Africa 2023:
Day 22 - Safaga


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Africa 2023: [Pre-Cruise] [Day 1 - Ft. Lauderdale] [Day 2-8 - At Sea] [Day 9 - Funchal] [Day 10 - Arrecife] [Day 11 - Agadir] [Day 12 - Casablanca] [Day 13-14 - At Sea] [Day 15 - Tunisia] [Day 16 - At Sea] [Day 17 - Crete] [Day 18 - At Sea] [Day 19 - Cyprus] [Day 20 - At Sea] [Day 21 - Suez Canal] [Day 22 - Safaga] [Day 23-26 - At Sea] [Day 27 - Salalah] [Day 28-31 - At Sea] [Day 32-33 - Seychelles] [Day 34-35 - At Sea] [Day 36-37 - Zanzibar] [Day 38 - At Sea] [Day 39 - Mayotte] [Day 40 - Madagascar] [Day 41-42 - At Sea] [Day 43 - Mozambique] [Day 44 - Durban] [Day 45-46 - At Sea] [Day 47-48 - Cape Town] [Day 49 - At Sea] [Day 50 - Luderitz] [Day 51 - Walvis Bay] [Day 52-53 - At Sea] [Day 54 - Angola] [Day 55-57 - At Sea] [Day 58 - Ghana] [Day 59 - Côte d'Ivoire] [Day 60-61 - At Sea] [Day 62 - The Gambia] [Day 63 - Senegal] [Day 64 - At Sea] [Day 65 - Cape Verde] [Day 66-70 - At Sea] [Day 71 - Puerto Rico] [Day 72-73 - At Sea] [Day 74 - Ft. Lauderdale]

Tuesday, October 31, 2023: Buckle up, today is going to be a long one. Our alarm went off at 5:45 AM, and Tom jumped up to the Lido to get breakfast. As we ate, we looked through pictures that Jill sent to us overnight of their family Halloween costume for this year. They were dressed as breakfast foods. How appropriate!
At 6:30 AM, we were pulling alongside the pier in Safaga, Egypt.
Debbie took her LEGO daily calendar out onto the balcony to get a photo in the early morning sunshine. Our minifigs were ready to go ashore in Egypt, with mini-Debbie dressed as a Pharoah and Tom dressed as an adventurer who may also have been a professor, not to name any names.
Here's a closer look at the display. It was the first time Debbie had done a recessed area on the display, with a tiny mummy on the left side and the Eye of Horus on the right. A scorpion sits in the corner making sure that no one touches his stuff.
Dressed and ready for our shore excursion, we left the cabin, passed this adorable display of pumpkins at the Rolling Stone Lounge, ...
... and entered the sea of humanity that was the assembly area for all of the tours. The crew periodically made announcements that over 700 passengers were on tours today, and that more than 400 were going on the same all-day tour as us, to Luxor, Karnak, and the Valley of the Kings.
Right on schedule, they called our group to go ashore, go through security in the terminal building, and then find our bus. They separated men and women into separate security lines which was a first. We found our bus, took seats all the way in the back, and waited. They had announced that there would be ten buses for our tour and that we would be traveling as a convoy there and back. Just before 8:00 AM, the buses headed out of the terminal.
Here's our first reference to the ancient Egyptians. We can't read heiroglyphs, but this one seems to be saying that you should be careful crossing the street.
This adorable building was both a police station and a mosque. It was the first of many police checkpoints that we had to stop at on our way inland.
We were on a four-lane divided highway out of the city when we saw a sign that read "Pray on the Prophet." Okay, just maybe not while you are driving. The main reason we took this sign is that the first word looks a lot like "Jill."
That's the fanciest tanker truck we've ever seen but it turned out to be typical of Egyptian trucks. It also says "trans" and "port" as two separate words above the wheels, and when Debbie read that, her eyes went wide and her head nearly exploded. "Transport" comes from "trans" and "port." Boom!
The landscape was rugged and beautiful, with vast tracts of sand and colorful mountains.
After two hours on the bus, we arrived at the outskirts of ...
