Thursday, February 28, 2013

5th Post - Jordan Extension for Petra & the Dead Sea

Nineteen of us continued on after the Egypt trip to Jordan, for two nights at Petra and one night at the Dead Sea. Rather than add more photos to the Egypt blog, I've created a separate blog with one big post for the fantastic sights in Petra and the Dead Sea. Click on this link to see the Jordan Extension blog.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

4th Post - Cairo, The Pyramids & Sphinx, and Alexandria

The Grand Finale!
We flew from Aswan to Cairo into the chaos of the metropolis of 22 million people. The traffic! The only rule of driving is 'don't hit anybody'!! 
We checked into our fabulous and historic Mena House Hotel at the foot of the pyramids. This is the famous hotel where international peace talks are held and all the elite of the world stay (like us, of course!).
That evening we went to the Sound and Light Show and the next morning we headed for Sakara and the Step Pyramid. There we saw the oldest man-made stone structure in the world!
After lunch we were rewarded with our visit to the Great Pyramids of Giza. Great photo ops as well as lots of hawkers pushing their wares. We concluded with close-up shots of the Sphinx.
Saturday was our day for Alexandria, with Pompeii's Pillar, the Catacombs, and the fabulous Library of Alexandria. The Library alone is worth a visit to Egypt. Architecturally it is a world wonder and the collection of printed and technological information is mind-boggling.
Sunday was our day for the Egyptian Museum and Old Cairo. What an experience weaving through the crowded streets and markets. The Egyptian Museum is on Tahrir Square where we took pics of tents of protesters camped out there. However, at no time did we have any sense of uneasiness and in fact during our whole tour we felt perfectly comfortable and safe in the hands of our Memphis Tours hosts!!
Sunday evening, Memphis Tours hosted a farewell party for us with gifts, a skit, and an amazing Tanora (ancient Egyptian dance).
Eighteen of us continue on to Jordan for a visit to Petra and the Dead Sea, but all of our group leave Egypt with memories of fantastic sights, warm and welcoming people, and new friends. This is a trip everyone should do!

Crossing the Nile River in Cairo

Fruit Stand in Cairo

Crowded markets and streets

City of the Dead - cemetery, but people live here as well!

Pyramid view from our Mena House Hotel

The Sphinx by night at the Sound and Light Show

Leora with a funny Pharaoh

Cobras guard the Step Pyramid at Sakara

Family photo at the oldest man-made stone structure in the world - Sakara

Ahmed Mohamed, our fabulous guide for Cairo and Alexandria lectures on Sakara.

Our group listens enraptured as Ahmed Mohamed expounds!

Osama (not bin laden!), my Egyptian Brother!
Osama was our tour/project manager and met us when we first arrived at the airport in Cairo and was with us the entire time in Cairo and Alexandria to make sure everything went smoothly (and it did!!).
He very quickly became part of the family and here Vaughn gets a photo in front of the Step Pyramid.

Prone statue of Ramses II

Ramses II and Rambo!

Barbara and the Alabaster Sphinx

Carrying bread to market!

Group photo at the Great Pyramids of Giza

Merrill and Kent frame the Great Pyramid of Cheops


Sam, the Bedouin

Cindy & Allen


Ken actually gets to finally touch a pyramid

They are really not that big after all!

Kay and the Pyramid and Sphinx


High Five with a young salesman

Twila kisses the Sphinx

Our lovely hotel, the MENA HOUSE HOTEL, GIZA

Breakfast in view of the pyramid

Lobby of the Mena House Hotel

Mena House swimming pool

Mena House Corridor

Zack gives us a tour of VIP suites. This door leads to the suite where the British General Montgomery lived for 6 months during World War II and the battles in North Africa.

Sitting at Churchill's desk. Notice the photo of Winston Churchill behind the desk.

Chloe on Churchill's terrace

Queen of Egypt (Mother) and two attendants in Churchill's bedroom.


Our excellent guide Ahmed (both our guides were named Ahmed!) tells us about 
Pompeii's Pillar in Alexandria
Wendi and Vaughn in a giant stone jacuzzi bathtub

LaShawna in front of Pompeii's Pillar

A myriad of clotheslines next to Pompeii's Pillar

all in a day's work of a stone mason

Street Market in Alexandria

Pizza baker

The fabulous Library of Alexandria

the world's languages carved on the exterior of the library

The expansive interior of the Alexandria Library

From the bottom looking up

The Alexandria library opened in 2001 and is built on the site of the historic library which was destroyed by an earthquake in 742 a.d. At the time it contained the greatest collection of information known to man, including how the pyramids were built and many other secrets of the ancients. Nearly all was lost in the destruction. The modern library has quickly become one of the greatest collections of information, both digital and print, in the modern world. The visit was a highlight of our trip.

Ruth poses with local women at the Citadel of Alexandria, built on the site of the old Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the original 7 Wonders of the Ancient World.

Gaylene and her young friends

Ahmed and Osama bought us all home made ice cream from a huge vat in a store near the Citadel.

An Egyptian salvage yard and friendly people

Rooftops of Cairo from the bridge leading to the Nile. So many houses are never finished.

They may be poor, but look at all the satellite dishes!!

The Egyptian Museum, one of the foremost museums of antiquities in the world. Unfortunately, no cameras were allowed inside the museum at all, so this is it to show our visit there. We spent two hours in the museum with our guide Ahmed and he showed us predominately the treasures of King Tut. 

Adjacent to the Egyptian Museum is the burned out shell of the former administration building of the (then) ruling National Party of President Mubarek. The building was burned in the Arab Spring of January 2011.

The Museum is also right on Tahrir Square and here in the distance are tents of some of the protesters still occupying the area. We don't know what may have been making news about Egypt at home while we've been here, but we have felt absolutely no uneasiness or threat at all while here. The disconnect between our nervousness about coming and the reality of our fabulous experience has been astounding.

Old Cairo - the Citadel and the Mosque

The Mosque at the Citadel

French influence on the ceiling of the mosque

Our ladies are all modestly dressed for the mosque visit

Skyline of Cairo from the Citadel

Coptic Area of Old Cairo and the Coptic Christian Church

The 'Hanging Church' is built on an ancient tower, with no other foundation but the tower itself.

Khan al Khalili Market

Memphis Tours hosted us for a farewell party at our Mena House Hotel. Mr. Gamel, Marketing Director, welcomes us and thanks us for coming to Egypt. We provided feedback to him and the staff on our amazing 11 days in Egypt and on their great staff.

Marwa Samir was my contact in helping to organize the tour. Her with me and her 2-year-old daughter.

The highlight of the evening was a Tanora Dancer. Tanora is an ancient Egyptian art form where the dancer whirls at a dizzying speed for over 10 minutes, creating various colorful impressions with the exotic dress.

Spinning like a top at high speed

Tanora Dancer in full swing. What a treat for our farewell evening in Cairo.
Then we were off to bed to get some sleep before our 4:30 departure for the airport.
Most of the group continued on to Amman, Jordan for an extension to include Petra and the Dead Sea.