Category Archives: Egypt

Khan el Khalili Market

Before I begin, I have to give a shout-out to my friend Teymour for letting me stay with him and showing me around Cairo.  I find it strange that traveling can turn normally uninteresting activities into amazing experiences.  Like any tourist I had to get souvenirs, so Teymour and I went to Khan el Khalili market.  A boring cab ride turned exciting when my friend tried to pay the driver.  As soon as the the cab driver counted the money he began yelling.  I don’t speak Arabic, but I assumed that he felt we didn’t pay him enough (I’ve never had anyone yell at me for paying them too much).  My friend said something back at the cab driver.  The argument went back and forth like a ping pong match.  Finally my friend told me to get out of the taxi.  The driver parked the car and got out and continued screaming.  By this time people in the marketplace were watching the spectacle as if it were their favorite morning soap opera.  Luckily it was a short episode because a police officer came over and spoke to the driver and he got in his taxi and drove away.  I asked Teymour what happened and he said that the driver was trying to rip us off because he thought we were tourist.  Then he said the police officer told the driver he couldn’t park where he did so he had to leave.  This left me confused for two reasons: 1. Why did the taxi driver think my friend was a tourist?  He’s Egyptian! (I assume he thought I was a local) 2. Why did the yelling between the driver and us not even phase the officer, but the inconvenient parking caused him to confront the taxi driver?

After that experience I knew it was going to be a great evening.  My first stop was to get a Tarboosh (Fez hat).  I ended up getting two and made my friend wear one.  He needed help blending in and I thought a Tarboosh would do the trick (look at the picture to the right, with a Tarboosh I blend right in).  Teymour then began describing to me the history of the Tarboosh and that hardly anyone wears them now because it used to be a symbol of oppression.  Let’s just say I let him stop wearing it after that.  As we walked through the crowded market, we came to an alley with people sitting around watching soccer.  Instead of walking by we stopped and started to watch the game.  Immediately one of the storekeepers went into his shop and grabbed two chairs for us.  We sat and watched the rest of the match with everyone.  It was a lot of fun cheering with everyone during the match.  It made me feel that I fit right in with everyone else (luckily Teymour told me who to cheer for or else I could have been in trouble cheering for the wrong team).

By the time we left some of the stores were closing, so I finished getting souvenirs and some spices.  We then went to El Hussein Mosque.  As we looked around we heard some music playing and decided to check it out.  We went inside an old building and at the end of the hall was an open courtyard with a band playing and a bunch of people sitting and listening.  The atmosphere was awesome because we were sitting in a large courtyard in the middle of an old home.  The band was playing folk music, but it was unlike anything I had seen before because the band was huge.  There were a ton of instruments, several singers, and a few band members dancing around on stage.  Although I couldn’t understand the songs it was a lot of fun to listen and enjoy the culture.  During the concert Teymour said, “that’d be funny if you got on stage and started breakdancing.”  I took his joke as a suggestion and asked, “do you think they’d let me?”  He immediately replied, “you wouldn’t do it.”  With that challenge I went up to the stage and asked if I could dance along with the band.  They let me up on stage and I danced for an entire song (the song was 8 minutes long).  I’m not sure how they could tell I wasn’t apart of the band, but everyone was laughing as they watched me dance around.  I was happy with my performance because other crowd members got up and began dancing in the aisles.

I love traveling because there is no such thing as an ordinary time souvenir shopping!

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The Temple of Karnak

After a good night rest in my five star hotel room, I headed to the Temple of Karnak, the largest temple I had visited.  It was so large that I couldn’t count the number of columns, statues, and hieroglyphics that I saw.  The best thing about a large tourist attraction is that you can always find an area to be alone or surrounded by people, depending on what you want.  Just inside the main entrance I decided to hang-out by a large tour group to get some basic knowledge of the ruins (nothing like a free tour).  After my tour guide’s summary of the temple, I headed off to make some discoveries of my own.

I entered a corridor to the right which was filled with pillars and statues.  They were all covered in carved hieroglyphics, even the ceilings. By the time I finished looking around, my tour guide and his noisy throng had entered the corridor.  I saw another tour group entering through the main entrance, so I made a mad dash to the Hypostyle Hall before any tour groups flooded that area too.  The Hippostyle Hall is incredible.  There are over 100 giant columns standing about 33 feet high (the height is according to Wikepedia, so I make no promise of the accuracy of the information, but I am accurate in stating that they were really tall).  The better preserved columns had colored hieroglyphics running up the entire length of the column.  I felt like an ant as I looked up at these towering structures.  Fortunately for me, the Egyptians were good engineers because if one of those pillars had fallen, I would have been squashed like an ant.

