Cairo and Giza

 Posted by Elizabeth at 8:46 pm
Aug 012011

GizaOn the way to Amboseli we decided we would change our plans again and head to Egypt when we returned to Nairobi, so I called a travel agent whilst we were driving and got things started. Once we got back to Nairobi we dropped in at the travel agent and a few days later we arrived in Cairo.

The second pyramid (Khafre's), GizaOur first day in Cairo we visited the Great Pyramids. They are amazing! They are soooo big and it is mind blowing to think the ancient Egyptians managed to build them thousands of years ago. There are 3 large pyramids in Giza and these are the ones that everyone recognises. The famous Sphinx is also located here, again it is the one everyone knows. They are located literally on the edge of Giza town – the town just stops and the pyramids are right there. It was pretty hot and humid, especially compared to Nairobi, but not unbearable. It is also low season, and Ramadan, so there were very few tourists and lots of shops and vendors were closed which means less people to hassle you and no crowds, which was fine by us. One night we went to the Sound and Light Show at the pyramids. It was OK but nothing to write home about, I’m just glad that it did not cost a lot of money.

The Great Pyramid (Khufu's), GizaGizaThe Sphinx and Khafre's pyramid, Giza

GizaFrom the pyramids we visited the Egyptian Museum, which is located in Cairo right next to Tahrir Square, the location of all the demonstrations that have been happening. We saw no sign of unrest. Yes there are still a few tents in the square and some peaceful protesters, but certainly nothing that had us concerned in anyway. Our guide told us that when the riots were happening in January it was very scary and that her family and herself did not leave their apartment for 21 days straight. It will be interesting see what the result of the trial and the election in September will bring.

The Egyptian Museum is huge with so much stuff inside it. Without a guide I think it would be difficult to understand the things that are there as the signage is very limited and it would take you days to see all of it. It could though do with a bit of dusting and maintenance so it looks quite tired and run down, which is a shame as it is full of amazing artefacts. All the treasures that were found in Tutankhamen’s tomb are here and they are truly amazing and absolutely priceless. To think this was a boy king who ruled for a very short time, yet his tomb was filled with all this gold and precious stones, just imagine what would have been in the tombs of the pharaohs that ruled for years and years! We also saw the mummys of various kings, again pretty amazing to think they are thousands of years old yet you can still see their hair and fingernails.

Old Town, CairoThe old town was next on our list where we wandered through the old streets and visited a number of churches including the Hanging Church (a Coptic orthodox church), St George Church (Greek Orthodox) and Ben Ezra Synagogue. All the churches are old, but the Hanging Church is believed to have been built around 690AD with additions and renovations along the way. It is a pretty spectacular church and worth a visit. We also visited the Al Azhar Mosque in Cairo which is huge and can apparently accommodate 20,000 people for prayer. Again having a guide with us made it much more interesting. We took a quick wander through the bazaar, but not being shoppers we didn’t spend too long there as it was full mainly of tourist stuff.

The Hanging Church, Old Town, CairoChruch of St George, Old Town, CairoAl Hazar Mosque, CairoOld bazaar, CairoOld bazaar, Cairo

We visited the Citadel by ourselves one afternoon. An air conditioned taxi was easy enough to find, and although I think we paid a bit too much, it was still very cheap. Unfortunately most of the sights within the Citadel were closed – but of course they failed to mention that when we bought our tickets. The only things open were the military museum and the Mohammed Ali Mosque, which was extremely dirty both inside and out and not particularly attractive. We were glad we did not organise an actual tour here as it would have cost 4 times as much as would really not have been worth it. For the amount we paid it was OK and filled in the afternoon, it was just annoying that nothing was open and no one thought it relevant to let you know.

Abu Simbel

 Posted by Elizabeth at 8:50 pm
Aug 022011

We were up at 4.15am to catch a flight to Abu Simbel. I had managed to get a dodgy stomach again during the night so was not feeling the best and Abu Simbel was hot, REAL hot. Needless to say I struggled to make it around the temples feeling absolutely terrible and didn’t really get to appreciate them.

There are 2 temples at Abu Simbel that were built by Ramses II for himself and his queen Nefartari in the 13th century BC. When the High Dam was built in Aswan both temples were relocated to prevent them from being submerged. Both temples are fully enclosed so you get to see how the rooms in these and other temples would have looked and both are decorated with various statues, scenes and hieroglyphics. (You are not allowed to take photos inside unfortunately). The site itself is small and that is pretty much all there is to do in Abu Simbel.

Abu SimbelAbu SimbelAbu Simbel

We were going to stay the night in Abu Simbel, but the hotel looked like it was straight out of the 1930s and nothing had changed. There was no air con in the reception area and I was feeling so sick I really did not want to stay. We decided it would be better to sit in an air conditioned car for the 3 hour drive back to Aswan and get a modern air conditioned room rather than stay here, so with some help from the local tour representative we organised to go to Aswan. You can only travel between Abu Simbel and Aswan via convoy. The convoy leaves Abu Simbel around 11am and 4pm, so we had to wait until 4pm before we could leave. We had 2 different people tell us that the convoy was originally put in place because the area is extremely remote, there was no mobile phone coverage and there was some security risk. Today though there is coverage and no risk, but the process still is in place because it has always been there.

The rep took us to a local Nubian restaurant where we were the only customers given it is Ramadan and they do not eat until after sunset. They were very friendly and helpful supplying us with bottled water, chicken noodle soup, egyptian bread with tahini, a chicken casserole with rice, desert and fruit juice when all I asked for was some rice and Wayne was having the chicken and rice. There was way too much food and they only charged us 70LE ($11) which to us was very cheap, but we did find out later that for locals it was a bit more than usual, but we were grateful and happy to pay what they asked.

