I was up at 4.40am to do a balloon ride over Luxor. My first balloon ride ever! None of the others wanted to come so I did it alone with a bunch of other people. It was awesome – we saw Queen Hepshepsut’s temple, and views for miles of the Nile River. I was surprised to see so much farmland – acres and acres of sugar cane and corn farms. We also saw a pretty amazing sun rise. I was getting a little nervous towards landing time – there were powerlines everywhere. And not much space. As it turned out, our talented pilot landed the balloon smoothly, softly, in a space that was just two metres from a corn farm, without collecting a powerline! I got a free crappy t-shirt and an even crappier certificated. A great experience though.
All of us then went to the Valley of Kings were we saw the tombs of Tutankhamun, Ramesses III and Ramesses IV. They were all pretty amazing and we were grateful that the hot weather had kept the usual massive crowds of tourists away, so we didn’t have to queue to get into any of them. the tombs were all dug into the side of the mountain and contained ancient hieroglyphics, in colour, and carvings. The colours were all still visible. So amazing! Tutankhamun’s 2000 year old mummy was on display in a glass case – pretty amazing it is still intact. He was a shortie and died at the age of 19, having become pharoh at the age of 9. He didn’t rule for long, nor did he really do anything of note, but his tomb was found unopened and full of treasure in 1922 – all of it displayed at the Cairo Museum, that’s why he is so famous.
Next was the temple of Queen Hepshepsut and then the Valley of the Queens. We had the Valley of the Queens all to ourselves and that was pretty cool. By then it was after 11am and reaching 45 degrees, so we didn’t stay too long. Our guide tried to talk us into going to the Luxor Museum but all of us just wanted to go back to the boat and relax. He also mentioned of going to an alabaster factory (it’s like marble) and Sam’s ears pricked up – ‘what shopping? maybe I can buy something in alabaster’. I was the one who cracked it this time, being hot, tired, and just needing a cool space to relax in. So I asked Sam, “What are you going to buy made in alabaster? And how are you going to carry something made out of alabaster?!!?” Sam pondered the question and started to say, ‘yeah, maybe something, I wouldn’t mind having a look,’ when I cut in and said through gritted teeth, “Forget it! BUILD A BRIDGE SAM! We are not going there!” It was pretty funny – no one else wanted to go there – we were all hot and tired.
The sunset from the top deck was just amazing and I couldn’t help myself and took about a thousand photos of it.
The food on the cruise was ok. A huge buffet with a wide variety of choices – from traditional Egyptian dishes to badly imitated foreign dishes, such as pasta. The soups were always a hit and I was also a fan of dessert – the traditional desserts were really sweet. We had manners, where as the others on the cruise would barge their way past people to get to the food, so so so RUDE! The restaurant staff noticed this too, and with Hubs making remarks in Arabic to the staff, it made us their favourite customers.
On the boat that night there was a ‘galibeya’ party. A galibeya is one of the Egyptian dresses worn by both men and women, of course though they have different designs. We knew it was just a ploy to get guests to spend money in the ship’s shop, so instead I spent just A$4 on a jingly belt thing, and the boys wore their Dubai scarves and Hubs didn’t get dressed up at all. The party was a bit naff, but we tried to get into the spirit of it anyway, buying raffle tickets and attending.
When the raffle was drawn Hubs and I won two things – A galibeya Egyptian dress was the first prize. Hubs would not go up to collect it with me, so I went alone, dreading what would happen next. I knew these ‘gypos were going to make me dance in front of everyone after collecting my prize. Oh well, if you can’t beat it, join it. So me and Mohamed or whatever his name was did a jig to Arabic music in front of the whole ship in celebration of me winning the dress. Later on, we won sheesha pipe! Hubs and the boys were so excited that all four of us were called up to the dance floor to dance around.
On closer inspection, we discovered the sheesha was a cheap one and not worth the effort carrying around the rest of Egypt. We decided to give it to an Australian-Syrian man who was on honeymoon with his Syrian wife as a wedding present. They were so thrilled with the gesture it made us both feel good.
The next morning was an early start again. We had a different guide this time and his name was Mohamed. By horse and carriage, he took us to the Edfu Temple (between Luxor and Aswan). The horse looked so skinny and sick – it broke my heart sitting there on the carriage. Each time the child driver whipped the horse, tears flowed down my cheeks. I couldn’t stand it. Neither could Hubba. It was just plain disturbing. So as soon as we got off I told Mohamed that he had to organise a taxi back because I refuse to take another ride on a horse and carriage and can not and will not support these businesses when the animals are treated so badly. He understood.
It was stinking hot, about 43 degrees by 10.30am. Before leaving the boat, I spent A$2 on a white cotton scarf from the shop on board and it was the best investment ever. Wetting the scarf and wrapping it around my head or neck kept me so cool, it was amazing the difference it made. Aaahhh. Some relief at least!
With alternate transport back sorted, we focussed on where were – and all of us were blown away with Edfu Temple. It is Egypt’s second largest temple and the best preserved. Edfu dates back to 237BC, over 2200 years old, and is a dedication to the God of Pharoh’s, Horus, represented by the falcon. The main entrance gate is still intact and stands 36m tall and 80m wide. It is massive.
Our guide Mohamed was fantastic. He is an Egyptologist and has been studying for 12 years. He’s going to Japan and USA soon to deliver lectures about ancient Egypt and has a scholarship to do his PhD in London. His English was perfect and he was so smart and knowledgeable. He said that one section of a wall would have taken about 25 years to build and the hieroglyphics would have taken 50 years to carve into the rock. That’s just one section of one wall! Just amazing. Mohamed knew everything and he was the best guide ever. We asked him heaps of questions and he knew all the answers. He showed us an area that was under excavation, uncovering a temple that dates back 17,000 years! So amazing.
Hubs and I used water to cool us down in the heat. She would wet her hat, and I would wet my A$2 cotton scarf I bought. At the temple, Hubs offered to take a photo of the newly weds together. She passed Sam her hat to hold and of course it was all wet. He shrieked the girly-est shriek ever really loud, “eeeewwwwwwwwww!!!” It was the funniest thing ever and had us all doubled over in laughter.
Later in the day after cruising down the Nile, Mohamed took us to the Kom Ombo temple. Kom Ombo is dedicated to two Gods equally – Horus the falcon God, and Sobek the crocodile God. There used to be thousands of crocodiles in the Nile River (and there still are but over the otherside of the high dam in Aswan) and the ancient Egyptians revered their strength and patience. Kom Ombo has hieroglyphics that explain that it was a medical centre and treated a man for low sperm count. It is amazing that the shape of a sperm is engraved into the stone wall – without them ever being able to see one – they didn’t have microscopes back then. Mohamed did not have an explanation as to how they would have known this. They also used to be able to tell the sex of a baby in a pregnant woman. They would take some of her water from her womb and drop some seeds into it. If the seeds grew, it was a boy. If they didn’t grow, then it was girl. Modern science has proven that there are different enzymes in the water, depending on the baby’s sex, and these enzymes are what made the seed grow or not grow. Pretty amazing given we are talking about over 2200 years ago. They were so advanced for such an ancient civilization.
We loved having Mohamed as a guide and looked forward to seeing him the next day in Aswan.
Back on the boat after dinner, we continued our game of dominoes. I was in the lead and quite happy about that. Ayman wanted to start a new game because he was so far behind, and Hubs and Sam reminded him of the deal that on the boat we would be playing one continuous game and the person in front after four days would be the winner. So we continued. As it turned out, Ayman had the most amazing round and was almost catching up to me! We boycotted the boat Nubian party that night and played dominoes instead.
Next stop, Aswan.