There was an armed guard on every tour bus in the caravan to Cairo. The weather was warm with a sand storm stirring in the air.
For the first hour the Sahara desert could be seen in every direction with a straight highway cut through the landscape.
No villages or suburbs to speak of.
Along the highway we saw several large piles of garbage yhat were set on fire when the pile was large enough.
The Sahara Desert covers about 63% of the African continent, including almost 90% of Egypt. The Nile River is the longest river in the world. It is fed from the Victoria Lake, the 2nd largest lake in the world.
We went through the Cairo toll booth and the city of Cairo sprawled around us.
Where Egypt has an estimated population of 88 million, Cairo, the largest city in Africa, has an estimated population of 20-22 million people. The population of Egypt is undergoing a tremendous population explosion increasing by almost million every 8 months. The average life span is 65 for men and 68 for women years, with parasites as the leading cause of death followed by heart attacks. The farming capacity of the country does not meet the country's demands for food. Egypt gains revenue from gold, oil, cotton and Suez Canal fees. On January 25, 2011 a revolution erupted. During the civil unrest 800 people were killed and thousands injured. The revolution was successful in that many of the people's demands were met. President Hosni Mubarak was ousted on February 11,2011, many governmental ministers were arrested and held to stand trial for embezzling billions of dollars, the sitting parliament was dissolved, and the government agreed to stop running propaganda media. An interim military council was put into place until the 2012 elections are concluded.
Our first stop was the pyramids of Giza, built as tombs for pharaohs: Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure.
Khufu's pyramid is the oldest and largest of these pyramids and is the last remaining of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. It took about 20 years to build around 2560BC. It is 450 feet high and 755 feet at its base. It was built with 2.3 million limestone blocks weighing about 15 tons each.
A smooth limestone cover was placed over the blocks that for the most part has been taken or eroded. The smooth covering can still be seen at the top of the pyramids.
Three smaller pyramids near by were for Khufu's wives. The pyramid built for Khafre, the son of Khufe, looks taller because it was built at a higher elevation. Menkaure's pyramid is the smallest at 203 feet high. Menkaure was the son of Khafre. As we walked around the pyramids venders and camel jockeys approached us to sell there goods, pose for pictures, and sell camel or horse rides around the pyramids.
We were advised not to let anyone take our camera as they would charge to return it, and that a better camel riding opportunity would be available later in the tour. We entered into the Solar Boat Museum to view a large wooden boat found outside of Khufu's pyramid.
Scholars presume The boat's intended use was to transport the deceased to the other side.
We left the pyramid site to view them a little more distally, ideal for photos. From this location we could see the pyramids and sphinx clouded by a sand storm.
JoRina and I each rode a camel (Daisy).
A thrill we will not likely forget. We then visited the Sphinx, a huge statue with the head of human and a body of a lion, that stands guard over the Pyramid of Khafre.
It is 230 feet long and 65 feet high. We were awe struck to be there together.
We returned to the bus where we were transported to a Papyrus Museum. The staff at the museum were very informative and helpful. We watched a short demonstration of how ancient Egyptians made paper, a practice that is still practiced today.
I asked about the Egyptian calendar
and an illustration of Judgement Day, where ones heart is weighed against a feather to determine if the individual lived just life and will gain passage to their eternity.
We then were transported to a Nile cruise.
While on board we were served tea and cakes as dancers performed in the local tradition.
The cruise lasted about 1/2 hr to 45 min during which local dancers performed. We went up to the top where we could view Cairo's coastal communities, and hear prayers announced from the mosques.
The sand storm was still in the air making breathing difficult, so we returned to a lower deck.
We returned to the bus and back to the ship, embarking around 6PM.
I took a long shower to wash off all of the sand on my skin and in my hair. We were too tired to go out during the evening so we stayed in, ordered room service and went to bed early. before going to sleep I won a game of chess. When we were scheduled to depart, Captain Oprey announced the day's sand storm had interrupted traffic in the Suez Canal, as officials closed the canal until safe passage could be expected. During the day, passengers aboard the ship were advised to remain indoors during the worst of the storm.
We both got up before the 6:30AM wake up call as the ship approached port Sokhan, Egypt. We were humbled to have the privilege to travel to such far, ancient and historical places including Egypt. One of the oldest civilizations known. We ordered tea and breakfast while we dressed to go ashore and took pictures of the port from the ship. By 8:30 we were on an air conditioned bus with out tour guide Hanna, an Egyptologist, starting our 1-1/2 drive to Cairo.