Archive for the 'Egypt' Category

Dec 01 2008

My Red Sea live-aboard experience…

Published by under Diving,Egypt

After spending a week traveling in egypt, it was time for the some diving. The main reason i came to egypt was to dive into the depths of the Red Sea.

 

Getting to Sharm El Sheikh

Meeting Our Fellow Divers

Day 1 My First Wreck Penetration

Day 2 Amazing Wreck Dives

Day 3 Garden of Corals

Day 4 Attack of the Lion Fish ūüėČ

Day 5 Tragedy Strikes :(

Day 6 Wrapping it up

 

Getting to Sharm

 

Before going to bed the previous night i had decided to skip walk to al azhar park and just chill at the hotel before heading down to the airport to catch my flight for Sharm El Sheikh (sharm). I realized that for some reason Egypt Air cancelled the 3 pm flight and i would be now on the 4 pm flight to sharm.

 

I left the hotel at about noon and half hr later i was at the small terminal from where the flight to sharm would depart. Jeanne showed up half hour later and she was also moved to the 4pm flight so it was cool. We just spent time chatting at the airport and our small flight to sharm was nothing exciting as such. The flight took off at about 4.20 pm and we landed in Sharm at 5 pm. Taking a cab from the airport to the hotel was going to be interesting since i would have had to haggle about the price and in the end even though i didn’t think the price was right, we had to give in and take a high priced cab to the hotel.

 

Crown Plaza Resort as the name suggests is a resort and it is one beautiful place to relax. It over looks the red sea and has all sorts of facilities one can imagine, tennis/squash courts, a discotheque, spa, pools etc. It would make up for a very nice place to relax. We met up with George and Pam, they were also going to be on the King Snefro Crown live-aboard. George and Pam do a lot of live-aboards and George might have just talked me into hopping on the Galapagos trip.

 

After checking into our room, it was time for dinner and we found this italian place where we had some good pasta and lasagna. I went to bed early while Jeanne went out to take pictures.

 

Meeting the Group

 

If it wasn’t for Jeanne’s alarm we would have slept way past noon, luckily the alarm went off at 11 am and we got ready and checked out of the hotel on time. King Snefro guys were going to pick us up at about 1 pm and so we just waited outside for them to show up. They picked us up and then followed by George and Pam.

 

Ashia and Peter (South Africa), Paloma and Miguel (Spain), Neil (U.K.), Markus and Mira (Finland), Olga and Armana (Kazagkhstan), Marcus and Yoshi (Father, Son from Germany) were going to be the rest of our fellow divers. Two divers didn’t make it on the boat for some unknown reason.

 

We reached the boat by about 2.30 or so and then after a quick briefing we had lunch. The food throughout was really good, they had some veggie stuff, lots of salads and things like that, it was nice. We waited at the dock till 9 pm and then we headed out to a local dive spot where we would be doing our first checkout dive.

 

The boat was really nice, it was my first live-aboard so i didn’t know what to expect but George and Pam have been on several so i got a good idea about the quality of the boat from them. The galley was pretty big and it could fit in all of us at the same time and there was a saloon which had a dvd player and a wide screen LCD, it looked really royal. The cabins downstairs were pretty big though there wasn’t enough storage space in them. Overall the boat was really nice and comfortable with a big dive deck where an entire group could wait to jump in.

 

The Dive Area.

 

Also they had AL 80’s and most of us were going to dive nitrox 32%, since Ashia, Peter and Neil weren’t nitrox certified they decided to get nitrox certified during this trip. We headed out to the first dive spot at about 9 pm or so. We were supposed to get up at 6 am and out first dive briefing was going to be at 6.30 am.

 

Day 1 Dives

 

We all woke up at 6 am and then we had our dive briefing, since all the weights were in Kg, we had to first see if we all were properly weighted before we started diving. We were split into two groups of 8 and 7. George, Pam, Ashia, Peter, Neil, Jeanne and myself were going to be one group with Khaled being our guide where as the others were going to be with Yasser.

 

We did the calculation and Khaled asked me to take 8 kgs but i decided to go with 6 instead since 8 would be too heavy. I was perfectly weighted with 6 kgs and didn’t have any problems at all with my buoyancy.

 

Dive 1: Ras Katy

 

Ras Katy is a local dive spot from Sharm and lot of dive boats, submarines frequent this place. This was kinda a beach dive as well since it was very close to the shore. We got into water and started going along the reef, it was very pretty.

 

One of the Many Coral Pinnacles.

 

Immediately we saw a blue spotted ray and it was just a sign of things to come. Jeanne saw a big octopus but we all were far ahead by that time. The reefs were teeming with life, plenty of orange anthias, big corals, sea fans it was nice. We also spotted a lion fish, I played with my camera settings and only a few pics have come out to be good. I saw a baby peppered moray eel and a crab hiding inside a coral.

Baby Eel.

 

At the end of the dive there was this lone anemone fish which came out towards me and was playing with me, it was really fun to watch him zoom by me. Those things are very curious fish but then they won’t leave the anemone as such I was kinda surprised that one guy came upto me. I tried taking few good pics but he was too fast for me.

 

This was only a sample of the things to come and i was really excited by the prospect of seeing more of red sea.

 

Dive Details:

Dive Time: 59 mins

Max Depth: 66 ft

Air Consumed: 2299 psi.

Avg Depth: 43.2 ft

 

Dive 2: Ras Ghozlani

 

After having breakfast our second dive was going to be at Ras Ghozlani and it was going to be a drift dive. I had never done a drift dive and was kinda curious about how fast the currents would be etc but it didn’t turn out to be that bad. We were going to go along with the current and then at the end of the dive the zodiac (small inflatable boat) was going to pick us up to take us back to the boat.

 

Ours was the first group to get into water and as i have mentioned earlier the current wasn’t strong at all, it was a pretty mellow dive. As we got into water we were greeted by vast areas of corals it was really nice. I came across a big arabian angel fish, moving on it was a sea bed of different corals, fans, etc.

 

There were so many anemone fishes hiding among the anemones it was very pretty, i was determined to get a shot similar to the mac desktop picture that i have and in the later dives i came very close to getting that perfect shot.

 

During the course of the dive, i came too close to pam and i tried getting away from her fins but as i was doing that she didn’t realize that i was underneath and she turned. Her tank hit me good on the head and i had to make sure that i wasn’t bleeding and didn’t crack up my skull. I ended up having a nice big lump on my head after that dive but it wasn’t that bad :).

 

We had to get back on the boat using that zodiac which was an experience. We have to get close to it and then take off all our gear except for mask and fins so that the tanks can be pulled in first into the zodiac and then we pull ourselves up into it. I took my mask off and gave it to the guys in the boat since i had to get the secondary regulator off my neck. I realized that i should have kept the mask with me after taking the secondary off and corrected that on subsequent zodiac entries.

 

Me and Neil talked about how cool it would be to do a dive using a zodiac, rolling backwards into water like navy seals and our wish was granted on the next dive itself :).

 

Dive Details:

Dive Time: 53 mins

Max Depth: 75 ft

Air Consumed: 2468 psi.

Avg Depth: 49.5 ft.

 

Dive 3: Ghiannis D

 

After the second dive we were planning on crossing on Strait of Gubal and do some wreck dives on the reef called Shaab Abu Nahas. The weather was really nice so we crossed across and the wreck of Ghiannis D was going to be our next dive.

 

We were going to penetrate the wreck so i was really excited by that prospect. This wreck and all the other wrecks are relatively easy and safe to penetrate as such mainly because there is no danger of too much silting, most of it is iron so the main caution to take is not to cut yourself against the sharp edges.

 

Ghiannis D

Type of Ship: Cargo (Timbers)

Nationality: Greek

Year of Construction: 1969

Length: 99.5 m

Width: 16 m

Tonnage: 2.932 Ton

Date of Wreck: 19th April 1983

Depth: 27 m

 

We were going to take the zodiac to the dive site and had to do a roll back entry into the water, it was going to be my first. All of us were supposed to be in the water at the same time so that we don’t hit anyone but i messed up the exit. Jeanne was in front of me on the other side and her fins were on top of mine so i was worried that we would get caught up and therefore i jumped in late and ended up hitting pam with my fins. It wasn’t that bad but still i could have done it right.

 

We dropped down to the bow section of the boat. I came across a box fish and a blue spotted ray. We then swam towards the stern section of the boat and while doing that we could see a group of dolphins on the surface. Also came across Pyjama Chromodorid nudibranch and it was time to penetrate the wreck.

 

Nudi.

 

We entered the engine room of the ship and i was just surprised on how big the room was, all 7 of us were able to fit into that room without bumping into each other or anything like that. It was simply amazing, i didn’t expect that at all. We then came out of wreck through a series of ups and downs, it wasn’t that straightforward at all. I would have been completely lost if i was by myself, i tried to keep a track of the path we were going inside the wreck but then i completely lost it. I was more than happy following the group. It was nice to see schools of glass fish in there, the silhouette of them against the surface was cool.

 

We then swam back towards the bow section of the wreck, did our safety stop and then got back into the zodiac and back on the boat.

 

Dive Details:

Dive Time: 50 mins

Max Depth: 77 ft

Air Consumed: 2505 psi.

Avg Depth: 52.1 ft

 

Dive 4: Night Dive Shaab Abu Nahas Reef

 

Our night dive was going to be at the reef where we were anchored and neither Khaled or Yaseer were going to jump into water with us. The dive was supposed to be really easy with no currents and only 30 ft of water. Jeanne didn’t want to go in the water at night without someone who is familiar with the dive site coming along with us, it was a valid concern and i wasn’t sure if because of liability reasons it would be a smart thing to do for the guides.

 

Khaled then decided to get into water with us. George and Pam got into water only because of the lure of seeing a spanish dancer (nudibranch).

 

We got into the water and after few mins came across two spanish dancers , i also saw eggs of the spanish dancer. They lay them in a nice circular fashion, now that i think about it i should have tried to take a better picture of the eggs.