Column after column, statue after statue, room after room, the temple seemed never-ending. The intense heat added to the feeling that I would never be able to see all of the temple.  my aching feet and sweat covered body told me it was time to take a break from viewing the endless temple.  Off to the right, not attached to the main temple, I saw a small temple.  The small temple was deserted, so I followed a set of stairs up to an area that overlooked the main complex.  It was the perfect place to take a break.  I was in the shade with a great view of the enormous ruins.  As I sat in the quiet, empty temple, I was grateful that I was not stuck in a crowd listening to some tour guide ramble on in the intense heat.

I walked around the entire exterior of the temple and enjoyed sites that no one else even cared to discover.  One of the coolest things I found was a side entry way to the temple.  The inside of the 50 foot entryway was covered in painted carvings.  As I re-entered the main temple, I passed through a gigantic Pylon (a massive gateway), which had a carving of two men fighting.  I believe it symbolized a great victory of Ramses ll, but I’m no archiologist.

Towards the back of the main temple there was a sacred lake.  The murky water didn’t look so sacred, but because of the heat I was tempted to jump in.  If it wasn’t for the fear of contracting every disease known, and unknown, to man for the past few thousands of years, I probably would have jumped in.  After an entire morning at the Temple of Karnak, it was time for a break.  I went to my sacred lake at the palace Steigenberger and had a poolside meal fit for a pharaoh.  What an awesome day!  Amazing ruins, great food, and a cold pool.

Luxor Temple

Instead of flying from Aswan to Luxor, I decided to take a train.  At the station I discovered that there were two types of tickets, a tourist and local ticket.  The tourist ticket was more expensive, so I told the ticketing agent that I was a local.  I don’t know why, but he didn’t believe that I was Egyptian.  This came as a surprise to me because I had exerted a lot of effort into blending in.

When I got to Luxor I bargained with a motorcycle taxi driver to take me to the Steigenberger hotel.  The hotel was going to be the nicest hotel I had stayed at in a long time.  Usually I stay at hostels or cheap hotels, but I found an amazing deal just before I left Cairo.  I ended up paying less than $40 a night at this five star hotel!  They had a free breakfast, pool, and a great view of the Nile, especially at sunset.

The Luxor Temple was my first stop.  It was amazing how different Luxor Temple is compared to Abu Simbel.  There are huge pillars, tons of statues of all sizes, an obelisk, hieroglyphics, Roman writing and statues, and Catholic paintings.  I couldn’t believe how much history could be found in one location.  After several hours of trying to discover all that the Luxor Temple had to offer I went back to the hotel.

That night I enjoyed a peaceful walk along the Nile back to the city center.  When I arrived at the center, the Luxor Temple was all lit up.  The lights gave the temple a completely different look.  It was an incredible sight.  I decided it would be a good decision to eat across the street from the temple so that I could enjoy the scenery.  WRONG! The food was terrible.  It was greasy with little flavor, and the little flavor it did have was disgusting.  Just like the temple at night, it’s hard to adequately describe the awful taste of the platter I received.  I guess that’s the joy of traveling, sometimes you find hidden gems, other times you find gems that you wished had remained hidden.

I know the description of the Luxor Temple is very short and elementary, but it is impossible to describe everything I found in the temple.  There was so much to see and enjoy.  It’s astonishing that the ancient Egyptians decorated every visible area of the temple with ornate statues, hieroglyphics, paintings, and carvings.  I hope that my pictures can give you an idea of what I was able to enjoy.

Photo Description of Luxor Temple

Since I can’t sufficiently describe Luxor Temple in words, I hope that my photos can do it justice.  Remember you can click on the photos to enlarge. Let me know what you think!

Entrance of Luxor Temple

Back of Luxor Temple

Entrance way to Luxor

Inside Luxor

A guy from the Blue Man group or an alien

More paintings of aliens

Egyptian handshake

Catholic Painting

Roman Statue

Roman Writing

Abu Simbel: Better than the Pyramids

Sorry I haven’t written in a while, but moving to Texas and starting the job search process over again has taken up most of my time.  I’m really excited about this post because it is about my favorite place in Egypt…Abu Simbel!

Most people go to Egypt in hopes of seeing the Pyramids and the Sphinx (that was what I was excited about), but there is something far better awaiting you in Egypt.  In my opinion, the two temples built by Rameses ll at Abu Simbel surpasses the Pyramids in every way.

