Our visit to Egypt Cruising on the River Nile in the King of Egypt's steamer, Cairo and the pyramids .
by garymarsh6 on September 25, 2009
The hotel is a beautiful hotel with a grand avenue approach to the hotel but it is currently marred by the influx of Russian all inclusive stay holiday makers who are quite rude and well to put it politely ignorant as hell. This is quite a shame otherwise the hotel would have been an ideal stay for us.On arrival you have to pass through a scanner at a security point and all your hand bags are X-rayed and yet daft as it may seem the suitcases then come trundling in with no security check at all? The reception area is open airy and bright.The reception staff are very friendly and efficient and give you your room passes quite swiftly. There is a large communal sitting area here with nice comfortable chairs and sofas The fun is about to begin for some people in our group because there is no reasoning in the way the hotels rooms are numbered. Fortunately for us we were in a room on the same level as the reception area but for others it took up to an hour and a half to find their rooms. The room.There are 424 rooms in the hotel of different grades.The room we had was a deluxe room and as already mentioned was on the main floor which was two floors up from the grounds and beach area. It appeared to be very spacious and brightly decorated. On the left hand side as you walked into the room were wardrobes containing a safe,a bar area with a fridge & kettle.There were two beds in the room, one was king sized bed and the other was a single bed. The bed was very comfortable and the pillows were good. The bathroom was very big with a good sized bath and a nice shower with good water pressure. The sitting area there was a couple of arm chairs a table and chairs, a writing desk and a flat screen television on the wall. There was a massive patio door leading out to the balcony with black out curtains. The balcony was very large furnished with patio chairs and table.The view from the room overlooked the gardens swimming pool and the small river and lake that ran through the grounds down towards some bungalow type accommodation. The red sea was just in front of us. As night fell you could see the brightly lit Sharme El Sheikh area of Israel and across the Red Sea the lights of Jordan. The Egyptian side was much poorer looking and dimly lit.The restaurants.There are four restaurants at this hotel.There was a buffet restaurant which we had to pay about £23 British pounds for and quite frankly it was not even worth £3-4. The food was of the poorest quality I have ever come across in a hotel and in fact a lot of it looked inedible. Some guests were piling their plates as high as was possible. I looked at the hot food to see meatballs in congealed gravy, nasty noodles swimming in grease, the rest of it looked disgusting too. So over to the salad bar I went. The salad looked fairly fresh and clean but when I saw the cheese platter I was absolutely disgusted and pointed it out to the restaurant manager and told him that it was an absolute disgrace. Someone was dispatched to the kitchen to muster up some fresh cheeses, ham and beef. The dessert station was very poor too with lots of jelly type desserts and fruit which all looked quite poor quality.For breakfast this was served in the same restaurant and to be fair the selection was brilliant plenty of fresh breads, pastries, donuts (won over me here) cereals, yoghurts, fruit juices and coffee on tap. There was an egg station where they would cook your eggs anyway you liked and would make fresh pancakes. There was a good selection of preserves. The toaster was absolutely a joke I had put my toast through the toaster three times and yet it was still not brown. I gave up in the end. It was delightful to sit out on the patio having breakfast of coffee pastries and bread. One of the things that really spoilt it was the behaviour of some guests. They spoke to the hotel staff with such terrible contempt, they were rude, greedy and down right disgusting. They grabbed at the food which they piled high on their plates and left loads of it before walking off. Chopsticks Chinese restaurant.The second night we were here we thought we would try and book a table here. They made a lot of fuss humming and harring as to whether they could fit a table of 8 and agreed that we would have dinner at 7PM. However the restaurant did not fill the whole time we were there and in fact there was only about another ten tables booked completely. The restaurant is set in the middle of a pool and you reach it by walking over little Chinese designed bridges. There are little tea lights lit along the pathway to the restaurant and our table was on the veranda. We ordered gin and tonics to drink while we read the menus. When the waiter brought us the drinks they tasted ghastly and certainly not like Gin at all. In fact they tasted more like rum. We asked the waiter to get us anther drink which he did and this time it was really Gin. I think that they had served us with the local variation of Gin which tasted nothing like it at all.When we were ready to place our order the waiter came and told us he would tell us what we should eat. I told him sorry but I wont be told by anyone what to eat and this is what I would like Fried Noodles, (sorry no noodles I do you spaghetti) I asked if this was a Chinese restaurant and I had never heard of a Chinese restaurant running out of noodles. I asked if it were possible to get noodles from the main kitchen as it seemed there was a plentiful supply there. He said no we make you spaghetti. OK fine I will have fried rice instead. (Sorry No fried rice you have boiled rice) I said no I will have fried rice. (NO we make boiled.)Unfortunately the standard of the meal they did serve was just acceptable nothing special but certainly very expensive. Seashells restaurant.This was down near the beach and we did not get to eat here. I understand that it is fairly good and serves fresh seafood meat and chicken dishes but it is supposedly quite expensive.Sharazadh restaurant.This restaurant served Lebanese and Egyptian foods and was supposedly the most expensive restaurant in the resort. We did not eat hear anyway and were lucky to be moving on the day after. We would have been better of probably going next door to the Hilton hotel but then I have heard bad reports of the food served over there.The Grounds.The grounds are absolutely stunning leading down to the Red sea in the bay of Aqaba. They were very well maintained and picturesque. In the evening they came around with a big machine spraying near the water and surrounding areas a smoke machine to kill off the mosquitoes although we never saw any I must admit. There were lots of birds around the hotel grounds and some would come onto the patio. There were butterflies flying around which was quite nice. At night the pathways were lit up with small lights which made it look inviting and quite safe to walk around the resort grounds. There are a couple of bars around the pool area and near the beach there is also a snack bar down near the beach too. There seemed to be plenty of sun beds around the pool and people lying toasting chestnut brown in the hot sun.Facilities.There are two outdoor swimming pools and one indoor plus two out door and one in door children’s pools. A fitness centre and spa offering Jacuzzis steam rooms and saunas. Volley ball football diving school and daily fitness exercises which looked far to intensive when being on holiday. There seemed to be lots of joggers as the grounds were quite large. There was an activity programme throughout the day if guests wished to join in and some dreadful entertainment in the evenings near the inside pool and bar area involving Karaoke type activities but most of the people we saw sitting in there as we passed looked bored out of their heads.
