Monday, February 28, 2011


Monday, December 5th, 2005 Jerash, ancient city

Our morning wakeup call came at 6:30 am. By 8 am we were on the bus and headed out of Amman on the King’s Highway to visit the City of Jerash located to the north and about an hour’s distance. It is also the hometown of Samur and we had the opportunity to meet one of his daughters who worked at one of the venues that we visited during the day. Along the way we saw the University of Philadelphia; so the name still survives today. And we thought it was only in Pennsylvania.

Jerash has been compared to Pompeii for its fine state of preservation and to Ephesus in Turkey for the quality and quantity of ruins. One of our group, who’d been to Ephesus, agreed that it was indeed as good if not better than the Turkey site. I told Jim that now he doesn’t need to go to Turkey! (I don’t think he agreed and yes, we did visit Ephesus on our trip to Greece and Turkey in 2007.) We saw Hadrian’s Arch, the Nymphaeum, temples dedicated to Zeus and Artemis, and several theaters and churches laid out along colonnaded streets. We walked in the second century before the birth of Christ as we strolled for two hours through this magnificent archaeological site.

While we were standing at the top of the Amphitheater, yes we always climb to the top for the view; we enjoyed Paul’s singing from the “sweet spot” that Samur had shown him. We could hear him singing and Samur speaking very clearly as though they had a microphone. For our entertainment (and a few tips) we had several costumed guards playing bag pipes.

We also enjoyed a show from the Roman Era that demonstrated the battle techniques of Roman soldiers, some gladiators fighting and two horse drawn chariots racing around the arena. From the arena we walked to a local restaurant and enjoyed lunch before hiking back to the bus.

We were late arriving at the school of Father Joseph in Anjara; but had an opportunity to see the school children still on site and visit the church to see the beautiful mosaic on the walls of the church. This church is famous and considered a pilgrimage church as they come to see the life-size wooden statue of the Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus. It is believed that Jesus Christ and his disciples including the Virgin Mary passed through Anjara once and rested in a cave there during a journey between Jerusalem and Galilee. The mosaics tell the story of that visit. Pope John Paul II visited this very site on his tour of the Holy Site of the Middle East in 2000.

Our next site was the Saracens’ castle at Ajiun. Saladin built this twelfth century castle during his campaign to drive the Crusaders from Jordan in 1189. Located much higher in the mountains, the women shivered and shook from the cold weather as we wandered through the beautifully preserved castle with galleries, towers, staircases and many chambers forming a medieval maze to enjoy. But, coats would have been nice! We all thought that Samur was dressed with more layers than necessary when he arrived this morning and now we knew why.

By 3 pm we were at a olive press company where local farmers bring their olives to be pressed for the oil. Definitely not a typical tourist site but they were very gracious in allowing us to see the process from start to finish. Sixteen liters of olive oil costs $75.00. Later we stopped along the highway at a small roadside press designed to split the raw olive so that the locals could then process them for eating. Kevin agreed to bite into one…tasted very bitter he said!

Heading back in the late afternoon we enjoyed a beautiful sunset from the highway outside of Amman overlooking the Jordan River and Dam (we tried to find the green glow just as the sun dips but no one saw it). Noticed a farmer plowing his field with a horse; very labor intensive country. We had a brief respite and time to get ready for our home visit dinner this evening after arriving at the hotel.

This evening we drove to a private home located in an industrial area of Amman for dinner. On the way there we passed by the hotels that had recently been attacked by terrorists. All were up and running again. Our guide said he’d had dinner in the very restaurant where the wedding party was bombed only a week before the tragic events. Hotels now have installed concrete barricades to prevent cars from driving to the front of the hotels. The security at all hotel entrances has been beefed up also and they are very serious about checking those that enter the lobby.

Our home visit was to the home of an employee of the tour company. The husband works by running errands for the company; therefore they have very limited income. They spoke very little English, so Samur translated for us. They have eight children and are very poor. There is no furniture in the home. We sat on pads around the walls. Her table was a sheet of plastic laid on the floor and she knelt there as she served us our dinner. The fourteen year old daughter carried the plates to each of us and we ate on our laps. After dinner we toured the apartment and found that the beds were also pads on the floors. The only “furniture” was a refrigerator. But, everything was extremely clean and freshly painted. This was very different from our home visit in Egypt; but probably more rewarding in that we felt that we were really helping them by providing the family an opportunity to earn some money plus the few hostess gifts that we’d brought with us to give to the family.

A short bus ride back to our home away from home brought our third day in Jordan to an end. Tomorrow we travel to Petra in the desert.

Sunday, February 27, 2011


Saturday, December 3rd, 2005 Amman, Jordan

We arrived at the Queen Alia International Airport in Amman, Jordan about 7:00 pm and met our new guide for the next five days: Samur or we could just call him “Sam” he said. But since Samur had a more exotic ring, we all called him Samur. Personally, I used “Sam” in my head as a word association memory aid in order to remember his name. He is not staying with us at the hotel here in Amman and he left after settling us in to our new hotel.

Our hotel is the Golden Tulip Hotel, a very nice hotel but not the quality that we’d enjoyed at the hotels in Egypt. We were on the fourth floor and I took advantage of the opportunity and walked up and down except when carrying luggage. It was so nice to be rid of the large suitcases that we left in Egypt. After a late dinner we all headed to our rooms for a good night’s sleep.

Sunday, December 4th: Exploring Amman and floating in the Dead Sea......

Samur arrived and joined us for breakfast about 8 am. By 9 am we were on our bus for a tour of the city. Our bus is built to hold about twenty so the eight of us were very comfortable and each had our own window seat, if we so desired. One of the changes in Jordan was the fact that all water, even at dinner, is an extra charge. All of the water in Jordan is delivered by trucks and each building has reservoir tanks on the roof to hold their water supplies. All water for consummation is bottled. But, fortunately, our bus still had a chest full of individual water bottles for us and priced right at two for $1.00. Water is defiantly a very precious commodity in Jordan.

Amman, which is called the “White City” because so many of the buildings are built from the “white” limestone that is native to Jordan, will be our home for two days. Originally built on seven hills it now covers nineteen different hilltops. Our first stop today was at the Citadel; a very ancient area that is slowly being resurrected, revealing monuments, temples and other relics of the past from the Roman, Islamic and Byzantium periods. It is located high above the present city and gave a wonderful overview of the new and the old. The new is very new; Amman was a quiet village until after 1960.

At different periods of history, the population grew quite large and then would dwindle back to a small village. The earliest civilization on record was during the Neolithic period, around 6500 BC. Originally named Rabbath Ammon in the 13th Century BC, it was during the period that it was ruled by Egypt that it was renamed Philadelphia. The Romans took control in AD 106 and later during the Ghassanian era it was renamed Amman. The city continued to grow until it was destroyed by several earthquakes and natural disasters. It remained a small village until the Circassians (white race) settlement in 1887.

