed headdress and facial features that had been ravaged by time and man. The direct area around the sphinx was closed so we could not get up that close. After some snaps, we wandered towards the entrance near the Sound and Light show to meet Mohammed and our car. I needed the bathroom at this stage and was a touch nervous about what I might find as I had passed by this area during the Sound and Light Show and the smell was not exactly pleasant. Hamdi had reminded me to take my 1 LE, but the lady attendant in front of the toilet door was telling a group of tourists that the price was 2LE because it was a private bathroom and not a public one. They said that they only had a 10 LE note and she’d pay for everyone. The bathroom attendant said no, they all had to pay separately. The tourist said she didn’t have 2 LE so she would not be able to enter the bathroom. After a few frustrated words on both sides the tourists walked away and told the attendant that they could not afford it. At this stage I happily pulled another 1 LE out of my handbag and paid the lady who seemed pleasantly surprised that I was ready with my 2 LE. The bathroom was not as I expected. Yes, the floor was wet and I am sure it was not through “dubious means” as there was someone in there mopping with a large bucket of water. Armed with my own toilet paper and baby wipes I did my business without a problem. Hamdi asked how I found the bathroom and I said it was perfectly fine!

We wandered down the street – my first foray on to a regular Egyptian street, albeit outside a tourist area. I felt quite safe and nobody was really interested in me. We bought a couple of drinks from the store – water and soft drink for 25 LE. I offered to buy Hamdi and Mohammed a drink however Hamdi said it is ok that he would buy his.
We now drove to Saaqara to look at the Step Pyramid and temple. It was interesting to see the countryside as we passed by and the various half built houses that seemed to be everywhere. The step pyramid had a different vibe to the great pyramid, perhaps due to the hype about the great pyramid. It was peaceful out in the desert, apart from the other tourists. Again there were people wanting to take our pic, obviously for money. In all, the vendors were not that annoying, except for one. I had stupidly shown interested in a set of Egyptian coins and he followed me all over the temple with his goods that were priced at LE 60. By the time we left he had dropped his price to 25 LE, however, I was a bit annoyed at his pushiness and also thought if I said yes to 25 LE, once I handed him the money he would not give me the goods and I’d be stuck. Hamdi was waiting in the car for us so I didn’t have my “Egyptian protection” which was another reason I didn’t agree to the sale.

We drove back to the hotel, again looking at the countryside and the palm trees and carpet schools. We headed straight for the pool for a nice relaxing dip. I relaxed and read one of my Egypt books. For dinner Greg got Indian take away, which we ate in the room whilst I ordered a plain old beef burger.

Day 4 Citadel, Ibin Tulin Mosque, Mohamed Ali Mosque, Khan El Khali, Coptic Cairo.

We breakfasted at the buffet and met Hamdi at 9 am in the lobby. We enjoyed our drive down town and despite people saying the Mena House was too far out of town, I thought it great to look at the sights and experiences as we drove along. It only took half an hour to arrive.

Our first stop was the Hanging Church. Hamdi discussed about its history and also the history of Christianity. The site was very significant to the Christian faith and Hamdi explained about the pulpit and the 13 pillars which stood for Jesus and his 12 apostles as well as the mosaics in the front walkway. We also got a special tour that was closed off to the public and saw the font used for baptisms as well as being able to look at windows of the church on a few different sides. When we left I figured that we had to give him baksheesh for this so we put 50 LE in to the “church box” which caused him to smile and thank us very much. On the way out, I deposited 5 LE in to the “poor box”.
We next drove to the Citadel to see the Mohammed Ali mosque, which was huge. The mosque was beautiful . We took our shoes off at the door and wandered in across the alabaster floor. Hamdi explained the significance of all the parts of a mosque. He joked about us applying for the job of calling for prayers 5 times a day as this would of involved a very long trip up 200 stairs at a time in to the “tower thingie... I’ll have to look up the correct name”. We entered the prayer area and sat on the floor, along with many other people in various little clusters. Hamdi spoke to us about the 5 pillars of Islam and why certain beliefs were important. He was not preaching he was just explaining what he believed in. He also spoke about truth and honesty and said it was no good following the 5 pillars if Islam if you are not a decent and honest person.
At this time, my tummy started to feel a bit queasy and I asked where the bathroom was. Whilst Greg stayed to take some snaps, he escorted me to the bathroom and again reminded me to take my 1 LE. I couldn’t find my coin purse so I gave the attendant 5 LE, in return for no toilet paper – which was ok as I travelled with my own. The toilet was again fine, just a bit wet on the floor, but again it was wet outside the toilet stalls so I was pretty sure it was water. Business done and I was back in action!
Greg met us and said when he was taking some snaps somebody connected to the mosque asked him if he’d like to take some photos right at the front edge of the mosque, which was out of bounds to the public. He said he would and the man took him to a fabulous vantage point overlooking the city where he took many wonderful shots. Greg gave him 20 LE and when finished he wandered back where another gentleman said he’d show him the way back and for which he was rewarded with 5 LE. Another man came over and just asked for money, without doing anything for him and Greg said that he had no more money so the man just walked away.
Prior going to the bathroom, I had bought a book Hamdi had suggested I buy as it was cheaper than at the other sites. It cost 100 LE and it was the history of ancient Egypt as well as detailing things like the houses that regular Egyptians used to live in, the mummification process and Egyptian Gods. Once other vendors saw that I bought they scurried after Hamdi and I and he said “no, we are not buying” in Arabic.
Our next stop after zig sagging around some one way streets was the Ibin Tulin Mosque, the oldest mosque in the city. It was so peaceful and quiet. There was only one other family of 4 there when I arrived and it was like the whole place was there just for us. The architecture was so pretty. In some areas it was simple and because of its simplicity it looked stunning. Hamdi gave us the history of the mosque as well as answering more of our questions.

At this stage I thought I’d better go to the bathroom again for a “just in case”. Hamdi said we’d go to the pharmacy and get something to settle my stomach. I again departed for the bathroom, armed with my 1 LE (I had found my coin purse). On returning to Greg and Hamdi Greg asked “did the bathroom smell”. I replied, yes it did smell.... he looked like “eew” and I replied “it smelled like cleaning fluid and bleach!” The bathroom attendant was obviously fastidious with her cleaning and scrubbed the bathroom continually from top to bottom.

We left the mosque and drove down the end of the street and Hamdi asked us if we’d like some fresh juice. Greg said he did so Mohammed parked the car in what seemed to be the middle of the street and we all got out. Hamdi shouted Greg and he firstly had a fresh mango juice that was more like a smoothie. They both then had sugar cane juice. Hamdi brushed our money aside and said it was his treat. Greg said he enjoyed getting out of the car and being on the streets with the “regular people”. The pharmacy was across the road from the juice store so we dropped in and the pharmacist suggested something which cost 16 LE.

The market was our next stop. Hamdi said he’d wait at his favourite coffee shop for us as we shopped. He firstly sat us down and gave us tips on how to bargain and what price we should pay. He had mentioned cartouche’s before and asked if we wanted him to show him us where to go. I actually preferred he got with us so we weaved our way through the alleys and headed upstairs. We looked through a book showing all the different styles and selected a key chain cartouche and 3 necklaces which was going to cost 550 LE and be ready in half an hour. Hamdi then suggested that he show us a place to buy inlaid pear boxes so we got one nice one, which we probably paid more than we might of got it elsewhere @ 70 LE, however I did not mind. I bought a number of smaller cheap boxes at 10 LE each. Yes I am sure Hamdi gets a “kick back” for bringing customers but he did not force us to go anywhere and good on him if he can make an extra buck or two. I did not need to beat the guy down on price so that I could get a bargain. I can afford to pay a few dollars extra so if it helps somebody then great! Since Hamdi was with us he came to look at some copper lanterns that we wanted. We agreed to pay about 400 LE for the lanterns except he only had one on display and said he had to go to the storage area to get it. Hamdi said he was probably going around to other vendors to try and buy it cheaply, as he didn’t have it in stock, and then sell it to us for a bit more so he could make a profit. We sat on chairs in the stairwell for about 10 minutes when he appeared. Hamdi told him to wrap the items in front of us to make sure we were getting what we paid for. On the way back to the coffee shop, to have a cool drink before we headed home, we stopped in to a shop that he said he has never been in and we purchased a number of tops, necklaces, bags, beaded hair pieces and a pair of “pharaoh shoes” in leather than cost 25 LE... 5 AUD! He said he’ll wear them around the pool in summer as he fondly remembered his time in Egypt.
Again, we went for a swim in the pool when we arrived home and read our Egypt books. Most other people around the pool were reading various Egypt guide books! We grabbed a simple meal and headed as we were having an early start tomorrow – 7 am.


Day 5 Giza to El Alamein to Alexandria.

I awoke and felt really lethargic and horrid. I had not slept the night before as I was worried I would miss the 6 am alarm. I was so weary as I climbed out of bed.. but as they say “the show must go on”. Greg went to breakfast at about 6.40 and I stayed in the room until the last moment. I rang reception at 6.55 and asked for someone to help me with the bags. A few minutes later the doorbell rang and a smiling staff member wheeled my cases out to the golf cart and took me and my bags to the front reception. I gave him a 10 LE tip for the door to door service!
I met Hamdi in the lobby and mentioned I was not well and had not slept as I was worried about being late. He said not to worry ever because it was my choice to leave at whatever time we liked. We headed to the car, immodium “saving the day” and started our journey. The road was not that busy as it was early. The usual procession of hawkers had started to congregate at the base of the road leading towards the pyramids, and our hotel. The other day one ran right out in front of us and was so insistent that Mohamed stopped the car to see what he wanted. It was probably that or run him over and I’m glad he chose the former!
Along the way we discussed private and public education in Egypt, as well as Hamdi’s “Aussie slang dictionary” 33he had obtained on his iphone. We giggled as he read out the saying and meaning of such things as “A over T” and “she’s easy” and gave him examples of how we might use the slang. He said he was going to have to try it out on other Australian groups.

About half way we stopped at a roadside cafe area and had a break for 15 minutes so Mohammed could have a break. We continued on through the barren Sahara Desert to El Alamein . It was amazing to see how many advertising signs were located at the side of the road. Coming in to the main area of El Amein there was a huge sign advertising something every 10 metres. Vodaphone and Pepsi were bar far the most advertised items, followed by land compounds where one could potentially build a magnificent waterfront home.

Hamdi admitted to us that he had never been to El Alamein and joked that he would be no good as a guide. We first went to the museum where most things were labelled quite well so we were fine without Hamdi’s expertise. He knew little tit-bits here and there. We first walked around the outdoor areas showing a wide range of mainly British, Italian and American tanks, some with bullet holes. We then went inside the museum that showed a wide range of items from different countries, mainly Egypt, Italy and the UK. There were uniforms, pictures, firearms, equipment and lots of other relevant items about from the second world war era and the battle at El Alamein. Hamdi was very interested in everything also and was pleased to be learning more about history. We joked about the Australian uniform on display that was made of shorts instead of long pants and we said that were must of been the smartest to dress accordingly in the desert!
The museum had taken about an hour
to look around, so we had a quick look in the expensive gift shop, and grabbed a drink then headed towards the cemetery which was only 5 minutes down the road. The cemetery was on the desert side of the road and beyond it was the vast emptiness. A perfect backdrop to the serenity of the cemetery. There were a number of moments, including one donated by a large family based Australian corporation that possibly may of had some connection to the war in Egypt, hence the donation. One of the monuments held all the names of those killed during the local battle. There was approximately 7000 buried here in perfectly symmetrical lines interspersed with the odd tree. I shed a tear at the sad waste of a human life and wiped my eyes hidden beneath my sunglasses. We slowly wandered back to the air conditioned car that was waiting up the top of the hill.

We now drove to Alexandria along the highway near the beach. It was fascinating to look out the left side of the window towards the beach where the ocean was the most beautiful blue colour I have ever seen and on the other side was the sandy Sahara desert, littered with the odd little bush here and there as well as crumbling houses or partly completed houses. This is what I found fascinating in Egypt – there were so many half finished building projects lying dormant. It obviously cost plenty of money to get to the half finished stage and they were never completed.

Along the way, Hamdi showed us a DVD on the building of the Great Pyramid at Giza from the eyes of one of the workers. I really enjoyed it and liked that Hamdi was prepared for us with this and also with pictures he showed us at another sites, e.g. the map of inside the Giza pyramids to show us what they looked like inside, as well as showing us how one would have to crouch down if you had wanted to go inside. He said on the way home he had a great one about the curse of Tutenkhamon’s tomb. Greg had asked about this at the museum and he obviously remembered it.
We drove in to Alexandria at about 2.30 pm and he took us to a favourite sea food restaurant of his. Hamdi and Mohammed dined with us, but at the end of our long table. He said they had wanted to sit somewhere else so that he could leave us to eat in private, however, we thoroughly enjoyed his company and the discussions we had with him so we really didn’t want him to eat elsewhere. After dinner Greg had a long conversation with him about the political situation in the middle east. Hamdi was happy to discuss things and was pleased to hear the version that we Australians heard in the news. Greg loved the lunch, or rather very late lunch. I, on the other hand, due to my sensitive stomach did not eat, but even if I had been “at my best” the meal was not really what I would of liked. For entrees about 6 or 7 entree platters we bought out the contained various vegetables, dips and salads. Greg loved them all and was probably pleased that I was not eating so he could have more. Then there was a crab soup, followed by the course of calamari, 2 whole fish and prawns.

I rolled Greg out and we drove to our hotel the Maritim Jolie Ville, a supposed 5 star hotel but in my mind it was probably a little less. I think Hamdi said it was the old Marriott that had been done up and sold. We had booked room 603, the Mediterranian suite that overlooked the beach. It had a wonderful view of the beach and street, although a touch noisy in the middle of the night, but it didn’t keep us awake as we were so tired from the busy day. It had a 3 piece lounge suite in the living area, along with a 40 inch plasma, writing desk and bar area. The bedroom held a 4 door wardrobe, small coffee table and chair, plasma tv on a tall boy and a king size bed. There was a largeish balcony that could be reached via the bedroom or living area.
We were tired from our busy day so we watched a movie on tv, grabbed room service and went to sleep pretty early.

Day 6 Alexandria – the Catacombs, Pompei’s Pillar & the Alexandria Library.

Greg breakfasted at 8.30 am whilst I stayed in the suite. I went down at 9 am to meet Greg and Hamdi. (I just had to stop typing this as I had to let room service in with our desert... chocolate cake and some fancy éclair for 20 LE and a 5 LE tip – yumm!)
Our first stop was the Roman Ampitheatre. We wandered around the ruins and stood on the circular plate and spoke.... our voice reverberated around the amphitheatre, just as it would of thousands of years ago. The sound was amazing. Hamdi told us about the Roman Baths that had been discovered on the site and the area was now currently being further excavated. I enjoyed hearing him talk about the baths as he pronounced it “bath-eez” – it was cute. Hamdi then told us about the expeditions under the water to find new artifacts and we saw an array of items on display. It would of been a huge effort to bring to the surface many of these heavy and large items.
As we were leaving there was a workman watering a small lawned area that was covered with statues and columns. He joked that he must be trying to make the small columns grow as he was watering them! Hamdi had earlier told us that he disliked some Egyptians habit of washing pavements with hoses. He said they have a shortage of good water and it should not be wasted on something like that.

