Last Updated on December 16, 2010


Egypt, Jordan

& Israel


March 10 - April 14, 2010






      Luxor Again
      Cairo after the tour
     Mount Sinai

In museums, temples and tombs where we were not able to take pictures, we bought postcards or books and

scanned pictures of our favourite artworks.  The scanned pictures are often included here.




We left Canada on March 10, 2010, flying from Edmonton to Heathrow on Air Canada, then on to Cairo on Air Egypt.  We left home at 5:50 pm Wednesday and arrived safely in Cairo at 8:45 pm Thursday after not much sleep.  We were picked up at the airport by the tour company and driven to our hotel.  The ride was an amazing introduction to Cairo driving.  There are NO traffic rules that we were able to figure out.  The street moves from four lanes to five and back to four depending on how big the cars and busses are.  Honking seems to mean I'm coming through and everyone seems to accept it.  There are fewer accidents than one would expect.

We went straight to bed and woke at 4:45 the next morning to the call to worship from the mosque next door. 

Click here for general pictures of Cairo

Click here for pictures of the El-Azhar and El Hussein Mosques

We spent two days wandering around the city.  The first day we followed a walking tour from the National Geographic Guide book.  It took us through the downtown area and then along some back streets over to the train station.  From there we took a taxi back to the hotel. 

The next day we went over to the Islamic Cairo area where we visited the El-Azhar Mosque which was huge and open to the general public except during prayers (we had to go back several times before we got in) and the El-Hussein Mosque where we were separated and had to go in the men's and women's entrances. 

Before and after the mosques, we visited the Khan el-Khalili bazaars in the same area.


Click here for pictures of the bazaars

We met up with the tour group on Saturday night.  There were six of us:  Jan and Peter from Perth, Australia, Margaret and Ailsa from Melbourne, Australia and us, Ruth and Allen from Edmonton, Canada.  We were all about the same age although we are the only ones who were retired.  The tour leader was Mohamed, an Egyptian from Cairo who was in his late 20s



Sunday we started with a tour of the Pyramids which are as big as promised, followed by the Sphinx which is right next door.  The Pyramids (built around 2500 BC) are still by themselves but the city goes right up to the Sphinx.  While we were walking around, a security guard stopped us to show us a better spot for pictures and proceeded to take some of us.  Then he wanted to be tipped.  That was s recurring theme there and at every other site we have visited.  Now we say no..  and No… and NO…


Click here for pictures from the Egyptian Museum

Click here for pictures of the Pyramids and Sphinx

Then we went to the Egyptian Museum where the main thing was King Tut’s stuff.  The airplane magazine said he was in Toronto just then but I don’t know what was off on tour because everything important seemed to be in the Museum.  Tutankhamen came to the throne at age 9 and was only Pharaoh for 10 years (1333 - 1323 BC) so was fairly insignificant as Pharaohs go.  However, his tomb was still sealed  when it was discovered in 1922 and its treasures were intact, making it one of the greatest finds of Egyptian archaeology and the best exhibit in the Egyptian museum.  The pictures of his chair and death mask etc are from a book.

Ruth, Jan, Margaret and Ailsa waiting for the train

It finally came

That night we caught the sleeper train to Luxor.  It is a good thing we were on a first class train – I shudder to think what a second class one might have been like.


Allen enjoying the train's sumptuous breakfast


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When we arrived in Luxor, we took carriages to Karnak Temple, built around 1500-1100 BC when the capital had moved from Cairo to Luxor or Thebes as it was then known.  Most of the work was done under Ramesses II as evidenced by his signature cartouches everywhere.  Actually, most of the temples we saw throughout Egypt were built at least in part by him.  He reigned for 67 years (1279 - 1213 BC) and was a busy boy.  Karnak Temple  claims to be the largest religious site in the world and is about to get bigger as they are excavating the ancient road which will connect it to the Luxor Temple, about 3 km away.  Come back in five years and it will be all one pedestrian thoroughfare.

