Carl's Trip Report 11 Day Egypt Eclipse Tour

Apr 10th, 2006, 04:21 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 204
Carl's Trip Report 11 Day Egypt Eclipse Tour

I went on an 11 day Egypt Solar Eclipse tour through Travel Quest International. I had always wanted to go to Egypt and the Solar Eclipse seemed like the perfect opportunity to go there. I booked this trip over a year ago, not too long after I first found out about it. The solar eclipse was in the far northwest corner of Egypt near the Libyan border, which is not an area tourists normally go to. I looked into going there on our own, but it seemed difficult if not impossible. The border area is a restricted military zone, and the few hotels in the area had been booked for years in advance. So I found Travel Quest, called them up, and reserved space for me and my dad on their 11 day tour B. We tried to get my uncles to join us, but they and my aunts ended up on the Travel Quest Mediterranean Cruise. The highlights for me were the Pyramids, the ancient temples of Luxor, the tombs of the Valley of the Kings, and the Eclipse. The tour took care of all our needs. We only ate a few times on our own in Cairo. Besides going to the Pyramids a few times ourselves, we only had a short time on our own in Luxor.
Day 1 Tue, March 21, 2006 Arrive Cairo, Egypt
My dad flew in on KLM via Amsterdam. He got in around 3:00 am. I was flying in on Air France via Paris and got in later around 5:00 pm. There was someone with a Travel Quest sign to pick me and one other person up who was also on my flight. He had our visa stickers ready as well. Since my dad arrived earlier, he had time that afternoon to walk around the Pyramids on his own. We stayed at the Meridien Pyramids which was almost right across the street from the Pyramids. Some of the rooms had Pyramid views, but now ours; we overlooked a dusty bus terminal. We could see them from an overlook down the hall though. Since I had been flying all day we didnít do too much that evening. Travel Quest had set up a table in the lobby and the President, Aram Kaprielian greeted everyone. I had spoken with him at length before booking this tour so it was nice to meet him in person. The agenda for the next day was posted: 8:30am wake up for breakfast and touring. We walked down the street to Felfelaís, an Egyptian fast food place. We had a nice dinner of traditional Egyptian foods, fava beans, tamiya (what the Egyptians call falafel), stuffed grape leaves, and mixed grilled meats. We werenít sure what to do with the fava beans, one of the waiters showed us how to put lemon and salt on the beans and mush it up with a fork to eat with the bread. I had brought my tri-band GSM phone with me, a Motorola Timeport. We needed an Egyptian phone card for it so we could get and make phone calls. The idea was for my uncle to be able to call us in Cairo when their cruise came to Egypt and we would try to meet up somewhere. Most likely at the Egyptian Museum where our itineraries overlapped. The concierge recommended a phone shop and said it would be open late, until 11:00pm. Since we had some time, we got a taxi to take us around the corner to the shop. After some discussion between the taxi driver and the store clerk, we managed to buy a phone card and some minutes for 175 Egyptian Pounds (a little more that $30). This seemed reasonable, the same card and minutes in Italy would cost between $20-$40. After our taxi driver, Hussein, ďlike Sadaam, but just HusseinĒ he told us, offered us tea at his familyís shop. The shop turned out to be a perfume shop and after his ďuncleĒ had us sample some perfume and we sat for awhile, we called Hussein to take us back to the hotel. This was around 9:30 and we were ready for bed.