... New Qena City. Other than police checkpoints, it was the first civilization we had seen since leaving Safaga.
Those really tall palm trees are cell phone towers in disguise.
We've seen apartment buildings with shops on the lower floor, but this is the first time we've seen one with a hospital at the bottom. We really wanted to know what the lobby looked like.
From the Arabic writing on the signs in front of this building, it appeared to be a military courthouse. The logo on the wall was a triangle with the scales of justice on it, and underneath in Arabic it read, "Military Prosecution."
They really embrace their heritage here.
We left the highway and turned south toward Luxor on a narrow two lane road that ran alongside an irrigation canal fed by the Nile. There were bridges at regular intervals, some had pipes going across, ...
... and lots had carts pulled by donkeys.
One side of this bridge was in Arabic ...
... and the other side was in English. We saw this at numerous bridges to small towns across the waterway.
Our guide, Adel, said that the people of this region live simply, harvesting sugar cane that grows abundantly in this region.
There were some cars on the street, and a lot of motorcycle-driven carriages called tuk-tuks. The sign over the bridge reads, "The local unit of Al-Ashraf Village."
Some of the houses were unfinished. Adel explained that there is no mandate from the Egyptian government to finish construction, so many houses stay incomplete.
The building on the right is a mosque. It didn't stand out as much without a minaret, but the crescent and moons symbol above the dome is a good indicator as well as the speakers on the roof.
Here's another Arabic town sign, ...
... pretty bridge to get to the town, ...
... and the English version of the town sign.
At a bridge to another village, there were tuk-tuks lining the street.
Over the far bank of the canal, we got our first view of the Nile River.
As we neared another police checkpoint on the road south toward Luxor, the wall behind the station had an embossed copper cartouche embedded in the wall.
We saw tiny plots of land separated with ridges. Different crops? Different owners? Probably both.
According to the Arabic above the gate, this was the Southern Air Defense Command, ...
... which explains the giant missile at the next entrance.
Who knew family-size motorcycles were a thing?
Our guide told us that, to save time, we were going to be taking a bridge that was almost finished but not yet open to the public. As scary as that sounds, it was a fully paved, four lane divided highway that only our tour bus convoy was using. It also had cool railings with Luxor in English and Arabic that almost covered the entire bridge over the Nile.
We arrived at the Valley of the Kings complex around 11:45 AM.
The security guard assigned to our bus ...
... helped to herd us all into the vendor gauntlet, uh, accompanied us through the enclosed walkway to ...
... the entrance station. After a brief stop to make sure that everyone made it here after a rest room break for some, ...
... we walked outside to wait for our spots on electric golf carts ...
... that would take us the last hundreds of meters ...
... to the start of the tombs.
There was a helpful map at the entrance that showed just how many tombs were here.
Adel gathered everyone at the entrance to the tomb of Rameses IV, which happened to be the first one that we encountered. Our tickets allowed us to visit three tombs, but he said that visiting more than two might be difficult in the time allotted to us.
We all walked toward the entrance of the tomb, ...
... down a short ramp to this gated entrance where someone punched a hole in our tickets. This is how they keep track of how many tombs you have visited.
The entrance sloped downward, with images and heiroglyphs etched and painted on the walls and the ceiling.
The walkway was wide enough for several people, and was high enough that it didn't feel claustrophobic. The heat was another thing, and we got out our personal portable electric fans to try to cool us down as we descended.
The detail on the carvings was amazing.
We had no idea what it all meant, but it sure was beautiful to look at.
Gorgeous.
The walls are very well-preserved and quite a lot of the color is intact.
Enjoy.
We were pretty sure this section of heiroglyphs read "skis, boat, beer, duck, duck, goose," but we're not archeologists.
At the bottom part of the tomb, there was a separate hallway that was behind a railing. This dude was offering to take people's cameras and walk down the hallway to take pictures for them, ...
... but we got our own.
This huge block of stone is where Rameses IV is buried. The other side of the tomb was better preserved than this, but there was a line of people in front of the tomb on that side.