Click for Karnak Pictures


In the afternoon we checked into our cruise ship, home for the next seven days.  After lunch and a rest, we did a walking tour of Luxor which isn’t much more than the temple sites and bazaars.  We will be back to Luxor after we go to Aswan so we left the museum for then. Interestingly. there are no palaces of the ancients as they considered this life a fleeting thing and the afterlife the real life.  So they built temples and tombs out of sandstone and granite and the palaces out of clay.

Click for Pictures of Luxor

The next morning we had a 6:00 start for a one hour donkey ride to the Valley of the Kings, the site when the tombs were hidden to avoid grave robbers.  I sang the Donkey Riding song to myself the whole way. Each Pharaoh started building his tomb when he became Pharaoh and worked on it until he died:  Ramesses I had 1 ½ years to do his while Ramesses II had 67 years to build his.  Clearly the tombs have different numbers of chambers and amounts of art work but the more important thing is when it was discovered because that says how well preserved it is.  The art work starts at the entrance and continues down past treasure chambers and corridors to the burial chamber itself.  We visited the tombs of Ramesses I, III and IX.

Click for Pictures

From there we went to the Temple of Hatshepsut (hat-cheap-suit), the most famous woman Pharaoh (apart from Cleopatra of course).  She reigned for 21 years (1479 - 1458 BC) until she was overthrown by her stepson Thutmosis III.  She had started out as regent for him and then banished him and took over.  He came back and her fate is unknown.  Her mummy was recently identified in the Egyptian Museum by matching a tooth that was known to be hers. 

After the Valley of the Kings and Hatshepsut's Temple, we went to Deir el-Medineh (the Valley of the Workers) and saw the tombs of a couple of lesser people, an architect and a scribe.  Although tiny in comparison to the Pharaohs tombs, the art was in much better condition and they were spectacular.  It was once a town of about 5000 people who were building the Kings' tombs.  The guide was emphatic that they were not slaves or prisoners - they were paid labourers and craftsmen.  Our drive back to town took us by the Colossi of Memnon where we had to take a drive-by picture.

Click for Pictures


Map of the Tombs in the Valley of the Kings

After we got back to the boat, we set sail and enjoyed a very relaxing day on the River. There is a lock midway between Luxor and Aswan which was first built in the 1800s and replaced in the mid 1900s.  We got to the lock at about 8:00 at night with 44 boats ahead of us in the line ahead to go through.  We got through at 4:30 am and woke up in Edfu.  Our tour leader suggested we leave the Edfu Temple for the return trip as all 44 boats’ passengers would be lined up to get into the temple at 9:00.  People who were only on the boat one way went while those of us who were doing the round trip took a walk on the shore.  We battled vendors on the dock street for about a km before turning inland.  A block off the dock we found pastoral homes and mini-farms – a very pleasant walk.

The ships would be docked in a row and tied together.  To get on or off, you had to go through all the ships between yours and the dock.  When we returned from our walk, one of the other ships in our line had left and our ship had moved: it was now sitting across the river.  We sat around on the dock for an hour waiting for them to bring it back.  Meanwhile Mohamed was standing in the doorway (where we would go on and off) watching for us and hoping that we could figure out where they were.

  Click here for pictures of the Nile and Edfu town

We sailed on to Kom Ombo, site of a temple dedicated to Sobek, the Crocodile God, arriving there at dinner time.  There used to be crocodiles in the area but after much praying to Sobek and the promise of a Temple, the crocodiles went away.  They apparently have some Crocodile Mummies in storage while they are building a museum next to the temple.  Although we got a look at the temple from the ship in the daylight, it was dark by the time we got there for our visit.  It was beautiful in the lights.

After our visit to the temple, we returned to the ship for a late dinner and a party.  People were encouraged to get traditional Egyptian outfits for the party and Jan, Margaret and Ailsa, the other ladies in our group, did: they looked very exotic.  Mohamed, our leader, was also traditionally dressed for the occasion.  Our Waiter, Bob (also known as Susan - long story) was the life of the party.