Day 2 Wed, March 22 Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx and Sakkara's Step Pyramid
Breakfast was a buffet in the hotel. We had a rather large group around 90 people, so we were divided into three groups for boarding the buses. We were supposed to stick with our subgroup through the whole tour. We had the bus driver, two guides and a state security guy. Our guides (Egyptologists) were Mona and Osama. Uh oh! But I think Osama is a common Arab name. We drove in back of the Pyramids for a panoramic view. Osama told us on the bus, that it anyone wanted to ride a camel, he would help us and it would cost 20 Egyptian Pounds. I had read on the internet that camel riding was dangerous because any agreed price to ride the camel would not include getting off the camel which could cost double or more. Anyway, with Osamaís help I felt that it would be safe. Osama found a camel driver and I got on. The camel is big! It also pitches way forward when it stands up. I rode into the desert a short way, then came back. The camel driver asked for a tip, so I gave him $2 US. It was fun! At least for a few minutes. My dad decided he didnít want to ride a camel, he had passed the camels yesterday going back to the stables and they were rather smelly. It was early in the morning now so they didnít smell too bad yet. From the smallest pyramid, we took the bus over to the second one and the Solar Boat. The ancient Egyptians only known form of transportation was the boat. Their mythology said the Sun was carried across the sky in a boat and back through the underworld at night. According to Egyptian beliefs, the soul of the dead accompanied the sun on its eternal journey in the Upper Waters (the heavens) around the world. A boat or at least a model of a boat was therefore included in every tomb. The Solar Boat was only put together with wood, rope and woven palm leaves. It was remarkably well preserved, but not totally, about a fifth of the wood here was new. After this, we walked over to the Great Pyramid of Khufu. Some of us had signed up to go into the Great Pyramid. I had seen this on the Amazing Race 5, where teams had to get a clue from inside the Great Pyramid. The upper passage started out narrow, but then opens up so you arenít crouched down the whole time. We first went up to the Kingís chamber. The chamber was not decorated and was empty except for a plain sarcophagus. On the way back down, the lower Queenís chamber was open. Here the passageway is very small and we climbed down and back up crouched down the whole way. The lower chamber is irregular with stones lying around and what may have been rooms, unlike the upper chamber which was a smooth rectangular room. Climbing down and back up was really tough and we were sore for the next three days. The inside was very hot and stuffy and it was hard work climbing. It was refreshing to get out of the passage and back into the warm desert air. After coming out, we got back on the bus and drove around to the Sphinx. There is a separate entry and ticket office for the Sphinx event though there is a direct causeway from the Sphinx to the Pyramid of Khafre. The Sphinx is small compared to the Pyramids, from the plateau you donít realize the Sphinx is even there. Our next stop was lunch on the way to Memphis. We stopped at a hotel/restaurant Alezba Village. Unlike the Meridien, this seemed mostly for Egyptians. The swimming pool was especially interesting because the boys and young men all had swimming trunks and were in the pool, while the women and girls were covered except for their faces and hands and were sitting in the shade. Lunch was a buffet with a charcoal grill with meat delivered to each table. We had to pay for drinks other than water, even sodas, this would be the case everywhere. There were musicians, goats and pony rides for kids. One school age girl was posing for photos with a baby goat. I would have gotten a picture of her, but our table was lamenting how she should be in school instead of being exploited for pictures so I didnít think it was a good thing to do. After lunch we went to Memphis. This was the first capital of Egypt when the two kingdoms of Upper (the Nile valley) and Lower (the Nile Delta) Egypt were united under the Old Kingdom. There was a open air museum with some statues and a smaller sphinx. Mona explained about the two crowns for Upper and Lower Egypt and we saw some hieroglyphics duplicated once for each kingdom. The highlight here was also a large statue of Ramses II. Osama, our guide, started calling our group Ramses to make it easier to gather together. From here we went to Sakkara. These were the oldest pyramids, starting from around 2800 BC. Some of them have collapsed into piles of sand, They started out as step Pyramids, like the main one in Sakkara. Each level was called a Mastaba or table. The Step Pyramid had been extended from its original four levels to six leaving it slightly uneven. In the distance we could see the Bent Pyramid of Darshur. There they couldnít get the angle quite right. From the step pyramids, the Bent Pyramid was the next development, finally culminating in the Great Pyramid at Giza. The development of the Pyramids was one of the fastest technological improvements in human history. The hotel pool did not stay open late, it closed at 6:00, but at least one other person from our group was going to take a quick dip, so I decided to do that as well. The pool was very refreshing after a hot, dusty day. We could even see the pyramids from the pool. At around 6:30 they gathered up all the seat cushions and started throwing chlorine into the pool so it was time to leave. That evening, we had dinner on our own. Aram had recommended the Nubian Restaurant at the hotel so we tried that. It was much more expensive than Felfelaís and I didnít think the food was as good. We had given the waiter a tip of 25 Pounds, about 20%, but he gave it back to us saying that service was included. I found out later that I had left 25 Piasters not Pounds and it was an insult to him. We were getting a 1:15 am wake up call tomorrow for our flight to Luxor so we went to bed right away.