Mövenpick Resort Cairo Pyramids.This is a five star garden hotel within sight of the magnificent pyramids of Giza. The hotel is situated on the outskirts of Cairo approximately one mile from the pyramids and it would be easy to walk to and they are an amazing sight to see. That being said it is about 8 miles into the centre of Cairo through the most horrendous traffic I have ever seen. The Mövenpick group are a Swiss operated hotel chain and have 65 hotels throughout the world.The main lobby consists of a vast open space which includes a check in facility, bank and a souvenir shop. It also houses a buffet restaurant, coffee shop, Thai restaurant patisserie shop and bar. There are a couple of other eating venues in the hotel. There is a very large swimming pool and a pizza restaurant near the pool. There is also a gym for exercise holics with ample equipment.The rooms are actually small bungalow type rooms set within the grounds of the hotel. There are 240 rooms spread out throughout the gardens. The rooms consist of twin, double or triple bedded rooms with a good sized bathroom. There are also suites and junior suites with added facilities. All of the rooms are air conditioned and have cable TV. They are of a good size. The beds were very comfortable and quite hard which seems to be the norm in all the hotels we stayed in. The pillows were nice and firm too. The room was clean and tidy. Each room either had a small patio or balcony in front of them with four chairs.Each one also has a bathroom phone, direct dial telephones, electrical sockets, hair dryers, a mini bar, radios and a safe in the wardrobe. The rooms have just recently undergone an upgrade and redecorating so the rooms look quite nice. They are tastefully decorated. The garden setting is also quiet although the hotel is situated near a main road so there may be an element of traffic noise from time to time depending on where you room was situated.The bathroom was kitted out in marble and the shower over the bath gave an ample powerful supply of hot water. There were toiletries provided which were pleasant smelling including shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, moisturising cream, sewing kit, and other essentials.There was a bidet toilet and shaving points plus a hairdryer which wasn’t needed for my rapidly receding hairline!We stayed in the Mövenpick pyramids hotel for two nights on our recent trip to Cairo. The staff were all welcoming and professional and greeted you with a smile and hello. The standard is quite good in this hotel.Breakfast is a buffet affair with a wide selection of breakfast goodies divided up into sections or stations. The was a yoghurt station, fresh fruit, fruit juices, pastry section with a wide selection of French, Danish and local breads. There is an egg section where a chef will and does do amazing things with eggs. Omelettes, fried, scrambled all freshly prepared in front of your eyes. Although I do not eat eggs they were prepared in an excellent manner and those that ate them said they were the best they had ever tasted.The hot buffet section has a wide variety of meats, freshly cooked tomatoes which taste absolutely wonderful and believe it or not actually taste of real tomatoes instead of the usual tasteless variety one gets from supermarkets at home. They were so nice I had a tomato on toast every morning. We had dinner in Bua Khoa restaurant which was a Thai restaurant after reading rave reviews of the food served there. The food was prepared by a cook and her assistant and was on par with food I had eaten in Thailand. The kitchen was open plan and you could see them working furiously away preparing the food for the restaurant. It was absolutely wonderful piping hot and very tasty. I would thoroughly recommend eating in this restaurant.The bar which naturally was a focal point in the hotel and was expensive compared to prices in the UK but this was not unusual throughout Egypt as all the hotels seemed to charge the same price. Approximately £10 for a gin and tonic.There is also a panoramic bar which was difficult for some people to find. YouThe staff all seemed quite happy and very welcoming and made our stay quite pleasant. Due to the heightened security levels throughout Egypt there were armed policemen at the entrance of all the hotels and tourist police everywhere. On entering the hotel all hand baggage was scanned and you had to go through a metal detector which was puzzling as the suitcases were not scanned at all.Price ranges per night approximately £90 to £280 a night depending on the type of room including buffet breakfast.Opinion of this hotel.It was a reasonably good hotel ideally placed on the outskirts of Cairo for the pyramids and a peaceful haven to return to after a day of sightseeing. It is a bit isolated if you wanted to explore Cairo proper but as this was a whistle stop tour it was adequate for our needs. Would I stay here again? Yes but I don’t think that is going to be likely as I would not like to return to Cairo again.
St. Catherine’s Monastry. Sinai, Eygpt.St. Catharine’s Monastry a designated UNESCO site can be found in Sinai Eygpt at the base of Mount Sinai in a tiny little gorge which appears to be in the middle of nowhere. It is reputed to be the oldest working monastery in the world. It is of significant importance not only for Greek Orthodox Christians but also Islam. It is primarily a Greek Orthodox Christian monastry but within the walls of the monastry there is a mosque for the passing nomadic Bedouins some of whom still live within the walls helping the monks in their day to day lives.It is here at the base of Mount Sinai that it is supposed to be where God appeared to Moses in the burning bush with the Ten Commandments and the bush is still there today in one of the little alleyways within the monastry walls.The monastry is built like a fort with very high walls and a tiny door way which leads into an alley way which leads into the monastry. It has been impregnable throughout its very long history and has never been destroyed. The Prophet Mohammed wrote a decree giving protection to the monks. This hand written note can be found in the monastry archives.It was originally known as the Monastry of the Blessed Virgin but was later renamed St, Catharine’s monastry.~Who was St. Catharine? ~She was supposed to have been the daughter of the Governor of Alexandria Costus and was a very learned scholar. It is reported that she told her parents she would only marry someone who exceeded and surpassed her in knowledge and beauty. She met the Roman emperor Maxentius and argued with him for the error of his ways for his victimising and persecuting of Christians. She was unable to convert him to Christianity but managed to convert his wife the empress. Maxentius sent many scholars to argue with her but she managed to convert them. Eventually on his orders she was thrown in prison and sentenced to death by the breaking wheel.The breaking wheel was a particularly nasty way to die as the person was tied to a wheel and their limbs were systematically broken and it could be days before they actually died of dehydration and shock. Sometimes the bones would protrude through the skin and the victim was strung up and gnawed at by birds. Sometimes they would be set on fire and the wheel spun. However according to legend as soon as St.Catharine touched the wheel it broke. So she was beheaded instead. Supposedly angel carried her body which was taken to Mount Sinai and eventually found there by the monks after several years and her remains are still held in the monastry.Interestingly the firework the Catherine wheel is reputed to be named after her. ~~ What is so special about St. Catharine’s Monastry? ~Not only because of its age and the significance of the burning bush & the tablets of stone and ten commandments but it contains the most precious of manuscripts and volumes in the world dating back centuries. There are over 6,000 pieces which are written mainly in Greek but also in Arabic, Armenian, Coptic and Syriac languages. The collection is nearly as precious as the Vatican library collections. They are priceless and irreplaceable. None of the manuscripts will ever leave the monastry ever again because in the 1800’s a scholar from Leipzig visited the monastry and gained the trust of the monks. He then showed them a letter authorising him to take some of the manuscripts to be copied. He promised to return these to them once they were copied but he took them to St. Petersburg and gave them as a gift to Tsar Alexander II. After the revolution in 1917 they were sold for £100,000 to the British museum where they are currently held.Inside the monastry there is a myriad of alleyways and small buildings, cobbled streets and small chapels. There is a well which the monks are able to draw water from and lots of little squares. The heat is quite relentless but in the shadows of the buildings there is some relief from the heat. They grow their own vegetables in the grounds and still provide hostels for travellers and pilgrims. In it’s hey day there used to be between 300- 400 monks living in the monastry but today there are only about 20 monks. Once the monks enter the monastry their life is very harsh starting with prayers at 4AM to 7 Am and then evening prayers between 3PM & 5PM. The monks only eat one main meal a day in the evening prior to going to bed.When the monks die they are buried in the cemetery and once all the soft flesh has gone their bones are exhumed and stored in the small chapel of St. Triphone. There are thousands of skulls and bones all piled up neatly in the chapel. In amongst this pile of bones and skulls there is one skeleton wrapped in cloths wearing a purple skull cap. This is the skeleton of St.Stephanos who died in 580AD whilst at the monastry.The main Chapel is the Chapel of the Transfiguration and is the largest of the chapels within the monastry walls. It is very ornate with lots of holy Icons and paintings. It is richly covered in gold and silver. There are massive gold candelabras and a very ornate rood screen known as an iconostasis with miniature iconic paintings this in turn is protecting the massive gold mosaic picture of the transfiguration. This chapel is breathtaking in its beauty.There is a very small chapel beside the burning bush that is unadorned and the monks who enter for prayer may approach and get near as possible to the roots of the burning bush to say prayers. This chapel is out of bounds to the public although you can walk right up to the burning bush and touch it in one of the little alley ways.There is a small museum housing ancient Icons and church cloth, Chalices and various other religious treasures hundreds of years old. There are gifts to the monks from various Popes, Bishops and various Greek Patriarchs in the museum. There is quite a collection of precious and semi precious stone encrusted bibles. It really is quite beautiful. Would I recommend a visit? Absolutely if you are in the area it is definitely worth a visit. It really is a beautiful tranquil and very historical place to visit not just because of the burning bush but because of the beautiful architecture, the priceless artwork and artefacts.
