Thursday, 16 December 2010

Egypt Trip (Episode 10)

Day 10 Cairo (14th Nov 2010)
Surprisingly Isis came to our hotel to give us her homemade Egyptian puff, so sweet of her, she is the most amazing tour guide we have ever seen, knowledgeable and cheerful, good at controlling the crowd. She can call every one of us by name, and she does not like you to interrupt when she is explaining, oh yeah, and she is very proud to be 100% Egyptian (it is the law that every tour guide in Egypt must be 100% Egyptian).

Egypt Trip (Episode 9)

Day 9 Cairo (13 Nov 2010)
Great Pyramids of Giza

Finally the train arrives at Cairo city at 10am, we are 2 hours behind schedule. Henny told us they receive complains all the time, but that is how the trains work in Egypt, they are using the type of trains nobody is using since 100 years ago:) We straight away head to the Great Pyramids of Giza, Henny collected LE 30 from each of us to buy the ticket to enter one of the smaller Pyramid. Isis told us that there are 120 Pyramids in Egypt, 9 in Cairo but only one is listed as one of the Seven Wonder of the World. Maybe we have seen and heard too much about the Pyramid, when we really see it with our own eyes, it seems pretty normal despite the fact that it is huge.

Entering the Pyramid is like entering a sauna room, the moment you get into it, you will start sweating, it is dark, it is narrow and it has nothing inside, but at least we get to see what it’s like though it’s empty. Isis told us all the pyramid was found empty as they were robbed, it is too obvious that the pyramid is a tomb filled with treasures and gold. That’s why the yong boy Tutankhamun become famous because his was the only tomb found not robbed.

We took the camel ride at the wide desert, the camel seems very dirty and ugly, haha.. and everybody screamed for help when the camel gets up from sitting position (imagine the swing and the height)

The Sphinx
The Sphinx is a figure with human head and lion body. The broken nose was caused by a radical Muslim who destroyed it but the government chose to keep its originality and not to repair it.

We walked up the stairs and a yong girl approached us saying Jon didn’t wear the hair dress correctly, she nicely helped him to adjust the hair dress and show us a good spot to take photos. We were impressed how we helped us to position ourselves to take photos of us kissing the pyramid, holding it, punching it, etc . She get more aggressive and took over Jon’s SLR, in our mind, we are thinking of course you need to pay for her service, but we don’t mind la.

Mana tahu when we are done and about to leave, we took out LE 20 (appx. 3.5 USD) to give her as tips, she does not want to take it, she said it is small money (can you believe it? Even the souvenir we bought are always LE10, LE 20 is consider a generous tips la.. ) But she insist no, she wants US Dollar, not small money, and she follow us all the way to the exit, and shouted at us “Delete! My photo! Delete!” as though we are the robber or thief, malu betul.

Lunch @ Hard Rock Café
It is Hari Raya Haji holiday the next whole week, we were told that the Muslim will have to sacrifice an animal as offering, they keep half for the family and the other half for the poor. That’s why we see a lot of sheep on the road, alive or dead. And we even see a carriage with big chunks of meats, thinking it is lamb or beef, when we see the second carriage with big chunks of intestines, Isis told us that it’s camel that they slaughtered! Yes, camel is a lot cheaper than cow or sheep.

Lunch at Hard Rock is fabulous, one of the best meal in Egypt, buffet some more! Suddenly the music tergendela many times, like CD jammed, and we see the staff standing in one line and start to dance and sing, very entertaining. Jon bought a few t shirt for his buddy, claiming that this is the cheapest hard rock t shirt he ever bought. And it is the first time we see an 1 US Dollar coin, when the staff give us the change in USD.

Egyptian Musem
The day in Cairo is the most tiring day in the whole trip, we are so used to eat sleep eat sleep in the cruise but this is a long full day in Cairo, by the time we reach the museum, a lot of us already start yawning.

Egyptian Museum is very impressive, it is like a time tunnel that brings you back to the ancient Egyptian time. Big statues everywhere, mummy coffin big and small, ancient tools and accessories, wow! It’s like Ben Stiller’s movie “A night in the museum”.