In 1921, Amman was chosen as the Capital of the newly created country of Jordan. Several historical events have contributed to the growth of Jordan, primarily political upheaval in neighboring countries. The wealthy have migrated to the safety of Jordan from areas of conflict including the most recent events in Iraq and Kuwait in 1990. The major countries of the world have their primary Embassies located here for the Arab States primarily because of the lack (until recently) of terrorist problems and the geographical location of the country. Enough of history…

During our tour of the Citadel, we visited the Jordan Archeological Museum and saw many items including some of the Dead Sea Scrolls. When we completed the tour of the Citadel we drove over to visit the Roman Amphitheater, the first, and largest, of several ancient amphitheaters that we would see in Jordan. They had a museum at this site also with some wonderful panoramas of “Jordanian life” with mannequins; and other historical artifacts.

We discovered several interesting items this morning on our bus trip. Traffic is not nearly as hectic as in Egypt; they actually obey the traffic laws here. Atop many of the traffic lights is a large electronic sign that tells you how many second until the light changes…we all thought that would be great in the USA! The streets are much cleaner…maybe because it’s newer! They have white sedan cars that drive all day long from point A to point B (same street) with no deviation on the major streets. It cost thirty cents to ride, no matter the length of time that you are in the cab. People get in and out every time it stops. Works like a city bus on a small scale. There are other means of transportation but this is one of the prime methods of getting around in the downtown area. Gold sold here is 21 – 24 carats. The prices are very high right now. Contrary to Egypt the value of our money is less than the Jordanian currency. Gas is about $3.50 per gallon; all of their gasoline is imported.

Amman has a population of over two million people, approximately seventy-five percent of the entire population of Jordan. Ninety percent of them are Islamic. The city is located thirty-three hundred feet above sea level and has snow during January. So when we started out of town – it was all downhill!

Our destination was a Resort at the Dead Sea and we enjoyed the view of the vast Jordanian Valley on the way down the mountain. We also had to release the air in our water bottles and pop our ear drums as we descended down to thirteen hundred feet below sea level! Along the way we saw many Bedouin tents where they live a nomadic life with their sheep; a very meager existence. The government is attempting to build homes for them to encourage a more stable life style, but the old ways are hard to change.

We also encountered a security check point as we are very close to the border of Israel. It was here that our bus driver got into a rather heated argument with a machine gun toting soldier who was flaunting his authority. They soon let us go, whatever would they do with a bus load of American tourists! But, Samur warned us not to take any photos of the security site while we were sitting there.

The Dead Sea is a very important part of the economical picture of Jordan because of the minerals found from the high concentration of salt. It is also a source of water when it has been modified. The water levels have continued to go down at an alarming rate because of lack of rain and also because Israel is also using it for a source of water. Therefore, a prime project in the near future is using the Jordan Rift Valley to build a canal to bring water from the Red Sea to the Dead Sea. Because so many different countries are involved in approving this project; it appears to be a long ways from commencement.

But today we enjoyed a delicious lunch and then headed for the beach in our swimsuits. Six of us waded into the salty brine to enjoy effortless floating and two actually put the mud on their skin. Thought about doing it but knew that I’d have to gingerly walk on the rocks, ankle deep mud and sharp mineral deposits to wash the mud off for the full effects to be worth the effort! It needs to dry on your skin which takes a good twenty minutes. Decided I’d just float as one in and out of the water was more than enough. We did bring a newspaper from home to do one of the “I Read (insert name of newspaper) Here” type of photos; but after viewing the photos decided not to send them to the publishers. Sixty-seven in a bathing suit is not very photogenic. Leaving the beach to the younger set we headed back to the Hotel pool area and enjoyed several trips down the water slide. Maybe I should have left that for the younger set also but just couldn't resist such fun and the teenage boys that were also using the slide got a kick out of the gray haired lady who joined in their fun.

We watched the sun set over the Jordanian Valley as we climbed back up the mountain towards Amman and stopped at the Holy Land Store for an opportunity to purchase some Jordanian mementos. Our last stop of the evening was at an Arabic pastry shop known for their Middle Eastern sweets. The royal families shop here and we also made a few purchases to take home. After dinner in our hotel it was off to bed for the weary travelers. Tomorrow is an early start again!

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Friday, December 2nd, 2005 Cairo….and the farewell dinner for part of our group…

Up about 6:30 am we were off to the airport for our flight back to Cairo for one last night at the Movenpick Heliopolis Hotel next to Cairo International Airport. It was a travel day with lots of repacking and resting at the hotel after we arrive.

A discovery during the flight: I’d left a small pair of fingernail scissors in my carryon bag. Security at the airport took them away from me; but, unlike the U.S.A., the scissors were returned to me when we arrived in Cairo.

Our farewell dinner was held at a permanently docked restaurant ship on the Nile River near the Egyptian Museum. It was called the Blue Nile and we all dressed up for the evening in our finest attire and enjoyed the long ride into Cairo for our dinner. When we returned to the hotel there was an engagement party happening in the ballroom. Rita talked to the girl’s father and convinced him to let us stand in the back of the room for a while to enjoy the festivities going on in the room. She told him that he was too young to have a daughter old enough to be engaged! Worked like a charm!

Saturday, December 3rd, 2005 Flight to Jordan.......

Eight members of our tour group left at the crack of dawn for their return flight back to the U.S.A. Those that were going to Jordan had a late afternoon flight. We all decided to leave some of our luggage with the hotel in Egypt as we would return for one night before going home. This made our trip much easier. There were things we left in Egypt that we wished we had in Jordan but it was good not to have the large suitcases.

In the lobby of our hotel was a huge metal Christmas tree and the lobby was filled with other holiday decorations. Made us realize how close we’re getting to Christmas. Our plane didn’t leave until nearly 5 pm so we had time to use the hotel Internet to contact the family and let them know for sure that we are still alive and well. By 2 pm we were at the airport and bid goodbye to Rita before entering into the terminal.

Hope you've enjoyed the end of our journey in Egypt and are prepared to read about our extended trip to Jordan. Thanks for taking the time to share this journey with us. Tune in tomorrow for a new adventure in Jordan…..

Friday, February 25, 2011


Thursday, December 1st, 2005 Visiting the tombs of the Kings….

