As we sit out here at a busy outdoor Cairo café, writing our blog, smoking our hookah and taking in the sights and sounds of the city (population 20 Million) its hard to realize all that has transpired over the last 10 days. The city heaves with BMW driving business men, shuffling past robed mystics that wouldn’t seem out of place during biblical times. Fully covered burkah wearing women stroll past high-heeled, make up strewn fashionista’s without batting a golden glittered eye-lash. All to the acrid stench of cat-piss, dollar store perfume and butchered animals.
Busy streets of Cairo
Eyebrows were raised when we stumbled onto an obscene pool of fresh blood spilling over the side walk. Was this the sight of a heinous crime? No! In fact it was a 2000 lb semi-decapitated bovine being heaved into a 1500 lb truck in downtown Cairo by a team of blood spattered Egyptians. How this partially butchered cow got into this predicament still remains unanswered.
Demise of street bovine
Its been an action packed 10 days since arriving in Egypt. It all began after a fairly uneventful ferry ride from Aqaba, Jordan to the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. Our first destination was Dahab; the chill out capital of the planet. When we arrived here, the time seems to have stopped, it felt like it was 4:20 all day and all night. Within minutes of arriving we met a Canadian-Egyptian named Amir who made us feel right at home, introducing us to the staff of one particular restaurant
This is the kind of place you see in movies where you lounge around on pillows, smoke shisha, drink $3 bottles of rum and read books, all taking place right next to the red sea shore. With the temperature averaging 28 degrees, and a cool ocean breeze, this place is an absolute nirvana. It’s quite common for people to extend their trip from a few days to a few years. Plus, it’s a diving mecca. Some of the best diving in the world is here, and Dan did 4 spectacular dives for $120. Tom floated endlessly in the warm waves. We got along great with the staff of our favourite restaurant. We spent some quality time with our new friends and after the restaurant closed, went to their house until 4 am drinking and shooting the shit as only the Egyptians know how. 6 days of swimming, reading, lounging around and generally chilling out at a place where the average meal was $3, and we were ready to depart for Cairo.
The Great Pyramid, Khufu's Personal Tomb
Cairo was a serious change of pace from laid back Dahab. We ended up in a sweet room with a 3rd floor balcony overlooking downtown Cairo for $10/night. We went with our Japanese friends Kyohei and Tsunemi to check out the Pyramids of Giza on the first day. As cheesy as it sounds, you cant describe the pyramids with words.Even after knowing what the pyramids were all about, seeing them and experiencing them in person was mind-blowing at the very least. The realization that the pyramids are made of over 3 million blocks, each one averaging 5000 lbs is a humbling thought. They were the tallest man-made structures until the Eiffel tower was built 4000 years later. The light and sound show with the 1970’s sci-fi soundtrack at night adds to the whole experience and is a definite must for anyone visiting. Napoleon, Alexander the Great, Caesar, Cleopatra and countless others stood in awe at these 5000 year old monuments
Best view from any cafe in the world: fact
Sphinx and pyramid of Khefre
An Egyptian offered to take us after hours to see some special places amongst the pyramids, only known to locals. Without thinking too much, this seemed like a great opportunity. We snuck into the site with our new friendwhere we scuttled about the ruins trying to avoid the camel mounted police. We got caught and had to bribe first, a set of two cops. We then proceeded to be led into an underground tomb where the site security caught us and we then had to pay him off as well. He was a shifty looking bugger who had eyes pointing in two different directions. We wouldn’t have trusted him with our hat. Going deeper underground we finally reached the sarcophagus of an actual pharaoh. It was an amazing sight, and we shamelessly jumped inside and had a look at all the heiroglyphics. Upon leaving the site, our guides got into a scuffle with a different set of police who wouldn’t let us out of the site and were requesting our passports and tickets. A nearby shop owner got us out of our bind when we agreed to visit his perfume shop. The whole fiasco ended up costing us $4, significantly bargained down from the $50 asking price.
