Egypt

Entry Info

1st (Tue)
Jun 2010

[day85] Sank in Dahab

Sank in DahabWell, in fact I didn't know at all about Dahab. I'd even thought about just passing through to Nuweiba if the bus had arrived at the terminal on time. However, the bus which was supposed to arrive in 15 hours from Luxor to Dahab actually took more than 20 hours and I had to stay at least one night there. As usual, many people tried to bring me to their hotels and a piece of advice from a Korean guy who was with me on the bus determined my life in Dahab. "Would you like to come with me to the hostel called Seven Heaven?"

Sank in DahabDahab is a Read Ocean Resort and very famous for diving. Seven Heaven is one of the many hostels located along the coast line as well as cafes and diving shops. As I'd planned to stay only one night, I took a single room - to be precise it was actually a twin room- and the room cost merely 30EGP(6USD). Besides the hostel runs a diving centre and as a nice Japanese instructor is working there, many Japanese tried to get the license at the time.

 

Unfortunately, I'd had a serious sickness on my lung years ago and the doctor stopped me doing any activities with extreme air pressures such as scuba diving. Nevertheless even normal snorkelling was absolutely mesmerising for the high transparency of the Red Sea and colourful fish slipping through the coral reef. I could see why there are so many people being totally engrossed in this blue world. Well, if I could dive, I would spend a crazy amount of money on diving equipment and underwater photography kits (water proof cases for DSLR are shockingly expensive!). Perhaps the order from the doctor could be a reasonable deterrent against bankruptcy.

 

Sank in DahabOn the days without snorkelling, I often went to the restaurants nearby and writing blogs, reading Kindle, enjoyed the resort alone. A jug of100% fresh mango juice was only 15EGP. It was in fact quite expensive by Egyptian standards but I didn’t mind as it was absolutely delicious. I usually had 2 jugs per day as well as strawberry and melon juice for “vitamin supplements”.

 

Sank in DahabFrom the evening, most of Japanese people got together and went to the restaurants. As the most restaurants in Dahab somehow set special discount prices for Japanese, we could eat a decent course menu with a very reasonable price. For example, the usual course consisting of lemon juice, bread, salad, soup, main, desert and water pipe was only 20 EGP. It was very cheap indeed, though I couldn’t smoke even water pipes. As Dahab is on the sea coast, there are so many seafood menus and I typically liked the seafood soup served with a bunch of bones and shells for the rich taste.

 

Sank in DahabThe everyday routine finished with drinking beer and talking after the dinner. Especially a game called "Dahab Game" played around the world by Japanese travellers was totally fascinating. Basically, it is the game to find the people telling lies and it takes 30-60 minutes per game. As we had to keep talking during the game, the game connects people easily even at the first time. Indeed, this is the game made for travellers by travellers. The game was so addictive that sometimes I was playing it even in the dream. I wish I could play Dahab Game again someday.

 

Truth to be told, I hadn’t had a good impression towards accommodation with many Japanese people. Seriously, I don't really have it even for now. However, most people I met here were so nice. At the time, there were more than 20 Japanese at Seven Heaven and many of them were long term travellers calling into Dahab to dive. A couple who travelled through Africa for the pre marriage round the world trip, a tutor who had been victimized with a robbery yet still loved travelling, an ex-Italian chef who made up his mind that diving is going to be his life time job enchanted by Dahab's blue ocean, a NEET who came to Dahab just for playing Dahab Game, everyone has their original stories and we talked until midnight every day.

 

Sank in DahabAs a result, I stayed there unexpectedly 25 days in total. Yes,a heavenly 25 days. In Japanese language, we describe this state as "sank" which means staying one place for a long time during a trip. It's quite depictive isn't it? Though someone said it's quite rare to see the person without diving but having stayed so many nights, I didn’t regret the days at all thanks to the experiences and friends from there. In fact, the fresh information from travellers having passed through Middle East was very useful afterwards. Besides above all, the fellowship of future travel was absolutely precious. Including myself, five people were planning to go up to Jordan and we decided set up the trip together. Though I mainly travel on my own but sometimes it's nice to have company.

 

The next destination is Petra in Jordan, filmed with Indiana Jones, which has one of the biggest and the most famous ruins in the Middle East. Even though I'd miss the friends who had spent unforgettable days together in Seven Heaven, I started thinking of the next trip. I know that as the number of meetings grows, so does the number of farewells.

Entry Info

27th (Thu)
May 2010

[day70] Sidetracked to Luxor

Sidetracked to LuxorI was actually planning to stay only Cairo for a week. That's all in Egypt. However as the guy at Cairo's accommodation tried to sell a tour to Luxor and Aswan, I changed my mind and bought a train ticket to Luxor by myself. Well, in vain his effort was. It takes about 12 hours from Cairo to Luxor by a night train. Even though I’d have preferred to take a day train with nice views through the window, for security reasons only the night train is available for foreigners. I chose the compartment car over sleeping car as it was cheaper.

The train arrived Luxor when I was talking with Japanese university students. There were more than 20 people welcoming us when we left the train though as you guessed those people were just trying to pick us up to their tours or hotels. I'd known this but it was much noisier than Cairo. I told one of them the name of the hostel I'd booked already and he brought his mate. According to him, he would lead me to go there. It was obvious that he would require some amount of tip after the guiding but I decided to follow him as I rationalised myself that I was buying time from him and the price wouldn’t be too bad. After all I realised that when I was with him apparently the other people wouldn't try approaching me. I saw many visitors had difficulty to get rid of those annoying people. In a way this could be the best to avoid stressful time there.