Day 3 Thu, March 23 Karnak Temple / Luxor Temple / Embark MS Salacia
We woke up incredibly early. I knew from reading on the internet that weíd have at least one super early ďSunriseĒ flight to Abu Simbel, but I wasnít prepared for it so soon. Our flight to Luxor was at 6:00 am and I guess we needed that much time to load up the buses and get everyone going. There were breakfast packs being distributed, but I was too tired to think about it. We didnít leave the hotel until around 3:30 am, so we probably didnít need to be up quite so early. Airport security is pretty tight. There are metal detectors and scanners just to get into the airport and then again at the gate to get on the plane. The flight to Luxor was short, but they did give us juice and a roll. All our flights in Egypt were on Egypt Air which was perfectly fine. They have a reputation for being late, but I really didnít notice, there was never a long delay. When we got to Luxor, we now had 4 buses, so it was hard to stick with our original group. We followed Gerry and Connie, who we had been with the day before onto another bus. Our guide here was a lady, Manal, and our first stop was the Temple of Karnak.
The Karnak Temple was a large complex. Every ruler made their own additions to it. Outside there is a procession of sphinxes, although these had ramís heard rather than human heads. We saw how the temple was contructed, by piling up sand to slide the stones in place. Then there were towering columns that were arranged to resemble a forest. Prominent in the temple was the Queen Hatshepsut, who ruled as Pharaoh. She created a legend legitimizing her reign where her father was a god. Here is the god giving the key of life to Hatshepsutís mother. Here is Hatshepsut. The colors in the temple are amazingly well preserved. We would see this everywhere. Must be the dry desert air. Here is the ancient numbering system. The temple also has the largest obelisk in the world.
When we had finished with Karnak, we went to our boat, the MS Salacia. Our boat dock was right across the street from the Temple of Luxor. This was a smaller temple than Karnak. Our rooms werenít ready yet so everyone was sitting in the boatís lounge. It was a little stuffy with almost 100 people in that small space so I decided to take a walk around Luxor. I followed the Eyewitness Guide walking tour around Luxor, which basically just went around the block of the Luxor Temple. There were horse buggies giving rides to tourists around town. I passed by the stables, and some small shops. I went into one shop the Princess Dianna (misspelled with 2 nís) and bought a bunch of small souvenirs. My favorites were four small canopic jars, for the internal organs taken out during mummification. I walked through a park, which really was a construction zone, at one point a wooden plank went over a large ditch. I decided not to walk the plank and went around the ditch. I was back to the boat in an hour, and by that time our rooms were ready. We didnít feel like napping so we explored the boat. Here we are on the top deck, there was a small swimming pool on deck that I had time to enjoy over the next few days. After lunch on the boat, we toured the Luxor Temple. I had only seen the outside earlier on my walk. There were two obelisks here at one point, the second one is now in Paris at the Place de la Concorde having been given to France as a gift. The engravings here seemed clearer. Also, like at Karnak, there were later additions, every ruler wanted to leave his mark, some in Greco-Roman style. The Luxor Temple was much smaller than the Temple of Karnak, though it had many of the same elements.
After touring the temple, we walked up to the Luxor Museum on our own. The museum is new, air conditioned, and the exhibits were spaced out well with English descriptions. We couldnít take pictures inside though, but it was worth visiting. We walked back to the boat along the cornice and saw that the Temple was lit up at night. The itinerary for the next day was posted, wake up call at 4:45. At least it was a full three hours later than today. After dinner we went right to bed.
