Black Sea/Mediterranean 2007:
Day 11 - Alexandria and Cairo, Egypt


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Black Sea/Mediterranean 2007: [Day 1 - Athens] [Day 2 - At Sea] [Day 3 - Istanbul] [Day 4 - Varna] [Day 5 - Odessa] [Day 6 - Sevastopol] [Day 7 - At Sea] [Day 8 - Kusadasi] [Day 9 - Rhodes] [Day 10 - Limassol] [Day 11 - Cairo] [Day 12 - At Sea] [Day 13 - Athens]

Saturday, May 12: Oh please, oh please, oh please, let the port be open. Hooray! It was. After three days of wind storms, Alexandria's weather turned out to be perfect. We headed to the Queen's Lounge to wait for our shore excursion and picked up snack boxes provided for our long day ahead.
This photo shows Tom and Debbie stepping onto the continent of Africa for the first time -- six continents down, one to go (Antarctica).
We passed Norwegian Cruise Line's Norwegian Jewel on our way to the tour buses. The port is sparkling clean and guarded by armed guards.
There were 24 buses taking the three-hour journey to Cairo this day. Since we were traveling in a convoy with a police escort, every bus had to be loaded before we could leave. Each bus also had an armed guard aboard. We checked out the shops at the port where most of us would be picking up our last minute Egyptian souvenirs at the end of the day.
Our long journey to Cairo started with a drive through Alexandria. We passed gorgeous mosques, ...
... small stores, ...
... busy streets, ...
... and large apartment buildings.
Just outside of Alexandria, we followed a waterway for a while past fisherman in small boats ...
... and industrial areas.
There were more mosques ...
... and Maersk ...
... and suburbs ...
... and sheep ...
... and pigeon roost towers ...
... and still more mosques.
As we approached Cairo, we began seeing office parks for major corporations. The buildings were modern and often incorporated pyramids into the design.
Like we said... pyramids.
Speaking of pyramids, here's a real one! Every once in a while, we'd glimpse the real thing through the outskirts of Giza.
But we weren't there yet. We still had more residential and commercial areas to pass through, including hotels and luxury homes.
As we drove up to our first stop, we saw tourist police mounted on camels.
We stopped at a vantage point where it was possible to photograph the main pyramids at Giza. But we have our priorities, and we took this photo for Jill first.
Here they are -- the highlight of the day and the highlight of the cruise. Ladies and gentlemen, we give you the Pyramids of Giza!
Yeah, we were there. No big deal. :)
A group of riders on camels approached the area, with extra camels for tourists to ride and have their photos taken on. Despite receiving many, many enthusiastic offers, we declined these opportunities.
Of course, there were vendors selling things here. We started negotiating for an Egyptian cat statue and things went sour when we expressed slight interest in a second statue. The merchant wouldn't take "No" for an answer until the armed security guard from our bus came to our rescue. We did get the cat statue and it now stands regally in our living room.
This is the vantage point as seen from the bus heading to the pyramids for a closer look.
In the distance, we could see the faint outline of three more pyramids. We think these are the pyramids at Saqqara, featuring the step pyramid.
This photo shows a series of smaller pyramids (pyramids of queens) next to the Pyramid of Menkaure, which is the smallest of the Great Pyramids.
This is the Pyramid of Khufu on the left.
This is the base of the Pyramid of Khafre, also known as the Great Pyramid and the Pyramid of Cheops. It is the largest of the three pyramids. The tiny people give you some sense of scale of the size of this thing.
It was our next stop, and our tour guide, Nahla, handed out tickets to those who wanted to go inside the pyramid.
The path into the pyramid is a narrow, steep wooden walkway. Visitors have to stoop for much of the way, and people with claustrophobia are advised to pass on the experience. We were determined to try it anyway, but after seeing people coming out with sweaty faces and labored breathing, feeling the humid, hot air coming from the interior, and crouching to get inside, Debbie's claustrophobia kicked in and we crossed to the other side of the walkway to exit. If we ever get asked if we've been inside a pyramid, we can now say "yes." There's no need to elaborate that it was only about two feet in.
Clearly, Debbie appreciates the exterior of the pyramid much more than some stupid interior. The exterior is made up of huge stones, and isn't nearly as smooth as it appears from a distance.
This sign, posted at the bottom corner of the Great Pyramid, politely asks visitors not to climb.
There were vendors everywhere and we were constantly approached, but it was an amazing experience to see these incredible structures despite the endless annoyances.
Here, you can see one of the banks of lights that illuminates the pyramids at night, with the fleet of tour buses and the city of Cairo behind.
At the base of the Pyramid of Khufu is this unusually shaped museum.
We knew the Great Sphinx was around here somewhere, but it wasn't visible from the Great Pyramid or our previous vantage point. However, it turned out that it was hiding just a short way further down the hill from the Pyramids. We'll do a quick circle tour of this amazing sight for you. Here's view one ...
... view two ...
... view three (click here for a similar scene in Las Vegas) ...
... and view four. The Sphinx is in a trench of sorts, surrounded by large stone walls. Although the walls seem small compared to the Sphinx, look how large they are compared to the people in this shot.
This is one gorgeous monument, isn't it? We took in the views as long as we could stand, eventually breaking down and buying Egyptian headgear, bookmarks, and a bottle of Coca Cola with the logo in Egyptian. Every price was quoted in dollars, everything was extremely cheap, and every vendor was very aggressive.
Back on the bus again, we headed into town for our next destination. This Pizza Hut/KFC combo restaurant had English and Egyptian titles.
This bus stop sported Egyptian designs at the top.