Up at 4:00 am, yes another early morning, we left shortly after 5:00 by motor boat to cross the Nile for our Sunrise Breakfast at a farm on the West Bank of the Nile River. They had created a very large room by placing huge rugs on the ground and hung carpets on frames to create an Arabian style room that was open on the side facing east and overlooking the river. We were seated at low tables and sat on short stools during the meal. During breakfast we enjoyed the brilliant sunrise over the city of Luxor and then walked to the farmhouse for a visit with the farmer and his family. Amazing to see T.V.’s and refrigerators, wiring is hung on the walls with little effort to hide the wires, and then extremely poor living conditions in the same room. The barn was attached to the house as though it was the “garage”. Animals were running in and out of the house along with many grandchildren of his eight daughters and one son. Several generations lived together in this farmhouse. Off through the mud past the cornfield we found our bus that had been backed into the area to take us out and on our way. I noticed the bus driver had put down cardboard in the aisle for us to walk on. Maybe we were bringing more than mud into the bus!

We noticed during this visit that in looking at nearby buildings you could see exactly where the stairs were in each house. The concrete floors were built first and then the walls filled in with bricks leaving the outline of the stairs very visible. There is no need for insulation because of the temperatures and they don’t add any paint or stucco over the brick walls. And as usual the roof is open with expansion room for future use. The top floor acts as the roof until another floor is added. The house had running water inside but I noticed a small boy priming a pump in the yard to obtain water for the animals.

We were already on the West Bank and continued to the Valley of the Kings. There are sixty four known tombs of Kings and we were allowed to visit three of the ones that are currently open with our entry tickets. We entered the area by tram cars and then walked all the way to Tomb # 34 of Tuthmosis III. It’s located at the far end and high up on a cliff and is one of the oldest in the valley. Once we’d entered the tomb we then descended several levels down into the tomb to reach the burial chamber. The walls were still decorated with painted rows of figures portraying the Book of Amduat and there was a red granite sarcophagus in the burial chamber. It was very warm inside plus we had just climbed up ninety-eight feet of stairs on a warm day before entering the tomb. So, I was very happy to accept the piece of cardboard offered by a guard when I entered to use as a fan while I was inside. I was surprised when I returned it to the guard on the way out and he indicated that he expected a tip. Never ceases to amaze me at the ways they can continue to find ways to get money out of us on this trip. At this point Jim and I split up and each went our own ways. He takes too long…likes to really study the walls! Me, I’m in and out just like a good book! I’m looking for overall effect only.

I went down to visit Tomb # 11 of Ramses III which turned out to be the grandest of the Ramesside Tombs that was open that day. The walls are decorated with colorful reliefs including scenes taken from everyday Egyptian life. Then I enjoyed a special treat by paying the extra fee to visit Tomb # 62 of Tutankhamur or better known as King Tut. This is the most popular and the only way to enter is by purchasing a separate ticket at the entrance to the valley for seventy Egyptian Pounds or about $14.00. Very small and some of the walls were unfinished. The unique aspect is that the burial chamber actually contains the king’s body inside of the gilded coffin. And that room was completely decorated with scenes depicting the “Opening of the Mouth” ceremony.

My next and last visit was to Tomb # 1 of Ramses VII. The colors on the walls were vivid but it was a small tomb and easy to visit. Jim ended up getting into five different tombs. He saw the three he was allotted and then borrowed Carol’s ticket for a fourth one as she was not feeling well and decided to quit early. And his fifth one was a small bribe to the guard for entry without a ticket! The one that he really enjoyed was his visit to Tomb # 2 of Ramses IV. Contrary to protocol, Rita went in with him and gave him a private tour explaining the various scenes on the walls. A bit of a reward for always being there with the right answer due to his work at the Bower’s Museum. After braving the vendors we returned to our bus and headed for the Valley of the Queens.

The Valley of the Queens has eighty tombs of Queens and royal children but only a handful are open at any one time. Unfortunately, the most famous is that of Queen Nefertari, and it was closed during our visit. We toured Tomb # 55 of Amunherkhepshep (son of Ramses III) which was the highlight of the Valley of the Queens until the reopening of Nefertari’s tomb. Our next one was Tomb # 44 of Khaemwaset, another infant son of Ramses III. And the last one was Tomb # 52 of Queen Titi.

Next on our list today was an Alabaster Shop where we watched students learning the art of creating works of art out of alabaster stone. And, of course, we were given the opportunity to purchase some of their beautiful wares inside the shop. Some were considering purchasing vases until they found out that water dissolves the stone. Definitely designed for dry flowers and yes, they did go ahead with the purchase even after learning that important piece of information! I learned the hard way when I washed some doves made of alabaster several years ago…the feathers disappeared!

Our next stop was at the sixty foot statutes of Amenhotep III that we’d seen from our Hot Air Balloon. They were even more impressive on the ground. At this point Jim, Kevin and Josef met their car and driver for a more extensive tour including the Valley of the Nobleman where they toured the tombs of both Sennefer (# 96) and Rekhmire (# 100). The rest of us enjoyed a visit in a private home that was built by a man who was determined to convince the people to move out of the tombs that they were living in. He built a whole village complete with a Mosque and eventually the people came to live there with him. The construction of the house was very unusual as it was built without a foundation and the walls were very thick, similar to the adobe walls in old California homes. The man who now lives in the home with his family worked for the architect and was rewarded for his loyalty with a gift of the home for his long years of service.

Finally, we were back at the hotel where we enjoyed lunch on our own. Jim and the guys arrived by 2 pm. Time enough for some R&R before our next adventure that began at 3:45pm.

This is our last day in Luxor and to celebrate they’d arranged a sunset (like we really needed another one) sail in a Felucca on the Nile River. We were provided with our choice of beverage and a wonderful view. Along the banks we watched as children played among the camels and donkeys while watching the crazy tourists. Remember those funny looking oars…the wind died completely and some of the Feluccas were being towed by motor boats and others, like us, furled the sails and manned the oars for a slow ride home. Josef took the tiller so that both of the boat hands could provide the power with their oars and we had a slow but steady trip back to the east bank and our hotel. We took advantage of arriving early and walked through the very staid and richly decorated Old Winter Palace lobby. We’re staying at the New Winter Palace next door. We almost didn’t get in as we were still wearing shorts from our sailing outing.

Dinner was a BBQ Buffet at our hotel. We were all surprised when the D.J. and two singers were dressed in Western clothes and sang mostly country western songs. We eventually started to dance and Paul (who hadn’t walked for a year after having his ankles fused) surprised us all by cutting a rug on a few numbers. No one stayed very long…we had another early morning for our flight to Cairo.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


TODAY: Libya is now a battlefield as supporters of Moammar Gadhafi try to halt a revolution that is spreading across the country. NBC’s Richard Engel reports.

Wednesday, November 30th, 2005 Luxor night light ends our day…..