Mohammed again met us, with the car’s airconditioning on and we drove to the Catacombs. These were underground tombs, found by accident when a poor donkey (or horse) fell through a hole in the ground that was once a light and ventilation shaft. This was my first foray underground and it was a touch stifiling, probably nothing compared to the great pyramid. It was amazing that all of these rooms and areas were underground. It was hard to imagine it in all its glory when it was new. I thought of all those people who had walked on the same path that I had and wondered about various things like, who where they coming to see, what were they wearing, what did they carry.
We next visited Pompeii’s Pillar and after another of Hamdi’s introduction to the site we wandered around by ourselves and looked at the various artifacts on display in the outdoor area. He Pillar, a large column was so tall when you walked right up to it. They had moved 2 sphinx statues that they had found elsewhere so that the items would easily be able to be seen by tourists. The displays were clearly signed and the surrounding areas outside the did were modern and sympathetic to the historical displays. I visited the bathroom here and found it very modern. The floor was marble, and I am sure so was the basin countertop. It was spotless! Two women from the next cubicles complained about no toilet paper... they obviously hadn’t learnt yet. There was no bathroom attendant in attendance, so this time I saved me 1 LE and used it for free! Hamdi joked that he’d let the them know I had used it for free and they’d probably chase me around the ruins trying to get their 1 LE.

We visited the Alexandria library next. I was happy to visit this new structure as I wanted to see all of Egypt, not just ancient Egypt. Hamdi showed us around the piazza outside and explained the significance of the shape – like a sun rising out of the horizon or water. He said the sun means life or knowledge so they thought this design appropriate and it won a competition from over 1000 designs for the library. There was a conference centre as well as planetarium. I would of loved to be able to spend some time there. We took a guided tour with Hamdi trailing behind us. He had obviously heard it a million times but always appeared interested in what was being said and what he saw . The library was mainly lit by the natural light outside so there was no strong artificial lighting. There were also green and blue panes of glass as those colours were soothing on the eyes.

They showed us a couple of exhibitions of paintings and sculptures which we wandered through quickly. I noted on a display there was a name that I recognised as it was the name of the buffet breakfast room. Hamdi explained who he was and complimented me on my memory! (I had noticed earlier in Cairo the name of the suburb the Lady Egypt office was in). At the end of the tour we stopped in front of the Anwar Sadaat display and we went inside and had a look. Hamdi explained to us the significance of many unsigned photos, and one or two others obviously heard him talking to us and asked him at hings.

We left the library to head towards the citadel and boardwalk where vendors had set up their touristy displays. We spoke about marriage and dating in the muslim culture and what families expected and how things were different these days. Quite a number of young men and women passed by holding hands. At one point a young woman wearing a heardscarf stopped near us and continued to look at us. Hamdi was explaining to us about the history of the citadel and I thought that she wanted to ask him something. However, she started to be more interested in me and my blonde hair and Hamdi said she wanted to have her picture taken with me. Hamdi took our photo and she thanked us.

Hamdi had originally said that our day would finish at 1 pm so we could spend the afternoon as we liked, however it was now 3.30 ish. We decided that we’d go to the beach this afternoon, which meant crossing a 6 lane road with a medium strip in the middle. There were people scooting across the road and I told Greg that if I got to the road and coudnt cross I would rather return to the hotel than attempt it. However, when we were outside the hotel there was the “beach shuttle” and the driver said hop in. Greg said it was ok that we’d walk but I insisted. I said I am sure they would take us to the other side of the road so we didn’t have to cross. I went to get in the car and then noted that there was an Egyptian woman in the car, in all black with her face covered, which is why I didn’t see her in the car when I was standing behind it. I was not sure if she would want us in the car with her and her 2 young chidren, however she shifted over and said “come in” so we did just that and jumped in. The car took us all of 3 minutes around the corner but parked on the beach side of the road so we didn’t have to cross the road. He said just to have the beach attendants call the beach shuttle when we had finished and he’d come back.

We wandered in to the private beach area that was only half full. There were deck chairs and cabanas that could be closed to varying degrees if you wanted privacy. Further down the beach was a public area that was so crowded with beachgoers. Most people were sitting on chairs and tables rather than lying on the sand. Hamdi said some of the beach areas are free and only cost a LE or 2 for a chair or umbrella and it is a good fun day for families without much money.

We chose our cabana and the beach attendant set up our chairs and towel and adjusted the cabana to how we wanted. We then took our first dip in the Mediterranean sea. It was so salty and the waves pretty big. We didn’t have to go very far out for the big waves to get us which was good as I was scared of sharks!! Hamdi assured me that the sharks don’t come in close to the beach! There appeared to be some kind of life guard as he was wandering up and down the beach telling people to come in closer to the shore if they went out too far.

The muslim women on the beach amazed me. Many sat in different states of cover. One had a swimming costume on that covered her full body and a colourful sarong over it, as well as a headscarf . It looked really pretty. Others were just fully clothed in a long skirt and long shirt and headscarf. Other more traditional women had the long galabaya over their clothes as well as the full head and face covering. My beach attire was a respectful long skirt, t-shirt and head scarf. My swimmers were long surf shorts and a rash vest so I would not get burnt. Perfect conservative swimming costume for the Mediterranean! I did not see 1 bikini on the beach and I am sure it would of felt very uncomfortable to be wearing one.

After our swim we read on the deckchairs. A 5.30 pm we thought we’d have a walk along the Corniche and I wandered along with my headscarf and sunglasses on. Yes I got a few gazes from men, but they were brief and not unnerving. Nobody was really interested in us. A guy selling t-shirts and tops just wandered past us and didn’t even stop. One or two vendors selling corn cob cooked over a few palm leaves offered us something, and we said “la shukran” and they left us be. We wandered around to the busy public beach and wandered back. We thought we’d attempt to cross the street, however after standing at the road for 5 minutes we decided that it was too busy. There was one or two middle eastern men near us that also were waiting and didn’t cross so obviously even they thought it was too busy. Just as we got back to our private beach area the driver and car was there picking us some others. He spoke to us and remembered us and said to wait and he’d drop this car load off and he’d be back for us. When we got in the car, a group of 3 young guys got in. I was not sure of their nationality, possibly Hisplanic and they said to us “are you Australian”. We admitted we were and they said they had just visited Australia and was in Paramatta! We laughed and said we know Paramatta! We all got out at our hotel.

Later that evening we had a meal at the nice Italian restaurant in the lobby. We were the only people in the restaurant and we were even waited on by the chef who came out to bring us our main meal. He came back to ask how the meal was. One thing I noticed in Egypt is that each time we ate, we were questioned as to whether or not we liked the meal. At the Mena House, when we had room service they would call half an hour after the meal was delivered to ask us what we thought of the meal. When we ate in a restaurant, we again were asked as to how we found the meal.
After dinner we watched the traffic on the balcony. There were still families at the beach late in to the evening. We watched a movie and went to sleep.

Day 7 Alexandria to Cairo

Hamdi and Mohammed picked us up right on time at 9 am. We were going to visit the Montanza Gardens before heading home. The gardens were the grounds of 2 palaces and we were able to go in to the ? palace for a tour, however, when we went in we were too early for the guided tour so we just looked around on the ground floor. Hamdi told us about the history of the royal palace and of the royal family. He really is passionate about history which shines through in what he tell us. The other palace was for the royal wives, mistresses and female family members. It was a huge beautiful palace that overlooked the water and we joked that it had to be large because of his harem!
We got out of the car at various locations to walk along the tracks near the beach and to view the beach and fishing areas. We enjoyed this and a snorkler who was fishing with a net happily waved to us and held up his catch in his net. The water was so clear along the beaches and it would of been fabulous to have a dip.


After our garden stop, we went to a huge mall called Carrefour to look at clothes and photographic equipment. We entered after going through a metal detector, but unfortunately there was no photo shop at the mall, so we spent our time just wandering around looking at the shops and buying bits and pieces here and there. I did love some of the shoes – some of the glittery or beaded sandals and thongs were stunning. Unfortunately all of the ones I loved didn’t fit me or come in my size. I bought a pair of espandrills that were on sale for 60 LE. Hamdi said I had “Egyptian tastes”! I got my husband 2 cotton polo shirts from Mocambo Cotton (I think that was the name) and these were 125 LE each. We also went to the large supermarket that sold everything as we had to buy a new suitcase as the lock on my case had been broken on the journey to Cairo. I loved some cushions I had seen in a housewares store, however, they were just too bulky to bring home. A lot of the clothes were really nice but as I had 3 men with me – Mohammed our driver also came along for a look, I felt I could not shop for as long as I would of if I was alone! I was really pleased to have Hamdi along as he was required to translate in stores for when the shopkeepers did not speak English.

We then drove the 200 or so k’s home from Alexandria to Cairo. Along the way the scenery and the people amazed me. It was so different than what I was used to back home. I had a little snooze along the way as the sun and beach had tuckered me out.
This was possibly our last day with Hamdi (we had asked for him again for when we returned to the Cairo Museum but he wasn’t sure if he had another tour and could take us). We thought we might have Mohammed again, but we tipped them in case we didn’t see them. As we were very happy with Hamdi, and Mohammed was always cheerful and happy to wait for us without complaint in the car so it would be cold when we got in, we gave them more than the suggested amount from Lady Egypt. I trust they were happy with what we offered.

When we got back in to Cairo we checked in to the Cairo Marriott. This hotel was huge and it appeared to have a different clientele than the Mena House. For some reason I didn’t quite feel comfortable. I figured that it might take a day or two to know my way around and feel comfortable so we’d see. We just had tonight at the hotel as tomorrow we were heading off to Aswan, but we were coming back to Cairo after visiting Jordan. We went to the pool this afternoon and the pool was nothing like the beautiful pool area at the mena house. The service also was something that differed greatly. We were ignored at the pool after being given towels (later on at dinner the staff were very disinterested and just stood around in a group of 4 or 5 chatting).
We wandered around the hotel and had a quick peek in the casino which thrilled Greg. We went back later but to his disappointment he needed long pants in the evening and we still had our casual shorts on. Oh, well, at east he saved money! We noted that there were 2 weddings on that evening, one in the ballroom so, according to what Hamdi said about marriages/weddings, that it was sure to of been a big grand affair, and an expensive one! We ate pizza’s for dinner at the garden cafe and went to bed at a reasonable hour!

Day 8 Cairo to Aswan

At 6.30 am we were waiting in the lobby with our luggage as arranged with our rep Ahmed. He phoned at 6.35 to say that he was running late due to a traffic problem. He arrived 20 mins late and quickly scooted us out to the car. We were pleased to see our driver was again Mohammed. There was not much traffic, due to it being a Friday, so we got to the airport in 20 or so minutes. On arrival at the airport I thanked Mohammed and pressed 100 LE in to his hand in appreciation for the short trip. In his limited English he said “no, no”... and waved the money away. I again insisted and pressed the money in to his hand and closed his hand. Probably not the correct Egyptian etiquette, however in this instance he was going to have to do what I wanted!
Ahmed grabbed my one suitcase – the second was already full of tourist stuff I had bought and shopping, so he was going to take it to Lady Egypt to store as I didn’t need it. He already has one carry on bag stored there!! Ahmed darted through the departures terminal as we trailed behind him, weaving our way through large groups of international travellers. He obviously knew many people at the airport which made things go smoothly and quickly which was most important as we were a touch late for our 8.40 am departure. Ahmed got our boarding passes and then directed us where to go and left us.

We wandered through the brand new departure area which was spotlessly clean, as was the bathrooms. We had only been sitting down for 10 mins when they announced that travellers on our flight should go to the departure gate. We sat there for another 10 mins then we boarded a bus to go to our Egypt Air flight on an Embearer 170. The plane only had 4 seats across and 38 rows. I know it had 38 rows because we were sitting in the very last row. The plane was new and in good condition. I had expected the worst, but economy was roomy and quite pleasant. The flight attendants were all friendly and helpful. An elderly traveller asked for a glass of water for some tablets a few minutes before take off and was happily assisted by a smiling flight attendant. The flight was smooth and we arrived safely! Only issue with the flight... there was no safety card in my seat pocket!!

We arrived at about 10 am with the pilot announcing the weather outside was 31 degrees. As we disembarked many of the passengers stood up as soon as we’d landed and grabbed their bags from the overhead storage compartments then had to stand in the aisle for ages. When the plane finally came to a stop, the 95% of the passengers fought their way to get off the plane, but they should of realised that as we were being bussed back to the terminal, they had to wait for the ones up the back of the plane. I was the last one to get off the plane!

Khaled met us and we were pleased to see that Egypt Air had not lost our luggage on the short flight. On the way to our hotel the Movenpick Khaled told us about the history of Aswan and how it was different from Cairo. He said everyone understands that they need tourists to survive so they want the tourists to come and are very used to seeing travellers in western clothing. He said they also try and keep everything clean and tidy because it gives a good impression to the tourists.

Upon getting to the hotel Khaled spoke to us with suggestions of what we could do that afternoon. We had a felucca ride arranged but that was it. We decided to go to a Nubian restaurant for lunch, at approximately 100 LE each and then a further boat ride to a Nubian village. We arranged to meet our guide at 1 pm, however he had been stuck in Luxor due to an issue with transport and could not make it to us until 2.30 pm, which was fine by us. It gave us time to have a swim at the pool which was huge. The water was a bit cold, but once you got in, it was really refreshing. The pool area was so relaxing.

We met Khaled who introduced us to Aamer our guide in Aswan. Aamer had arranged for our felucca to meet us at the dock and we got on. I was a touch unsteady and a bit nervous about the boat as it weaved across the nile dipping close to the water. Aamer assured me that I was safe. Once I was assured that there were no crocodiles in the Nile I was happy. Aamer said he couldn’t swim and he wasn’t worried. The Felucca captain encouraged me to take the wheel, or in this instance the oar! It was hard going. The current was really strong and it was hard work to hang on! We sailed up, or should that be down the Nile to the Nubian restaurant. Along the way we were approached by a young boy on a little raft that was paddling like crazy to catch our boat. Once he did he hung on and started to sing to us in a pretty voice. He hung on for a while and we gave him 1 LE and he let got and paddled off to better takings. I think he needed a felucca or motorboat that was packed so he had more chanced of making money!

At the Nubian restaurant I was a bit hesitant at eating. My tummy, even in Australia, sometimes doesn’t like different foods so I thought I would err on the side of caution. I had paid just over 100 LE each for my husband and I for lunch so even though I wasn’t going to eat, we were going to get my food. My husband ate my share and loved it so he was pleased that I didn’t eat mine. We rolled him out of there after a visit to the bathroom which was the worst one by far... it had no running water except for an empty bottle near the toilet. Need I say more!

We caught a motor boat to the Nubian village which took about an hour. The boat captain was just under 20 years old and his “2nd mate” was a sweet little boy of about 10. Half way in to our journey he started get tired and his little head bobbed up and down. I thought how different from kids back home. He was out trying to make money for his family, unlike other kids were playing and not experiencing any pressures. We arrived at the Nubian village and docked at the beach so took a wobbly walk down a plank to get off the boat then scrambled up a steep path to get to the village. This village was the last stop for an hour long camel ride further down the Nile so we also had to dodge camels and their possibly nervous riders.

