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.

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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!

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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.

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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”.

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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…

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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

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More later…