Day 4 Fri, March 24 Valley of the Kings / Nile Cruise
We were up early and getting on the buses at 6:00 am. We would discover later that day that itís better to be up early and tour around before it becomes unbearably hot. We drove to the Nile River bridge, one of only a few below Cairo I believe and crossed over to the West Bank (of the Nile, not the Jordan). We could see several hot air balloons up in the sky. The Valley of the Kings would be our first stop. On the bus, we were asked if we wanted to go into King Tutís tomb. Several people opted to go in, our guide (we were back with Osama) told everyone that King Tut was one of the lesser kings and his tomb was not that special compared to some of the other ones. We knew that ourselves, that he was one of the lesser pharaohs, but obviously didnít have first hand knowledge of what his tomb might be like. Most who went, just wanted to say theyíd been in King Tutís tomb. There was a golf cart trolley that took us from the parking lot to the entrance. We toured three tombs, Ramses III, Ramses IV, and Merneptah. Each was a little different, the last one was the least crowded so that made it a more enjoyable experience. The tombs are decorated almost entirely in hieroglyphics, these are spells that the deceased would need in the next world. There are also some stories of the Egyptian gods. There was some Latin and what looked like Greek but was actually Coptic graffiti in Ramses IVís tomb, which was the first we visited. Ramses III tomb ran into an earlier tomb and goes off in another direction halfway down the passageway. Merneptah was uphill a short ways from the otherís which is why it may have been less crowded. The colors inside were amazingly vivid, this is a picture from the entrance. We werenít allowed to take pictures inside the tombs.
Our next stop was the Temple of Hatshepsut. The temple was built in three levels into the side of the mountain. The area in front of the temple was a huge open area. I think this was where several tourists were killed, it was scary because there was no place to take cover incase something happened. There was a heavy security presence so we werenít worried, but I couldnít help thinking about what had happened there before. In the temple one side had engravings about how she was descended from a god (the same story we saw at Karnak) and the other side had her expedition to Punt (Somalia). Amazing colors here too.
After this, we drove past the Ramseseum, which was the mortuary temple of Ramses II. This toppled statue here inspired Shelleyís poem Ozymandias:
I met a traveller from an antique land Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert Ö Near them on the sand, Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand which mocked them, and the heart that fed. On the pedestal these words appear: 'My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings: Look upon my works ye Mighty, and despair!' Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.
We didnít stop there, we just drove by. Our next stop was the Valley of the Queens. This was much less crowded, we went into two tombs, one of a Prince and that of Queen Titi. The Princeís tomb had been excavated by Italians in 1907. Inside the Princeís tomb was a fetus, aborted as part of the Queenís despair over her sonís death. Queen Nefertariís tomb, the most famous one here, was closed. The tombs that had been so well preserved for thousands of years canít handle the stream of modern day tourists. Outside the Valley of the Queens was the first time I was taken by a vendor. He ended up taking 70 pounds from me before running away and leaving me with two tiles. I had thought I had agreed to buy one tile for 20 pounds. Oh well, it was still only $12.
Our last stop before returning to the boat was the Colossi of Memnon. They stand pretty tall, but there wasnít much else to see there. The boat left right after we boarded. Hopefully everyone made it. I wasnít sure how they kept track of people, some days we would get boarding cards but this morning we hadnít gotten them.
Cruising up river, we saw many kids (boys only) swimming. The water looks clean, but there are nasty parasites in the Nile. There is a narrow stip of green by the river, and then just desert behind it. We got to Esna just before sunset. At Esna, the British built a dam and a small lock. It takes a long while for the queue of boats to go through the lock. While waiting, vendors go to all the ships in little rowboats trying to sell their wares. We finally went through around 11:30 pm.