Set on Lake Nesser, the two temples provide insight into the artistic ability of the ancient Egyptians.  The entrance to the main temple is guarded by four enormous statues.  I began to have the Indiana Jones feeling again as I entered the temple; if only I had brought a whip (most likely a lot of people would have gotten hurt, myself included, if I had brought one).  Inside the temple were statues acting as columns, carvings lining the walls, and paintings covering the ceilings.  The temple was covered in artwork, inside and out.  It was amazing that the artwork had been so well preserved after three thousand years of being exposed to the elements, not to mention both temples were moved to avoid flooding.  One of the coolest parts of Abu Simbel was seeing the remaining blue, black, and yellow ink on some of the carvings.  The colorful artwork gave me an entirely new appreciation of ancient Egyptian ingenuity.

The six standing statues outside the other temple were fun to examine because hieroglyphics bordered each statue.  As I spent time observing the hieroglyphics, I began to understand some of the writings.  It was crazy because one strand of hieroglyphics stated, “Everyone must donate money to Brandon so he can continue his world travels.” Who would have guessed that Ramses ll made a royal decree that would benefit me three thousand years later (I accept cash and checks, but no credit cards because I don’t have a place to swipe it).  If you don’t believe me, go to Abu Simbel and read for yourself; otherwise, pay up!

Although Abu Simbel is amazing, there are a few negative things that I must mention.  First, you have to stay in Aswan (I didn’t like Aswan very much), and the bus drive from Aswan to Abu Simbel takes about three hours each way.  Second, there are a ton of tourist there because all of the buses ride in a convoy and arrive at the same time.  Third, they only give you two hours to tour the temples.  I spent a little more than two hours looking around and my bus almost left me (I would have had to start giving tours if my bus left me because I didn’t bring any money).  As a side note, there are ways to spend more time at Abu Simbel and avoid the crowd (let me know if you want to hear about it).  Even with these negative aspects of my trip to Abu Simbel, the temples were my favorite part of the the entire trip.

The Pyramids of Giza

When I first saw a picture of the pyramids, the first thing that caught my eye was the weird lion-man (Sphinx).  Ever since then, the Pyramids of Giza, like most people, was on my bucket list.  Before I describe anything else I need to say this, it is HOT in Egypt!  I know it may come as a surprise, but the desert is very very hot.  It didn’t help that I was there in August, the hottest month of the year.

I couldn’t contain my excitement, or my sweat glands, when I arrived at the Pyramids.  I was speed walking up the entrance way and snapping as many photos as I could.  All the vendors trying to sell postcards and pyramid replicas could not distract me from the awesome view of the Pyramids (even though they tried their hardest).  I spent a long time walking around the Pyramids of Khufu and Khafre.  Next to the Pyramid of Khufu I entered a tomb that had hieroglyphics and two stone burial boxes.  I felt like I was Indiana Jones as I climbed down a small tunnel-way to one of the burial boxes, unfortunately the box was empty (guess I’ll have to find another way to become rich).

After I looked around the Pyramids of Khufu and Khafre, I went to the Sphinx.  It was awesome to look at the sphinx and see the pyramids in the background.  I spent probably an hour examining the Sphinx.  This was because I was in disbelief that I was actually in Egypt looking at the Pyramids and the Sphinx.  Although the nose is broken, and there was deterioration, I was able to see the amazing workmanship of the enormous lion-man statue I had dreamed about for so long.

It was about 1 in the afternoon when I decided to walk along the desert to get a different perspective of the pyramids and of Egypt.  Even though I was dripping in sweat, I decided to take my time and enjoy the view of Cairo city and the Pyramids from a tall sand dune. No matter how much I stared at the scenery, I could not take it all in.  I was in awe that people could have built these enormous structures over 4,000 years ago (I’m still suspicious of alien assistance).

After all the walking, I finally made it to a lookout point where I could see all of the pyramids.  There were a ton of tourists from all around the world taking pictures.  I don’t know if I was delirious from the sun or if it was the cute blond girl taking pictures next to me, but I decided to have people take pictures of me doing breakdance poses.   It was a lot of fun!  Everyone around me was laughing and the cute girl took some pictures of me.  Unfortunately, she quickly left and I was forced to watch my one true love drive away on a big tourist bus.  After losing my love and spending all day at the pyramids I was ready to go back to my friend’s house and take a cold shower.