 

I came across a arrow spider crab and tried to get jeanne’s attention, by the time she got there the crab hid under the coral. After 15 mins into the dive we came across another spanish dancer and this guy was all by himself. I just thought they were some huge nudis and didn’t know that they were called spanish dancers until i got back on the boat. The reason they are called dancers because they can swim and their movement is very graceful and really nice to watch.

 

Spanish Dancer.

 

Arrow Spider Crab.

 

We were supposed to be in water for only 30 mins max but the dive time was 40 mins. It was a nice dive and the spanish dancers are just big beautiful nudis. We also spotted a lone starfish it was the pebbled star fish, I found a hermit crab or something similar but he was inside the coral and i couldn’t get a good pic of him.

Star Fish.

 

Dive Details:

Dive Time: 40 mins

Max Depth: 51 ft

Air Consumed: 1480 psi.

Avg Depth: 31.5 ft

 

After having dinner it was time for me to head off to sleep it was a long day of some good diving and even awesome diving to follow. We were supposed to get up at 6 am again and 6.30 am would be our dive briefing.

 

Day 2 Dives, Beautiful Wreck Diving

 

We were going to do two dives on the wrecks in the Shaab Abu Nahas reef and then head off to the grand daddy of all the wrecks, Thistlegorm which is considered to be one of the top wrecks in the world to dive.

 

Dive 5: Carnatic

 

Carnatic was going to be the first wreck of the day, this is probably the oldest wreck in the region and the boat is full of life. It hit the reef but the captain didn’t think the situation was bad and the crew as well as passengers were waiting to be rescued but then after 11 hours when the captain gave evacuation orders all of sudden the ship snapped into two and 31 people out of 34 passengers and 176 crew perished. Ship had a cargo of cotton bales, finest bottles of wine, soda and about 40,000 sterling in gold some of which is still believed to be buried inside the hold.

 

Carnatic:

Type of Ship: Steamer

Nationality: British

Year of Construction: 1862

Length: 89.8 m

Width: 11.6 m

Tonnage: 1.776 Ton

Date of Shipwreck: 12-13th Sept 1869

Depth: 27 m

 

We were going to drop on the bow section of the wreck and then head out all the way to the stern, where the propeller still remains and then head back along the other side upto the bow. Zodiac was going to be the means of transport from the boat and this time around i got into the water properly, there weren’t any incidents.

 

As we got to the bow section and were swimming along the wreck i saw a fish going after some kind of worm/eel/snake, the fish couldn’t get a hold of it and the little guy managed to get away. We still have to ID what that thing was, it looks like a snake but then its too small mostly its a type of eel or a worm.

 

Not sure if this was a snake or eel.

 

We saw a lot of fish life bannerfish, gobies, damsel fishes, butterfly fishes etc, plenty of corals it was really nice. The wreck has turned into a skeleton as such and you can see how the boat was constructed at that time with huge steel columns running across from the port side to starboard side.

 

Carnatic Wreck

 

Once we got into the zodiac as we were heading back to the boat there were dolphins in the water so all of us put our masks and fins on again and jumped right back in. Unfortunately the dolphins were not in a mood to play so we had to get back in.

 

Dive Details:

Dive Time: 49 mins

Max Depth: 87 ft

Air Consumed: 2343 psi.

Avg Depth: 56.5 ft.

 

Dive 6: Marcus or Chrisoula K.

 

After breakfast it was time to dive the wreck of Marcus and it turned out to be the best dive so far. This is also known as the “wreck of the tiles” because this german ship was carrying a cargo of italian tiles to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia when it hit the reef at its maximum speed and met its fate. Apparently the true identity of this ship is still a mystery and hence its known as marcus or chirsoula k but the general opinion is the latter.

 

Chrisoula K

Type of Ship: Cargo

Nationality: German

Year of Construction: 1954

Length: 98m

Width: 14.8 m

Tonnage: 3.720 Ton

Date of Shipwreck: 31st Aug 1981

Depth: 4 – 26 m

 

We were going to use the zodiac again and drop down to the bow section of the boat which lies slanted along the reef. As we continued along the side of the boat and came to the main funnel, there was a lion fish waiting for us and then as we continued along just near the mast there was a big crocodile fish resting peacefully. On the previous dive i found a pipe fish and thought it to be a crocodile fish, they are so different and the size is also different. Pipe fish is a tiny thing with few cms in width and about a foot long where as the crocodile fish is a big fish with about a foot wide and 3-4 ft in length.

 

Crocodile Fish

 

We then continued towards the stern section and came around to penetrate the wreck. We entered the cargo holding section and could see tons of tiles still laying around everywhere, it was interesting to see how well they were preserved. As we got out of the wreck, i came across a flatworm lying on a column, initially we thought it was a nudi but then we identified it to be a gold dotted flatworm.

 

Flat Worm.

 

We moved along the deck of the boat and found a HUGE moray resting, it was easily atleast 6 ft in length and about 2 ft in diameter, it was amazing. In general this wreck had lots of corals both soft and hard, plenty of fish life as well.

 

During the course of this dive my computer slapped me a 2 min level stop at 10 ft which then increased to 3 mins after a while but then i hung at 40 ft for couple of mins and then did level stops at 30 ft and 20 ft so my computer just cleared out those 10 ft level stop requirements it was really cool to see the theory which Jeanne has been teaching into action.

 

Dive Details:

Dive Time: 52 mins

Max Depth: 86 ft

Air Consumed: 2389 psi.

Avg Depth: 52 ft.

 

Now it was time to cross the strait of gubal again and head off to Thistlegorm. I had already planned to take a nap during the time we cross the strait and since it was after lunch, it certainly helped me sleep :).

 

Dive 7: Thistlegorm

 

When i woke up for the briefing, we had already anchored at the wreck site and the current at this site dictates what the plan for the dive is. Khaled had dove down to get our boat anchored to wreck and there were already 5-6 other boats at this site. This is one of the most popular wrecks in the entire world so it was bound to be crowded. According to the book, this wreck brings in more tourist money than the pyramids of giza, it is sad though that the wreck is not being looked after as such.

 

The reason this wreck is so amazing because of the cargo it was carrying when it was sunk by german bombers. When it left Glasgow, Scotland to deliver its cargo to the British 8th Army stationed in Egypt and Libya during the WWII it had to take the long route across africa since the western side of Mediterranean was controlled by German forces. Its cargo consisted of ammunitions, bombs of different kinds, anti tank mines, Lee Enfield MK III rifles, a hundred of BSA Motorcycles, BSA W-M20, Matchless G3L and Norton 16 H, Bedford, Morris and Ford Trucks, two light Bren Carrier MK II tanks, two steam Stanier 8 F locomotives complete with two coal tenders and water tankers necessary for travel in desert zones, transport trucks, portable field generators, spare parts for airplanes and automobiles, medicine, tyres and rubber boots. phew so much stuff and most of it can be seen in the wreck.

 

Thistlegorm:

Type of ship: Steam Freighter

Nationality: British

Construction Date: 1940

Propulsion: Steam

Length: 126.5 m

Width: 17.5 m

Tonnage: displacement of 9.009 Ton

Date of Shipwreck: 5-6 October 1941

Depth: 15 – 30 m

 

Since the current at this site is very strong we had to descend on the bow using the rope by which our ship was anchored. We were then going to go along with the current and then on the way back penetrate some of the holds of the wreck. Since Yasser was the only guide going along with us we were one big group and it was really crowded while penetrating the wreck, the other divers were not helping as well.

 

As we went into the wreck you could see all this awesome cargo lying around and it wasn’t hard to figure out why this is considered one of the best wrecks but the sad thing is its too crowded and some of the divers have no regard for the conservation of the wreck or the safety procedures to follow while penetrating the wreck etc. At one point this chick in pink popped up all of sudden between me and Jeanne and she didn’t have any idea where she was or what was going on, it was really annoying and her buddy was a guy in doubles.

 

Also since all of us went as a single group some people lost their buddies, were not following everyone properly etc and it was kinda messy. We were supposed to return to the boat and do our safety stop by hanging onto the rope.

 

As we were doing our safety stop by hanging on the ropes there were schools of baitfish and glass fish and we saw a big ass Barracuda hunting among them. It was about 5-6 ft in length, Santo the ones we saw in florida were tiny as compared to the size of this baby :). I didn’t take my camera on this dive.

 

Dive Details:

Dive Time: 46 mins

Max Depth: 83 ft

Air Consumed: 2337 psi.

Avg Depth: 52.5 ft.

 

Our night dive was going to be on Thistlegorm again and because of the crowded dive etc Jeanne decided to skip the night dive and relaxed with a glass of wine.

 

Dive 8: Thistlegorm Night

 

The current had really picked up and for this night dive none of the ladies were going to jump into the water. Jeanne would have come with us but she didn’t know that there were going to be only 8 people on this dive and she already had started drinking wine.

 

I had to buddy up with Miguel for this dive and we weren’t going to go farther out on the wreck, it was going to be close from the rope on the stern to which our boat was tied. I came across couple of box fishes lurking beneath one of the columns, we were not going to penetrate the wreck just go around the first hold couple of times and then surface up.

 

I saw a couple of guys on scooters and doubles penetrating the wreck they seem to be having a good time and so were we. At the end of the dive, George who was in front of me almost kicked a crocodile fish and then we saw another crocodile fish beside a big rock fish.

 

We ascended along the rope and it was a pretty short mellow night dive.

 

Dive Details:

Dive Time: 33 mins

Max Depth: 64 ft

Air Consumed: 1772 psi.

Avg Depth: 48.5 ft.

 

Next day we were planning on doing another dive on Thistlegorm and to beat the rest of the boats we were going to get into the water at around 6.30 am. For that to happen we had to get up at 5.30 and our briefing was going to be at 6 am.

 

Sea of Table Corals

 

Dive 9: Thistlegorm Stern

 

For this dive we were going to see the locomotive on the side of the wreck as well go all the way to the stern. Also there was going to be minimal penetration on this one and since both yaseer and khaled were going to be leading their individual groups this was going to be less crowded for us but there were certainly going to be other divers in the water.