We set the alarm and had the desk give us a wakeup call for 3:00 am; since we’d made such an issue about the balloon ride we wanted to make sure that we were up and ready for the bus! The chef had breakfast ready for us…seems like we just finished dinner! By 4:00 am we had the luggage in the hall and boarded the bus for our second bus trip to Luxor. Another nail biting experience of driving rapidly down the highway in the pitch black night without headlights most of the time!

Arrived in Luxor and headed across the Nile River towards the West Bank and the open desert where we found our Hot Air Balloon Company! There were two balloons being prepared in our spot. Soon we realized that there were at least nine balloons within the surrounding area getting ready for lift-off! Very exciting! The balloons and baskets were much larger than we’d ever seen. Our basket held eighteen people plus the pilot and all the gas tanks! We were disappointed when they decided that Rita was not going with us because the Captain felt the need to reduce the weight. She’d never been up in the balloons but because of the issues in planning this trip the tour company had requested that she go with us. We weren’t too sure whether she was happy or sad that the Captain made that decision at the last minute. We lifted off just before dawn and enjoyed a wonderful sunrise before rising up to over fifteen hundred feet for unbelievable views of the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of Queens. We also had exceptional views of Hatshepsut’s Temple and the huge sixty foot statutes of Amenhotep III known as “Colossi of Memnon”. A phenomenal experience and we’re so glad that we had the opportunity. Captain Bob gave us a gentle landing about forty-five minutes after take-off near our ground crew of six sturdy fellows who lifted us individually out of the basket after securing the ropes. One potential mishap occurred when Josef jumped out on his own to take photos as soon as we’d touched down; the Captain was very upset as he needed all of us to stay in the basket for ballast until the crew secured us.

After a brief bus ride back to the Nile River, we boarded motor boats for a short trip across the Nile River to our new hotel known as the Sofitel Pavillion Winter Palace. During the boat ride we were presented certificates and tee-shirts from Captain Bob to verify that we had indeed completed our ride in his balloons while we sipped our coffee and tea. We arrived at the hotel about 8:00 am and Rita had made arrangements for us to get into our rooms when we arrived. That gave us an hour to rest before the rest of the group arrived and we began another day of touring in Luxor; it’s going to be a long day!

Our group of fifteen reunited in the lobby and we boarded our bus to go to the gigantic Temple of Karnak. It was built by a succession of rulers starting in the eleventh dynasty and was expanded and redesigned over a period of fifteen hundred years. It laid buried under sand for over a thousand years before excavation work began in the mid-nineteenth century; an on going process that will take many more years to finish. One wall was left in an uncompleted state; showing how the heavy blocks of granite were lifted into position with the aid of a ramp the length of the wall that continued to grow until completion. After completion the ramp was totally removed. Karnak Temple was connected with Luxor Temple by an avenue lined by Sphinxes that stretched 1.2 miles. Many of the Sphinxes have disappeared but many have been preserved. The plan is to eventually restore this broad avenue between the two famous temples. We viewed the tallest obelisk in Egypt, cut from a single piece of pink granite and raised by Queen Hatshepsut in honor of Amun. It still stands almost one hundred feet high. Many of us also walked around another relic located near the Sacred Lake the required three times for good luck. We made sure we walked counter clockwise, had we walked clockwise we would have been assured of fertility!

After two hours we were on our way to visit a private school in Luxor run by a community of Franciscan nuns. The school also has twenty-four orphans who live fulltime at the school. We were amazed at how crowded the classrooms were; then we were told that public schools are twice as crowded. The birthrate has increased rapidly and the majority of the population is very young. Most families have eight to ten children and they believe that their children will secure the future income and wealth of the family. The children sang for us and we were able to ask them questions as we visited several classrooms. Why were we allowed to visit? Our tour company donates to the school and we were also encouraged to bring some school supplies to give to the teachers and also donations from us were encouraged while we were at the school.

Lunch today was at the nearby Sheraton Hotel; buffet style with the opportunity to wander about the hotel and grounds for another view of life in Luxor. We enjoyed time for an afternoon nap for several hours before pairing off in our horse drawn carriages after dinner for a two hour tour of the back streets and bazaars of Luxor after dark. Comparing notes later we learned that nearly all of our drivers were named Abdul and the horse was named Sonja. I think we “was” had! But, it was a fun evening and included a stop at a coffee house where we enjoyed Turkish Coffee or hot tea and the opportunity to puff on a water pipe. Yep, we had disposable tips and at least ten of us partook with a few puffs…even Jim! I could still taste the tobacco two days later when I took a deep breath. Opps…maybe I inhaled a little too much but I felt it necessary to make the water bubble in the pipe! By 9:00 pm we were safely back in our hotel after completing a very fun but very long day in Luxor.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


TODAY: I read a blog that is written by a woman in NYC who “unschools” her children. She is very creative and a wonderful writer. On Monday she wrote about the unrest in the world today. Here is a portion of her blog: A dictator toppled by his people, and revolution spreading. Young people who surf the net and communicate through Twitter and Facebook can no longer be told that a dictator is acting in their best interests. George Bush said we needed to ‘spread democracy’, but in truth, democracy isn’t democracy if it’s forced on a people. If it’s only offered to those we think we can control. The events in Egypt, Tunisia and now in many other pockets of the Middle East are proof that democracy is best – strongest and most persuasive – when it comes from within. From the oppressed people themselves. Just as it did in our country over 200 years ago. “

For more pull up Amy’s blog at:

Tuesday, November 29th, 2005 Luxor Temple and museum

We spent the night docked in Esna. Jim awoke early and took some wonderful sunrise photos from the window of our stateroom. After a leisurely breakfast Jim joined a group headed out to see the local temple. This one is unusual because it is below ground level. For hundreds of years only the top was above ground. They have dug all the earth away from about one-tenth of the temple; the rest is still buried under the town. Because of being buried, the color is still fairly good on many of the bas-reliefs on the temple walls. I decided that I could miss one temple and stayed aboard ship to wash my hair and work on my computer in the lounge after taking advantage of the internet access while we were docked. Telephones and therefore the internet only work when we are docked. The internet fee was $10.00 for one-half hour.

Everyone returned from the temple tour and we left the dock to cruise up and down the Nile between Edfu and Esna. Twice a year the locks at Esna are closed for maintenance. Yep…we hit one of the closures. Actually, the locks are still open today but if the ship proceeded north to Luxor through the locks, they would be unable to return in time for the next tour group. So, we’re cruising up and down the Nile today and will have to make several hour long bus trips to and from Luxor in order to complete our scheduled sightseeing opportunities.

