Egypt was my first non-western experience. I had made many trips round Europe (we had lived in Vienna) and to the USA and Canada, and thought myself a great world traveller. But then you leave western culture and a whole new world opens up! And it is so exciting! I am lucky to have visited so many countries and cultures as a worker rather than a tourist, and to have had students to show me the real character of the places.
My first visit to Egypt was en route to Tanzania, 3rd January 1975. The one week Cairo stop-over was arranged by my PhD student Omar Salman, he was still in the UK but his brother-in-law Abdrahman Nasser (professor of chemistry at Cairo Al-Azhar university) looked after me. My plane arrived at Cairo, all the luggage was taken out and dumped on the tarmac. A crowd of folks immediately swooped on it, leaving just my case alone for me to collect. After customs Abdrahman missed me, so I took a taxi to the address Omar had written on a piece of paper. It was a tall block of flats, I slept in the lobby on the floor by the lifts.
Abdrahman arrived early next morning to find me, and take me to his top floor flat. I had great views over the adjoining lower blocks, with families living on the roof. And I looked over a suburban railway, the trains had folks hanging on all over the outside, I presume they didn't pay. The newspaper boy delivering to the adjoining block of flats could fold the papers and throw them into balconies several stories up. Night-time at the flat was cold, no glass in the windows, but it was a warm sunny 20 degrees in the day. Abdrahman brought me an orange each day as a vitamin C pill. Abdrahman's family fed me, and baby daughter Soha bounced on my knee. I was of course taken to see all the well known sights.
On the 10th I flew on to Tanzania by Sudan Airlines (run by British Midland under contract), surprised by the fact that even though Dar es Salaam is only half way down Africa, my stop-off at Cairo was less than half way there. Africa is big! We stopped midnight at Khartoum (Sudan) and then Asmara (Ethiopia). When we reached Dar es Salaam. as I exited the plane door, I saw the Southern Cross constellation (stars). That's great, one reads about it but you can't see it from the UK. Getting out of the plane was like getting into the shower after someone else, I now see what they mean by "humid". I had to have a smallpox jab there and then since mine was out of date (my bad arithmetic calculating the year!). The work was at University of Dar es Salaam, where the head of Computer Science by coincidence was an ex-pat David Cappitt, he had lived in Northorpe, I went to Sunday School with him. Before leaving home I had had a letter from our government saying that I must only ever recommend UK equipment, and please burn this letter when you've read it. I should have sent it to the Guardian. I taught various MSc courses, there was one very bright student who always anticipated my next point.
We dropped into the university on the way to the hotel. My office was on the 3rd floor. As we left, I'd forgotten something and ran back up the stairs to fetch it. Then I found out that you never run up stairs here, much too hot and humid, I was sweating profusely!
I stayed at the Bahari Beach Hotel, and was picked up by Land Rover daily Monday to Friday at 07h30, delivered back at 17h30. Wonderful warm evenings (my first experience of the tropics) and moon-rises (especially full moon over the ocean, everyone should see it before they die). Running along the beach and swimming every evening after work, I felt very healthy, my asthma became the best/least it's ever been. I think that was the real start of getting rid of the worst of asthma. (After we were married we considered doing VSO in Ghana. My doctor said "With your asthma that climate will kill you." How wrong he was!) A keen bird-watching ex-pat also staying at the hotel could spot all the birds and advised me. Another very experienced ex-pat who'd spent most of his life abroad and advised us youngsters on personal hygiene (for example don't trust the water, always wash your lettuce in Nappisan) caught malaria, I had to sleep in his room with him while he had hallucinations until he was flown out. Slobbing by the pool with an Italian I complained that I'd tried to learn Italian but couldn't remember Italian vocabulary. He said "You Brits were uncivilised and didn't use adjectives until us Romans invaded - look for the adjectives we taught you! e.g. Lunar, canine, ..., all very true, they give you the Italian word. I enjoyed much snorkelling among wonderful fish and coral, There was a reef swimming distance off shore. Once I felt ill on the Monday morning, and phoned work to say that I had diarrhoea, they said "Oh, you've got sunstroke". That was through my back being exposed for too long while snorkelling, the water kept it cool, you didn't realise how much sun you were getting. Tee-shirt swimming after that!.
