Tuesday, December 7, 2010

An adventure to the Middle East ( Part 1 ) The Magic of Egypt

Egypt is a lifetime destination.. in fact it is on my bucket list!! A must- see and it would be a shame not to visit Egypt at least once. Egypt occupies a unique position in the hearts and minds of travelers. For many, a trip to egypt is the fulfillment of a lifetime dream and every moment spent is one to be treasured. This country contains so many unbelievable treasures and indescribable temples and monuments. I went on this trip to Egypt with my good friends, Lulu and Ernie. I flew from Manila, while they flew in from Los Angeles. In fact it was Lulu who did all our arrangements.

Before going on this tour, I had to do a lot of researching on the Egyptian History. I have been through all the reviews posted on the internet... just to make sure I would not miss out on anything. Most of the sites  we visited, I already had a bit of background information that allowed me to appreciate what I was seeing. In case you are planning to take a trip to Egypt, I suggest that you do some reading of the history of Egypt before you go.

When we think about Egypt, camels, pyramids and mummies often enter our mind. That is not surprising since much of what we know about ancient Egypt comes from the tombs of the Egyptians and the objects found buried with them. No one knows exactly what life was like in ancient Egypt, but these objects tell us a lot. Their fashion, beliefs, and activities can be explored through the art they created and included in their burials.

Egypt is in northern Africa. It is surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea , the Red Sea, Libya and Sudan. There are at least 69 million people residing in egypt. Their main language is Arabic. Their religion is Islam but there are some Christians too. The weather in Egypt is hot and dry in the summer and mild in winter.

Follow me and my blog as we go around Egypt... Let me share with you all the places where we visited.

First Stop..... CAIRO, EGYPT

Our tour started in Cairo, I arrived at noon and was met by a representative of Friendly Planet in Cairo ( his name was Moheb )... helped me with my suitcase and we proceeded to Ramses Hilton. On the way to the hotel --- he told me that the group from the United States was delayed due to mechanical problems and will be arriving the next day.... As I walked out of the airport.... the whole place looked HAZY.... there was glare all around.... I tried to take shots--- and hoped... that with filters for my lens it would solve the problem... well??... It didn't.... The haze what I saw was caused by the pollution. I was surprised there was a lot of traffic when I arrived ( Cairo was on a 4 day holiday celebrating their Eid al Fitr ).... Moheb told me that on a regular working day the traffic was 4 times more than what I was seeing... He suggested if I wanted to move around --- I would have to take a taxi.... I have to look for metered cabs and not the black and white cabs that had no meters on it. He explained that the black and white cabs pries on tourists like me... and would charge exorbitant prices.

Feeling all alone in a new surrounding I asked Moheb if Cairo was safe to walk around... since my goal was to take photos.... He told me to be careful when I crossed the streets of Cairo---- ( the traffic lights and the pedestrian zebra lines are only for decoration ).... People would cross everywhere and anywhere they wanted --- and cars would be speeding unmindful of these pedestrians... I even saw small kids ( 7 years old -- maybe younger crossing the streets unaccompanied ) crossing the busy streets..... Since I had a bit of jet lag that day I decided to just stay put in my room -- and ordered room service.  Our hotel was situated right at the city center...  opposite side of the Egyptian Museum and next to the Nile...

My room was clean and the service was generally good, all the staff of the hotel seemed too eager to please.

and this was the view from my balcony..

same shot taken at night.......

The next day --- while waiting for the group to arrive from the States.... After breakfast I decided to change some money into Egyptian pounds and take shots inside the hotel... The rate of exchange was 5 Egyptian pounds ( L.E. ) to a dollar. They accept dollars but it is better to bring along smaller bills.. It is also advisable that when you go on tours... make sure you bring a lot of dollar bills which you will use for tips. 

and even made it to the top floor which had a restaurant called Windows of the World. It was located on the 36th floor of the hotel. 

The view from the top.... a stunning panoramic view over the Nile River.

Finally the group arrived from the States at 3:30pm... we all gathered in the lobby and waited for our tour guide, Randa, who was an Egyptologist. She was going to be with us on our tours in Egypt. 

Our first tour was to see the Egyptian Museum which was across the street.... I found it strange that we had to ride a tourist bus --- just to get to the other side of the street and --- we had a security officer with us in the bus. Randa explained that the security officer was supposed to watch over us while we were in Egypt -- this service is only given to all the American tourists that visit Egypt... 

Randa reminded us that we are not allowed to take any photos inside the museum... Some of the people in the group asked if they could take photos using their cellphones... Randa warned us that there are security walking inside the museum and if they caught anyone taking photos --- they would confiscate the camera or cellphone and it would be a lot of hassle just getting it back..... . we all decided to leave our cameras in the bus. The process of getting into the museum, registering bags and cameras--- and then being searched once you get in is as painful as it sounds. There were metal scanners that were positioned at the gate and at the entrance of the museum itself. 

This Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, better known as the Egyptian Museum is home to an extensive collection of ancient Egyptian antiques. It has 120,000 items inside. It would be impossible to see everything in one go ( allowing a minute at each exhibit ) it would take a year just to tour the whole place.The photo above was the ONLY photo I was able to take inside the grounds of the museum. 

Things to see inside the Museum:

* The museum's Royal Mummy Room contains 9 mummies on display. The latest mummy that was added to the Royal Mummy Room was the mummy of Queen Hatshepsut...To get to see the mummies -- you have to pay an extra fee of 100 Egyptian pounds ( L.E.) which is roughly $ 20.00. I didn't get to enter that room but went to the adjacent room ( free of charge ) which had a nice assortment of mummified animals and birds.

* The jewelry room 

* the famous  gold mask of Tutankhamun - the mask weighs 11 kilos in solid gold and it is believed that it represents what the King's face really looked like.

* the coffins where Tutankhamun was buried. The inner most coffin was awesome... it was in solid gold. 

* the Armana room  and the colossal Amenhotep and Tiye statues.

As we moved around inside the museum.... I felt sad and horrified with the condition and inappropriate display of their priceless historial artifacts in dark, dusty and cluttered shelves.... the museum itself was very dark.... a few flourescent lights were lit. I strongly suggest you take a guide book, as there is minimal labeling. It's a real shame that they can't spend a bit of cash ( seeing so many tourists there --- that is BIG BUCKS ).... to improve the lighting. Some areas were " off limits " and majority of the exhibits have no labels, it was so difficult to lean forward or use a magnifying glass just to read them.

I am proud to have seen amazing works of art in person as I enjoy learning about historical events. It is amazing and wonderful to see and learn about thousand of years of ancient history. It is definitely worth a visit while you are in Cairo..... It makes you feel like you are going back in time. but saddened by the whole experience. 



  1. Am looking forward to the next part of this cultural tour.

  2. WOW WOW!!! Photos are all very good!

  3. Reading your travel blog makes me feel I was with you during your trip to Cairo .... well written ...