Aamer took us straight to a house where he said a real Nubian family lives and they invite people in to their home to make money. They have a traditional house with little rooms off a main living area that housed a pen with 3 grown crocodiles about a metre long as well as a lot of baby crocodiles. Aamer picked up a croc an held it.... he wanted to know if I wanted to hold it. Hell no I didn’t want to hold that scary big teethed beast!! My husband did and he held it, then they put the croc on his head. After photos for proof the croc was put back in his pen in the middle of the living room. At this stage Aamer explained that they open their home to the tourists to make money. The elderly man, I guess the patriarch of the family offered us drinks. I eagerly accepted a fanta. We offered 50 LE to thank him for welcoming him in to our home and letting us see his crocodiles! He thanked us and we prepared to leave. It was then that we thought we hadn’t paid for the 2 fantas so we offered him another 20 LE not even sure if that was enough, and our guide translated for us. The man said he would not accept any more money and the 50 LE was more than enough.

We caught the waiting motorboat back home to the Movenpick Hotel and as we were going with the current it only took us about 20 minutes to get back home. I tipped the young boy and Aamer said they were from the same family so they would share it. By now I had had a lot of sun and was tuckered out so I was glad to be home.
We showered and dressed up a bit more than usual as we’d read the dress code for the hotel restaurants and it said no shorts or thongs! This did pose a problem as our dressy shoes were in a suitcase sitting in the Lady Egypt office waiting for our return! I wore long linen pants to hide my thongs and Greg wore runners and continually complained that he looked stupid. I assured him that he looked fine... but like an old man! Greg was still full from his lunch so I ate a “safe hamburger” in the bar whilst Greg sampled (again!) the local Stella beer. After 2 beers we headed back to our room. Greg fell asleep watching the tv and I didn’t last much longer. The bed was uncomfortable - there was no sheet, just a thickish doona which was not really appropriate when the weather is 30! We both slept on top of the doona all night as we’d turned the air conditioning off and we were upstairs on a mezzanine level.

when we got back to the hotel we had a relaxing swim. We’d arranged to meet Aamer to go to the Bazar a couple of streets down from the Corniche. We figured we might need some help with the stall owners if we headed out on our own. He asked us what we wanted to buy in particular so he’d have an idea without us indicating to a stall owner that we were interested in his wares. We said we wanted galabaya’s for the Nile cruise party and some sandals as the Movenpick had dress regulations that said no flip flops/thongs in the restaurants. We wandered along and were approached in the middle of the street with vendors trying to sell their wares. I suppose they had to as so many stalls had exactly the same items that they were selling. We politely said no thanks or la shukran once or Day 9 Aswan to Abu Simbel
We woke at 7.45 and Greg breakfasted at the buffet whilst I showered and fiddled around in the room. I had not been eating much since I was here. At first I was eating breakfast and dinner, and missing lunch as were often out. Now, for some reason, perhaps the heat, I did not feel like eating and have stopped eating breakfast so am only existing now on one meal a day, usually a very early dinner after we get home from our afternoon sightseeing.

We met Khaled who escorted us to the airport and got our tickets to Abu Simbel. We were on the 10.30 am flight which took off on time. The Egyptair plane was an A320 and it reminded me about why one shouldn’t fly economy. The plane was very new and the crew pleasant, smiling and helpful. One even commented on my return that my face was very red.. I was hot and sunburnt! The problem with the plane that the seat pitch seemed so small. My knees were touching the back seat of the seat in front of me. God knows how anyone survives a trip longer than half an hour on it!

We were seated on the left hand side of the plane going to Abu Simble so we saw the magnificent temple carved in to the rock from the air before we arrived. We got to the airport and our rep wasn’t easily seen. We just stood in the arrival area and waited. He arrived in a panic 5 minutes later muttering about the car or bus not being here and the guide not being here. We were a bit unsure of what was happening. He eventually told us and another couple to come with him. We walked outside and he walked us to a car and told the couple to get in and then walked us to a bus that had been ready to depart for 5 or more minutes as it was fully loaded with all seats full so we had to stand. The bus was supposedly air conditioned but it was really stuffy and warm. The pilot had announced earlier that it was 31 degrees. Call us snobs, but we were sure we were not meant to be on the hot crowded bus! We wondered why one Lady Egypt couple had a car but not us. Yes it wasn’t the end of the world but we wondered if that couple had taken our car as Mustafa, our rep, was a touch vague.

We got to the temple area about 5 minutes later and our guide, who I cannot remember his name started to tell us all about the temple and what we’d be doing for the tour. He assured us that we would go back to the bus early so we could get a seat. We visited Ramses temple as our first stop. From the pictures, I thought it would be way bigger, even though it was very large. It is amazing to think that the temple was moved to stop it being flooded and destroyed. Inside was magnificent. Some of the colourings on the pictures were still there and you could only imagine its magnificence when it was new and just completed. Our guide gave us 10 minutes to look inside alone, as guides were not allowed in. There was a sign out the front that said no photos. We went inside and marvelled at the detail and artistic abilities of the ancient Egyptians. About half way through a viewing, a man in plain clothes asked Greg to show him his camera as he had it by its side and it was turned on. I guess the man could see the light of the screen. Greg didn’t understand why he wanted to do that at first but then figured he was “undercover” inside the temples to stop it from being destroyed by people taking pictures. He wanted to see the last few pictures Greg had taken and he showed them to him but he wasn’t satisfied. He insisted that he go back and show him the last few photos taken and then first... so he could tell when the photos of Abu Simble stopped and started to make sure we had not taken any in the tomb. He insisted he look through them 3 times then turned to me and asked to look at my camera. I said my camera was turned off but he asked me to turn it on and show him the last few pictures on the camera. I showed him and he could see I had not taken anything. He gave the camera back and apologised profusely. He followed us for a few moments and again apologised to us for the inconvenience.

We met the guide outside under a tree and he explained about the next temple. The female temple he called it in memory of Ramses II favourite wife, Neferatari. Although smaller, it was still magnificent. The heirogliphics were so detailed and precise. It was hard to imagine that these pictures were thousands of years old but still existed thanks to the work of UNESCO in re-locating the tomb higher, yet not disturbing the integrity of the tomb. The guide gave us about 15 minutes to wander around and meet him at the entrance to walk back to the bus that would take us to the airport. By the time we walked up the hill back to the entrance we felt that we had been rushed. We didn’t leave the airport in a timely manner and we had to get back to the bus and then wait for the 50 or so other people to arrive. We felt we wasted at least half an hour with this. The bus on the return journey was absolutely stifling. I found standing on the tarmac in the sun cooler than this bus ride!! You could see everyone wilting and just dying to get off. The sweat was dripping off me and I felt so damp. This is why the flight attendant commented that I looked burnt and hot! I was hot indeed!

Another Lady Egypt rep met us. I assume they were Lady Egypt as they didn’t introduce themselves they just asked our names and then gave us our boarding passes. Mustafa was not to be seen again. The man was gone in 1 minute. Although there was no real problem with our trip to Abu Simble, this was the least amount of service we had received from Lady Egypt so fair. Ahmed, our Cairo rep usually rang us each day to see how we were going and if there was anything we wanted or needed.
One last hiccup in the Abu Simple trip... the plane left early as everyone had gotten on in a timely manner so we had a half hour wait at Aswan airport until Khaled was due to pick us up at 3 pm. He arrived to a deserted arrival hall – a fancy name for Aswan airport, and wondered what happened. He said “thats Egyptair for you!” He said we should of called him. I explained I didn’t always carry the Lady Egypt phone around as it was a bit bothersome. I said no harm done, he wasn’t to know the plane was getting in early.

As usual, twice and they went away. There was no big hassle. There were probably only a very small handful of vendors that were persistant and Aamer said in Arabic “no thanks we do not wish to buy” and they went away instantly. He said he preferred to go to vendors that did not speak English very well if we wanted some good prices. He said the English speaking vendors were aware that people could in fact afford high prices so they would try and make them pay as high as possible. We looked at one stall and there were no female galabayas that suited my tastes. Just for fun I wanted a glittery black traditional galabya like what many women were wearing in the street. At a wedding at the Cairo Marriott one even when we were there, almost all of the women had glittery galabayas and I thought some of them looked stunning.
We headed to another store run by a girl of approximately 20 and and man of approximately 40. The man was primarily out the front so we dealt with the girl. Aamer said before he started to talk about any items or negotiate a price he told the girl that at the end of the sale, no matter what, he would give her 20 LE for her assistance. He said that the money for the sale would go to the store owner or her family if it was a family business and he wanted to entice her to give us the best possible price. I chose my glittery galabaya and tried it on. It was black with blue embroidery and silver beading down the front to the hem and along the cuff of the sleeve. Perfect, if just a touch too big. The price negotiations were very quick. He came back with a price of 150 LE in less than 30 seconds. I was happy with that price and I didn’t want to screw them down to the last cent. It came with a matching scarf however I wanted a really fancy beaded scarf. Aamer asked me to show him which I liked and I said that I liked the girls scarf. I asked Aamer to tell the girl that I wanted a scarf like hers as it was very pretty. The girl smiled at me after he said it and put her hand up towards the scarf as if to say “thank you, I am glad you like it”. Unfortunately there was nothing similar to hers. At this moment I just thought I would take another one, so after finding out if I could have the second one for 150 LE, I chose another black galabya with silver rhinestones and beading on the sleeves and back, which also came with a matching scarf.
At this stage the girl said in Arabic to Aamir that she would love me to have her help her with her English. She said she only speaks it a little. After an initial conversation with her in English, she really couldn’t speak much and didn’t understand me. I said “shukran” to her and we headed off with my purchases.

We next stopped at a store with male galabayas and Aamir knew the owners. After much shaking of hands between the friends the vendor showed us the suggested selection. Greg was happy with anything and I chose an olive coloured one, complete with head scarf. Aamir discussed price and bargained him down. A this stage he wanted 300 LE. I said no too much and he pleaded. I am a sucker and said ok, 280 LE. Done! A few bucks more for me was not going to kill me. I was just tired by this stage so willing to pay whatever without the lengthy negotiations. I saw a Stella beer t-shirt and pointed it out to Greg. He ummed and ahhed and eventually agreed to buy it for 20 LE. We joked that the salesman had now got his 300 LE. As we were leaving the salesguy told Greg to look after me as I might be snapped up by another man as I was very elegant! (Only my second gushing overture! The desk guy at the Cairo Marriott said he didn’t like it when beautiful guests checked out! Lol)
We drifted on home, via a short ferry ride to the Movenpick Hotel and was pleased to finally flop on the couch in the cool air conditioning. After a little bit of tv and reading we drifted off to sleep.

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    Day 10 Aswan
    Today was noted as a “free day” in our itinerary so we could just decide at the last minute about what we wanted to do. We were feeling really lazy and thought we’d just have an hour long camel ride in the Sahara Desert near the Aga Khan Mausoleum. We caught a felucca which seemed to take forever as there was not much wind on the Nile this morning. We thought we’d go early to try and miss the scorching midday – early afternoon sun so was on the felucca by 9 am.
    After wobbling off the boat on a makeshift jetty we wandered through the soft sand to our waiting camels. Aamir said he’d come along which was great! I didn’t know how much English the “camel minders” knew and I thought if I got in a panic I would hate it if they couldn’t understand me. Aamir was laughing at my nervousness about tipping off the camel and reassured me that there was nothing to worry about. He scooted in front and behind me as I admonished him for trotting on his camel in case my camel decided to follow suit. He said “don’t worry queen”. He had taken to calling me queen 100% of the time. It took a while to get used to the motion and unlike riding a horse, there was no stirrups. I held on for dear life as we trugged long in the soft sand. My camel was called Noor.
    After the hour long ride, I tipped the “camel minders” and we wandered down a large sand dune to find our waiting felucca. Aamir asked us if we wanted to go straight home or if we wanted to sail around a bit. We chose to take the slow way home and sail a bit even though there wasn’t much wind. Greg took the rudder for most of the time until I begged him to give up his seat at the rear of the boat to the captain. I said it was getting busy on the nile with feluccas and motorboats and I didn’t fancy having to pay for a replacement boat when Greg steered it in to another boat or rocks! Greg reluctantly gave up his post and for the twenty billionth time said “I want another boat!”
    Aamir asked us what we’d like to do for the rest of the day and made some suggestions including the Sound and Light show at Philae Temple, but we declined. Greg said he’d like to go to a cafe and smoke shisha. Me? Call me boring but I did not want to smoke but was happy to go along and enjoy the atmosphere. We agreed to meet Aamir at 6.30 pm and took the hotel ferry to the “city side” in time to meet at the designated time. Aamir said he had an area where he thought he’d take us and suggested we walk through the bazaar for some atmosphere, rather than some dark and uninspiring streets. We agreed. Again we were greeted with offers to purchase fabulous items but we again just said no thinks and kept walking. We did not have any trouble at all and this time Aamir did not even need to step in.
    After we met Aamir I told him I had an apple in my bag from a fruit basket I was given in Alexandria. I asked if I could give it to a horse. He said we sure could. I had him ask a horse owner if it was ok if I fed his animal my apple. The owner said of course so I used my fingernail to slice the apple until I could tear it in half, then quarters and fed the horse bit by bit. The horse slowly ate each piece and when finished, I gave him a pat and we were on our way.
    We wandered in to what we thought was the main plaza or mall area near the train station. There was one large cafe that was very busy with tourists and there were many buses in the area. Aamir said he thught this was a good one as there was a long going on in the area and we could enjoy our shisha (well not me!) and look at everything. Greg choose his flavour of tobacco and Aamir asked for a mouthpiece to cover the shisha pipe so that you could share it with a friend without sharing each other’s slobber!!
    As I looked around the area with people coming and going in little groups I noticed a couple of obviously hungry cats. We discussed this and Aamir told me about a park somewhere that was well known for the number of cats. He said some people buy tuna and then feed the cats. I asked if we could do that. He said that would be a lovely idea and went to the mini market a couple of shops down and came back with a tin of tuna. I opened it and placed it near where the kitty had been sniffing around. 5 minutes later the black and white kitten came back with his nose in the air... he could smell something yummy!! He wandered around looking for the source of the aroma and BINGO.. he found the can of tuna! He ate half the can then wandered off. A few minuted later another grey tabby came over and he too ate and left. There was still a little tuna in the can so I put it in the bushes for their return or if another kitty came along. Whilst I was doing this and we were watching the cat tuck in to his dinner, a man on the next table said something to Aamir in Arabic. I said “did that man say I was an idiot for doing that”. He said “no, he said you were very kind”. He said that in Islam you should be kind and generous and to treat animals with kindness, so it was noted.
    As we sat in the cafe a man and perhaps his son, who was about 5 and a real cutie came over and asked us to buy some papyrus book marks. I did not want to buy but this little boy was so sweet and I felt sorry for him having to be out wandering the streets trying to make some money. He was now sitting on the edge of the garden very close to us waiting for his father who probably went in to smoke some shisha. I thought if I gave him some money he would have to give it to his father. I really wanted something for him so as it was a warm evening, as it is every evening, I had Aamir ask him if he would like a cold coke. He said he did not want anything and Aamir asked again and he nodded his head and said yes please. The coke came and Aamir told the little boy that he could take his time and finish it and just give us the bottle when he was done. He continued to sit on the ledge and slowly sip his coke as he gazed around. I thought he was such a darling little boy as his little legs swung back and forward as he enjoyed a cold drink. He eventually finished and again said thank you then headed off to find his father.
    After the boys were smoked out, we wandered home via a stop at McDonalds – only for us to see what was on the menu and how it differed from back home. There were only 4 burgers the same – Big Mac, Quarter Pounder, McChicken and Fillet-o-fish. The boys eyed the McFlurry’s and decided to have an ice-cream. I took heed from guide books that suggested not to have ice cream in case it had been thawed and re-frozen. We ate on the corniche and then tucked ourselves in to bed at a reasonable time.