At the weekends David looked after me. I went to a safari park in Tanzania with David Cappitt one weekend, we had a petrol leak. The lions and vultures appeared as soon as we got out of the car, we went to a railway station (the place you go to find an engineer) for it to be welded together. I kept well clear during the welding, there was petrol all around. We also visited Lake Nakuru in the rift valley, a salt lake with millions of flamingos and pelicans. The monkeys were all over the car as soon as we got out.
Somewhere in all this I had a couple of days in Nairobi Kenya seeing their University Computing people.
General thought. I read lots of local fiction. All the opinions that had been ingrained into me (white = goodie, black = baddie, white culture = good, local medicine = witch doctors = bad) were not the opinions of the local authors. The Mau-Mau in Kenya were the heros of the books, not the terrorist baddies as described in the UK press. I learnt to enjoy Nigerian books by Chukwuemeka Ike, one of them called "The Naked Gods" all about the interaction between UK and American university staff and locals, three very different cultures.
Quote: To do before you die: See the full moon rise over the Indian Ocean. It rises a strange egg shape because the warm air is cooler near the surface of the ocean.
Friday 28th February 1975 Sudan
Half way through the Tanzania trip was an official visit for one week to Sudan. Apparently the University of Khartoum Computing Centre staff (ex-pat Brits) had phoned the UK government asking for help with a problem on their British Elliot 803 computer. I was only 1000 miles away, so was sent up to help. The staff there were expecting an old man and were surprised to see me. I'd offered to solve any problems they had, at that time I was one of the well-known world experts on computers. The problem turned out to be white ants in the processor, not quite what I expected! Looking back I think they just wanted a bit of UK company for a while. I stayed next to the Nile at the Grand Hotel (run-down but so pompous, they had Mickey Mouse serviettes, and Sudan Railways ash trays), Joy's Mum used to have Caledonian Scottish dance evenings here when they lived in Sudan (with Joy as a baby). The air conditioning here is by water dripping over a cloth, with a fan blowing on it; it all works because of the very low humidity.
There are nasty dust storms quite regularly, crunchy in the mouth and on the teeth, you can't see across the road in from of the hotel. Wonderful sunsets, the sky lit up just after the sun had set as the sun illuminated the underside of all the dust in the air. The city is quietest at midday, not at night, I wrote all my reports and notes after lunch in the siesta times.
I met the Minister of Computing, Ports and Harbours for a chat about possibly setting up a national computing centre there. He made a polite jokes which I had to laugh at "...offered a secretary a job, she named a price, he said "avec plaisir", she said "no, that's extra"". USA consultants through the UN had told Sudan that they needed expensive "Cut-and-fill" software for road embankments and cuttings; not much use in crossing a sandy desert from Khartoum to the coast, they were conned. Walking around once in the cool of the evening a local came up to me and said (as many do) "You from England? You know my friend from England?". It turned out that his friend was a colleague of mine with whom I went out one evening every week decorating old peoples homes.
In my stare time I walked round, crossing Nile to Omdurman, where there is still the remains of the mud fort from the days of General Gordon and the battle he lost. One of the books I read the was "The river war" written by a young Winston Churchill all about the expedition and battle to relive Gordon. Churchill comments at one point that the natives didn't even rise to the decency of two storey houses. But it's a good book.
After a week in Sudan I flew back to Dar in a small lane landing at various small fields in the forest on the way. The books I choose to read when I'm abroad have some local significance. I was reading Hemingway "Snows of Kilimanjaro" on the plane on the way back south to Dar. A dying hunter is being flown with a doctor in a small plane to hospital. He thinks he's ill, we know he is dying and hallucinating, there's perhaps no plane at all. He looks out of the plane window (Quote) "and there, ahead, all that he could see, as wide as all the world, great, high, and unbelievably white in the sun, was the square top of Kilimanjaro. And he knew that there was where he was going." Kilimanjaro equals heaven here, it's where your spirit goes when you die, it means really that he'd died and reached heaven. At that point I looked out of the plane window, and there was the top of mount Kilimanjaro, wide and white and shining in the sun, quite frightening, an amazing coincidence.
