Sunday, April 16, 2017

Tour time: Cairo

On a bright sunny morning at 07:00, we and the crew of SV Jubilee hopped in a van with a driver and headed to Cairo for the day. Our goal was to visit the Egyptian Museum, Giza Pyramids, and the Khan el Khalili souk (market/bazaar).

The distance from Suez, where our sailboat was moored, to Cairo was only about 1.5 hours and the roads, unlike our trip to Aswan and Luxor previously, were in good condition, so we were off to a good start! The haze of brown smog preceded the arrival to the large City (2017 population of 9.5 million).

Our first stop was the Museum. On display were rooms and rooms of antiquities both large and small such as statues, items from tombs such as numerous sarcophagi with their inner and outer chambers, jewellery, mummified remains of the ancient royals, etc.

One room was dedicated to treasured items of King Tut. His solid gold death mask weighing 11 kg was on display as well as numerous other items of his of solid gold. We only managed to take 1 photo before being told that photos were not allowed.

Outer chamber of King Tut's mummy

Who can go to Egypt without seeing the great pyramids of Giza! So, after an early lunch, it was on to see these gigantic polyhedrons. To make the experience fun, everyone in our group chose camels as an apropos means of touring the site. The camels were joined together and a guide walked in front to lead the way first to a vantage point for a great photo op, where all 9 pyramids (3 large and 6 smaller) could be seen.

Ridin' high

Look waaay up

Our camel train then took us to the nearby Great Sphinx. It has had some restoration work done to it but still misses its nose. Rumour has it that Napoleon's soldiers shot it off. But more proof indicates that a dedicated Muslim destroyed it when seeing others worship the Sphinx; he was later lynched for this act. We may never know.

Judy and Jordan with Great Sphinx

The third stop of the day was the well known age old Khan el Khalili bazaar. Most of the shopholders are Egyptian and offer the tourist most anything you could want from golden or silver jewellery, beautifully decorated belly dancing costumes, fragrant spices with aromas, T-shirts, and souveniers galore. We wound our way down narrow streets and alleyways taking it all in.

Bazaar alleyway

With all our sights completed, it was decided to make a last stop at a large and well-stocked modern supermarket, something we hadn't seen in months. We filled our carts with items we couldn't get back in Suez.

Arriving back at Sea Turtle after dark, it was a long but satisfying day to be remembered for a long time...

Friday, April 07, 2017

Port of Suez

With an open weather window, we decided to make a run for the Gulf of Suez, even though Jordan was feeling a bit under the weather. With anchor hoisted at 17:30 on April 4th, we were off.

There was little wind blowing so it was motor-sailing. Later the northerlies started to blow against us, common in the Red Sea, so it was a bit of a rougher go. We entered the Gulf of Suez (not the Suez Canal), leaving the Red Sea behind us.

I was on watch the majority of the time as Jordan slept trying to recover. It was a tough slog into a strong opposing wind and waves. Freighters would come through a pack at a time as the Suez Canal has only one-way traffic in its narrow parts so traffic in the Gulf is in alternating convoys.

Just as Asia had a forest of fishboats to watch out for, the Gulf of Suez is full of oil/gas wells/platforms, hundreds of them.

Well/platform with its on-duty ship

And another...

Three days later on April 7th around 15:00, we entered Port of Suez (Tewfiq Harbour) at the north end of the Gulf of Suez and the south end of the Suez Canal.

A freighter passing from the Suez Canal

Our Agent, Captain Heebi from Prince of the Red Sea Co., was waiting and greeted us with a large cake and helped to tie us up to 2 mooring balls. He then quickly checked us in and took us to shore for hot showers.

Later that evening, we sat comfortably in the cockpit watching the freighters go by to the Suez Canal...

Finally the Red Sea bash was over!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Tour time: Luxor

We and the crew from SV Jubilee were excited to get going for this day's tour around Luxor of Egypt. As our driver whisked us along, our guide Archaeologist Khaled, told us we were first headed to the Valley of the Kings to visit 4 of the many tombs there.

It has become prohibited to take photos in the Valley as over the years the ancient colours in the tombs have shown signs of fading because of it. They take a hard line on this, so our memory photos were purchased on site.

There has been a lot written about this site and its significant tombs, so we have kept it rather short. Needless to say, the endeavours of the ancients to prepare for the afterlife were amazing. To what extent you want to find more on this period, or the specific sites, it's all available by internet searching now.

King Ramses IV: The tomb of King Ramses IV has maintained to date a lot of colour on the wall paintings. He came to power late in life and ruled for no more than 6 years.

King Ramses IX: One piece of artwork on the walls on his tomb included a scarab. A scarab is a bug (actually just a dung beetle!) that was a symbol of eternal life and good luck.

King Merneptah: This is the sarcophagus (a coffin usually made from stone) of the King.

Tutankhamun (King Tut): Came to power at the young age of 9 and died approximately 10 years later from unknown causes. Over 5,000 items were found in this tomb including his golden sarcophagus and death mask.

When we visited King Tut's tomb, his mummified body was present for viewing. Eww! What we saw was his visible head and feet with the rest of this body wrapped in white linen and placed in a climate-controlled glass box for preservation and observation.

