Daily Journal: Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Had a good night sleep and woke up to a foggy morning in Milan. Got my laundry sorted out, after my morning tea, and the hotel had it back to me by 4:00 this afternoon. Have my boarding pass ready for tomorrow morning and made an attempt to get a VAT (Value Added Tax) refund, but have to wait until I leave the EU. (VAT is like a sales tax that can be refunded to non-EU citizens.) Then headed to downtown Milan to experience the city.

Being in the Sheridan’s at the airport, the train to downtown Milan is underneath the hotel. The ride is less than 30 minutes and you are deposited right in the historical heart of the city. Cold, misty, and a little rain was not encouraging for a walk around the city, so just went to the Storzesco Castle and walked through the nearby park before heading back to the train. I’ll give Milan another chance on another day when I take more time to appreciate its history and many beautiful buildings and parks.

The remainder of the afternoon was taking care of correspondence and planning for my stay in Budapest. Also took a nap. After my nap, I tried to get caught up on the news from the U.S. I know that everything will work out okay and we can all read about it years from now.

Tonight I think I’ll watch some TV. It has been a couple of weeks now. Early bedtime tonight for an early flight tomorrow. Have an 8:25 a.m. flight to Stuttgart, then another flight to Budapest. I’ll be in my new flat by 1:00 p.m. Here is the link: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/625142

Ciao!

 

 

Daily Journal: Monday, 30 January 2017

Pulled myself and my suitcase together this morning and was at the airport in plenty of time to get checked in, go through security, and find my gate. My first flight was to Cairo, then after a 2.5 hour wait, a plane from Cairo to Milan where I’ll stay two days before traveling to Budapest.

Both flights were on EgyptAir. On both flights I was served a meal. I’m not sure how they where able to serve a full meal on an hour flight (Luxor to Cairo), but they did. (I should have taken a picture.)  The other thing I didn’t mention before is that at landing, the passengers clap their hands as the plane touches the ground.

We got into Milan a little early and it was quite a change from warm weather to cold. While it was only in the 70’s in Luxor – it was in the 40’s in Milan.

I have a very early flight on Wednesday so decided to stay at the Sheridan in the airport. Big hotel and very nice (and quiet too). I had heard about the long hallways, but the picture below shows just how long they are.  You can almost make out the end of the hallway – that is where I turn right to the hallway to my room. Great exercise!

Daily Journal: Sunday, 29 January 2017

My last day in Luxor. I’m trying to be aware that its my last day for awhile and want to capture the sights and sounds. This city has become so much a part of me over the past week or so. I’ve seen the so many different angles of the city I seem to be in touch with the people and the rhythm of daily life. I guess that explains it well. I’ll have to re-read this later.

Hussein took me to see Queen Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple. I wanted to climb to the highest tier and take a picture of Luxor. After the temple, we drove around again and went into downtown – just to drive around, then he took me back to the hotel.

Below, Luxor is across the Nile. You can see the green from irrigation from the river. So very lush and green in the valley.

Later in the evening he drove me to a shop that sells sweets and desserts. He put together a box for us to take with us. He said it was going to be a surprise where we were going next. Found out that a cousin of his opened a new nightclub (no alcohol) near my hotel.

It was an open house at the bar for his cousin’s family and was introduced to many of is family and friends. Though when the football (soccer) game started, everyone started watching. We left after the game was over.

Before going to bed, got ready for leaving early in the morning. Hussein said he would be by at 7:15. I decided to have breakfast brought up to me so I could eat and pack. I asked to be awakened at 5:45 a.m. and knew that morning would be here soon.

My bed is usually decorated after Housekeeping finishes my room. Each day it is something different.

 

Daily Journal: 26 – 28 January 2017

I’m combining four days into one posting. Yes, the idea was to post daily, but since I developed the rule for the plan – guess I can change it too.  🙂

It was my idea to relax for the most of my three full days here in in Luxor. I was in Luxor the previous week, but went to Aswan for four days.

