Thursday, November 1
What a cool day! Not the temperature, the stuff we did. First thing was the pyramids. These enormous things that you learn about in Social Studies in grade school? We were there! I climbed inside the great pyramid, on of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. It’s not for the claustrophobic or if you have a bad back. Part of the way up you have to walk bent over and you come down the same way. It’s very narrow in parts as well and there’s only one way in and one way out so people are passing each other bent over. It was really hot and stuffy inside there too.
Four of us took a camel ride as well. Joanne rode on "Charlie," Anne Marie was on "Moses," Clarence rode "Mickey," and I was on "Columbus." I had to do both of those things just for the experience. Now I can say "I was at the Pyramids, I climbed up to Cheops’ burial chamber, and I rode in the desert on a camel.
After that we drove down to the Sphinx to take some pictures. Then we went back to the fast food place where we were yesterday for lunch. I didn’t have any this time. It didn’t make me sick yesterday (although one or two of our people weren’t well after eating there yesterday) but I didn’t enjoy it enough to want another one. From there our guide took us to a store that sells cotton and linen products (it’s called Funky Bros.) and from there we headed to Sakkara.
At Sakkara there is the very first pyramid tomb known as the "step pyramid." Rather than the conventional rectangular shaped tomb, the Pharaoh Djoser decided his tomb would have them stacked up on top of each other. His actual burial chamber was dug into the bedrock underneath the pyramid. We also went into the Mastaba, the rectangular tomb, of Mereruka who was Djoser’s Minister of Finance and his son-in-law. I was amazed that we could actually walk into that tomb and touch, actually see and feel, the carvings on the wall that still have some paint on them after over 4000 years.
After returning to Giza we stopped at a place called "Relax Perfume Center" where they manufacture and sell "Essential Oils," the oils they extract from various flowers. This is done a lot in Egypt and much is exported for making perfumes but the oils are more concentrated then perfumes and colognes. We got back to the hotel in mid afternoon and were able to relax a bit before supper.
This touring can get tiring and I’m only 41. I can’t imagine how some of the septuagenarian are handling it.
Friday, November 2
We left Cairo today, had our last view of the pyramids as we drove away, crossed the Nile for the last time, and went downtown to the citadel. It was built by crusaders and captured by Saladin. Within the citadel is the Mosque of Mohammed Ali (not the boxer). Ali was an Albanian who became the first king of Egypt after claiming independence from Ottoman rule.
After that we headed east out of Cairo toward Sinai. You don’t have to go far from the Nile until you’re in total desert. There is some development in desert areas, probably confined to areas near the highways. We came to the Suez Canal and passed under a tunnel at the south end of the canal. Once on the other side of the canal we were in Sinai.
Shortly after turning south along the Gulf of Suez we stopped at Ain Musa, the Spring of Moses. I’ve heard conflicting reports about what this is supposed to be. What I read, and what would make the most sense to me according to its location, is that this was Marra where the Hebrews found bitter water. God told Moses to throw a branch from a certain tree into the water and it would become sweet. We saw a dirty well with some garbage in it. And, as everywhere we’be been, people tried to sell us cheap trinkets and junk. And little kids were all around us begging. They were really adorable but you’d go broke helping all the poor and adorable people here. They have no social assistance here so people do what they can. All around the pyramids, the Citadel/Mosque, any tourist area, they’re trying to sell you postcards, pens, cheap necklaces, fake papyrus pictures, bookmarks, books. It’s the same stuff everywhere. Some are very persistent, more often with women and older people. I just say "no, no" and they usually leave me alone. Maybe I’m big and scary.
After Ain Musa we traveled a little further south and came to Banana Beach, a restor that seems, for the most part, to be abandoned. It seems very broken down. You can tell that it was, and could be, gorgeous but maybe they overestimated how many people might come there and then went bust. The tour guide claims that most are condos owned by people from Cairo who really only come in summer. I don’t know about that. It looked pretty rundown to think anyone used it and there were more resorts like it up and down the shore. The one thing that was open and looked pretty good was the restaurant where we had lunch. Not terrible.
From there we headed the rest of the way to St. Catherine, the town and monastery at the foot of Mount Sinai. We arrived in the dark, had supper, and I wrote this in my journal just before going to bed at 9:37 p.m. They’ll be getting those of us who are climbing the mountain up at midnight so I won’t sleep much. Maybe not at all since we have a few mosquitoes in the room.