Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Story of our Trip (It's a long one)

You can find the pictures from our recent trip to Egypt in the post below.  This post will be the story portion.  So we decided kind of on the spur of the moment to take a trip to Egypt.  In November Jesse has Veteren's Day and Thanksgiving Day off and he can take those holidays anytime during the month.  Two holidays plus the three day weekends he gets normally is already five days.  He took two vacation days and we had a ten day holiday!  

Now the main reason we chose Egypt for this holiday was Rowan and his total obsession with ancient Egypt.  He had a whole list of sites he wanted to see but, of course, they were all rather spread out.  We ended up flying into Luxor (down south) and out of Cairo.  We stayed two days in Luxor, two days in Aswan (even farther south), and four days in Cairo.  Not exactly a relaxing schedule, but we sure did see a lot.  

I am happy to report that Rowan is turning into a really good traveler.  We only took carry-on luggage and he had his own backpack he was in charge of.  He never complained about it and he lugged it all over the place.  He also got the whole security procedure (take backpack off, lay it on the belt, pick it up on the other side, put it back on) down pat.  He didn't complain about the flight, didn't keep asking when we would be there, was able to make his ears pop, etc.  He also doesn't seem to have trouble with walking for long distances in the hot sun.  His parents, however, struggled with this part a bit.  


Major sites - Temple of Karnak, Luxor Temple, The Valley of the Kings, Hatshepsut's Temple

Luxor was a bit dissapointing for us.  It was a pretty busy city and quite dirty.  Not so much garbage dirty, but more horse poo dirty, which brings the flies.  Oh the flies!  It was also a lot hotter than we had expected.  It was in the 90s everyday without much shade.  Our hotel was not great either, the worst one of the trip.  All these things combined led us to leave a day earlier than planned.  The sites, however, were amazing.  The Valley of the Kings was a huge highlight for Rowan.  It was one of his "must see" places.  We saw the mummy of King Tut still there in the tomb.  


Major sites - Aswan Dam, the Nile itself, Nubian Museum

We took a train from Luxor to Aswan.  The train was 1 1/2 hours late.  We got started, stopped at a station down the tracks a bit and sat there for an hour.  The ride is only suppose to be a couple of hours but it ended up taking most of the day.  We didn't really care because it was air conditioned and we were sitting down.  The scenery was just gourgeous.  I had no idea how green and tropical looking the Nile area is.  After being in Kuwait most of the year, the green was almost dazzling.  The vegitables were really great as well.  So much fresh (picked this morning) stuff was available. 

Aswan itself was a nicer town than Luxor.  It had it's share of horse poo and flies, but it just wasn't as bad some how.  We also had a more relaxing time as we didn't "sitesee" quite as much.  The origional plan was to go to Abu Simbel (even farther south).  However, you have to go with a convoy that leaves at 3am and it's two or three hours away.  After wearing ourselves out in Luxor, that did not sound so appealing so we decided not to go.  That helped our schedule and we decided to go to Cairo one day early.  In Aswan we took a boat ride on the Nile (a three hour tour)  that stopped at a few islands around.  Sailing the Nile was great and we decided if we do it again, we will bite the bullet and take the Nile cruise.

The Night Train to Cairo:

We learned a lot on this trip.  One of the most important things that we came to realize is that we are now adults.  We don't have to take the cheapest (most horrible) option available to us anymore.  We have enough money for the sleeper train or even (gasp!) to fly.  We should have known, I realize, but we did take the night train from Aswan to Cairo.  It was suppose to be about 10 hours but it turned into 15.  The misery really can't be descibed.  It was filthy, the bathrooms I still can't really talk about, and again the flies.  In order to try to sleep we had to cover our faces or else your face would be covered in flies.  


Major sites - Pyramids, Museum

We finally made it to Cairo.  We had a lot of trouble finding our hotel (because I lost the paper that had the address on it).  When we finally did, it was fantastic.  It's called Hotel Osiris and I would stay there anytime.  After we got there, we took turns scrubbing every inch of our bodies with soap so we could feel human again (not to mention getting our clothes laundered).  You know it was bad when Rowan asked if he could please be first in the shower!  The rest of the day we spent sleeping.  We woke up for dinner and went back to sleep.  