I left Aswan on the 26th, by train, to Luxor. Both Hussein and Mostafa said I should go by car (down and back), with one of them driving, but I said it would be too much of a bother. I’ll just take the train. Next time, I’ll go by car – so difficult to purchase a ticket then you don’t know if the train will arrive / depart on time and there may be unknown delays along the way. Lesson learned. Just hire a driver and enjoy the landscape along the way.

After getting back to Luxor and being welcomed by the staff at the Hilton – who called me by name and even had my old room ready. Really, the nicest people here. One porter said he was going to hide my bags so I’ll have to stay.

After I got settled in my room, Hussein and I got caught up as he took me around the city for a drive.

The next few days, I’ve been waking up, going down for breakfast then out for a quick stroll down by the river before meeting up with Hussein at 10:00. I’ve been asking him to drive around to see more of the of the Luxor people, daily life, and the surrounding area. Every so often we would stop for tea or coffee and enjoy the mild temperature and sunshine.  Then, he drops me off at the hotel at around 3:00 p.m. so I can shower, nap, and answer email – then he picks me up at around 6:00 and we go to dinner and an evening drive. (Sounds like a rough life!)

We even went clothes shopping. Went to about 5 stores along TV Avenue in the heart of the city (no shopping mall) and I found two shirts that I liked. (Light, long sleeved shirts for about $10 each in US dollars.) I will needs some light casual wear when I meet up with the InterNations group in Budapest next week.

Last night Hussein had a surprise for me. He hired a horse drawn cab then had me sit up with the driver as we drove around town for about an hour. (Guess I should have taken a picture.) We stopped and he got me a beer to drink (since I wasn’t driving).

Earlier today I went to the Luxor Museum and saw a few Tutankhamun pieces. Then to the Mummification Museum.

Karnak Temple at Night

Hussein at dinner.

Tomorrow will be my last day here in Luxor. I’m meeting up with Hussein soon and we’ll make some basic plans for tomorrow as we enjoy the evening. He has taught me so much about the Egyptian people – which I’ll share in another post. (Hint: I’m going to relate it to Disneyland – stay tuned…)

 

Sahara Temples: Wednesday, 25 January 2017

It was an early morning start to begin the long drive to tour the temples (and one tomb) that were moved to higher ground as a result of the Aswan High Dam. These temples are located in a remote area south of Aswan. The way to get there is to go through a corner of the Sahara. Along with us was Marti who was there because of the requirement of two drivers, considering where we were heading. The Sahara desert.

Sometimes it is the journey and sometimes the destination. In this case it was the journey. True, seeing these temples was something that few people get to see, but the chance to travel into the Sahara, with the breathtaking views was very nice and a healthy change of pace. (I did get a little fidgety riding for so long in a car.)

I’m just going to put the pictures that I took into this post and add more detail later. Truthfully, I’ve seen so many temples – it is difficult to distinguish one from another. I think we went to about 5 temples (and one tomb) during the day. Then drove back with one pit stop and coffee break. It was a long day, but after a little nap I met Mostafa for a drink in my hotel bar and looked over the city before I left for Luxor the next day.

 

Daily Journal: Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Was up early this morning to the Temple of Edfu (dedicated to the falcon god, Horus) which was over 100 km to the north. Mostafa decided to take “the back road” since the main road is generally congested. On the “backroad” we had a chance to go through a number of small villages. I commented that I’m probably the only non-Egyptian person for miles and miles. Part of this road was through the Sahara Desert. (I’ll get a picture of the desert tomorrow. It really looks like you think it would – which is probably why I didn’t take a picture today.)

After about two hours we made it to the Temple of Edfu. The city of Edfu was known in Greco-Roman times as Apollonopolis Magna, after the chief god HorusApollo. It is one of the best preserved shrines in Egypt. The temple, dedicated to the falcon god Horus,

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Paddington Bear and Horus

We next drove through sugar cane country, now in harvest time. Saw many modes of transportation carrying the cane to the factory for processing. Was delayed for almost 30 minutes due to some congested traffic. In about an hour we reached the Temple of Kom Ombo – an unusual double temple in the town of Kom Ombo. The building is unique because its ‘double’ design meant that there were courts, halls, sanctuaries and rooms duplicated for two sets of gods.[2] The southern half of the temple was dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek, god of fertility and creator of the world with Hathor and Khonsu.