  Click here for pictures of the Kom Ombo Temple and the party


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We woke up in Aswan to wind and haze, the result of a sandstorm blowing through the region.  The temperature had dropped nearly 10º C from the mid 30s (C) to the mid 20s (C)   Most events had to be cancelled.  However, we visited the high dam which is so big, we couldn't see much in the blowing sand.  We stopped at the nearby Egyptian Russian Friendship Monument, built to commemorate Russia's involvement when the dam was constructed .  Although it has an observation tower that you can go up to for a view of the dam and lake, there wasn't much point given that we couldn't see any distance.  We also visited the ancient granite quarries and saw the Unfinished Obelisk still lying on its side after 2500 years.  It was abandoned when it cracked during its carving.

Click for pictures of the Aswan Dam


Philae Temple is an island in the lake between the lower dam built in 1902 and the high dam built in the 1960s.  It is dedicated to the Goddess Isis and to her alter ego Hathor who is often depicted with a cow's face.  In the 1st century AD, the Coptics (early Egyptian Christians) used the temple as a hiding place and as a church.  You can see altars and Coptic crosses in it.  They also defaced many of the carvings on the outer walls.

When the lower dam was built in 1902, Philae Temple became partially submerged from January to June each year.  You can still see the water marks from the flooding.  UNESCO provided money to preserve some of the treasures that would be lost with the building of the high dam.  Some of that money was used to move Philae Temple from Philae Island to the much higher Aguilkia Island 300 metres away.

After visiting Philae Temple and the dam, we returned to the ship for lunch and a quiet afternoon.

After dinner, we went back to Philae Temple for their Sound and Light show where they told us the story of Isis and Osiris.  Although we have learned a lot of Greek and Roman mythology over the years, this was our first introduction to the rich mythology of the Egyptians.


Click for pictures of Philae Temple

Isis and Osiris, Abridged story

Osiris, Isis, Seth and Nephthys were the children of the goddess Nut.  Osiris and Isis were married as were Seth and Nephthys.  Osiris, the eldest and most powerful, was the King of Egypt.  Seth was jealous of him and plotted to kill him.  He tricked Osiris into lying in a sarcophagus, then shut the lid, sealed it with lead and threw it into the Nile.  When Isis learned of the loss of Osiris, she searched the world for him, always crying, for 500 years.  Her tears caused the annual flooding of the Nile.  Finally she found the coffin under a tree in what is now Lebanon.  She took it home to Egypt for burial but Seth learned that she had the body and stole it, this time cutting it up into 13 pieces and scattering them in the 13 provinces of Egypt.  Isis, helped by Nephthys, searched all of Egypt until she eventually found 12 of the 13 pieces.  She reassembled them and added a golden phallus for the missing piece.  Using her goddess powers, she was able to breathe life into him long enough to conceive their son Horus whom we met up with in his Temple at Edfu.

Learn more about them at:

Ancient Egypt: the Mythology - The Story of Isis and Osiris

Myth of Isis & Osiris

Click for pictures of Abu Simbel

Learn more at


The sand storm had ended during the evening and we were informed that the buses and planes to Abu Simbel would be going in the morning.  We had a 4:30 AM wakeup call for our flight.  We had opted to fly as we were told that the road trip was treacherous because of how close it went to the Sudanese Border.  However, we needn't have worried - the buses went out in convoys of 50 buses and an army guard.  The flight was still better as we all left at the same time and we were ready to leave Abu Simbel when the buses started to arrive.

Margaret tripped on the gang plank leaving the ship for the Philae Temple Sound and Light Show.  Although she continued to the show with us, she was hobbling and in pain.  In the morning, she decided not to come with us to Abu Simbel.  While we were gone, Mohamed took her to the doctor where they discovered that she had a chipped tibia.  By the time we returned, she was in bed with a cast and painkillers.  Although she didn't do anything the rest of the day, she bounced back the next day and participated in most things for the rest of the tour.

We had expected Abu Simbel to just be the exterior carvings.  We were stunned by the magnificence of the interiors of the two temples built by Ramesses II, one dedicated to the gods Amun, Path-Re and Ramesses himself and the other dedicated to his favourite wife Nefertari and the goddess Hathor.

The temples were going to be lost under the lake created by the Aswan Dam.  However, from 1964 to 1968 there was a massive international undertaking to move both temples up to higher land at a cost of 40 Million USD.    The head of one of the statues broke off in an earthquake around 1200BC.  It was left in the same relative position in the move.



