Indiana Jones…where are you?

Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan

One of the highlights for me while traveling through Egypt and Jordan with GAP Adventures in 2009, was sleeping in the desert with the Bedouin people.  Upon arrival to the camping area in the desert, we dropped our gear and made our way to the main dining tent for dinner.

We shared the tent with a group of Dutch people on pilgrimage.  They were the subdued, quiet ones on the other side.  We were the loud, fun-loving group on our side.  I actually spoke to one of the women to try to get the groups to mingle, but to no avail.  After a delicious meal, a few traditionally dressed Arab musicians entered the tent and one of the men began dancing and beckoned us to join him.   Feeling like a gypsy, I rose and began dancing, feeling breathless, having been seduced by the aromatic incense wafting through the air combined with the rhythmic melody.  Others began to join us and soon we had a party going!  I was having such a good time…I didn’t get any photos!  (the above photos I found online…but they are of the same or very similar camping spot)

The following day we took a jeep ride through the desert and I asked if I could drive.  The Bedouin driver “Mohammad” agreed to allow me and kept telling me what a good driver I was as I careened over sand dunes.  I wonder if the 4 passengers sitting in the open bed of the truck felt the same way after being jostled and bounced around…possibly fearing for their lives!

DSCN1373

The “Siq” … Petra, Jordan

I love this photo I took of the “Siq”, which is the mile long walk before arriving to the area called Petra, where all of the carved buildings are.  You are surrounded by towering walls of stone on either side as you walk.

DSCN1396

We hiked for two days throughout Petra…it was amazing!  Walking to the main entrance of Petra, I met a couple of 25ish men.  I discovered that one of them made his living taking people for rides within Petra on a donkey.  After a few minutes, he began flirting with me and wanted to take me to his “cave” on a date.  I told him I was married…but that didn’t faze him.  Throughout the day, I would see him and he would wave.

He gave me the tip of walking down a few steps for the photo shown below…so you don’t see the throngs of people!  These buildings carved into stone were simply unbelievably beautiful!  They were massive!

The Treasury, Petra, Jordan…(Raiders of the Lost Ark filmed here)

DSCN1405

A fellow traveler took this photo of me carefully crossing a very narrow ledge while hiking in Petra…whew!

Petra Cliff - Sherry

Beautiful Children of Jordan

DSCN1509

Children have such an exuberance for life…an openness…that I wish more adults could keep!

DSCN1476

Another unique experience we had was going to a Turkish bath while in Jordan.  The steam room resembled a cave and we were instructed to sit in the steam for 20 minutes…to then exit and be doused with cold water by a squat, muscled man in swim trunks…repeating this process three times…then to lay on a cold marble slab while he scrubs you with a mitt (ouch…that hurt)…pours cool water on you…slathers oil all over…massages roughly for five minutes and you’re done!!

Here is a group shot of us at the “Dead Sea“…the mud from the sea detoxifies your skin and makes it baby soft!  And you really do float in the Dead Sea!

DSCN1521

I hope you enjoyed  the trip!

Do we really want to see the sunset?

The 18 days I traveled through Egypt and Jordan with GAP Adventures in 2009, were filled with adventure, excitement and wonder.

Our group of 14 people from across the globe, typically traveled by private van, but we did take a night train from Cairo to Aswan.  Here is a map of our route…

This photo is of the back of the Citadel, which was originally built during the 12th Century to be a fortification…a wall surrounding Cairo, but was never completed.  It is now a preserved historic site, with mosques and museums.

DSCN1280

We wandered through the Khan Al Khalili bazaar.   It was an endless maze of sidewalks filled with little shops, selling clothing, jewelry, anything you could think of.  It was so colorful and intriguing!

DSCN1309

There had been a bombing one month prior to my arrival…a French girl died and others were wounded.  Of course my family thought it would be too dangerous to visit…

Our hotel at Mt. Sinai was very nice and the pool looked inviting…but it was too cold to swim.   I think the scenery was so simply stark and beautiful!

DSCN1316

I was so happy to be able to climb to the top of Mt. Sinai.  For those of you who don’t remember the significance of this area.  According to the Bible, it is where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God.

DSCN1335

It took about 3 hours to reach the top and it was timed so that we could see the sunset.  The temperature change was amazing.  By the time we reached the summit, it was freezing.   We waited about 15-20 minutes to witness the sunset…with my teeth chattering uncontrollably…I’m asking…do we really want to see the sunset??  It was pretty…but we then ran down the mountain, partially in the dark, in about 30 minutes.

DSCN1338

 I loved this Greek Orthodox Chapel at the top.

DSCN1337

The following photo is St. Catherine’s Monastery, which was built in the 6th century and is the oldest continuously functioning Christian monastery in existence. It is built on the site of the original burning bush.

Cats were everywhere!

DSCN1347

Our last stop was  Nuweiba, Egypt before boarding the ferry to cross the Gulf of Aquaba to Jordan…this was the beach area where our hotel was located…it was eerily deserted!

DSCN1357

This little girl was selling jewelry on the beach…but only five people were on the entire beach!  We couldn’t speak to each other, but you don’t always need words to communicate.  I took her hands and swung her around and around…and we laughed!

