Egypt – Dad’s Memories

These are Dad’s raw and, with one exception, unedited thoughts on our trip to Egypt. Enjoy.


Quite a trip.  Started with a flight from Chicago to Frankfurt Germany, a 3 hour layover (which was just right) and then a 4.5 hour flight to Cairo.  Our rep picked us up in Cairo at about 4pm and whisked us through the airport.  Then a hair raising trip in unbelievable traffic to our Hotel (LeMeredian Pyramids) – it was over an hour away.  Our room had a view of the Pyramids.  A very nice hotel.   Went downstairs and exchanged money in the bank in the lobby (incredibly convenient – they exchange so much money you would not believe it).  Ended up seeing a really cool (but very expensive) wedding in the hotel lobby.  One thing that sticks in my mind is one of the women who was at the wedding wore a very sheek, incredibly beautiful full wrap dress which also covered her head/hair (Egyptian).  Her face was not covered.  The dress  was a light purple and really beautiful.  It reminded me of Lauren’s wedding dress and how it well it fit her.  We ended up eating in the lobby because we wanted to see the wedding.  Very short ceremony and then some really cool music by a 10 piece walking band.  After that, they went up to a party room and whooped it up until really late – we could hear it in our room.  We found out that Egyptians rarely drink and weddings are a time that they can let loose!

First day of sightseeing was way better than expected.  It was Friday and traffic was light (Friday and Saturday is the weekend in Egypt).  We visited a couple of early sites with Rebar (our guide).  The guide went over some recommendations at the sites we would visit – don’t stop and discuss any of the souvenirs at the sites – the souvenirs are junk and you will never get away from the people – just walk past and try not to make eye contact.  It was good advice.

One of the things that sticks out was Rehab’s explanation of Egypt back in ancient times.  Basically it involved a simple structure – to the east of the Nile was life because the sun rose in the east.  To the west of the Nile was death because the sun sets in the west.  Beyond that, Egypt was broken into 2 countries – the South and the North.  Kings and Pharaohs’ worked to unite the North and South.  She drew the explanation in the dirt at one of the first sites we visited.  Very interesting.  The Valley of the Kings is on the West side of the Nile.  All of the cities were on the East side of the Nile.

We moved on and  ended up at a site where the first pyramids were built (step pyramid for example).  They learned quickly on these early pyramids and realized that a really good solid foundation was vital.    Then we stopped at a carpet manufacturing place (which was really just a sales location).  Lots of high pressure wheel/dealing and we ultimately bought a wall hanging – bartered down to about 1/3 to 1/2 of original price, but I think it was still higher than we needed to pay.  The Egyptians are incredible barterers!  And we later found out from Rebar on our final day in Egypt that there is no difference between foreign and Egyptians – those selling expect to barter on everything.   There is no “Egyptian Price” just for Egyptians.

Next came lunch across from Great Pyramids.  One weird item was that the food was on the table when we walked in – the Blue Sky travel rep orchestrating our trip and hotel was there and he had it on the table just before we walked in.  Our guide did not eat with us – and we later found out she did not eat.   It was kind of cold since our table was right in the draft of a really strong A/C vent…  Six other American tourists with Blue Sky were at a table next to us – we later ended up meeting them on the River Boat!  They were traveling with a “Tourist Police Officer”.  Apparently Thomas and I (being just the 2 of us) did not warrant a tourist police officer (the group later kidded us on the fact that we were “expendable”).

After lunch we had our first opportunity to wash up / go to the bathroom – it is so hot dehydration is a real issue… so “toilets” or “W.C.” – water closets are not very busy, and frankly they are very hard to find a decent one!  Then we went to the Great Pyramid.  We bought an extra ticket (above the admission price – 200 LE each) to go in the Great Pyramid – ended up having to borrow 150 LE (poundsEgyptian) from Rebar.  I had left most of my Egyptian money in the hotel safe and had used a bunch of it to buy the wall hanging for Thomas.   One dollar US buys about 7 or 8 Egyptian pounds.   The US dollar is very strong right now.

First thing we did was go in and crawl/climb up into a chamber at the end of a passageway in the Great Pyramid.  Very cool.  It was about a 20 foot wide by 30 foot long room with a ceiling that was about 20 foot high.   It was unbelievable to think that the builders (5000 years ago!) could have designed and constructed this room in the middle of this pyramid.  The ceiling had perfectly smooth surfaces and spanned across the 20 foot width!  Incredible.