carl170 is offline  
Apr 10th, 2006, 04:22 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 204
Day 5 Sat, March 25 Edfu / Kom Ombo
This was an easy day. We only would tour two temples and spend most of the day cruising up river. Our first stop was Edfu, where we were going to the Temple of Horus. This was built by the Ptolemies, but it is an Egyptian temple. Itís not even that old, being just over 2000 years old. The Greek influence allowed for different kinds of capitals on the columns, at Luxor and Karnak, they were all uniform. We could tell more of the structure of the temples, since this was so much newer, it is also much more intact. The two great pylons at the entry represent the legs of the body, then a large hall with columns represents the stomach. A narrower, darker, and lower hall behind that represents the chest. Finally a small, dimly lit chamber represented the head. This is where the altar is located. Outside the temple was the nilometer. I didnít understand what this was before, but how high in the passage the water would reach, would tell them the level of flooding they could expect. The higher the water, the more crops they could expect and they used this to estimate their tax revenue.
We were originally supposed to take horse carriages through town to the temple, but we took buses. Perhaps because the local sentiment is anti-western. We saw this banner while going through the town. In Cairo and along the coast we always had Danish butter on the table at all meals, so the boycott isnít universal.
As we continued south, the band of green seemed to get smaller and smaller. Here are the ancient rock quarries. The desert seemed to be closing in on us. We ended the day at Kom Ombo. There wasnít much room for boats here so they docked right aside each other.
The temple here was dedicated to two gods Haroeris and Sobek, the crocodile headed god. Everything in the temple was evenly divided between the two gods. From the entrance, to the inside altars, which there were two of. Interesting reliefs inside included medical instruments and even a woman giving birth. We were there until dark. There was also a mummified crocodile here. Osama also showed us the original wood planks that held the stones in place.
Tonight was the Galabeyya party on board the ship. Everyone was supposed to dress up in traditional Egyptian outfits. While many people did dress up, my dad and I did not participate. I didnít want to deal with haggling over something I would never wear again and it seemed a little silly. Anyway, we had another early day tomorrow. A 4:00 am wake up to go to Abu Simbel.
Day 6 Sun, March 26 Abu Simbel / Aswan
I woke up early and was sick right away. I skipped breakfast and just laid in bed until it was time to get on the bus. I felt that I couldnít miss Abu Simbel, it was one of the things I most wanted to do on this trip. I had my eyes closed the whole flight, I couldnít even look over at the temple from the air. My Dad got sick on the plane even. There had to have been something going around on that boat. We made it there Ė barely Ė and even look healthy in the picture. The temple was built by Ramses II to impress the native Nubians, who were different from the Egyptians who ruled them, and any travelers coming from the south. Also Queen Nefertari was from here. The smaller temple was dedicated to her. This was the temple that was cut into blocks and moved to higher ground to avoid being submerged by Lake Nasser or the Nubian Sea. It was cut into blocks which you can barely see above the statues. The smaller statue below Ramses is Queen Nefertari. They had to construct an artificial hill to keep the setting similar to its original location. Itís amazing that they were able to move and preserve these temples so well. This was a UNESCO project done in the 1960ís. The original location allowed sunlight to reach the back of the temple twice a year on Ramses II birthday and coronation day. Sunlight still reaches the back twice a year, but the dates are off now. We werenít allowed to take pictures inside the temple.
Abu Simbel was definitely worth visiting, but after that we got back we both spent the next 16 hours in bed. When we got back to Aswan, a few other people werenít feeling well either. We asked our guide (we were with Manal, Osama stayed behind in Aswan) to get some of us back to the boat. We ended up with a whole bus (maybe 30 people) going back, while the other two thirds of our group continued touring Aswan.
Some of the things we missed were the unfinished obelisk, the Temple of Philae, a felucca ride on the Nile, and tea at the Cataract Hotel. I would have like to see some of Aswan, especially the Nubian museum, also the bazaar there is supposed to have African style handicrafts, but as it was, it was better for us to rest up for more strenuous days coming up.