Lots of confusion with guests about the issue of the locks and what was happening that required busing to Luxor. Basically, many of the people did not read their information sheets carefully prior to coming on the cruise. We’d been told in Cairo that the hot air balloon event was not going to be possible for our tour group. Lots of unhappy people, especially Jim and I, as we’d really planned on that happening! Several of the men, but mostly Jim, had been quietly working with Rita since Cairo to try to reschedule the balloon rides. Jim had even agreed to pay the extra cost to stay at a hotel in Luxor the night before if necessary. About 11 am, Rita called a special meeting and announced that she had been able to convince the tour company to arrange for the balloon ride. This was an optional event and at first she gave a price that was $100. higher than anticipated; that created a big up roar; but then she corrected herself and twelve of us signed up for the event. They hired an extra bus to take us to Luxor at 4 am tomorrow morning. That also required an extra set of security guards. Nearly everyone in both groups planned to go but they still needed the bus and security guards for the few that didn’t want to go on the trip. Lots of planning behind the scene for the tour company; but we were happy that they did go the extra mile when we asked for the event to be rescheduled.

After lunch we enjoyed the afternoon cruise on the Nile and arrived back at the docks in Esna about 4 pm. We then boarded our buses for an hours drive to Luxor to visit the Luxor Temple and Luxor Museum tonight. Another issue for travel between Esna and Luxor is that we were required to join a police caravan with other tour groups and private cars for security reasons. The chef had prepared a box snack for each of us to have on the bus as dinner was scheduled after our return at 9 pm.

The Luxor Temple was spectacular to see at night. We arrived just as the lights were coming on at dusk. Difficult to film but the contrast between the lights and the blue of the early evening sky were wonderful. The Luxor Temple was built by the New Kingdom Pharaoh Amenhotep III. Over the centuries other rulers extended and rebuilt this temple and then it eventually became buried under sand and debris. It was rediscovered in 1881 and when the sand, rubble and a small village were cleared away the interiors were found to be nearly perfectly preserved. In one of the courts we were shown the area where a remarkable collection of statutes was discovered in 1989 under the flooring in a secret chamber.

Our next stop was the Luxor Museum where we were able to actually see the collection of statutes in a special addition built to house them at the museum. This museum also has an exquisite collection of Theban relics that were carefully gathered from the temples and necropolises of Luxor. Luxor was also known as Thebes in ancient times and was one of the capitals of Egypt. Across the Nile, on the West Bank, lies the world’s richest archaeological site known as the Valley of the Kings.

We had another hour’s ride back to Esna accompanied by our police escorts, arriving about 9 pm for dinner. The guests started disappearing after each course, such a shame as this was our farewell dinner and the chef had prepared a special dinner of six courses ending with a flaming (actually sparklers stuck in the top) baked Alaska for dessert. But people were tired and thinking about the early morning call for our big day tomorrow; Jim left after the soup course. When we left the dining room we discovered that the crew had been busy and we had six large towel creatures on the floor of the lobby and more hanging from the ceilings of the hallway to our rooms. All of this extra work was done in hopes of bigger tips in the morning as we leave the ship for the last time. I was so glad that we’d taken the time to pack our bags before leaving for Luxor; it made the early morning much easier.

A note about our trip to Luxor: coming home we experienced another drive without headlights. They would flash them occasionally, but on the whole we were driving on dark roads without headlights! Also I noted a different type of security. They have built what I called “pillboxes” reminiscent of WW II; a small box with windows on top of a tall pillar that was reached by ladder. We saw them regularly along the highway and inside of the towns and “yes” there were police officers in all of them; even during the night!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


TODAY: Rage and Revolution continue across the Arabic Countries dominating the news to the point that it was difficult to obtain news last night about the massive earthquake of 6.3 that hit Christchurch, New Zealand yesterday. They were still recovering from an even larger earthquake in the seven range only five months ago. This morning they are reporting 65 dead and expect that figure to rise as there are many still buried under rubble. Back in the middle east: The Bahrain King is releasing political prisoners, Yemen continues to boil, Gadhafi roars definitely in Libya threatening to bomb his own people, Morocco starts to demonstrate and even China demonstrates but is quickly stopped by the government forces. And, the political battle in Wisconsin continues to make news here in the USA.

Monday, November 28th, 2005 Cruising on Nile River

About 6 am the movement of the boat woke us up as we left the dock at Kom Ombo and headed north towards Edfu where we would visit the Temple of Horus. The weather was warm, high 80’s to low 90’s; so we all enjoyed a leisurely morning in the sunshine as we watched the scenery along the banks of the Nile. A constantly changing scene as we watched fishermen casting their nets and pulling in surprisingly large fish, the stark brown desert against the very green flood lands bordering the Nile River and the barges that were using the “roads” of the Nile to transport their goods south.

The small boats all use a very unusual oar. It is a 2x4 piece of lumber with a handle attached at one end. Even the feluccas used this type of oar when the wind is not available to power the boat.

Arrived about 11 am in Edfu, we disembarked the ship and boarded individual horse drawn carriages for our ride through town to the Temple of Horus. At one point during our ride, the driver of our carriage was racing another carriage…each of us had two very spirited horses, all of the horses were also very thin, but suddenly we pulled to the side of the road. Apparently the harness had come apart and the bit was out of his mouth. Quickly fixed by the driver and then we were back on the road towards the temple, the race forgotten as the temple loomed into sight.

The Temple of Horus is very large and we walked from a large sunny courtyard lined with columns to the dark inner recesses of the offering chambers. This temple is almost entirely intact and its decorated hieroglyphs and bas-reliefs make this one of the best preserved temples in Egypt. Horus was the falcon-headed god and the divine protector of Egyptians. In ancient times an annual coronation festival was held to re-crown Horus and a falcon was released in his honor. As we listened to Rita explain the different markings on the walls, Jim was delighted when he finally saw the symbol for one thousand. It looks like a Pac-man symbol. Also we noted that the floors leading to the altar are slanted up and the ceiling is slanted down to give a perception of distance to those looking from the courtyard. The bas-reliefs were very well preserved and one of the interesting things that Rita pointed out was the way that they indicated multiple numbers of people and or things by using a shadowing effect in their drawings.

We had about two hours to see the whole temple and then back by carriage to the ship for our afternoon cruise to Esna. I spent the afternoon on the upper deck working on the photos in my computer; writing postcards to grandchildren and notes in my journal. There was a napkin folding lesson that I skipped; I’ve done that before and never seem to remember the folds when I get home! About 5 pm we joined our group for afternoon tea in the lounge followed by a lecture by Rita on culture and customs in Egypt while the crew docked the boat for our evening berth at Esna.

Dinner this evening was hi-lighted by another birthday cake…accidentally we’ve been at the birthday table twice during this short cruise. We missed the entertainment tonight; a skit performed by the crew of an Egyptian wedding. We decided we needed the extra sleep and had an early night!

Monday, February 21, 2011


Today: News reports that Libya and Yemen are demonstrating for pro-democracy rights with several deaths resulting from the police attempts to control the crowds. South Koreans are encouraging North Korean citizens to revolt by releasing helium balloons with notes attached. We are in a winter of discontent that continues to boil!