The next day was spent at the Museum.  It truely was amazing.  The suprising thing is that it seems like they have more artifacts that they know what to do with.  Stuff is everywhere.  In corners, in hallways.  Most things don't even have cards telling you what it is.  Some of the notes in some cases are hand written.  All of the other info is on index cards that were typed on a typewriter and are yellowing with age.  The display cases are made of wood and glass, looking like something out of the thrities.  But the stuff in the museum is just spectacular.  All of King Tut's treasure is there so Rowan loved that.  His attention span for this stuff is just crazy.  We adults started getting bored and he was the one urging us along.  Not just at the museum, but everywhere we went.  

The next day was the pyramids.  Our hotel contracts with some drivers so we were able to arrange for a driver to come pick us up and take us to three different sites.  I knew there were some older pyramids, but I didn't realize how many are still standing.  We were able to go inside one called the "red" pyramid at a site called Dashur.  That was a major highlight for all of us.  You first have to climb up a lot of very steep steps to get to the opening.  Then you go down a VERY steep ramp inside a small tunnel.  It was just about Rowan's hight so he didn't have to crouch.  The rest of us had to bend over to get down the 65 meter ramp!  Once all the way down, there wasn't much to see but the idea of being deep inside a huge pyramid was really fun.  There were some stairs and a cavern that had it's light burnt out.  It was pitch black, but Rowan had packed a flashlight, so we were able to go in and see it.  We felt like true explorers.  The climb back up was easier than going down, but we were so sore the next day (or two).

Cairo itself is just crazy, busy, dirty, but totally interesting.  Rowan found a new obsession in Cairo, pollution.  We actually had to ban talk of pollution for fear of offending people (and because it was driving us crazy).  I just don't care to discuss all of the contributing factors to Cairo's photochemical smog.

General Impressions:

Egypt is a lot greener and also a lot less conservative than Kuwait.  That was nice.  I was constantly suprised by the hordes of tourists.  The place is packed with them.  And I have been in the Middle East too long, I guess, because I was constantly horrified by the clothing (or lack of it) worn by the toursits.  It's a Muslim country, cover your shoulders people!  Many of the tourists were retired people.  Egypt is really not set up for people who aren't in good shape.  Even if you are staying on a boat and are bussed everywhere, there is a lot of walking and climbing involved and we saw a lot of miserable people.

One of the most bothersome things is everyone wanting to sell you something.  We didn't have it too bad, but there were a few times when we had people following us down the street.  I really don't think many families with young kids go to Egypt so Rowan was quite the show piece.  He took it really well and he did get a lot of free stuff, but it did get tiring.  Rowan did learn some lessons in retail, however.  We went into a coffee shop and Jesse was ordering while Rowan and I found a table.  There were sugar packets on the table and Rowan picked one up and asked if I needed one for my coffee.  I said, no thanks.  He said, in a rather hurt voice, but why not, it's good sugar?  It's only five pounds (Egyptian pounds, about five to the dollar so everything was five pounds).  I started laughing and asked if he was really trying to sell me a sugar packet for five pounds.  He said, oh fine I'll give it to you for one pound.  That's a very good price.  

We flew Qatar Airways.  Very, very nice.  I highly recommend it.  We were almost dissapointed that the flight was so short.  We had a layover in Doha and that is a very nice airport with an awsome kids play area.  Jesse said all he would need was a job inside it and we would never have to leave the airport.

All in all it was a great trip.  It is, however, really nice to be home.  Since it was my first time to leave Kuwait since moving here, it was my first time to have the feeling that I was coming home.  It turns out that I really like it here.  That's a good feeling.

We are only here for three weeks before going to Kenya!


Barb said...

I am soo glad you had a great time. As I am sure you already now, How many 7yr olds can say they have been to Egypt and seen King Tut's burial tomb? What an awesome adventure for Rowan as well. P.S> I have a car until Wednesday if you want to make plans just give me a call!

Brian said...

Great post! Seems like everything is going very well!

Mandie said...

That's so awesome! What an adventure. I'm so jealous you will be going to Kenya in 3 weeks! Eat a mango for me while you're there! I can't wait to read that story next!