Voyage of Traveler / Blog

May 4, 2009

Traveler Postcard from Luxor

Filed under: Year 2: July08-June09 French Polynesia to Greece, Red Sea — mrlawlerjr @ 10:55 am

Hi, Everyone,

We are at sea again, for two nights, having departed from Port Ghalib late this morning, May 4, motoring in rare, light, tail winds (usually strong head winds here), so that’s a good thing.  We are heading north up Egypt’s Red Sea coast toward Port Suez, where we plan on touring inland to Cairo to see the Great Pyramids, the Sphinx and the Egyptian Museum.  Then it is up through the Suez Canal and into the Med!

You may want to check out the website for Ghalib at www.portghalibmarina.com for some photos.  It is a world-class, new marina and surrounding city, now five years into a fifteen year build out and owned by a sheik from Kuwait. It’s one of the nicest marinas we have seen, and quite the contrast from our last port at Suakin, Sudan–complete opposite ends of the spectrum.

While in Ghalib, we hired a driver to take us to Luxor to see the famous temples and tombs.  The sights we saw include the awesome columns of the Temple of Karnak, Luxor Temple, and pharaoh’s tombs in the Valley of Kings.  Next to King Tutankhamun’s Tomb I briefly joined in on an archeological dig to try to find the tomb of Ramses VIII (really just a photo op.)

It was really hot in Luxor. 104 in the shade. But not much of it.

One highlight was sailing on the Nile in an old, traditional wooden felucca for a sunset picnic dinner.  It was much cooler being down on water, especially with the nice breeze.  Another highlight was seeing the Winter Palace Hotel, the former palace of King Farouk, Egypt’s last monarch, and enjoying a cold beer pool side.

In addition to our driver, we also hired Aladdin, a tour guide (only $60 full-time for the two days we were there), once we got to Luxor.  “Al” earned his masters in archaeology at the University of Alexandria.  His grandfather found one of the pharaoh’s tombs, and his family has lived in the same place on the West Bank of the Nile for centuries.

At our hotel, for a late night dinner I wore my traditional Arabic outfit, complete with ceremonial dagger tucked into my belt, and got lots of curious looks from the other hotel guests and smiles from the staff.

The drive to Luxor and back to Ghalib–five hours each way–was memorable, fortunately, for the wide open desert scenery and, unfortunately, because of our crazy driver.  He was young, liked to speed, liked to smoke (a national custom) and liked to listen to the most annoying Arabic music the whole way.  On the way back, after it got dark, we found out he also liked driving with his headlights off, passing other cars and tour buses, doing 135 kpm!  Scared the daylights out of us.  Also, an annoying alarm beeped continuously anytime the speed got over 100 kph, which was pretty much the entire way from Safaga back to Ghalib, the last two hours.  We had to change cars in Safaga, where the “limo” (it was just a regular Mitsubishi sedan) company is based, because the air conditioning broke while we were in Luxor.  So, for four hours or so, we miserably sat in our car seats, drenched in our sweat-soaked clothes, trying our best to avoid heat stroke, while driving the return leg from Luxor to Safaga. Putting the windows down didn’t help that much. It just made it like a blast furnace.

On our cruise up the Red Sea from Sudan, about midway between Suakin and Ghalib, we stopped at an uninhabited island, Geziret Zabargad (Arabic for Sea Mist Island), to go for a tank dive on the outside wall of a barrier reef in clear, warm water.  We saw lots of fish and gorgeous coral, but were blown away by the monster moray eel we saw. His head had to be 12 inches wide!  There was a cleaner fish swimming in and around his mouth, which was constantly opening and closing–that’s how eels breath, it just appears to be threatening. We only saw his head and neck, from a very close three feet away, but we are guessing he had to be at least 10 feet long, given the size of his enormous head.  Amazing!

Livin’ the Dream,
Michael and Barbara

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