Saturday 5th April 1975 Nigeria
After the work at Dar was finished, I flew with PanAm Airline across Africa to Nigeria, due to change to an internal flight at Lagos. They were late arriving into Lagos, so I missed my onward flight up country. It took ages to persuade them that they had to give me a room for the night since it was their fault that I'd missed my flight. They eventually found me a rat and flea infested hovel, I got there at 2am and was collected at 5.30am for the onward internal flight to Ibadan. I had to bribe someone at the desk to get a seat. There was a live goat in the aisle of the plane! I stayed with Dave and (pregnant with Norna) Louise Scott. I met John and Janet Patrick at Ibadan, they know Stuart Burgess, and moved to Nottingham University shortly afterwards. I went with them on a visit to Ilesha Methodist Guild Hospital (where Dave is working). There was also a visit to have an audience with King Elikole, you have to walk backwards as you retreat from talking to him. I had one overnight visit to small villages in the bush where Louise worked as a nurse (I don't often get away from the big cities, it was great) and slept hot (no aircon) under a mosquito net.
November 1979 This was my first "business" visit to Egypt, Cairo. I was working at the University of Cairo Computing Centre. My job was to investigate the performance of their new ICL 2903 mainframe computer. I could see the problem as soon as I walked into the computer room. In those days computers had bank after bank of flashing lights, I looked at the activity lights on the discs, and could see that one disc drive was 100% active, the others were idle. The solution is to spread the load. However for politeness it must appear to take time to discover the solution. I stayed at a flat in Garden City and walked 20 minutes across the Nile to the institute. The mains water was on only from 11 pm to 5 am; late or early showers. There was a very noisy funeral in a flat below me - much wailing by the women, the louder you wail the more it shows how sad you are - downstairs all one night and the next morning. I chatted with a post graduate student Saad Mohammed Abdul-Aziz doing an MSc, and gave him hints. He took me to his flat for a wonderful meal cooked by his wife and other women, but the women folk didn't attend the meal, only the men.
March 1981. Another Egypt trip, this time to the University of Cairo "Institute of Statistical & Scientific Research (and contraception)". This trip's job was to connect their departmental CompSci Data General computer to the Computing Centre's ICL 2903. I did all the necessary software, but they couldn't find someone to put the necessary wires in! The staff there won't muck in and do it themselves, it's beneath them, a job for lesser staff. I would have done it, we did at Nottingham when the PDP 11/70 arrived, the kids helped wire up 8 terminals over a weekend and it was all available by the Monday. I stayed in Dokki in a diplomat's flat (they do 3 years away then 1 year back in Cairo), it had a good hi-fi, I played my "War of the Worlds" cassette, it was nice to hear a good English voice. A new mosque was being built a few yards away from my balcony. I visited the Planetarium, none of the Cairo folk I know had ever been there. Lots of walking the back streets in the evenings, I got to know the shops better than staff at the institute. They'd ask me where to find a shop for particular things e.g. bikes.
March 1984 A trip to Kuwait, included here because it was organised by my Cairo friend Omar, and several of the staff here were on temporary release from Cairo University, earning a lot more here than they would in Cairo. It was like an outpost of Cairo University. I flew first class Kuwait Air, my only time ever in first class, caviar and no champagne since it was supposedly a dry airline! (But at the end of the flight when I wandered to see the upstairs luxury lounge for a look, there was a strong smell of alcohol) I had tried but failed to swap the ticket for economy class and pocket the difference but that was not permitted. I gave general seminars in University CompSci department. Omar, Ayse, Osman and others were all there on loan from Cairo. The females on the staff changed into western dress while on campus, then back into Muslim gear outside campus. Lots of folks invited me to visit in the evenings, and almost everyone offered me whisky. I stayed at a Holiday Inn, great luxury. The atrium had ordinary western seating plus cushions on the floor, preferred by the locals The morning radio started with a religious programme very like "thought for the day" on BBC Radio 4. Kuwait was a fairly boring concrete city apart from the traditional market = sook or souk. I drove with Omar to the Saudi border one day, another day we had desert picnic by the sea. There are still Berbers living in huge tents in the desert, but now they have Range Rovers as well as their camels.