 

The current as usual was going to be there but it wasn’t that bad. We descended and then moved to the side where the locomotive was going to be and the current carried us there. I was slightly disappointed by the size of it, i was expecting it to be something big but it wasn’t that huge. We then moved to the stern side where the big propeller is and there some of the artillery shells lay, the manufacture date 1929 on one of them is clearly visible.

 

Locomotive on Side of Thistlegorm.

 

We then moved to the other side of the wreck, did some penetration but it didn’t last for long just like a small chamber. Since we were moving against the current i stayed closer to the wreck and passed through one of the galleries rather than stay on the side of ship trying to battle the current.

 

The Artillery Shells.

 

 

As we ended our dive there were couple of yellow tunas hunting the school of glass fish and baitfish. This was the best part of the dive for me, watching those schools of fish react to the sudden movement of the tunas. I could have held onto the rope for ages watching them. When the tiny bait fish school moves together they glitter and shine light to confuse the predators. I just loved it.

 

Dive Details:

Dive Time: 44 mins

Max Depth: 101 ft

Air Consumed: 2433 psi.

 

Dive 10: Shag Rock (Kingston Wreck)

 

This was supposed to be a wreck dive but it ended up being an awesome dive over the corals at the Shag Rock. The wreck was a small one as compared to the other wrecks which we have dove.

 

We descended on the wreck and then just headed off away in other direction where there were only corals till your eyes could see. It was simply amazing.

 

Lovely Coral.

 

We came across so many clams, they came in all different colors and sizes, when i saw the pics i was very disappointed because the colors didn’t come out at all for some reason. Jeanne had a blast playing with a small anemone fish, that little guy was coming right upto her and would just dart away. She also came across a Christmas tree worm but she couldn’t get a pic of it, it just went in. I then waited a min or two for it to reappear but it wasn’t co-operating so i moved on but then later on i came across another one and got few nice pics of it.

 

Christmas Tree Worm.

 

There were all kinds of reef fishes on this dive, the damsels, parrots, groupers small ones though, anthias, gobies. It was simply awesome a field of corals, you just couldn’t see even a small area of sand. We then returned to explore the wreck and did our safety stop out there. I got the best anemone fish pics on this dive really loved it.

 

A lot of fishes were there on the wreck but as i was doing my safety stop this surgeon fish first chased a small fish away and then as i came closer he came after me. The little guy was really aggressive, he didn’t try to bite me or something but just charged me and was one hyper aggresive fish. I wasn’t the only person chased by this one, others were also kinda attacked. It was really fun though nothing scary as such.

 

Dive Details:

Dive Time: 59 mins

Max Depth: 60 ft

Air Consumed: 2266 psi.

 

Everyone was raving about this dive at the end of it, it was just amazing. This was easily the best dive so far.

 

Dive 11: Small Crack

 

We were in the same area and going to do this drift dive called small crack, its located in the reef called Shaab Mahmud. This was going to be a drift dive along this narrow passage. We were going to jump in from the boat and then the zodiac would pick us up at the end of the dive.

 

Our group was going to be the first one into water and then as we descended and were drifting along this lion fish was swimming in opposite direction. Further along the way there were a couple of lion fish swimming merrily, one of them was really big and the other seemed like a baby.

 

After sometime we found a nudi the same kind Pyjama chromodorid, moving along it was a sea bed of corals but there weren’t that many fishes. This was a proper drift dive in the sense that we were moving at a pretty good pace along with the current. No work was required from our part to move.

 

When we surfaced, everyone was in the zodiac except for me and Jeanne and the conditions were getting bad as well so the zodiac guy was in hurry to get everyone on board and then to the boat. Jeanne got out of her gear and then she was handing her rig to the zodiac guy, as she was doing that the guy pulled early and Jeanne’s finger got caught between the tank and the plate.

 

Jeanne was in lot of pain and thought that she broke her finger but luckily it didn’t turn out to be the case. There were no broken fingers.

 

Dive Details:

Dive Time: 52 mins

Max Depth: 65 ft

Air Consumed: 2245 psi.

 

Wind was picking up and the conditions weren’t that good at all for the night dive so sadly enough the night dive was cancelled. Tomorrow we were going to dive the world famous dive sites of Yolanda And Shark Reef in Ras Mohammed Park and then head out to Tiran Island to do the rest of the dives.

 

Reefs and Lion Fish attack on night dive

 

Our first dive was going to be on the Yolanda and the Shark Reef in Ras Mohammed, we were going to drop near the shark reef and then the current would take us over to Yolanda wreck.

 

Dive 12: Shark and Yolanda Reef

 

Ours was the second group in water and shark reef is a wall, we dropped about 100 ft exploring the walls.

 

I really liked the wall of corals at the Shark reef but then we didn’t spend that much time there. 15 mins into the dive we were still at 85 ft, i was at about 1500 psi and so i had to be at shallow depths so that i didn’t suck up all my air.

 

We didn’t come across anything too exciting just the usual schools of fishes among the corals etc and a big Napoleon Wrasse swimming away. As we neared the wreck of yolanda there were too many bathtubs and toilets which just lay scattered. I didn’t get down there to take pics or something since i was running low on air and decided to stay shallow as compared to others.

 

I was little disappointed at the end of the dive mainly because this is supposed to be one of the best places to dive in the world and we didn’t see that much at all. It was just the usual stuff that we have seen on the previous dives. We took the zodiac and returned back to the boat.

 

Dive Details:

Dive Time: 48 mins

Max Depth: 104 ft

Air Consumed: 2663 psi.

 

Dive 13: Jackfish Alley

 

This was going to be our final dive in Ras Mohammed Park before we move to Tiran Island for the rest of the dives. As we did that we were going to dock for little while to get the garbage out and get a supply of fresh water.

 

This was also going to be a drift dive and it turned out to be a nice one too. As soon as we descended a¬†turtle was swimming by us, it was the first a time that we saw a turtle during our dives. On this dive we were going to enter some small caves and it was kinda interesting even though there wasn’t anything to see in those caves.

 

Turtle.

 

We then came across the usual vast expanses of table corals, fire corals etc with the fish life that goes with them. After getting into the zodiac, we then proceeded to Tiran Island for the rest of our dives.

 

Dive Details:

Dive Time: 53 mins

Max Depth: 69 ft

Air Consumed: 2484 psi.

 

Dive 14: Gordon Reef

 

This was going to be our first of the many dives to come in Tiran Island. It was going to be a drift dive and as soon as we descended we came across a swimming moray.

 

The Moray swam for sometime and then lodged itself in a coral, Khaled signaled that there were two of them and i was expecting to find another big moray but actually there was a small one. I didn’t bother to look around for the small one and missed it.

 

We kept on swimming for a bit and then saw a big grouper chilling in front of us, we were approaching it cautiously and it was a shy one. I took some pics from a distance and then the grouper went behind a coral. I saw this as my chance to get closer to him and swam towards him with full speed. This guy saw me coming and ran away, George tried to chase it towards the group but then it was too late. I got some good pics up close but then also i ended chasing the poor guy away.

 

Big grouper.

 

Swimming through the sandy bottoms we expected to see some garden eels hanging out but unfortunately there were none. I also came across 3 nudis but then all of them were the same old pyjama choromodorid, it was kinda frustrating. I was able to find nudis but they were the same species.

 

We then came across some coral fields and its was nice. The fire corals out here formed a circular shape and i should have tried to see if there was something hidden in there but didn’t do that. I came across a big rock fish and my friend lion fish but apart from the big grouper there wasn’t anything exciting on this dive either.

 

Dive Details:

Dive Time: 47 mins

Max Depth: 56 ft

Air Consumed: 2035 psi.

 

Dive 15: Night Dive Gordon Reef (Close Shave with Lion Fish)

 

Jeanne wasn’t feeling good so she decided to skip this dive and this turned out to be the most exciting dive of all. I buddied up with Neil for this dive. We were not going to do the previous drift dive but only going to explore the reefs where our boat was moored.

 

As soon as we got into water we started seeing a lot of stuff, almost every coral had some crab in it. 5 mins or so into the dive as Yasser was leading us, i saw Neil heading in different direction, I came upto him and grabbed his fin but i realized it late that he was taking a picture.

 

At this time Pam she came upto me and grabbed me by the arm and asked me to follow her, I went there and a spanish dancer was sitting merrily. After a while it lifted off the surface and then it started its graceful dance, I started to take its video but i didn’t manage to do a good job. Neil managed to get its graceful movement. The video i took shows the nudi landing happily on the reef. It was not yet the highlight of this dive for me.

 

Lovely Coral.

 

We then came across a different nudi this time but unfortunately both neil and myself couldn’t get a good picture of this guy. Floating in mid air we found a jelly fish, it was really pretty with its shining luminescence, i tried taking pics but it was hard and then i decided to take its video which turned out to be pretty decent.

 

While taking picture of a crab inside a coral both neil and me struggled for a while and then neil found that there was a Scorpion fish right next to this crab. He pointed that out to me but i didn’t realize it was fish, i saw something with orange boundaries and took a picture. Later when i saw this picture finally i could make out that there was a fish there.

 

I was getting really excited on this dive with all the stuff that we were finding, i managed to located another star fish. Looking back at one of the pics i found that i had taken a pic of shrimp hiding inside the coral, I just love to find these tiny critters they are really amusing.

 

 

 

At the end of the dive was the most scary or rather too exciting part. I found another shrimp inside a coral and wanted to take a good look at it, there was no way that i could have taken its picture and hence i didn’t bother as well. All of sudden, Neil pushed me away and the reason for that was that a lion fish was approaching me. If he hadn’t pushed me away, i would have got a full dosage of this guy’s venom. This was a close shave but the next one was closer.

 

We continued exploring the reefs and i found a big crab hiding in one of the cracks. I took some pictures of it and was trying to get a good shot and as i looked up there was this lion fish swimming directly towards my face. It must have been only a few inches away and i had to take some quick evasive action.

