Check out all the photos of this trip on our Facebook page ” African Trails Overlands and Safaris” as we have been having problems with the photos.
We drive into downtown Cairo and its evident instantly that we have hit the city – people, noise and traffic everywhere. As we drive through the city, we get our first glimpse of the Pyramids of Giza – an incredible sight, set against the backdrop of this modern city.
The next morning we are up early and off the see the only remaining Wonder of the Ancient World – the Pyramids of Giza. Looking down at the site from the Giza plateau you get an incredible view of the entire site, with a total of 9 pyramids and the sphinx on the eastern edge of the plateau. Rachel and Rebecca also discover you also get another perspective of pyramids if you set out to see the site on the back of a camel.
We start with Khufu’s pyramid, best known as the Great Pyramid, which is the largest of all three standing at over 145 metres high. From a distance the blocks that make up the pyramids look like Lego bricks, but up close the enormity of them overwhelm and climbing part of the structure cannot be resisted by Willy, Dean, Chad, Jose and Carrie (a once in a lifetime photo opportunity!).The second pyramid, which actually appears taller as it stands on a higher part of the plateau, is dedicated to the son of Khufu, Khafre.The second pyramid can be distinguished, not only by its size but by the limestone casing that adorns the top of the structure. The third pyramid and the smallest on site is that of Menakaure, the grandson of Khufu, and measures only 62 metres. We also visit the interior of the Great Pyramid and the Pyramid of Khafre, and take in the burial chambers built within these great structures.
The other highlight of the plateau is that of the Sphinx, known in Arabic as the Father of Terror. Smaller than you would expect, but no less impressive, the Sphinx is carved entirely from one huge piece of limestone left over from the building of the Great Pyramid. Although the Sphinx is regarded as the guardian of hidden knowledge, no secrets were revealed to us, but Dean, Carrie, Ches and Dean head off that night for the sound and light show, and learn more about the history of the pyramids, as well as seeing them illuminated in an array of colours.
Ches and Chad leave us in Giza and head to Siwa, the most remote of Egypt’s oases. With days filled with hot and cold water springs, relaxing in palm-lined groves, sand-boarding the dunes, and dining with the Bedouins. At night they dance at the full moon party and sleep under a sky full of stars.
The rest of the group leaves Giza for downtown Cairo. With many attractions right on our doorstep we hit the Egyptian Museum containing over 100,000 relics from Egypt’s history, including the galleries of Tutankhamen which include his solid gold death mask, and his sarcophagus, as well as the Royal Mummy roomwhich houses the bodies of some of Egypt’s most revered kings and queens. The Cairo skyline swells with numerous citadels and mosques, and the streets are clogged with shops and stalls selling more souvenirs.Rachel and Sue even brave the maze of streets and alleyways that make up the Khan Al-Khalili Bazaar, Cairo’s famous marketplace since the 14th century, and come away unscathed and with a few bargains in hand.
We are also joined by some fresh faces – Mike and Mike (also known as Shadow) from the other overland truck jump on board for the final leg to Istanbul. Although on limited time having joined us late into our time in Cairo, they hit the pyramids, the zoo and other of Cairo’s main attractions getting them up to speed and ready to hit Alexandria with us the next day.
With only a day to explore Alexandria we are up early and ready to make the most of it. Arriving mid-morning, we start by taking in some of the famed café culture and sample some of the local brew street side. Caffeine-injected, we hit the sights. We start at FortQayt, with its imposing sandstone walls and panoramic view of the Mediterranean, the fort was built on the site of ancient Pharos lighthouse, and incorporates many of its remains.We pass Pompeys’ Pillar, the Bibliotheca Alexandria and the Roman Amphitheatre, before stopping at the catacombs of Kom al-Shoqafa, which date from the 2nd century AD. The principal tomb contains a myriad of rock-hewn casings for storing bodies, as well as a funery temple decorated with a mix of pharonic and Greek imagery. We stop for lunch and sample a seafood fare, and Dean tries some pigeon, an Egyptian delicacy (which apparently needs more meat). We drive back to Cairo, once again battling the challenges of the Egyptian way of driving, and arrive back in time for a night out on the town having a couple of beers with the locals and stopping to see the colours of the lights glowing from the boats and riverbanks of the Nile.
With Cairo covered, we head east to the Sinai Peninsula, travelling under the Suez Canal. We arrive at the base of Mount Sinai, famed as the place where Moses received the Ten Commandments.Mike and Chad are eager to make a head start and carve their own path up the mountain. Ches and Dean follow soon after, but take the better-marked pathway up the Steps of Repentance, with Willy, Jose and Carrie following in their footsteps at 3am the next morning. At 2285 metres, the group arrives at the summit to take the sunrise and see the amazing vista over the surrounding peaks.
They arrive back in time for a well-deserved breakfast and rest, and Sue, Mike, Rebecca, Ches and Shadow stop in to visit the monastery of St Katherine, positioned at the base of the mountain. We stop for a photo at the Burning Bush (where Moses purportedly first spoke to God) and then pass through the Sacred Sacristy with its rare religious iconography including a 4th century translation of the bible.We also take in the Church of Transfiguration, which with its chandelier-covered ceiling and heavily adorned walls, resemble something like the Great Hall in Harry Potter.
From Mount Sinai we depart for Dahab, where the desert meets the waters of the Red Sea.Dahab is known for having a chilled-out atmosphere, and after less than 24 hours here, we fit right in. We plonk ourselves in Masbat amidst the restaurants, cafes, markets and the sea and make ourselves right at home with frequent seaside sheeshas, cold beers and a couple of nights on the town.
With diving as the lifeblood of tourism in Dahab, Mike jumps in early and is off to do his Advanced course on the first day, and Mark is not far behind him undertaking his Rescue Divers course. Ches and Mike start their diving careers during our stay with an Open Water Course, and Dean and Sue get wet at the Blue Hole. Even Carrie is bitten by the diving bug, and squeezes in an Introductory dive. For the rest of us, there is snorkeling in DahabBay and at the Blue Hole, both locations offering up an array of underwater life.
We also say some more goodbyes – Chad and Rachel (both of whom despite being only booked to Cairo couldn’t bear to leave us just yet) tagged along for an extra day or two to Dahab and have now left us to return to the real world.
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