The walls on this side were the ancient Egyptian equivalent of a Facebook page showing all of the Pharoah's friends from high school.
We headed back up to the surface, admiring the carvings on the walls of the entry tunnel as we climbed out.
Under a shaded shelter near the entrance, there was a map showing the various parts of the tomb.
After our entire group had exited the tomb, we moved futher into the complex, passing this shelter where other groups waited for their companions.
As we learned from the scholar Steve Martin back in the late 1970s, King Tut had a condo made of stone-a. Not only that, but his tomb required a special ticket to visit since it was the most famous one here.
Adel gave us free time at this point, suggesting several tombs to visit that were in the local vicinity. We chose the tomb of Rameses I, which was away from the main group, hoping that fewer people would be at that one.
The entrance to this one included stairs that were quite steep, and we spend a good five minutes just walking downward, ...
... until we reached the lowest level. This was a similar layout to the tomb of Rameses IV: a square chamber at the bottom, tomb in the center, ...
... with carvings and paintings on the walls. The paintings in this tomb were very vibrant, ...
... and there were alcoves in the side walls that didn't appear to lead anywhere.
Here's the view of the paintings on the left side of the tomb.
Near the ceiling, there were holes in the wall that appeared to be from the original wooden roof beams.
We left the hot tomb behind and headed back out into the hot Egyptian sun, ...
... stopping at our rendevous point ...
... and buying this coconut milk drink and four Coke Zeroes. Of course, nothing had prices on it, so we paid whatever the cashier told us the total was. We found a place to sit on the stones in the shade and drank the coconut milk drink immediately. It had small cubes of something with the consistency of tapioca in the bottom, which was both unusual and quite delicious. We also treated ourselves to one of the Coke Zeroes as well, and put the other three in the backpack to drink later.
When our rendevous time came, not all of our group was present. Adel sent some of us down the hill toward the gate to wait while he tried to round up our strays. Debbie took the time to visit the toilets near the upper entrance, paying one US dollar to an attendant for the privilege.
Once all of our group arrived, we got aboard the golf carts for the ride to the lower entrance, and our security guard, seen here hanging on to the side of a full golf cart, walked us back out to the waiting bus. If you look at the larger image, you can just see the barrel of the gun sticking out from under his coat.
Back on the bus, Adel handed out snack bags that had been prepared at the Sonesta St. George Hotel where we'd be stopping for a late lunch later in the day.
The bags were packed with goodies. Both had a banana, an apple, a turkey sandwich, a cheese sandwich, potato chips, and two slices of cake for dessert. This one had an orange juice box, ...
... and the other had a guava juice box. We opened the guava juice box and started eating both our sandwiches right away. We put the apples, chips, cake, and orange juice box back in one of the bags to save for later.
As we drove away from the Valley of the Kings, we passed an excavation site that was currently being explored. It must be hard to dig anywhere in Egypt without finding relics from previous ages.
We passed many of these alabaster stores, ...
... on our way to our next stop, the Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. This was just a photo stop, so we got out of the bus and walked to the low wall at the end of the parking lot, ...
... and got a photo of the temple.
It was spectacular, built into the wall of the canyon. It had been under restoration since 1961 and was only opened to the public in March 2023.
The hills around the area contained dwellings from people who lived in the area before it was a protected sanctuary for archeologists.
How cool is our bus?
Off to the left of the parking lot was the entrance to the Tombs of the Nobles where more than 400 tombs have been uncovered. They are mostly the tombs of royal courtiers and important, but non-royal, people like the captains of the royal guard, viziers, high priests, and favored cup bearers.
There are excavations going on everywhere.
As we drove to our next stop, we passed the Temple of Merenbtah, ...
... and some huge statues, ...
... before coming to our destination, the Collosi of Memnon. These huge seated statues were at one end of a field containing other large statues leading all the way back to the huge statues in the previous photo.
Vendors were everywhere and they were very agressive. We got out of the bus just long enough to snap a photo, dodge the vendors, and get back onto the bus.