Day 7 Mon, March 27 Egyptian Museum / Old Cairo
Another early wake up call at 4:00 am for our early flight to Cairo. It must have been a 24 hour virus of some kind, because I was feeling OK this morning. A good friend insists that it must have been the food because that is the only way so many people would have gotten sick at the same time. Many people were still sick this morning so the flight was not so pleasant. When we just went to Abu Simbel and back, there was no luggage to worry about, but this time we had everyoneís luggage with us. When we arrived in Cairo, some luggage was missing. Because we checked in as a group, we couldnít tell what bags were missing. Everyone had to find their own luggage and match the tag from the tags for the whole group. This operation took quite some time cutting down on our time for touring. Once the bags were identified we went to the Egyptian Museum.
All of a sudden we had 6 Egyptologists (our tour guides) to choose from. We were a little confused because we were on the bus with Manal, but went with Osama into the museum. It turned out that Manal had our tickets and had gone in already, so Osama had to buy extra tickets for us. We couldnít take pictures in the museum, but that didnít stop Egyptians from taking pictures of all the mummies with their cell phones. Highlights of the museum were King Tutís treasures. Many sarcophagi, artifacts of daily life in Ancient Egypt, including what looked like a cribbage board. The royal mummy chamber had the mummies of Ramses II and all of the Pharaohs whose tombs we had visited, Ramses III, IV and Merneptah. There was also a room of animal mummies. Animal mummies fell into four categories, food, offerings, pets and one other which Iíve forgotten. I was surprised that the cat mummies seemed larger than modern housecats.
Lunch was near the Cairo Tower on a boat. On the way there one of our buses hit a small car. The police, our guides, and our security guys all were out there talking. Eventually, the other car got out of the way and the police followed us to lunch to take a statement from the bus driver. After lunch, two buses took people (some sick, some just tired) back to the hotel and only one went on to Old Cairo.
We finally got to use our phone here when we got a call from my uncle. Their cruise had docked last night in Alexandria. They had driven to Cairo and toured the Pyramids that morning and were on their way to the Egyptian Museum. Our original itinerary had us visiting the museum that afternoon as well, but our itinerary changed and we had already gone there this morning. They werenít going to tour Old Cairo, so we just said hello and asked about their cruise. We were probably not far from where they were, but for us to go back to the museum again would have taken an hour in Cairo traffic. As it was we only had time to see the old synagogue of Ben Ezra and one Coptic Church, St. Sergius. The church had the crypt of the holy family where Jesus, Mary and Joseph stayed while in Egypt. We couldnít take pictures in either place. School let out as we were leaving Old Cairo.
We drove up to the Citadel, but it was after 4:00 pm and they were closing so we couldnít get in. I asked a later group (Tour C) what their highlights were in Cairo that we might have missed and one of them said the Citadel and the Mosque of Muhammad Ali. On the way back to the hotel there was one spot where the Pyramids were perfectly lined up. We couldnít get out of the bus though so this is just taken from the window.
At the hotel, all the Travel Quest/Sky and Telescope tours had converged on the Meridien. There was a huge group for dinner, our regular group was almost 100, so I think there might have been 500 people. We had a weather briefing and a logistics discussion for the next day. Tonight it rained in Cairo rather hard! I heard it only rains twice a year there.
Day 8 Tue, March 28 El Alamein WWII Museum and Cemetery / Matrouh
Our group was the last to leave, since we had so many early days recently and the other tours were just getting started they took pity on us and let us sleep in. Because of the rain, there were a lot of accidents and in one place the road had flooded. It took a while for us to get out of Cairo.
We traveled along the edge of the Nile Delta. We passed some suburbs and even a technology park, Smart City, where Microsoft had a building. In the desert there was not much but we did pass the occasional Bedouin herder with sheep, goats, or camels. We got to the coast and stopped at El Alamein. We visited the museum, there they used small models to show the battle. And also the Commonwealth cemetery which is down the road from the museum. We finally got a lunch stop around 3:30 pm. This was at a beach resort. We walked down to the beach after lunch to take a picture by the sea.