All the treasure of King Tutakhamun is displayed here, from his chariots, to his throne, to his under garment, to his coffin, basically his whole “tomb” is in the museum, except his mummy still remains in the Valley of the Kings. Amazed to see his face mask and his coffin after another coffin so nicely done even few thousands years back.

We paid LE 100 each to see the royal mummies in the museum, there are 27 of them altogether, all nicely preserved. They wrapped the body with cloths, and we can only their face, hands and feet. Some even have hair, eye lashes, finger nails and teeth.

Not much feelings looking at the mummies, I guess it’s because we have seen the fake one, all the time in movies, and we have not seen any dead body without mummification process, so hard to compare how well they preserve it. Ironically, we just watched “Adele, rise of the mummy” right before the trip, it helps us to understand the mummification better.

Khan El Khalili Bazaar
This is a very big bazaar that stretches out to all four corner of the road, selling all sort of stuff from souvenir for tourists and blankets for household purpose. But we had another bad experience dealing with the locals.

Generally the price here is a lot higher then all the other cities we been to, luckily we bought almost all that we want the day before. At the first shop we stopped by, we asked for the price of a small purse, they said 1 USD, but we want to buy in Egyptian Pound, so we bargain until LE 30 for 6. (1 USD = 5.7 LE, we asked for LE 5 only, not too much right?)

When we wanted to pay, the owner come and ask for more money, because he wants to sell at 1USD not 5 LE. We are not happy they jack up the price like that and ask for our money back, not only he didn’t want to give us back but he raised his voice and ask for more money. We were very frustrated to deal with him and as he got our money in his hand, we can’t just walk away. Luckily somebody came into the shop and diverted his attention, and we quickly run for our life.

Egypt Trip (Episode 8)

Day 8 Aswan (12 Nov 2010)
This is a boring day where we have nothing to do, and they expect us to join the optional tour. Isis is very good at adjusting the time here and there and bring us to factories here and there. We don’t mind because they always serve us karkade drink, haha. But to pay to visit the Nubian kampung just to see the normal house and school, no one is interested.

Aswan Market
We went to Aswan Market in the morning as the felucca didn’t come on time. We just walk walk see see and take photographs as we didn’t bring out the camera the night before. But this time we managed to walk all the way to the end and bought some papyrus paper as souvenir.

When we bought the papyrus paper, the person does not have any change to give back to us, so he has to go around and ask his friend for change. There is this particular person that gives him the change, and he casually asked Jon “where are you from?” As they begin to chat, he slap on Jon’s neck a few times (on friendly ground) and Jon found it very agitated but do not know what to say or how to react. They just seem very friendly and natural, what can we do? Our first reaction is to check the wallet and thank God every penny is intact.

While waiting for the rest to come, we walked into a bookshop and found a very interesting book, it is called “Egypt then and now”. It has very nice illustration about most of the tourist site, with a photo of it’s current outlook as the base, and on top of it you can place a transparent cover to see how it is like before (with the original colour and missing part).

Felucca Ride
We went to a restaurant in a small island in the middle of the Nile river, I felt like we were in Africa, with the open window and the natural scenery and birds flying around. Then we took the felucca ride, it is a sailing boat with no engine and it takes 2 people to manoeuvre the steering and the canvas sail.

Sleeping Train
After lunch, we went back to the cruise to rest before we transfer to train station for overnight journey to Cairo. By then only we found out that there is no shower facilities in the train, and we can’t bath for one day? All of us take turn to sneak into the toilet and lap badan with the small tiny hand tower and took out our overnight items as there may be not enough space to open the big luggage.

Yes, we are right, the moment we went into the train cabin, we got a shock of our life that it is so small.. after fitting in all the luggages, we basically have no more place to turn around. But magic happens when the staff opens up the double deck and suddenly it looks like a decent sleeping room with basin for wash up.
Good thing is that we are so used to eat sleep eat sleep, both Jon and I slept our way through the night. I do not want to talk about the toilet (please)

Opps, almost forgotten the “except us” story, see there is a basin for us to wash hand, but the water is boiling hot, we tried all other cabins, theirs are okay. So we asked the staff to come and fix it, he even bring a technician to fix it for us. But it is still hot. And I started to get depressed “ why everyone gets double bed except us? Why everyone gets to watch fox movie except us? And why everyone gets cold water except us? Pai Mia..

