Saturday, 8 September 2007

By felucca to Thebes

Back from my hols: to Egypt with my favourite travel company, Explore Worldwide adventure travel. Journeying by train and felucca, a small traditional wooden sailing boat (photo above as we wake up one morning on our boats) we explored Cairo, Aswan and Luxor (ancient Thebes) visiting all the popular historical sites such as the Pyramids, Sphinx, Karnak and the Valley of the Kings.
But the highlight was definitely tacking slowly up the Nile from Aswan to Luxor with our small group of 19 independent travellers and couples divided between three feluccas. Sleeping on the deck, washing in the Nile, drinking Liptons Yellow Label tea in a glass made with Nile water: simple pleasures, long remembered.

Politically, the security situation in Eygpt meant that our visits to places such as Abu Simbel had to be done as part of a convoy of buses and cars speeding along perfect roads through the desert starting at 4am, guarded by armed Egyptian police outriders. In Cairo we were protected by a plain-clothed security guard with a sub machine gun! Not what I was expecting.

On the felucca, however, the only danger was that our laid-back two man Nubian crew would forget the British requirement for a brew-up every couple of hours, or falling asleep in the shade of the canvass and waking up in a full 40 degree centigrade sun. Bliss!
The grinding poverty of much of the country was disturbing, of course. The constant attention from hawkers and street traders at every stop, at all the ancient sites and in every town and village became a real annoyance, once the initial curiosity had worn off (after about 5 minutes!).

Other highlights: early evening tea and cocktails with my four fellow independent travellers on the terrace of the Winter Palace in Luxor, Tutankamun's mask in the Cairo Museum and his tomb in the Valley of the Kings (visited by donkey), an evening meal in a Nubian village, the beautiful Philae Temple, away from the tourist sites exploring the backstreets of the Islamic Quarter of Cairo .

Less endearing parts of the trip: the sanitary facilities on overnight Egyptian trains and the Pyramids and Sphinx (not, as I thought, in glorious isolation in the desert, but a dirty, litter-strewn site on the edge of suburban Cairo where hawkers are a constant annoyance)

Overall, as always with Explore, a great holiday.


miketually said...

Wow, sounds like a fantastic holiday. We went to Burham-on-Sea...

(We also had an overnight with friends in Yeovil. They had a fantastic recycling scheme (how sad is it that I notice these things when on holiday?) which should be copied in Darlington.)

jonthanfryer said...

Hi, Mike. You should try the Explore trip to southern Libya -- yomping across the desert in 4by4s, and sleeping in (scorpion proof) tents in the deserts, and visiting rock-paintings in the day-time. Awesome!
Jonathan Fryer

Mike Barker said...

My grandparents lived in Burnham-on-Sea after they retired. I have many happy memories of long summer teenage holidays down there.

As a good Liberal Democrat, I asked what we should do with the numerous empty bottles of water we got through every day in Egypt. Our Egyptian tour leader said we should just throw them away: "There's no recycling in Egypt".

I have in mind a trip to Vietnam next with Explore. Now the kids are all off my hands (at least as far as holidays are concerned) the only limits are my imagination and wallet.