Mersa Matrouh was not far from El Alamein. We walked into town before dinner, since we had such a late lunch we werenít hungry yet. We walked along the cornice, but never made it to the downtown area. There was an amphitheatre by the beach and some musicians were setting up. We sat for awhile and listened, then they started dancing. And then one guy got up on stilts and was dancing while on stilts. We forgot to bring both the camera and the video camera so we missed that, but it was fun to just listen and watch them.
There was a big tent set up on the beach for our group for dinner. We got another weather update and news for the next day. The whole drive from Cairo there were fewer and fewer clouds so we werenít worried about the weather. We would have to leave the next day at 6:30 am. The authorities had asked us to leave even earlier, but somehow we got approval to leave later. Day 9 Wed, March 29 Sallum Ė ECLIPSE DAY! Breakfast at the Beau Site hotel was not that great. Everything was cold, so I just had some different breads. On the drive towards Sallum, there seemed to be more clouds not less. There was also something on the horizon that could be clouds. It turned out that this was a ridge of hills right at the Libyan border and they were covered in fog. Here we are looking down on Sallum. The eclipse site was on a parking lot, which could have been a customs station at one point. There were soldiers lined up along the road. Security was especially tight since President Mubarak was viewing the eclipse right by us. He has our groupís same glasses on! At one point, I went to the bathroom and thought they might not let me back into the area. People were only moving in one direction, but after awhile they let me through. It was strangely cold there in the fog. The fog lifted around 10:00 am in plenty of time.
Here was the eclipse schedule: FIRST CONTACT (partial eclipse begins) 11:20:04 a.m. SECOND CONTACT (totality begins) 12:38:02 p.m. THIRD CONTACT (totality ends) 12:41:59 p.m. FOURTH CONTACT (partial eclipse ends) 1:59:54 p.m. Duration of totality: 3 minutes, 56 seconds Sun Altitude during totality: 62o
Watching the eclipse start, you truly get the sense of these three large spheres, the Earth, Sun and Moon all moving through space incredibly fast and for a few minutes they are in perfect alignment. Around 12:00 it started to get darker and cooler, but the sun is still really bright until it is 99% covered. We saw Venus is the sky, but no other stars or planets. We had to wait for Mubarakís motorcade to leave before the buses could leave. Once the dignitaries had left, all the soldiers left as well.
Back at the hotel we just relaxed. Some brave people went swimming, but it was to cool for me. We got a little sunburned from looking up at the sun all day and since it was cool, we didnít feel it at all and forgot to put on sunscreen.
After dinner we walked back into town again. All of the police and security patrols that were one the street the day before were gone. We did find the performers from the night before and this time we had our cameras. They started out in the orchestra pit, but then they moved on stage. After awhile they started dancing. Finally one guy brought out the stilts. We thought that had to be the climax so we left after that. Day 10 Thu, March 30 Cairo Another early day started at 5:00 am. We made good time driving to Cairo though. We made one rest stop and had to stop another time for camels in the middle of the road. In Cairo, the bus took the wrong exit and had to back down the exit ramp back to the highway. The driver bribed a police officer to help us get back on the highway. We made it back to the Meridien at 1:00 pm.
Lunch was on our own so we went to the Mena House Hotel for lunch. This is a 5 star hotel right by the Pyramids. I thought they might not even let us in, so we took a taxi there even though it was just down the street. Also this saved us from having to cross the street. We had lunch with a great view. We just had appetizers, smoked salmon and mixed Egyptian appetizers.
After lunch, we walked into the Pyramids. Right away, people started hassling us. Several people claimed to work there and asked to see our tickets. We soon realized it was a scam. They did work there but as camel drivers! I had already done that the first day so I didnít need to do it again. We walked around both big pyramids and sat in the shade of the Great Pyramid, just thinking about them. They truly are wondrous and its amazing that until modern times, they were the largest man made structure ever built. Most remarkable was that it was an unusually clear day. We could see the Pyramids of Darshur and Sakkara in the distance.