Along the railway, we see a lot of people still wash clothes at the river, and the houses are built “half way” with the unfinished roof top, tour guide said that they will continue to build again once they have the money, because they like to stay together as a big family even the son gets married. And marriage among the family members is very common and Egypt, that’s why a lot of time you see abnormal child in the family.

Egypt Trip (Episode 7)

Day 7 Abu Simbel (11 Nov 2010)
Abu Simbel Temples
We have to wake up at 2am to depart to Abu Simbel in the middle of the night, it is said that we need to follow the time where the police convey start their journey, because there will be police at the front and back of the long convoy to control the traffic and to provide help if accident happens in the long stretch of desert road without any phone coverage.

Anyway, it is worth the traveling, Abu Simbel turns out of to be the most interesting and impressive temple we have visited in Egypt. It consists of two temples built by Ramses II as a lasting monument for him and his wife Nerfatari. The temples were relocated from under water to its current location. Relocated? Yes, bits by bits, pieces by pieces in the 1960s.

No photos allowed in the temples, but is is one of the most complete and well preserved temple with all the statues and drawing on the wall, as though they were just painted few years ago.

The sunlight will go through all the way to the Holy of the Holies, where they have 4 statues, 3 gods and Ramses. There are only 2 days in a year where the sun rise shine on the face of Ramses first instead of the 3 gods, that is during his birthday and his coronation day. It lasted 28 minutes on 28 February and 28 October respectively and millions of tourists will crowd the temple to witness it.

High Dam
Visit the High Dam, one of the three largest dams in the world. From the top, we can gaze across Nasser Lake the huge reservoir created when the High Dam was built. Nothing fantastic..

Aswan Market
We have a few hours before dinner, so we decided to explore the neighborhood, and thank God we found the bazaar by following some ang moh along the way, hehe. Lots of stuff we bought, scarf, hibiscus flower, magnets, water for reasonable price.
The bazaar is very long and if you miss one particular shop, chances are you can’t find it again because most of them are selling the same stuff at various prices. The sales people are all very aggressive, once you show interest they won’t let you go. They also use trick like “Hey, you promise to come back..” At first we really ponder, and after a few times we knows ..Apalah

Belly Dance Show
Isis is right when she said belly dance on the cruise is of low quality, not professional. Jon couldn’t wait until 10pm and went to sleep early, so I went to the lounge alone and watched. They have 3 performances:
1) Belly dance: Everybody knows belly dance, shake head, shake bust, shake butt, shake shake shake, but the performer is lousy lo..
2) Tahtib (Stick dance): A men demonstrating the martial art using a wooden stick, hit here hit there, a bit like kung fu style.
3) Tanoura (Whirling Dervish): A men wearing long, large skirts who turn and turn nonstop for 10-15 minutes, tak pening kah?

Egypt Trip (Episode 6)

Day 6 Edfu & Kom Ombo (10 Nov 2010)
Temple of Edfu
We took a ride on horse drawn carriage from the dock to Temple of Edfu. Though the cost is included in the tour, but tour guide said it is a custom to pay them LE5 as tips wo..

This temple is the second largest temple after Temple of Karnak, it is dedicated to the falcon God, Horus. The walls on this temple contain inscriptions that give details of religion and language during the Greco-Roman Period in Ancient Egypt, as well as showing battle scenes in perfect clarity.

It is said that every year the Goddess Hathor travelled from her temple to visit the God Horus at Edfu Temple. As husband and wife, they only get to see each other for 13 days in a year.

It also depicts the love story between Isis and Orisis where the brother of Orisis tricks him into a coffin and throws him into the river Nile. Then Isis susah payah search for his body parts and raise him from the dead and make herself conceived. Of course the story ends with her son grows up to take revenge from the wicked uncle.
Some of the kartush on the wall is left empty, because the kings keep changing over the 180 years to build the temple, they don’t know whose name to carve. Kartush is a name tag for the Egytian King, they all look ideal and perfect in the drawing, the only way to differentiate them is to refer to their kartush.

There is a small passage to access the Nile river in the temple, they calls it the Nilometer. The king will determine the taxes to collect from the people based on the water level.

Isis brings us to a shop she claims to have a lot of variety with reasonable price to force us buy the Galabia (traditional costume) for the theme party the next day. All of us bodoh-bodoh go in and choose without realizing all the other shops are selling at the same price, with more variety!

