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Egypt & Beyond Day 12, Snorkling in a Blue Hole!

Monday, October 24, 2022

Today sees us up at 6AM for breakfast and a 7:30AM departure for our one and only excursion today. Only taking the GoPro for photos today. We don our swimsuits for a wet morning and off we go for a mile ride in crowded jeeps.

We arrive and are handed our snorkeling gear that we were measured for yesterday and are given instructions to put the gear on. We are no strangers to snorkeling, so this is easy peasy for us! Now for a short quarter mile walk to where we will enter the water in a world famous Blue Hole! I posted a video to Facebook to save the video space here!

We put our flippers on and spit into our masks and get ready. I have my GoPro on a head strap and I slip into the water. Immediately the lens of the GoPro is assaulted with the gorgeous blue water and coral reefs abound. Swimming along, the wall of the blue hole, stunning with coral and colorful fish, the blue water deepens with color as it falls off towards its 1800 Meter depth! Yes, this Blue Hole is estimated to be 1800 Meters deep! That is over a mile!

The water is crystal clear and the video comes out fabulous! I swim along the edge and at one point the hole opens up and I swim across part of it. I come across a set of Free Divers going up and down ropes and feature them in the video for a minute. Then it is back to shore for me and my swim is over. But all in all it was as beautiful as any one day in the Galapagos!

Back on land, I am served a cup of Turkish Coffee that is delicious! We all dry off and head back to the resort hotel and the rest of the day is ours to relax. I unpack and repack my bag for Royal Jordanian had rummaged through it prior to shipping our bags to us and the contents have become totally askew.

A bowl of tomato soup for lunch is quite tasty and then to hang by the pool and visit with new friends for a while. To my room for a much desired nap and all is good!

Our room has a balcony that overlooks the hotel pool and out to the Gulf of Aqaba! Several photos, a visit with a friendly 30 yo couple, Iman and Nicola that are leaving to go home tomorrow and then it’s time for dinner. A shared Fish Combination Plate later, more conversation with new friends, including Mo, and it’s off to the room to write this Blog and kick back for the night.

Our call time in the morning is 9AM so we will get a much loved ‘Lay-in’ for a change! Good night All!

Egypt & Beyond Day 11, Dahab, Sinai Peninsula

Sunday, October 23, 2022

We awake at 6 for a shower and breakfast prior to departing for the airport at 7 where we will catch a domestic flight from Cairo to Dahab, Egypt for the next couple days. We decided on the fly a few days ago to take this flight as opposed to the 10 hour bus ride that is the other option. The morning is uneventful and everything goes as planned. We leave our new Egyptian luggage behind and our travel company promises to find good homes for them.

We arrive in Dahab on time and a van takes us to our new hotel/resort (a two hour drive!), Dahab Paradise and it makes us think we are in the tropics. Take note of the speed limit signs and since I was sitting behind the driver, I took the opportunity to photograph the speedometer! Also note that while some people have a lucky rabbits foot hanging in their car, the driver had a ‘Lucky Chili Pepper’! At the Resort, we enjoy a BBQ lunch cooked by a very good chef and all is good. Beer is Pilsner Style and the thought of an IPA Style is totally off the table in Egypt! Then a bus arrives carrying the half of our group that chose the bus ride way of getting here. They have been on that bus since 2:30AM and are just arriving at 2 PM. They have horror stories of inadequate accommodations, no bathrooms, vehicle breakdowns and totally rude passengers. We are so glad we chose to fly! $100 well spent! Add to that some fun popular brands with labels in Arabic!

We have a short rest in our room that overlooks the pool and Bay of Aqaba and then load into jeeps to go into town (another dirty 3rd world place) and get fitted for snorkel gear while other passengers set off to go quad riding. We don’t choose that option. Then the rest of the day is ours and we relax around the pool, take a nap, and go to dinner.

A fun part of the day is that our guide, Mo, has decided to travel to Dahab with us for his vacation. We suspect the travel company has sent him to keep an eye on us because there have been some company issues this last week that has put a black mark on the company and we think he is here to make sure things go okay.

Even though several of the tour group barrage him like he is still our guide, I remind them that he is on vacation and to let him be. Elee and I treat him like a good friend for that is how we see him. I wish Mo well in all he chooses to do in life! Of all the tour guides we have had around the world, we will remember him well! All the best, Mo!

Time to turn in so good night all!