I had time for a swim back at the hotel. Then we sat and relaxed at the pool bar. We saw tables being set up by the pool and figured it was for another wedding. Every night there was one or two weddings at the Meridien. It turns out that it was our farewell dinner. Dinner was nice, one of the few Egyptian style meals we had as a group, and it was nice to eat outside. After dinner we walked around the block, but there wasnít anything around the hotel.
Day 11 Fri, March 31 Fly Home
My dadís flight was at 3:30 am so he didnít even sleep, he just packed and went downstairs. I had a 6:30 flight so I got a few hours sleep, but had to wake up at 3:00 am. The last weird thing that happened was that before the plane took off from Cairo, the flight attendants fumigated the aircraft by walking up and down the aisle with bug spray. There was at least one fly and one mosquito on the plane so it seemed to have been necessary. I donít know if they did this on other airlines. I was very happy to get to Paris where I could drink the water and use the bathroom without some guy hovering over me waiting for his tip.
It was an adventure, but very tiring. We were up early every day and on the go all day. We saw some incredible sights. I have to add Abu Simbel to my original list of highlights. At the beginning I said ďThe highlights for me were the Pyramids, the ancient temples of Luxor, the tombs of the Valley of the Kings, and the Eclipse.Ē Even though I was really sick, the temples there were quite remarkable. The hassle factor is annoying, while the country is so poor, you canít really fault them, but itís tough to get used to.
carl170 is offline  
Apr 10th, 2006, 04:26 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 204
I hope that wasn't too long and too hard to read. My paragraph marks didn't come over when I pasted in my text. Sorry.
carl170 is offline  
Apr 11th, 2006, 07:16 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 215
Great report! I was there too watching the eclipse! I'm still planning my trip report as we only got back on Saturday, but it was great to read yours and relive it all. What an experience!
Ruth is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 05:44 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 204
Same report posted with some thumbnails.
carl170 is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 06:42 AM
Posts: n/a
carl -

Ever hear of paragraphs?

Gave up reading a quarter of the way down. I'm sure it's quite interesting, but difficult when it's all bunched together.
Apr 21st, 2006, 10:45 AM
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 2,138
Thanks for the report carl, I must have missed it the first time around.

Did you ever find out what it was that made so many people sick?

We may be going to Egypt about the same time next year, how uncomfortable was the heat?
Femi is offline  
Apr 21st, 2006, 05:52 PM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 1,790
Thanks for the link to your website report. It is great to have the pictures to see next to your narrative.
bat is offline  
Apr 22nd, 2006, 12:39 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 204
Sorry, there were paragraphs im my original document. When I copied and pasted it into the message board, they got lost. It posted better on the frommers web page. My apologies.
carl170 is offline  
Apr 24th, 2006, 05:02 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 204

The heat was never unbearable. It was actually cooler than we expected. It is cool in the early morning even as far south as Aswan. It is gets hot in the desert in the afternoons and cools down at night. We never were touring around then, we usually had lunch in air conditioned comfort around that time.

We don't know for sure what made everybody sick. I think is was one of those cruise ship viruses, like Norwalk, that you hear about from time to time. Others are sure it was the food. I was careful about what I ate, and I also was taking Cipro after an earlier minor stomach problem and still got really sick.
carl170 is offline  
May 25th, 2006, 11:49 AM
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 64
My husband & I were on this trip & most of the MS Salacia passengers on two different itineraries got sick. As nearly as we can figure out, the problem was in Aswan, as one group that STARTED in Aswan got sick immediately & another that ENDED in Aswan got sick within 24 hrs. of arriving there. Seafood buffet, anyone?

Still, Egypt was spectacular & we'd do it again albeit not on a trip that made you get up in the middle of the night so often.
shedridt is offline  
Related Topics
Original Poster
Last Post
Jul 17th, 2015 04:52 AM
Africa & the Middle East
Nov 30th, 2009 05:14 AM
Africa & the Middle East
Nov 19th, 2005 08:54 AM
Africa & the Middle East
Jan 24th, 2005 06:44 PM
Marie Schoeny
Africa & the Middle East
Aug 9th, 1998 11:29 AM

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:31 AM.