 

Sidetracked to LuxorLuxor is divided to East and West by the Nile River, and the city including my accommodation is located at the East side. There are two phenomenal temples at the East side and I went to both of them by bicycle on the day of the arrival as they were located at reasonable proximity to the city. In fact they were surprisingly impressive. Both of the temples, Luxor and Karnak were so gigantic that I didn’t care about my lack of historical knowledge. I was just overwhelmed. What’s more, somehow only a small number of people were there despite the fact those two are a very famous tourist spot. So I could walk around there without irritation.

 

On the other day, I went to the west side with a charted taxi. The taxi just brought me to the entrances of main sites and waited until I came back to the parking. It was the same pattern as I used in Ayutthaya, Thailand. For costwise, it could be wise to join a group tour but I don't like those tours as I need to settle one place until I get a really nice photo and I don't mind to cover all the tiny detailed places. I could've picked up the other tourists to my taxi and reduced the cost but failed to find the ones who were willing to go with me. Anyway the taxi didn't cost too much for me as it was based on Egyptian price.

 

Sidetracked to LuxorUnfortunately all activities of photography were forbidden at the Valley of the Kings where I went first. Though I entered paying quite a high entrance fee the old cave paintings and coffins didn’t arouse my mind. I felt the same as the Egyptian Museum I went at Cairo. And at the next destination Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatsheptsut, I even didn’t dare to enter the site as it was way too many people. In a way, it was quite impressive to see the numbers of buses lining up at the parking. And strange to say, there were no people at the ruins, which are in fact Tombs of the Nobles, just around the parking. According to the guards nearby, unless I enter the inside of the tombs I was free to walk around the site and no problems for photography either. As usual, an old guy tried to give me a guide but ignoring him I enjoyed walking and photo shooting alone.

 

Sidetracked to LuxorI also went to two rather minor sites, The Ramesseum and Medinet Habu and I found them better than previous ones. Sitting on a stone in the middle of deserted ruin, I felt as though I'd been transported through time to 4000 years ago. It was indeed worth coming with an extra cost. I heard many people would skip these two places but I strongly recommend them over the other famous spots like Valley of the Kings and Temple of Queen Hatshepsut.

 

Sidetracked to LuxorThere was an interesting moment at the exit of The Ramesseum. Local kids coming by a school trip suddenly surrounded me and asked me to be in the photos with them. Also they made a scene being aimed by my camera. I think meeting with Asian people was a quite rare occasion for them. I'd wholeheartedly welcome this kind of noise for those kids were totally different from people lured by the smell of money. Their teacher who tried to speak to me with a little broken English was nice as well. Indeed, except for the people working for the tourism industry, most of Egyptians are nicely ingenious.

 

I was actually planning to go back to Cairo at once and going to Nuweiba which is a border town next to Jordan. However as the guy at the accommodation told me “It would be cheaper to go to Nuweiba via Dahab by bus. We can help you to buy the ticket”, I bought the bus ticket to Dahab by myself. Well, in vain his effort was. According to information, it would take about 15 hours to go there. But I didn’t know about Dahab very much and couldn’t guess what was waiting there at that time.

Entry Info

26th (Wed)
May 2010

[day67] Cairo Sightseeing

Cairo SightseeingSince I stayed in Cairo for a week, I visited most of the touristic spots there. First of all, the place I must go was the pyramids. As I mentioned at the previous entry, my preconception towards Egypt had been the pyramids standing in the middle of vast desert. However surprisingly, the pyramids were located at the edge of the city and quite a few houses are build almost next to them. Besides a tremendous number of people were there. Although I always try not to capture unnecessary people in my photos, I couldn’t avoid them this time. Nevertheless, the pyramids are so big that those people don’t spoil the photos.

Cairo SightseeingThe entrance fees at tourist spots in Egypt are a bit expensive. Most places set a 'foreigner' price and for example the ticket for pyramids cost 60EGP(10USD approx). What's more, if you want to go inside of the pyramids or closer to the sphinx, an additional fee will be applied. I felt it was an official ripping off policy from the Egyptian government as their biggest industry is tourism indeed. Someone said that their pyramids and temples were super long term public works since thousands years ago. Besides another main industry of Egypt is in fact the transit fee of Suez Canal. I reckon Egyptians should produce something more.

I also went to an Egyptian Museum which is also one of the highlighted spots in Cairo tourism. Yet it didn't hit my spot sadly. New kingdom, Ramses I might've heard about their names during the nap in high school years ago but I couldn’t find any interests towards countless statues arrayed along the corridors. I just realised that interests come from the basic knowledge of the subjects. Also there was a special room for loyal mummies but I didn’t enter there as it required an additional entrance fee. In that situation, I found a small funny scene. Two guards were chatting leaning against a stone coffin and there was a big sign which said "Don’t touch!" Well, this is the Egyptian quality indeed.

Cairo SightseeingOld Cairo namely Coptic Area was my favourite place in Cairo. In fact Egypt is one of the oldest countries in which Christianity has been believed and a local sect called Coptic comprises 10% of the whole Egyptian population. They have been living in this Old Cairo since the second century far before Islam was born. Most usages of cars are restricted in the area and the winds passing though the small alleys were nicely cooler than the city sides. I found some small churches and people quietly praying there. Though I'm not a Christian, this scenery refreshed my spirit.

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