Egypt & Beyond Day 10, Cairo Revisited

Saturday, October 22, 2022

We awake this morning to the Porter telling us we have an hour left and Breakfast will be served soon. We get up and get dressed and breakfast is the same paltry slices of bread with something resembling cream cheese and a small container of Fig Jam. But it fills the tummies.

We disembark in Giza and board a bus for Cairo. First stop is a Mosque named Salah Al Din Citadel. Quite beautiful in its own right, this ancient building does not disappoint when it comes to grandiose and a sight for our poor camera lenses eyes! All the ladies on our tour are cautioned to have their heads covered which they are all prepared for. Every time I put my camera down it yells at me and says there is more to point at! So it keeps me busy throughout the area.

Then it’s back on the bus and we stop at a Coptic Church called the “Hanging Church”. While inside here, we can occasionally look down through the floor several stories to see what’s below us!

Next stop is the Cairo Museum where hundreds of ancient antiquities are to be seen. There is a whole section on King Tut that is quite interesting including both inner and outer golden sarcophagi! Many opportunities that our cameras take total advantage of as we tour the museum.

Some fun items we see in the museum such as the smallest statuette in the world, only 3 inches tall! Alabaster statues in an alabaster coffin! Fun stuff!

Then it’s off to lunch at the Cairo Marketplace, a market that we have never seen the likes of. Tens of thousands of shoppers crowd the streets and alleyways as Vendors vie for their money! We are cautioned about the dangers of the Cairo Marketplace and instructed to only go in groups and try to have at least one man in the group. This is one of the most dangerous Marketplaces in the world! Sure wouldn’t want to be here after dark! We even witness the aftermath of a small traffic accident which is not surprising considering that this is the worst city in the world when it comes to traffic! We find some fun souvenirs and gifts and it is time to go sit and eat.

I order Stuffed Pigeon and Elee orders a shish kabob plate. I can now cross Pigeon of the list of foods I have tried. There is little to no meat on a pigeon but what is there is quite tasty! It was stuffed with a rice mixture and roasted.

Soon we get back on the bus for a short ride to our hotel, one we stayed at a week ago. We bid our guide goodbye as we part ways here. We see a fun sign on a store that we never explain. Mo has been a fantastic guide for the last week but we will get a new one as we head off to the Sinai Peninsula tomorrow.

The highlight of this moment is our luggage is here! Reunited after a week and we are thrilled! We will donate our new, small luggage in the morning as we no longer need it. we also see the last view of the Pyramids that we will see!

We attend a briefing meeting regarding the next leg of our journey and there are some exciting times ahead! Our new guide, Haly, is quite personable and a native of Sinai so this should be an equally great time. We go to the poolside restaurant and order a couple appetizers for dinner because we’re not all that hungry. We chat with a few tour members we have known this last week, some of them heading home, some traveling on to new destinations and some traveling on with us!

It is getting late and we are tired. We head back to our room to reorganize our luggage and get some sleep. Good Night!

Egypt & Beyond Day 09, Valley of the Kings

Friday, October21, 2022

This morning we are up at 6AM to pack up and check out by 7. Next to grab some breakfast and await our guide who loads us into River Taxis and shuttles us across the river to a waiting bus that takes us to the Valley of the Kings, a place in Egypt where dozens of Kings and Pharaohs are enshrined in their tombs. A place we flew over in the balloons yesterday! I have to note that the River Taxis have names on them, some not necessarily what I would name a boat!

First we visit the Temple of Hatshepsut) pronounced Hat-ship-suit) another fantastic temple in the Valley! Mo informs us of the history here and it is very entertaining! We walk around on our own for a short while before getting back on the bus to the Valley of the Kings.

Every tomb but one in Egypt was raided by robbers and damaged or destroyed. The only Mummy ever found intact was that of King Tutankhamun. His Mummy is still here (although I kind of remember hearing that his Mummy went on tour around the world at one time). There is a model here that shows the terrain underground with depictions of how the Tombs are dug into the Valley.

We are given passes that allow us to visit 3 tombs of our choosing for free. Several Tombs, including King Tut’s, cost more. Elee opted to purchase a pass to Tut’s Tomb but I did not. I choose to see the tombs of Ramesses 5,6 & 9 along with Merenptah. Total of 3 Tombs as Ramesses 5 & 6 are in one Tomb.

Back on the bus, we next stop at an Alabaster factory where they show us in a comical way how they turn raw ugly stones of Alabaster into gorgeous display pieces! We end up purchasing a couple pieces.

Then it’s back to the bus for a ride back to the hotel where Mo has arranged 3 shower rooms for the Groups and I gladly take him up on it as the Valley is hot and the exertion has us sweating and tonight there will be no showers!

