A Travellerspoint blog

Luxor

Luxor was the capital of the Egyptian kingdom for centuries (and at the height of its power), and as such contains many sites with immense historical significance. It looks to be a really nice town, and is undergoing something of a facelift to make it more tourist friendly. Temperatures have soared from the comfortable Cairo - e.g. it was 33C at 8.30am and got hotter.

This afternoon we visited the Karnak temple - recently declared the world's largest open air museum by UNESCO. A mammoth complex, reached by 'Egyptian Ferrari' (horse and carriage) - our guide Ahsan explained the layout of an Egyptian temple and the significance of the obelisks and scenes carved into the walls.

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Egyptology 101

NB: This is my understanding only - quote me at your own peril!

Ancient Egyptians were obsessed with death and considered life to be simply a waiting room to the afterlife. People would spend their lives making preparations for after their death. Pharaohs (Egyptian kings) in particular would begin building their tombs as soon as they ascended the throne. Tombs were decorated with scenes from the afterlife and the pharaoh's judgement and passage to heaven, and filled with treasures and items the pharoah would need. They were also filled with items intended to allow the spirits to identify the pharaoh's body.

Tombs were designed to thwart any potential future tomb raiders from stealing the artefacts and the mummy. Initial tombs were built in the form of the Pyramids, but as they tended to draw attention (duh), later pharoahs were buried in tombs built into the mountains - the area known as 'the valley of the kings'. Tombs were equipped with secret chambers and narrow alleyways, deep shafts and gigantic heavy sarcophagi in order protect it - despite this, almost all tombs had been raided over the years through the middle ages and beyond. Many suspect the tomb builders themselves as they would have had the knowledge required to steal the riches (in ancient China, the workers were killed once the tomb was built!).

The only tomb found intact is that of Tutankhamun, found in the 1920s by archaeologist Howard Carter - and the contents now fill an entire floor of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Posted by deepaksuma 14:52 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

The Great Pyramids of Giza

Long time between cuts

With my hair growing ragged (ha!) - visited the local barber, across the road from the hotel. My first visit to a hair dresser in at least 5 years included a hair cut, styling, threading (!) and a shampoo to finish it off.

Back to budget

Checked out of our nice hotel and headed across town to join the tour group. Had an introduction to local takeaway food at a corner shop called 'Taza'. With no English signage (even the numerals are in arabic!), we ordered by pointing to pictures on the wall, paying to obtain a ticket, and waiting as the food gets made at separate counters - only later we were offered an English menu! A great meal of felafels and shish taook - grand total of LE 40 (A$10).

Met up with the tour group, and our tour leader Mohammed in the evening and geared up for a visit to the Pyramids, early the next morning.

Ancient Wonders

Hit the road early bound for the great Pyramids of Giza - and were awestruck as they towered above the city skyline for the first time. We were told that the road to the pyramids was once a trip through the desert, but the city haS grown and consumed the space around them such that they are now pretty much in the centre of town.

The dust. glare and heat, as well as a constant barrage of offers for camel rides, photographs, hats, souvenirs, and general requests for baksheesh, all inside the Pyramids site, adds to the experience. We made our way around the site - 9 pyramids in all, the Sphinx and the temple complex. Its difficult to imagine how old these things really were - being built in the Old Kingdom (around 3000BC), the Pyramids were ancient even to Egyptians of the new Kingdom (until 900BC), let alone the Greeks and Romans who followed..

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An ill timed gust of wind ensured Sumathi lost her hat into an inaccessible archaeological site - it's fate sealed, we're certain it will be peddled off to a desperate tourist for 20 LE over the coming days!

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This evening we catch the overnight train to Luxor, further south and into the Nile Valley.

Posted by deepaksuma 14:25 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Welcome to Cairo

Our first moments in Cairo involved wading through the chaotic airport, ensuring noone snatched our bags, filling out loads of unnecessary forms, and waiting in several long queues, and fighting off 'tourism officers' inside the baggage collection area (who helpfully try and arrange naive tourists taxis and accomodation in hotels where they get kickbacks!).

We had pre-arranged a driver through our hotel and after exchanging pleasantries, and politely declining his offers of tours and sightseeing, he took us to his car. Only after a little while he began to run to his car! With our luggage!

No major drama - found the car, loaded it up, and had a chuckle as I made the mistake of going straight to the drivers side door (they drive on the right in Egypt).

Just as we were about to leave, our driver was held up in an animated conversation with the very official looking policeman/parking inspector. After 20 minutes, we were finally off - bribe paid and the driver's indiscretion ignored.

The simple things

We had mixed feelings of elation and exhaustion as we checked into our hotel and - after 2 weeks of tents and shared bathrooms - saw a confortable bed, a clean bathroom (of our very own!), a television, and air conditioning!!