Much of the temple has been destroyed by the Nile, earthquakes, and later builders who used its stones for other projects.

Trip to the Nubian Museum (officially the International Museum of Nubia) is an archaeological museum located in Aswan. It is dedicated to Nubian culture and civilization. Mostafa, who is from a Nubian family, went with me through the museum and gave me some personal insight on some of the exhibits. So many of the Nubian villages along the Nile were put underwater when the Aswan High Dam was completed.

After the museum, we joined Mostafa’s friend who owns a nearby coffee shop. We talked for awhile before I asked to be taken back to my hotel. I thought Mostafa was going to drive me, but surprised me with a boat trip to the hotel’s Nile landing pier. What a great way to wrap up the day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Journal: Monday, 23 January 2017

Had an early start for the flight to Abu Simbel. Mostafa was waiting to take me to the airport and caught my plan for the short flight to Abu Simbel.

I’ll write more later about this visit, but just got back to the hotel and wanted to post this update before I went to bed.

Below are pictures from this site. The temple was in very good condition considering the age from when it was built.

Walking down to the site. New relocated site is just above the location that is now under water – just beyond where the three people in front of me are walking.

View of Lake Nasser from the site.

Inside the temple.

View from around the back of the temple.

Aswan High Dam

Perhaps the name is misleading. I was expecting something like the Hoover Dam with a high cement wall holding back the mighty Nile River. Instead, I found a modest, mostly earth dam, that is responsible for creating the massive Nasser Lake reservoir when the dam was completed.

Philae Temple

I need to do more research on this temple. After a short boat trip to this temple (in the reservoir created when the first Aswan Dam was completed in the 1930’s). Very nicely preserved, but you can see the influence of the Romans and early archaeologists.

Mostafa (below)

Boat Captain (below)

That evening I hosted some drinks at the legendary Old Cateract Hotel (where Death on the Nile was written).  My guests were my driver, Mostafa and a friend of his – not knowing too many people where. What a great place! Kind of like if the Benson was relocated to Aswan. We sat outside and watched the boats go down the Nile. Very relaxing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ballooning Over Luxor: Sunday, 22 January 2017

Morning came early today. The shuttle to the hot air balloon launch site was picking me up at 5:00 a.m. Also, I needed to check out as well by 5:00 in order to catch the train to Aswan leaving at 8:50. So was up at 4:00 a.m. this morning.

Was a long process getting the proper paperwork completed and transported to the marina where we took a short boat ride to the West Bank, then another shuttle to the launch site. I was very excited (and maybe a little anxious) to get in the balloon and up in the air.

As we arrived to the launch site, we could see other balloons getting ready for lift off. Really very interesting how the balloon launch process works and so very beautiful this early in the morning. I also got a picture of the sunrise.

We assembled in groups of 4 with 5 partitions in the balloon’s basket – 4 for each group of 4 and the 5th was for our pilot. We each climbed in the basket, and within minutes we were up in the air.

The sun started to rise in the sky about the same time we started our assent and we saw the shadow of our balloon on nearby hills. Two of the temples we saw this morning I visited the day before – an interesting perspective seeing these temples from above.

Difficult to describe the sensation of floating in a balloon. Perhaps a little like skydiving and paragliding where you could feel a little lift from the ground while in flight. And it was so quiet. Everyone on the flight were all smiles from start to finish.

I helped the ground crew and the pilot round up the passengers, busy taking selfies and wandering off. Was just like when I was working. (Herding the cats.) We went up to 650 meters and could see over into the Valley of the Kings and several miles of the Nile. So free and effortless.

The flight was timed about right. Just when I was thinking if probably was time to find our landing spot, the pilot announced that we were going to start our decent.

We were given instructions (pre-launch) on how to position ourselves during landing, but the pilot said we could remain standing as he guided the balloon to a very soft landing. As the balloon settled on the ground, the pilot received a round of applause from all passengers. It was a trip of a lifetime! Something I had been planning for several years.