 

At this point we were almost 40 mins into the dive and i was really freaked out. So it was time to end this wonderful adventure, even though we had lots of air left and could have easily explored for another 20 mins but i had enough of close calls with lion fish. They seem to be attracted towards my light, could have also been the red tank light as well. I observed a lion fish feeding from top, i didn’t want to go down and let them think that some part of me could have been their meal.

 

As soon as i came on the boat, I asked Yasser of another dive would be possible after dinner but that wasn’t the case. I guess i didn’t mind those lion fishes after all but certainly would have liked to keep my distance. This was easily the most exciting dive so far but unfortunately it turned out to be my last deep dive on this trip as well.

 

One of the best pics of the trip on this dive.

 

Dive Details:

Dive Time: 50 mins

Max Depth: 35 ft

Air Consumed: 1791 psi.

 

 

The Tragedy

 

Don’t worry about the title, its nothing major as such. Its all part of the game, sometimes things go your way and sometimes they don’t.

 

We woke up early in the morning for the briefing and I thought about using the sinus rinse but being the lazy bum that i am i didn’t, things could have turned out to be different if i had did but its ok.

 

The dive was going to be on thomas reef and we were going to jump from the boat. I wasn’t feeling any cold or anything when i got into water. But then as we dropped down at about 70 ft i couldn’t equalize, my right ear just wouldn’t clear. So I ascended to about 25 ft or so and tried clearing again but then it didn’t help either, at this point i wasn’t paying that much attention to my depth and clearing out my ear seemed to be a lost cause.

 

I decided to abort the dive and head to the surface, Khaled ascended after a while and wanted to try out something to help me equalize. He saw some bloody discharge from my nose and hence he didn’t bother and asked me to swim back to the boat. I thought it was a wise decision as well and i started swimming towards the boat.

 

As i was swimming towards a the boat, I saw a spotted eagle ray going by, boy was i glad or what. I started following the ray to take couple of good snaps of it and they turned out to be great. I took off all my gear etc and then waited for others to show up. The rest of the group also saw the same ray and other than that the dive was pretty mellow.

 

Spotted Eagle Ray

 

During breakfast my ear still felt fluffy and it hadn’t cleared out. Khaled asked me not to get into water for the next dive and i obeyed, there was no point in even attempting to dive with this messed up ear.

 

I took a nap and then i decided to give it another try during the third dive. I asked Khaled if it was ok for me to snorkel near the boat incase i couldn’t equalize again and had to abort the dive, he said it wasn’t a problem.

 

So i got ready to jump in for the dive but also had my snorkel outside just in case i wouldn’t be able to clear my ears. I jumped in and was planning on descending very slowly but i hit 10 ft or so and i knew i wouldn’t be able to clear so i decided to call it quits and was going to snorkel.

 

As soon as i got into the water to snorkel, there were couple of barracudas (atleast that is what i thought) but something was not right about them, they were too skinny and their face was elongated. It turned out that they were needle fish.

 

I was not getting closer to the reefs because the current would really drag me into them, i saw a triggerfish and some yellow fin tunas swimming below. It wasn’t that bad at all, initially i jumped in without my camera but then i decided to go back and get my camera.

 

I saw a school of needlefish but they were scared of me and didn’t want to come any closer. In the depths below me i could see 3 big fish swimming but they were too far and i couldn’t find out exactly what they were but one of them looked like a big grouper. I was having a really good time just snorkeling, the sargent majors would come right upto me and they were a curious lot.

 

When the dive groups returned, it was time for me to head back to the boat we were going to move to a new location for the night dive. I wasn’t even going to attempt the night dive but instead just snorkel near the reef. Also i was going to hang my tank light on the anchor rope so that it would be easier for the divers to find out where the boat was located.

 

I jumped into water before everyone else and then tied the light to the rope. I was hoping that fishes would get attracted to this light and it would be kinda cool to watch them get curious by it but unfortunately that wasn’t the case. No fishes were attracted to the light.

 

I headed out to the reef and started snorkeling around, there were very few active fishes. I was very wary about lion fishes after the encounters previous night and i spotted one swimming at about 15 ft or so but the good thing was this guy seemed to be distracted by the light and didn’t want to come any closer. I spotted couple of shrimps, star fish and few interesting things but the current was picking up and i decided to head back. I waited for the dive groups to come aboard and then removed the light.

 

 

Shrimps.

 

 

I was really hoping that my ear cleared out in the morning and i would be able to dive again. I took some pain killers, sudafed and couple of herb tablets which Jeanne handed out to me.

 

 

Wrapping it up

 

When i woke up in the morning i felt a lot better, I used the nasal rinse, gargled with salt water did everything which i should have been doing regularly all the while and as i was about to head out i felt my right ear go pop. I was really excited by that.

 

I put on my dive gear etc and then jumped into water with everyone else, i was planning on descending really slowly. This was going to be a drift dive where we would jump from the boat swim along with the current and then get back into the zodiacs at the end of the dive.

 

As we started to descend, I was able to clear out my ears at 15 ft and i was glad, taking it slow i started going deeper but as soon as i got to about 23 ft, i just couldn’t clear out my ears. It was a bummer. I let Jeanne know that i was going to ascend and then head back to the boat.

 

I came upto the surface and surprisingly enough i found myself far away from the boat. In a few mins the current can really take you away, I spotted the boat more than 200 – 300 ft away, it could have been further away as well. There was no way i would have been able to swim upto the boat without completely exhausting myself, the waves were not that helpful at all.

 

I decided to drop to about 8 ft or so and then swim towards the boat since it would be very easy for me that way. After swimming for couple of minutes i heard a noise and then as i looked upward, i saw a zodiac out there. It was our zodiac and so i took off my gear and got back into the boat on the zodiac. It turned out that the boat i was swimming towards was the wrong boat and it had started moving away. If it wouldn’t have been for the zodiac, i could have been in little trouble :).

 

The currents near the boat were strong so i decided not to snorkel and instead called it as the end of my diving trip. Rest of the guys came up and they saw a white tip shark, apart from that nothing exciting. Also it wasn’t a close encounter with the shark they saw it from a distance so i don’t think i missed out on anything as such ūüėČ

 

We then moved from Tiran Island and headed off to local Sharm Dive spots, we were moored near this beach where a ton of people were snorkeling, i could have gone snorkeling but then a brilliant idea hit me.

 

I could equalize at 15 ft so i could technically do a dive but not descend below 15 ft. I asked Yasser about it and he allowed me to go for a dive by myself at the place all the people were snorkeling. It was music to my ears, I was hoping he would allow me to just join the group and i could stay above everyone. But he said i could dive solo and as long as i was in the boundaries of this place. I also had to adhere to a time restriction of 50 mins, since i wasn’t going to go below 15 ft i could have gone on for atleast couple of hours.

 

I got into my gear and then headed over to reefs and they were very cool. It was like a cavern system and lot of stuff to see underneath, because of this cave like system the snorkelers wouldn’t be able to see all the stuff which i was able to and my torch light would have come in handy. The fishes here weren’t shy, they were not running away from me and it was quite fun. Most of the usual suspects that we have been seeing on the dives were there but i also saw few cool gobies.

 

Ofcourse my friends the lion fish were also there but this time they were resting and lurking underneath the reefs, we kept a distance from each other without any problems. There was a family of anemone fishes (i am guessing that because there were two big ones and a one small guy) and since i didn’t have to make room for anyone to take pics i had all the time in world to take few pics of them.

 

I also managed to find eggs of spanish dancers and this time while taking pics i made sure that i would capture the circular pattern of the eggs and i was successful in doing so. 40 mins or so into the dive one of the guys came in to check on me which was very nice. It was also a signal for me that i shouldn’t try to exceed 50 mins, i didn’t plan on doing that as it is.

 

Eggs.

 

At the beginning of the dive i took a compass reading of the boat and i was checking on it from time to time during the entire dive, on my way back i managed to find the boat quite easily. It turns out that my navigational skills aren’t as bad as i think they are :).

 

I really enjoyed this shallow dive and i was proud of the fact that i was in control of my buoyancy all the time, I didn’t surface even once due to lack of control on my buoyancy. My max depth was 14 ft and min was 5 ft with average depth being 9.5 ft. Total dive time was 50 mins.

 

Rest of the group returned from their dives and then later in afternoon they were heading out for one final dive. I could have dove again in the reef system while maintaining my depth but i was done for the trip. I didn’t want to exert myself too much and Khaled was going to take me to the doctor once we got to the Jetty.

 

The rest of the group did a short final dive and it was time to head back. Armana and Oleg wanted to do a sunset dive but then since they were going to be the only ones on that dive they decided to skip it. We reached the jetty by 4.15 pm and Khaled walked me upto the Hyperbaric chamber where i would be able to see the doc.

 

It was a very short visit, the doc asked me to equalize my ears as he took a look at them and immediately came to a conclusion that i had suffered from barotrauma. I tried too hard to equalize and my ear drum wasn’t happy about it. He didn’t think i would have any problems flying back and asked me to take plenty of hot fluids as well as chew gum while flying. A nasal decongestant was prescribed, i was glad that i didn’t have to worry about taking antibiotics or anything like that for infection.

 

Once at the jetty it was time for good bye’s but before that after dinner most of us decided to head out to Naama bay for a drink. I wasn’t going to go but then at the last moment i decided to join the gang. It was me, Neil, Ashia, Peter, George, Pam, Paloma, Miguel, Markus and Mira who headed out to Naama bay.

 

We managed to find taxis after a while and this was a crazy party town. It was in complete contrast to Cairo or Luxor, the party went on for the entire night out here. We were planning on going to a place called camel bar but then ended up at this place called Zaza something. It was a pretty nice place with a traditional setting.

 

I only had a stella and didn’t even try to smoke the sheesha which was ordered by miguel and markus. I had enough of sheesha experience in Luxor. There was a belly dancer girl performing at the center, Mira and Paloma showed everyone their moves along with her. We had a good time at this place, everyone returned early except for Markus and Mira who came back after an hour or so.