by garymarsh6 on September 24, 2009
The Egyptian Museum Cairo.We visited the Museum in Cairo one afternoon and in fact you could probably spend a couple of days here as there is so much to see. The museum is housed in a building of great halls built by the French in 1908. The halls are absolutely massive and the security is quite tight here obviously because of the vast collection of priceless treasures and also because of the threat to tourists. Before you enter the Museum you have to go through a scanner to make sure you are not armed or carrying something you should not be carrying. All bags have to go through an x-ray machine and finally random searches are undertaken. It is forbidden to take photos in the museum.They are currently building a long awaited new museum on the outskirts of Cairo to house the exhibition but it is taking a long time to build quite near to the Pyramids. The congestion in Cairo is unbelievable so that would be quite a blessing when it is completed as it is near the ring road.My main reason for visiting the museum was to see the Tutankhamen’s exhibition. In 1972 when I was a child I remember that an exhibition was brought to London and staged in the British Museum there were lots of photos in the papers and so much publicity about it. I begged my father to take me to see it but alas it was not to be. The queues to enter the exhibition in London stretched for up to a mile each day and in total there were nearly 1.8 million visitors to the exhibition which was opened by the Queen to mark the 50th anniversary of its discovery by Howard Carter. The thing that was of main interest was the funerary mask made of solid gold which most people would recognise belonging to Tutankhamen.The museum is absolutely vast and contains over 120,000 artefacts some of which are in storage. It is divided into various halls according to which period of history the artefacts come from. So without talking about the rest of the contents of the museum I will tell you about the Tutankhamen display.We went up to the first floor passing loads of coffins on the way to the great hall where all the King Tutankhamen items were. It is astonishing to see that the hall goes on for ever or so it seems with all the items he was buried with including things that he used during his short life.There are cases on either side of the room and cases down the middle of the great hall displaying chairs, beds, statues, jewellery, armoury, clothing, shoes, pots bowls, plates, vases, cups, coins and other ornaments. The list is endless.The displays here are absolutely stunning with lots of gold and other precious metals and stones. Precious woods all highly decorated and painted in gold and other beautiful colours. There were also……… holding the internal organs which were buried separately to the body and only the heart being placed back inside the body. The brain, kidneys liver lungs and bowels were all put in jars or chests after being preserved.It is amazing to see these small items, they are so beautiful. Over 3200 items were found in total and bearing in mind he died suddenly and at such a young age its amazing how much was put into the tomb. They estimate that the tomb was robbed on two occasions before Carters discovery so there would have been a lot more booty! You can imagine how much stuff must have been present in the tombs of Kings who had lived to a right old age and most of it taken by grave robbers.What is even more amazing is when you get to the end of the corridor and the massive displays await you. There are massive beds, chariots, the funerary bed, stools, chairs his throne and boxes. All of them highly decorated in gold and other bright colours.The sarcophagus was inside a set of three gold boxes engraved with lovely designs and funerary passages engraved in them just like the little Russian dolls one fitting neatly inside the other until you reach the outer ornate sarcophagus. The inside sarcophagus is made of solid gold and is beautifully painted with his arms folded holding the insignia of office Inside this would be the boy Kings Body wearing the mask. When carter discovered this they tried to find out why he died they dismembered the limbs, cut the torso in half and as the funeral mask was cemented onto his head they ended up decapitating him.The sarcophagus and mask takes centre stage in the side room along with all his fine jewellery, rings, earrings and amulets. The mask is in a display case on its own and lit up for all to see in the middle of the room. It looks absolutely magnificent although from the pictures I have seen I would have thought it would have been much bigger, in fact it is fairly small. The funeral mask was made of solid gold and weighs in at an incredible 24.5 lbs. and is inlaid with precious glass and semi precious stones lapis lazuli. On the front at the top of the mask is a cobra and a Falcon. The eye markings are really defined and lovely looking.I have certainly realised one of my life long dreams of seeing both the Great Pyramids and the items from Tutankhamen and had I not seen another thing in Egypt I would have been entirely satisfied with these.I would highly recommend anyone to visit here to marvel at how clever the ancient Egyptian craftsmen must have been producing fine jewellery with fine precision and intricacy with primitive tools. My one big criticism of this great museum is that with today’s technology and the amount of Students of Egyptology and employees’ working in the museum, the cataloguing of the exhibits is absolutely dreadful. The small typed cards have not been updated from about the 1930’s or so it appears. They have been typed using an old typewriter. I would really have thought they would be on the ball about this. It seems to me that that although they have this wealth of rare valuable historic items they do not seem to take as much care as I would have liked to see. They are irreplaceable and a fine example of mans abilities and skills to produce something of such beauty.