When we got out, a camel driver met us and we got to go on a pair of camels!  This turned out to be the best picture of the entire trip – it really captured the day with our goofy safari hats, the camels, and the pyramids in the background.  It looks like a fake picture – it was not!  The camel ride was much longer than we expected and we went by these huge holes near the pyramid where there had been 3 ships (yes – actual sailing ships) buried in compartments.  They were for the King or Pharoah to use in the afterlife.  Once done with the camel ride, we visited a museum on the backside of the pyramid to see one of the unearthed ships – again, very impressive.  We had to put on huge shoe socks on our feet to reduce vibration in the building that could weaken the 5000 year old ship!

The Great Pyramid is just that.  2.3 million carved stones to make the pyramid over a 21 year period.  Thousands involved in construction which was only done during periods that the river was flooded and there was not crops to tend in the fields.  Thus there were about 4 months of the year spent on construction.  It is truly hard to understand how a people could have done this back then.  The stones were all interlocked so you could not simply pull one out.  The fit on the stones was so precise that the sides of the pyramid were within millimeters of one and other in total length!  Again – just incredible accuracy.  Thomas really liked the idea of going in the pyramid – it was a highlight for his trip.  The camel ride was the best.

When we got back to the hotel, we hit the pool and then there was another wedding about to take place in the hotel lobby.

The next day we were whisked off to the airport for a flight from Cairo to Luxor.  We ended up with a minor delay due to a flat tire on the van that was to pick us up.  Then off to the River Boat that would be our home for the next 7 nights.  The boat has about 60 rooms on 3 main levels and then a lower level for crew and guides.  There is a sun deck on top with an extremely small dipping pool (not too appealing based on its small size and heavy use).   The food on the boat was generally very good.  Lots of choices and the morning had a cook to order chef for making eggs or omelettes.  All the food on the boat was included in the price.  Drinks (except coffee and juice in the morning) were not included.  Water was very expensive (about $5 for a 1.5 liter bottle – 18 LE).  Beer was not too bad – about $4.50 (35 LE).

The first full day on the boat was a tour of Karnak Temple in Luxor followed by visiting Luxor Temple.  Very cool and very large!  The afternoon we relaxed on the boat after lunch and then Thomas and I started to get off the boat and just walk around to try and get some exercise since we really were not getting much exercise and we were eating quite a bit (the buffet was really good those first few days).  That night we got a nighttime tour of Karnak for a “Sound and Light Show”.  One of my favorite pictures is the one of the Luxor Temple at night with its many columns illuminated.

The next day was a trip to Valley of the Kings.  This was totally awesome as it is the place where Pharoah’s and Kings were entombed.  It turns out that during that period (about 3500 years ago), workers started on the resting place as soon as the King came into power.  Thus some of the tombs/chambers were quite long and deep into the mountain.  Others (if the king didn’t make it too long) were rather short.  We got to visit 3 of the 30+ tombs.  They have 6 of them open for visits at any one time.  No pictures at Valley of the Kings allowed.  Then we visited another site that I cannot remember the name of and also visited an Alabaster store and a few other quick stops.  Then back to the boat for a late lunch, another walk about for Thomas and I and then the boat pulled out.

Very interesting ride.  We met a young lady from the Netherlands.  Joyce and her Mom were on the boat.  She was a total riot – she could talk non-stop and her English was very good.  Everything was really “shitty” (one of her favorite terms!).  I kidded her about it over the course of the boat ride.  The sounds coming from the towns/cities we went by stuck with me.  The “Call to Prayer” on the loudspeakers came 5 times a day!  It sounded very exotic and echoed all the way out on the Nile and to our boat as we cruised south.  We locked through a lock on the Nile about 10pm and it was incredibly busy in the town around the lock.  Cars honking, people hanging out of vehicles, all kinds of commotion.  Lots of women, men and children still up and about at 11pm!  It seemed like the people really woke up when it was that time – must have been due to the cooler temps at night.  Anyway, a very exotic feel to it as well.  At the lock, people tried to get the ladies on the boat to buy things by winging them up on the upper deck and then bartering on the price.  Their hopes were to sell the dresses, towels, wall hangings.  If you didn’t want it, you’d throw it down to them.  These guys actually tied on to the moving boat at times and tried to sell as well.  Needless to say, there were several times when the returned merchandise ended up right smack in the Nile!

