It was hard to tear ourselves away from the beach in Sharm el-Sheikh (sometimes I wish I was still on that beach), but, after a week, we finally packed up our bags and headed for Jordan. We planned to take a ferry across the Red Sea directly from Nuweiba, Egypt to Aqaba, Jordan, but we were unable to secure any concrete information on when this alleged ferry actually departed.1 Instead, we decided to travel overland from Egypt to Jordan through Israel.
(For those not familiar with the area surrounding the northern section of the Gulf of Aqaba – we were not before this trip – the Egyptian border town of Taba lies less than 15 kilometers from the Jordanian port city of Aqaba, separated by Eilat, the southernmost city in Israel.)
The first time we “fell back” out of daylight saving time in 2014 1 was on the morning we flew from Aswan to Sharm el-Sheikh, a Red Sea resort town on the Sinai Peninsula.
The situation was – to put it mildly – a bit disorganized. As background, Egypt had abolished daylight saving time during the 2011 Revolution, and the current government had only reinstated the time change in the spring of 2014. An exception (i.e., a temporary return to standard time), however, was made for Ramadan – since it fell during the middle of summer and an extra hour of evening daylight would have brought along with it an unwanted extra hour of evening daylight fasting. Because of this, Egypt was now undergoing its third time change in less than three months, despite having not changed it clocks at all for the preceding three years. Given the seemingly constant fluctuation, everyone we spoke with was somewhat hazy of the specifics of when, or even if, the time change was actually set to occur. Furthering the problem was an exceedingly confusing notice that EgyptAir had posted on its website, which seemed to state our flight would inexplicably be leaving an hour earlier than its scheduled 6:00 a.m. departure – already ungodly early.
Certain that chaos was unavoidable, we scheduled a taxi driver through our hotel. When he did not materialize at 4:00 a.m. to collect us, we were unsurprised. Luckily, Marc found a new driver on the street without too much difficulty and, after strapping our bags to the roof of the vehicle, we were off to the airport. We were so glad to be en route that we didn’t even mind getting stopped by the convoy on its way to Abu Simbel – we just marveled at the coordination it must have required to get such a large group of people organized at such an early hour on the morning of the time change. Continue reading Beaching It Up in Sharm el-Sheikh→
I have always, always wanted to see the Sun Temple at Abu Simbel. Ever since I stumbled across a National Geographic article about it as a child, I have been equal parts fascinated by its imposing facade and its methodical relocation, saving it from certain doom. I found that our guidebook summed it up aptly with the following: “[Y]our mind boggles at its audacious conception, the logistics of constructing and moving it, and the unabashed megalomania of its founder.” (emphasis mine because, really, what a great phrase).
Abu Simbel is in Southern Egypt, very close to the border with Sudan. It is located in what was once Nubia, before Nubia was divided between Egypt and Sudan, which is why you may see Abu Simbel referred to, in this blog post and other places, as one of the “Nubian monuments.”
Although it is possible to stay in the village of Abu Simbel, most people (us included) visit as a daytrip from Aswan. Groups from Aswan travel the nearly 300 kilometer route in a convoy of vehicles leaving at 4:00 a.m., reaching Abu Simbel around 8:00 a.m. and giving you two hours at the site before making the return journey back to Aswan. Continue reading Unabashed Megalomania (Or, The Temples at Abu Simbel)→
From Luxor, we planned to head south to Aswan so that we could make the journey to the Abu Simbel temples. Most tourists travel this route by boat, stopping at some lesser-known temples along the way. That idea interested us, but the first two days on the boat are generally spent seeing the sites in Luxor while the boat is moored in town.
Having just spent the pastthreedays exploring the Luxor area, a packaged tour taking in the same sights did not seem very appealing.1 Instead, we decided to hire a driver to transport us the 200-some kilometers from Luxor to Aswan so that we could stop along the way to visit the intriguing sites of Edfu and Kom Ombo.2
Across the Nile from Luxor lies the Theban Necropolis, a collection of mortuary temples and tombs built over the course of almost fifteen centuries. From the ruined grandeur of the temples to the dark tombs lined with scenes of funerary rites, the site is breathtaking to visit. There is so much to see that we split our trip to the Theban Necropolis over two days, and even then we didn’t see everything that there is to see.
Luxor is the second-most visited location in Egypt. Its reputation as one of the world’s greatest open-air museums is well-deserved: Luxor is home to the ruins of the sprawling Karnak temple complex and the multi-layered Luxor Temple, not to mention the incredible Theban Necropolis just across the Nile.
From Cairo, we planned to travel south to Luxor. Unlike other regions of Africa in which we had traveled, an overstuffed minibus was not the only way to reach our destination – we had options: road, air, river, rail.1 After months and months of grueling overland travel, we quickly (and happily) rejected taking any sort of bus. Flying and cruising were both expensive options and therefore also out, leaving us with the train – which conveniently happens to be our preferred method of travel for medium-length distances.
We were looking forward to riding the train. The 671 kilometers (419 miles) route between Cairo and Luxor loosely runs along the Nile and would afford us the benefits of overland travel (watching the scenery change gradually from place to place) with a much greater level of comfort than a hot, cramped bus/minibus.
On our last full day in Cairo, we visited an old part of the city known as Coptic Cairo for its predominantly Christian orthodox population and proliferation of churches. Coptic Cairo is conveniently accessible by metro, so we rode the subway there to give our feet a break.
We started with the Hanging Church, one of the oldest churches in Egypt. The church is so-called because it was built over the gatehouse of a Roman fortress with its nave suspended over a passage.
One of the obvious highlights of any visit to Cairo is a trip to the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, commonly known as the Egyptian Museum. With an almost incomprehensible number of priceless antiquities, including the famous Tutankhamun gold and the mummy of Ramses II, you can easily while away an entire day or two there.
After tearing ourselves away from the pool(s) and switching back into traveler mode, our first order of business was to arrange a trip to the most well-known of Egyptian attractions, the Pyramids of Giza. While it is possible to reach Giza via metro/bus or private taxi, we opted to hire a driver for the day so that we could tackle three sites: the Giza Necropolis, Saqqara, and Memphis.1