Temple of Kom-Ombo
We walk to the Temple of Kom-Ombo, which was dedicated to the falcon and crocodile god. It is said that a yong boy was eaten by crocodile, so the people decided to build a temple for the crocodile god, but they think it is not good to build a temple for crocodile god, so they balance up with another falcon god. That is how it become a double temple (normally temples are only dedicated to one single god).

Some famous drawings on the wall include the ancient calendar, where they have 24 hours a day, 30 days a month and 3 seasons a year. Another drawing shows a women sitting on a birthing chair, with various medical instruments depicted. So canggih!! We have not even thought of birthing chair with all the modern technologies.

Tour guide teaches us how to differentiate the drawing between ancient Egyptian time and Greco Roman time: 1) the Greco Roman pays attention on the details, even crease at the knee and tummy can be seen 2) Kartush are written in alphabet, not symbol .

Too bad the Crocodile Museum are not ready, if not we can see mummified crocodiles. Crocodiles also they mummified? Yes.. indeed later on we found that they mummified everything, animals, fruits, seeds, all the things they need in the afterlife.
So called Galabia Theme Party on the cruise..

Egypt Trip (Episode 5)

Day 5 Luxor (9 Nov 2010)
Valley of the Kings
Valley of the Kings is a valley where 64 of Egypt’s Pharaohs had their palatial resting places hewed into the sheer rock. They realized that the pyramids are too high profile and they shifted to the south and found this quiet spot to build their tombs.

Tombs are more important than palaces because the ancient Egyptian believe that afterlife is more important. The moment the King started to rule, he will start to build his tomb, the longer he lives, the larger is his tomb. Even up to today we still see workers trying to dig and discover new tombs in the valley.

The valley become famous with the discovery of the tomb of Tutakhamun, yong and not much achievement king, but his tomb is found complete, not robbed! We didn’t go into this one, because Isis said everything in the tomb has been moved to Egytian Museum, except the mummy. If we want to pay to see one mummy, we might as well pay to see all 22 mummies in the museum.

The entrance tickets allow us to go into any 3 of the tombs except Tutakhamun, and one of the Ramses tomb, Isis brings us to the entrance of the first tomb she recommended and give us the direction of the other two “You go straight and turn left, and you go all the way to the end” We thought it is straight forward but..

The first tomb is a small tomb well preserved (I think it is the tomb of Ramses IX, I think la..), most of the walls are covered with glasses but there is a section at the beginning where we can touch it with our own hand, drawing of thousands year old, it just so amazing to see the carving and the colours. Don’t remember any other details as no photos are allowed.

Then we go straight and turn left and we see the tomb of Thutmosis IV, it has corridor from one hall to another hall, tak habis habis.. We see his sarcophagus with nice carving inside out, we notice the egyptian are discriminating us. When they see ang moh they flash their torches to show them what is inside but when they see us, they buat tak tahu.
Ok, done with number two, as we head to the third tomb, we walked all the way to the end but we couldn’t find any tomb with a long staircase.. Luckily we bump into some of the tour members, and they told us they’ve just been to the one with long staircase.
Wow, the long staircase is really a LONG staircase, after a 5-10 minutes climb, we finally see the tomb of Thutmosis III. Too bad we didn’t bring any cameras down to the valley. You think we don’t want to? We are not allowed to! Isis told us we have to leave our camera at the counter if the security found out. Now we don’t remember much about all the things we have seen..

Temple of Queen Hatshepsut
Tour guide tell us if you can’t remember the name Hatshepsut, try to remember Hot Chicken Soup, sounds almost the same wo.. Hatshepsut is the first woman to rule Egypt and she rules as a man (we can see in all the monuments that she wears a male hair dress, male clothing, just the the Pharoah)

Hatshepsut is the daughter of a Pharoah and when the father dies, her half brother ascended to the throne. To become Pharaoh, her half brother marries Hapshepsut to keep to royal bloodline intact. But the half brother dies not long after the marriage and leaves her with a daughter and a son by another wife.

Due to the young age of the Pharaoh (her step son, Thutmosis I), Hatshepsut became his regent. They ruled together for a number of years until she proclaimed herself Pharaoh, she sends her step son to military school for training since young.