by garymarsh6 on September 23, 2009
The Sphinx.Following on from my review of the great Pyramids of Giza I am now writing a review on the Great Sphinx which is part of the complex of the Pyramids but is worth a separate review in its own right.The great Sphinx is sited at Giza just south of the Pyramids. The Sphinx is a mythological creature half Lion and half human. The lion’s body is lying down and the head represents that of a Pharaoh or the Ram God Amun. In some cultures the Sphinx may be represented by two animals but essentially the statue composes the head of one creature and the body of another and can be found throughout the Middle East and also the far Eastern cultures.In Luxor there is an avenue of Sphinxes that stretches from the Luxor temple to the Temple at Karnak three kilometres away. The sphinxes are lying down on plinths and line either side of the road and originally there were over 2000 of these statues. The statues had the head of a Pharaoh on the body of the Lion. There is only one that is totally intact today because their heads were either cut off or disfigured after the succession of the New Pharaoh or during periods of dissent of idol worship. Most of the Sphinxes represent the Solar God Sekmet.In Egypt the Great Sphinx is a beautiful sight situated about half a mile before reaching the Great Pyramids. It is found in a slight depression that was a stone quarry. They believe that the way it was built was by cutting around the area leaving a large block from which they were then able to carve the sphinx into the remaining block of stone. The stone is limestone which is fairly easy to carve.The aim of the Sphinx was to guard the tombs and to act as a form of protection of the Pyramids. The head of the Sphinx at Giza is supposed to represent the head of the Pharaoh Kafre who was buried in the second largest pyramid. One story was that when ever a man wanted to pass the Sphinx in order for it to pass it had the man had to answer a riddle which was what crawls on all fours in the morning, walks on two legs at noon and walks on three legs in the evening. Those who were unable to answer this riddle were eaten. The word sphinx translates into Greek as strangle which is the way a lion kills its prey by biting on the neck of the victim strangling it to death. The answer was supposed to represent the path of life. A baby crawls; an adult walks on two legs and then finally walks with the aid of a stick in old age.The sphinx appears quite huge when standing near it at nearly 240 feet long and 72 feet high and there are three entrances leading into the Sphinx but are dead ended and the reason for them is unknown.The Sphinx for most of its life had been buried beneath sand up to its neck until 1400 years BC. When Napoleon arrived in Egypt in the 1798 they began to remove some of the sand from around the statue. Again in 1816 they tried again to remove the sand but were overwhelmed by how much sand there was and only cleared it as far down as the chest. Eventually the sand was finally cleared in 1936 exposing the whole of the statue to the elements.The quality of the stone is very poor and fragile and the only reason it has probably survived this long is because of the sand protected it. Now it is exposed to the elements of the wind and pollution from Cairo it is again in danger and the main aim is to preserve it.Parts of the face are missing and there are stories to say that it was defaced by French soldiers who used the statue for target practice and the nose was blown off by a cannonball however there is a painting from the 1500’s which shows the face as it currently is with the nose and the beard missing. The beard is thought to have been attached to the Sphinx as it was the custom of men to be clean shaven in Eygpt. Parts of the beard are now in the British museum and the Egyptian museum. One theory is that a Muslim Fanatic on seeing offerings being made to the Sphinx was so enraged that he chopped off the nose and was later hanged for defacing the great monument.During the excavation of the site they also discovered ante chambers around the perimeter of the quarry. In front of the Sphinx there is a small museum and an arena where they perform a nightly Son et Lumiere show.The view of the sphinx is absolutely fantastic against the back drop of the pyramids and it is marvellous to see it from different angles along the side and especially from the front. Sadly the encroaching City has come right up close to the Sphinx and you are rewarded with shops close by including the delightful (NOT) KFC and pizza hut. Putting these shops right out of your mind it is well worth a visit to the sphinx and it is an essential monument to visit which is integral to the meanings of the Great Pyramids.
by garymarsh6 on September 22, 2009
The great Pyramids of Giza.Before heading off to Egypt on my holiday I did a little bit of reading to prepare myself for my trip and I was really surprised to learn there are in fact 93 pyramids found throughout Eygpt. When you speak to people about the pyramids most people think of the three great Pyramids at Giza visualising them on the outskirts of Cairo.I was aware that there were other pyramids and had heard about the first pyramid at Saqqara which really did not look like the pyramids that we think about but were rather step pyramids or burial mounds. It was also true that the Pharaoh would have been buried under the ground and the pyramid built over the top of his tomb. There would have been a myriad of tunnels under the pyramid to protect the Pharaoh from grave robbers. There may also have been a couple of burial chambers for the Pharaohs wife.The other pyramid of note is the red pyramid at Dashur which was built after the first pyramid at Saqqara taking the form of the pyramids we know now today but became bent during its construction so it was abandoned. A third attempt at building a pyramid was made which was more successful which paved the way for the building of the great pyramids at Giza.The Great Pyramids.These are on the outskirts of Cairo and the pictures one sees of them give the impression that they are in the middle of the dessert. However nothing could be further from the truth. As the Cairo grew the city sprawl had brought buildings right up close to the pyramids and it is rather clever photography that makes it look as if they are in isolation.The pyramids were built over 4000 years before the birth of Christ and were for many years the biggest man mad buildings in the world both in terms of height and area. They are still an awesome sight after all these thousands of years.The three great pyramids are known as:The Great Pyramid of Khufu……….. CheopsThe Pyramid of Khafre………. ……..ChephrenThe Pyramid of Menkaure……….....MycerinusThe largest pyramid was built for Khufu and was the tallest structure on earth until the 1900s when the Eiffel tower was built. It was one of the seven greatest wonders of the ancient world. It was built of limestone and there were 1,300,000 stone blocks used to build it weighing in at 2.5 tons to 15 tons. Today it is 33 foot shorter than originally built due to the ottomans and local people taking the smooth limestone cladding to build their own houses and mosques in the 15th century. Now you can just see the pyramid built up like big stepping stones from base to the pinnacle at the top. The entrance to this tomb is in the North Face. There are two burial chambers one for the Pharaoh and one for his Queen below his. You can pay to go into the temple but you need to be able to be able to walk up the ramped sloped steep corridor with your back bent double and crouching. You should not suffer from claustrophobia either as the space is very confined until you reach the actual burial chamber. It is also incredibly hot inside the pyramid. The second pyramid was built for Khafre. It is similar to his father’s tomb in that the entrance is on the north side of the pyramid. There is still some of the limestone cladding in place near the top but originally it would have made the whole pyramid look smooth sided. The burial chamber is unlike that of his father Khafres burial chamber is underground reached via one of two passage ways.The smallest pyramid of the three belonged to Menkaure, the son of Khafre. His pyramid was different to his fathers and grandfather in the following ways. The burial chamber was built underground there were three corridors to reach it. The base casing of the pyramid was with pink granite to a height of 15 metres and then limestone but the last of the granite was taken to build an arsenal in Alexandria by Mohammed Ali Pasha in 1848.There are several smaller pyramids close by for the wives and daughters of the pharaohs that can be seen in the near distance.Unfortunately the pyramids were pillaged by grave robbers at different times throughout their history and yet they still stand in defiance as a reminder of mans building abilities. There were several dummy corridors built to deter grave robbers but each one of the pyramids were robbed of their contents. Around the perimeter there are small temples of the nobles which would have included the chief architect, the chief astrologer and important priests and others involved with the planning and building work.The pyramids took about 15 years each to build and usually work would begin on the accession to the throne on the death of the previous Pharaoh. It took approximately 20-30,000 men to build it. There were small villages built to house the workers who by all accounts were well treated and not forced into slave labour. They were devoted followers of the pharaoh and they would have worked, played and lived in the village until they died. Stone masons and architects, people used to move the great stones from the nearby rivers and to do the donkey work.Times of opening are as follows 08:00 to 17:00 (15:00 during Ramadan).IT costs 50L entrance fee with extra fees to enter the burial chamber, 100L to enter Khufu’s tomb and 20L to enter Kafre’s tomb.The pyramids are an awesome sight and you can walk up over a small step like ramp on of the north face of Khufu’s pyramid. Years ago people were allowed to climb all over them but nowadays being ever mindful of its historical importance and to preserve them for perhaps another 4000 + years you are not allowed to do so. There are armed police on camels around the perimeter of the pyramids and they will come to your aid if they think the salesmen are hassling you. Of course this comes at a price and they will quite openly demand cash. I would thoroughly recommend a visit at least once in a life time you will not be disappointed in any way. The pyramids can be seen from all over Cairo and it does not matter what time of the day they appear to stand proudly from so many vista points around the city.A word of warning! There are many salesmen and men with camels who are probably the worst and most unscrupulous I have come across in the whole of Egypt. Whatever you do DO NOT I repeat DO NOT get on a camel to pose for a photo because the guy will make a noise and the camel will jump up and he will race you off into the desert and will only allow you off once you have paid him. He will demand £100 and not Egyptian pounds they want British pounds. I think they managed to catch two people in our group. One man tried it on with me and got quite nasty when I refused to get on the camel. Fortunately for me one of the mounted policemen saw what was going on and raced over and chased him off with him cursing and gesticulating at me as he fled. The policeman bless his heart was brilliant and chased after him but no doubt he just moved somewhere else to abuse some other tourist. They are very clever and sneaky in doing this please be very careful of them.The pyramids are an absolute sight to behold and one of the main reasons one goes to Egypt. It certainly wont be a let down as they are absolutely huge and an amazing feat and to think they built these thousands of years ago and yet they are still standing in all their glory.I have realised another one of my childhood dreams of visiting the Great Pyramids at Giza. The site at Giza also contains the Great Sphinx but that merits a review on its own.