We returned to Aswan for lunch and then, after lunch went on two more outings.

We had a two hour ride on a felucca (traditional Egyptian sailboat) around the islands on the Nile river where we saw the countryside around Aswan.  The hotel in the pictures is the one where Agatha Christie lived while writing "Death on the Nile".  It is usually open to the public for a traditional British Afternoon Tea but is currently closed for renovations.

Afterwards, we crossed over to the West bank and went on a camel ride for an hour.  It was okay on flat ground but every time we came to the slightest incline we felt like we were at the top of a giant slide. Allen was allowed to hold the reins of his camel but Ruth was led the whole time.  It might have had something to do with her occasional little screams.

After dinner, we went for a walk downtown to the Aswan Bazaar.  It was only on one street but went on for about a kilometre.  We bought some Hibiscus Tea at a store when Mohamed was getting some for his mother.  We don't know how he picked which vendor to buy from but if it was the best store for his mother, it was the right one for us.

Click for pictures of the Felucca and Camel Rides


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Luxor Again

Click for pictures of Edfu Temple

When we woke up the next morning we were on the Nile again sailing back to Luxor.  We stopped at Edfu Temple in the afternoon when the crowds were gone - we had it almost to ourselves.  Edfu is dedicated to Horas, the Falcon headed God.  It was particularly interesting because it provided Part 2 of the Battle of the Gods, started at Philea.  Edfu means Revenge and the temple artwork covers the son (Horus)’s revenge for his uncle (Seth)’s murder of his father (Osiris).  We really have to read up on Egyptian mythology.

During our sailing time, we had an opportunity to visit the ship's bridge (really more of a wheel house) and meet the Captain.  We docked that night at a small town just south of the lock.

We were the first boat through the lock in the morning and watched the process from the upper deck.  The lock is only about 20 feet high and two boats go into it at a time.

We arrived back in Luxor about 1:00 PM. 


Click here for pictures of the Nile and Lock

Later in the afternoon we went over to the Luxor Museum which, though small, has beautifully laid out displays of statues from the Karnak and Luxor Temples.  That night there was a show with two belly dancers and a whirling dervish. 

The next morning we had a 4:45 wake-up call to go to the west bank for a hot air balloon ride.  There wasn't much wind which made for a smooth ride but not much distance.  We floated between the Valley of the Kings and the Nile for the whole time.  Farmers were burning stubble in the fields, creating a haze that obscured some of the view.  However, we got a good look at Hatshepsut's Temple, the Temple of Ramesses II and the Colossi of Memnon.  We landed in a sugar cane field by a small gage railway track where farmers were bringing sugar cane to load onto the freight cars.

We came down very slowly and hovered over the field while waiting for our pickup team to get to us.  Suddenly, hands and heads appeared over the edge of the basket and we were pulled down without even a bump!

We stopped back at the boat just long enough to pick up the members of our group who hadn't come on the balloon ride with us and then headed off to the Red Sea.


Click here for the Museum and Party

Click here for the Balloon Ride Pictures

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Click here for Hurghada Pictures

 We had a six hour drive to get from Luxor to Hurghada [her-ga-da] on the Red Sea.  It is a huge resort town with condos, timeshares and apartments.  Most visitors are from the old Soviet Union. 

We checked it out and the next day enjoyed a full day snorkelling trip.  It was absolute chaos with 40 boats all tied up in clumps of 5 spewing tourists into the water.    Although Margaret and Ailsa came on the boat with us, they didn't join the in the snorkelling which was just as well.  If it had been our first time snorkelling, we would be swearing it off.

After we returned to the boat from snorkelling, we had lunch and then went to a beach for some sunbathing.  There were fish right up to the shore so Allen took Ailsa into the water there to try snorkelling.  Most of the fish pictures here are from then.

On the boat, Mohamed met two girls from Estonia who took quite a fancy to him especially when they found out he was a tour guide.  They apparently thought he would be willing to show them more of Egypt (at his expense, of course).  Wrong - he was a nice family boy and they were definitely out of his league.  It was their sixth trip to Hurghada this year and they had yet to pay a penny.