But after this step son grown up, the high priest persuaded him that he is living under the shadow of Hatshepsut and he vented his rage by sending his workmen around the land to smash her statues, demolish her monuments and erase her name.

Hatshepsut had obelisk constructed inside the temple, she claims that it took her 7 months to complete the obelisk when other kings normally take 3 years to complete.

Alabaster Factory
The workers there welcome us with very entertaining song to tell us how to differentiate real and fake alabaster, the real alabaster only has 3 colours: white, brown and green, and they will not break easily. Again all the factory visit provides us karkade drink and toilet facilities, nobody buy anything from them.
Colossi of Memnon
The Colossi of Memnon are two massive stone statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III in the middle of nowhere. Both statues are quite damaged, with the features above the waist virtually unrecognizable, yes they are huge, yes they are made of one stone, but they are not impressive. Until later we read from a book in the library that these statues were supposed to just the statues of the outer gate of a temple which is destroyed by earthquake. Imagine how it is like before the earthquake..

Esna Lock
We return to the Nile Cruise and continue sailing after dinner, Isis told us to go to the sun deck as we may see some small boats selling clothes beside the cruise. We thought it is like the floating market in Bangkok and hell no!!! We got shock of our life when we see the man on a small boat approaching our huge cruise and throw the clothing up with 100% precision, all the way to the sun deck!!

People were screaming in excitement to see that. The sellers speak very good English and Italian, if you like the clothes that they throw up, you bargain the price and you throw the money back to the rowing boat in the plastic bag they keep the cloth. We saw a table clothe that is quite nice, and they ask for 180 LE, we wanted to bargain for 50? Hmmm.. maybe we said 30 LE? They show us bad language-_-!!!

We have no idea what is Esna Lock initially, after spending half an hour at the sun deck to “witness” the whole process, we finally realize that a lock is a device for raising boats between stretches of water of different levels on the river. Our ship goes into a fixed chamber that works like a lift, then they pump in the water to rise up the water level and the ship moves to the other side of the river.

Egypt Trip (Episode 4)

Day 4 Luxor (8 Nov 2010)
Wake up at 1am in the morning to take a domestic flight to Luxor. Sigh, what a wonderful hotel and we only get to sleep for … 2 hours? Instead of international buffet breakfast, we have to go to the airport in the middle of the night with our breakfast box, like so cham:(

Temple of Karnak
Luxor was called Thebes in the ancient Egyptian time, it has 2 huge temples in the city: Temple of Karnak and Temple of Luxor. These 2 temples are to be connected by 2 rows of Sphinx Avenue which is 2km long. They just made the discovery few months ago and we can still see the excavation work in progress.

The temple of Karnak is the largest religious complex in the human history, the complex contains a group of temples built by different kings across few centuries. Isis told us that we can not tell which king from the look of their faces because all their faces had been idealized and we can only differentiate them through their cartoush. We saw a huge statue of Ramses II at the temple, and Isis said he is a king that likes to erase other king’s work and put his name on it. Ngam dou dak?

Temple of Luxor
This is a very interesting temple, because you will see a modern mosque in the middle of the temple. Why? Because the temple of Luxor was not discovered until the people there were doing restoration work at the mosque.

They used to have 2 obelisks at the entrance of the temple, and the king of France saw it and ask the king of Egypt to give it to him as a present. The king of Egypt didn’t want to give both away and decided to give only one, and the king of France in return give Egypt a clock that is not working.

Nile Cruise
We embark on board to the very much looking forward Nile cruise. Well, everything seems alright until we decided to tour the other cruise and found out that we are the most cheh kai cruise around, reception, shops, swimming pool and even the canopy also of lower standard than the rest..
But the good thing is we have Jacuzzi bath tub in the room and the staff will fold the towel in animal/flower shape everyday on the bed. And the buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner is good. Over makan almost every meal, sometimes we wake up go jalan, come back eat, sleep, wake up, go jalan, come back eat, repeat 2-3 times but it is still within the same day, we felt like we were in Egypt for a month liao.

Egypt Trip (Episode 3)

Day 3 Cairo (7 Nov 2010)
We woke up 6am in the morning and go for a swim at the beautiful Mediterranean Sea. There is nothing to shout about the Alexandria, but the sea itself sets the perfect place for holiday.