 

The next day morning slowly everyone started leaving according to their schedules and i was the last one off the boat since my flight out of sharm was at 9 pm. Thus my first live-aboard experience came to an end.

 

This was one of the best vacations i have taken, it was so relaxing and we had a great group of people. Even though i had some problems at the end of the trip, I enjoyed every moment of it. Red Sea diving was little disappointing since we actually didn’t see that much of cool stuff, I would have expected some ugly frog fishes :), some sea horses, more nudis and some big animals. The corals and wrecks out here were simply amazing, i guess they are the ones who can’t move away from all the divers who frequent this place.

 

I am not sure when my next trip to the red sea would be but one thing i am sure of is that i would be taking more vacations on live-aboards :).

 

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Nov 11 2008

My Egypt Trip

Published by under Egypt,General

I will keep on updating this blog as i pursue my adventure through the land of pharoahs, mummies, tombs and as i dive into the depths of the red sea.

 

Pre – Departure

Getting to Cairo

Day 1: Reaching Cairo

Day 2: The Pyramids 

Day 3: Luxor: West Bank

Day 4: Luxor: Hot Air Balloon and Museums  

Day 5: Luxor: Karnak Temple

Day 6: Cairo: Egyptian Museum 

 

 

This year after i got hooked onto scuba diving, I wanted to take dive trip to some exotic location so to say. Hollywood divers they were going to Wakatobi in Indonesia in September and to the Red Sea in November. Both of these trips could be combined with a india vacation for me, provided i got time off work. Mom and Dad were going to be in US till early October so i couldn’t make it for the Wakatobi trip and also since that trip included the airfare it was going to be tricky, the red sea trip didn’t include the airfare. i.e. i had to make my own travel arrangements so it worked out great for me. As soon as i got permission to take 4 weeks off work, it was time for me to start planning this trip out.

 

Making the Grand Plans

 

I was kinda lazy in booking the flights etc since i wanted mom and dad to visit Egypt along with me but they weren’t that keen on it so then as i realized that i was going to be by myself i finally booked my flight in July. It wasn’t going to be a pleasant flying experience as i found out later. I had to fly to New York and then to Cairo, while returning it would be Mumbai – Cairo – New York – Los Angeles phew…. That was the best deal i was getting so i had to go for it. Out of two weeks in Egypt one was definitely going to be spent diving but i wasn’t sure how to spend the other one. I wanted to see the Pyramids of Giza but after that there were too many options for me. After lot of deliberation i decided not to make hectic travel plans by taking a Nile cruise from Aswan to Luxor or vice versa. I was going to spend couple of days in Cairo and then travel to Luxor for couple of days, I wasn’t sure though how many days I would be spending in Luxor and finally as I write this in flight I decided to spend 3 days and 2 nights in Luxor visiting all the temples and the tombs that it has to offer.

 

I bought lonely planet guide to egypt to get more information and also a pocket arabic dictionary. I am not sure how useful the dictionary is going to be. I only booked my hotel in cairo and luxor and rest of the things I was going to take care of once I got there. Also my flight from cairo to sharm el sheikh (henceforth referred to sharm) was booked, I was going to meet with Jeanne (My awesome Scuba Instructor) at the Cairo airport and it turned out that we were on the same flight to sharm. This was the only planning/bookings I had done prior to departure, I knew what places I wanted to visit and what I wanted to do but at the same time I kept my schedule flexible.

 

I had contacted lot of travel agencies trying to figure out the prices and the kind of tours they offered, most of them were the same cruises on nile and all that stuff. Even though I was clear on my dates most of them didn’t bother to read how much time I had and kept sending me all these 10 -15 day itineraries, no thanks. Also when I contacted some of the hotels for bookings information they wouldn’t share any details, it was like you come over here and then we will figure it out. Lonely planet warns of such things and all the scams that can happen while you are in egypt. Lets see how it plays out for me.

 

The Loooooooooong Boring Flight

 

I took my packing as seriously I took my planning :), I filled up my dive bag with all the stuff a week ago and thats how it remained until the night I was about to leave and nothing else was packed. I wasn’t sure if I would carry a suitcase or how I would do it. Cairo Airport apparently doesn’t have baggage holding facility so I decided to carry my backpack instead. I was surprised how much I could stuff into my backpack, most of the old clothes which I wanted to take to india I was able to fit into it and the weight didn’t seem to be an issue. Packing didn’t take me that long probably about two hours max and then it was all about putting in the minor things in place.

 

My shuttle arrived at about 2.55 am and it was on time, but then we had to pick some other guy who never showed up so by the time I reached airport it was about 3.45 am and it was deserted. Apprently all the ticketing windows and kiosks at the airport they open only at 4 am but then the ladies took their own sweet time to adjust all the signs etc so it wasn’t until 4.30 that I could checkin. My dive bag was about 54 lbs and backpack 46 lbs so I was asked to transfer some weight, I simplly took the mask box from dive bag and put it in my carry on backpack. It was still 51 lbs and I requested her to allow me to check in the bag. It wasn’t a big deal.

 

Since it was going to be almost 6 hour flight to NY, my plan was not to sleep at my home and do all the napping in flight, that didn’t work out so well. Passing through the security is always an adventure and this time I was sure that my bags would be checked because I was carrying my dive computer as well as the regulator. As expected my bags were going to be checked but it turned out that they were bothered by a swiss knife I had in my waist pouch, it was an old one which I had bought in Nepal in 95 so I wasn’t complaining too much. The flight was on time and as soon as I sat in my seat (unfortunately it turned out to be center one) I dozed off. I took a brief nap only to wake up to neck pain, it was really uncomfortable and my neck wasn’t happy at all. Also before boarding the flight I saw some actress boarding the flight, it was Diane Keaton. I somehow managed to survive the flight and reached JKF airport in NY. It was supposed to be a 3.5 hrs stop, I had to go to a different terminal and then check in again. The checkin process went smoothly and this time as well going through security was a breeze.

 

I was deliberating if I should eat something or not since my flight was in couple of hours and they would provide me with a meal, it turned out to be a good thing that I has a sandwich because it wasn’t until 7.30 that we were air borne and then after an hr or so dinner was served. The flight as expected was pretty standard, there was no behind the seat entertainment system and it turned out that there weren’t going to be any movies as well. It was going to be 9.5 hours flight and the aircraft wasn’t the biggest one in the fleet. Even though the aircraft was pretty standard and there were no luxories as the such the crew was really helpful.

 

I tried to sleep, roam around (though u can’t do much) and somehow managed to survive the flight, the food was alrite and the morning breakfast was ok too.

 

 

So it all begins……

 

I had asked the hotel to send a cab to pick me up from the airport so i wasn’t that worried about getting to the airport. We landed in Cairo on time and passing through the immigration etc was very easy, a guy with my name on a sign found me. I was worried about my luggage since they were going to transfer it from NY flight but after some waiting the luggage showed up. I picked up all my stuff and got out, surprising i wasn’t haggled at all. I read a lot about all the stuff goes on and the scams people run but not many touts approached me. It took a while for the guy to show up again and then he set me up with a cab driver.

 

Then it all began, I got a good idea of the baksheesh (tips) system that exists in Egypt and I gave that dude couple of bucks. The Taxi driver didn’t know english and I was referring to my arabic dictionary to communicate, it wasn’t easy nor fun. He took me to the city and then he had no clue about the whereabouts of the hotel. I had to pull out the maps and the address and try to figure out where we where and stuff like that. Also I got taste of the general system that exists out here, the driver stopped in middle of intersection to ask a policeman for directions but he still couldn’t figure out the place.

 

We were lost BIG TIME and this dude was shouting at people all over the place to ask for directions, he pulled up in front of a hotel and was like this is a hotel u can stay here, but i was adamant about going to the hotel i had booked. So we continued out quest, We were in the vicinity of the hotel but couldn’t find the place. He then consulted another guy and he didn’t know about it either but this dude was tell to me to go this other hotel which had cheap food etc etc. All this was in Arabic and i was just getting a general idea about the things going on. Finally after one more turn, this guy consulted some other policeman and he knew exactly where the hotel was phewww…. It was walking distance from the place so the cab driver just parked his car in middle of road and then we set off on foot. So after walking for 5 mins or so there it was Windsor Hotel. I was so relieved :)

 

I began to wonder whether it was a scam to get more money out of me or something but it didn’t seem like, if it was a scam it was a very good idea and i didn’t care. So I checked into the hotel at about 2.30 pm and then after a shower was ready to explore my options. But first i had to get some Egyptian currency and also a pre-paid phone card. I expected that the dabba V66 which i had bought as a temp phone would be good enough but apparently it wasn’t. The phone guy was nice enough not to charge me for the SIM card even though he had to open up the seal etc.

 

I was hungry so first i decided to eat something before heading out for a walk, so i went to the bar which the hotel has. I wanted to try out the standard fuul (paste of beans stuffed in bread i think) but they didn’t have it. I ordered a cheese sandwich and gulped it down with a stella :). Then i decided to head out for a walk in the city.

 

Ramses Square

 

Since i had decided to head out to Luxor the next day and spent 3 days there, I thought it was about time i booked my tickets. So i headed out to the Ramses Station which is about 15 mins walk from the hotel. It wasn’t that hard to find as well and while i walking out there, all of sudden a lady walked upto me to ask for directions. Apparently I look a lot like egyptians, only if i knew arabic :).

 

After booking my tickets, I headed back to the hotel and it was about 6 pm when i decided to call it a night. Tomorrow I was going to head out to the Pyramids of Giza, Dashfour, Memphis and Saqqara. I was excited about it.

 

The Pyramids……

 

I was going to take a shared taxi to visit Dashfour, Memphis and Saqqara. Then the cab was going to drop me to Giza pyramids since i had to take the train for Luxor from Giza Station. I was going to see the sound and light show at the pyramids and then take a taxi from the pyramids to the station. This was supposed to be the plan for the day.