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We spend a LONG day, driving from Hurghada on the Red Sea to Fayoum about 130 km south-west of Cairo in the Sahara Desert.  When we arrived it was dinner time.  We went to a farm outside the city where we watched women making "bread", enjoyed a traditional Egyptian meal and learned about the farming in the region.

After dinner, we went to our hotel which was on the shore of Birket Qarun, a large salt water lake, where many Egyptians have summer houses.  While the hotel was probably very elegant in its day, it had become shabby and could definitely use a woman's touch.  (A drawback of living in a land where less than 15% of the women work outside the home is that while Egyptian homes are spotless, public buildings often need more domestic oversight.  Or is that a sexist observation?).

Somewhere along the way, we had picked up an army guard of about six men who stayed with us for our entire time in the Fayoum area. 

Fayoum is an oasis about two hours south-west of Cairo.  It isn't the kind of oasis you see in the movies - a spring and some palm trees.  It is over 600 square miles in size and is a major agricultural area for Egypt.  There is a canal bringing water from the Nile and water wheels move the water into other canals for irrigation.  The whole water system was built by the Pharaohs over 2000 years ago. 

Click here for pictures of the Valley of the Whales and the Waterfalls

The whole region was submerged in water some 40 to 50 million years ago, part of Tethys Sea which reached far south of the existing Mediterranean.  As it dried up it left a ancient and rich collection of fossils of  whales, sharks, petrified mangrove bushes, a wide variety of fossil plants and various other remains of the prehistoric sea.  In 2005 Wadi Al-Hitan or Valley of the Whales was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site


Click here for pictures of the Fayoum area


The next morning we were up early for a 1 1/2 hour drive out into the desert to visit the Valley of the Whales.  Our trusty army guard followed us.  When we reached the entrance to the site, they parked in the shade while we got out and started walking around a several km loop past the best of the fossils.  It was a beautifully laid out walking trail and we spent the rest of the morning there.
Following our visit to the Valley of the Whales, we headed back towards Fayoum, stopping on the way at a beach for lunch of rice and freshly caught fish (which some of us enjoyed more than did others.)  After lunch we visited Wadi Rayan, the biggest waterfalls in all of Egypt.  Note, I didn't say they were very big - just that they are the biggest in Egypt. 

Back in Fayoum, we tried to visit one of the little pottery factories that produce the special pottery for which Fayoum is famous.  However, no one was home so we decided to skip it.

The next morning we had a horse-and-carriage tour of the town of Fayoum, stopping at several of the water wheels. 

After our tour, we visited some Greco/Roman ruins - a town for mercenaries stationed in the area from 300 BC to 700 AD.  There were two temples dedicated to Sobek (the Crocodile God that we visited at Kom Ombo) and a lot of houses and barracks.  There was even a Roman bathtub!  Probably the most interesting thing about the ruins was that they were only minimally excavated and totally unrestored - not a high enough priority for the archaeologists even though they once housed over 10,000 people.  Here are the pictures.

We returned to Cairo for a few hours of relaxation before ending our tour with a farewell dinner.

The next morning we all headed our separate ways.


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Cairo After the Tour

Susan and her dog Holly


The next morning (Saturday) we were picked up at our hotel by Susan, the sister of a friend from home.  Susan and her husband are living in Cairo for five years while her husband in working in the oil industry out in the Egyptian desert west of Cairo.  He spends two weeks on site and two weeks in Cairo.   Although we had only met her once, Susan was kind enough to invite us to stay with her for a few days and provided a driver to take us around. 

Although most tourists only go to the Giza Pyramids, there are hundreds more scattered around Cairo.  We went to see the pyramids of Saqqara, the most famous of which is the Step Pyramid built for King Djoser, great-grandfather of Cheops, and the oldest known pyramid in Egypt, built about 100 years before the Great Pyramid of Cheops at Giza.  Following a side trip to a rug factory, we continued on to Dahshur to see the Bent Pyramid of Pharaoh Sneferu, called that because it starts out at an angle of 55 ° and then shifts to an angle of 43 °.  It was built after Djoser's pyramid and before Cheops's pyramid and shows the evolution of pyramid construction.