Sunday, November 27th, 2005 The Nubian Museum….

Still docked in Aswan, we asked our tour director about the possibility of attending Mass this morning. I knew that at least half of the group, if not more, were Catholics. She said that she had planned a surprise discovery along that line for this morning.

Boarding our bus we headed towards our first scheduled stop to tour the Nubian Museum. The bus stopped outside of the new Coptic Church…the Catholic version of the Christian religion in Egypt. We had a short explanation and then ventured inside to stand at the rear for about ten minutes during the mass. That was our “church” for today. It is a beautiful church and I found two things that I remembered…there are no statutes and the men and women sit on opposite sides of the aisle.

The Nubian Museum is a well planned and executed memorial for the benefit of the Nubian people who lost many of their relics and historical sites when Egypt built the Aswan High Dam. They are a very old race and very determined to maintain their heritage and this will assist them in preserving that heritage. They generally marry within their race and continue to live in the old ways along the banks of the Nile River whenever possible. They are farmers and fisherman and most of the boatmen for the motor boats and feluccas are Nubian men.

By 10:30 am we were off to the vegetable market to shop for our cooking class during our afternoon cruise. We were split into groups of four, each of us had a list of two items to purchase; the items were written phonically and with a suggested price that we should negotiate towards. We were also given enough Egyptian pounds to purchase our items. Since we didn’t have the Arabic name of the items we were forced to verbally tell the clerks what we wanted. That was the first challenge; then we had to start negotiating once we’d actually found the item. We teamed up with Roger and Alice and had to find corn oil and tomato paste. Our class would be a lesson on cooking Okra. Within a half an hour each of the teams had completed their assignments and we were all walking back to the ship for our scheduled sailing time of noon. Along the way Jim couldn’t resist a white crocheted prayer cap offered by a vendor that he thought would be the perfect topper for his costume for tonight’s Galabeya Party. He kept the negotiations short and was delighted to reach a reasonable price.

Stopped at an ATM along the way back but after waiting half an hour in line we decided to continue using the American Dollars. Apparently they have a rule that if a woman wants to use the ATM she has a separate line and they always take precedent over the men. Consequently the men’s line moved very slowly. Several offered to let me join the women’s line but I declined as there were too many impatient men standing in line in front of us and I didn’t want to add to the problem.

The cooking class took place on the top deck after lunch. By 3 pm we’d reach our afternoon destination of Kom Ombo, a Nubian Village with a Greco-Roman Temple dramatically set on the riverbank at a bend on the Nile. After docking we walked to the temple for our visit. Along the way we had a Discovery: A young man was sitting with three cobra snakes. Two of them were curled on the sidewalk, heads standing upright, and hardly moved while we were there. The third one was around his neck. Our tour guide said that the venom had been removed and asked if one of us would like to hold one for the rest of the group. No one said anything so I volunteered. They thought I was crazy! I had actually held a few snakes when I was about eighteen; but not since then. I declined to put it around my neck but did grip the head in one hand and the tail in another for a few minutes for photos. Lots of fun for me! Once it started to wriggle I decided to give it back to the owner!

The Temple is Egypt’s only double temple with one side dedicated to the crocodile god, Sobek, and the other side to the falcon god, Horus. The entire structure is unusual in that everything is doubled and perfectly symmetrical along the main axis: twin entrances, twin courts and twin colonnades. They had a mummified crocodile. There was also a pit designed to measure the water level of the Nile River.

We were back on board for afternoon tea at 5:00 pm before retiring to our cabins to prepare for our Galabeya Party that starts with dinner. On the menu will be our Okra (and it was very tasty). By 7:30 pm we were dressed up in Galabeya along with everyone else in the group. Some had on Arab style headdresses; Jim wore his Nubian cap plus an Egyptian necklace he’d picked up on one of our shopping expeditions. Many of the men were wearing house slippers for shoes. Most of the women had brought sandals with them so they didn’t have to improvise. Jim had borrowed our galabeyas from a friend and traveler that he works with at Bowers Museum; the others had purchased their costumes over the past week. A rainbow of colors prevailed and it was a fun evening for all. Everyone seemed to rise for the occasion; even those that were not feeling all that well from stomach ailments.

During our dessert we celebrated a surprise birthday for Joe from his family and then we moved to the lounge for party games of musical groups, passing plastic bottles, wrapping up partners as mummies with toilet paper and other games designed to entertain us for the remainder of the evening.

And so ended our second day of sailing on the River Nile. Hope you’re still enjoying our journey.

Sunday, February 20, 2011


TODAY: The Middle East continues to be dangerous for tourists as Bahrain protestors celebrated yesterday as the police and soldiers pulled back from Pearl Square to allow the thousands of people to demonstrate. At least four people have died in the confrontations in and around Pearl Square; dozens have been injured. An international event scheduled at Bahrain’s Sakhir Circuit for March 11-13th ….the opening round of the World Championship for Formula One Grand Prix …is expected to be cancelled by Wednesday if the police and soldiers do not gain control of the demonstrations by then. At this time that seems unlikely.

Saturday, November 26th, 2005 Starting our Nile River Cruise

Up early to pack our bags and have breakfast in the hotel so that we could be at our motor boat by 8 am to cross the Nile and meet our camel drivers. Ah yes; today is the camel ride. Jim is looking for a way out...still not feeling very chipper and he's desperately looking for any excuse not to go! I kept quiet and he never found a good reason not to join our trek across the desert by camel!

Each camel had his own master who walked behind our camel; but we had full control of the gentle beast. People they smell? No worst than a horse but maybe the dry air helped. Do they spit? Did not see one spit the whole morning. Does one sit in front of or behind the hump? In front of the have to be careful when they get up and down so that you don't slide off the neck! Actually the saddle sits over the hump. We were told that they have the ability to reach around and grab you with their teeth and will toss you off of the saddle if they don't like you! We were all very respectful of them with that piece of information in mind.

We were each assigned a camel and then after photos were taken we were off across the desert for about a ten minute ride to our first destination at St. Simeon's Monastery. The monastery was built in the sixth century and is one of the best-preserved early Christian sites in all of Egypt. Jim says that it was built by a man who decided to become a monk just after he married so that he didn’t have to consummate the wedding??? We had a very cleaver guide who spoke limited English but was extremely animated in his explanations of the various rooms and we all knew immediately what he was describing to us. One of our favorites was the story about the monk who tied his beard to the ceiling to prevent falling asleep during the very long prayer vigil he was required to keep. If his head slumped the pain caused him to wake up quickly! He earned lots of tips for his good humor.