The next day, Tom visited the Museum of Egypt while Dan stayed behind. The museum is over 100 years old itself and is bursting at the seams with unbelievable amounts of treasures and artifacts. By far, the most unforgettable thing Tom witnessed was the actual mummies of the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. It was incredible to see the curly white hair of Ramses the Second, crooked finger nails, teeth, eye lashes and all. Staring into the face of a 5000 year old Pharoah is a experience that burns itself into your mind. They were so well preserved, Tom feels like he could recognize them if they were to walk by on the street. Tomorrow morning at 5 am we depart for Aswan in the south.
Looks like someone is getting the fuck out of Jordan
Woke up early in the morning and headed through the westbank (one of two Palestinian territories in Israel), into the Ein Gedi Dead Sea. Had a extremely relaxing day floating in the dead sea and at the dead sea spa. Floating in the dead sea is unique; you float without any effort. It has a list of minerals that cant be found anywhere else on the planet. On that note, if you put your face in the water your eyes will feel like they have gonorrhea. Without having anywhere to sleep, we decided just to unroll our sleeping bags and find a secluded place on the beach. With the dead sea directly below us, and the stars above us we slept like rocks. The next morning we climbed Masada. Masada was built by King Herod some 2000 years ago as a fortress at the top of a mountain. It was also the site where a Jewish tribe decided to commit suicide rather then be captured by the Romans. This was a particularly draining affair, as it was close 35 degrees.
View from Massada looking at Dead Sea
Upon completion of our hike, we went to a nearby town for a relaxing meal and almost ran over a dead striped hyena on the road. Met a French girl traveling by herself, drank some wine and slept on the beach again.
View from Mitzpe Ramon Crater
Hiking in the crater
After waking up, we drove to Mitzpe Ramon to hike the crater. Israel has 3 amazing craters. It took as a bit longer then expected to find our hike and ended up doing a half-assed climb. However the views were still amazing. Upon completion of our hike we headed to Eilat for some relaxing. As this is the off-season, Eilat was almost deserted. Early in the am, we departed Eilat for Jordan, en route to Petra… Here the trip starts to turn into an adventure.
Hiking in Crater
New 7 series BMW
Having tea with bedouins
Driving through blizzard to Petra
We hired a cab to drive from the border into Petra, which is usually a relaxing 2 hour drive. However, we hit a major blizzard (yes, Jordan has blizzards). I have never seen a more terrified driver in my life (and this includes driving with my mom). I suspect the driver had never seen/driven on snow before. We probably averaged 15km and this included random tourrets like swearing outbursts by our cabbie. At one point, there was a small child walking beside the road, our driver honked and screamed “get the fuck outta my way!” even though the kid was clearly meters from the road and we were going less then 20k.
Bedouin riding horse in Petra
When we arrived in Petra we promptly went to bed. Even though we had been promised heat, there was none. So we all slept with the blankets over our face and with every imaginable piece of clothing we could find. The next day we walked into the ancient Nabatean city of Petra, the Nabateans were essentially a middleman trading empire, taxing all the goods traveling between Asia and Europe. Nothing we heard about Petra could have properly prepared us for it. The entire city is built into the mountain side and had enough man made caves to house 50,000 people! There are literally dwellings and caves everywhere you look, strewn amongst the much larger and more impressive sights of old tombs that tower over your head, being carved into the face of the canyons themselves. We hired a guide for the first day to give us the low-down on the city. Started by Nabateans, it was subsequently taken over by Romans and then the Byzantines. Bedouins moved in after the fall of the Roman empire and continue to occupy it today (however the Jordanian government kicked the large majority of them out of Petra to make room for the tourists). After the guide tour was over we went our separate ways to enjoy the rest of the day. Tom stayed in one of the Bedouin café’s and spent the day chatting with Bedouins and turks. Dan hiked to the High Place of Sacrifice and spent the day scrambling on the mountain side. On the way home, Dan chatted up a Bedouin (Adnan) and got invited for supper at the Bedouin village.
