Saturday, November 20, 2010

Eid al-Adha in Masr

The last week has been an absolutely unforgettable isbua (week) of backpacking my way through most of Egypt. We had the week off from school for the Eid break, and I decided to make the most of it, tabaan (of course). I headed out with just two hotels booked, itinerary, or even travel partners.... but to be honest... that is often times the best way to travel and the adventures I found along the way will be among the memories that never ever leave me. It ended up being a week of incredible sights, wonderful new traveling friends, and the perfect amount of play and relaxation away from the daily life I know.

Alright, so in an attempt to *briefly (whatever that means in Amy-speak)* recap my trip: I started out flying from Cairo to Aswan on a Thursday night. Checked into cheap, run down hostel with a nice view on the Nile. Spent Friday exploring the West Bank in the morning: checked out the Tombs of the Nobles then took a camel out to see St. Simeon's monastery. In the afternoon I went to Elephantine Island, explored the Nubian Villages, got a henna tattoo and met some of the residents of the community, checked out the ruins and got my feet in the Nile.

Saturday I had the chance to jump into a tour group from a group of hotels going to Abu Simbel at 3am and coming back via the High Dam on Lake Nasser, and the Island of Philae--which was an unexpected highlight of the week long trip. Came back and had dinner with a Nubian family on the island and watched the sunset from their rowboat before going to the Nubian Museum.

Sunday got in a carpool to Luxor and stopped at Kom Ombo and Edfu Temple on the drive north. Arrived in Luxor and immediately set to work dominating the history infested medina (city). Went to Karnak delawati (right away) then we walked back to town together to check out the Luxor Temple at night.

Monday woke up and rented a bike (sans gear shift, but plus a handy dandy basket) and rode myself allllllll over the West Bank hitting up the Valley of the Kings, Temple of Hatshepsut, Valley of the Queens, and the Colossi of Memnon. It was a lot of hot, hard biking, and on my way out to the valley of the Kings I initially wondered if I had lost my mind....but it ended up being a great way to spend the day traveling and seeing the sights (and beats getting a taxi when I only paid $3.50usd for the day on bike!). That night I kept the tourist in me alive and kicking and visited the Luxor Museum and the Mummification Museum.

I loved my bike so much that I decided to keep it for another day and set out Tuesday morning to finish the sites I hadn't made it to the day before. Tuesday happened to be the actual Eid Holiday..... the holiday where the lamb is slaughtered... wasn't quite ready for that site as I walked out the gate of my hotel right into the recently killed sheep, right next to my bicycle... Took a deep breath, gathered my guts, and set off to the Habu Temple , Deir El Medina (the workers village), the Ramesseum, and the Temple of Seti I. Another great day in the sun and history of civilization. Spent the late afternoon/evening at my hotel in the garden area waiting for my flight to Sharm on the Sinai Penninsula...

...which I nearly missed! The ferry took much longer than anticipated to cross, and I didn't leave enough time.. A very kind family on the ferry offered to drive me to the airport for free and quickly, al hamdo lelah, and ended up being driven out on the tarmak as they held the flight for 15 minutes for me!... goodness I felt the evil eye when I walked on the plane...

Taxied from Sharm to the beach city of Nuweiba at midnight and met up with my friend Ezzat. What a beautiful, relaxing beach camp it was! We spent Wednesday meeting new friends both in our camp and up and down the beach, and I was able to jump into a group going to climb St Katherine's on Thursday .

Honestly, the climb up Mount Katherine (mt sinai) was the most one of a kind, memorable experience. We started up the mountain at 1am after an hour plus drive from Nuweiba to the mountain... The group of people I met were really wonderful and we had a good time getting to the top together, really a bonding experience... It took 3 hours to hike to the top in the absolute black darkness of night.... and when we reached the top we were bundled in blankets to ward off the cold until sunrise... and what a sunrise it was.. Absolutely stunning. Spent 2 hours on top of the mountain overlooking nothing but beautiful hills and valleys as far as you could see, then trekked back down for another 3 hours, briefly toured the monastery and got back in the bus to head home... major crash napping happened the rest of the day and that evening we got together as a group and hung out, played backgammon and scattegories and relaxed by the beach.

From the beach in Nuweiba, I did a tiny bit of snorkeling (really not a swimmer persay but I had to at least go once right?).. felt little tiny jelly fish pricks but nothing major, saw a sea snake and tons of fish, coral, and sea anemone. Sitting on the beach I could look across the water into the mountains of Saudi Arabia, and Jordan farther north... really mind boggling to think how close I was to the home of so many of my friends...

The trip home on Friday was entertaining... the bus didn't stop for us as it was supposed to... so we spent two hours chasing down our bus.. I ended up in Taba (on the border with Israel), with my new group of friends only to discover the bus had sold our seats so there was standing room only for the 6 hours back to Cairo...... luckily for the three of us girls, seats opened up quickly on the way and I actually rode back quite comfortably...

Cheers to you if you made it through all of this... the incredible thing is that this only skims the surface of what I experienced.. the people I met were really amazing everywhere.. and I know
God was watching out for me as things fell into place at the right time everywhere I went...Ana mahzooza owie alatool (I am very lucky, all the time). It's been nice to be in Egypt (Masr), and this was a great culminating experience to see a little bit of everything... Masrland, you've been good to me.. so so kowayyes..
ps. this only touches the surface of my experiences... if you want to know more, check out more photos on facebook here, and or ask me about the great people I met like Adam from Australia, Felix from Madrid, my AIESEC friends I met in Nuweiba, Cassandra from Wyoming, almost getting locked into the hippo goddess temple, eating dinner at Hishem's Nubian home, travel fiascos with Egyptair and East Delta buses... not to mention the oodles of information I could impart on the sites I visited... but this is plenty for one post as it is....

pps. 3 weeks til my 23rd birthday, exactly one month left in Egypt as of today

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