I have moved my blog to Escapade78.com. Don't get me wrong, I like adventures of a Texan, but Escapade has such a better meaning. I hope you will subscribe to my new blog and keep following along with me. I plan on canceling my Typepad account in about a month. Cheers!
I am going to be driving again. This time, from Odessa, TX to Cambria, CA. Type that one into google maps and it will tell you that it is about 1350 miles.
Hopefully, I will get to pass through Phoenix and see Shanti, my star developer.
I slept so well on the train ride back, that I had plenty of energy for the day. So, after dropping Amy off at the hotel, I went to the Costa Cafe for about 3 hours of internet. Then Eli and Amy met me for brunch. We had a great conversation. Arab diplomacy, American political environment, Archeological ethics, looting, teaching at universities, the Nazarene Church, and lots of others subjects.
Eli had to finish a paper (in Arabic) so Amy and I decided, let's go to Giza. Again? Yes, but this time, going with Amy to the great pyramids would make a difference, I was sure. For the ride out, we decided to ride in the new Yellow Capital Taxi. For the locals, these cabs are supposedly 'more expensive', but to a visitor, you actually get a metered ride in a new car with A/C. AND, it turned out to be half of the price that a tourist would normally pay. The ride was fabulous. And, on a Friday (weekend day in most Islamic cultures), there was hardly any traffic.
We climbed on the sides of pyramids, took some great photos, and ended up doing the 'touristy' thing and rode a camel. The camel's name was Charlie Brown. No kidding. Our guide was such a great guy, it made the time worth it. Oh, several times throught the last week, when asked my name, some of the locals would tease me and say that I was Ramses, due to my goatee that is growing out a touch. So, I figured that when asked my name the first time, to reply as 'Ramses' which gave everyone a good laugh and help to relax the environment. If you go look for Charlie Brown near the great pyramids, tell the man that Texas-Ramses sent you. He'll know who you are talking about. :)
Back to Cairo in the Yellow cab, and we picked up Eli, to go to dinner. I took them out to a steak joint on the river. It was nice and the steak was oh so tender. Afterwards, we did a bit of shopping in Khan El-Khalili market for some kefiyehs, and a t-shirt with Coca-Cola written in Arabic. Quite a bit of the market was closed because it was late, but also on the weekend night, not as busy. We finished our evening with a quick jaunt to a local restaurant, for some beverages, and quick conversation. Then, losing track of time, we rushed back tot he hotel to send me off (in a Yellow Capital Taxi). Taking the Yellow taxi cost me one-third the price that I paid when I arrived.
My flight was delayed by an hour and some change, but fortunately, was only a third full. So, I got a row to myself to sleep on the flight home. Oh, the flight took off at 4 am. I am writing this from the confines of the flat on Na Kozacce, home sweet home.
What a great adventure these last few weeks have been. No regrets. Lots of stories. And, my eyes have just been opened to some of the Egypt that we have read about all these years. I am curious what it will look like in the next 20. Ciao.
We kept our sleeping short and headed off around 8 am to beat the heat; though in hindsight, it isn't really possible to do. We hopped onto the ferry to cross the Nile. Today's excursion would all take place on the West Bank of Luxor. Our first stop, was the Valley of the Kings, the tombs of the new kingdom pharaohs of the 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties. Many, many of the tombs are from the Ramasid line (Ramses 2 - or Ramses the Great). Your ticket gets you into 3 tombs of your choice. Amy had several selected for her research which was great. Without Amy, it would have been like looking to find meaning in someone else's kid's finger paintings at 8 months.
The first was the tomb of Ramses the 7th. On the small side, but the first one discovered in the Valley. The color that was remaining on the tomb walls was amazing to see. 3000 years later, and some of the colors are very vivid. Amy was able to tell the stories of the walls which are writings from the Book of Caverns, Book of Gates, and the infamous, Book of the Dead. Although the Book of Caverns and Gates tell so much more. She could even read many of the Hieroglyphs. While no pictures of the tombs are allowed, I snuck a few pics out of there. Yeah digital. At the end of that tomb time, the tomb keeper allowed us to climb inside the pit where the sarcophagus was kept. We decided that we now have earned the title of 'tomb raiders' after that little excursion.
We then went on to see 4 more tombs. The next one was huge in comparison to the first and had tons of very colorful hieroglyphs and multiple chambers. But, due to it's size, it was packed with tour bus loads of folks. Then on to a smaller one and another good sized one near the front. Sneaking picture the whole time. ;) wink!
The last tomb was the smallest that we saw, but it was of the Famous, King Tutankhamun, one of the youngest pharaohs and with a very short reign. It was good to see, especially after having seen the gold casket and death mask at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo last week.