    Day 11 Aswan – Nile Cruise – Philae Temple, High Dam, Unfinished Obelisk
    We arranged to meet Aamer at 8.30 am to do Philae Temple, High Dam and the Unfinished Obelisk before boarding our Nile cruise on the Crowne Empress. We drove to the High Dam. We were happy to see Ancient and Modern Egypt and it seemed that many Egyptians were so proud of the engineering involved in the High Dam. Although not that exciting to see, we did enjoy listening to how it was built and how many of the temples along the Nile were in danger of being submerged or were already under water. The stop only took 10 minutes and wasn’t out of our way.
    We next drove to the docks near Philae Temple and boarded a very small rickety boat. Aamir giggled at my nervousness and panic when I thought we were going to tip over and crocodiles would then eat me. He assured me for the millionth time that there were no crocodiles in that part of the dam. The boat ride only took 5 minutes and we were fairly lucky that the temple was pretty quiet. There were not huge crowds like those at Karnak Temple. We wandered in to the main area and again heard a history lesson about the pharaohs and gods for whom the temple was for. We enjoyed Philae as it seemed so peaceful. It was amazing to think that the Temple was partly submerged on its original island the temple was moved to its present location. After Aamer had showed us the highlights of the tomb we had a wander around on our own. We also came across a very friendly cat and I gave him a pat on the head!
    We caught the boat back and I noticed that the captain lit up a cigarette. I then noticed the fuel tank under his seat. I kept looking back and forward to the cigarette, then the fuel can and so on. Later on Aamer noticed me looking intently at the man and his smoke. He said he thought I was worried by the smoke. I said the smoke didn’t worry me! Blowing up with the lit cigarette and fuel tank did! He laughed. I was told that I would not of blown up. Aamir said he has taken 100 or so people to Philae but I amused him the most. He said fear over nothing made him laugh!
    We made the short drive to the granite quarry where the unfinished obelisk was. Aamir told us how Obelisks were made and why this one remained unfinished. Aamir pointed out the path and said we wouldn’t need any guiding and said he’d meet us near the exit. We scrambled up the steps and across blocks of granite to reach the obelisk. A guide at the top, carrying a gun, chose us to follow and point out things to. He showed my husband some big hole and explained the reason. He asked me if I wanted to have a look. Heck no I didn’t want to get close to the end of this big hole! We gave him 5 LE and he left us in peace. Who would of thought tourists would come from everywhere to see a plainish stone block!
    After this we headed toward the Crowne Empress. Khaled met us and checked us in. Aamir would be travelling with us to Luxor, his home town. We were checked in to room 306 right in the middle of the boat. Aamir said it was best not to be on the 4th level as it is sometimes noisy from the pool deck and bar above. Lunch was on so we went downstairs and found our table. We were at table 14 and as we were travelling alone, we were at one end of the long table and a family of 2 adults and 2 young kids was up the other end. There were plenty of chairs in between. Lunch was nice. Lots of variety. Great service from the waiters.
    After lunch we lounged about at the pool. We were accosted by the massage staff and talked in to a foot massage and a full body massage. It actually didn’t take much talking in to! This was heaven. A full body was 500 LE and my foot massage was 300 LE. It was so relaxing. After the massage we went back and lazed at the pool.
    That evening we went to the Nubian museum. We wandered around the purposely built museum that was a lot cooler than the Cairo Museum. There was a lot of artifacts from the local area but I think we were a bit tired from everything and it was only a quick visit.
    We arrived back at the hotel, had our buffet dinner which was very nice, lazed about in the sun lounge on the top deck of the boat and went to bed at about 10.30.

    Day. 12 Cruising Aswan to Luxor – Kom Ombo and Edfu
    At about 3 am this morning the ship departed Aswan so that we would arrive at Kom Ombo in the morning. It was a bit disappointing that we first took off in the middle of the night and we couldn’t experience the breeze as we sat on top of the boat lounging in the sun deck. So, when we woke this morning, day 2 of our cruise, we were nearly at our first stop. The temple of Kom Ombo was only a walk from the boat. Again Aamer gave us a fabulous insight in to the temple.
    We got back on the boat and cruised to our next stop of Edfu. Edfu was a short car ride from the boat. When we got off the boat we were met by about 20 or so horse and carts. The poor horses were not in a good condition. Aamer said that generally in Edfu they do not look after their horses that well and for that reason Lady Egypt has elected not to use the horse and buggy’s in case it upsets guests. I told him I agreed with their policy, and I was so happy that we were travelling by car. We arrived at the temple before most of the other passengers on the boat and we had a relative free reign of the temple until they arrived. I noticed one other man had virtually raced in the front gate and to the temple so he could take photos, with his professional looking camera before the crowds came and wrecked his shots. A few guards here and there asked to take our photo, but by now we were wise to their enthusiastic help as they wanted baksheesh! Aamir happily took our photo at all places and loved offering to take pictures of “the 2 lovebirds”.
    After Edfu, we got back to the boat and cruised for most of the evening to our next destination Luxor. We were due in at about midnight. Again we lounged at the pool. Greg had another massage and I had a snooze. Aamer had some dvd’s on various topics so I waited for Greg and elected to see one on the movie of the temple at Abu Simple and Dr Hawass’s attempts to find the mummy of Queen Hatshetsup.
    That evening there was a galabaya party so we dressed in our outfits we had bought at the bazaar. Aamir our guide was the host for the party. He was fabulous. He later said that none of the other guides wanted to participate as they said their group was not going to attend. Another said that their group from Hong Kong would come but not participate so he didn’t it would be a good idea to be active. I am not sure why the boat didn’t supply the MC for the evening. We played a few games which caused us all to laugh. Firstly we played one that we had to march or dance around to the music and when the music stopped he would yell out a number and we had to get in to a group of that number. I did quite well getting down to the last few, but got out. Greg got out early. It was funny to see some of the ladylike Asian women shoving people aside to get in to a group so they would not get out.
    Next they had a raffle. We bought 6 tickets and won 3 things – a free 20 minute massage, a bottle of beer and an alabaster candelabra! It was getting embarrassing after 2 wins. When they looked at us again we thought “oh no, we don’t want to win again”. After the raffle they had a game like musican chairs but it was musical spoons. When the music stopped we had to grab a spoon and if you didn’t have a spoon you got knocked out. I got down to the last 5 then got booted out. The crowd were laughing at everyone in the game so it was fun. At 10.30 the games finished and drifted off to bed.

    Day 13 Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple, Colossi of Memnon
    We arranged to meet at 7.30 am so we could head to the Valley of the Kings before it got too hot. We caught a little motor boat over to the East bank and a car and driver met us for the short trip to the Valley of the Kings.
    We entered and caught the shuttle tram to the gate. In the books that I had read about the Valley I imagined it was this huge expanse where tombs were spread out all over the place. I felt that everything was relatively company. The tram ride was very short. Again I imagined that this was to be a very long journey, which, after a day of trudging around the tombs would of been very welcome, but I was wrong. The ride only took a few minutes.
    People were already leaving so they had the same idea we did. Aamer again told us about the Valley of the Kings and his suggestions for what tombs we should visit. There were quite a few closed but it didn’t matter to us, as long as we got to see King Tutankamon . He suggested Ramses III, Ramses I and Ramses IX. All the tombs were wonderful. Some of the colours were magnificent. It was hard to believe that they lasted so many thousands of years. The first tomb was not very step but largeish so easy to navigate. We ignored guards trying to show us things or point out particular pictures as they would want baksheesh. Aamer said they are often not accurate and will tell you anything. We were well schooled by Aamer at this stage in to what the significance of many of the pictures and hyroglpyics were. The second tomb, Rameses I, was very steep and we negotiated a long staircase to get deep inside the mountain. The tomb was stifling. The sweat was dripping off me as I fanned myself furiously with the best thing I had gotten in Egypt so far... a 10LE fan in Aswan! After marvelling at the sights we slowly climbed and sweated our way out of the tomb. At the top, an English girl said to me “I never thought I’d think that the weather outside feels cool”. I know what she meant. Inside the tomb felt about 15 or 20 degrees hotter.. anything else was pleasurable. Actually, it was hot that day but there was a breeze in the valley so it felt comfortable. I was hot but didn’t feel I was near death through heat exhaustion! The third tomb, luckily was not as stifling as the second and we got in before there was a huge crowd. There were some people who were so rude and pushed in front of everyone waiting patiently in line.
    We exited the last tomb and asked Aamer a few questions then headed towards King Tuts Tomb. Only a fraction of the Valley of the King tourists must of decided to see his tomb as there was no queue at all and no people milling about the entrance. We descended down the stairs that were uncovered less than a 100 years ago and I cannot imagine the excitement Howard Carter would of felt as that first step was uncovered. I would of paid way more than the 100 LE ticket price just to see the tomb and imagine all of those treasures inside the tomb. As we reached the bottom of the stairs we entered the antechamber where his many treasures lay, including dismantled chariots and beds. King Tut’s mummy was on display in this room, under video surveillance. I have used the word amazing many times and I’ll have to use it again to say it was amazing to see the King in his tomb after thousands of years. The Annexe of the antechamber was not viewable and we could just see the small hole leading to that area. We walked across to the burial chamber that was a level down. The large sarcophagus and the first wooden coffin that held the king’s mummy were on display under glass. There were large paintings on a number of the walls even though other walls were bare. Beyond the burial chamber was the Treasury. Again there was a doorway that could not be entered. In here was the canopic chest, a statue of Anubis as well boats that the king hoped would take him to his next life. We exited the tomb and headed towards the entrance, via a quick tram ride.
    Next on our schedule was the Valley of the Queens. Here, Aamer said the guards were more insistant about tips and there was an issue recently that had blown up in to huge proportions. He said a tourist was offered the chance of taking a photo of a tomb with his mobile phone upon the agreed baksheesh, however, after he took the photo the guide wanted more and the man disagreed so he was taken to an office and the tourist police called. The guard said that he caught the man taking pictures. The man told his version of the story – which I am sure we probably know was more reliable. Aamer said people in high places got involved as these guards are doing the wrong thing and also antiquities are being destroyed by guards for a few dollars. Aamer asked us not to tip anyone or just say no thanks to their offers of assistance or guiding.
    We entered the first tomb and were looking around. There was only 2 or 3 other people in the tomb. Next came in 2 Asian ladies, followed by a youngish female in a headscarf a few minutes later. A couple of minutes later, loud noisy voices were to be heard. The female – whom we new was a guide as we saw her talking to the 2 ladies earlier, was gesturing wildly to the tomb attendants and things were getting very heated. Then came someone with a machine gun, but I don’t think they were tourist police. Once the entrance had emptied and there was room for us to scoot past the people fighting we left the tomb. We went to the next tomb and were asked a couple of times for money. I had left my bag in the car so even if I had wanted to give them money I had nothing on me.
    By this stage, because of the arguing at the first tomb, Aamer had come down closer to supervise us and was watching us in the second tomb. We told him that we were asked for money. He got really annoyed and said he hated “friends of Egypt” getting hassled. He often used this term and it was a lovely term to call us. At this moment another guide came down and he asked in Arabic what had happened. He said that the 2 females were hassled for money then the guide came along and saw it and told them off. At this moment, a gentleman came down from the tomb that the altercation was at, and in fact it was still going on. Aamer told him that we too were asked for money in this second tomb.
    We discussed the special opening of Queen Neferatari for the bargain price of 20 or 25,000 LE and how it has to go through special channels if someone wants to do that. I am sure he said that the government or antiquities department find out about it and authorise it. I asked what would stop them from opening it for someone who just offered him money, say 1000 LE. He said that recently happened and somehow the guard was found out or elected not to show the tourist the tomb but he said this highlights corruption and wrongdoings. The Valley of the Queens was very peaceful and it was enjoyable just walking through and looking at the scenery. The area was very clean. A credit to whoever was in charge. As we were leaving an enthusiastic vendor tried to sell me a plaque of Queen Neferatari and he said my nose looked like hers! lol
    We then went to an alabaster factory that Aamer told us was very different as the trade had been taught and handed down from one generation to another. We were not that keen to buy anything but thought we’d go to get out of the heat and, as the shops looked poor and rundown, we might buy something to help the economy. At the entrance we were shown the techniques of making handmade alabaster bowls, statues and various bits and pieces. He showed us a sample of the handmade one and the machine carved one. The handmade one was so light and was see though when held up against the light. The store inside was air conditioned and huge. There were so many items for sale the few workmen outside could surely not of made them all. We thought we’d buy something just to be kind and the bowl that we chose turned out to be 1500 LE!!!! (it wasn’t even a large one!) In the end, we decided to buy an alabaster cat for a more modest amount. After a clean bathroom stop, we headed back to the hotel for our usual choice of relaxation – swimming and reading!
    At 6 pm that evening, we decided to go on a tour of the city with a horse drawn buggy. I was a bit reluctant but my husband said that if we took a buggy ride and the owner made money he would have money for his family and animals. I queried as to the condition of the horse etc. I was advised that this driver has a very good reputation around town for his care of the horses. I asked Aamer if I could buy the horse something to eat. He asked the horse owner and he said yes that would be nice. He said that he would prefer it if he could get some grains and to quote him, “that is like meat to humans” and will keep his horse healthy! We drove around the streets, stopping now and then to give the horse a rest. We drove down the main street and there were plenty of nice looking shops, particularly clothes shops. Aamer said we were heading for the highlight of the trip as we drove down the street where their main market was. It was a tight squeeze as the buggy jigged around over the rough street. Little kids waved and called out hello. Teenage girls smiled and shyly waved hello. One elderly lady, in black happily sung out hello in English as we drove by.
    After we had exited the market street, we stopped at a small stand that was selling grains. The driver carefully selected a mix of grains and came back to say the cost would be 15 LE if that was ok. I paid and the driver put the bag on the seat. We continued to drive to the avenue of the Sphinxes where he stopped. He got the bag out and urged me to come and feed the horse. I hopped down from the buggy which was a long way down and grabbed a handful of grain and held my hand up towards the horses mouth. I could feel the horses soft floppy lips brush my hand as he gobbled up his snack. I gave him about 5 handfuls after being urged on by the owner. After I finished, the horse looked towards the owner to say “can I have some more”. The owner said he’d give him proper dinner after our ride had finished. We finished our ride and went back to the boat for our 8 pm dinner.
    At 9.30 pm after dinner, there was a belly dancing and sufi show which lasted for abut half an hour. The guy doing the whirling sufi dance (is that the correct term) was magnificent. By now I was so tired so I went to bed.

