(Updated blog post from 2009 to new format)
Our first day on our main tour, with Insight Vacations. After the obligatory orientation in a hotel conference room, we boarded a tour bus and headed back to the Khan el-Khalili Bazaar.
Having been there just the day before, we took a quick walk through and picked up a few little things (I got a faux Patek Phillipe watch for $20) and then spent the remainder of the time drinking tea with our tour guide in a nearby cafe.
We spent the remainder of the day visiting the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. It has one of the world’s largest collections of antiquities, including the contents of King Tutankhamun’s tomb – an amazing sight! Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to have cameras inside – this is actually one of my pet peeves: so many tourists don’t know how to turn off their camera flash that attractions have started banning cameras completely instead of just banning flash photography.
The next morning we awoke painfully early to fly to Abu Simbel, stopping in Aswan to offload our luggage, which was sent ahead to our hotel for the night. The plane took off again much faster without the weight of all that luggage! The temples were an amazing sight; and it was amazing to think about the engineering involved in moving them (see above link).
Afterwards we flew back to Aswan and took a bus and small ferry to our hotel for the night, the Movenpick Elaphantine Island. After lunch and a nap break, we took a felucca ride around the island, which was named after the unusual rock formations in the area resembling pachyderm posteriors.
We sailed past the Old Cataract Hotel, which was featured in Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile; and the three man boat crew treated us to a sing-along.
Then we returned to the hotel for high tea in the top-floor observation deck. There was a strolling violin player and we watched a beautiful sunset.
We then headed back to Cairo (and the Conrad) today by plane. We checked back into the hotel and hit the gym and swimming pool to unwind – both very nice. At 5pm we were picked up to go to the Sound & Light Show at Giza. It was a nice show, nothing spectacular; but there were some interesting stories about the lives of the pharaohs who built them and the history that has taken place around them.
We were surprised how much larger they appear in the daylight! Because we were touring in the open desert, our group had a bodyguard; who took a great liking to Dave after discovering they were both military men.
Only 150 people per day are allowed into the great pyramid, so our group went into his son’s pyramid nearby. It was not nearly as steep or long a trip down as Dashur – thank goodness!
Next we headed to the step pyramid at Sakkara. From there, on a clear day, you can see a panoramic view of 7 pyramids. Unfortunately, we were there on a rather polluted day and could just make them out; I tried a picture and it came out like dirty cotton wool. In an annex of one of the tombs, Dave found carvings that depict a monkey-like figure bursting from a man’s chest (unfortunately another place we couldn’t have cameras) – proof of his theory of extraterrestial (warning – nightmare alert!) involvement in the building of the pyramids?
This was the last day of the tour for most of the group – we and one other couple had signed up to do an extra day’s tour in Alexandria the next day. We checked out really early the next morning since we would be going straight to the airport after the tour; and I slept for most of the 3-hour drive there. We were lucky to have Hazem, our guide for the main tour as our guide for this excursion also. Our first stop was the catacombs, and then on to Pompey’s Pillar and the surrounding hill of ruins.
Next we saw the city’s Roman amphitheatre, considerably smaller than Caesarea’s, but with a “magic spot” – if you stand on the stone that marks it and speak normally, your voice is amplified to be heard from every seat in the house. There was also an open air museum showing some of the results of the recent underwater archeology work going on in the harbor, where some of the anicient city is now below the ocean’s surface.
This was followed by a trip to the Alexandria National Museum (not nearly the size of the Egyptian museum, but so much better organized that I enjoyed it more) and a drive along the coast toward the Qaitbay Citadel.