The next morning we were stopped at a city that had another temple to visit.  This time we got a horse and carriage ride to the temple.  Very cool and very chaotic to ride through the streets.  There was one point where the cars/horses/buses all came together in a total traffic jam in the city center.  There are no traffic police, people just somehow work it out and we finally made it through.  Return to the boat was the same carriage.  Our guide accompanied us on the tours and actually boarded the boat in Luxor just before it left.  He would be on the boat with us for 4 nights.  Mohammed was our guide and his English was pretty good but not as good as Rehab’s.  They both learned English by watching American TV shows and movies.  The shows are shown with Arabic subtitles, but without dubbing over the voices.  Thus, it is common for Egyptians to learn English via this method.  Very interesting!

We continued on the boat ride that afternoon/evening and got to Aswan by the next morning.   Aswan is a beautiful city and much more modern and clean than Cairo.  It really felt new.  The streets were easier to follow.  People actually obeyed the traffic lights.  We stayed in Aswan for 2 nights.  We got up at 0330 for a trip to Abel Simbel.  This was a interesting ride.  We picked up box lunches and ended up joining up with the 6 other Americans and utilized their guide since it made no sense to travel with our guide and just Thomas and I for such a long bus ride (about 4 hours!).  The trip to Abel Simbel was monitored by the tourist police and we ended up travelling in a convoy of buses and cars across the desert.  The bus we were on carried extra gas – unfortunately the gas was stored in the vehicle (at least initially until we bitched about the odor making us feel really sick).  The gas got moved to the top of the bus in the storage area.    The guides had recommended we take a pillow since we were up so early but none of the 8 tourists did that.  It may have been a good idea though as the ride got really long.  The only person that slept well was the guide (who had a pillow).  He had told us that he would wake us 30 minutes before reaching Abel Simbel so we could eat our breakfast.  Naturally, he slept right through it and didn’t wake up until we were pulling into the parking area!  Some of the other Americans were not so happy with that!  The temple itself was absolutely amazing and if you ever visit Egypt should be visited.  It was moved higher in the 60’s when a new dam was built that flooded a fast area.

The ride back was eventful.  About 45 minutes before we got back to Aswan, the air conditioning went out.  It was 115F outside!  I seriously expected the bus to fail due to engine failure, but luckily the issue was not with the engine or belts but with the a/c system.  We roasted but did visit the High Dam and then Thomas and I headed back to the boat while the other 6 had to continue with their sightseeing stops since they were on a much shorter iternary than we were (they were flying out of Aswan the next morning).   We talked to them later and said they were completely exhausted for the afternoon stops and one of them (that we visited the next day) they never even got out of the bus.  It was the unfinished obelisk and Thomas and I found it incredibly interesting as it showed exactly how the ancient Egyptians were cutting/carving this 100 foot obelisk out of solid granite.  It broke during the work so it just got left where it was.  It was probably about 70% complete.

I lose track of the days, but we ended up visiting Philae Temple which involved a boat ride (small boat) over to the island.  It was really a nice ride.   Thomas caught a great picture as we were leaving of the temple and its reflection on the Nile.  We did some other things including a market visit, a visit to some native people’s huts/homes, etc.  I have already started to lose track!  (Only 1 month ago!).

We picked up some new people in Aswan and the boat left to start heading back to Luxor.  On the tour we stopped at a city and temple that we had already visited on the ride down.  Our guide invited us out to a coffee shop.  This was a very short stop on the boat so we had to have boat passes with us to ensure that we did not get left there.  We invited Joyce along – who thoroughly enjoyed it and took a bunch of video of our guides who were on the boat.  It was fun to talk with the guides in a more relaxed format about life in Egypt.  After we returned to the boat there was a party in the bar area.  This one involved a belly dancer and a guy that continuously spun around – and I mean he really spun around!  He went on for about 15 minutes and never stopped.  He did a bunch of near acrobatic things during his show.  He was way, way better than the belly dancer!

Our last night was spent in Luxor on the boat.   We  could have booked an optional tour to ride a hose/carriage around Luxor, but both Thomas and I agreed it was not worth it.  And we had a big day the next day since we were flying to Cairo.  Before our guide left the boat we gave him a tip.  We settled up our expenses (on-board) and went to sleep.   The next morning we were up early to get to the airport.  Blue Sky had a rep at the boat to ensure we were all set to go.  The guide or rep had arranged wake up calls for us every day of the trip – kind of a nice deal.
We flew to Cairo and were met by Blue Sky rep and driver who took us downtown Cairo.  It was Friday so traffic was not bad again (weekend for Egypt).  We picked up Rehab on the way.  Our first stop and in my mind one of the best was the visit to the EgyptianMuseum.  It is really old (like built around 1900) but was jam packed with interesting things.  Rehab explained the revolution (which occurred/started right outside the Museum).  We could not take cameras into the Museum.   She started out with trying to summarize our trip and the time frames the temples, pyramids, etc were built to the time and exhibits in the Museum.  Incredibly interesting to discuss.  Things that stuck out:  Rosetta Stone – a stone that had been carved during Greek times and basically allowed a conversion between ancient hieroglyphics and Greek writing.  It provided an incredible key to the early times as it was essentially a conversion table since it was written in 3 different languages.