As we drove away, we got a better view of the full field containing the Collosi of Memnon. Not all of the statues were complete, but there were dozens in various states of repair and they were all very, very large.
There was a map at an intersection showing some of the areas of interest.
We passed this collection of vendor stalls as we were leaving the area that advertised restrooms that were both sterile and clean. Both. At the same time.
We passed a bakery that had tables full of plastic wrapped treats, ...
... and the Lion Gym which advertised that it allowed both "man and waman" to use their facilities.
We drove along the west bank of the Nile, seeing very cool buildings, ...
... and huge fields of sugar cane, ...
... before crossing back over the Nile with its huge river boats, ...
... and heading into the city of Luxor.
We passed the Bank of Cairo, ...
... and the National Bank of Egypt, ...
... and the Winter Palace Hotel, which was built in the 1880 during the British occupation of Egypt.
We drove right by the Luxor Temple, which we would be seeing later, ...
... with its avenue of sphinxes, ...
... that literally goes on for miles.
Just after 3 PM we arrived at the Karnak Temple complex. Adel gave us each our tickets, and we headed inside.
The first stop was to look at the cool map of the temple grounds, ...
... and the replica barges that were on one side of the entrance.
We walked as a group toward the temple complex, down the avenue of ram-headed sphinxes that lined the boulevard.
We didn't realize until now that there were both ram-headed sphinxes and human-headed sphinxes.
Under the chin of each ram head is a tiny statue of Rameses II, who added them to the already-existing statues after he became pharoah.
Just past the outer wall, more correctly known as the first pylon, was a giant open air courtyard that contained the bases of huge columns that were no longer there.
At one end of the courtyard was a huge stone statue of Rameses II with a smaller statue of a woman at the base. Adel explained that the ancient Egyptians believed that they would be reborn in the afterlife and would take the form of the statues that they had created, which is why they were always huge and portrayed their subjects as young, slim, and strong.
They did love their sphinxes. There was another line of ram-headed ones lining the opposite wall of the courtyard.
Cool.
We went past these interesting carvings in the walls, ...
... on our way through the gate in the second pylon, ...
... into a courtyard with more impressive statues.
Here's Tom, ready to throw either the idol or the whip if needed.
The sides of the courtyard were also covered with carvings and symbols.
Next, we viewed the huge columns of the Hypostyle Hall. There are 134 of these monsters, and in ancient days there was a roof covering the entire hall. The central columns are taller than the rest, allowing windows to be placed there that would have lit the entire hall during daylight.
Here some of the shorter columns.
Beautiful.
Here's a closer look at one of the taller columns.
Beyond the hall we walked down to see the giant obelisks, ...
... of which this one, the Obelisk of Queen Hatshepsut, is the third tallest in the world and the tallest still standing in Egypt.
We passed a gift shop as we left the rest of our group exploring the temple, ...
... and walked back to the bus to get some sweet, sweet air conditioning.
After we left Karnak, we drove along the Nile, ...
... past this giant army man statue with an even more giant bayonet behind it, ...
.. and along the beautiful stone sidewalks overlooking the Nile.
Here's a cool city sign.
Happy New Year!
Just before 4:30 PM, we pulled up to the Sonesta St. George Hotel where we were going to have a sunset meal, which was quite a surprise since it hadn't been mentioned in the tour description at all.
It was a gorgeous hotel, ...
... with wide marble-floored hallways leading from the lobby to the stairs at the back of the hotel ...
... that led down to the pool area ...
... and beyond that to a large seating area that overlooked the Nile.
Servers brought over bottles of water and complimentary beers for anyone who wanted one. The beer was ice cold and really good.
The meal was a buffet, ...
... with a huge selection of fruit, desserts, ...
... bread, olives, ...
... salads, cold cuts, ...
... chicken, beef, and other hot foods. It was a feast, and all the more so since it was unexpected.
The tables were all set for eight people, and every one was a Holland America passenger.
We ate as the sun went down over the Nile.
Here's one plate of food from the buffet, ...
... and here's the other. Everything was delicious.