As I returned to the hotel it was time to meet up with Hussein and leave for the train station. We weren’t sure if the 8:50 to Aswan was going to leave on time, but I didn’t want to take a chance and miss it. We got to the train station with minutes to spare though ended up waiting for an hour for the train to arrive from Cairo.

Once on the train, it turned out to be a slow (but a very comfortable) ride to Aswan. There had been a train accident the day before and it caused many delays between the Luxor and Aswan. It was okay, I was offered some food and coffee and enjoyed the view along the way. When I arrived at the station I was to meet Hussein’s cousin who had been engaged to drive me to the various sites for the next few days.

Our train was delayed getting into the Aswan station and was held up for almost 20 minutes – just a hundred feet or so from the platform. Before we started to move again, Mostafa (Hussein’s cousin) appeared at one of the open side doors of my car and welcomed me to Aswan.

He maneuvered my suitcase through the station and into his car then offered to stop and get some coffee. He said he was not very comfortable with his English and wanted his friend (who worked in the coffee shop) to help translate. As it turned out he English is fine and, with a little encouragement, we had a good, productive conversation and now there is no need for a translator.

I was interested in going to Abu Simbel while in the “neighborhood” and tried to get a plane ticket on-line but couldn’t find the right times that were available. As it turned out, the EgyptAir office was just across the street, so after we finished our coffee we went over to EgyptAir and Mostafa helped me select the right times. I’ll go down and back to Abu Simbel in about 4 hours tomorrow morning.

Below is the cover of the Life magazine that I read when I was about 10. It covers the story of moving these historical treasures before the Aswan High Dam reservoir (Lake Nasser) swallowed them update upon completion of the dam (1970).

Mostafa then drove me to the marina where I would find the boat launch to the hotel, which is located on an island (Elphantine Island) in the middle of the Nile. It is a very large resort and the views of the city are very nice. Not sure what I’m looking at, but enjoy what I see nonetheless.

Below – view from the boat ride to the hotel.

View from my room (below).

Not quite hungry yet (almost 9:00 p.m.), but after I finish this update I’ll go down and get something to eat. I’ll be up early again tomorrow to meet Mostafa for a ride to the airport. Tomorrow will be another busy day, but I’m loving it.

 

 

 

Daily Journal: Saturday 21 January 2017

I’m really enjoying having a morning buffet breakfast while looking out at the Nile. So peaceful and calm.

After breakfast I took a little walk along the Nile before getting ready for the rest of the day. During the walk, I saw some of the balloons that make a morning flight on the east side of the Nile. Tomorrow I’ll be up in one of those balloons.

Hussein picked me up at 10:00 and we headed off to Habu Temple then Ramesseum Temple. He said he had a surprise for me. First he said we were going to stop by to see some of his friends for tea – and then I asked if they sold merchandise to his guests – which lead into a conversation that I wouldn’t be buying anything. It was quiet in the car after that. Then he had another surprise for me, and he stopped the car and I found that he engaged a guide for the two temples today. (This day wasn’t starting off as planned.)

As we drove to the first temple, the guide (Hany Fouab) was good about explaining about what we were going to see. It wasn’t until we started through the first site that I opened up and appreciated what I was learning – also to confirm what I had learned already.

Habu Temple

This is the mortuary temple of Ramesses III. As you walk through the temple, the elevation increases slightly through the three courtyards. Hany was good about describing the various hieroglyphics along the way.

Some of the hieroglyphics showed sports that were played (fencing and wrestling), blessings for good health and many children, local history, etc. In several places, you can see the original colors of the walls and ceilings.

Ramesseum Temple

This is the memorial temple (or mortuary temple) of Pharaoh Ramesses II. Also known as “temple of a million years”. Much of this site is being restored, but still has much work to be done. The large colossus of Ramses II, still has many pieces missing. The old homes nearby, that are being dismantled, likely have much of the old temple included in some of the buildings.

This site was still very interesting to visit. You can see the layout of the temple and some of the preservation work already completed is compelling to view. Saw the marks where Roman soldiers sharpened their swords and where early Italians etched their names into the stone.