by garymarsh6 on September 21, 2009
The Queen who would be King.The Mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut otherwise known as the Temple of Deir El-Bahri is a temple in Egypt that is probably better known in recent times where a massacre of tourists occurred recently in 1997. 36 tourists were killed by Islamic terrorists causing a severe decline in Egypt’s tourist industry for which the Egyptian economy relies so much on. Queen Hatshepsut’s actual burial tomb was found in the Valley of the Kings about a mile away by Carter in 1916.In order to improve the safety of Tourists and encourage tourists back to Eygpt the movement set up tourist police to be in attendance where ever tourists were likely to visit. There are armed tourist police stationed at all national monuments, tombs and temples, the pyramids, museums, tourist hotels, airports stations and buses that travel the country in convoys with armed guards and on the cruise boats. Tourists were not permitted to travel on overnight trains in case of ambush, tour buses had to move off in convoys with armed guards to ensure their safety. Slowly over the last few years tourism has increased in Eygpt.The temple is situated at Luxor on the opposite side of the River near the Valley of the Kings. It is probably one of the best known temples because of its size and distinctive structure. Hot air Balloon trip.On the day of our visit to the temple we got up at 5AM had a coffee then went into Luxor where we boarded a motor launch to cross the river. On the opposite side of the river was a small mini bus waiting to take us to the Balloon launching site. On the trip to the balloon launch pad we were given strict safety instructions which were as follows that when told to do so when coming to land you must crouch down in a squatting position with your back against the wall of the basket and holding onto the safety ropes during the landing and to remain in this position until told it was ok to stand up.It was still dark and the sun was just about to rise as we stepped into wicker baskets of the already inflated balloons. The balloon took 20 passengers in the four compartmental baskets, five in each compartment. The ground crew who had inflated the balloon started to sing and bang on drums waving us off. The pilot fired up the balloon and gently the balloon rose gracefully and peacefully into the air. The balloon rose getting higher and higher into the sky giving unprecedented views of the ground below. You could see all the sugar cane fields as the balloon gently passed over the fields. There were already workers in the fields who would look up and give a wave. Kids ran along the roads and through the fields following the balloons as fast as their little legs would carry them. We passed over the sleepy villages that was slowly coming to life the women in Jilbabs making their way to the bakers as the men fed the cattle and livestock in the courtyards of their houses. Soon we passed over the villages and headed towards the mountains and over the dessert. There must have been approximately 60 balloons rising gently into the air. The view through the early morning haze of the Nile River in the distance and Luxor on the other side was beautiful and the balloons floating gracefully wherever the wind decided to take them. As the balloon began to drop the pilot gave a quick burst of hot air by firing up the gas cylinders and we rose higher.The pilot pointed out various outlines of tombs lying below us some were already discovered and dug out whilst the outlines of others still waiting to be disturbed by archaeologists or worse by grave robbers. One of the villages had been built over tombs and you could see that the archaeologists had dug in between the houses to explore the tombs. These tombs were quite a distance from the Valley of the Kings so were probably those of workers or other important figures involved in the construction of the tombs.Finally as we came round the corner the magnificent structure came into view. It had been built half way up the side of a mountain and was a vast complex. There was a massive parade like ground on either side of the approach to the temple. The temple consisted of three tiers. There was a ramp leading up to the temple which seemed absolutely massive. As we floated around the corner high above the mountains we could see another temple that was similar to Queen Hatshepsut’s mortuary tomb but on a much smaller scale.We passed over more mosques and temples and there was evidence of more buried tombs still awaiting discovery. Our balloon began its gentle descent across more fields and then over sandy and rocky ground. The ground crew had been following us and were waiting as we came into land. Looking over the top of the basket to the smiling men waiting to guide the balloon down and anchor it once we landed. We all crouched down once instructed to do so first one gentle bump and a slight scraping sound and then another bump and we were on the ground the pilot opened the top of the balloon by pulling on a cord and a circle of material opened allowing the hot air to escape from the hole and the balloon deflated quite quickly finally collapsing in a heap as the side of the basket. We all got out of the balloon the ground crew helping us out of the basket whilst we waited for the balloon to finish deflating. We got back in the bus then drove up to the Mortuary temple. A little trolley bus took us up to the beginning of the ramp. By this time it was about half past nine and the sun had come up and it was very warm to say the least and the sun made everything seem very bright. We reached the first level of the temple and looked at the sculptures and the intricate painted walls. These were at either side of the ramp. There were pieces of statues scattered around at the side of the temple. We then walked up the ramp to the second tier. From here there was a magnificent view down the valley towards Luxor across the Nile. On reaching the top of the ramp there were two statues of the Queen dressed in Pharonic costume depicting the Pharaoh with the pharaoh’s hat and beard signs that she was a pharaoh. She was often depicted as being a man although she described herself as being beautiful. It was unusual for the Queen to be Pharaoh but she inherited the throne from her husband rather than her son as he was deemed too young. She was on the throne for approximately 22 years and designed her own tombs plus many other buildings. She was a very successful Queen. The tombs took 15 years to build. Some of the paintings on the wall depicted her reign and also the gifts she sent to another queen. Many statues of the Queen and historical depictions of her were destroyed probably by her son. She had to be ever mindful of coup attempts.The final tier is where all the funerary rites and rituals would have taken place. It is entered via a colonnaded square with effigies and carvings of Horus. There are quite a few murals on the surrounding walls. You then enter via a doorway into a large inner court with various rooms and anterooms leading off the main square. There is little to see here as most of the temple was in ruins when carter discovered this tomb in 1903 and since that time the tomb has been restored some purists say that it should never have been restored but the outstanding details or the amazing ramp and stairways gives a brilliant indication of how magnificent this imposing temple must have looked like thousands of years ago.From a distance this tomb looks absolutely amazing and nothing at all like any of the other tombs you will visit along the concourse of the Great Nile River. It is well worth a visit either as described above in a hot air balloon or on foot. The sheer size of the tomb makes you feel very insignificant when standing in front of it. It must have been very hard on the poor workers to have carved the whole structure out of the mountains.