Qaitbay’s Fort
Qaitbay’s Fort looks like one of the Disneyland castle, this is the place where one of the ancient wonders of the world, the Pharos lighthouse once stood. The lighthouse was ruined by earthquakes and Qaitbay used its debris in the construction of his fort.

This is just a photo shoot stop, we didn’t go into the fort, but we bought some souvenirs from the stalls nearby (and it turn out to be the cheapest and nicest souvenir of all time!!). We saw a bunch of people fishing at the sea side and their fishing rod is looooooooooong..

Pompey’s Pillar
Pompey’s Pillar has nothing to do with Pompey, it was initially a temple and the granite pillar is actually dedicated to Roman Emperor Diocletain. There was a famine after Diocletian besieged the city, the Emperor ordered some medicine to be given to the people of Alexandria. He exempted them from paying taxes during these hard times. For that they erected, in his honour, this memorial column.

Pompey is some Roman general that some believed, mistakenly, that his ashes, or the remains were in a pot at the top of the column. Thus today it is called “Pompey’s Pillar”.

Alexandria Library
Another photo shoot stop, land mark wo..

Catacomb was discovered when the people were trying to save a monkey that fell down into a hole. Again no photos were allowed. It is a family tomb lie 35 meter underground. In the centre of the 99 steps spiral stairways is the shaft through which the deceased were lowered by means of rope.
It has 3 different sections: 1 for the tomb of the family, 1 for dining room where the relatives feast (lots of broken table ware and wine jugs were found) and 1 for the burial chamber. It is believed that it started as a family crypt and later expanded to become big enough to accommodate 300 tombs altogether.

To Cairo
Tour guide told us the journey to Cairo is 2 hours, but the jam inside Cairo could be 2 hours as well, yes the traffic started in the long stretch of desert road and we see many new developments along the road. Some city are called 6th of October, because it is the last war with Israel, some street are called 26th of July, because that is their revolution day where they started to be a republic country.

Egypt Trip (Episode 2)

Day 2 Alexandria (7 Nov 2010)
Reach Alexandria, the tiny airport has only one luggage belt, and the immigration officer can even smoke at the counter! The first impression of Egypt was really so so.. We changed USD 150 into LE 855.75 (1 USD = 5.7 LE).

Our local tour guide, Isis is a very cheerful lady with all colour coordinated outfit everyday. She teaches us a Egyptian word “habibi” which means darling in English, and that’s how she call us during the whole trip. I can still remember her voice saying “Yalah, habibi, yalah” (Let’s go darling, let’s go)

Montazah Garden
Nothing much to see in Alexandria, went Montazah Garden, situated along the shore, which means access to the lovely beaches and warm Mediterranean Sea water nearby. Nice place to relax on weekend for the local, but for us that come all the way from Kuala Lumpur? I’m a bit disappointed with the arrangement.

Montazah Palace
The Palace was built by King Farouk, that’s why you can see the “F” letter words at all corners of the palace and the daughter and wife also named after some “F” letter words. Funny, the way I say it it’s like THE “f” letter word but trust me it is not, they are just Farouk family..

Quite a boring day until we reach the wonderful powderful hotel at the beach and until they serve us the Kardake (hibiscus drink). Karkade is my favourite local drink in Egypt and I wonder why we have plenty of hibiscus in Malaysia but no one knew that we could make it into drink?

Egypt Trip (Episode 1)

Day 1 Bahrain (6 Nov 2010)
Fly to Bahrain and Gulf Air is a relatively low cost airline, where you can choose the movie you like to watch but you cannot decide when you want to watch because like it or not they screen it all at the same time. And the air stewardess is not polite, no smiling face and serve you food as though you owe them money.

Arrived in Bahrain airport and lost our way, we could not find any of our tour members around, neither transit hall nor arrival hall. Called tour leader but she didn’t on her hand phone (the main point is later on we found out that this is the first time she comes to Egypt and she only joined the company only for 3 months, the rest of the stories I don’t want to tell, don’t want to remember her in the history)

When we first come out from the airport, we saw some cars covered with snow (winter ma..) and the driver corrected us “ it is sand, not snow” Malu betul… Lol