After a nap and a shower, we hit the streets near the hotel to track down some lunch. Settled on a place with a man stiring what looked to be a few large steaming hot pots, and surrounded by small plastic buckets (think instant pot noodles). At LE2 (LE = Egyptian Pounds) a pot (A$0.50c), we dug into a steaming hot mish mash of rice, lentils, macaroni, spicy tomato sauce, chickpeas garnished with fried onion. Really hit the spot, and later found out the name of this dish - Koshary - a local staple.

The bakery/patissierie ('La Pomme') next door was as impressive as the koshary joint was simple. Wall to wall assortments or baklava, biscuits, cakes, gateuxs. In the corner was a man whirling dough around and over his head to make a strange circular pastry - and he enjoyed the attention!

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One down..

Having not done structured exercise since we left Sydney, took the opportunity to jog around the hotel complex, some strength exercises and yoga - topped off a great rest day, and had us ready for our tour beginning tomorrow.

Posted by deepaksuma 14:14 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

'Backroads of Botswana' Summary


View Running 'Round the world on deepaksuma's travel map.

Where did we stay? Twana Lodge, Pretoria; Khama Rhino Sanctuary; Sitatunga Campsite, Maun; Okavango Delta; Thebe River Campsite, Kasane; Zambezi Waterfront, Livingstone
Favourite food: Pap & Beef Curry (a la Johnny boy)
Favourite drink: Hunter's Dry (cider); Amarula
Highlights: Sunset mokoro ride to hippo pool; Innocent's 'not 40th' b'day; Okavango Delta Classic; abundance and proximity of wildlife; Lion Encounter, especially the cubs; Awesome power of Victoria Falls
Lowlights: Bush toilets (hole in the ground, shovel - you get the idea); elephant poaching victim; parting ways with our awesome tour group; Darren being clawed by lion - first blood to the lion
Types of transport: Geckos orange bus/truck; mokoro; open top safari buses; border ferry
Funniest thing: Rosh peeing in front of the vehicle and driver threatening to reverse; Okavango Delta Classic (self invented 'bush-golf'); Tour jokes (Frank, Minus One aka i-squared); Deepan's walk of shame; Suma being told upon confronted by growling leopard, that it's "only feeding time"
Most used phrases: "Anyone bush piss?"; "This is Africa"; "Do you offer upgrades?"; "Frank does everything" (tour joke)
Unexpected surprises: Elephant crossing in the delta; Elephants bathing in the Chobe River; Cultural performance in the delta; doing the Lion experience thanks to Manj/Suk and the 'oshs
Tense Moments: Realising the tour had no first aid kit supplied, or no way of contacting civilisation in case of enmergency!; Being surrounded by herd of elephants whilst doing safari on foot;
Near Death Experiences: Bus bumps on the road; Mokoro ride through angry hippos; being surrounded by herd of elephants whilst doing safari on foot; Kate almost treading on a scorpion;

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Posted by deepaksuma 12:50 Archived in Botswana Comments (0)

Livingstone, I presume?

Parting Ways

Said goodbye to our big orange bus, John, Dumile and Innocent, as well as Rosh and Nosh who were heading home via Kruger National Park in South Africa for some up-market game viewing. Have fun guys!

Hitting the town

Had a stroll around down town Livingstone, Had lunch in a cafe which delivered our food in sequence (not particularly funny when you're hungry!). Asked about developing some photographs - and was quoted 6000 kwacha per print (over $1USD) !! For 100 photographs then? 600,000 kwacha (over $100 USD). We thanked the man politely and left the store quickly. I'll take 15c prints at Harvey Norman anytime.

Close encounter with the King of the Jungle

Thanks to sponsorship by Suk/Manj & Rosh/Nosh, thinly veiled as a late wedding present, we were priviledged to be able to walk with the lions and cheetahs at a special reserve near Livingstone. The lions themselves were orphaned cubs, and had been brought up around people. With the declining numbers of lions in the wild (due to poaching, rural killings and new immune diseases), the aim was to have the lions and their cubs taught to live with people and slowly introduced into the wild to boost numbers.

In an informative and special few hours, we were all up close, walking with the lions and watching them at play. The size of these giant cats were tremendous, and one playful swipe would put pay to any one of us (our mate Darren has suffered the consequence of being slightly off the ball and had copped a paw scratch that same morning). With set rules (approach from behind, crouch and retreat if they roll over) - we got up close and were able to pat the gentle giants, witness their yawns and incredible teeth, they playfulness with one another.

We also had a chance to play with the lions cubs, and the cheetahs - the cubs with their cute eyes and demeanour belied a killing instinct and understated power (despite being cubs they had powerful paws bigger than my closed fist).

From great white sharks to lions, hippos to elephants, Africa has shown us some of the worlds most lethal predators in just few short weeks.

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Posted by deepaksuma 12:48 Archived in Zambia Comments (0)

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