February 1990.Another visit to Cairo. I was told to look out for Omar's mum Mrs Salman, 36 El Khalifa El Mahmoun St, Manshiet el Bakri, Heliopolis, the only house with a mango tree in the garden on the airport road. The visit was organised by Omar Salman to the University of Cairo, Institute for Scientific & Statistical Research (and contraception!). His brother Ali (Deputy ambassador at the London Egyptian Consulate, since deceased) arranged my visa over a cup of tea at the London consulate, avoiding long queues and waiting. He also took me afterwards to my only visit ever to a London men only club, the "Pall Mall Club". No women allowed. A notice in the lounge said "Would gentlemen please not rustle their papers." I went to Cairo to give a course on "Formal Specification using the Z language" to the Computer Science staff there. I know quite a few of them already. The mathematics of the Z language involves quite a few Greek letters. Osman (well built, cheerful, a good eater) renamed the Greek letter capital Xi Ξ as "hamburger". For this trip I stayed at the University Faculty of Tourism Hotel (where they teach students to run hotels) behind the Meridian Hotel, cheap and grotty but at least it was walking distance from the city centre and from work. The day I was leaving in the evening I sat by the Nile for a final snack and to enjoy the atmosphere. I was fed up with drinking coca-cola, and drank a glass of water. After I got home (luckily) my bowels and head exploded, a warning NEVER to trust dodgy water. It's just as well I got home in time.
The last visit to Egypt was in November 2002 for a holiday with Joy and Jean & Rory. Jean & Rory had asked for advice on a possible Egypt holiday, I decided that we four should all go, and organised it all myself. I allowed only one day's rest, I should have planned more, it was tiring. But we saw a lot!
Sunday 3rd Joy and I were picked up by Pat (and Alicia) at 08h00. Departed Broad Marsh Bus Station 08h25, and arrived Heathrow on time at 12h10. We soon met up with Jean+Rory. Shopping, coffee. Check in 15h25. More shopping (books, puzzles etc). Depart LHR BA0155 16h25 = 45 minutes late, Boeing 747-400. At the gate they said "Any more Foxleys?". Confusion over seats and possible upgrades. Arrive Cairo (flight duration 04h50 + 2 hours) 23h15. We were met by Nazih Gaber, and were very fast through getting a visa (quicker than the queue if you already had one). Minibus to the hotel, 45 minutes, half way out on the S of Pyramids Road. Jean and Rory were impressed with Egyptian driving, especially the donkey carts in the fast lane of the dual carriageway. Rooms 806 & 807. Bed 02h00 local time, the phone rang twice in the night but we ignored it.
Monday 4th Up at 8, breakfast 08h25 (roll, cheese, marmalade, coffee, not thrilling) and pickup at 10h00. Driver Artif. Guide Dalia was a little late, she'd gone to the wrong hotel. First to the museum (the spare wheel dropped of the minibus on the way!), we paid an extra LE10 each for permission to use 2 cameras. Tut's things (sarcophagus and jewels) are always wonderful. Dalia had a lot to say, and gives good background. The museum was crowded with kids. Then on to Giza, first to the "Papyrus Museum" to see how they do it and to buy lots. Then behind the pyramids (good photo spot) and round, the police were shooing us off by then because they wanted to go home! Hotel for 17h00, leave at 18h00 to go to the Sound+Light show in English at 18h30 at the pyramids/sphinx. Good! Eat back at the hotel, kebab+kofta. Bed 22h00
Tuesday 5th Slept like a log. Alarm 7 breakfast 8 pickup 9. First to Memphis (the old capital city, statues & pillars that have been found in wells hidden from later conquerors collected in a park, a very large Ramses 2, and Bes god of joy and sex). Then on to nearby Saqqara (tomb of important person Mere Tuka, lots of paintings of day-to-day life on the walls), then temple, Djoser's step pyramid (like lots LE10 for camera, we owe Dalia). Then Akenaton Carpet School (they educate girls half time, and make carpets to pay for the education the other half, all very much to be approved of) and bought lots (£517 VISA). Then into town to the Citadel & Mohammed Ali's (he was a Syrian) ("blue") mosque 12thC. Then hotel 16h30, pickup at 18h30 to the floating restaurant "Golden Pharaoh". Good food, belly dancer (no belly but silicone upstairs), and Sufi dancer (whirling Dervish, super). Home, coffee on 12th floor looking at the pyramids and Pyramids Road.
Wednesday 6th Wrote a batch of postcards. Walk to shopping at the Metro Supermarket near the hotel. Swam in the cold hotel pool. Cleared the room for 17h00. Depart 18h00 for the train station, we had to wait for police permission. Near the station was a huge meeting for the start of Ramadan addressed by Sheikh Mohammed Gabriel, famous Imam / orator. We were held up with police guard in the crowd for an hour. Eventually we carried our luggage into the station via a side entrance, the train left on time at 20h15. We had two cabins with a connecting door. The food was an airline type grot meal served on a plastic multi-plate. Bunk bed down 22h00 when we were out in the dark countryside beyond the city outskirts.