Click here for Pictures

Site of Sadat's Assassination

Early in the trip, Allen's fancy new camera had quit working.  Fortunately Ruth had a small camera which we had brought along for under-water pictures at the Red Sea.  It got elevated to primary camera and turned out to be better than we had thought:  an adequate zoom and lots of unexpected features.  Sunday, we found the Canon repair depot and took Allen's camera in to determine the problem.  They kept it and promised to call when they knew what was wrong.

Then we went back to the Egyptian Museum to see the parts that we had missed with the group tour.  No more pictures...

The Museum and the camera store ate up most of the day so we just went to a t-shirt store  belonging to a friend of the Driver's (every driver has "friends"), then returned to Susan's for dinner.

The trip to the store went via the reviewing stands where President Anwar El Sadat was assassinated in 1981 and the Memorial to the Unknown Soldier where he is buried.

Sadat's Memorial Tomb


The Beautiful Muhammad Ali Mosque

Monday we had a different driver who took us to Coptic Cairo, the Citadel, the garbage dumps, the Cave Churches and finally, the two mosques we could see from the Citadel. 

In Coptic Cairo, we visited:

Who knew that St George was big in Cairo?  We have always thought of him as special to Britain but the more we travel, the more places we find him.

The Coptic people are among the earliest Christians. They became Christian in the first century under St Mark  and are separate from other Christian groups.  Under the Romans they were persecuted and frequently hid in Temples such as Philae Temple where they scratched off the faces of the Egyptian gods and built their own altars.  

-  the Hanging Church, so called because it was higher than everything around it,
-  the Church of St George including the dungeon where he was supposedly chained and tortured,
-  the Church of St Barbara and
a Synagogue that was previously a Coptic church
At the Citadel, we visited the Muhammad Ali Mosque (the Alabaster Mosque) and the War Museum and had a beautiful view of the city. 

Click here for the Coptic Churches

Click here for the Citadel

Click here for the Cave Churches



Garbage truck

In the garbage district, the garbage is trucked in from all over the city and dumped in small "rooms" where people sort and package it for recycling.  Organic garbage used to be eaten by pigs that roamed the area but at the height of the Swine Flu fears, all the pigs in Cairo were ordered destroyed.  Now the organic garbage is just left to rot.
One of the Cave Churches was dug inside a cave.  The other has the sanctuary in the cave while the rest is in the open air.  At that one, an artist is busy carving scenes from the New Testament on the cliffs around the church.

Statue of Ishmail Pasha

Click here for the two Mosques

Since we had some time left, we went back to visit the two mosques we had seen from the Citadel.  The Sultan Hassan Mosque dates from the 14th century and is considered one of the finest from that period. The other is the El Rdfia Mosque and is relatively new, having been finished in 1912.  It is the final resting place for a number of Islam's greatest people:
 - Sultan Khedive Ishmail Pasha (builder of the Suez Canal) and his mother in one room    
- His three wives are next door (one was Christian - look for the cross )    
- Sultan Hussein Kamel (Sultan under the British, son of Ishmail Pasha)    
-  The last Shah of Iran (the simple slab with the flag behind)    
Tuesday our regular driver was back.  He took us back to the Camera store to pick up Allen's camera.   It couldn't be repaired in the time available - at home we got a replacement under warranty.


Click here for Memphis Pictures

We went out to Memphis which had been the capital of Lower Egypt before Upper and Lower Egypt were united and the capital moved to Luxor.  It still has a lot of excavating to be done.  The principle items there are the Colossus of Ramesses II and the Alabaster Sphinx.  You can tell how both the Colossus and the Sphinx were lying when they found them because on each of them, one side is almost intact and the other side is badly eroded where it was exposed to the elements.
Our last tour stop in Cairo was to the City of the Dead where we visited the Mausoleum and Mosque of Qaitbay, built in 1472-1474, and  featured on the Egyptian one and fifty pound notes.  In it, our guide (the security guard on duty) showed us the foot print of the Prophet Mohammad in a piece of marble and made us rub it for good luck.  Or maybe it was someone else's - between his English and our sign language, we may have missed something.  We also stopped in at the glass blowers' shop next door to the Mosque.