 

I woke up at 6 am and then got ready for the day. I was going to travel light and leave most of my stuff behind at the hotel. I had breakfast at the hotel, It was part of the package. Egyptian coffee had a tinge of sweetness to it and i really liked it, the food wasn’t much. When i headed to the front desk i was told that first they had to take permission of the people who rented the taxi, if they would allow me to travel with them or not. If not then they would figure something else for me.

 

I dumped my luggage at the hotel and the couple who had rented the taxi they agreed to let me tag along. Richard and Mary were originally from US but they were currently residing in Hyderabad and their son worked in Los Angeles. It was funny co-incidence. Our driver Hosan was a nice guy and could speak english fairly well, mary and richard had him as driver for their trip to alexandria. All along the way, it was very green and we stopped/slowed down to take pictures.

 

We were first going to head out to Dashfour when they have the Red, Bent and the Black Pyramid. We could see the Bent and Black from a distance and were going to enter the Red Pyramid. My first pyramid and i was going to go inside, yay. I was super excited when we got to the place.

 

Bent Pyramid, as the name suggests its bent so to say. Its angle is different as you view it from different sides and you cannot approach it since its within a shooting range where the egyptian police practice. The picture tells it all about its shape.

Bent Pyramid.

 

Black Pyramid, this is not actually a pyramid but a lump of rock, thts it. We could see it from a distance.

 

Red Pyramid, this pyramid is made up of red limestone and hence the name. It might not appear to be red from the outside but as you enter it, you can see the red limestone which is protected from the elements of the nature. As we approached it, we could see the entrance to the pyramid and it wasn’t crowded at all. Mary decided not to go for it, so it was richard and me going to enter the pyramid. I thought pictures inside the pyramid won’t be allowed but it wasn’t the case. I regret not taking my camera but it was ok, its more of your loss than mine. The images of inside the pyramid are in my head ;). The climb to the entrance is about 15 mins thorough a series of steps and then you have to descend 63m to get to the first chamber.

First View of Red Pyramid

 

Entrance to Red Pyramid

 

I stood at this 4×5 feet narrow descending passage not knowing what to expect when i got down, you have to marvel at the egyptians for building these things. As we reached the bottom, you could feel the air getting stale and really damp. The first chamber is about 12m high with tapered ceilings and then another narrow passage of about 10 ft takes you to a the highest chamber which is 15m high. WOW is the only way you can describe it and it doesn’t end here. You then take a series of steps to a third chamber and the final chamber which is about 12m high.

 

This third chamber is where the sacrophage was supposed to be there but there were just bunch of stones, since the air was really stale we didn’t linger for long and then headed out. I thought about getting my camera and heading into the pyramid again but i was kinda tired by the time i came out and i didn’t feel like it. Also the stream of tourists waiting to enter the pyramid didn’t help either. Richard told me that this was the best pyramid to enter, the giza one doesn’t have a chamber which is equally big. I was really happy that the first pyramid i saw was supposed to be the best from inside. :)

 

We then headed off to Memphis, its a small place and there is not much to see expect for statue of Memphis II and Alabaster Sphinx. Alabaster is a type of rock which is found in egypt and it is fairly transparent. Egyptians used it all the time to make statues as well as a lantern. The significance of this place lies in the fact that this was capital of the new kingdom in Ancient Egypt. We spent about half an hour at Memphis and then headed off to Saqqara, the birth place of Stone buildings. It was at this place for the first time in history of mankind stone was used to make buildings instead of the traditional mud and straw bricks.

 

Sphinx in Memphis

 

Saqqara is the place where the first pyramids were built in Egypt. Imhotep was the Architect who came up with the idea and all the designs. It was his invention and creation that the pyramids as we know today exist. After building a small sample pyramid of Unas, the Step Pyramid was built and it lay the foundations of the big pyramids of Giza. I wasn’t impressed by the fact that the¬†villain in the Mummy and Mummy Returns movies (Brendon Fraser) is called Imhotep as well.¬†¬†

 

We first visited the Imhotep Museum where there was a Mummy on display, it was very easy to miss. I took some pictures but we are not supposed to use flash because it is not good for preserving the mummy as well as the artifacts. It was really cool museum and Richard told me that it was also well maintained as compared to the Egyptian Museum. Though it was a small museum it was very nice.

 

We then headed out to check the tombs of some of the important people during that period, the first egyptian doctor, imhotep and other noble men have their tombs in Saqqara. Also this is the most recently discovered area so parts of it were closed. No photography is allowed inside the tombs and also they were not allowing the cameras outside. I don’t consider myself a history guy but then as you walk inside these tombs you can’t help but wonder at the detailed carvings and the paintings done by the egyptians. Every minute detail of their life is well portrayed, different species of fishes, animals, how they hunted them, their significance etc. It was mind blowing.

 

Teti Pyramid:¬†¬†From the outside among all the sand dunes one could hardly figure out that a pyramid existed but this was there and one could go inside as well. I was the only one who decided to go in and the air in this one wasn’t as bad as the red pyramid. The chambers inside were also small and there was one big sacrophage at the bottom. There was another dark chamber which i just poked my head in but didn’t venture into it.¬†

 

Step Pyramid. After checking out this pyramid we headed out to the step pyramid. As the name suggests, this is built in a series of steps, you are not allowed to enter this pyramid. It had a big court in front of it and the entrance hall was grand as well. We came across some structures created out of bricks which were made from straw and mud. At this location there was a stark contrast between the green and the desert regions of Egypt. It was time for lunch at this time and a pleasant surprise awaited me.

Step Pyramid

 

We were going to have lunch at this place near saqqara and it was a nice location with garden etc, the bread or the rotis were being made outside in a clay oven. I knew from the start it was going to be an interesting experience. We settled in and it was time to order drinks, me being the mango lover ordered mango juice and some vegetable platter. The first sip i took of the Mango juice and i was in heaven………….mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm simply too good, reminded me of hapoos back home, i finished it immediately and ordered another one, I could have had lunch on just the juice and the bread. I ended up having another glass, i just couldn’t resist :), the other things were grilled veggies for which i could care less. At the end i just had enough space in my tummy to handle turkish coffee, a thick viscous coffee with little sweetness to it. I was way too happy after this meal, too bad a nice nap didn’t await me :)

 

Now the cab driver was going to drop me off at Giza but before he did that we decided to halt at a Egyptian Carpet school, there are tons of them in this region. The guy showed us how they make carperts/rugs etc out of silk and wool. Sometimes they use wool made of camel hair. Those rugs were not only expensive but also simply amazing, the silk from which they were made was heat and fire resistant, that guy at the shop pointed a flame at it and it didn’t feel warm or anything. The best thing about these carpets, some of which took like over 2 yrs to make, was the way they changed colors depending on the light. It was brilliant.

 

I was getting late to get to Giza because the ticket office closes at 4 pm and also they start pushing the tourists out at the same time, traffic wasn’t helping at the same time and it was going to be really close. I was planning on taking a camel ride and i was cautioned to pay only after getting off the camel since the guys out there scammed a lot of people. The camel guys, they take the money from tourists prior to the ride and then refuse to let them down unless they pay them more. ¬†The cab driver told me that he knew some folks for the camel ride and i should be fine that way.¬†Also the shop owners were supposed to be more aggressive out here, instead of just asking if you wanted to buy something they would simply thrust stuff into your hands. I was glad that it was late and also a lot of people think i am an egyptian or more like an egyptian expat.

 

Pyramids of Giza:¬†We reached Giza almost at 4 pm and then immediately i got onto the camel, the price was negotiate quickly. There were two guys going to accompany me, the ticket office got closed but these guys bribed the police officers and they let me into the compound, i breathed a sigh of relief. Even though i couldn’t get closer to the pyramids or the sphinx i got a fairly decent view of them and i was so happy with the earlier events of the day that i didn’t care that much either. I also got some good pics, sorry mike you will still be disappointed. We rode along the sides of the pyramids for an hour or so and then headed back. There was a time where i almost fell of the camel but managed to hold myself. Now my only worry was getting tickets for the Sound and Light show for the pyramids. It was about 5.30 or so by the time the whole camel ride got over and then i had an hour to kill before the sound and light show began.¬†

 

Camel Ride.

 

Pyramids of Giza

 

I realized that tickets were easy to come by for the show and then i was looking to find a coffee place but there didn’t seem to be one close by so i headed into the fancy egyptian and indian food restaurant. It turned out to be a good find since it was directly in front of the pyramids and from the roof top i could see the pyramids all lit up since the Arabic sound and light show was going on at this point. The authorities were shining bright lights into this place so that one wasn’t able to see the entire show just sitting into this restaurant and others. I killed time at this place by having turkish coffee.

 

It was time for the sound and light show and i was trying to take some good pics rather than pay attention to the narrative. I still paid some attention and found out about the significance and the different statistics of the pyramids which i am sure you could find off wikipedia. It was cool though to see the Sphinx light up and then the laser beams were being used to make shapes etc and explain things. I would recommend that you do this while having dinner or coffee at this restaurant i was at, since you can see the main pyramids light up and also can hear the entire thing :).

 

Sound and Light Show.

 

It was 7.30 when the show got over and I had to be at the Giza train station by 8.30 pm, i knew getting a taxi would be an adventure again since i would be kinda short on time as well as i would have to haggle about the prices. After saying no to couple of drivers this guy agreed at the price which was supposed to be correct and then after a while he realized that i wanted to go to Giza train station and not the metro station which he thought. pfffffff I was glad that time wasn’t wasted and confusion was cleared out early, this guy said that he would ask another driver to drop me off. So after getting in from this cab i immediately got into the other cab, traffic was really bad at the exit. This guy asked me again where i wanted to go and i told him Giza train station but i didn’t think he got it, he asked me about my hotel and i told him that and he was like let me take you to this hotel. I was like no, i have to go to the train station and then i showed him my train ticket. At this point he realized where exactly i intended to go and then he started taking side streets etc to get out of traffic.