    Day 14 Karnak Temple, Luxor Temple and Mummification Museum.
    We met Aamer at 8.30 am and our bags were carried to the car after our Nile Cruise. The cruise was wonderful. It was so relaxing. The only issue I had was that it was called “a cruise” when in fact we really had only been sailing for a day. The other time we were sitting at the dock in Aswan or Luxor. The cruise ship said it was 5 star however, even though the common areas were very nice our room was a little lacklustre. The bathroom toilet roll holder broke, a tile in the bathroom fell off the wall and the fridge could not be opened without jiggling the door of the cupboard it was in as the hinge was broken. The painter was not able to keep between the lines around the cornice area and coloured paint had gone up on the roof! The service in the restaurant was fabulous but was a bit haphazard on the sundeck, including one time when Greg ordered a Stella and it never came!
    We first drove to Karnak Temple and were even amazed at the model in the lobby of the entrance. When we entered the courtyard and walked towards the temple we were amazed by how big it was and how wide the piazza was. We walked towards the temple via the avenue of the Sphinxes and stopped in some shade to learn more about this huge temple. As we slowly meandered our way through the temple Aamer told us about the statues we were seeing, who they were, when they were built, what the statues meant to the temple as well as what they were made of. We arrived at a good time when it wasn’t that busy. We were still able to take photos of the temple and various highlights without other people in the pictures. By the time we left about 45 minutes later it was so crowded with huge groups of tours. I don’t know one manages if on a big group tour. Surely you couldn’t hear the guide as sometimes the crowd around him was 5 deep. We were given 10 minutes private time at the end, and in that time I managed to get separated from Greg and just figured that I’d meet back with Aamer at the statue of Ramses II as arranged and Greg would meet me there. However, I saw Greg at another spot and waved, but couldn’t reach him so again I figured that I’d meet him back at the Ramses II statue. I did get lucky I found him again and we managed to meet Aamer together. Aamer, ever thoughtful, also asked us in Karnak if we’d like to visit the “Temple of Coca Cola” – an umbrellas area selling drinks!
    We made the short van journey to Luxor Temple, opposite the nile. We could see this temple clearly from our walks along the corniche and our boat when we were on it. Luxor Temple was not as large as Karnak but still amazing when you think how they would of built it without the tools we have today.
    After the 2 temples, we headed back to our hotel and checked in to the Steigenberger Nile Palace in to a front Nile room (no. 118). Upon checking out, after I had quoted my room number the receptionist said “118 is a really nice room”. It was a nice room. It was spotlessly clean, modern and large. It was on the first floor overlooking the Nile but as it was built on a hill the first floor still had a fabulous view overlooking the pool area and the Valley of the Kings. There was a large balcony and when the door to the room was closed you could not hear any noise from the pool area or the next door rooms. This was the quietest room we had stayed in so far. The pool area was wonderful with rows of sun lounges, 3 deep, around the pool. There was a huge shady tree in the pool area which was wonderful. After depositing our 1 very full suitcase in our room, (the other one was with Lady Egypt in Cairo) we headed to the pool or some relaxation. We dozed, read, swam, drank (soft drink) and ate the afternoon away.
    We’d arranged to meet Aamer at 6 pm that evening so we left the pool area at 5.15 pm and got ready. Aamer was on time as usual. We decided to walk down the corniche to the Mummification Museum that was housed right next to the Nile near where the cruise boats docked. We did as Egyptians do and walked along the road. Just yet I was not so brave and walked relatively close to the edge of the road. Aamer urged me not to panic when we heard a car toot. We would tease him and act panicked by the loud bus horns and he would say “oh queen relax, relax, you are safe”. He assured us that as he was furthest out in the road he would get run over and not us. I said “but what if you get run over and fall in to us and then squash us and we get hurt”. Again he laughed! He was a great sport and understood all the nuances of an “Aussie joke”. Except for the time when Greg joked that I would be housed in a bunk at the back of the boat with the boat staff. He was worried that I would think that this was true and said animatedly “no, no queen, you have a room”.
    We passed by a street cleaner with his green uniform on and his cleaning cart. We asked if it would be acceptable to give the man something as the streets were spotlessly clean. Aamer said that would be very nice. We handed the man the top as we passed and Aamer said in Arabic that it was for doing a wonderful job. The man smiled and said shukran. Further along we passed a dear little boy of about 4. He was lugging a huge wooden box over his shoulder and approached Greg and said “shoe shine”. Greg put his thronged foot forward and said “no shoes”. Aamer said something to the little boy in Arabic. As he solefully departed I pressed a 1 LE coin in his hand and he immediately departed.
    As we were walking along we gazed intently at the sights of Luxor and the people. It was a hot evening and so many people who worked in the local shops had a chair out the front and were sitting outside or doing their tasks out there. We saw a couple of dry cleaning stores and there was virtually no store front, just a man ironing in front of the store where there should of been a window. The clip clopping of horses and jiggling of silver ornaments on the horse buggies filled the air as well as he regular toots from car drivers. Vendors did approach us but a simple no thanks or la shukran sent them on their way. They were not pushy or a problem. I guess they were only trying to make a living.
    We arrived at the Mummification Museum and Aamer said there were no guides allowed in as it was only a small museum and they did not want it crowded. Before we went in Aamer gave us a short speech on what we were going to see and some information about the mummification process. The museum was small but everything was clearly labelled and insightful. We were most amazed by the tools used for the mummification process. They were so small. We saw a mummy, mummified animals, including a cat, a bed used during the mummification process and various bits and pieces. We enjoyed it and it only took about 20 minutes. When we came out, Aamer as usual, asked us if we had any questions. We asked him a few and he was happy to answer them as well as give us extra information that he thought we might want (or need!) to know.
    We wandered back via the corniche and Greg took a number of pictures of the Luxor Temple and the moon which looked magnificent. We again wanted a cantelope fanta so Aamer said his friend has a really nice shop down the next street and we could get one there. As we had turned in to a street a brand new car pulled in behind us and tooted furiously and didn’t stop. Aamer turned and then laughed. It was his friend, the owner of the store. He said to his friend in Arabic, “how can we spend money in your store if you run us over”. The car driver drove off slowly and we could see him park his car next to a modern brand new store front. We reached the modern store and Aamer explained that his friend had married an English woman and he said she was very smart with her promotion of the store. The store had a fabulous array of items. We wandered around the store and Aamer purchased the drinks for us. As we were heading in, we saw 3 cats sitting on a fence opposite the store and one or two jumping in to the dumpster nearby. I purchased a few packs of cat food. Aamer said this store was different as they stocked dog and cat food. He said most Egyptians just feed their animals leftovers. As I purchased the cat food, the store clerk asked if I had a cat. I was too embarrassed to admit I did not have a cat in Egypt in case he thought I was crazy for wanting to feed the cats. I stammered and said I did not. I shyly said that I was going to feed some local cats. A big smile appeared on his face as I said this.
    When I got outside with my cat food Aamer said that his friend always feeds the cats outside every day. He said that his friend loves animals and wants to look after them. So now I didn’t feel that much of an idiot. Aamer’s friend appeared and asked if I had a bowl to feed the cats with. When I admitted that I did not have a bowl, he said he’d bring me one and headed off to get it. So, when dinner was served I put it on the ground near the dumpster and 2 cats started to eat. A third was too shy and didn’t come to the bowl until we moved further away. Aamer’s friend said he feeds the cats because he loves animals, but also to keep the local rats away. He said he’d rather cats than rats!
    We finally departed for our hotel and arrived at about 8.30. There was a little show in the internal area just outside of the lobby but it was outdoors. They did some dancing and belly dancing. We grabbed a drink and sat and watched them and as it was so hot, we decided to have room service rather than eat at one of the 2 restaurants in the outdoor area as they were not air conditioned. Room service arrived promptly, we ate, watched the end of a movie then slept.
    Day 15 Luxor Museum Transfer to Cairo then Amman
    Today was our last day in Luxor and as our flight did not depart until 2.15 pm we decided to go to the Luxor Museum. We met Aamer in the lobby at 9 am as arranged. He raced in at 8.59 and apologised for being late. We said he wasn’t late and he was on time just as he had been for the days that he had been with us. He was pleased that we thought he was not late.
    We departed for the Museum with the driver who would also later take us to the Luxor Airport. The Museum was not far away and Aamer explained how the Museum was going to be moved as they were doing up the corniche (Nile promenade) and making it lower so that the Nile could be easily seen from the new corniche and from the Luxor Temple. He said they were also going to extend the Avenue of the Sphinx’s from Luxor Temple to Kanarak as it used to be in ancient times. When we entered the museum we saw a short movie about the treasures on show at the Luxor Museum. The Luxor Museum is hopefully how the new Cairo Museum should turn out. It was spacious, well laid out, antiquities were well labelled, items were grouped in appropriate displays and probably most importantly for us tourists, it was air conditioned!
    At the Luxor Museum there was an amazing collection of statues found at Karnak Temple only 20 years ago. Many of the statues, were in excellent condition and looked beautiful. There was a statue of King Tut and his bride. There was a number of items from King Tuts tomb, such as his bed and a boat. I was disappointed that his chariot was not there, even though we saw many chariots at the Cairo Museum. There was no note in the large display case as to why it was not there. The tour did not take long and we left at about 10.30. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a bag and suitcase store to purchase another suitcase – our 3rd! It is possible that we might need a 4th before we hit Kuala Lumpur. We chose a case that was 185 LE and Aamer said wait a moment before paying as the man was going to bring out one that was 130 LE. We chose the 185 LE only because we figured it had to be better quality that the cheaper one.. it possibly was not! We paid the man, and bought drinks for Aamer and the driver for 10 LE. A bargain – the equivalent of 50 cents a can.
    We arrived back at the hotel for a quick shower before being picked up at 12 noon for our flight. We were leaving Aamer here. We were very sorry to be saying good bye to him as he not only had been a fabulous guide but he had been great fun. I think we entertained each other. We asked a porter to take a few snaps of the 3 of us, which he did, then we then did one of my favourite tricks. I gathered us together and we hugged each other closely as I held the camera up in front of me and we took a snap as we were all laughing. We all agreed that this was our favourite “happy snap”. I told Aamer if there was every anything he wanted from Australia to let me know and I’d be happy to send it to him. He thanked us and said that his mum was concerned that he had been away from home for 6 days as he was looking after us. He said he normally doesn’t stay away at night (he was with us in Aswan and on the cruise). When he told his mum he was looking after, “friends of Egypt” she told him to keep it up and keep working. Obviously a very proud mum. I told him that I would be very happy to recommend his guiding services to anyone who asks and I would vouch for him at any stage.
    We went to our room and shuffled out belongings around in to the new suitcase. After a quick shower we wandered around the hotel taking a few photos including a cute sign telling you important details about the pool area and the weather! Today the sign said the temperature of the water was 25 degrees, the weather “Sunny” (that one they would never have to change), ambient temperature 38 degrees. At the bottom of the sign it wished us a pleasant day!
    We met our rep in the lobby at 12 noon and departed for the 15 minute ride to Luxor Airport. We were escorted through the terminal and our rep got out tickets and pointed us in the direction of where to go and our exact gate. The airport was only small and not crowded and we managed easily to find our gate, in fact, we probably could of managed the whole check in process at the airport.
    Our Egyptair flight departed on time. The plane was clean and tidy and in excellent condition. Again the crew pleasantly smiled at us and greeted us warmly as we got on our Embraer 170. This plane was a bit roomier than our last Egyptiair flight on an A320. During the flight there was a drink service where we were dealt with nicely.
    Upon arrival at Cairo on a flight that would of had 99% of tourists, there was some confusion as to where we had to go. Ahmed our rep in Cairo had left tried to call me at 2.13 pm – 2 minutes before our pane was due to depart and my phone was turned off. I thought he might be calling to make arrangements for being met, however, when we arrived there was nobody to meet us. I tried to phone Ahmed twice but could not reach him. We followed the sign that said “transfers” however, suddenly, there were no more signs to be seen. I heard one group of lost passengers talking to a staff member who pointed them down a corridor. I figured that we too had to go in the same direction so I waited to see if they were heading in the right direction. Eventually they returned and spoke to the same ground staff who again directed them up the corridor. They told the staff member that the staff member had told them that this was not the right area. They asked him if he could go down there with them to explain the situation. He just wandered off so we were still none the wiser. I walked further along in to the departure hall near the check in desks and saw a sign that said international departures. As we walked to it I noticed that there were no immigration departure cards yet people were filling them out. I found someone who could speak English and they told me that we’d have to go to the check-in desks. We wandered over there and found the Amman flight’s check in desks deserted. We waited and an Egypt Air motioned to come around to the other side of the check in desks, which we did, only to be confronted by a huge queue. We asked a staff member if we were in the right place to get departure cards. He said we were. He indicated to us to “just go under the rope” so we would be next served. He didn’t say where to go in and we thought we’d cause a riot if we just hopped under the barrier and went to the front of the queue. I guess the staff member saw our hesitation he took us himself to an Egyptair counter that was free. We were greeted with a disinterested female staff member who barely said anything to us and did not smile the whole time we where there. After 5 minutes, we headed back to the gates or the immigration section and filled in our departure cards then lined up for, luckily for us, a smooth transfer though immigration.
    Lady Egypt had been fabulous and we could not fault them except in this instance where there was confusion. As we were in the line for immigration Ahmed called back. He asked us what terminal we were in. I said I had no idea what terminal we were in other than it was new and we were in the immigration section. He obviously knew where we were. I told him we were lost an didn’t know where to go, however, we were all sorted now. This was the one time we needed a Lady Egypt rep to help us and there was nobody available for us!
    Disaster averted and we made it in to the departure gates and looked at some duty free stores. I needed to go to the bathroom so found one where I thought there was not much passing traffic and went in. The floor was so slippery and covered with water from the basin area to the toilets. Another lady slowly passed me trying to keep steady and swore as it was so slippery. When I came out of the toilet I noticed a bored bathroom attending sitting on a bench. She was not interested in anything and didn’t look at us. I remembered what one guide said to us...”if the bathroom isn’t clean, don’t pay”. That amazed me. If she had mopped the floor and acted interested she would of made a lot of money I am sure as it is was a busy airport.
    The wait went quickly and we boarded at 6.30 pm for a 7 pm departure. An hour late. When we arrived at our seats way down the back of the plane there was already a couple in our seats. The flight attendant was near us at that moment and took my ticket and then asked the people in our seats to show their tickets. The man showed the tickets and then did not move. After a short stalemate, the attendant told the man that he would have to move. Greg then said near the window and I in the middle seat and the female of the couple next to me. The look on the man’s face said everything! Every so often we’d get a glare.
    Once again the Egyptair flight was on a new aircraft, this time a A321. Again most of the staff were smiling and friendly. There appeared to be only one female attendant who had a very serious expression on her face every time she helped someone or when she was walking down the aisle. The pilot said the flight would take 1 and a half hours, but we arrived in one hour, so that meant we were only half an hour behind schedule. The only issue of the flight was the very bumpy landing. I had not experienced anything like it before. It was just like we dropped from the sky on to the tarmac with an all mighty jolt. When wheels connected with tarmac I just happened to be looking ahead and at that very moment I could see plenty of hands suddenly brace themselves on the seat in front of them, as I did. It was such a jolt that one of the internal panels overhead fell down.
    We wandered in to the immigration hall at Queen Alia Airport and immediately saw our rep, unfortunately I cannot remember his name. He asked us if we had a good flight then asked us if we had visas and Jordanian Dinars. I said I had neither. He said he’d get in the visa queue to save a space and we should get some currency to pay for the visa. This was the most he said to us all during the pick up. We got our visa and followed behind him as we headed out to the baggage hall. He said “are you right to get your own luggage” and when we said yes, he moved out of the way to wait for us. We grabbed out 2 suitcases off the baggage carousel and put them on to a cart and then someone from the airport took the trolley to the car park area. In the car park the rep said ‘this is Yousef, he’ll look after you during your trip, and I have to go now” and he virtually raced away from us. Obviously had something else more pressing! Yousef lead us to the car and the airport staff packed the bags in the car.
    In the car as we headed towards Amman, Yousef told us about our tour and the schedule. He was quite chatty and said that we could ask him anything. He also said that as we don’t know anyone in Jordan, whilst we are here he will be like our family. It took about 40 mins to drive to the Amman Marriott. Along the way there were many parked cars and people sitting around in groups or with a little camp fire in front of them. Yousef said on Friday nights people go out for picnics with their family. Now that I understand, however I didn’t understand why they would want to have their family picnic by the side of a busy major road. Yousef also told us quite proudly that Jordan was way better and more civilized than Egypt. He said that the roads are civilised and the water was better. When we got to the car at the airport, we could not find the seatbelt buckles and he told us not to worry as we wouldn’t need them, then buckled his own seatbelt. I did not feel comfortable in a strange country without my seatbelt and continued to look for it. He said he’d look for it later.
    We arrived at the Marriott and Yousef told us to be ready at 8.30 am the next day.

