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.

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