 

I got a close up view of the egyptian suburbs and it was interesting and very comparable to some of the Mumbai suburbs. I on purpose told the can driver an early time so he would hurry up and finally after 30 long minutes or so I was at Giza train station. I had no clue from where to board the train and there was a train in front of me but it was the earlier sleeper train to luxor. I confirmed with 3 other people to make sure that this wasn’t the train that i was supposed to be on and after a while i was all calmed and relaxed. Our train arrived at 8.45 and it had an interesting setup. It was a cool setup more like indian trains berth but cut up into half and it also had a wash basin which was nice.¬†I was going to share my cabin (i knew about it) and a british tour guide was going to be my compartment mate.

 

Dinner wasn’t that good at all, they served some veggies to me in white sauce and some bland pasta. I thought it was a poor imitation of alfredo sauce but there is a local white sauce as well, though there was hardly any sauce on the veggies. I gulped it down with assistance from the yogurt. Dessert was nice though something cake like soft made with coconut, i liked it. I was ready to crash since it had been a long day but ended up having a conversation with the next door couple from NY for sometime. They were telling how good it was that Obama got elected since the world had a good perception of him. We could have talked on and on in general but then i had to go to bed so i decided to cut the conversation and then headed off to bed.

 

 

 Temples and Tombs of the Ancient Kings

 

Dave told me that usually the train reaches Luxor by 8ish, I wasn’t too pleased with that because i was planning on taking a tour to the west bank which usually begins early morning. Egypt Railways didn’t displease me and we reached Luxor at about 7 am which was late according to the schedule but it worked out perfect for me. The hotel which i had booked was walking distance from the train station, I had emailed them about the pickup but it was a late email. I didn’t have any problems finding hotel this time :). I wasn’t expecting to get checked into the hotel and the tour was going to be rough without a shower but the guy was really nice and without even me asking for it he asked me to shower quick and get ready for the tour.

 

I checked into my room and it was almost the same size as the windsor one but the vibe was completely different, i really liked it. I got ready quickly for the day ahead, Alladin was going to be our tour guide and i was joined by 4 other people. 3 girls and 1 guy a group of french canadians who spoke in french all the time.

 

Our first stop was Colossi of Memnon, this was supposed to be a temple but all was left of it was these two giant statues thats about it. We spent about 15 mins out here and then headed of to the Temple of Hatshepsut.

 

Lone Statues remain.

 

Temple of Hatshepsut: Hatshepsut was a queen who ruled egypt, we spent about an hour in this temple. Our guide explained some of the carvings on the wall, how the egyptians also worshipped the cow, the sending of first trade missions to land on punt (now syria) by Queen Hatshepsut. It is really well documented in the hieroglyphics and the carvings, he also explained how the names of the people were written in a oval box called as Cartouche. Some of the carvings depicted that how the egyptians were into water sports, a guy is shown carrying a surf board. The attention to detail to every small little thing is simply amazing. It was in this temple that in 97 terrorists attacked tourists and killed 63 of them.

 

The temple among the mountains.

 

Surfer Dude at Hatshepsut

 

Valley of the Kings: We then headed to the valley of the kings where the tombs of the Kings of the New Kingdom were built. There are so many tombs out here and still they are discovering more. Also in the tomb of Tutankhamun, his mummy was on display. I was excited by it and decided to shell out few extra bucks for the same, i was disappointed after checking it out that is a different story. On a single entry ticket you are allowed only to enter 3 tombs and so our guide picked out the best 3 tombs according to him. No cameras are allowed inside the tombs. Also getting in and out of tombs is lot easier than the pyramids because the entrance and the passages are really big, one can easily walk through them.

Tomb of Thutmose III:

This is the farthest tomb in the valley and to gain access to this entrance you first have to climb a series of ladders. Once you are at the entrance then you drop down in a series of passages before arriving at the main chamber where the sacrophage is located. It gets really hot down there, the main chamber doesn’t have carvings only the vast sketches of the book of the dead. It is also constructed in shape of cartouche i.e. oval. It wasn’t possible to linger in this tomb for more than 5 mins because of the intense heat. It was really a spectacular sight nevertheless.

 

Stairway to Tomb Entrance.

 

Tomb of Tausert/Setnakht:

This tomb had interesting carvings in a way that some of the things were carved out of the rock and some of it were carved in. Just like all the other tombs every single aspect was very detailed and colorful. This also had a small chamber showing Anubis, the Jackal God overseeing the mummification process.

Tomb of Seti II:

This was an unfinished tomb but it had better paintings and sculptors. It wasn’t hot inside as compared to the tomb of thutmose. finally it was time to see the tomb of tutakhamun which had its mummy inside on display.

 

Tomb of Tuthakamun:

It was the smallest of all, it only had its main mummy board and mummy on display. When it was discovered all the treasures were buried in a separate room. This guy was only 18 when he died and he ruled for 9 years of it, one could tell from the mummy it was tiny so to say. Apparently when it was discovered it had all of its treasures, the raiders were not able to loot this mummy because it was below the tomb of Ramses II. Most of the treasures of this tomb are on display in Egyptian Museum which i plan to check out later. There were 7 layers of boxes for this small guy. I kinda fell cheated for having to pay extra for this tomb and later when i visited the Mummification museum in Luxor i realized that this was an official scam. oh well.

 

After this we went to visit a local Alabaster carving shop which showed us how cool this stone was. It could be used as a lantern since it was transparent. It was a business gimmick more than anything else since i am sure our guide would get a cut from whatever sales he was able to make. Also our guide showed us silver cartouches which we could get made with our name written in hieroglyphics. I wanted to get a pendant of key of life anyway so i thought it would be cool to have that on the back and with my name in hieroglyphics on the front of this cartouche shaped pendant.

 

Next stop was¬†Temple of Ramses III at Medinat Habu, this was going to be our final destination for the day. It was a very nice temple, mainly depicting the war scenes. The main entrance pylon on the back shows Ramses beheading his enemies and through out the temple scenes like this are depicted. On the south side of the temple on the outside there are older egyptian numbers and the calendar system carved. There was a room dedicated to the storage of the harvest and the carvings in that hall made the whole scene pretty obvious. The main hall isn’t that huge as the temple of Karnak but still it was very nice. It was only going to be an indication of the things to come as i was going to see the sound and light show at Karnak temple tonight.

 

Entrance

 

Beheading of Enemies and Lion biting arm.

 

It was a nice end to the tour of west bank of Luxor and Alladin our guide invited us for lunch at this place near the hotel i was in. He suggested Kushari, a blend of macaroni, noodles, lentils and onions in a tomato sauce. I was initially skeptical about it but then as i dug into it i really enjoyed it. I had mango juice with it which wasn’t as good as the one i had in cairo but it was still alrite. I was ready for a nap now but instead i decided to head to the hotel roof top and smoke some sheesha along with turkish coffee while enjoying the view. I just chilled at the roof till it was time for me to head out to Karnak temple for the sound and light show.

 

Chilling with Sheesha and Turkish Coffee.

 

Karnak Temple:¬†It is about 2-3 kms away from my hotel so i decided to walk it up, egypt is a very safe country as such to walk in night and i didn’t have any issues. I didn’t take the direct route to the temple so had to ask for directions along the way. As i reached Karnak the ticket office was still closed so after a while it opened and i got tickets. It was going to be an interesting experience since you have to walk through the temple as the show progresses. I thought that after watching this show i won’t have to come back to Karnak and see its glory in day light but the charms and the beauty of Karnak was too much for me to resist.

 

Karnak Entrance.

 

The show started at the first pylon which was beautifully lit up and it proceeded to the main court explaining the significance of the entire temple. I was paying attention to this show since i wasn’t expecting a return visit but that changed as soon as we entered the Hypostyle Hall. 134 huge columns representing the papyrus flower cover an area of 5500 Sq meters. It is HUGE and simple wow. As soon as i laid my eyes inside this complex i knew, this definitely warranted a second visit.

 

Simply amazing Hypostyle Hall.

 

The show then took us to the seating area in front of the sacred lake and it continued, i was trying hard to pay attention to it at this time. It was a long hr and half show which was very informative as well but i was really tired at the end of it. As i walked out of the parking lot the horse carriage guys approached me and asked a fairly steep price to get me to the hotel. I was planning on walking anyway but then in middle one of the guys agreed for a low price so i took it. I was planning on having dinner at this restaurant which our guide recommended.

 

As i got into the restaurant the group from the tour earlier was there as well, they asked me to join them but the setup didn’t allow for an extra person so i was on my own. I didn’t find the menu of this restaurant impressive and the food was alrite as well. I wanted to try Mehalabaiyya which is an egyptian dessert but this place didn’t have it, i ordered some other dessert called Baboshka or something like that but i wasn’t impressed by it either. So slightly disappointed i headed back to the hotel. It was going to be another early day tomorrow since i had to wake up at 5 am for the hot air balloon ride.

 

 Hot Air Ballon Ride

I was up at 5 am for the hot air balloon ride and the guide picked me up on time at 5.30. We waited for sometime at the banks of the nile to cross it, they gave us some breakfast as well in the small motorboat which we used to cross the nile. We then headed off to the collosi of memnon and then near the balloon. I was disappointed by the fact that we were going to start the ride south of the valley of kings or for that matter even south of habu temple. Also the sun had already risen so it wasn’t going to be a view of the sunrise when we got up in the air. As the other balloon was landing it was right over the habu temple and it would have been a really nice close up aerial view of the temple for the people in the balloon.

 

I was little disappointed but they also couldn’t help it because the landing and the direction where the balloon goes is all dictated by the wind. The pilot or the captain can only control the height of the balloon the direction in which it goes is all determined by the wind so it was ok. We got into the balloon and the pilot explained to us what position to be in when we land, other than that as long as we didn’t try to jump overboard it was fine. It was a slow rise to about 1600 ft and the view of the mountains, the contrast in different regions i.e. the green egypt and the desert part of it was very interesting. It is surprising how green those parts of egypt are and how nile has been shaping the life of egyptians for centuries.¬†

 

 

 

The ride lasted for about 45 mins or so and it was a really pleasant relaxing ride, call me crazy but there were certainly times when i wished that i had a chute and could jump off the balloon :). I was back at the hotel at about 8 am and then had the entire day with not much left in luxor to see. I decided to go to the less popular places like the Mummification Museum and the Luxor Museum, they weren’t bad places at all to visit. None of the places allow to take pictures.