    Day 16 Amman City Tour and Desert Castles
    We met Yousef at 8.30 am and began our day. Yousef said it was a day of so the roads should not be that busy. We firstly visited the Citidel. Just before we got out of the car Yousef said “there are people inside who will ask to guide you around and it is your choice if you do it or not”. I said “we’ve got you, we don’t need them” as I thought Yousef would take us inside the citadel. Yousef then said it wasn’t his responsibility to “fend off” insistant guides. Yousef took us to the gate, got our tickets, handed them to us then said ‘read the signs, they’ll explain everything and I’ll meet you at the car in about 40 minutes”. Oh?! I was under the impression that we had a driver AND guide in one, but we let it slide. Oh, and the seatbelts were still not working so we were driving around the busy city unbuckled, whilst he was safely strapped in. Because of this I commented to him again that I did not feel safe. He said he’d try to fix the seatbelts and he did. When we returned from our first attraction they were fixed.
    It was so hot this morning that I trudged up the hill, briefly looking at things as I worked my way to the small museum. Yousef had told us that the Roman Ampitheatre was closed for renovations but we could see it from the citadel. We wandered around ourselves and read the signs around the various sites of interest. Nobody approached us wanting to be our guide. We meandered down the hill and met Yousef who was standing by the car and got in to the stinking hot car and drove off. Yousef didn’t say where we were going but just drove. Every now and again he would name a sight that we were driving past... e.g. King’s Palace, downtown, American Embassy. We asked him a few questions about what we were seeing and answers were hard to come by so we just looked out the window. We came to an area with very nice houses and Yousef told us the suburb name and we continued to drive around the area, then drove back from where we came from but turned off shortly. We continued to drive and drive without Yousef saything anything. The drive out of town took about an hour and I would of that that we would of been told were going to be driving for so long in case we’d wanted a bathroom break before getting out of town. I in fact, did need to go to the bathroom and queried how much longer, and I was told we were nearly there at our first desert castle.
    Again Yousef got out of the car, bought the tickets and told us to walk up to the castle then he’d be waiting in the Bedouin tent when we got back. We wandered up the hill, in the heat and commented to each other about our expectations with Yousef. We were not sure if he was a guide/driver or just driver. I said even if he was a driver, surely he knows about his city and he can tell us a bit more about what we were seeing. Perhaps we were spoilt with Hamdi and Aamer who would give us a rundown of what we were going to see before we entered each site or attraction. We looked around the castle, which was interesting, however we had been mesmerized in Egypt by many wonderful sites, our attitude was a bit blaisae. We got back to the car and Yousef came out of a tent near the exit and we all walked to the car and got in the stinking hot car!
    We drove to a 2nd and then 3rd castle and at each the same thing happened. Yousef bought the tickets and then pointed us towards the path and said he’d meet us when we were doing. Each time we got back in to the hot car. As we were driving in the South Amman area, Yousef volunteered some information about the water levels in the area and how he could remember 30 years ago when the water on the right hand side of the car was way up near the road. About 5 minutes later Greg asked as he just wanted to clarify something about the water level and Yousef said “I already told you that”. Oh, ok, sorry for asking!
    We drove back to the Amman Mariott and Yousef asked if we’d had a good day. We said we had. He asked us to be ready at 8.30 am the next day for our drive to Jerash and the Dead Sea. Later that evening we discussed phoning Ahmed, our rep in Cairo. We decided that there was no point as we didn’t want to annoy Yousef. We found some papers that said we’d be given a luxury car and a guide at Jerash and Petra. With this particular mention of the guide, we thought that Yousef was not supposed to guide us. We said we’d just make the best of it and it was up to us to make sure we enjoyed ourselves. The car we had was smallish, and Yousef drove with the seat pushed right back so the person sitting behind him had their knees squashed. However, we also reasoned that surely as a long time resident of Jordan he would be able to tell us a little about what we were seeing as we drove by.
    We had a swim, and patted the hotel’s resident cat who always hung out at the pool area. He was cute watching him each morning. He followed the pool man cleaning the pool and he would mosey inside the pool storage room with the pool man. As usual, we watched a bit of tv and went to sleep.

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    Day 17 Jerash and the Dead Sea.
    We met Yousef at 8.30 am and drove approximately 45 minutes to Jerash. We arrived and Yousef walked us quite a distance to the front gate. He didn’t say much but did tell us that he would arrange a guide. As we were walking, we could see a spectacular set of ruins in the distance that seemed to go on forever. Yousef introduced our guide and said he’d meet us in the restaurant when we were done.

    Our guide was fabulous. As soon as we took one step past the visitor’s centre he started to tell us the history of the ancient Roman city and how it was found. He explained the layout of the city and the main plaza. He also explained what it used to look like. As we were walking along the cobblestones he pointed out chariot marks in the flooring and said generally chariots were on the right and walkers on the left. We huffed and puffed up a gazillion stairs to the main temple. We saw the amphitheatre which could seat 3000. At this stage our guide left us and said we could have a wander around. We took a few more shots and wandered about then walked back to meet Yousef at the restaurant. It was quite warm this day and we enjoyed a drink in the air conditioned restaurant. Earlier we’d commented to our guide about the heat and how hot it was yesterday and he said “it was as hot as hell yesterday”. When a local thought the day was hellish, it was no wonder I am suffering!

    Greg and I thought the Roman city was wonderful. It looked spectacular and one can only imagine what it would of looked like in its hey day. After yesterday’s Desert Castles we thought that this was the Jordan that we wanted to see.
    We got back in to the hot car and continued on our way to the Dead Sea. We enjoyed watching the scenery outside as we drove along eventually coming to the Dead Sea area and driving down some really steep descents. Yousef stopped at the sign near the dead see that said we were now at sea level and we continued to go down the hill.

    We arrived at the Dead Sea Marriott Hotel and the car was swabbed for explosives and searched. The two guys on the gate were sweating profusely, but I had no idea how hot it was. When we were waved through, we arrived at the front Portico and gout out of the car. OMG – the heat was stifling. All I wanted to do was get inside out of the heat. We had our luggage and personal items sent through the x-ray machine as we walked through the metal detector to the lobby of the hotel. We were checked in to a suite on the 4th floor. The room was wonderful. There was a separate living area as well as a spacious bathroom with a full size bath and a king size bed. It was a shame that we were only here one night.

    As we were here for such a short time, we headed out to get something to eat then planned to have a dip, or rather a float in the Dead Sea. We ate at the Italian Restaurant, and was served by a fabulous waiter, so we went back there for dinner later on. After a late lunch we changed and headed down towards the beach. To get there we had to pass a number of pools and a beachside area with deck chairs that overlooked the sea. We slowly made our way down the steep steps and changed in to a pair of plastic slip on shoes supplied by the hotel to protect our feet as the shoreline was very rocky. We made our way in to the water and it was really difficult as you were not used to the buoyancy. I really struggled getting in to the water and bobbed around trying to work out the best position to hold my body in. There were a number of us that got in at the same time and we were all laughing together and commenting about the difficulty of trying to balance without your face going in the water as there is so much salt in the water and it would sting your eyes and taste horrible. We floated around for 10 minutes. It was hard work floating around and I was so weary. We heaved outselves out of the water and trudged up the beach stairs to wash the salt off with the beachside shower. My skin felt fabulous.

    We then headed towards the third pool, which was for over 18’s. It was peaceful and there was a lot of “pool cuddlers” so I figured these people were all on their honeymoon! We lounged about here for a while and had a couple of drinks then thought we’d move to the next pool so we could say we visited all the pools. This pool was more geared to kids but had 2 whirlpools as well as a waterslide. There was only one or two kids going down and Greg looked at me and said “you want to go down it don’t you”. I said I did and up we went to the slide entrance and the pool guy there was fun and said we’d love it. Weeee, down I went, then Greg! We went straight back up and did it again. We noticed at that time that a few more grown ups were going down the slide. We must of started a precedent! We swam, drank then moved to the first pool. This one was not very deep and it was cooler than the second pool. By this time it was getting late so the pool was relatively empty. After our swim we went up to change to go to dinner, at the Italian restaurant again. After dinner we wandered around the hotel complex and took some beautiful photos of the hotel all lit up.

    We were really disappointed that we were only here for one night. This is the first change we would of made to our itinerary – we would of come straight to the Dead Sea and Jerash for 2 nights and skip the Amman city tour and Desert Castles.

    Day X Dead Sea, Karak, Petra
    We left the Dead Sea at 8.30 am. This morning I felt really sick and visited the bathroom a few times. When Yousef came to get us I explained I was sick and I was really upset because I was so worried if I needed to go to the bathroom on the way and I knew we were travelling through the desert where there isn’t a bathroom every 10 minutes. I took some immodium and asked Yousef to let me sit in the lobby for 10 minutes until hopefully I felt better. After 10 minutes I knew I was never going to get better so I said we may as well go. Lucky for me the immodium kicked in and I did not need to make any bathroom stops along the way!
    We stopped at Mt Nebo on the way. I was f
    eeling under the weather and not so fascinated in Mt Nebo although it is very important apparently to some Christians. I plonked myself under a tree and waited as Greg made his way around the various sights. It was very busy and there were very large groups there.
    We headed to Karak and as Greg looked around, I just sat on a stone step in the shade and waited. I could see the valley below and the the scenery was amazing. Greg looked around on his own, although many other people had a guide. We were not offered the opportunity to get a guide.

    After this we started the drive to Petra, with a stop or two on the way. The scenery was interesting. Either barren desert or shops and houses, with people wandering about. I slept for most of the ride in the car and we arrived at about 5 pm. Even though I had rested or slept for most of the car ride I was really tired. We rested in our room and then had some dinner. I forced it down as I thought I had to eat as I was so weary and tomorrow we would be doing a lot of walking tomorrow. By 9 pm I was asleep.