Click here for City of the Dead pictures


The City of the Dead was interesting.  It is a thriving metropolis with mausoleums, stores, mosques, gas stations, narrow streets and LOTS of people.  Each family has a mausoleum which has a room on the main floor with entries to two crypts underneath - one for men and one for women.  In 1993 there was an earthquake in Cairo in which many poor people lost their homes.  The City of the Dead however was undamaged and many people moved into the main floor rooms above their family crypt  temporarily.  Many of them still live there.

We had lots of time left in the afternoon to go shopping with Susan in Road 9 - the shopping district near her apartment where most of the expats in Cairo take their visitors.  It has most of the stuff you can get at the Khan - but not the hassle and it is MUCH cheaper.  I got two mugs for less than the cost of one bought elsewhere on the trip.  We enjoyed a nice dinner there and returned home for a relaxing evening.  Thanks Susan for a wonderful visit!!!!!

On Wednesday, we packed up and caught a flight to Sharm El Sheikh on the Sinai Peninsula and a 1 1/2 hour drive to Dahab.

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Click for pictures of the Christina

Dahab is a quiet resort town on the Red Sea, on the east coast of the Sinai Peninsula.  Susan had recommended a lovely hotel, the Christina, which was on the beach.  It caters mainly to European guests.  We had a beautiful view of the Sea and at night, we could see the lights of a town across the Red Sea on the Saudi Arabia side.

When we asked at the desk where we could get a boat to the reefs, they looked at us as if we were out of our minds and said "You don't take a boat, you take a Taxi!".  They told us where the best snorkeling was and where their dive shop was located.

We had brought our own masks and snorkels but needed to rent fins so we went around to the dive shop to get them and to book a Taxi for the next day.  Then we walked along the beach to a snorkeling area. 

The reef is a "Table Reef" or shelf which comes right up to the shore.  There are "safe entry" spots which are breaks in the reef where you can walk into the water until it is deep enough to swim.  Then you swim/snorkel around the edges of the reef.  Everywhere there are signs warning you not to walk on the reef as it is live coral and easily damaged.

The next day we caught our taxi to go to a place south of town called the Three Pools.  The taxi cost us 80 Egyptian Pounds or about $16 for the round trip and the driver stayed with us for the whole day!  The Three Pools are three holes in the table reef with a channel so that you can swim from one to the next.  Again, the "safe entry" points were marked for us.

Click here for Three Pool Pictures

As you can see, the beach around the Three Pools is very quiet and restful.  When we arrived, our driver chose a restaurant where he took us to pick a table.  We dropped our stuff and went into the water.  We came back, had some lunch, lay in the sun, moved back into the shade and then, went back into the water for another peek at the fish.  Because we had lunch there, there was no cover charge for staying at our table.  Otherwise it would have cost us one euro.  Have we mentioned that Egypt is cheap?
The following day we took a taxi to another recommended place, the Blue Hole.  It is north of town, about the same distance as the previous day's journey.  It might as well have been another world.  At 300 feet deep, it is the third deepest dive site in the world and people come from all over to dive there.  Many people that we saw on the streets of Dahab come while many more stay in Sharm el Sheikh and come on day trips.  We arrived before the Sharm el Sheikh groups started to arrive so were able to go straight into the water and snorkel around the edges of the hole.  By the time we finished lunch, the crowd was so thick we would have needed to push our way through.  Instead, we went down the shore a 100 metres and found another entry spot where we could go in and snorkel along the outer edge of the table reef and over to the hole.  There was enough of a break in the crowd that we were able to get out at the safe entry to the hole.  The safe entry has some steps into the water, a couple of feet of rocks you can walk on and then the drop into the hole.  So you can be 6 feet from shore and in the 300 feet deep water!  Amazing!  Again, we found a table in a restaurant and stayed all day for the price of lunch in spite of the crowds.

Click here for Blue Hole Pictures

We had flown to Sharm el Sheikh with the expectation of flying back to Cairo to join our next tour, The Jordon Connection.  That tour started in Cairo where they visited the Pyramids before driving from Cairo to St Catherine's on the Sinai Peninsula via the Suez Canal, a full day trip.  In Dahab, we suddenly realized that we were only a two hour drive away from St. Catherine's.  We cancelled the return flight, stayed an extra night in Dahab and then took a taxi up to St Catherine's where we joined up with the tour group.  We didn't miss the Suez Canal as there is a vehicle tunnel under it which the bus took and the group didn't get to see it at all.  Not only did we save the travel time but Air Egypt refunded the return portion of the air fare which was more that the extra hotel night in Dahab and the taxi cost.