The other thing that completely sticks out in my mind is the King Tut exhibit.  Unbelievable!  There was so much that was discovered in his tomb.  The Burial Mask that he wore was there – it was so full of color (blue) and made of gold.  Amazing!  There were actual board games that he used in the tomb and now at the museum.  There were 3 chariots that he used.  There were chest after chest full of belongings (one of which was a diaper!).  His fan made of feathers was still partially intact.  The visit to the museum was absolutely great.  This was an extra add-on trip I booked back in October and we were both really glad we did it.  It tied all the loose ends together.  After the museum we went to lunch and then visited a Christian church where Rehab explained her past 5 years – we were sitting on one of the church pews (it was a church visited by Jesus so has huge significance).  Anyway, in the 2009 timeframe she had finished school (6 years at Egyptian Museum) and became a tour guide.  She was very successful.  [Note from Thomas: I’ve removed the story of Rehab to protect her privacy.]

We then moved on and visited a Mosque in Cairo.  It was an incredible weather day and Rehab made note of it.  We could see the step Pyramids from this elevated Mosque location in Cairo and also see the Great Pyramids at Giza.  She said that never happens.  It is rarely ever that clear to see that far – the sand and smog or whatever else is in the air normally prevents it.  But it was so clear that day that we could see it.

After that it was back to the hotel where the Blue Sky rep met us (again!) and made sure we had the same room we had on our first 2 nights of the trip (I had asked for it since it was such a great view and the a/c worked!).  It was sooooo nice to get back to a room where you could take a shower and how worry about the drain being clogged.  It was soooo nice to have a large room where we could spread out!  We had dinner in the hotel restaurant and I gave a big tip to the bartender who was also our waiter.  I thought I had a new friend for life – he was so grateful you would not believe it.  He shook our hands and hoped we would come back soon.  It was really neat to get such a reaction.

The next morning we were up by 6 and had breakfast at the buffet.  Then by 7 the Blue Sky rep was there to make sure we were on our way to the airport.  He ensured we moved through the airport lines briskly – it would have been super confusing without the guide.  Then off to Frankfurt in an Airbus.  This is where I, unfortunately, put final comments on a journal I had been keeping.  On the 4.5 hour flight I finished up with the journal and put it in the seat back pocket in front of me.  It was a very deep seat back pocket.  Naturally I didn’t check the pocket adequately when we got to Frankfurt.  We figured it out about 30 minutes after we had gotten off the plane.  We went back to the Egypt Air area, but could not get to the gate.  We went to the Lufthansa Service Desk and a nice guy really, really tried to help us.  He actually called out to the Egypt Air cleaning supervisor and asked about the journal.  We could not get it and it was not reported to have been found by his cleaning people.  I would later e-mail a request to Egypt Air to look for the journal.  They answered a day or 2 later with a response saying they did not find it.  Oh well… if that is all that goes wrong on a trip like this it was truly not bad.  The flight from Frankfurt to Chicago went well.  We were stuck in the very last row of the plane since the crappy internet connection at the hotel did not allow us to get seat assignments.  Luckily there were 2 seats open in a row by the window that we talked the stewardess to let us have – it was way better than the crappy seats in the back.  It made the 9 hour flight a lot better!

Then we got picked up in Chicago and stayed at the Park and Stay hotel (Quality Inn).  It was very comfortable and had a good breakfast.  Then off to Madison to drop Thomas off!

Quite a trip.  One I’m sure we both will never forget.


I'm Tom. I'm a <a href="">software engineer </a>at <a href="">Redox</a>. I live in <a href="">Madison</a>, Wisconsin, and I try to <a href="">travel</a> for at least 1 month per year. Recently I've gotten back into making videos, and I love cooking. I've worked many places, mostly startups. Here, I write about the things I've learned. Follow me on <a href="">Instagram</a>.

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