There was an adorable orange tiger kitty that walked by our table, and when one of our tablemates threw him a piece of her chicken, he stayed until we left. He was a very good boy though, content to wait until she threw him something else and never once making a sound.
There were feluccas sailing up and down the river. These traditional wooden sailing boats with triangular sails have been sailing on this river for hundreds if not thousands of years.
Almost exactly an hour after we arrived, we headed back to the lobby, taking one last look at the pool area and the Nile River.
We waited near the lobby for everyone to finish their meal and make their way back up stairs, ...
... passing under the large crystal chandelier on our way out to the front of the hotel to board the bus for the last stop of the day.
We arrived at the Luxor Temple about an hour after sunset, ...
... and were stunned at how beautiful it was lit up in the early darkness.
While Adel explained the significance of the temple, Debbie went to take a picture of the avenue of human-headed sphinxes that used to run from here all the way to Karnak several miles away.
The engravings here along the temple walls were immaculate, ...
... and those on the pillars near the first pylon were in really great shape as well.
We entered the area beyond the first pylon and admired the huge columns that ringed the courtyard.
There were statues between each of the pillars, ...
... and a huge seated statue at one end.
Being here at night really made the visit feel special.
It would have looked great in the daytime, but at night it was spectactular.
Adel led our group to the back of the temple, where later Christians had converted part of the temple into a church.
He pointed out a section of the wall where the plaster had broken loose, revealing that Egyptian carvings and enscriptions had been covered over in an attempt to erase the earlier culture.
The walls here were covered with heiroglyphs and inscriptions, all of which had been covered in plaster and hidden for centuries.
Look at the exquisite detail.
We spent a little more time wandering around the complex on our own, ...
... before joining back up with the group and being led by our security guard back to the buses.
Since we were traveling as a convoy, we had to wait for all of the other groups to gather their people and get them back on their buses before we could leave. After thirty minutes, the convoy started to move, ...
... slowly making our way through the streets of Luxor past a McDonald's, ...
... and back through small villages, police checkpoints, and desert for three and a half hours until we were back at the port in Safaga just after 10:30 PM.
A very large and weary group of tourists made their way through security in the terminal building, again separating men and women into separate lines, before finally boarding the ship ...
... and returning to our cabin, where a fresh flower arrangement awaited us. We had been on the go for almost 17 hours and couldn't wait to shower, get into our pajamas, and go to sleep.

Day 23 >


Africa 2023: [Pre-Cruise] [Day 1 - Ft. Lauderdale] [Day 2-8 - At Sea] [Day 9 - Funchal] [Day 10 - Arrecife] [Day 11 - Agadir] [Day 12 - Casablanca] [Day 13-14 - At Sea] [Day 15 - Tunisia] [Day 16 - At Sea] [Day 17 - Crete] [Day 18 - At Sea] [Day 19 - Cyprus] [Day 20 - At Sea] [Day 21 - Suez Canal] [Day 22 - Safaga] [Day 23-26 - At Sea] [Day 27 - Salalah] [Day 28-31 - At Sea] [Day 32-33 - Seychelles] [Day 34-35 - At Sea] [Day 36-37 - Zanzibar] [Day 38 - At Sea] [Day 39 - Mayotte] [Day 40 - Madagascar] [Day 41-42 - At Sea] [Day 43 - Mozambique] [Day 44 - Durban] [Day 45-46 - At Sea] [Day 47-48 - Cape Town] [Day 49 - At Sea] [Day 50 - Luderitz] [Day 51 - Walvis Bay] [Day 52-53 - At Sea] [Day 54 - Angola] [Day 55-57 - At Sea] [Day 58 - Ghana] [Day 59 - Côte d'Ivoire] [Day 60-61 - At Sea] [Day 62 - The Gambia] [Day 63 - Senegal] [Day 64 - At Sea] [Day 65 - Cape Verde] [Day 66-70 - At Sea] [Day 71 - Puerto Rico] [Day 72-73 - At Sea] [Day 74 - Ft. Lauderdale]

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