by garymarsh6 on September 20, 2009
Kitchener Island. Aswan.Kitchener Island, otherwise known as Geziret an-Nabatatis in Arabic, is a small island near Aswan and is now a botanical garden. It was given to Lord Kitchener as a token of thanks for his part in suppressing the uprising in the Sudan war. The island is part of two islands the other one being called Elephantine Island. It is only about half a mile long and is oval in shape. It is reached either by motor launch or a traditional Felucca a Nile sailing boat. On our visit about ten of us boarded a felucca which was piloted by a bare footed Nubian chap wearing a Galabaya. We all had to don fluorescent orange Mae West life jackets for the 25 minute sailing across the Nile to the Island. We were passed several times by motorised launch which did not seem as much fun as being on the traditional felucca. We were treated to some Nubian chanting and drum banging by his assistant and there seemed to be an ongoing competition between the other feluccas’ to make the most noise as possible. The Nile is quite busy here with lots of tour boats and other shipping traversing the Nile River. At times it is pretty hair raising because it looks like one of the big cruisers are going to ram you but within feet the feluccas suddenly change direction and shoot off to the other side of the river. The river here is also absolutely filthy with pollution and there are refuelling boats that go round refuelling; spilling bilge and dirty water into the even dirtier river Nile the life source so many rely on for irrigation and life. What would be considered a major health and safety risk here was these people were working all with lit cigarettes and had small barbecue fires on the decks cooking dinner. Bah none of those health and safety strangulatory rules and regulations appears to apply here.Reaching the Island there is a scramble to reach the landing stage where people walk up the planks whilst the boat bobs merrily up and down and being bashed by other boats arriving and vying for space off load and spew out their passengers. There are people on shore to help grab you and drag you onto the steps of the landing stage. Groups of giggling school kids smiling, pointing and practising saying hello to the very white mysterious visitors from over seas. The boys being quite boisterous and gobby whilst the girls shyly attempting to hide their modesty and coyness. There were shrieks of laughter from all the kids when one of us spoke to them. Bless. There were also group’s supposedly Egyptian hen and stag parties coming to take pictures on the pretty and colourful island that plays host to lots of unusual and pretty flowers trees and shrubs from all over the world.The Island is a haven of peace and tranquillity with pathways all over this island and shaded spots to sit and enjoy the peace and view the flowers and trees. It is also a welcome break from the heat to sit in the shade. There are lots of exotic and unusual looking birds that visit the island and you can photograph them feeding on the ever watered gardens and lawns. There are date and fig trees and all kinds of trees some familiar and others not but they are labelled both with their common names and their Latin names.Other facilities on the island include a museum and on the far end a cafeteria and a number of market type shops and stalls. There are also toilet facilities which require that your stomach is made of steal if you really need to use them. There are wonderful views here looking back towards Aswan and the observation building built by the Russians for President Sadat to come and view the building of the dam. Up on the hill oh the opposite side to Aswan is the Mausoleum of the Aga khan standing proudly on top of the hill. The Aga Khan chose the place here as his winter retreat and when he died in 1957 he was buried here. Apparently his widow used to visit his tomb every day and lay a fresh rose on it until the day she died in 2000. It used to be open to the public but is now closed.The harbour stage here is a frenetic jumble of hundreds of motor launches and feluccas all vying to get close to the steps to collect passengers. You need to be very careful where you put your hands and feet because they are liable to be cut off when trapped between the boats. We were besieged by people trying to sell trinkets, clothes t shirts shoved right in your face but by saying a firm La Shokran they knew you meant no. The trip back was great too the boat meanders through the rocks around Elephantine Island on route back to Aswan. A little boy around about the age of 7 came up to the boat singing Frere Jacques and holding his hand out for some money. He could hardly sing the words and imitated them with a hum. He had a brilliant cheeky smile which was very endearing but we were told not to give him anything as it was an organised operation and true enough around the corner was another small lad singing God Save the Queen. By this time the sun had lowered in the sky and you could see the changing shades of the surrounding mountains and monuments. There was a gentle breeze which helped us Zig Zag across the Nile until we reached the landing stage. It was a brilliant trip to see the Island and a welcome break from all the other haring around at the temples we had been visiting. I would thoroughly recommend a visit.The island now belongs to the Ministry of Agriculture and is used as a research facility where they experiment on the different plants and oils produced by the plants. There is no entry to the public at the facility. They also export seeds and plants all over the world.
by garymarsh6 on September 19, 2009
The Temple of Philae.The temple of Philae is perhaps one of the most picturesque temples on the Nile. Prior to the building of the dam it was situated on another small island but because of the building of the lower Nile dam it covered it under the waters of Lake Nasser completely submerging it. The paint was stripped off the temples by the rising and falling of the water levels. It was therefore dismantled into 40,000 blocks piece by piece weighing and estimated 20,000 tons, catalogued and moved to its present site on the Island of Angilika. It took 8 years to move it and reassemble it. You can see pictures of it on the internet submerged in the water.The temple is dedicated to Isis and the God Osiris who was the Egyptian God of the afterlife and the underworld. To visit the temple you have to take a small boat over a large expanse of water. It is an absolutely brilliant sight as you see if from afar and get nearer. There is a hive of activity at the landing stage and the boats piloted by local Nubians jostling for a place to offload their passengers to race back and bring more.Walking up the ramp and stairway you reach the top and are stunned by the sheer beauty of the temple complex. To the right there is a large arena where they hold Sound and light concerts describing the mythology of the great Egyptian Gods. This take place after nightfall when different parts of the temple are lit as the story unfolds.Beyond this on the right hand side is the superb Roman Hypaethral temple built by the Roman Emperor Trajan. This temple looks like a typical Roman temple which would have had no roof. Apparently at some point during its history a wooden roof was put on the building. Beyond that is a square with numbered large pieces of stone that appears to have lost their way and seem to be spare with no where to go. It is quite a stunning building.Looking left you see the massive temple complex to Osiris. Walking over to the temple you first enter a massive square surrounded by columned walkways. There are several side chapels leading off from the square. At the top of the square is the Temple of Osiris. There are two massive pylons either side of the main entrance which are quite magnificent with carvings on the façade. There are two granite statues of lions guarding the entrance. Walking up the ramp to the entrance you enter into a small courtyard surrounded by pillars and hieroglyphics on the walls. After passing through this courtyard you enter the Hypostyle hall where there are large columns inside. Carrying on you pass side chambers on either side of the aisle one side to the right is the vestibule and on the other side the Ostian rooms. All around the temple there are hieroglyphics telling stories of Osiris, Isis, Horus, Seth and Sobek.You finally enter the Sanctuary.Exiting this fantastic temple and walking around the perimeter you are awestruck by the amount of hieroglyphics and paintings on the outer walls of the temple. They are very detailed indeed. To the left hand side of the temple there is a set of small temples a gateway to one of the ruined temples is named after the Emperor Hadrian which leads to the ruined temple of Harendotes. This brings you back to the massive colonnaded square at the front of the temple.This temple is one of the most enjoyable temples to walk around. It is quite a large site with many things to see both inside and on the outside of the temple. The surrounding waters make it a unique and calm setting despite the thousands of tourists visiting the Island. If possible it it best to visit the island early in the morning before the hoards of tourists arrive. There are hundreds of little sailing boats manned by local Nubian men all vying for your custom it is quite manic getting in and out of the boats and the boats are often rammed by another boat trying to dump their passengers so they can go back and get more.