It was then time to meet the other cars for the convoy. There was only one other car travelling with us and a police officer travelled in their car. After exchanging phone numbers we headed off and that was the last we saw of the car that was supposed to be travelling with us as they were going at a much slower speed. So much for having to go in convoy!

The road to Aswan is a good, pretty straight tar road that travels through some harsh desert. There were very few buildings that were still inhabited, pretty much no one around except for a few police here and there and we hardly saw another car. I was relieved to see that our hotel in Aswan was a modern, air conditioned hotel.


 Posted by Elizabeth at 9:28 pm
Aug 042011

Our Nile ship MS Emilio, AswanWe boarded the MS Emilio in Aswan for our 3 night cruise down the Nile to Luxor. The ship was pretty nice and a lot better than some of the other ships we saw. We decided to upgrade to a suite which allowed us to sit on the lounge in our air conditioned room, but with the full length glass window open as we travelled down the Nile rather than having to sit on the roof deck where it was very hot and windy. The ship was full of French people with only about 8 English speakers on board, but it wasn’t an issue and we had a pleasant 3 days on board.

Felucca, AswanOur guide for Aswan was also our guide in Kom Ombo and Edfu and was extremely knowledgeable and helpful. The temples are a lot more meaningful and interesting if you have a guide to explain everything to you and are well worth the money.

In Aswan we took a trip on a felucca to view the Aga Khan Mausoleum and the botanical gardens, and then took a motor boat to visit a Nubian village. The Nubian’s have very colourful homes and are pretty friendly. We took a walk through the village and had a look at one of their homes which was a pleasant way to fill in the afternoon.

Nubian Village, AswanNubian Village, AswanNubian Village, Aswan

The next day we visited the High Dam which was built to esnure a constant water supply and created Lake Nassar in the process – the biggest man made lake in the world. It is huge, but does not look so big as most of it is under the water. You need to see the diagrams of it to understand its size.

Philae Temple, AswanPhilae Temple was next on our list. It is located on a small island near Aswan and was also moved as a result of the flooding caused by the construction of the High Dam. There are a number of structures with various pharaohs adding their own bits through the centuries, all of which are thousands of years old. It was an impressive temple with plenty of statues, columns, engraved scenes and hieroglyphics. It is amazing to think so many of these ancient sites have survived thousands of years. A lot of the temples though have been defaced by the early Christians who erased faces and sometimes whole bodies of the various gods depicted.

Philae Temple, AswanPhilae Temple, AswanPhilae Temple, Aswan

Kom Ombo and Edfu

 Posted by Elizabeth at 4:36 pm
Aug 052011

Our boat pulled up right outside Kom Ombo Temple so it was a 2 minute walk to the temple itself. It is not particularly large but has a lot of excellent carvings and in some of them you can still see the original colours. All of the temples would have been quite something in their day with all the colours on the walls, ceilings and columns.

Kom Ombo TempleKom Ombo TempleKom Ombo TempleKom Ombo TempleKom Ombo TempleKom Ombo Temple

Edfu TempleOur boat then sailed the short distance to Edfu where we visited Edfu Temple. This pylon of this temple is huge and quite spectacular and the temple is one of the best preserved. The temple is dedicated to the god Horus and was completed around 57BC. Inside the sanctuary of the temple they found a boat made of gold that weighed 100kg (it is now in the musuem and a replica is in its place). The amount of detail and the skill required to build and decorate the temples is just amazing and I think this is one of my favourite temples.

Edfu TempleEdfu TempleEdfu TempleEdfu TempleEdfu TempleEdfu Temple


 Posted by Elizabeth at 9:28 pm
Aug 062011

Our first stop in Luxor was the Valley of the Kings, a desert valley where the pharaohs were buried from the 16th to the 11th century BC. So far they have found 63 tombs with the tomb of Tutankhamen being the only one that was found completely intact, including all its treasures (which we saw in the Egyptian Museum). The most recent tombs were found in 2006 and 2008, so there are probably more still to be found. We went inside 3 of the tombs (unfortunately you are not allowed to take photos). It is amazing that the colours of the engravings have survived thousands of years and are still quite bright. They certainly went to a lot of effort to create and decorate their tombs.

Next was the temple of Hatshepsut, a woman who ruled Egypt but dressed and behaved as a man. The temple has been reconstructed using the remains that were found and it is quite different to any of the other temples as it is built into the rock face and consists of 3 levels. Each level has a row of columns across the front of it. Most of the statues though are missing or damaged and the decorations are either gone or quite feint.

08062336a_resizeHatshepsut Temple, LuxorHatshepsut Temple, Luxor


Karnak Temple, LuxorWe stopped briefly at the Colossi of Memnon, 2 large statues that were once part of a temple.

Next was Karnak Temple Complex. This temple is HUGE and has been added to by about 30 pharaohs over the years. It is made up of various temples, pylons, and other buildings as well as a sacred lake.



Karnak Temple, LuxorKarnak Temple, LuxorKarnak Temple, LuxorKarnak Temple, Luxor

That night we caught the sleeper train from Luxor to Cairo. It was OK, but definitely not as good as the ones in China. The food was terrible, both dinner and breakfast, thankfully we had bought some snacks to take with us just in case. Neither of us got much sleep as the train is quite rough and then we were woken about 4am for breakfast, an hour before arriving in Cairo – we could have slept another half an hour as it did not take us an hour to be ready!

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