Sunday, 30 September 2007

Walking like an Egyption

Egypt... what an amazing country and so different from the recent places that i have visited. My first impressions of Egypt was arriving into Cairo and getting a taxi to my hotel, as i had just come from Greece i had shorts on and the taxi driver in his broken English pointed at my knees, made a gun symbol with his hands and went "bang bang". From this point on my knees and shoulders were covered for the rest of the trip in populated areas. Joining my Intrepid group of only 5, we travelled all around Egypt from Cairo to Asawan to Luxor to St. Katherines and then back to Cairo. We visited the Pyramids, Sphinx, Valley of the Kings, Mt Sinai, Coloured Canyon, St. Katherines Monastery (site of the biblical 'Burning Bush') The Cairo Garbage City and A.P.E and many other places in-between. We rode through the Sahara on camel back, ate at a local house in a Nubian village, sailed for 2 days down the Nile River on a Felucca boat, visited the town of Darow (the real Egypt), watched Sufi Dancing (pic) where a dancer just span for around 30 minutes non-stop, and went to countless markets and mind blowing temples. The last 2 weeks have been hectic with moments of relaxation and long train and bus journeys in-between towns. I have so much to talk about that i could write a book but i have picked a few stories from a tour i will always remember.

The Pyramids at Giza and
Valley of the Kings

What a way to start, on day 2 after meeting everyone the night before we were gazing up at one of the ancient wonders of the world. After learning a bit about them from our tour guide we had some spare time to go and explore. With Egyptians wanting to take your money every 10 steps, i couldn't resist hopping on a camel and have my photo taken. Also making friends with one of the "security guards" with his weathered laminated pass, preventing people from entering a particular area, he allowed me to have a quick look around and have more photos taken of me in-front of the strategically placed pile of stones. 1 Egyptian pound ($0.20 AUS) goes a long way.
Going through the 3 most interesting tombs of Ramsis 3, Ramsis 4 and Merenptah in the Valley of the Kings was just as spectacular as the Pyramids. The detail that has gone into the hieroglyphics and effort it must have taken to dig 60m down into a hillside is unbelievable, especially with the 30 odd tombs in the area and more are to be discovered. As you couldn't take photos inside the tombs i was disappointed however with the numerous other temples we visited throughout Egypt, i was able to take photos and even touch the hieroglyphics at those.

Mt. Sinai (Mt. Moses)
With my walking shoes on and having a good stretch i was ready and pumped to tackle the 3750 steps up to the top of Mt. Sinai where Moses received the 10 Commandments from the Big Guy. Starting at the Monastery of St. Kathereines where the biblical Burning Bush is located (it's not burning at the moment which is disappointing but you get over these things) we climbed the rocky path and 2.2km above sea level mountain to watch the sunset (pic- me being Moses). The view from up the top is spectacular and it was the reddest sunset i have ever seen. Climbing back down was another challenge in itself as it was now dusk/night. The temperature dropped 20 degrees in about 5 minutes, so with runny noses, we all carefully baby stepped our way back down the mountain on the safer camel track, stepping in camel sh*t as the only light we had was a flashlight and a full moon. We all got back down safely with a few slips and slides.

I count myself so lucky to have booked my Egypt trip through Ramadhan as i have been able to experience so many different and once a year opportunities. I had no idea it was on until i arrived. Ramadhan is a fasting celebration where it is a time for Muslims to get back in touch with Allah and this includes fasting for the lunar month to show you can control and devote yourself. As a Muslim you can only eat, drink and smoke in the hours between 6pm and 3am (even water!), you cannot have sex unless you are married, alcohol/drugs is forbidden all year round and praying 5 times a day - every day, are just some of the main tasks that must be adhered to. Our poor tour guide Muhammad climbing a mountain and camel riding through the Sahara looked a bit parched as no water was allowed. On the other hand it is also a time for celebration. After the 1500 Mosques around Egypt stop their megaphone prayer call at 6pm, everyone devours their food out in the street where everyone comes to socialise. Kofta's, shish-kebabs and a whole range of beef and chicken and bread is served to the thousands. I got to try pretty much all the dishes, drinks and desserts that come out only during Ramadhan and eat with the locals that are all extremely friendly and accepting of Westerners. As a tourist i could eat at any part of the day, it was very easy to find food, but you felt guilty eating and drinking in front of them, especially our guide that was always excited at 5.45pm. Muhammad always made sure we had an awesome and safe experience in Egypt.

Back into Italy for around 3 weeks exploring Rome, Siena, Florence and the towns in-between.

Facebook: I must apologise as i have taken down my Facebook page as i can't keep up with all the messages and invitations that i have been recieving. I will start it up again when i get home next year as i don't have time to work out how to use it properly. Please still send me a messages as i can organise myself better through email.