by garymarsh6 on September 18, 2009
Temple of Kom Ombo.The second temple on our tour was at Kom Ombo previously known in ancient times as Nubt or city of gold. It was also known as Thebaid. It is situated on the East bank of the River Nile on a small close to the river. It looks quite stunning and it is only a two minute walk from standing hill where the boats dock on the quayside moorings.Kom Ombo was a small garrison town which was not really suitable for a large settlement due to its position on the Nile being slightly raised and the ground was infertile due to its rocky domain. However it was an important The temple was built from stone from local quarries and hauled by men to the site. There are two entrances at the front of the temple after which there is a long corridor that goes through the centre of the temple. It looks a little like a Pantheon with 15 grand columns at the front of the temple standing in three rows, two of the columns are missing. Each column is intricately carved with the crocodile headed Egyptian God and Horus the Falcon headed God hieroglyphics. There are still traces of paint in places throughout the temple. It is a double temple one at the front dedicated to Sobek which is nearest the River Nile and the one at the northern side is dedicated to Horus the Falcon God. Sobek was the crocodile headed deity who was held in great esteem and revered in awe so much so that mummified remains have been found in the area. Sobek was the God of fertility. Interestingly there are no crocodiles found this far down the river now since the building of the two massive dams at Aswan. Good news for the locals especially kids who are often seen playfully splashing about in the river along the Nile.In the hypostyle hall some of the columns have carvings of papyrus and some are carved looking like a lotus and one is in the shape of a palm tree high above the ground. There is an imaginary line and a dividing wall that separates the two temples. There is not a lot left of the actual sanctuaries but there are offering blocks of stone and altars. There are also side chambers and vestibule rooms parallel to each other so that there is one set for the temple dedicated to Horus and one set for Sobek.In the centre of the Temple there are magnificent walls full of descriptions of daily life you can read about the building of the temple how long it took. There is also a hieroglyphic calendar on one of the walls which gives a good description of days, months, and years phases of the sun and moon. There is also information about the gathering of crops in the area.What I found very interesting was at the back of the temple on two massive walls was hieroglyphics detailing the types of medical instruments that were used at the time. Remember that this was 2 years BC. There were dilators, clamps, scissors, scalpels, curettes, bone cutters, saws and forceps instruments that we still use to this very day. They are quite detailed and easily recognisable.Quite a bit of the temple has been destroyed over the centuries by natural disasters including floods and earthquakes. The most recent earthquake was in 1992 which caused some more damage to the temple. Man has also destroyed parts of the temple by taking some of the stone work for building.To the left side of the temple there is a massive dug well which must be about 20 foot wide. There is a wall about three feet high but you can look over into the well and see the different water levels markings on the inner sides there is also a small set of steps at the bottom which would aid in the measurement of the water depth. It still has water at the bottom of the well.On leaving the temple you exit down a ramp and there is a small museum here exhibiting some of the Mummified crocodiles and other interesting objects found locallyThroughout the day the colour of the temple changes according to where the sun is in the sky and after sunset the temple is lit up at night and looks quite a magnificent site.Around the outside of the temples there are small markets selling clothing and trinkets.
by garymarsh6 on September 17, 2009
Temple of Edfu. The great temple of Edfu is situated on the West bank of the Nile River in Egypt. It was built on top of an even more ancient temple between the years 237BC and 57 BC during the time of the Ptolemaic Dynasty and the reign of Cleopatra. Edfu was an ancient city of about 60,000 people and it was believed that it may have been a major site for people setting out on their journeys into the desserts. It is the best preserved temple in Eygpt built of sandstone and it is quite large. It is the second largest and best preserved temple in Egypt.The story of Horus the Falcon God, It is dedicated to the God Horus. Horus was considered a Falcon God of the Sky he was also considered as other Gods too and there is some confusion of who he was as different names were used to describe the same person. Horus represented life form of the God and Osiris the afterlife. He was also known as he represented the Sky the Sun God, The right eye representing the Sun and the left eye the moon. The tale is that Horus had a fight with Set who was the God of Upper Egypt and during this fight Set lost a testicle indicating the reason that the dessert is infertile where as Horus had his left eye gouged out resulting in the meaning that the moon was weaker than the sun. As Horus was a Falcon he was regarded as a war God and the Pharaohs were considered the human form of Horus. He fought with Set for over 80 years Set being the God of upper Eygpt and Horus of Lower Egypt fighting for total control of Eygpt. They were both given the opportunity to argue their case in front of the other Gods who were fed up with the fighting and in the end they came down on the side of Horus who became God of both upper and Lower Egypt.All of the above is described in beautiful hieroglyphics on the walls of the temple. What struck me most is how detailed they are and how today thousands and thousands of years later they are so clear.The temple fell into disuse due to the banning of non Christian worship in 371 AD and there was a period of desecration of religious sites, some of the hieroglyphics had been chiselled out and there appears to have been a fire in the great hypostyle hall in an attempt to burn off the coloured murals depicting pagan imagery. Eventually the encroaching sands of the dessert covered it over only the top of the 36 foot high Pylons were visible. People had even built some houses over the top of it. The temple was rediscovered by a French expedition and in 1860 it was dug out of the sands and found to be extremely well preserved,Arriving at the Temple there is quite a walk to the Entrance where you first set sight of the two massive structures at the front of the temple. These were known as Pylons. Cut into the face of the temples are human figures of Horus the war god with the head of a Falcon indicating it was Horus.After arriving in the massive court yard you stand in front of the two massive pylons which contain small chambers, rooms and stairways. You then enter the doorway to the inner courtyard which opens up into a massive square with columns all around the perimeter. There are two statues of Horus standing guard at the front of the hypostyle hall. Entering the hypostyle hall you are immediately struck by how high the building is and the massive columns inside. There are hieroglyphics all the way up the columns to the ceiling and the ceiling is covered in paintings but most of it has gone black due to the attempt to burn them off.Walking through to the sanctuary you pass two side rooms where the high priests would have used one as a library and on the other side a chapel for services worship. The walls are covered in paintings and carvings in the walls. It is absolutely amazing and stunning. You then pass an offering table and then reach the sanctuary which a boat like structure and a Naos or an altar which would have contained a statue of Horus but the statue went missing a long time ago.On the inner walls of the outer walls protecting the temple are massive bas reliefs describing different events both mythological and in reality involving the building of the temple. They are surprisingly still very much intact with the exception of the heads of Horus that have been gouged out.This is an absolutely wonderful first temple to visit as it is so intact and it we are so lucky to be able to see it after all these thousands of years.