Walking through the siq as you approach the Treasury
The Treasury. One of the more impressive strucures in Petra
A typical set of cave dwellings in Petra
Halad guiding dan through the mountain side
Supper with Bedouin friends
After a sketchy drive, we met up with Dan’s Bedouin friend at 8:00 in Um Sayhoum (the Jordanian governments Bedouin constructed village). As it turns out Adnan is also a Bedouin chef, and cooked us a amazing traditional Bedouin supper. We followed this by drinking litres of Arak (50% Jordanian alcohol) and having a dance party. The Bedouin hospitality is something not to be missed, they didn’t charge us anything, they invited us to sleep over, they gave us crafts that they made, all in the spirit of hospitality and friendship. Adnan’s cousin Halad also offered to guide Dan around Petra to see the non-tourists hikes and locations.
Dan with 125 yr old Bedouin grandfather of Halad in his cave
On the next day, everyone went their own way again. Elad, Anna and Glickman went horseback riding, Tom explored Wadi Mousa and Petra and Dan went hiking with Halad. Everyone met up at 6:00 to talk about their amazing day. Dan ended up hiking on some amazing and (at times) sketchy hiking trails with Halad. The hike included visiting Halad's 125 year old gradfather and aunt who have still live in caves in the mountain side. Tom got a great feeling for Wadi Mousa and Petra. The rest of the crew again met up with Adnan at 8 in Um Sayhoun and proceeded to enjoy a fabulous Bedouin meal. This time Adnan’s friend and brother were there along with his polish girlfriend. We were all too tired to drink Arak and ended up saying goodbye to our Bedouin friends around 12. That night we said goodbye to Petra and left first thing in the morning to Wadi Rum.
Sketchy part of climb with Halad
Monastery in Petra
Adnan's cousins outside their cave
Tom after hiking to top of mountain in Petra
Tom above the treasury
Wadi Rum, is possibly the most unbelievable place either of us have seen. The desert landscape was absolutely nuts in every direction. We managed to get on board with a guy who owned a 4WD pickup truck, and he took us all throughout the area. Seeing the place from the back of a pick-up truck was definitely they best way to go.
Wadi Rum is a red desert that is full of huge mountains that stand each on their own like huge fortresses throughout the desert. It can really only be described in pictures.
At the end of the day we were dropped off at a Bedouin camp where we were put up in a Bedouin tent, half-buried in sand. Our Sudanese cook Mahmoud cooked us a huge meal and we spent the rest of the night drinking tea in the main tent and trying to learn some new Arabic words. We slept like two dead babies, and luckily no sand vipers or camel spiders made their way into our tent. Both the sunset and sunrise were out of this world, and during the night the sky was so bright that we could fully see the milkyway galaxy stretching across the sky. The next day we woke up really early and caught a ride to the highway in a mangy old 4wd Toyota that was falling apart in every way. One the bumpy drive across the desert the seat we were sitting on collapsed. We managed to find a minibus going south and we ended up in the city of Aqaba.
My Sister Polly once painted a picture just like this.
Aqaba is Jordans only port, and is trying to be some kind of beach resort town. Its still got a lot of character though and the two days we have spent here have been perfect for recharging our batteries. We also managed to get our Egyptians visas at the embassy here in Aqaba, so we’re all set to catch the ferry for Nuweiba, Egypt tomorrow morning.
Arrived in Israel yesterday afternoon around 3pm and had a great transition into life in Tel Aviv. We hung out with a few of Dans friends from his birthright trip, and ended the night at a singalong karaoke bar which was entirely in Hebrew. Eventually hit the sack after some 50 hours of being awake.
We woke up and went sailing at Herzliyya a few km's north of Tel Aviv, it was a nice cruise until I ended up puking up my beer and falafels. I felt like a million bucks after that purge.
Its been a crazy few weeks in Calgary getting ready for the trip. Leaving tomorrow for Israel with a stopover in Germany for a fine pint at the local gift shop.
This blog and website will be updated as frequently as we can. When we do find an internet connection, we will post pictures and describe what we have been up to and where we are. I'll also try and post alot of maps, so you can follow the trip from here.