At this point we had to get to the next site, the temple of Hatsheptsut, the one who did the Obelisks at the Karnak temple. When, all of a sudden, I recognized a logo of Cedok (a Czech tour agency), the group I was considering traveling with originally. So, what the heck... I asked them if we could bum a ride. Turns out they were going to the same temple but had to stop at an alabaster shop first. Cool by us. Free ride with A/C. They even got us the group rate for the next temple. :)
The Temple of Hatsheptsut was nice and impressive at the bottom of the limestone mountains. But, most references to Hatshepsut were chiseled out by her immediate successor, her nephew. Hatshepsut claimed that she was the daughter of a God and in order for her nephew to take the throne and claim to come from a legitimate line, he had to cross her name out. Still a nice place. Unfortunately, the tour bus was heading to the East Bank for lunch, and we still had more to see. We took a cab with another couple to the Medinet Habu temple. Just prior to arriving at the temple, we had lunch at a little hole in the wall hotel in the middle of nowhere. Not bad.
The temple was across the street and was again, huge. This one had more complete walls than the other two and very complete roofs. But, what was really great was bumming a ride at the end from a group of three Dutch tourists. They took us all through the country side, over the Nile and to the front door of our hotel. FOR FREE!!! We really lucked out. Then, some snacks, a touch of internet and out to the Hassle-Free shopping zone. After a bit of that, I snuck into the pool house, and grabbed a quick shower. Shhh...don't tell anyone.
Waking up happened several time through the night, but when 6 am rolled around, we were treated to breakfast. 4 types of bread...with jam....and butter. Not fancy, but it is consistent with the Egyptian diet. Did you know that 60% of the Egyptian diet is bread? tis true. What's Atkins again?
So, we were ready to take on the city and dropped our luggage off in our 5-start hotel, the New Winter Palace right on the Nile. With a view of the Nile and the Luxor Temple. Really cool.
So, we trekked to the Luxor Temple and I liked it. Great columns and posts measuring 24 meters high (like 70+ feet) with a cool avenue of sphinxes and huge statues of pharaohs. I really liked it. Then we walked to the Karnak Temple that ended being about 3.5 km away. But at 10 am, it was nice and cool. The Karnak Temple is HUGE!!!! Oh man. The walls must have been over 100 ft tall and a colonnade of 134 enormous columns. Hieroglyphs everywhere and several still retaining their color. We saw 2 amazing obelisks created by Hatshepsut, a female pharaoh (though not the only female pharaoh). This temple was just stinking huge. Don't worry, pictures are coming...
After the Karnak temple, we started walking back to the hotel and came across a nice cafe. The Oasis cafe where I had a wonderful spicy lentil soup and fresh fluffy bread. Yummydoodle. After lunch, we were pooped and decided to take a nap during the hot part of the day. 4 hours later (we were tired), we got up and went to the bazaar in town for some shopping. The so-called 'No Hassle' market, was a bunch of bull. The hassle, or hustle, never ended. Around 9pm, we went back to the Karnak Temple for the Sound and Light show. In the lonely planet guide, it is taold to be a Hollywood style show that truly shows the temple off. Well, the narration was cheesy, but the lights were cool. It was wonderful seeing the enormous place light up in the night sky. Beautiful. Afterward, a touch more 'hassle-free' shopping then to bed.
Today started nice and slowly as I checked out of the hotel in Zamalek and went to a cafe to do some morning work. Then I met up with Amy for brunch where we planned out our day. We ran to the American Express office in the Nile Hilton to purchase tickets for the sleeping car train to Luxor. While there, we found out that they offered a 5-star hotel in Luxor for $50 a night. So, we got it. Why not?
Then, as the tickets and itinerary were being put together, Amy and I went by the AUC (American University Cairo) library so that she could get some maps of the tombs in the Valley of the Kings for her research. We did a fair amount of walking today back and forth to several places, but I won't bore you with the details.
We found a late lunch spot and hunkered down for a meal. Panini. Mozarella and tomato. mmmm good. Then back to the hotel in Zamalek to pack up for the Luxor trip.
At 7:30 we arrived at the Ramses Train station and boarded the train. Not to shabby. We had a double sleeping compartment with the fold down beds. They served a full dinner to us that was a mixture of Egyptian foods. Very tasty. Not sure of any of the names, but there was brown stuff, and rice, and fish, and beef, and ....who knows what that green thing was.... The rest of the train ride was good except for the train conductor. It almost felt like a teenage girl was learning to drive a manual transmission car (little jerky). Nearly fell out of bed. :)
Monday morning came quickly with some guy swinging a hammer somewhere in the building. So, up by 9:30 but laid in bed for a bit longer. Thump. Thump. Thump. Fine. Time to get up.
Breakfast at Costa Coffee and then off to the Citadel. The Citadel, as you would guess, was used as a fortress, a palace, and a mosque. Now, the greatest section of it is two different mosques (is the plural right or is it, mosqui?) The Mohammed Ali mosque is the largest which commands its presence on the hill top overlooking Cairo. The inside has rugs everywhere and you have to take your shoes off. Cairo is not for the faint of heart when it comes to sanitation. :) The other is the An-Nasir Mohammed mosque. This one has a certain charm about it that I liked more than the other. One point of interest was the tops of the minarets, the twisted finials, are covered in glazed tiles. Something rarely seen in Egypt. Also, the dome is tiled in the same color of sea-foamish green. Despite your feelings toward sea-foam green, it looks very nice and not a color seen in Cairo much.