Back aboard our camels we continued on across the desert for about another half hour to a Nubian Village where we had some vigorous exercises led by our Tour Leader Rita to overcome potential residual muscular effects from the camel riding on our derriere. We were then invited into a private home to enjoy hot tea or cokes with some home cooked Egyptian treats. While we were there we were given the opportunity to have a Henna Tattoo painted on our arms...guaranteed to last for two weeks!

I really enjoyed the camel ride but would have liked to go a bit faster...I definitely had a plodder and he set his own pace no matter what I did or said to him. His master didn't seem interested in making him go any faster so I was usually in the back...but that's a great position for taking photos of people's backs; I've got lots of them. The camel ride was definitely one of the hi-lights of the trip for me. Jim...we won't ask him about his opinion. By the way...we were accompanied by three armed guards all during the morning.

After our morning tea with the Nubians we boarded the motor boat and crossed back over the Nile to our new home: A small cruise ship. We will be living on the Nile for the next four days. It's truly a miniature cruise ship with all the amenities but is designed to hold only about 35 passengers. It's owned by the Tour Company and plies the Nile between Luxor and Aswan during the tourist season.

A delightful surprise for many of us was finding ice cream on the dessert menu! Our chef continued to surprise us daily with a wide variety of gourmet meals for our enjoyment during the four day cruise.

We all indulged ourselves with showers and unpacked the suitcases that had been delivered and placed in our staterooms while we were on our desert journey by camel. We’re still in Aswan and stayed moored at the dock while we continued to enjoy the area. A major change is that our sister tour is sharing the cruise ship with us and while on board we are now a group of thirty-one; the other group has ten people from the same Catholic church in Minnesota.

After lunch we boarded the Felucca (sailboat) for a cruise to the Botanical Gardens on Kitchener’s Island where we enjoyed a slow stroll through the gardens. The description given in the tour book for a felucca is a traditional broad sail boat used for thousands of years on the Nile. Their fin-like sails are sewn from vertical strips of cloth and they were designed by ancient Egyptian builders to ferry stones and other heavy objects from shore to shore. They are now beloved as pleasure boats.

After strolling through the gardens with a stop near the center to join a group of high school girls for impromptu dancing…girls only…we sailed back to the cruise ship to dress for dinner. After dinner we were entertained by Nubian folk dancers and musicians. The final act was the dance of the whirling dervish (whirling skirts) performed by a male dancer who amazed us with his ability to keep spinning fast enough to keep several circular skirts at a forty-five degree angle. The dancer in a brightly colored outfit turned like a spinning top while slowly removing one skirt after another during the dance. Jim went to bed right after dinner as he’s still not feeling well.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


Friday, November 25th, 2005 Aswan and Lake Nasser

Our alarm clocks were set for 3:45 am this morning so that we could have breakfast and make it to the airport for our 6:30 am flight to Abu Simbel. This is one of the best known Temples and it was moved 200 feet up the cliffs from where it had originally been carved because of the rising water levels of Lake Nasser. From the airport we were bussed to the Temple site on the edge of Lake Nasser.

Here we explored the massive temples honoring Pharaoh Ramses II and Nefertiti, his queen, for about an hour and then it was time to trek back to the airport and fly back to Aswan arriving about noon. A brief glimpse of history; it was worth getting up before dawn to see this stunning ancient wonder.

Arriving back in Aswan we boarded our bus for a tour of Aswan ending high on the hill for lunch in an open-air Nubian Restaurant located high above the Nile. Nubian people are very dark skinned and tall. They are indigenous to the area and have remained true to their culture and even though the new Aswan Dam covered most of their original land they have sought out new land in the area to build their homes and small farms. The outdoor meals are wonderful but one has to learn to ignore the ever present flies.

The afternoon was free to visit the Old Cataract Hotel next door (we were staying at the New Cataract Hotel) and enjoy high tea in the British Style. This hotel is known for the rich and famous guests over the past century. Truly a magnificent opportunity to see how the other half lives!

After enjoying another fantastic sunset on the Nile; we boarded our motor boats again for a trip back to the Philae Temple for a Sound and Light Show. Several hundred people were aboard these boats all headed in the same direction....all with NO lights! The only lights were those from popping flashbulbs on cameras. Spooky! I don't remember such a dark night and they were speeding along just as fast as they do during the day! We all put on our life vests without being told!

The show was great...they told us a story as we moved in a huge group through the temple with the lights showing us the story as it was told. The show lasted a little over an hour and then back on the motorboats for another scary ride across a black river to our buses!

Dinner tonight was in a restaurant in downtown Aswan. What I remember most is the unusual type of napkins! They were Kleenex tissues. A box was right in the center of the table. After dinner, several (including Jim) went to the pharmacy next door to the restaurant to obtain medication for Pharaoh's Revenge....yes, the different types of food were affecting more than a few. The guides said not to even bother with the medications from doesn't work on our germs! So for a dollar a box; health was guaranteed for all! At least if you continued to take it day in and day out we found. Jim actually had a very mild case compared to some of our tour mates but it took several days to correct.

I hope you've enjoyed the photos of the Nile River yesterday and today….the sailboats you see are called Feluccas. The photos of the Feluccas and pool were taken from the small balcony in our room. I must admit the view from this room was the best of the trip….couldn’t stop taking photos.

Friday, February 18, 2011


TODAY: Aswan is Egypt's premier inter resorts offering a delightful, natural beauty, a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere with a warm and dry climate. Lying 560 miles south of Cairo, this area has suffered very little consequence from the recent political upheaval in Cairo…with the exception that because Tourists have been advised to avoid traveling in Arabic countries…the thousands of people who are employed by and/or work in shops, that are mainly supported by the visiting tourists are out of work. Aswan today is the third largest town in Egypt and the biggest one in Upper Egypt, It is also one of the most popular cities to visit along with Cairo and Luxor.

According to news reports, they expect the tourists to arrive starting in March barring any future problems.

Thursday, November 24th, 2005 Aswan

Up early to enjoy the wonderful views of the Nile River from our rooms in our new hotel in Aswan. We were in the bus by 9 am and headed for the motorboats on the Nile River that would take us to visit the Philae Temple of Isis. The entire temple was moved to a higher island after the Aswan Dam caused it to be buried under water for six months every year. It took an international rescue operation eight years to relocate the Temple. After viewing the Temple we returned by motor boat to our bus and proceeded to cross the Old Dam built by the British and then drove to the newer Aswan High Dam that not only changed the agricultural rhythms of Egypt by preventing the devastating Nile floods but also created Nasser Lake and a whole new way of life for not only Egypt but the entire northern part of the African Continent.