    Day 18 Petra
    We left for the short ride to entrance to Petra at 9.30 am. It was hottish but not unbearable. We wandered in to the Visitors Centre and Yousef organised a guide for us. We arranged to meet Yousef at 6 pm and he said he would meet us at a certain point outside the Movenpick Hotel.
    We started our walk to the Treasury, probably the most well known image from the Petra region. Our guide talked along the way about what we were seeing, it’s history and age. At the beginning of the walk there were stables with horses which you could ride for approximately 1 k to the start of the canyons. We elected not to take a horse. It was good to see that the horses were in fabulous condition, some were stunning. Their coats were shiny and they were well muscled.
    As we walked down through the canyons the walls were getting higher and higher. The walls came in all sorts of colours and shapes, which photos would not do them justice. Everything was different, you could look around and see something different every where you looked. We approached the Siq and through it we could see The Treasury, another famous shot on many postcards or in books. The Treasury was magnificent. The front of the building was carved in to the rock and it was almost as magnificent as when it was in its prime. We stayed here for about 10 minutes then continued on our journey.
    We wandered along various sections along the main strip and after about 3 hours our guide left us on our own. We sat down at a restaurant in the middle of Petra and had a rest and a drink, as well as emptied the Petra sand from our shoes!
    Greg wanted to go to the Monastry, the second most well known sight at Petra, but it involved a climb of 800 steps and steep inclines. I agreed to go to so in the 35 degree plus heat we started the slow climb up the mountain. Luckily for us, there was a breeze that blew through various sections as well as large amounts of shade due to the large cliffs. I was a lot slower than Greg and would have to rest every section. It was so hot, the sweat was dripping down our backs. Everyone around us was feeling the same – sweaty faces, lots of huffing and puffing and lots stopping to rest in the shady areas where there was a rock that resembled a seat. At about half way, I decided that I just couldn’t go on any more. I could hardly walk up 10 stairs and I would have to rest. I looked enviously up the stairs and could see people way higher than me who had managed to keep going, but I just couldn’t do it. In 2 days I had eaten 1 meal and I was feeling weak and tired. I told Greg to go on without me and I’d meet him on the way down. He bravely kept going and I watched him climbing higher and higher until he was out of sight.
    I sat on a rocky ledge in the shade for about 20 minutes to catch my breath and stay out of the heat. I slowly wandered down the steps, every so often moving out of the way for a donkey convoy going up or down. When a donkey came down, he was not lead by a handler, he just knew where to go and followed the path. They scooted down the mountain really quick. Greg noted later that the donkey’s should of taken their time coming down so they would not find another rider to go up again so they could have a rest. I also noticed that not many people were going up by donkey. A few older or invalid people went up on a donkey who really needed the ride and a few that probably had no conscious and didn’t care that the poor little donkey had been hard at work all day in the heat for the tourists. Perhaps many people thought like I did and wanted to spare the animals the work, or, didn’t want to take a chance at having to barter with the handlers for a fair price.
    After I had recovered, I continued my way down the mountain to wait for Greg. I sat in the shade at the restaurant and watched the path from the Monastry where people slowly meandered past after their big trek. It was amazing the people I saw going up that hill. An old lady with a walking stick amazed me at the half point mark... she was still going and I stopped! I wander if she got to the top! As I waited, I had been asked by a dozen donkey, horse and camel handlers if I wanted a ride.
    After about an hour, I saw Greg coming along the path at the bottom of the mountain and waved at him. I asked him if it was worth it and he said a semi enthusiastic“yeah”. We then walked back along the main path and wandered up to the Tombs of the Nobles. Greg again climbed up the stairs to gain a higher vantage point and I sat on a rock in semi shade. A young girl of about 7 came along and happily started to talk to me as well as asking me to change some Euros she had. She asked people as they came along “change Euro”. Some were so rude and did not even acknowledge the little girl. Yes, they may not of understood her, but you could acknowledge her with a smile. The vendors were not annoying. If they asked you to buy and you said no, they went away. The girl’s mother or relative came over and asked if I would like to buy the necklace she was holding for JOD 30. She said that another vendor across the way was charging 50, so it was a bargain. The necklace was quite pretty but I never would of paid JOD 30 for it. I showed the lady my purse and said I had no money, except 4 Dinars. I thought she would give up but she said 4 Dinars would be fine as “it had been a slow day”! I knew she wouldn’t sell it at a loss so I paid the lady the 4 Dinars. The young girl was still by my side at this point, happily chatting away saying she goes to school. She asked if she could put the necklace on me and flicked my blonde long ponytail out of the way to tie the necklace around my neck. When she had done it, she grabbed my blonde hair again, and flicked it back in to place, then played with my hair for a little bit as it was so different from her dark ringlets. By this time Greg was back and the little girl asked for a photo so she cuddled up against me and Greg took the photo, which delighted her when she looked at it. We headed off then to walk a back past the Treasury and through the Siq to the entrance.
    By this time school had obviously finished as there were a lot more children out selling little trinkets and postcards. Two little girls happily skipped to us and asked if we were interested in buying some necklaces or postcards. One girl had some necklaces the same as I was wearing and asked me where I got it. I said I bought it earlier in the day. She asked me how much I paid and I said 4 JOD. Her reply was “I don’t believe you!” Then she offered me another one for 2 JOD. I said I would buy 2 and a pack of postcards she had for 1 JOD. We both happily made our exchanges and they went off to talk to other people. The girls were also being followed by a cute little puppy and were picking him up and another young tourist was patting him. The puppy came to me and I had a little bit of water in my bottle so the only place I could tip it in so he could have a drink was the small lid. I did this and the puppy licked it all up, so I filled it again and again until I had no more water. The puppy then trotted off to meet other people.
    We arrived back at the Treasury and took more photos, this time in a different light with different shadows. It was not as crowded so it was pleasant to look around. We watched camels arriving to let people off and weary people get in to a horse and cart for a ride to the entrance. We slowly walked up the path with a slight incline towards the top taking some snaps along the way. We eventually reached the top at about 5 pm. It had been a very tiring day.
    We had arranged for Yousef to meet us at 6 pm, but he wrote his number down for us and I said I didn’t have my mobile, but I would ask to borrow one. We wandered around looking for someone who would have a local phone. We went in to a shop that was not that busy and I asked him if he could call our driver. He said sure and when he saw the name and number he asked what his surname was. He seemed to think that he might know him. I explained he was our driver from Desert Horizons and when he phoned him he did in fact know him. At the end of the call the shop owner said Yousef would meet us in 10 minutes at the spot we had pre-arranged. I handed the shop owner 5 JOD and he said that was too much as it was only a small call. He said I should take something, like a drink for the money I gave him. I said no, I had a drink and didn’t need anything and he should keep the money. Yousef met us and we could hardly get in the car we were so sore from walking all day. At the hotel we ate early and crawled in to bed early
    Day 19 Petra – Wadi Rum
    We met Yousef at 12 noon and checked out of the Petra Marriott. The hotel was nice but it was very different from the glamorous Dead Sea Marriott. We drove for just over an hour and arrived at Jebel Rum Camp.
    The camp had approximately 100 tents set up, an undercover seating area and in the middle was a pit for a fire and a ring of seating around the outside for a large number of people. It was really hot and if you said in the shade there was not much wind to keep you cool. The sleeping tents were basic. Ours had two single beds and it had a towel, sheet and blanket lying on top. There was a toilet and shower block and I went over to investigate. There was a strong sewer smell around the toilet area and way beyond. It was horrible. The toilets were western style and relatively clean, although I still used my antiseptic wipe and own toilet paper when I went. In each of the shower cubicles, there was a ceramic shower basin and a hand held shower nozzle hanging over the taps that could be hung up so you could use it like a regular shower. In some of the other showers the floor looked a trifle dodgy and I peeked in each one to decide what was the best one to use. At this point I had decided that I was not going to shower and I was concerned as the next day we had a flight back to Cairo.
    After my investigations I went back to the seating area and grabbed a pillow and lay down next to Greg. It was hot, dusty, smelly, there was no service and I was dying for a drink. When Yousef appeared I told him I wanted a drink and he had someone come over to take our order. As I sipped my drink, Greg said to me “you hate this don’t you”. I agreed. I did hate it and thanked my lucky stars I was only there for one night. Yousef came and said our desert jeep driver would be here in 10 minutes so I got ready and we headed down towards the gate.
    Our driver and car arrived. I had visions of an air conditioned 4 wheel drive car – I am sure that thats what Lady Egypt said the tour would be. Amanda at Lady Egypt also mentioned a Visitors Centre but our driver picked us up at the camp. Our driver did not speak much English so we were told that if we wanted the driver to stop, we should bang on the window. We climbed up in to the back of the old pick up and sat on the stained and worn out cushions as the driver headed off. We made our way in to the desert, although it didn’t feel like the desert as there were so many tracks in the desert by cars and some appeared to be permanent tracks.
    After about 5 minutes, we stopped at a Bedouin tent. Greg and I joked that behind the tent is probably a tv and laptop. A lone guy in western clothes (a spiderman t-shirt!) ushered us in and sat us on some cushions on the floor. He offered us a tea or drink. I could see some cups in a sink area and I thought “I am NOT having a drink”. Greg cheerfully accepted a drink of tea and the man asked him to guess what kind. The man then started to dress us up in some of the wares he had for sale. I was shown an array of soaps and necklaces, but unfortunately (or fortunately!) I did not have my purse with me as I had not known the desert tour was going to be a “shopping exercise”. We drove along some more with the guide pointing out the odd thing here and there in his limited English. When there was a good photo opportunity, he stopped and got out and opened the back tray of the pick up to indicate we should get out. We again drove up to another camp, this time with a man and a young child out the front. Again this man had an array of items for sale and we were shown a large hole in the cliff face where we were told he lived. We were offered tea. We both declined and the driver and man spoke for 5 minutes then we were off again. Again, I did not have money to give to say thank you for his hospitality.
    As we drove off, I said to Greg that I was a little annoyed as this “desert drive” was just turning in to a shopping expedition. I said if we stop at one more “camp” I will be really annoyed. Luckily for everyone, that was our last stop. We continued to drive around however, we could see roads and tire marks everywhere. There were not huge sand dunes which we imagined. The sandy area was very rocky with grey stones that one often sees by the side of the road so it didn’t feel like we were in the desert. We drove past some props used in the movie Lawrence of Arabia.
    After about 2 hours of driving, stopping at camps, stopping for photos we headed back. All throughout the drive it was not very dusty, however, wind sprung up and there was sand flying around everywhere. Our cameras were covered in it and at this stage and I noticed that my zoom would not work and it would not turn off as the lens could not close.
    Yousef met us as we arrived back and asked us how it was. We just said it was fine. Greg was disappointed as he felt we were not really in the desert. He said yes the cliffs were magnificent but it didn’t thrill him as we were told by guidebooks we would be.
    We lounged around the main camp area and there were hardly any other people around. The staff did not approach us and we had to call them over to get us a drink. I lay on the bench with a pillow under my head moaning about the heat, flies, the boredom, the shower facilities and dust. Slowly as the evening wore on, at about 6 pm, people starting to arrive in large groups. We moved close to the fire and the large seating area around it. The staff started to take drink orders and were bustling about. We just chatted with each other and another Australian couple asked to sit next to us. Their guide was in Aquaba and was until about 10 pm and they had no idea where they were going to sleep, so I guess we fared better than they did.
    At about 8 ish, we were shown how dinner was cooked, I guess by a traditional method in large pits in the ground. Everyone cheered when the food was uncovered and we then knew we were having chicken for dinner. The large containers were bought back to the table, along with salads and other traditional fare. Myself, I am not a big lover of food like this, or buffets so as soon as they said “grub’s up” we raced to the front so we could hopefully get food that was not poked and prodded by guests. My haste to get in front of the line was for good reason as I saw people touching the food and reaching in to get pita bread from a large bag. I didn’t each much and was still quite hungry after. I did not eat desert so cannot say what was on offer.
    After dinner the music started and all of the wait staff gathered around the fire to commence what was billed as “an unforgettable evening of entertainment”. Unfortunately the unforgettable evening did not materialise. We were treated to some dancing, which looked very much like Greek dancing. What spoiled things for me was that the crowd got up to join in and obviously they didn’t know what they were doing which slowed the dancers down and it did not look as spectacular. One particular woman drove us crazy. She wanted to be in everything and jumped up and joined in with the dancers when they were trying to do “their own” thing.
    At about 10.30 pm, we’d had enough and retired to our tent. I suppose the tent was fun, and thank heavens it was just for one night. I made the bed and pulled the blanket up as it was getting a bit chilly and drifted off to sleep as the music played in the background. I woke at about midnight and the music had stopped. I could hear people drifting off to bed. I had a reasonably good sleep and woke at approximately 5 with the morning prayer. In the desert the chanting was very loud and as usual sounded very pretty. Starting at around 5.30 am people started to wake up and move about the camp. Many of these people were so loud and noisy, calling out to others and speaking at the top of their lungs. It was just as well that we had to be up early to drive back to Amman. I headed to the bathroom and just brushed my teeth and hair. I didn’t shower. I sprayed on plenty of deodorant so that I would not be smelly during the afternoon flight.
    We left Wadi Rum at 6.45 am. Greg ate breakfast, which was prepared especially for him as we were leaving so early. I went without – as I often did on this trip. The trip back to Amman took us about 3 hours. For most of the trip I dozed in the car but before I went “nigh nighs” I watched the Jordanian kids heading off to school in their various uniforms and different forms of transport. I imagined these kids in the future and hoped that they got the education they needed and deserved so that, in the future, they could become whatever they wanted to become.
    We arrived in time for our midday flight. Yousef dropped us right at the entrance for international departures and told us what to do We said our goodbyes and we thanked him for looking after us and gave him a reasonable tip. We checked in with ease and walked around to our departure gate and waited for the short flight back to Cairo.
    The Egyptair flight was on a newish plane that was very full. Unfortunately I was sitting near a man who needed a squirt of deodorant! The passengers amazed me. So many sat where they wanted to, rather than their assigned seats. The was quite a bit of shuffling by the attendants to get everyone seated.
    We arrived early afternoon and this time we new the drill. I collected our Visas, although I couldn’t find the US dollars I had set aside so I just paid for them in Egyptian pounds. We lined up to go through immigration which, luckily for us, didn’t take as long. Ahmed met us again and we grabbed our cases. He commented that we had another case! He said our 3rd case and a carry on bag were in the car being driven by Mamoud who was on his way up from the car park to collect us. Whilst we were waiting Ahmed received a phone call and he told us that the Lady Egypt car had been hit from behind and Mamoud was sorting it out. Ahmed didn’t know the damage or what was happening so he said he’d wander down to have a look.
    We waited about 15 minutes and in this time we were approached by many men asking if we wanted a taxi. This time I was more experienced and a lot more confident so I told them that “my friend was coming to get me”. I thought I’d pretend I was a local coming back to live! I liked one particularly persistent tout who queried why we were waiting. I said I was waiting for my ride. He queried who was giving me a ride and I said it was my friend. The tout said “it is very hot today so your friend probably won’t turn up”. It was high 30’s and I replied nonchalantly, “this isn’t hot” as if I was a seasoned veteran! The man continued to try and convince us to let him take us “home”. He then queried the nationality of my friend. I think he was assuming I’d say Australian, English, American or something like that but I said “my friend is Egyptian”. He said “oh, does your friend live here”. I told him that yes my friend lives here, as do I, and he’s just gone to get the car. Once he knew that my friend was actually here, he finally departed!
    Ahmed finally returned and I could see Mamoud in the distance wheeling our cases. Ahmed said that Mamoud was fine but the car wouldn’t go. He assured us that our bags were fine and not squashed! Mamoud arrived and smiled at us happily and in his limited English said he was sorry. He had nothing to be sorry about as Ahmed said it was not his fault. I asked him if he was ok and he knew what I was asking and said he was. He seemed very sorry that he could not pick us up and that we had been disadvantaged. I actually felt sorry for him because I thought he may not get paid for today and he would not be getting a tip. I thought though that I would give Ahmed some money for him as he had been so helpful when he drove us around earlier. Ahmed hailed a large cab and we all piled in, luggage included.
    We told Ahmed how we found or Jordan trip and he said that Desert Horizons was the best company available in Jordan. We queried the jeep and I think there was a bit of a lack of understanding due to my descriptions. I don’t think he understood that I was saying I was on a ute or pick up. Oh well, who cares it was over now. We commented to Ahmed that we were not keen to come back to the Marriott and we had come across other Australians who said they did not enjoy the atmosphere. Ahmed assured us we would like it this time as school had resumed in the middle east and the hotel would really just be occupied by tourists like us.
    Ahmed told us about the arrangements for tonight – dinner on a nile boat. I think Maxims. We lounged around the pool this afternoon, had something to eat and strolled through the arcade at the Cairo Marriott. We got dressed and met Ahmed at the front of the hotel and he walked us across the road to the boat. On the way we finalised arrangements for tomorrow where we were going to go back to the museum and a large shopping mall like City Stars or Carrefour. We arrived at the boat and Ahmed followed the waiter and us as they took us to our table and sat us down. I looked around and thought Ahmed had gone as I did not see him. A few moments later he came back and he said he had gone to ask the matire d if we could move to a better location that was closer to the dance floor and the floor show. Ahmed bid us goodbye and said “enjoy”.
    Greg and I discussed how we were still full from lunch. He said he wouldn’t be able to eat much and all of a sudden I felt really full and thought I couldn’t eat a thing. The waiters made a huge production about asking what we wanted to order for the mail meal – I think it was chicken or beef. I said chicken. They asked us to get some salads and we thought we’d just wait for the main. We were continually approached to get salad so we eventually decided to get some so that it would look like we’d eaten. I got a small amount and moved it about on my plate so it looked like I had eaten lots. The main meal arrived soon after and there wasn’t a single bit of room left in my tum for the meal. The waiters were so helpful and I felt would be offended if I didn’t eat anything. I was also feeling a little bit anxious about being on the boat – no idea why – but I really just wanted to get off and go back to the Marriott before I had a sore stomach. Greg said we’d eat and go. He just wanted to go to the casino. He started eating and I opened my pita bread and spooned some chicken inside and wrapped it in a napkin and put it in my bag! I felt terrible as there were starving people in Egypt and here I was pretending to eat. I made Greg eat some of my dinner so it didn’t look untouched. At this stage I went to the bathroom and came back. Greg had eaten a large amount of his dinner and I thought “great we can go”. At this moment Greg said “look, we’ve left the dock”. I gazed out the window in to the darkness saying “no…noooo”….. I just felt terrible knowing that I could not get off the boat and I was marooned, just like on Gilligan’s Island, only I was on the ship, wanting to be on land! In the end we just had to make the best of it!
    The boat sailed along the nile in the warm air. After a while I started to relax and we went outside to wander around the deck. We stood on the deck in the warm air, looking at the sights, smells and sounds of Egypt and spoke about how much we loved it here and how much we’d miss it. When we came back inside there was a band with 2 singers, one was a lot better than the other! They sang in Arabic and English. Then, we were delighted by, I think he’s called a whirling devish who was fabulous. I don’t know how they don’t get dizzy. After this we were entertained by a very glamorous and sultry belly dancer in an exotic beaded outfit that jingled as she moved. She was so much better than the belly dancer on the nile cruise. She definitely knew how to work the crowd and had worked up many men in to a frenzy. One particular man was very enamoured and must of taken about 300 shots of her from all angles!
    By 9.30 the show was over and we returned to the dock. Ahmed had told us just walk back to the hotel the same way we came. He said we shouldn’t have any problems. I am proud to say that I crossed my first Egyptian road! How magnificent and brave you are all probably thinking, however, in reality it wasn’t that hard. 3 lanes of the 4 lane road had traffic that was sitting still and waiting to collect passengers from the boat, e.g. taxis, private cars, tour cars etc. So, my feat of crossing the road wasn’t really that magnificent but at least I can say “I did it”. After a 5 minute walk to get back to the hotel we went to the casino where Greg lost all the US dollars he had on him! Once we were poor, we ventured back to our room, in the Gezira Tower, and went to sleep.
    Day 21 Cairo Museum & shopping!
    Unfortunately Hamdi was busy today and we had to have another guide. Ahmed met us at 9 am and introduced us to Nasser. Nasser was friendly and charming. He said he was sorry that he didn’t get to look after us when we first arrived in Cairo. He said he “had heard we were fun”. He said I get some clients and they don’t smile or talk and don’t appear to be having fun. Whether or not this was a ploy to garner a larger tip, I don’t know. Or perhaps the guides did talk about “nightmare guests” amongst themselves!
    Nasser questioned us to what we had seen on our trip and our thoughts on various things. He asked us if it was ok for him to take us around the Museum like he normally does. He said he hopes he doesn’t repeat anything we’ve heard, or seen and I said it does not matter because it will just reinforce our knowledge, and, I don’t think there is any hardship about seeing the same objects. When we arrived at the Museum it was so empty. The previous time the roads to the museum were crowded and so to was the forecourt. Nasser pointed out the papyrus and lotus in the fountain and its meaning. I had not noticed it before. Nasser said he wanted to start our tour with antiquities from the Old Kingdom then the Middle Kingdom and the New Kingdom etc. He told us about the style of statues and how they differed through the eras. He pointed out many different things to Hamdi and we were not disappointed at all. He marvelled at the beauty of what we were seeing as if he was seeing it for the first time. We slowly made our way around the museum, with my 10 LE fan I bought in Aswan working overtime. It was not as crowded or as hot and again we were amazed by what we were seeing and the way in which it was displayed. Some had detailed descriptions, many made by an old typewriter, and others had no description. We worked our way up towards King Tut and Nasser said we’d have a look at some items together and then he would leave us to look around by ourselves. He asked us how much time we would need and by now we had seen so much that we told him we just wanted another half hour to marvel at the death mask, chariots, inner coffins, shrines, jewellery and alabaster items. As I had now visited King Tut’s tomb I was amazed that all the items on display could of fitted in his tomb. I again was mesmerised by the items on display and imagined the excitement of finding a relatively intact tomb only 100 years ago.
    We passed by the bookshop and didn’t go in. When we got outside Nasser asked if we wanted a special DVD that was only available to guides and cost 75 LE. On the DVD was thousands of pictures of items from the museum. I thought “sure its only available to guides” but handed over my money and he scooted off to buy the promised DVD. (now that I have half unpacked I haven’t seen the DVD – hope I haven’t lost it!). We discussed whether to stop for lunch, but during our sightseeing we never felt like stopping so we said we’d go on. We offered to stop if the Nasser and the driver wanted lunch but they declined.
    Nasser took us to a Carrefour shopping mall. I am not sure what suburb it was in but it was very new and from memory, the area was very neat and newish. As we were trying to find a car park I was amazed at the size of the parking bays and roads. They were so thin! I thought there is no way that this car is going to be able to turn sharply enough to get in to a car space and then, if by some miracle we do get in, how the heck are we going to get out. I was surprised and amused at the “parking attendants” who appeared and helped guide us in to a space. Our first attempt failed so we moved on to another space and squeezed our way in. As we got out of the car I thought, “if I ever move to Egypt I’ll never be able to go to the shops as I cannot park”. Perhaps a moped might be the way to go!
    Nasser suggested that we part ways so we can look around in peace. I was trying to say that I wanted him to come with us in case I could not understand a storekeeper. He said I would be fine. I was only a tiny bit peeved that he didn’t come with us as that is what I wanted. I thought though, that if I find something and I cannot make myself understood I will come back. I bought a number of handbags and shoes, make up and men’s clothes. Greg and I ventured in to the supermarket where we had a fabulous time looking up and down the aisles. I did get a few looks of “what is she doing here” but I just carried on. People were polite and didn’t push even though it was fairly crowded in some areas. We just purchased a few snacks and drinks – grape Fanta – by now a favourite – and headed towards the checkout. It was nice to know that if you had a large cart there were attendants to help you pack your items and I guess take them back to your car. I purchased my items without any problems and collected my change. We then visited a gourmet food store and giggled as a lot of the products and meat was from Australia. Greg noted that the price of beef was the same, or slightly cheaper than what we get it for back home. I said I’d happily come to Egypt on my next shopping trip to get some “cheap beef”! In the store were a number of foreigners, perhaps who were living in Egypt now and wanted a taste of back home. The girl in front of me at the counter was wearing a headscarf but when she spoke I noticed that she was Australian.
    We met Nasser in the agreed place and said we had finished. He commented that he thought we’d have more. I said I am shopped out and I had purchased things that I loved and I was really happy. I particularly liked a suede and patent leather messenger bag I got for 200 LE (AUD$40). As we drove home Nasser questioned us about the prices of things back in Australia. He was particularly interested in knowing the prices of cars. As we chatted, he’d interrupt the conversation to point out something of particular interest and then we’d go back to our original conversation. As we arrived back at the hotel Nasser joked about “looking after us poor Egyptians” and giving us a nice tip. We all joked that we’d spent our money which had kept the economy going in Egypt. I gave the driver 300 LE, and I cannot recall what I gave Nasser. He wasn’t sure if he would look after us the following day, in which we thought we’d go to the Bazar again.
    We arrived back at the hotel mid afternoon and headed out to the poolside café to have something to eat and drink. We discussed tomorrow and thought that we might just have a sleep in and relax before our flight. I also had to pack all our shopping in to our bags! A great feat equivalent to the building of the pyramids I am sure!
    Day 22 Departing Cairo for Malaysia (I think I mucked up the days as I thought we were away for 24 days)
    We slept in until about 8 am and after showering and tidying up we headed down for breakfast. This time I actually went down to eat! I thought I’d try and get my monies worth after not feeling like eating for so much of the trip. I happily plonked my 2 bits of toast in the toaster and then got very annoyed as some other lady took off with my toast. I stomped back to Greg at the table to complain. I then changed my menu and had pancakes and maple syrup! Very unegyptian! After breakfast we just wandered around the hotel and read our books outside. We sat on the balcony and looked at the Nile. I had had such a fabulous time. I cannot believe I finally made it to Egypt after all these years. I remember studying ancient Egypt at high school and doing a project on the burial of a pharaoh and now here I was!
    We had to leave the hotel by 2 pm for our late arvo/evening flight. We showered at 1 pm and packed the remainder of our items and again went out on the balcony. We’d already had a discussion about “where will we go next” and we started to talk about this!! We were not going home yet, we were going on to Malaysia, but we loved Egypt so much we wanted to work out another county to visit that would be as fabulous.
    With a tinge of sadness, we called the bell captain and asked for someone to come up to our room to collect our bags. We did one final check of the room as we departed and we were sure we had everything. (somewhere along the way one of my white t-shirts was lost or misappropriated!). We met Ahmed and as we were checking out the computers went down and we had to wait whilst they found out how much we owed.