DSCN1358

Next we’ll explore Indiana Jones’ territory…

More “Hubbly Bubbly” please!

Riding a camel in Egypt should be on everyone’s bucket list!  Although it was a unique experience, once is enough.  Having ridden on a donkey and an elephant, I discovered a camel is more awkward and uncomfortable.

DSCN1176

Your Egyptian experience is also not complete (in my opinion) unless you partake in smoking some “Shisha” aka “Hookah” aka “Hubbly Bubbly“!  A few of us…the restless rebels…would stay up past bedtime…drink Turkish Coffee and smoke the flavored tobacco!

DSCN1209

We spent one night sleeping on a felucca sailboat on the Nile River.  After dividing into two groups of about 7 each, we boarded separate boats for our adventure.  It was quite obvious they split us according to age.  The other boat held the 25-34 age group and our boat was the 35-65 age group.  What’s interesting to me, is that the “restless rebels”, as I mentioned earlier, consisted of the older age group.

DSCN1212

A separate boat called the “service” boat was available for mealtimes and use of the bathroom.  The “restless rebels”…stayed up after the others went to bed and were talking on top of the service boat when it became noticeably windier.  Out in the distance a huge black mass was approaching quickly…

when we queried the workers, they said it was a sandstorm.  The sense of danger and exhiliration resulted in an immediate rush and feeling of…aliveness!  We were engulfed in sand for a few minutes.  I still remember the sand pelting my skin, leaving a tingly feeling.

We rode donkeys to the Valley of the Kings and if you wanted your donkey to go faster you would say “hopa hopa”.

DSCN1228

My donkey liked to go fast…just like me…and every time someone else would say hopa hopa – my donkey would run.

I raced one of the guys and almost fell off.

The Karnak Temple is located in Luxor, Egypt.  The entire complex which spans 1 mile x 2 miles, was built over a period of 1300 years, beginning in the 16th century BC, and is the largest ancient religious site in the world.  The last three photos are a portion of it…

DSCN1268 DSCN1265 DSCN1260

Next installment tomorrow!

Dirty Dancing…Egyptian Style

My first impression of Cairo was of a dirty, polluted, congested city with very aggressive drivers.  Most of the buildings had re bar sticking up, so they could continue building as they saved enough money.  The “Travel Channel” doesn’t prepare you for the reality of  experiencing a culture so very different than your own!

DSCN1154

It was a country of contrasts…the call to prayer echoing through the streets…five times daily…sexually suggestive noises and gestures…the desert…the lush tropical Nile valley…ugly buildings…beautiful colors of the spices & fabrics.  It was an amazing trip!

I booked the trip through a company called GAP Adventures, based out of Canada and met my fellow travelers the evening I arrived in Cairo, in March, 2009′.  There were 4 Australians, 4 Americans, 3 Irish and 3 Canadians.  Learning about their lives and countries over the next couple of weeks was an added bonus!

The weather varied from the 40’s in Mt. Sinai to the 90’s in the Wadi Rum desert of Jordan.

We spent the first day in Cairo and then took the 12 hour night train from Cairo to Aswan,  stayed for three days and then traveled for 2 hours by private van to Luxor.  After two days there we took the night train back to Cairo.

To avoid paying a single supplement GAP will pair you up with a roommate, but on this trip there were no other solo females, so I had my own room in the hotels which was nice because they were usually quite small.

I’m not much of a museum person. When I travel I’m most interested in the people, the landscapes, the culture and the activities.

DSCN1085

On the train ride back to Cairo, I went to the club car where you could purchase snacks/drinks and encountered an eclectic group of travelers.  While attempting to make conversation with a man from Japan, one of the waiters tied a towel around his hips…jumped up on a table…and started gyrating to the music…picture an Arab Elvis!

If you’ve ever been shopping in Mexico…the salesmen hawking their goods in Egypt are far more aggressive!  Being the fearless female that I am, one morning in Aswan, I set out on my own to shop.  Some of the men would make odd noises as I walked by…sort of a clucking noise with their tongues.  I dressed conservatively…but I think they have a distorted opinion of western women…probably from T.V.

One of the issues we encountered were the private shopping stops and pre-arranged restaurants. We decided after eating quite a few “not so good” meals to venture out on our own and the few times that we were able to do that – the food was much better. We assumed that there are kickbacks to the tour guide for bringing people to their shops and restaurants.

We risked our lives walking two miles…crossing five lanes of speeding… horn honking…Egyptian drivers…who must have inhaled too many Turkish coffees…to reach a French Restaurant called “Le Bodega”.  It was worth it…the food was excellent!

DSCN1312

I didn’t get sick with intestinal problems …very vigilant with my disinfectant wipes…and I didn’t eat any vegetables that weren’t cooked.

The Kissing Camel

DSCN1145

More later…

UNESCO World Heritage Sites…SE Asia & the Middle East

 

These are the UNESCO sites I’ve been to in Southeast Asia and the Middle East:

 

Luang Prabang, Laos

 

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam 

 

 

Historic Cairo, Egypt

 

 

The Pyramids in Egypt 

 

 

Saint Catherine, Egypt

 

 

 

Petra, Jordan 

 If you’d like to learn more about any of these areas…click on the country

here on my blog…or visit Unesco World Heritage Sites.