After the Valley of the Kings, it was over to Hatshepsut Temple where photos were now allowed. Hatshepsut married at the young age of 12, common in those days. The Queen's temple consists of 3 levels and took 15 years to complete; it is considered one of the greatest Egyptian architectural achievements.

Hatshepsut Temple

It's interesting to note that in those days, the people only recognized men as rulers, so Queen Hatshepsut was made up to look like a man. That was enough for the people to accept her as such and permitted a royal afterlife preparation.

To top off our tours, we went to the east side of the Nile to see the Karnak Temple. After Angkor Wat of Cambodia, this is the second largest religious ancient site in the world, and after the Giza Pyramids of Cairo, the second most visited historical site of Egypt.

It consists of 134 massive pillars arranged in towering columns, several colossal statues, and an obelisk carved of solid granite 29.5 m (97 ft) tall and weighing over 320 tons.

Jordan and Judy by pillars

Judy beside a tall obelisk

How did the ancient Egyptians ever manage to construct such diametrically large and weighty projects! What makes Karnak different from other temples is the amount of time over which it was built - more than 2,100 years under several ruling pharaohs!

During our tours, our guide explained that a cartouche is a name spelled with Egyptian hieroglyphs enclosed in an oval with a horizontal line at one end which indicates the name is royal.

Cartouche in tomb at Karnak Temple)

If we wished, he said he could arrange for our names to be done in this way as jewellery. Here is my royal name (silver with gold hieroglyphics), complete with a raised scarab on the back!

Feeling all templed out, it was good to hit the road home to the comfort of Sea Turtle and to see how Chanty, our boat cat, made out without us for 2 days.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Tour time: Aswan

The barren desert shores of the Red Sea are a long ways from the fertile valley of the Nile where ancient Egyptian life started and ended...and that's where we were headed.

04:30 in the cool predawn, we along with 3 from SV Jubilee, loaded into the tour bus for the journey to the Nile to see the great ruin sites at Aswan and Luxor.

The first 4 hours travel was over poorly paved roads that saw only military check points and a rugged inhospitable landscape. The looming Nile was announced abruptly by a refreshing greenery of agriculture that only belayed an increasingly dense populous of penury.

As we turned southwards along the Nile's east bank towards Aswan, our progress was hindered by the congestion of buses, cars, donkeys and carts, and overloaded sugar cane trailers pulled by tractors to the mills. About 400 km and 7 hours later, we arrived at the city of Aswan.

We snatched up Aswani, our Egyptologist guide, then stopped for an authentic Nubian lunch overlooking the river. The tranquil setting was complete with the motorless feluccas (traditional wooden sailboats with lateen-type sails) effortlessly gliding by in the light Nile breeze.

A felucca sailing the Nile

Our first stop of sites of antiquities was the granite quarries used by the builders of the ancient wonders of the Nile to see the Unfinished Obelisk. They were a noted feature of that era's architecture and were required to be made from one solid granite stone. Pairs were placed at temple or tomb entrances for sun gods or others displayed as tributes to kings or queens.

But the Unfinished Obelisk was just that, never finished. It was the largest attempted. During the labourious carving of it out of solid granite, it was discovered it wasn't so solid. Crack! As a crack would be considered an insult to whom it was made in honour of, so progress was halted. And there it sits, in an unglamorous repose.

High hopes cracked

From there, we drove to 2 dams built on the mighty Nile River, the Aswan Low Dam (aka Old Dam) and the Aswan High Dam. The Low Dam provided irrigation but could not prevent the floods. So in the 1950s, the High Dam was built 6 km upstream that could provide valuable irrigation, end the annual flooding of the Nile, and bring electric power to Egypt to light homes and power industry.

Then it was off to the Philae Temple. This Temple was originally located on the Island of Philae but it was constantly being flooded after construction of the Aswan Low Dam. So to preserve it, they had to move it piece by piece about 500 m away to Agilkai Island to be reassembled where today it can be accessed by boat. An impressive feat!

Massive relocation project

Long corridor with just us

Finishing then in Aswan, we headed to Luxor where our hotel was waiting for us. Backtracking for the first couple of hours, then a couple more continuing along the rough road north along the Nile, we arrived late, tired, and hungry.

After a hasty check in, we headed to the busy rooftop restaurant for a typical Egyptian dinner as a 4-piece traditional band sang and played LOUD music. It would have been impossible to sleep so we stayed to watch a couple of following acts accompany the music.

The next act was an urban Whirling Dervish. He was like the Rhinestone Cowboy of Dervishes. His costume was a layered psychedelic affair of light and quilted colours that, with a glass of wine, also got your head spinning like a dervish. As he non-stop twirled, a few different layers would be discarded, giving a new appearance. Very good and entertaining. And he didn't fall down when he stopped twirling.

The following act started with the opposite amount of attire - an Egyptian belly dancer. That ended our first long and full day on tour.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A day of diving

Being Med-moored right next to 2 dive boats and continually watching them load up and take off for the day was enough of an excuse for Jordan to book on. After all, the Red Sea is considered by some as giving the best diving experiences in the world. Joining him were 2 crew from Jubilee.

Jordan said it was generally a pretty good dive in an abundance of healthy coral but the water left them chilled even though they wore wet suits.

Here are some nice shots he got...

Multitude of colourful corals

Blue-spotted stingray

Masses of fish and coral