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    I hope it printed out ok. It was a pain to copy the different sections.

    P.S. Some bits were "tongue in cheek" so please nobody get offended by a few of my jokes..

    if anyone wants to know anything I am happy to tell you on the board, or in private if you prefer.

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    Wow, that's some trip report. I haven't read it all but quickly read through the Jordan part since I just returned from there, too. In addition to the Wadi Rum jeep tour we share more similar experiences.

    First off I thought we would have a driver and guide throughout the trip. After the first day I went back and combed through the correspondence to see if that was ever clearly defined and was not. To me, Desert Castles was a bid of a dud, I'm glad that was first since that eases us in to the trip because If it came later I think I'd be really annoyed. Our similar experience even extends through our bathroom woes at Dead Sea Marriott! My case was worse than yours and I was so glad it was our last day in Jordan where we just planned to hang at the resort all day. It was the only place either of us had issues. My immodium did not work so eventually I took the Antinal I bought in Cairo 2 years ago that I never needed to open before!

    I was wondering if you requested any specific driver or guide I'm advance for Jordan and if we had other guides in common. I did request someone and was told by Desert Horizons that he would be with us, but this was not the case when we arrived in Jordan. We did see that person during our trip though. Also, I was told that all the local guides are on a rotation so it's just the luck of the draw but
    after WR I'm not so sure I believe that?

    Oh yeah! I also went down the slide but I was the only "grown up" doing so.

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    Hamlet, I said there was plenty! Read and skip bits at your leasure. I did not ask for a particular guide in Jordan or Egypt. I agree, the Desert Castles were a bit of a dud and we were disappointed we had to drive for so long to see them. We loved relaxing at the Dead Sea... weeeee.. look at me on the slide.. no hands ma! I am not sure if I wrote it, but I saw someone tip the guy at the top of the slide. I guess the slide guy made sure the tipper's kid had a good day!

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    Axel, I was sick the day we visited Mt Nebo so I just sat under a tree an didn't look at anything. My husband said it was "ok" but it was foggy so there was no view to be seen. Perhaps it might be worth visiting from a religous point of view, but for me, if I had looked around I am sure I would of just thought "my what a steep hill I am on.. ok, next landmark!!"

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    Thanks for posting your report. It took me a while to read but so worth it as I love reports that are so full of detail.
    It's always great to read about Egypt as it gives me a chance to reminisce about my trip there a few years ago.

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    Thanks for all the wonderful detail, Miss Green! May I ask, when did you receive your detailed itinerary from Amanda? The one I received when booking this summer (for trip in December) did not contain hotel names yet, it just said "hotel like Marriott or etc." Also, what Nile ship were you on? Thanks!

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    Thanks MissGreen! What a wonderful, detailed report! My husband and I have been to Egypt before and this brought back many fond memories. We will be off to Egypt again in March (using Lady Egypt) with our 16 year old son. Your trip report certainly helps to build our anticipation.

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    Thanks so much for your fabulous report Miss Green. I am going to Egypt in March. Your report cleared up so many questions I had. I so appreciated the time you spent posting this. Can't wait to finalize our tours.

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    Miss Green can you tell me if you were able to use charge card on your costly items that you purchased at the Bazaars or is it strickly cash basis? Bit concerned because that would be a lot of cash to carry on your costly purchases like the alabaster bowl. I imagine you have better bargaining power if you hand over cash on smaller items though. Thanks!

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    Jam, I bought everything at the bazars with Cash. I didn't in fact buy that expensive alabaster bowl, but if I had of, I would of paid by credit card. The store was a largeish souvenir store, not at the bazar so I am sure they happily took my credit card. Only other place we had trouble paying for something was the camera store where my husband wanted a 4000 EGP camera lens. I probably shouldn't, but on hols I like to carry large amounts of cash in big denominations but I didn't have enough cash, and neither of hubbie or my credit cards would work. Unfortunately for him (camera nut) and the store keeper who wanted a sale, we had to walk away empty handed. The camera store even took us to the next shop to try his EFTPOS machine but alas neither of our cards would work. Our Lady Egypt Rep, Ahmed, ever faithful had told us that we should of told him about our troubles and he would of gone to the store, bought the camera lens and delivered it to us at the Cairo Marriott.

    MMC - we were on the Crown Empress, supposedly billed as the longest ship on the Nile. It was ok. It was clean and neat which was my main issue. The food was nice and all prepared hygenically, and where necessary, with bottled water. We had a tour of the kitchens.

    I got the itinerary and hotels as soon as I made the initial enquiries. Only one from memory that changed was the hotel in Alexandria. Amanda said she changed us to the Jollie Martime (cannot remember exact name) as the room was better - we had a suite overlooking the mediterranian and the busy cairo road which kept us amused late at night before bed! We came to enjoy hearing the respectful toots of car horns! Despite how busy the roads were, we always saw courtesy between drivers... so different from what we see in Sydney, Australia.

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    Thank you so much for your detailed report. We are leaving for Cairo in just under 2 weeks and have a very similar itinerary as yours, just a little more condensed. It is also through Lady Egypt, and after reading your report on Jebal Rum, I inquired which camp we were set up with and found it to be the same. We are now going to stay at Captain's Desert Camp, which has mostly good reviews on Trip Advisor, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed. I noticed on your itinerary that one day lunch was at Felfela in Cairo. I'm guessing it is a chain as that is the name of the restaurant which was suggested for us when we visit the pyramids in Giza. Did you go, and would you recommend it? Oh yes, and thanks to you and other Fodorites on the Antinal tip - I'll be purchasing a supply as soon as we land, just in case. Again, thanks for your great report - I plan on reading it again before we leave.

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    Marvontherim. You are so lucky to be going to Egypt in 2 weeks.. I wish I was going again! I did love it that much. Unfortunately Australia is so far away that we cannot flip over there again during our next holidays! Maybe I am just a stuck up snob in not liking Jebal Rum. Oh, how I envied the "deluxe" or "VIP tents" there were larger and had their own shower. I am not sure if Felfela is a chain, but perhaps you visit the pyramids and then when returning to Cairo go to Felfela. I am not a big "foodie" so my opinion is not a good one to have, but my husband who loves his food and loves trying different things really loved it. He enjoyed a typical Egyptian meal - the menu chosen already for us. I enjoyed the fun decor and seeing other locals and tourists eating there. The bathroom was fine. A male attendant outside gave me some toilet paper as I handed him a pound or two. Probably the best part of the lunch at Felfela was the chat we had with our guide. My husband really enjoyed getting our guides view on things and I think from the body language and interest our guide showed, he enjoyed hearing us talk about current events and the west's view on the middle east. He did ask us many questions.

    I did get some medication when I was in Egypt but for me, who has a very sensitive stomach and has some "issues" in Australia, it is hard for me to tell if my stomach problems were from "bad food, germs etc" or if they were just regular "stress issues". Hubbie ate most things that crossed his path, even tap water, and had no problems except for feeling a bit "dicey" as we sat in the depature lounge on the day we left!

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    Miss Green - I don't think you are a snob at all regarding Jebal Rum. In fact, I have the same expectations as you did. Another Fodorite had stayed at Bedoin Life Camp and it sounded just like what we were looking for - we are traveling with our sons and their wives who I know would love to camp out under the desert skies. I asked about it and was told we would have something the same or similar so didn't think anything more until I read your report and was informed that this is where we were booked. When I stated my concerns, we were switched, and I'm hoping our experience at Captain's Desert Camp will be a good one. We went with the standard tent (no private bath), but for one night, I'm sure we'll be just fine. I think Captain's will be somewhere between Bedoin Life and Jebal Rum. I also researched Felfela - it is a small chain, and has gotten great reviews. We are so excited - we've traveled a bit, but this is our first trip to Egypt and we can hardly wait. Thanks for all you comments.

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