Getting Ready

So, we will be leaving on Saturday for our trip. I'm really excited and can't wait to go, but I seriously hate packing and I haven't gotten very far. I'm still trying to figure out how to fit 12 days worth of stuff into the smallest suitcase I own. This little crawfish is going with us on our trip (because Louisiana, that's why). Sadly, he doesn't have a name. I think it's because we can't make a decision (you should see us trying to decided on a place to eat). A couple of days ago we had a crawfish boil (sorry little guy) and during the festivities we voted on a name - we didn't like it. So he remains nameless.


News & Weather

At the bottom of this page you will find a news feed showing current events in Egypt (you can click on them to read the articles) as well as a Weather Bug application so that you can see just how hot it really is while we are over there.



We made it safely back from Egypt. The trip was great, but exhausting. We didn't have ready access to the internet while we were gone (there were cafes near our hotels, but - honestly - I was too tired to bother with finding them) so that's why there were no updates. I am uploading my pictures now (there are nearly 3000 of them) and I will post a day-by-day review of our trip soon.

I'm not sure what it means, but the best view of the sphinx and the pyramids is from the Pizza Hut across the street (I'm not kidding).


Coming soon

Updates are in the works and will be posted soon. I promise.

Kate & Belinda at the Colossi of Memnon:
Belinda & Kate at the Memphis museum:


Day 1 & 2 - The Trip Begins

May 24 & 25, 2008

Sorry for the delay, folks. It's taken me a little longer to get my act together to start posting. As Belinda indicated, we had no internet access during the entire duration of the trip. For those who live by their email, this was both a blessing and a curse. I think 13 days is the longest I've gone without checking my email in years. The first few nights, I actually had dreams about checking my email. Scary.

Anyway, the first two days of our trip were spent traveling to Cairo. We left for the Houston airport on Saturday morning around 8ish and didn't arrive at our final destination until 3-ish the next day. We left Natchitoches around 8:30 on Saturday morning to drive to Houston to catch a 9.5 hour Lufthansa Airlines flight to Frankfurt, Germany. *Note: a recurring theme throughout the journey through the breadbasket of the world is fraught with sickness – air, motion, and food.* Spirits were high at this point as we all crammed our luggage and 13 people into a 15 person passenger van. I’m not sure who the makers of this vehicle were kidding but 13 people do not fit comfortable in one of those vans and you can certainly not fit luggage into what they call “cargo space.” Thank goodness Dr. Hailey drilled us that we were to pack light. If anyone had packed adequately for a 13 day trip we most certainly would not have arrived in Houston fully luggaged.

After safely arriving at Houston Intercontinental Airport with a brief “technical stop” in Lufkin, everyone managed to make it through check-in and security in one piece. Prior to boarding, a few of us separated from the group to enjoy one last meal on American soil at a diner in the international terminal. Word to the wise, do not eat a guacamole hamburger and fried zucchini before getting on an international flight. I don’t know about those who ate with me but too much fried food does not a happy Kate make.

After we landed in Frankfurt, our connecting flight to Cairo was so close that we literally stepped off one plane and right onto the next. Fifteen or so hours in a tin can hurtling across space at 500 miles an hour is exhausting, especially once you've crammed 13 people into a 15 passenger van, including luggage, for four additional hours.

On the first leg of the trip, Belinda, Florence and I got a little punchy and decided to take lots of pictures of Boudin (which might be some of the only ones you'll see). For those of you who don't know, we took a little bit of Louisiana with us to Egypt. We officially dubbed him Boudin Praline LaFitte, or Bou for short. Surprisingly, he met a friend while over there, a little dinosaur named Melvin. We had a last-minute addition to our tour group, Michelle, a recent graduate from a small college in Massachusetts, who decided to bring a little bit of home with her as well.