On our way back to the hotel we stopped at the Papyrus Institute for a lesson in how the Egyptian's created paper and then an opportunity to purchase some beautiful painting done on papyrus. They do provide many opportunities to leave some dollars in Egypt! By the way, they love American Dollars as long as they are crisp and new! We made trips to several different banks (all were low because they'd not ordered their new bills for the holidays) to gather ones, fives and tens. We'd been told not to bring large bills as they don't like to give change!

For lunch we boarded our motorboats again for a trip on the Nile to a river side open-air restaurant. On the way we were entertaining by young boys, probably about ten years old, singing while they paddled with pieces of cardboard in very small boats along side of our boat. Looking for tips!

Back to the hotel for a few free hours and I finally found the Internet Access Room in the business center! Six days since I'd touched a live keyboard! WOW....that's when I finally got out a very short email to family and friends and spent most of my time cleaning out the junk mail. Sure was nice to open mail from people we knew!

About 6 pm we boarded the bus for a trip downtown to the Spice Market. Jim bargained for two shirts and we all purchased white scarves for our heads on the camel ride tomorrow. We saw them using a flat iron in the laundry, baking pieta bread in open ovens, huge barrels of spices and many different varieties of olives and dates. The blue spice for making their clothes so white was sold right along side of the cooking spices. Eventually our guide turned us free and only one person got totally lost; but found the bus and then us!

Dinner tonight was a surprise...since it was Thanksgiving Day in USA, the guides persuaded the hotel to cook us a turkey dinner! It was a very nice way to end our first day in Aswan.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


TODAY: One of the biggest fears of the recent uprising in Cairo was that demonstrators would go wild and damage or possibly destroy the vast collection of antiquities contained in The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, known commonly as the Egyptian Museum, in Cairo. Fortunately, other than a small break in with minor damage; the Museum survived relatively unscathed. Demonstrators linked arms with the soldiers and surrounded the building during the height of the demonstrations to protect their treasurers. So, unlike the National Museum of Iraq that was completely stripped during the recent war; future generations will still enjoy the treasurers that we viewed in 2005.

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005


Today is a travel day so we're up early and while I packed the suitcases Jim met with three of the guys and they walked back to the pyramids near our hotel. Jim, Joe and Josef wanted to go up into the largest of the pyramids; we'd only walked around it on Monday. Chris wanted to walk totally around it and then walk to the Sphinx of Giza for an early morning view.

The pyramids of Giza are perhaps the most famous of the ancient monuments and probably the most photographed. The Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) was not only the first pyramid built in 2500 BC at Giza but also the largest. All of the pyramids were built during a hundred plus year period. It is also the one with the Solar Boat found buried next to it.

What an adventure; they paid $20.00 for entrance fees and then found out that you were not allowed to take your camera in; Jim ran to find Chris who'd started his trek and then back so he started the journey out of breath. After entering the pyramid; the climb was all uphill at a forty-five degree angle. The first 150 feet was done bent over at the waist...looking at your feet all the way to the Great Gallery and the Grand Staircase. This was twenty-five feet high and easy to climb the next 150 feet. Opps...then another 50 feet bent over at the waist again before entering the burial chamber. This room was rather plain but large enough to fit a double Decker bus! There is a large granite sarcophagus; but other than that the room is empty. This was the only room that they were allowed to see; disappointing but now they can say they were actually inside the great pyramid of Giza! (This was narrated by Jim)

The three of them were back in plenty of time to check out of the hotel...but Chris arrived at the very last minute as we were boarding the bus. I think Jim's biggest concern was that Chris had his video camera!

On the bus we had another visual tour for the half hour of traffic as we made our way into the downtown city of Cairo for our visit to the Egyptian Museum. Rita gave us a guided tour of the Museum for two hours and then we had another hour to explore on our own. For me the best exhibit in the museum was the complete display of everything that they found in King Tut's (Tutankhamen) Tomb. The only missing objects were his mummy and pieces that are on a touring exhibit in the USA (and we saw that they'd only sent objects that were duplicates of was not unusual to see four of the same over and over). The most impressive were the four gilded boxes lined up in order of decreasing size; that contained his body. Actually, his mummy was inside of nine various containers starting with the four boxes that represented the nine months of gestation in the womb...everything was done towards his entering the afterlife. There were Chariots, gloves, jewelry and of course the most famous of all: the gold mask! In later chapters you will find that I actually had the opportunity to walk into his tomb and see the final mummy case that still contains his mummy; one of the few that have been returned to their tomb.

The King Tut exhibit is only a very small piece of the Egyptian Museum. There are so many objects packed into this museum that it's hard to really understand and see everything. They are in the process of building a new museum out near the Giza Pyramids so that they can display all of these beautiful objects for the public to enjoy. A few years off so we did our best to see as much as possible in our three hours. Again, no cameras were allowed inside but I put a few Internet photos in the slideshow.

Our lunch was at a local restaurant in Cairo; Roger and I decided to try the peppers on our were definitely HOT...brought tears to the eyes. Another different dessert of red dates, papaya and melons.

After lunch we had an afternoon of Rita's Discoveries starting with the opportunity to walk in an upper class shopping area to investigate the stores. From there we rode the bus to a "Supermarket" called the Metro. Not the same "supermarket" as we have because just like Europe, shops tend to specialize in only one item. But a few "supermarkets" exist in large cities for the foreigners and wealthy Egyptians; they had lots of American brands but still the selection was only food items. One of our objects was to purchase snacks as dinner tonight was "on your own" at the airport. We still have plenty of power bars so only purchased drinks.

Our next stop was on the way to the airport after dark; the city of Heliopolis to the Northeast is much newer than Cairo and is the location for the airport. It was also the area where Anwar al-Sadat held his military parades and where he was eventually assassinated during a review in 1981. From that time on the Viewing Stadium has been preserved as part of the memorial built on the parade grounds in his memory. Security guards stand at attention all over the place twenty-four hours a day. Heliopolis is a mixture of European and Moorish styles. It attracts the wealthy Egyptians and although no longer separate from Cairo, it maintains a distinctly different style from the older Cairo. The entrepreneur who had the vision to inspire this garden city in the desert...yes Heliopolis is known for the number of trees and plants...was Baron Edouard Empain who arrived from Belgium in the late 19th century. A photo of his palace taken as we drove by at night is in the slideshow.

Arrived at the Cairo International Airport about 6 pm for our eight o'clock flight to Aswan. We arrived in Aswan at the hotel about 11:30 pm. I then spent about an hour looking for the locks to lock our suitcases with during the day. Yep...we are still using the plastic ties during air flights, but like to put locks on them during the day. We have an early departure in the morning so I knew it was important to find them before going to bed. I finally gave up and got out the bag with my nightgown...yep...there they were...I'd carefully put them in that bag this morning because I knew we'd be going to bed as soon as we arrived. My but sometimers sure hits at the worst times!