Thursday 7th Didn't sleep too well, not unexpected. Woke to palm trees going past the window, passed Edfu station. Breakfast on a tray again, fairly grot. We arrived at our destination Aswan, and were met by (Omar?) Sherif and a car, nice fountains in the square. Dahlia had booked us into the very posh 5-star Basma hotel, the rooms 410 & 412 weren't ready till later. We were given a tour of the hotel gardens by the gardener to describe all the exotic planting. Wonderful views of the Nile cataract from our balcony. Sherif persuaded us to book for the Philae Sound & Light show tomorrow, we were glad he did! The swim in the hotel pool and slob. Evening meal on the terrace, very nice!
Friday 8th Alarm at 3am, we departed the hotel 03h30, and were driven in the dark to the High Dam docks. We walked through the dark of an apparently disused dockyard down steps across planks without handrail to the Russian hydrofoil (a girl following fell into the filthy oily water below) and waiting. It wouldn't start. Eventually at about 08h30 we walked back over the plank (it was light now, you could how dangerous it had been in the dark) and were taxied to the airport. We boarded an "Air Memphis" CD-9 with blank boarding cards to Abu Simbel (very hard landing). Good visit, it's very impressive, we had tours of all the important bits, including the temple they moved when the dam flooded the site. We'd arrived as early as we would have done by hydrofoil. We flew back, and were just in time for a fast taxi with Sherif and our luggage to the cruise boat. The boat turned out to be a lovely old one, in perfect condition, much smaller than the modern ones. After a hurried lunch on the boat, we went by bus with guide Mohsen to see the "unfinished obelisk", and continue up to the High Dam. Then back to the cruise boat and small boat to "Kitchener's Island" = "Botanic Island" in the middle of the Nile. It had lots of unusual plants collected by Kitchener. The sane boat took us back to the cruise boat during a brilliant sunset. No time to waste, then by bus to another Sound & Light show, this time at Philae Island, taken to the island by boat with Hassoun. It was really super, the best sound & light so far. There may be more! Hassoun was the fastest boat back. Late meal laid on for us on the boat at 21h30. Bed early & knackered after a hectic day.
Saturday 9th Eric was up at 06h00, and sat on the top deck to watch the sunrise and the boat departure. Breakfast for all at 07h30, and the first stop for the boat was at 08h30, where we all walked to Kom Ombo (= "Mount of Gold") temple. Tour 90 minutes with Mohsen. The temple overlooks the river, it's Greco-Roman, and they were proud of their mummified crocodiles (3 on show, they have 2000) (crocodile = tim saeh). There was one of the Nileometers, where the ancients monitored the height of the river water. The temple had mortise & tenon stone blocks, engravings of doctor's tools and botanic garden. Back to the boat for depart 10h00 (pestered by lots of sales people!), and 2 hours cruise to Edfu. It was lovely to sit on deck enjoying the view. The boat served a big lunch. Edfu is a huge and very complete temple, dark inside, lots of lovely columns. Nice Horus falcons out the front. Depart 16h00, tea, showers, the boat moored overnight at Esna. We ordered T-shirts on the boat. Evening meal, the galabeya party! Jean nearly won the "pass the bottle".
Sunday 10th I was up at 6 on the top deck, watching Esna wake up. Depart 07h00, and had to wait at the swing bridge by the old (British) barrage, then slowly through the lock at the new barrage. Lots of sales people throwing thing up onto the boat as we waited. Lunch before stopping at Luxor, the onto a small boat (via its roof, I slipped climbing down the ladder, twisted my ankle) to be ferried across the river to Thebes. Colossi of Memnon, Valley of the Kings (toy train, hot, we went in 3 tombs), Alabaster factory (Jean bought some cats), and Queen Hatshepsut's temple (wonderful design, but lots of tourists had been attacked there recently). Then our bus went back over the new bridge south of Luxor. The boat has jokey waiters, who perform amazing towel origami when they clean the cabins. Long chat to Hoffman family.