Our next stop was a jewelry store and souvenir shop. We passed on the opportunity to buy gold and silver name cartouches in a high-pressure environment (you can buy them online for less money), and headed to the second floor to buy scarabs, socks, small statues and a mother-of-pearl box.
Most of the housing developments in Cairo look unfinished, with unfinished exterior walls and steel bars jutting out of the tops of most apartments.
Although the buildings look unfinished, they're covered with satellite dishes.
This is the Pharoanic Village, a museum that reenacts life at different stages of Egyptian history.
This was where Anwar Sadat resided when he was president of Egypt.
This is the magnificent Cairo Tower. We must have taken 50 photos of it.
We were so excited to reach our next destination -- the Nile! We saw these fish as we walked along a short dock to board the ship that served as our lunch destination.
Our ship was the Nile Maxim, owned by Marriott. It was a long, flat, rectangular barge.
The interior was gorgeous, with a stained glass ceiling and floor-to-ceiling windows for viewing the Nile.
The buffet lunch boasted Egyptian favorites and an incredible spread of desserts.
The real attraction was the Nile, of course. The two main tours to Cairo from Alexandria both feature the Pyramids, but the second main option is either the Nile luncheon we were on, or a trip to the Egpytian Museum of Antiquities. Faithful readers know how we feel about museums and about rivers, so picking the Nile option was a no-brainer for us. Tom tracked our position with his trusty GPS, which was able to tell us that we were, in fact, in Egypt.
This groovy floating nightclub is called Nile City.
This sleek beauty is the Blue Nile. That's the Cairo Tower again behind it.
We got a delightful surprise further up the river when we encountered these statues, identical in shape to the ones we saw in Berlin in 2002, but painted differently.
We weren't the only Egyptian-themed lunch barge plying the Nile that day. Check out this three-decker.
Here's another on the right, and that's a small red police escort boat on the left, with the Four Seasons and Hyatt hotels in the background.
Back inside, a band was playing Egyptian music, while this lovely lady belly danced for the crowd.
After a clothing change (and a fresh dusting of body glitter, we presume), she came back out to pose for photos with the guests. Our tablemate from Iowa was a good sport and posed.
We were drawn back outside as we cruised back toward our dock, because we didn't want to miss a thing along the Nile.
There were many huge, gorgeous homes along the Nile, which contrasted mightily with the tiny boats of the fishermen with nets making their living on the water below.
Like any major city, Cairo is growing, with many new buildings and many more under construction.
Our tour came to an end, but we stopped to admire the hibiscus in the gardens by the steps back up to the street level.
We headed out of Cairo by a different route than we had arrived, so we had the opportunity to see the pyramids in the distance for 15 minutes or so as we left town. No matter how far away they are, they're still an impressive sight on the horizon.
Back in Alexandria, it was getting late in the day. This was one of the rare churches we saw in Egypt, a predominantly Muslim country.
The last few minutes of our 12-hour tour were spent driving along Alexandria's beautiful waterfront road, with high rises on one side and the ocean on the other.
Here are the high rises ...
... and here is the ocean.
This is the Eastern Harbor where the ancient lighthouse of Alexandria is believed to have been located. The road along this harbor is called 26th of July Avenue. How sweet of Egypt to name the street after our anniversary!
We passed through a little more of the city as we headed toward the western harbor where our cruise ship was docked.
It's a bustling city, as you can see.
The police escorts and armed guards had done their jobs and gotten us to and from the Pyramids safely, for which we were quite grateful. We never did get specifics on who or what they were keeping us safe from, but that's not the point.
We picked up a few more souvenirs at the vendor booths near the dock, then walked our exhausted selves back onto the Rotterdam welcome mat. Note pyramid dust on our feet. We didn't want to wash it off.
We were back on the boat by 7:30 PM, but not scheduled to leave until 10:00 PM, so we had time to relax on our balcony and take in the sights and sounds of Alexandria.
Relax and enjoy with us for a moment.
OK, we're done relaxing because we're starving! Having missed our dinner seating at 6:15, we went to the Lido Deck, where the crew was serving an Egyptian barbecue by the pool, complete with this fun sign to pose behind.
We piled our plates with Egyptian goodness and went out to a quiet deck to eat.
Our timing was impeccable, because the sun was setting just then. Seconds after the sun dipped below the horizon, we started hearing the calls to prayer coming from the many minarets in the city. It was magical.
Right next door to our berth, we watched Maersk containers getting loaded onto a container ship.
Then, as night fell, we became hypnotized by the modern lighthouse situated just across the west harbor from us.
We headed back to our room to capture even more proof that we really, truly were in Egypt on the continent of Africa by watching our favorite Holland America television channel.
At 9:30 PM, the gangway was scheduled to be raised, and as inevitably happens, an announcement was made asking several passengers to call the front desk if they were on the ship. Twenty minutes later, we saw two frantic passengers running from their taxi to the gangway, and within moments, the gangway was lifted, the anchor was pulled up, and the ropes on shore were released, just in time for sail away at 10:00 PM sharp. The Alexandria Port is especially beautiful at night.
Here's that hypnotic lighthouse again.

Snail? Turtle? We're not sure.

Day 12 >


Black Sea/Mediterranean 2007: [Day 1 - Athens] [Day 2 - At Sea] [Day 3 - Istanbul] [Day 4 - Varna] [Day 5 - Odessa] [Day 6 - Sevastopol] [Day 7 - At Sea] [Day 8 - Kusadasi] [Day 9 - Rhodes] [Day 10 - Limassol] [Day 11 - Cairo] [Day 12 - At Sea] [Day 13 - Athens]

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