The SS Misr was built in Preston Lancashire in 1918 originally for the Egyptian Royal Navy and bought by King Farouk of Egypt as a private cruiser. It is recorded that he had held his birthday celebrations aboard this boat.Misr means the Kingdom of Egypt.Being a steam ship it rekindles memories of Agatha Christie’s death on the Nile. It offers elegant and tasteful luxury service and there are over 60 members of staff to 46 passengers. There were only 42 passengers on our cruise.The ship has three decks and is 62 meters in length. There are two boilers and two steam engines which produce 4.2 tons of steam pressure per hour resulting in a speed of 10KM/HR. The lower deck houses the reception area which is open and airy. Some of the smaller cabins are situated on this deck. You enter the boat through some other boats as it is a smaller vessel and it tends to moor up against the larger cruise boats as it tends to sail under its own steam earlier than the other boats depart and you have to walk through their reception areas to reach the Misr. This however is of some benefit as it means that you get an unsurpassed view of the Nile which is ideal for watching the coming and goings on the river and magnificent sunsets. The Main deck is where the elegant Marasem restaurant is situated which is tastefully decorated all meals are taken here with a mixture of buffet and waiter service depending on the menu. The food is of an exceptional high standard with a mixture of international and Egyptian food. The food is very tasty varied to suit every appetite. The tables seat 8 per table. On the first night you are seated by the dining room manager there after you may choose where you would like to sit. Some of the suites of rooms are on this deck and also a small shop.The upper deck contains the Dahabia bar and the Saraya lounge which is lavishly decorated in period style including a grand piano. There are also more rooms and suites on this deck towards the front of the boat.The top sun deck has a smallish plunge pool, a bar and shaded sun beds. Afternoon tea is served here and on some afternoons in the main bar area. Due to the terrorist sensitivities in Egypt there were always two armed policemen aboard the ship at all times. Wherever you are moored there are armed policemen stationed beside the tourist boats and at all major sites.The Cabin.The rooms are all air-conditioned and elegantly decorated and a pleasure to return to after a day of touring the ancient sites along the banks of the Nile. It's a peaceful cool haven to return to from the hustle and bustle and the heat of Egypt. The rooms are furnished in beautiful wood with drapes around the floor to ceiling windows. The only draw back is that there is only a small balcony to sit out on to enjoy the view and sunsets. The beds are quite comfortable and prepared by the cabin staff for you to with various arrangements made with the bathroom towels each evening for example a King Cobra wearing a Fez or in the shape of a crocodile with a box of tissues in the mouth. There is an armchair, flat screen television mini bar and safe. There is adequate storage space for clothes a bedside cabinet and various lamps and lights. The bathroom is fitted marble and has a bath and enclosed shower over the bath. Hair dryer and electric razor point. There are also on board laundry service.The Restaurant.The restaurant is situated on the main deck and all meals are served here. There is a mixture of buffet and silver service with a wide choice of menu offering local and international cuisine. The standard of the food is excellent and none of the passengers came down with Mummy’s revenge.The boat has its own water filtration system so all the vegetables and fruit are washed in clean water.When it was a buffet service you were able to choose for yourself what you wanted then a waiter would carry your meal back to your table even if you wanted to do it yourself you were not permitted to lift a finger. The food was well prepared and well presented. It was tasty and something available for everyone. The chef had eyes like a hawk and if he felt you were not eating adequately he would try to find out why and prepare any food you wished. They could not do enough to make you feel at home.The Bar.The bar area was nice and peaceful and would have been ideal to sit down and have a few drinks after dinner however it was quite expensive to have a drink here as it was over £10 for a gin and Tonic. So instead of people congregating and socialising in the bar after dinner most returned to their rooms and had a drink there. Mind you it was probably for the best as early morning wake up calls for the trips to the sites meant that most people were in bed by ten PM anyway. Who wants to get up at 4AM or 5AM with a raging hang over.Entertainment.There were two nights where you were encouraged to dress up in local costumes. The men wore a Fez and the women wore a galabeya. There was dancing and local Berber singing from the crew which was quite entertaining. One evening was spent at the Luxor temple where a Sound and light show and private reception was put on. The waiters were dressed in Pharonic dress handing out cocktails and canapes as we walked up the colonnade to reach the temple. This was a private show at which only VJV guests were present. The tour Guides.There were two resident tour guides who were knowledgeable Egyptologists educated at the University of Cairo and knew all about the temples and antiquities we were visiting. They gave some very varied information and were able to decipher the Hieroglyphics around the temples and tombs we visited. They were always on hand to give some fascinating information of how the temples and tombs were built and what it must have been like for the workers and people living in them.The Cruise itinerary.Day one sail over night to Esna then passing through the locks at Esna.Day two. Visit temple at Edfu. Sail overnight to Kom Ombo.Day Three: Visit temple at Kom Ombo then sail to Aswan.Day Four: visit temples of Philae then visit elephantine island and Kitchener’s Botanical garden by felucca.Day five: Optional visit to either Abu Simbel or a bird watching trip on the Nile.Day six: A trip to visit the high dam at Aswan and afternoon free to explore Aswan town: Sail overnight via Esna lock to Luxor. Private evening reception at Luxor temple.Day Seven: Early morning hot air balloon trip over the West bank and valley of the kings.Day Eight: Early morning visit to the temple at Karnak and then Luxor temple. Disembark after lunch.My impression of the Cruise.I thought the cruise was absolutely brilliant and far better than I had imagined it would be. It was certainly well worth doing this trip and the tours to the various temples tombs and historical sites were absolutely out of this world. The tours to the temples involve some physical fitness and may not be suitable to those with mobility problems. The boat was certainly comfortable and ticked all the boxes in respect of exclusivity, service and comfort.The only criticism I have would be the cost of the drinks on board the boat which was a bit over the top I thought bearing in mind alcohol was quite cheap in Egypt.Would I recommend it?Absolutely and I would add if you can afford a cabin suite on the middle deck I would definitely recommend it and moreover if you could afford the suites at the front of the boat I would definitely go for it as they are the only two suites with balconies which you could sit out on in comfort. However at a supplement of £1000 for the two of you I don’t think it would be justifiable because when you are in the cabin you are mainly sleeping as the rest of the time you are out and about exploring the wonderful and beautiful sites that Egypt has to offer.The cruise includes all trips, entry fees, food, entertainment, transfers and flights. Tips were extra for the crew, cabin staff, waiter’s guides, drivers which amounted to another £80 approximately.Where to find out more.http://www.vjv.co.uk/destinations/africa/egypt/royal-steamer/index.html
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