Monday 11th The end of our river cruise, time to pack and suitcases out before breakfast at 07h00. The tour bus at 08h00 took us to Karnak then Luxor. Karnak is huge, very impressive, it's a huge site. Back to the bus at 11h30, collected by Saleh of Champion tours, and taken to the Meridien Hotel. Wow, 5-start luxury, fantastic pool and service. All thanks to Dalia, she had up upgraded from 4 to 5 stars! Time to slob in luxury by the pool. We were picked up 18h00 for yet another (they're all good) Sound & light show, this time at Karnak at 18h30, we walked around to different parts of the site as it progressed. It finished 19h25 (the next show had already started at the entrance), back to the hotel for 20h00. We eat in their Lebanese restaurant, great. The waiter showed off spinning trays with glasses upside-down. Tabuleh. The singer in the courtyard had a radio mike and wandered around.
Tuesday 12th At last a more restful few hours, so that we could slob by the pool all day. I swam and read and had Turkish coffee. At 16h00 it was time to pack and clear room, the eat 17h00 eat at the Italian. End of being lazy, time to check out, with pickup 18h25 (we had to pay for an extra day of room use £8 x 2), to the airport for departure at 19h25, and about half an hour flight to Sham el Sheikh. There was a Movenpick minibus to take us to the hotel, dropping others at different hotels on the way. Amazing hotel! Huge! It's a semicircular building containing a large area with many recreation areas and swimming pools. They served introductory drinks on the terrace watching a fairly sludge singer with a bloke and keyboard operated by a floppy disc. Bed 23h30.
Wednesday 13th Dawn photos at 06h00. The only totally restful day of our three weeks, I should have arranged more! Wonderful breakfast buffet, foul, falafel and all sorts. Lots of sparrows eating the leftover bits as soon as you leave the table to get more. We had a slobby day, resting and swimming. There were several swimming pools connect by a long circular swimming track, which had a gentle flow in one direction. I could round the swimming track twice (15 minutes per lap), only Rory could swim against the current. There were lots of other pools to look at, and a salt pool with a jacuzzi. We could walk over a footbridge and down to the Red Sea, where we went snorkelling (Rory rented a snorkel and was thrilled). Wonderful fish in the sea. I finished the book "Enigma". Evening buffet expensive but good, the scheduled belly dancer didn't turn up. Otherwise the same singers as last night.
Thursday 14th Slob & swim in the morning, Joy & I went down the slides in the pool 4 times each! Jean+Rory went to the sea for more snorkelling. Then time to clear our rooms ready for 12h00, but the pickup was actually late at 14h30, by Sabri of Champion tours, he'd been mending the minibus. The hurried driving up the coast and inland through the mountains to St Catherine's. Sabri was in a hurry, and there was lots of rubble (sand and rocks wash down from the hills) on the roads from a recent heavy but very rare downpour & flash floods. The hotel, although 4 starts, is pretty Spartan. I think heating is needed, it's cold up here among the mountains. A pretty grotty evening meal, no choice at all! Early bed for a short rest.
Friday 15th Up at 01h00, ready for minibus at 01h30, ready to meet our Bedouin guide Mohammed at 01h25 (his fee is about £5) to start walking up Mount Sinai. Joy fell fairly early on, no harm done. Joy found it hard work. There were huts selling drinks & chocolate every now and them. The occasional camel passed us, we could have rented a camel to take us half the way to the top. We paused to use one "composting" loo by the path, a good job it was dark! We reached the top after much audible groaning from Joy and wheezing from me at 05h30, the sky was just beginning to lighten in the east. We bought hot chocolates and rented a blanket. Stunningly wonderful sunrise, every minute better than the previous. A gang of Ukrainians sang a dawn song. It was hard work going down too, and you could see the dangerous bits you hadn't seen in the dark. We met Sabri at 08h30, and were driven off to the hotel for breakfast. Depart 10h00 with Sabri, along to the W coast and up the Gulf of Suez. Stopped at Moses Wells (and to see a hot well nearby), and to look at the Suez Canal (but large signs saying no photos). The canal has high banks both sides, you don't actually see much of it. We arrived Cairo back at "Les 3 Pyramids" at 17h30, rooms 706, 707 this time. Evening meal (kebab and kofta)on the 12th floor watching the Sound & Light at the Pyramids from several miles away.