The next leg of our flight left much to be desired. Belinda and I both suffer motion sickness. On the flight to Cairo it felt like we were on a bad rollercoaster. I guess the winds were high that day because for the last hour of the trip there were many moans and groans coming from various areas of the plane. Three of us sat in the middle section of the plane, me on the aisle, then Florence, then Belinda. Florence does not suffer this crippling ailment and was fine as our plane was tossed about. B and I, on the other hand, were miserable. At one point, a scream rang out in the back section of the plane. Apparently, a passenger couldn't contain himself and threw up on the flight attendant seated opposite him. If I had seen that, I would have surely lost it. Despite the trauma of flying into Africa, we made it safely to the ground -- only after the steering mechanism of the plane broke and we had to be ferried to the gate. (I'm not sure when that happened and I didn't want to ask.)

Following a quick trip through customs to purchase our visa and get a stamp in our passports, we made it to baggage. It was there we discovered that 7 pieces of luggage decided they needed a longer stay in Frankfurt and would join us two days later, meaning we would be wearing basically the same sets of clothing for four days in a row. Our tour coordinator, Tarek, was wonderful about it. Since this was an EF (Education First!) tour, we had a tour coordinator (TC), a tour guide, and full-time security. The TC met us at the airport and during our three stays in Cairo.

I don't remember the bus ride from the airport to the hotel, I was too sick to look out the window. Maybe Belinda can expound on that. We stayed in the Concorde Hotel about a block from the Nile River. We did not have a view of it, but we did have a lovely view of the building next door. Thankfully our guide, Magdi, was kind to us that first day and, after we arrived at the hotel, allowed us to eat dinner and go to bed. The next morning we were awoken at 2am to board a flight to Luxor to cruise down the Nile. More to come, so stay tuned!


The City of Cairo

Cairo. I’m not even sure how to begin describing the city of Cairo. Nearly 8 million people live within the city and over 17 million live in the greater Cairo area – it is Egypt’s largest city and the most populated city on the continent of Africa. It’s hard to wrap your head around those numbers when you’re from a town with, approximately, 10,000 (Leesville) or 20,000 (Natchitoches) people in it.

Traffic. People in Egypt drive like no place I have ever been (I thought Italy was bad, they have nothing on Egypt). Traffic lanes mean nothing, speed limits are arbitrary, turn signals are voluntary, and people and animals share the road with the vehicular traffic. A couple of us were coming back from a jewelry store and our driver took the wrong road off the traffic circle near our hotel (Alexandria’s (Louisiana, that is) traffic circle has nothing on these things – they were huge!). So, instead of just continuing down the road and turning around, he just backed up – on a one way street, INTO the traffic circle. He wasn’t the only one, this turned out to be pretty standard practice (I – I’m sure we all did – still feared for my life every time it happened). They also use a honking system to warn other drivers of their intent – 1 honk: I’m approaching, 2 honks: I’m passing, and 3 honks: I’m approaching quickly and passing. I also never wanted to be involved in an emergency situation while we were there because people just ignored the sirens of emergency vehicles.
Trash. When we got to Cairo, the first thing we noticed was the trash and dirt. There was trash everywhere, in addition to the dirt that blew in from the desert constantly. We found our later that the trash issue was because the government of Egypt had sub-contracted the trash collection and now only people who could afford it go their trash collected.
Pollution. The city was really polluted. You’ll notice in most of the pictures that the pollution just hangs over the city. The day we went to the pyramids, you could barely see all three of them when we were standing by the sphinx (a pretty short distance). Vehicle emissions are not regulated, the city grew unbelievably quickly, and unregulated lead and copper smelting all contribute to the problem (in addition to industry and trash burning).
Architecture. The city has some amazing architecture. We spent an afternoon at the bazaar and it was located inside the medieval walls of medieval Cairo. It was pretty awesome. Many of the structures in this area date from the 1100 and 1200s.
It was amazing. Despite all the things mentioned previously, I was fascinated by this city. At first, all the “city noise” was grating, but once I got used to it it was almost comforting. The sheer volume of people in one place was amazing to me and the fact that crime was so low was surprising. Most of the Egyptians we met were extremely nice and more than willing to help the silly Americas find their way to or from a location. It was also amazing to learn how many of them not only spoke English (and very well), but also spoke French or Spanish. One of our drivers told us that he spoke 8 languages (EIGHT!!) and that it only took him six months to learn each one. Our tour guide spoke 3.5 (as he told me) languages: Arabic, French, English, and some German.


