Friday, 15 March 2019

What do you mean you left your passport on the plane!

We are in Egypt. After two weeks exploring Cairo, Alexandria and the Pyramids of Giza, Luxor is our final stop together - click the links to read my posts on each destination. David and I are to join a dahabiya (sailing boat) for a Nile River cruise to Aswan while Andrew, our son, heads home to Australia.

Andrew has already left the hotel. He has an early flight to Cairo where he will connect with another flight to Dubai and then, after an overnight stop, fly home to Sydney. David and I have just been collected from the hotel for the hour and a half's drive to Esna where we will join the dahabiya. The other cruise guests are coming from hotels on the opposite bank of the Nile River so we have the mini-bus to ourselves - just me, David, our driver and a guide.

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Cruising the Nile on a Dahabiya: slow travel in Egypt

Meroe Nour el Nil
Our dahabiya is under sail, propelled along the river by a soft breeze, in a rhythm unchanged for thousands of years. I have woken early and have the deck to myself on the first day of our Nile River cruise. The sun is still low in the sky glistening to the south as if pointing the way for our journey. We left Esna, an hour's drive from Luxor in Egypt, yesterday afternoon. Our five night dahabiya journey to Aswan will be not much longer than a Nile cruise on board one of the large diesel powered passenger ships also plying the route, but there are thousands of years between our experience and theirs.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Howard Carter House and the Tomb of Tutankhamun

During the years he searched for the Tomb of King Tutankhamun, Howard Carter lived in a modest adobe house a few kilometres from his work site. The house is still there, as if waiting for Carter to resume his work. When we first visited Luxor in December 2006 we glimpsed the house from the road as we drove past on the way to The Valley of the Kings. It wasn't open to the public then but in recent years it has been restored, and on our most recent visit in December 2018 we were able to see both the house and a replica of the burial chamber of King Tutankhamun's Tomb tucked away at the back down a garden path.  If you have the time, Howard Carter House is well worth stopping at, if only to give you an idea of how the man who made one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of modern times lived.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

11 things to do in Alexandria, Egypt - one is a bit weird!

Citadel of Qaitbey
Me - 'Why are we going to Alexandria?'
David - 'Because we have a few days to spare and Andrew wants to go there.'
Me - 'Egypt is a huge place I'll bet I can find somewhere much more interesting than an old city founded by a dead conqueror'.
David - 'It is too late. I have already booked the hotel and transfers.'

This is what happens when you travel with children (even if they are 26 years old and several metres taller than you). You go places you have barely heard of to see things you won't be interested in. Wrong! Andrew, our son, as often happens, pulled a rabbit out of the hat. Our three days in Alexandria were the most fun of our whole trip. Partly it was lack of expectations and partly it was that Alexandria, with its mix of Ancient Egyptian and Graeco-Roman heritage is a great place to visit. Take my advice. If you get a chance - go there!

Sunday, 20 January 2019

The 9 & 1/2 best places to visit in Cairo - and one to avoid!

Great Sphinx
You arrive in Egypt, surviving a long haul flight in the process.  If, like us, you have come from Australia you were in the air for 20 hours or more - half that time if you are lucky enough to live on the east coast of the United States. You spent interminable hours hanging around airports, lining up to check-in, lining up to go through security, lining up to board the plane. You waited while your fellow passengers boarded, stowed their over-size cabin baggage and took their seats, then you waited while the pilot 'just waited on paperwork' (does anyone know what that paperwork they wait for is - couldn't they stay back at the office the night before and clear it up like everyone

Saturday, 12 January 2019

A complete guide to visiting the Pyramids of Giza and my tips to avoid the scams.

Pyramids of Giza
There is nothing in the world quite like the Pyramids of Giza. Built more than 4,500 years ago, they are the only one of the seven wonders of the ancient world in existence today. To say the feeling of standing in front of them and looking up is awesome doesn't come anywhere near to describing it. Sadly however, the one thing most difficult to do at the pyramids is to stand back and soak in the atmosphere.

Lonely Planet describes it as 'the pyramids hustle'. There is no getting around it - once you set your sights on visiting the pyramids you might as well put a target on your back because you will be fair game for every tout, shonky tourist guide, cheap trinket seller

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

A guide to visiting the Tomb of Mehu: Egypt's NEW 4,000 year-old tomb

Tomb of Mehu
In September 2018 Egypt opened to the public the 4,000 year old Tomb of Mehu. Discovered at Saqqara in 1940 the tomb has never before been open to visitors. Situated at the Saqqara Necropolis, only a short distance from Cairo, the tomb is maddeningly difficult to locate once you are there. In typical Egyptian fashion the Ministry of Antiquities publicised the opening of the tomb with much fanfare around the world then neglected to post a single sign to help visitors find it.   In late November 2018 David and I found the tomb and explored it. After reading reviews on Trip Advisor by disappointed tourists who either couldn't find the tomb or couldn't gain access once they found it, I decided to write this post. If you are planning a trip to Egypt and you would like to see something few other people on the planet have seen (so far) then scroll down to 'How to Find the Tomb of Mehu' and follow my directions.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

How NOT to buy a souvenir: 8 tips on avoiding that piece of useless junk.

souvenir stand
It was the first day of our travels in Mexico. It was hot, we were jet-lagged and we were awed by the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula - one of the new seven wonders of the world. There was a long line of eager souvenir sellers, all with wide grins, and near-identical trinkets. I was on a quest for something to remember our trip by. David was on a quest to do anything to make me happy. I had recently been ill, very ill, and he was being even more caring and generous than usual. All this amounted to a  perfect recipe to get taken advantage of, mercilessly, - and the Mexican souvenir sellers were happy to oblige.

Friday, 19 October 2018

Watch out for topes! And other life saving tips for driving in Mexico.

donkey
Driving in Mexico is stressful - I just want to get that out of the way to start with. The traffic is awful, the other drivers operate in a different universe of road rules (who am I kidding - what road rules), the road signs are someone's idea of a bad joke (when they exist at all), the frequent potholes are yawning caverns with 'journey to the centre of the earth' like proportions and don't get me started on the speed bumps.

Friday, 28 September 2018

Uxmal: Mayan ruins on a grand scale in Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula

Uxmal Mayan ruins

For sheer size and grandeur the Mayan ruins of Uxmal and their imposing Pyramid of the Magician are hard to beat. Four hours by road from the beach resorts of Playa del Carmen, Uxmal's relative isolation means that like the pyramids and temples at Mayapan it doesn't suffer from the crowds which flock to Chichen Itza and Tulum. Our road trip through the Yucatan Peninsula took us to Merida, to see the flamingos of Celestun and from Merida it was an easy one hour's drive south to Uxmal.

Uxmal has the most impressive pyramid we saw in all of Yucatan. Rising up on a massive elliptical base The Pyramid of the Magician is reminiscent of a fortified European castle standing in silent defence of the city's long dead inhabitants.