Sweaty pits, camel toes and beef knuckles in Egypt

Trip Start Apr 14, 2010
Trip End Apr 14, 2010

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Flag of Egypt  ,
Saturday, August 7, 2010

Greetings to our loyal readers! We are now out of East Africa and heading north from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. Our last night spent in the "0 star" hotel with no running water out of the bathroom sink. It did however have a toilet (no seat though) and a small shower (complete without a shower curtain).  Our taxi driver highly recommended this close to the airport hotel and by the time we got in it was simply good enough for the amount of time that we were going to use it.  For 25,000 Tanzanian shillings ($18.00CAD) you got a small comfy room and the A/C worked pumping out the icy breeze to allow for a few hours of ZZZZZ's before our short taxi ride to the airport at 3:45am. At the Egypt Air check-in station, the lead man handed us an invitation to the Executive Tanzanian Lounge where we got to sit in the comfy room, have coffee, tea, or any beverage of choice, breakfast muffins, sandwiches and yes - more Samosas. Guess our frequent flyer points are worth collecting!! What a great way to start our trip to Egypt!!

When we circled over prior to landing, we noticed the smog in the horizon - but what can you expect for a city with over 20,000,000 people living in and around it.  We expected it to be hot when we landed, but it was a sweltering  40 degree hot ! A lot different from the high twenties  we were getting in Tanzania.  One thing we certainly noticed, was the strong muslim influence there, as most of the women wore long pants/skirts or a black cape covering them from head to toe, only the eyes were exposed.  In this crazy heat!   We felt kind of sorry for them as we were roasting in shorts and a t-shirt.  Kim, took on the ol’ adage, “When in Rome”.......covered her shoulders and arms with a pashmina which made her less of a novelty and minimized some of the starring.

We noticed immediately how friendly the people were as soon as we landed.  A local man who was on our flight asked if he could help us in any way as he exited the airport.  Even outside our hotel, everyone was so friendly and helpful.  Saying “Welcome to Egypt “as we walked down the streets past them - and not just a couple of times either, all the time.  Our hotel was in a quaint little welcoming neighbourhood that soon started to feel like home to us.  One night, we met a store owner  and his buddies , then their buddies and then their buddies buddy and they offered us to take a few rips on their sheesha pipe, drink some mint tea with them and visit on the sidewalk.  Everyone came out in the evening after the blazing sun went down, kids rode their bikes and played in the street around midnight, neighbours visited and smoked their pipes along the sidewalks.  Even at midnight, our clothes were wet from perspiration just from sitting around visiting.  It was still over thirty degrees celcius late at night.  After 3 days in the neighbourhood and meeting some of these people, we would get waved at and the locals would say a friendly hello.  It was really neat.  Traffic is another story – wow, they drive fast and crazy here.  People jay-walk all around as there are no crosswalks and the drivers don’t slow down a bit.  Enter at your own risk!!  

We found our prize gem,  a small little BBQ shop nearby our hotel that soon also got to know us as we couldn’t get enough of their BBQ chicken – WOW, was it tasty.  We are not sure what kind of spices they use and their English wasn’t very good to ask them either, but  it was delicious.  It came with rice that had the same little Rice a Roni noodles in it, salad, whole wheat pita and hummus all for 50 Egyptian pounds($9CAD) Certainly meal of the week!!  We spent three days in Cairo and toured the museum which was full of all kinds of artifacts and mummies, the Cairo tower- which gave us a grande view of the city and the Nile river channels , the street markets – where they sold sheesha pipes, pashminas, blankets, clothes, food and you name it.....and  we also visited the Pyramids and the sphynx.  We even rode camels for an hour and got a great tour around them.  Turned out that one hour on a camel was enough time to tenderize our butts for the next 3 days.  The pyramids were really cool to see with our own eyes.  Getting close to the pyramids was a bit sketchy though, as aggressive people wanting to sell stuff were standing in the roads, trying to flag taxis and vehicles with tourists down.  Our driver actually hit a guy in the elbow with the passenger door mirror as he was trying to stop us on the road.  Everyone is just trying to make a buck but some harder than others.

One thing we soon learned was five times a day, we would hear the Muslim prayers sung over the loud speakers.  They would last for a only a few minutes and it was a neat part of the culture to experience.  Our first overnight train ride went very smoothly to Aswan.  Our hotel was a beautiful place, situated  on its own island in the middle of the Nile river.  We spent only two days there as the big thing to see in this region is Abu Simbel.  The average temperature was 45 degrees and one day it was closer to 50 degrees.  It was actually a bit uncomfortable on this day when it was very windy and 46 degrees on a thermometer at the pool at 5pm.  It was like sitting in a convection oven and we had sweat dripping down our legs while we tried to enjoy a snack out at the pool.  Crazy!

Mike was up and gone by 3:45 am for a 3 hour bus ride to the Abu Simbel site for sunrise.  Two very impressive temples with massive statues guarding the entrances.  Inside, there were well preserved painted carvings of Egyptian symbols , letters and important people.   The neat thing was that the entire site was reconstructed over 40 years ago because of a dam that was built and that would have flooded out the original site by the new Lake Nasser.  Each piece was cut, moved up higher onto the hill, assembled back together and then painted over to hide the cuts.  Even the two large hills in which the temples are located in were rebuilt.  The bus ride to Abu Simbel leaves that early and leaves back by 10:30am because of the extreme heat.  It was probably 50 C or higher in the middle of the desert on the way back and the minivan overheated and broke down.  Luckily there was a convoy of buses and other vans coming back as well to pick up Mike and his fellow passengers.  A few hours away from Aswan by train,  was Luxor – a big city full of horse drawn buggies and taxis for all the tourists, temple after temple and of course the Nile river.  We visited  three sites while we were there, the Karnak temple, the valley of the kings and the Hatchepsout temple.  They were neat to see, and very impressive how well they have been  preserved, but the two nature nuts like us found ourselves looking for other excitements such as chasing lizards.  In Luxor we took a ride with a horse and buggy one evening on our way for supper – what a crazy driver we had (check out the video), certainly entertained us that is for sure.  We did take in a felucca ride – a big sailboat along the Nile, but the one day we decided to go, there was no wind, so we were tug-boated out and the current with a bit of paddling took us back in to shore.  We found a great little restaurant close to our hotel that we visited several times.  We really enjoyed the authentic  middle east food  there.  One evening for supper, Mike ordered Shin Beef as it was highly recommended by our waiter... turned out to be roasted Beef knee-caps.  He managed two bites covered in mustard and then kindly offered his beef knuckles to the waiter to enjoy.  He said it was like popping a huge old rubber band into your mouth and chewing on it. Not the delicacy he had imagined.  One night for supper, we hit the golden arches and tried the McArabia.  A mystery meat sausage  wrapped in a toasted flatbread with lettuce, tomato and special sauce.  Not a runner up to the Big Mac though.

From Luxor, we took an old run down bus to Hurghada (El Gouna - a resort town along the Red Sea.)  It was a tough ride all crammed up in the bus without operational air conditioning, but it was paradise when we arrived to the ocean and the hotel pool was calling our names.  El Gouna was a really cool place that was really new and full of little shops, restaurants, plazas and snorkelling/diving shops.  Lots of Tuk-tuks cruising around taking people around and most people were doing all-inclusive stays.  We spent 4 days there and especially enjoyed  our snorkelling experience around the reefs.  We even saw a sea turtle!  We sampled more of the middle east foods like the lahmajoon  (Lebanese pizza – thin crust with a thin red sauce and ground meat) We also tried the Manaish – also a Lebanese pizza but a vegetarian one with olive oil and oregano and lemon juice.  Both were very yummy and flavourful.

We made it back to Cairo by bus late in the evening  and checked in and out within 10 hrs as we headed to the International airport for Amman, Jordan.

Take care everyone.........

Meal of the week:  Cairo BBQ chicken, as mentioned above – certainly the tastiest chicken we’ve ever had (sorry mom’s – but it is that good!) As our honourable mention, a great little find restaurant in stinkin-hot Aswan.  A multi-course meal of lentil soup, hummus n’ pita, salad, pickles n’ olives, rice, potatoes with onion and carrots in a tomato sauce, chicken kebab, kofta (minced lamb meatballs) and a coconut custard desert all for $8CAD/person.
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