Egypt: Luxor

Anobel & I had to kill 12 hours in Cairo after a misunderstanding with the train times, but getting to Luxor worked out fine in the end.

The train – not too bad. I think it cost around £175L.E., but you can pay double that and get a sleeping cabin which is meant to be pretty good – but yeah that is quite pricey for a 10 hour train ride in the middle east i think. Was a bit painful for me as usual (when it comes to travelling i hate being tall).

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For £20L.E. each we got a room at the Nubian Oasis (Bob Marley) hostel which is a couple of hundred metres from the train station on the ‘east bank’ of Luxor. Pretty cool place, nice folks working there and a rooftop that does a happy hour! Rooms are basic but for the price what else should you expect.

Luxor is a cool place, lots of touts in the centre but still a reasonable atmosphere.
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East bank
Closer to the river, maybe 1km from the Nubian Oasis, is the Luxor Temple. £50L.E. a ticket. This was my first true close up experience with Hieroglyphics and giant statues in the wild 🙂 Massive pylons/columns and court areas.

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A 10 minute horse & buggy ride north gets you to the Karnak Temple (or maybe the temples of Karnak). A gigantic site that is full of obelisks and columns, and one of the buildings still has a roof.
Many of the rooms/buildings still have colour on them!

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West Bank

The next day we took a tour to the west bank of Luxor to checkout ‘the valley of the kings’ and the other sites nearby.

The Valley of the Kings, whilst being extremely well preserved and easily accessible, is a bit of a sham i think. Firstly, you pay £60L.E. or so to get it, then £4L.E.for a little train that take you 500m up the road, then you can only get into 3 of the tombs. If you want to see more you have to pay more money, and you have to do this back at the entrance. I paid an extra £100L.E. to get into Tutankhamun’s tomb. Also, no photography is allowed. Why? I asked and they said that the flash photography ruins the artwork. That is fair enough, but I told them I wasn’t going to use my flash. Then they said that when the camera takes a photo if sucks the colour off the wall. 🙂 haha! what voodoo! You can’t take photos inside the tombs, yet there was a research team in King Tut’s tomb, who had a bunch of strobes going off. And, outside the tombs there are more touts selling photo sets of the inside of the tombs – where did these photos come from? Errrrrrrrrr!
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Temple Of Hatchepsute
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Ramses 3 Funerary Temple – a.k.a Medinat Habu
(I think that was the name of this place!)

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Colossi Of Memnon
(i think)
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Egypt: Saqqara & Dahshur

After a sluggish walk through what Anobel & I were pretty sure was the ‘coptic christian’ area, we flagged down a taxi and headed south of Cairo to Saqqara – home to the “Stepped Pyramid”.

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It was pretty interesting to eventually hit the city limits and pass from grey broken half-built apartment buildings to Palm trees and a more farming feel, and then to desert.

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Next we went further south to Dahshur to check out the Red Pyramid. Not so many tourists, no admission fee, and permission to photograph inside the pyramid make this a really great place to check out. And there aren’t any folks trying to get you on their camels!

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We didn’t manage to check out the Bent Pyramid of Snefru, but it did look mega from a distance!

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Egypt: Cairo

Cairo is pumping. Whether midday or mignight, there are people everywhere, and most seem very friendly.
The mornings aren’t quite so hectic, which makes for a pleasant time to stroll around downtown, if that’s what your into.

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In between the trips to the pyramids of Giza, Saqqara and Dahshur, Anobel and I checked out the backstreets and souqs outside of the downtown area, with an arvo in the Old Muslim area. We went down a small street and met a man who took us for a visit to the local Egyptian medicine man. Initially his shop looked small, but through a crack in the wall we found ourselves in the room with all the drugs – similar to what you see in a chinese medicine store. Anobel asked about what they used for something like kidney stones, and the medicine man pushed on one of the shelves. It opened up to reveal a secret room with more drugs. It was very open sesame (but that’s Persia right?).

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The downtown area has some nice rooftop places, on top of hotels generally I think, but we did find a place (unfortunately no beer though) that overlooked one of the main streets.

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We ended up on top of one hotel with £13Egyptian Stellas and spent the night talking to a South African lady who was on holiday from taking people on holiday – she works in SA and eastern Africa as a tour guide. It was interesting to hear her say how she will never be considered African by the locals, despite her family being there for over 100 years.

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So yeah, Cairo is good, it wasn’t too scammy (except for the must see sights), you can get a nice place to stay for max £50Egyptian, and there are tons of coffee/tea/sheesha places everywhere.

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Egypt: Giza & The Pyramids

Leaving Lebanon was pretty funny. We were sitting in Zahle drinking a smooth bottle of Arak, and a genius idea popped up to get the next flight to Cairo. So next day, headed back to Beirut, jumped on the net, $200 later we had paid for a ticket to Cairo. Done & done.

But, when we got to the airport a few hours later if turned out that we didn’t have a ticket as the transaction hadn’t processed. Luckily the flight was only half full and we picked up a ticket (for $10 less too) and took off to Cairo with our good friends Egypt Air – along with a gigantic block of cadbury’s fruit & nut chocolate 😉

I hadn’t flown since landing into Sofia, Bulgaria, and that’s a small city. So the flight into Cairo was pretty amazing, the place is huuuuge!
Unfortunately I couldn’t get a night time glimpse of the pyramids.

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Giza. The metro ride out to Giza was probably the most excited i have been since getting some lovin’ months ago! £1EGP pound for the metro and £1.25EGP for the mini bus later there I was, standing in front of the Sphinx and the Pyramids of Giza!!!!

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Woah! I spent most of the day with my jaw dragging around on the sand and taking hundreds of photos of the same thing 🙂

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£60EGP entry fee to the area around the pyramids and sphinx, then £100EGP to get inside the Great Pyramid (a.k.a Cheops/Kufu). Unfortunately my camera was taken off me so couldn’t sneak any photos in, but Anobel managed to sneak his whole DSLR and tripod in and gave some entrepreneur inside some backsheesh to get a few shots off.
It was an amazing feeling to be in the King’s Chamber. Not the hieroglyphics i was expecting, but blackness and an empty granite sarcophagus and a whole lot of headroom.

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I managed to get bitten on the back of the head by a camel after it’s dickhead of an owner tried to force £10 out of me. Yes, there are a lot of people to want you on their camel or themselves in one of your photo for a little backsheeh.
The guards and folks running the place are really friendly and helpful. Go Cairo!

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Did I mention construction was completed in 2560BC!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I would love to have seen these monsters back in their hay day!

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MORE… here.

Tomorrow, The Egyptian museum.

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