Day 3

May 26, 2008

The third day of our trip started off at 2am. If we hadn't been awake already, we would have had one of the most startling wake-up call...ever. The phone was a rotary phone which rang very loudly. Not the most pleasant way to start one's day. Our wake-up call was so early because we had to catch a 5am flight to Luxor. Since we didn't have any luggage, it was a quick pack and down to our breakfast buffet. Since the water quality is so poor in Egypt, our guide, all of the books we read and all of the doctors who gave us our vaccines informed us not to drink the water. As such, we could not eat fresh fruits and vegetables and we had to brush our teeth with bottled water. Let me tell you, not being able to eat the b-e-a-utiful fresh foods was a killer. Although, the thought of suffering the mummy's revenge ensured that everyone stayed away from all of that.

If memory serves me correctly, the flight to Luxor was a quick one. I honestly can't remember if they even served us beverages. I took dramamex which makes me a little loopy. The first thing we did when we got into the city of Luxor was go to the Karnak Temple.

The Temple of Karnak:
After we left the Temple of Karnak, we checked in on our cruise ship, the MS Sindbad which would be our home for the next 5 days. We had lunch and then some of us went to the Luxor Museum. It was a great museum, but photos weren't allowed. After dinner, around 7pm, we went to the Temple of Luxor.

The Temple of Luxor:


Update on Updates

Kate and Annmarie and making their way to Arizona this week, so Kate won't be able to help with the updates until she gets back. I am going to do brief updates with pictures just so this gets done. When she gets back, if she wants to, she can add details and additional photos to what I post. Enjoy!

Hot air balloons on the Nile River:

Day 4

May 27, 2008

Today was Valley of the Kings and Hatchepsut's Temple Day. YAY!

We started out the day taking a boat across the Nile to catch our bus to the Valley of the Kings. On the way to the Valley, we stopped at the Colossi of Memnon for a photo op. At the Valley of the Kings, we went into 4 tombs: Tutankhamun, Thuthmosis III, Tauset/Sethnakht, and Ramses III. Me and Kate at the entrance to Tut's tomb...sweet!: The steep, crowded entrance to Thuthmosis III's tomb: When we left the Valley of the Kings, we went to Hatchepsut's Temple, which is actually a re-construction of the original temple. Only about 5% of this temple is original. If you look to the right of the ramp leading to the second terrace, you will notice it is about 4 feet higher than the left side. Oops: Some of the group, enjoying some of the original hieroglyphs at the temple site (on the first terrace):The ramp to the third terrace. Only a couple of people from our group went up there, it was so hot, we wimped out:After Hatchepsut's Temple, we went back to the ship. We were sailing this afternoon to Edfu. The cabin crew had a talent for folding towels. This evening, we had kissing swans:That night, we stopped in Esna to go through the Lock and Dam system there. Here is a shot of everyone waiting. Don't we look excited?Entering the lock:

Day 5

May 28, 2008

This morning we were docked in Esna. We went to the Temple of Horus at Edfu. Then we sailed to Kom-Ombo, where we visited the Temple of Horus and Sobek at Kom-Ombo. The shipped sailed this evening for Aswan and we had an Egyptian Galabya Party on board.

Everybody at the entrance to the Temple of Horus at Edfu:Columns in the temple: Me and Kate by the back wall of the temple: After Edfu, we sailed to Kom-Ombo. Here is another example of the towel folding genius of our cabin crew, an elephant: Some shots from the upper deck of our ship on the way to Kom-Ombo:The dual Temple of Horus and Sobek at Kom-Ombo:Again, with the towels. Monkey!:
The Galabya Party: