This morning saw me driving Miles and Shani to the airport - and boy is my house quiet. And of course Aymn ran away to Libya - so I am all by my lonesome. In some ways I guess this is a good thing - gives me a chance to put my foot up and maybe it will quit looking like a poison puff toad.
We had a busy time after Christmas. Had guests for Christmas dinner - which was held on December 24. Christmas Day was just the 3 of us as Aymn had to leave for business - after promising me that he would spend the day with us - same old story. We did a lot of flying by the seat of our pants. Decided one evening that the next day we would head to Cairo for a couple of days - I was being brave - we were going on our own - without Aymn - and I would try to find my way around to the Pyramids - not really a problem - I can get there on my own. But finding a hotel and seeing the other things was going to be a challenge - but what the heck - in for a penny in for a pound. Mr. Man called and I told him our plans - he asked why I had not told him our plans - told him we had just made them - he made the big sacrifice and came along with us. Spent the night with us in Cairo - managed to get us well and truly lost a couple of times - so not much more adept at getting around Cairo than I am - but .... it was a relief (of sorts) to have him with us - was easier in some ways - but in other ways.
We headed to Cairo on Thursday - Dec. 27th. While at the pyramids I wanted to contact a 'friend' of ours - we met him when we took my parents to the pyramids and he became our tour guide - we connected up with him again when Maurine was with us - but Aymn got waylaid by a very pushy local 'tour guide'. I do not understand why he cannot just tell them no and get on with things - it ended up pretty badly. Aymn arranged for a 'desert ride' for Miles and Shani - one on camel the other on a horse - and all they really wanted was a 5 minute ride with pics taken so they could say they had been on a camel. The ride lasted over 2 hours - and meant that they had no chance to 'see' anything. A very large bust - Miles was extremely angry - as he wanted the chance to really 'see' things - in other words the chance to get up close and personal - but he did not get it. That did not happen. Then we found the hotel that Aymn put me up in in 2003 - prices had gone up - and the hotel had run down - oh well - it was a place to stay - and of course Mr. Man had no money - so I was using my 'grocery' money to pay for things - after he promised to pay me back. Another story. After finding something to eat - we made our way to Khan el Khalilee - a very old 'souk' - shopping area - that is full of tourist souvenirs. Miles and Shani had been taken to a papyrus shop near the pyramids and found a picture they really liked - only problem was the price - lowest we got was 350 LE. So we were looking for this picture - found one that was very close - enough that Miles was interested - and they ended up paying 130 LE for it - after a lot of haggling. They were afraid they had been rooked - because of course Aymn could have gotten a better price if he had been on his own - but because he was saddled with us foreigners of course the price was inflated - Miles was reallying hemming and hawing about the price - I asked him - do you want to go back to Canada without it - he said no - so I said then pay for it and take it. Which he did. The 2nd day in Cairo saw as at the Mohammed Ali Mosque - which was very different - lots of touristy things - when I was there in 2003 there were no souvenir kiosks - and it was much quieter - but I think Miles and Shani enjoyed it - Miles really surprised me - I did not think he would be interested in the history of the country - but he was - then after Friday prayers we went for a 30 minute sail along the Nile. Shani had wanted to go on a Nile cruise - but it did not pan out - too expensive and not enough time - maybe next time. We arrived home on the 28th - exhausted - my foot was really not happy. And Aymn headed home right away.
Monday night saw us on the train to Luxor - we were planning on taking the sleep train - but I have not been impressed with the thing - they jack up the price for foreigners - and this time - because I was travelling solo - I was going to have to pay for the whole suite - double the price - so we opted to take just the regular train. Well let me tell you it was an adventure. From Alex to Cairo the train was not bad - but when we got on the 10:00 p.m. train in Cairo to Luxor - OMG - when you got within a foot of the door to get in you could smell the urine from the bathroom - and that was just the beginning - it was really really nasty - well welcome to Egypt. And it took forever to get to Luxor - a little over 12 hours. I had phoned my contact in Luxor and he met us at the station when it finally arrived - he had reserved rooms for us at a hotel, found us transportation and a tour guide - he charged 120 USD for his services (and of course Aymn figured we should have only paid 100 - and my attitude is - since you cannot come with us - shut up and leave me alone) which included all the arrangements he made as well as the transportation, tour guide and a lunch out on Tuesday. We 'freshened up', changed, had breakfast and we were off and running. Tuesday saw us at Luxor and Karnak temples - our tour guide was fantastic - his name is Hameda - and he is going for his doctorate in Archeology - so he was a fount of information and he was a real character - a great fit for Miles and Shani - I also enjoyed him - but must admit that as this was my 3rd visit - it was getting to be old hat. The highlight of the trip was a hot air balloon ride on Wednesday morning - the 2nd of January - up bright and early to watch the sunrise over the area - WOW. I was not sure I was going to go - but then Ahmed - my contact - told me the baskets had doors - not true - had to climb a set of stairs to get in - no problem - but then to get out there were foot holds in the basket - and no way could I get myself up them - my foot was just not cooperating - so one of the ground crew came into the basket - lifted me onto the side of the basket - Miles helped lift my bad leg over - and then the same fellow lifted me and put me down on the ground - swept up in the arms of a handsome stranger - in front of a shwack of people - just a tad bit humiliating - but what the heck. Met up with Hameda and we were off again - we went to see the temple of Ramses the II or is it the III - anyway - I had not been to see this - so it was very interesting. Then on to the temple of Hatshepsut - I opted to sit and wait for them - thank goodness my tickets are cheap - I get in as an Egyptian - so it was 2 LE for me - 40 for Miles and Shani - each - not a great deal - but would have been a real waste. I did not feel too badly about wasting 2 LE. Then we were off to the Valley of the Kings. They had opened King Tut's tomb - and his mummy was actually in residence - so Miles and Shani wanted to see that - and it costs extra - 80 LE for tourists - and 40 for moi - I went into one chamber with Miles and Shani and then sat and relaxed while they went to visit two others - for the price of admission you are allowed to view three tombs - and then we went to see King Tut's only to find out that it was closed until 2 p.m. - and it was only 12:30. Hameda to the rescue!!! He found someone and we got a very personal tour - not that there is much to see - the tomb is very stark - not much to see - the walls are not at all decorated - but his mummy was there - so that was interesting - neither Miles nor Shani had ever seen a mummy up close and personal. After we finished at the Valley of the Kings we were taken out for a buffet lunch at one of the hotels - got in for 1/2 price - which was good. Then back to the hotel to rest - and put my fat foot up. We then headed to the train station at 6 - for our train at 7. Ahmed had assured us that this train would be much better - we learned that if you want a 'good' train you must take a train that leaves prior to the 'sleep' train - another tidbit that will be stored away. And we had to book our trip from Cairo to Alex in Cairo - not sure why - but for some reason the train company does not know when the train from Luxor will arrive in Cairo - so could not reserve the seats for us to Alex. Got to Cairo around 4:30 a.m. - only to find that the ticket office was not open - did not open until 5:15 and we caught the 6:00 a.m. train - and I booked first class tickets - I was tired of being squeezed into a seat beside someone else - always a male - the first class car has only 3 seats across - so I got the single seat and Miles and Shani got the double one - and it only cost 8 LE more - less than 2 dollars - money well spent.
While in Luxor we went to Egypt Air and made reservations to fly to Sharm el Sheikh. I had phoned while we were in Alex and had been told that there were no places on the plane that was leaving on the fourth - so I was going to drive it. But Shani - ever the travel agent was not sure - so we stopped in - and after a few phone calls regarding the hotel we were staying at - we booked a flight leaving at 7:00 a.m. on Friday - Jan. 4th - and coming back to Alex on the 8th at 9:20 p.m. - remembering that Miles and Shani are heading out on the 9th at 3:15 a.m. Talk about cutting it close - but we got tickets - cost a bit over 700 LE per person - well worth it in our books - a 50 minute flight as opposed to an 8 hour car trip. (Around 130 USD for the return flight for each of us - not bad).
We arrived in Alex from Luxor at around 10:00 a.m. - headed home and laundry was done - this is when a dryer would have been nice - but the laundry finally dried - then we were off to Sharm at 6:00 a.m. - I phoned a taxi company to come and pick us up - there is a company here that is very 'western' - new cars - meter - yes - you read me right - meters - so no haggling about prices - it is more expensive but when travelling at 6:00 a.m. - well worth the expense - the car arrived 5:30 - 30 minutes early - we were not quite ready - driver had to wait 10 minutes.
We arrived in Sharm around 9 - our flight was late - Egypt Air seems to have a propensity for this - but not a biggie deal. We got thoroughly hosed by the taxi driver on our way to the hotel. Found out the price is between 25-35 LE - 50 at the most - and we paid 130 - oh well the price you pay for being a tourist. Arrived at the hotel - had to wait for our rooms to be made up - got hooked up at this hotel by a woman from one of the 'clubs' I belong to - the general manager is my friend's husband's nephew - follow that??? It is a four star resort - two pools - 1/2 board - means breakfast and supper included in the price - they have their own beach - shuttle bus to take you to the beach. While we were waiting the GM came out from the dining area - he had been eating his breakfast and took us to the dining area for our breakfast - after breakfast he took us to our rooms - I had a single - two single beds - nice large bathroom - walkout balcony - Miles and Shani had a double room - double bed and a balcony - both beside the pool. We had a rest and then toured around the grounds. The weather was wonderful - we spent a fair bit of time lazing around the pool or on the beach - we spent one day - Monday the 7th - on a boat that took us to some coral reefs and we snorkelled - there were two stops - I only went for one of the tours - too many people for me - and I was wearing 'fins' and I am certainly not used to them - but it was good fun. Miles had a blast - Shani was a tad chilly - one drawback to being so slim - getting back on the boat was another challenge for me - I had two of the crew pulling me and Miles pushing me from behind - after being in the water my legs were like rubber and getting them to drag me out of the water was beyond their capability - will be so nice when my foot is better so I can start working out again. I really need it. We spent a leisurely Tuesday- well not really - Miles had money left over and it was burning a hole in his pocket - he had found a leather jacket that he really liked so he bought it - he had seen a sweater he liked but the shop did not have his size - and he found another shop that had it - so he tried them on and bought a sweater - he bought Shani some pearls - necklace, earrings and bracelet. I headed back to the hotel and left them to it - my foot had had it.
We left the hotel around 7:30 - our flight was 40 minutes late - Miles was getting antsy - we made it back in time though. My friend Anne and her hubby met us at the airport in Alex and drove us home - Anne came with us to the airport - Miles drove - and they made their flight no problems and I drove home - dropped Anne off and then came home and got about 4 hours sleep and here I am.
Will work at putting pictures up later - have to shower and get out and get some groceries. So TTFN.