Inside the Citadel is also the National Police Museum and the National War Museum. One section of the NPM, is the assassination section. One leader in particular, I was actually looking for. Former President, Anwar Sadat. He wasn't in there. I asked around and found out that there was some bad blood still being felt about that and his assassination was left out.
I pretty much spent the rest of the day in a coffee shop doing work and looking for the next set of travel plans. Looks like Luxor is on the horizon. Hung out in my room that night and watched TV. Easy going.
There is a 30 minute part of Friday that I neglected to disclose earlier. Partly due to just hurrying to get a posting up and partly due to the nature of not wanting people to know. But, I decided to tell for the sake of a scientific experiment. The experiment will be in the area of word association and you will be the guinea pig. There are many ways that I could take this, so I will try them all.
I got a massage. Said like that you would think, no problem. But, like many people out there, that never does paint a clear enough picture. I will add words and phrases that will help to paint said picture. You may feel uncomfortable, but let me assure you...you won't feel as uncomfortable as I was.
I got a massage at my hotel.
I got a massage at my hotel by the pool.
I got a massage at my hotel by the pool in a little grass hut.
I got a massage at my hotel by the pool in a little grass hut on a table.
I got a massage at my hotel by the pool in a little grass hut on a table with a towel on it.
I got a massage at my hotel by the pool in a little grass hut on a table with a towel on it by a man.
I got a massage at my hotel by the pool in a little grass hut on a table with a towel on it by a man of Egyptian decent.
I got a massage at my hotel by the pool in a little grass hut on a table with a towel on it by a man of Egyptian decent who was sweating.
Doing ok? Don't forget to breathe. Ready for more? Here goes...
I got a massage at my hotel by the pool in a little grass hut on a table with a towel on it by a man of Egyptian decent who was sweating and rubbed massage oil on my back.
I got a massage at my hotel by the pool in a little grass hut on a table with a towel on it by a man of Egyptian decent who was sweating and rubbed massage oil on my back and continued for 30 minutes.
I got a massage at my hotel by the pool in a little grass hut on a table with a towel on it by a man of Egyptian decent who was sweating and rubbed massage oil on my back and continued for 30 minutes with Amy in the room.
Notice that as I unfolded the scene for you that you began to laugh more and more and started to cringe. Now, I will try it one more way. I will say it in a manner that may sound a tad bit 'dirty' but actually says the same thing.
I got a rub-down from a sweaty Egyptian cabana-boy for 30 minutes as he continuously rubbed oil all over my revealed and exposed back for 30 minutes in a message shack by the pool as my friend watched.
I am pretty sure that you are laughing hard enough that you need to go to the bathroom. Well, that is the end of the experiment. If you would, leave me a quick comment with your thoughts. Cheers.
After sleeping on a very lumpy bed, I got up around noon and headed out to a cafe called Beano's in Zamalek. It has aspirations of being a cool cafe, and it is doing well. But, my cappuccino is horrible. Not sure what kind of coffee they are using, but dang...yuk. So far, I should have learned to drink the tea and not the coffee, but I just want one good cup. Free wifi though.
So, 3:30 rolled around and it was time to meet Amy and Eli. I had decided to take Eli to get a good milkshake. Where? The Hard Rock Cafe, of course. We walked down to the Hyatt on the Nile and ducked inside for a few hours as we consumed great food. Here's one for ya... One of the classic menu items at any HRC is the pulled pork sandwich. But, if you remember, pork doesn't go over too well in an Islamic culture. So, at both the Cairo and Sharm El-Sheikh cafes, the pulled pork sandwich was replaced with the 'pulled lamb sandwich.' What makes this really funny, is that they keep the remaining description. It says that it is a "real" southern classic. I am sure that some southerners have had lamb, but to say that it is a classic...well, i just don't think so.
We caught a cab back to Zamalek where we got coffee at a cafe called the Costa Cafe. British owned and not too bad. Best coffee I have had in Egypt. :) Got it to go and proceeded to walk the neighborhood in search of a phone for Amy. When arriving back to the hotel, I learned that I could get a TV put in my room for a little under $2. And, there is a great movie channel. What a deal! I admit, today wasn't a huge 'touristy' day, but it sure has been nice to relax.
Today was a lazy day. Amy and I slept in until 10 ish. We went sunning for a hour or so, then went into town along the cliffs to a great sea side cafe and just sat for a couple of hours. Then, we had one last hurrah at the Hard Rock Cafe for lunch. This time, I got a cobb salad. it was pretty good, but there was no Avocado. Can anyone explain this to me?
At 4 pm, we went back to the hotel and caught the shuttle to the Super Jet bus station. We chose to go with the upgraded bus service back to Cairo for a whopping 5 Egyptian Pound more costly ticket (about a dollar). It was worth it. We had more leg room, A/C, drink service, and videos. The first video was some odd Arabian movie that we just couldn't understand. So, we listened to my iPod for about 2 hours. The second movie was a Jackie Chan flick with Arabic subtitles. Not sure which flick, but a 1980s jackie Chan movie. Action movies really don't need dialog, so I think everyone understood it.
We arrived back in Cairo around 11 pm with no drug raids or sniffing dogs. Then back to the May Fair hotel in Zamalek for the night.