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Mount Sinai

Our last morning in Dahab was Easter Sunday.  We asked the hotel manager about a church and were told that there wasn't a Christian Church in the area.  Although Egypt doesn't limit religious freedom, they don't make it easy to be Christian.  Susan's church had been trying for about 20 years to get a building permit to fix the roof.  The Christians of Dahab had given up on the permit process to get a church built there.   We looked into the possibility of going to the Easter service at the Monastery in St. Catherine's.  It is open to the public but you need to get permission from the monastery offices in Cairo, a process which would take about a month.  OOPS. 

We took our taxi from Dahab to St Catherine's arriving in mid-afternoon, about an hour before our tour group arrived. 

The accommodation in St Catherine's was sub-standard and set the pace for the rest of the Jordan Connection Tour.  Apparently our tour company, Imaginative Traveller, had merged with another one which specializes in budget travel and our tour had been downgraded to the Gecko standard.  Sorry, but we are past the stage in our lives when we want to rough it around the world.  We can no longer recommend Imaginative Traveller tours as they will not tell you what you are going to get for your money.
St. Catherine's sits at the base of Mount Sinai, where Moses got the Ten Commandments.  The Monastery is at the site of the Burning Bush where God spoke to Moses to send him to Egypt to get the Hebrews to take them to the promised land.

About St. Catherine's Monastery


The tour group at this point was us from Canada and two couple and a single woman, all from Australia.  The tour leader was a temporary one, only with us until we crossed into Jordan the next day.

After dinner we headed to bed about 9:00 in the hopes of getting some sleep before our 1:30 AM wake-up call.  Sunrise was going to be at about 5:30 AM and the climb is about 3 hours so we wanted to be on our way by about 2:00.

Visitors climb the mountain to see either the sun rise or the sunset.  Either way, one part of the climb is done in the dark.  Although our tour leader on the Egypt tour had said that sunset was just as good as sunrise and not nearly as popular (i.e. crowded) We realized after the climb that going up in the dark wasn't nearly as scary as going down in the dark would have been.

We took the tour bus to the Monastery parking lot where our tour leader handed us over to a Bedouin guide who was to lead us up the mountain.  There wasn't a lot of leading required as you just followed the crowd but he did stop and count us regularly the be sure we were all still there.  On the way up, there were "tea houses" about every 15 - 20 minutes of the climb where you could stop to catch your breath and maybe get a drink or a snack.  It was too dark to get any pictures of the tea houses on the way up but we got one on the way down.

All the way up there were camel handlers trying to sell us rides to the top.  Having been on the camel in Aswan, we knew that riding a camel up would have been even worse that walking.  Two girls near us rented camels for the ride down.  They lasted less than 5 minutes.

We made it to the top just in time for the sunrise.  At the top there is a small church (which was closed) and a mosque (where we weren't welcome) and a wonderful panoramic view of the surrounding mountains.  Going down, we passed the Monastery.  It is usually open for just 1 1/2 hours a day but it was completely closed to the public for the Easter break.  Our bus picked us up in the Monastery parking lot to go back to the hotel for breakfast. 


Mount Sinai Pictures

After breakfast, we had a brief tour of the town before heading to Nuweiba on the coast where we caught the ferry to Aqaba in Jordon.  We had a quick lunch in Nuweiba before our tour leader took us to the Egypt Exit Office.  We passed out of Egypt into No-man's Land where we waited for the ferry. 

We didn't ever get an exact (or close estimated) departure time for the ferry but we had to be in the departure area but just after 1 PM.  The ferry finally left about 7:30 PM.  Fortunately we had brought water and snacks with us as there was nothing available in the area.  And the "facilities" were among the most disgusting of the whole trip.  What a waste of time!!! There has to be a better way to get to Jordan.

Leaving Egypt


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