Saturday 16th Breakfast 8, pickup 09h00, Sabri driving, Dalia guiding. First the old city, Coptic churches and the like. Then a jewellers (there was a lady & clay oven baking bread outside) to order some gold pendants with names in hieroglyphics to be made before we get back. Then the Sadat memorial (great, an open pyramid). Then to Khan-el-Khalili bazaar, Joy really in her element! Lots of shopping, and some coffee & mango drinks (Dalia didn't drink) to finish. Then off to collect the jewellery (the most expensive shopping of the holiday), all looking good. Back 16h30, meal on the 12th floor again.
Sunday 17th Pack. Breakfast 07h30 depart 08h30 with Sabri. Desert road N towards the coast W of Alex. Irrigation & farming or building all the way to Alex. Brief coffee stop. Turn L (west) at the coast, past 100 miles of holiday villages along the coast. Stop at El Alamain for the Military Museum. 1 hour there. On near the coast to Mersah Metrouh, turn L into the desert. Stop for sunset, then on to Siwa arrive 19h10. "Simple" hotel. The hotel didn't serve food. Phone calls to Gaidaa at Champion Tours confirming we want only 2 nights here. Drove with Sabri to a restaurant "Kebooz Siwa" or Kenooz run by Ali Abdullah. Mud building, we eat among the tops of the date palms. Wonderful meal, best yet, tajin, mixed legetables in an earthenware casserole. Joy had fig shake to drink. Bed 22h00.
Monday 18th Jean+Rory slept badly with mosquitoes, we kept the fan going and were OK. Fairly grot breakfast in the Hotel (omelette and little else), meet Sabri 09h00 & guide Abu Bakhr. To all the local sights, Cleopatra's Well (deep, round, bubbling, cold), "Alexander's Oracle" and temple, Hill of the Dead (a man let us into the tombs, real dead bodies), then to old Shale Town (a hill of mud houses on top of each other 8 stories high). Then to see the sunset at the western lake past more wells. To Ali Abdullah's (he's been on the Discovery Channel on a series "The hottest places in the world") restaurant again, super again! Then he took us to his shop afterwards and showed photos of the Discovery team!
Tuesday 19th Breakfast 07h30, depart Siwa 08h30. 300 km N to the coast, one brief stop. Coffee stop with disgusting loos, just after Marsa Matruh. All afternoon along the coast road to Alex, past endless building of seaside holiday villages. Arrive Alex 16h30, along by the sea, stayed at nice Hotel Plaza near the other (E) end of the Corniche, floor 10 overlooking the sea (rooms 1007, 907). Quick walk along the front before it got dark. Tried for a drink in the bar before eating, but no alcohol for Ramadan. Eat in hotel restaurant (and alcoholic drinks were available with the meal, but they were out of gin+tonic!), shish kebab. Nice to have a more luxurious hotel!
Wednesday 20th Good sleep! Up 06h30 to see the moonset! Breakfast 08h00, our guide Amel met us at 09h00. Off to Coptic Museum (lots of lovely Greco-Roman artefacts), Catacombs (a first for me), Jewellery Museum (King Farouk + wife + predecessors jewellery, lots of money, no taste), and a palace. 13h30 head off back to Cairo, 1 stop (fed the monkeys), arrived back at Les 3 Pyramids yet again 17h00, beginning to feel like home, rooms 706 705 this time. Taxi to Dalia's for coffee & snack with her and hubbie Tarek. Heard but didn't see the kids. Home later than I thought.
Thursday 21st Khan-el-Khalili bazaar again in the morning in a 4x4 with Abdul, he collected us at 12h30 in a no waiting area. Slob at the hotel pool in the afternoon, a cold dip for Rory & Joy. Taxi to Abdrahman's in 15h30 to arrive for 16h25, in time to break fast at sunset with him and family. Wife Aida (Omar's sister), daughter Soha and husband and kids, son Ahmed, and lots of others. Fantastic nosh!
Friday 22nd Alarm 05h15, depart hotel 05h55 with Sabri and Nazih in a larger bus. The airport terminal looked VERY crowded, but it didn't affect us. Plenty of time for shopping and coffee. Depart Cairo on time BA0154 08h55, Boeing 747, flight duration 05h25 - 2 hours, arrive LHR 12h20, no, we were early. Beryl and Ken were there to meet Jean and Rory, we were in plenty of time for our bus departs 13h33, but bad traffic. Nottingham 18h15, 45 minutes late. Unpack!
|Eric's life history summary is here |
Corrections and additions welcome, email Eric
This copy edited Saturday 21-Nov-2020