Now we have a few hours to kick back before the ride to our next accommodation, so I catch up a little on this Blog.

At 7:30 PM, we catch a bus to the local train station and we board the overnight sleeper train back to Giza. This is our second time on the Sleeper Train and we are hoping for a better experience that the first time. Not so, the same cramped quarters and this time the Club Car is 5 cars away A long walk through moving train cars so one trip there and it’s back to our room to go to sleep. Add to that Egyptian train tracks are not leveled like American tracks!

Dinner is served and it’s no better than last time so we are glad we kept our tummies full from earlier! Climbing into bed, it is easy to fall asleep tonight, even being tossed and jostled by the train! A glass of wine and it’s off to Dreamland!

Egypt and Beyond Day 08, Date Picking

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Today sees us rise and shine at 3 AM! Well, as much shining as can be done at that hour! We meet our mornings guide (not Mo) in reception at 3:30AM. He takes us for a short bus ride to a River Taxi where we cross the Nile. From there we board another bus and drive for a half hour to a large open field. As we approach the field, we can see they are setting up for us. Dozens of setups that is! We step out of the bus and into the field after promising we have no cameras except cell phones. Little do they know (or perhaps they do) that our cameras are out of site in backpacks!

What is in the field you want to know? Well it’s simple if you haven’t already guessed! Hot Air Balloons! Waiting to be filled and take us over the Luxor Valley and the Valley of the Kings. It isn’t long and they are loading 24 of us (yes, 24!) in the balloon’s basket!

Our cell phones happily catch the action as the balloons fill. Then after we are all in the basket and are rising aloft, our cameras are thrilled to be taken out of their hiding places It seems the Egyptian Aviation Administration has issues with tourists using real cameras to photograph from balloons!

Well, sunrise is beautiful from a Balloon even here in Egypt! Sunrise over the Nile! Who’d have thought I’d ever see that? The Valleys drop away below us and our cameras are in their happy places! Our pilot takes us higher than the other 30-40 Balloons for a short time and we drift silently above the Valley of the Kings!

I had been worried about it being chilly up at altitude so I borrowed a sweatshirt from a fellow tour friend that didn’t come along for the balloon ride. I needn’t have worried as I had forgotten how warm you stay every time they fire the burners. Quite hot actually!

We float above the Valley for most of an hour before the Pilot starts bringing us down. We come closer and closer to the ground and we wonder where he is actually going to set us down. Shortly before touching down we actually scrape through the side of a Date Palm Tree and Elee and I pick Dates off the tree on the way by! No one is hurt or even close to it, but there you go with the title of today’s Blog!

We finally touch down in the middle of a plowed field but nowhere that the Chase Trucks could get to us. The Ground Chase Crews have reached us though and the Pilot hits the burners and keeps the balloon a foot off the ground as the Chase Crews push us almost a half mile to a small service road!

Small children find it quite fun to run to us and get their photos taken and Elee and I give them Dates we picked. They really want money like all Egyptians want but we disappoint them.

Finally down on solid ground, they start collapsing the balloon and we climb out. We DO tip the Chase Crews as they did all the hard work! Back in the passenger vans, we head back to the boat for breakfast.

It is all over by 7:30AM and we eat and check out of the boat! Luckily for me, it seems the Pharaohs have released their Curse on me! We meet up with Mo and he then loads our luggage onto the bus and we visit Karnak Temple for a tour. More ancient Egyptian ruins assault and attack our cameras and they fight back both happily and successfully! Unfortunately, for me, ‘Karnak” brings back memories of Johnny Carson and the Tonight Show with his skit of “Karnak Says”! How many of you remember that?

Karnak visited, we are appropriately exhausted and we check into the Steigenberger Nile Palace Hotel, the nicest lodging yet and I daresay a ‘Real’ hotel. It is considered a 4 Star Hotel but I would rate it easily a 5 Star based on all my travels! We have a room overlooking the hotel pool and the River Nile! We have lunch in one of the many restaurants within and choose an Italian Restaurant and order Pizza and Beer. Refreshing!

Then it is to our room for a much needed nap for 2 hours. We wake somewhat refreshed just in time for another excursion to Luxor Temple at sunset. Sunset photos of an ancient temple are fun to take and our cameras are having a really good day! Even a policeman allows me to take his photo, which is usually a no-no in Egypt!

Now for dinner in a Lebanese Restaurant, also within the hotel, and the food is spetacular! Now back to the room for Blogging & Bed! Goodnight!