 

Mummification Museum: This is a very small museum which shows the process of mummification and also had some cool animal mummies on display. The ancient egyptians were very strong believers in life after death and hence the whole tombs and mummies process. They also mummified a lot of animals, mainly the ones which existed as gods like the jackal god anubis which is incharge of overseeing mummification process or the crocodile god sobek which is the night god. 

 

In this museum there was a mummy of some priest and it was stored in his mummy board which was cool. All the mummies that i have seen so far they were by itself but this one with its casket as such. The animals on display which were mummified were the cats, ibis, a baboon, ram and also part of goat leg which could serve as food for the soul in afterlife. The best of them was a more than 6 ft long crocodile, it was simply amazing how well this croc mummy was preserved. One could easily mistake it for a live croc, it was unbelievable. I was glad that i visited this museum.

 

Luxor Museum: My next stop was the luxor museum which is bigger than the mummification museum, it mainly has all sorts of things on display. Mainly the statues found in the temples of Karnak and Luxor as well as few mummies. Most of the stuff on display was from the new kingdom. Lots of stuff which was used in warfare to defeat the libyans and push them out of the nubian territory. Couple of the statues on display were simply amazing, the fine finish and the all detailing carved in stone really amazes you. 

 

Now the only thing left on my list of things in Luxor was the amazing temple of Karnak which i decided to visit the next day. Luxor temple isn’t that big at all and most of it is visible from outside and from the roof of my hotel so i didn’t see any value in going inside.

 

I decided to have lunch at the hotel restaurant and ordered vegetable tajin, most of the stuff is cooked in these clay pots called Tajin. It was alrite, for some reason after the first day my food experience in egypt just hasn’t been the same. At the end of the meal i ordered some Mahalabeiyya but he said he didn’t have it and suggested Ummm Ali some other dessert, i was like ok fine get me that stuff but then after a while he didn’t have it either but had some hot Mahalabeiyya so i ordered that. It was alrite and the fact that it was warm didn’t help it. I will give that stuff another shot some other time.¬†

 

Rest of my day was spent on the hotel roof smoking sheesha and having Hibiscus tea, it is something i really like and enjoy. In evening i decided to head out to the banks of nile to take some sunset pics and as i got there people starting bothering me for a felluca ride. I earlier was interested in one of those rides but then later i decided against it. 

 

Nile Sunset

 

This time for dinner i ended up having pizza egyptian style, it was pretty good. They didn’t cut it into slices or anything and the bread was different as well. I liked it and then after a while it was time to call it a day. I was thinking if i should wake up early and get to karnak or just wake up as usual and then head to karnak temple whenever. Being the lazy bum that i am, i decided on the latter.¬†

 

 Karnak Temple

 

I woke up at 8ish, got ready had bf and then headed out to karnak. I was planning on walking inside the temple and take my time. The lonely planet guide has explained a lot about karnak and also since i paid attention to the sound and light show i was sure that i would be fine in getting to know the facts about the temple. Also the signs inside the temple are somewhat descriptive so it isn’t that bad at all.¬†

 

Ramses Temple Complex

 

Visiting the temple during day time gives a different perspective altogether and for the sound and light show we were restricted to certain parts of the temple but this wasn’t the case now. I was able to enter the temple built by Ramses and also the small place built by Seti II for the triad of Amun, Mut and Khonsu. The¬†Colossal¬†Hypostyle hall is the next and its nice to sit back and be in complete awe of this gigantic maze of 134 columns some of which are 12m and some 20m with each having a diameter of roughly 3m.¬†

 

The Great Hypostyle Hall

 

I roamed around in the rest of the complex, the obelisks of Hatshepsut and all the other things. Some of the structures still had paint visible and they have sketches of some coptic saints indicating the diversity of this place. I spend few hours at this temple before heading out, it was really nice. This was just the major part of karnak temple, the other stuff which is part of the temple is not accessible to general public. 

Paint on the Columns.

 

As i headed out of the temple few horse carriage guys approached me but i intended to take the walk back and found this cool place along the bank of the nile where i took the best picture of the entire trip so far. It was a panorama of the nile river with the mountains of the west bank in the background. I loved the picture when i put it all together.  

Awesome it is the west bank of nile.

 

Lunch was a pizza at the restaurant near the hotel and at the end of it i ordered umm ali which i didn’t like. It was kinda bitter, i tried adding sugar to it but that didn’t help either. It is kinda sad that most of the traditional egyptian dishes are made of meat.¬†I had to catch the 9.45 pm train to Cairo, so the rest of the day i just chilled at the hotel rooftop finishing up writing this blog etc. Also the hotel has a pool table so i played few games of pool with the guy who works there and surprising enough i won :)

 

At about 8.30 pm i started to head out towards the train station and there i was kinda confused about where the train would arrive, gladly i wasn’t the only one. I recognized this couple from the hotel who were going to catch the same train so i had company and then on the platform we met two british chicks who looked in their teens but were lot older and one of them was indian. Yes both of them were cute ūüėČ but i didn’t have more time to interact with them.

 

The train was on time and the guy immediately offered me dinner which was worst that the earlier fare dished out on the train. This time i only had carrots and other vegetable which was boiled and without any sauce. I just ate the bland pasta with assistance of the yogurt, salt and pepper. I wasn’t full at the end of this meal so i decided to head out to the bar for a drink, these trains have a bar at the center, it is kinda neat. So after having one local luxor beer, which wasn’t that bad, it was time for me to hit the bed. I wasn’t sure about my plans for the next day, i was thinking if i should go to egyptian museum directly or first head out to the hotel and then proceed to the museum. I decided to see how i felt in the morning and take it from there.

 

 Egyptian Museum
 

When i woke up in the morning, i felt really fresh so i decided to head out to the egyptian museum directly instead of going to the hotel and then going to museum. Also i wasn’t sure if i would get the same treatment as i got in luxor, i.e. the hotel would allow me to check in early or not. The train arrived at Ramses Station at about 8.15 am so the timing was also good for me to head out to egyptian museum, it opens at 9.¬†

 

I really enjoy walking through cairo, its fun almost like walking in bombay, i managed to find the museum with little difficulty. Along the way i came across a typical egyptian way of making people buy things, this dude walks upto me and greets me etc and then tells me that he has a perfume shop just close by and i should check it out. I wasn’t keen on it but he kept forcing me into it so i walked into the shop and he showed me couple of perfumes and then insisted that i buy something for as cheap as 50 piastres, i refused and surprisingly enough this dude got really pissed and angry. It was funny how he changed his attitude towards me even though right from the start i made it clear that i didn’t want to enter his den.

 

When i got to the egyptian museum it wasn’t open yet but the crowds were already there, also it being a friday there were lots of locals at this place. They are very strict about cameras at this place and you are required to deposit your camera at the safety box, something i found out only after entering the museum. This is a fairly big museum with lots to see and the it was really crowded as well, to avoid the crowds i proceeded to the first floor where they had all the treasures from the tomb of King Tutakhamun. Also this has a separate area for the royal mummies and to enter it you have to pay extra, i wasn’t keen at all in checking out more mummies, after all they all look the same at the end :).

 

So the first thing i did was check out the treasures from the tomb of Tutakhamun and it was simply unbelievable, the lengths to which the egyptians go to make sure that the soul in afterlife has everything it needs is simply crazy. All the details on the jewelry which adorned the mummy and the the face mask etc was simply astonishing, words are not enough to describe it, you have to see it for yourself and the best part of the tomb was yet to come. 

 

The mummy of the king was buried in 7 layers of boxes and casings, there were 4 huge boxes, the biggest one being atleast 12 ft in height and it contained 3 boxes of shrinking sizes. Finally in the smallest box there were 3 coffins inside one another which had the mummy. All of this was plated in pure gold, it just leaves you wondering, i was in complete awe and amazement. Apart from this grandeur on the outside, the mummy itself was covered in lots of different ornaments and pieces of jewelry each of which is on display in the museum. Not to mention that everything was completely described in hieroglyphics as well. 

 

 

After checking out this whole king tut stuff, i was fairly tired and i just skimmed through the rest of the museum. The rest of the sacrophages, mummy boards of the other kings get boring once you check out the cool gold plated king tut stuff. Though some of the statues on display are really good but then i had spent a lot of time at the luxor museum so it wasn’t anything new for me. It was about noon by the time i got out of this museum.¬†

 

Since my food experience wasn’t all that good with the local fare, i wanted to find this place mentioned in the lonely planet guide book which was supposed to be one of the best eats in cairo. I walked in the correct direction, over shot the place and then retreated and after half an hour of searching around i managed to find it place but it seems that good local fare isn’t for me because this place was closed and would open in evening, this was according to a guy i asked, though personally i wasn’t completely sure if i had found the right place. I was too frustrated and exhausted at this point so i decided to head out to the hotel and then figure out what my options were for lunch.¬†

 

On the way back to the hotel i came across this fancy¬†restaurant¬†which i decided to visit once i showered up and got fresh. I checked into the hotel, got my old stuff back and then headed into this restaurant, there was a menu outside which i should have consulted because at this place there wasn’t a single vegetarian dish. The waiter suggested another place in front of it which could dish out some veggie stuff and so i headed out there. There wasn’t a single english speaking guy at this place and it was kinda hard to communicate but i managed to order fuul, tahini and falafel. The stuff was alrite and then i went to the hotel bar for turkish coffee. After having the coffee, idea of a nap was too much for me to resist so i dozed off for few hours.

 

I was contemplating a walk to Al Azhar park and Islamic cairo but decided against it. I might head out there tomorrow morning but as i am writing this blog, for some reason i am really tired from all the walking i have been doing. So i think i will just sleep in tomorrow and then proceed to the airport in afternoon. The start of my journey into the depths of the red sea begins tomorrow and so will a new post on my blog for the same…..

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