Beyond the temple, more excavation work is still in process.

After we left this site, we left Hady off and said our good-byes to him. Hussein and I went into downtown Luxor for some afternoon tea rather than having tea with his friends.

Hussein’s bear (keychain) and Paddington Bear joined us for tea. We found a 5th floor tea room where we enjoyed the view. (Buildings in Luxor have no more than 5 floors.)

Hussein and I talked about faith and religion – and also about meeting his client’s expectations. He treated me to tea and we left on good terms.

He was very helpful getting tickets on the morning train to Aswan and he will pick me up tomorrow after my balloon ride so I can make the train. His cousin, also a taxi driver, will support me in Aswan. The picture below shows the line of people trying to get a train ticket. The ticket issuing process is not automated.

Tomorrow, I’ll be up early and ready to be picked up by Sinbad Balloons at 5:00 a.m.

 

 

 

 

More Luxor: Friday, 20 January 2017

Another beautiful day in paradise! I’m going to get used to this and never some back. What a great place to stay – beautiful building with interesting water features (inside and out), clean, many amenities, nice staff, and a broad view of the Nile. After a few days, I know most of the staff (and they know me) who stop and talk with me.

Later today I will add a message that I’ll put on Facebook which will state: Egypt is a very nice country, beautiful and with kind, welcoming people. I feel very safe here. Yes, there is security in many places, but every country views security differently. So many smiling faces and it seems everyone helps one another. The guides and drivers who support my sightseeing needs are welcomed by their comrades wherever we go – with handshakes, hugs, and genuine affection for one another. There seems to be a stigma or understanding that Egypt is not safe and that you have to worry about terrorism and violence if you travel here. Nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve found this to be true in Cairo and Luxor – and in a few days, I hope to find the same in Aswan as well. Most of the visitors that I’ve seen at the various sites are predominately Asian (many from China) people from the Middle East as well. I’m one of the few “westerners” at these locations. Egypt relies on tourism for a good portion of their economy and would like to get the message out that they are (and have been) ready to welcome visitors to their historic, interesting, and beautiful country.

Speaking of Aswan, I will travel there, by train, on the 22nd and be there until the 26th, then back at Luxor until the 30th.

Today, I wanted to visit Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple. Both are interesting in their own right. These are temples that have been part of this area for at least 3,000 years and considered, “The Most Selected of Places” or Ipet-isut. Both sites are slowly being restored and contain great monuments and statues within their grounds.

Karnak Temple

This temple is the most extensive of the two and was influenced by a number of pharaohs (about 30) and restored, partly, by Hatshepsut, who we were introduced to yesterday at her temple (Djeser-Djeseru) against the hill on the other side of the Valley of the Kings (Deir el-Bahari).

My driver let me off at the entrance to the Karnak Temple and I was to call him when ready to leave. I was fortunate to find a guide when I got to the entrance and he escorted me around the various halls and monuments.

The entrance to the main gate has sphinx with heads of rams and body of lions guarding the gate.

Much of the original walls are no longer standing.

Around every corner there was a new view of the monuments in the temple.

Paddington Bean enjoyed visiting the temple too.

There are 134 of these giant pillars, the highest 70 feet tall, and each about 45 feet around in the Hypostyle Hall which covers 64,586 sq. ft.

Luxor Temple

Next, was a visit to Luxor Temple (ipet resyt), constructed in about 1400 BCE. Not as big as Karnak Temple, but was the focus of one of the most important religious festivals in ancient Egypt, the annual Opet Festival.

In the picture below, there is a lone obelisk (needle) on the left of the entrance. Its twin is now in Paris and known as The Paris Needle or L’aiguille de Cléopâtre located in the Place de la Concorde.

Inside the temple are a variety of statues and rooms used for religious rituals.

Along the way, a mosque was built along side of the temple complex.

And Paddington Bear..

On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by one of the two companies who operate balloon flights in Luxor and I made a reservation to go up in a balloon on Sunday before I leave for Aswan. I’m very excited!