Karnak Temple - Luxor, Egypt
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Egypt Trip Journal (Page 1 of 2) from April 05 to 26, 2006.

To read about our 2007 Egypt Trip from Oct. 24 to Nov. 12, 2007 see Journal Page 2. Follow this link to return to the Egypt Photos Pg. 1, Egypt Photos Pg. 2 and Egypt Photos Pg. 3.

Country: Egypt
Duration: April 05 to 26, 2006
Distance Traveled in the Country:  ~ 3000 km
Memorable Impressions of the Country:  Egypt was very great disappointment to both of us, with the exception of Sinai Peninsula. We realize people make or break a country.  When we set out on this trip we believed that every country's population, for the most part, has the same friendly people who worry about the same issues and have integrity.  We tried very hard to see the positive in the Egyptian people, but we were disappointed countless times.  Egypt is littered with garbage, pollution, and  people who do not care about their country.  The beautiful historic sites, like the great pyramids, the Egyptian Museum, Karnak, Valley of the Kings & Queens etc are run down and the tourist facilities are poor.  The amount of tourists every day visiting the sites is unbelievable and the money that is generated does not go to the preservation or improvement of any of it.  The corrupt government pockets all the money and channels most money into the illiterate tourist police, who's sole purpose is to keep the tourists away from the real Egyptian people.  Every day caravans of 50 to 100 buses are escorted along the Nile Valley, speeding through small villages at 110km/hr.  Local people do not see the benefits of tourism.  The buses only stop at the big attraction towns like Luxor.  Every day the local people have to stop what they are doing and are blocked off from using the main road to let the caravan of buses through.  The constant harassing and scamming at every historical site was very tiring for us.  We pay high-priced entrance fee and then get harassed by some unauthorized person, who paid off the ticket guy, for more money to see something that we already have paid for.  If it wasn't for the priceless monuments, Egypt has little to offer.  Egypt is a third world country which seems to go back in time instead of advance.  Note, if you are on a tour, you will be sheltered from most of the unpleasantnesses of Egypt.  But it is not the true Egypt.  What happened to those people who built the pyramids and temples?   
Gasoline Cost: approx. $0.20CDN/litre
Hotel Cost: On average about $15.00CDN/night
Food & Drink Cost: Very Cheap. Tourists always pay more and it is not consistent.

April 04, 2006.  We arrive in Cairo, Egypt via Yemeni Airways around 7:30pm.  The one (1) month visa is obtained prior to the passport entry stamp for $15US each.  Prior to leaving Yemen we came up with a tentative schedule and sights to see for Egypt.  One of the first things the travel books warns of is that when landing at the Cairo Airport, you might be approached by a person who says that they are with the Egyptian Chamber of Tourism and try to sell you on hotels, tours and taxis.  They are not with the government, but work for commission for the local hotels.  Of course, we are approached instantly.  We work our way outside the Airport and flag down a taxi.  A mid-range hotel called Happyton Hotel is located downtown.  We are not accustomed to the exchange rate and Egyptian Pounds we get scammed by the taxi driver.  A fare from or to the airport should be around 45 Egyptian Pounds, but we paid triple.  Welcome to Egypt. The Happyton Hotel is 84 Egyptian Pounds ($18CDN) and includes breakfast.

April 05, 06, 08, 09, & 11, 2006 – 7 Days of getting the motorcycles through Egyptian Customs and Traffic Department.  We were so frustrated and disappointed in the Egyptian society that we didn't start this journal until 10 days had past, hoping as we left Cairo it would change, but we are unfortunately disappointed.  The journal entry for the days of trying to get the bikes through customs is "to the point” and does not account for the numerous hours wasted sitting around waiting for one of the officials to do their jobs.  April 05, 2006, we are clueless to what will transpire over the next week, as we take a walk into central Cairo and end up at the Midan Tahrir.  The guide book indicates that the Sun Hotel organizes a minibus tour to the Birqash Camel Market on Friday's.  The Sun Hotel is located in the Midan Tahrir area on the 9th floor.  The security guys are very helpful and we explain that we need parking for two motorcycles.  It is easier said then done.  Cairo houses 16 million people and is one of the world's highest densities of people per square kilometer.  Therefore parking of any kind of vehicle is a nightmare.  We walk a few blocks with the security guys as they inquire at different parking lots regarding storing our motorcycles.  No luck.  They offer that we park on the sidewalk and they will keep watch.  We check into the Sun Hotel (www.newsunhotel.com) for 60 Egyptian Pounds a night ($12CDN/night) including breakfast and head via taxi to the Airport – Cargo for the motorcycle pick-up.  The Cargo Airplane arrives at 1:45pm from San'a, due to traffic we don't get to the airport until 2:30pm.  Looking just a bit lost we are asked by a local if we require help.  As it turns out he is in the business for import and export and handles all the paperwork.  He takes us to the Yemeni Airline Cargo Office.  It is just after 3pm and they tell us that they are now closed for the day and to return the next day.  Our custom broker negotiates his way into getting the paperwork signed over by handing over some money.  We sit down for tea and he explains to us the "red tape” of getting the motorcycles into Egypt. He promises us that he will have the bikes to us the earliest in one (1) day and worst two (2) days.  Little did we know that it was the beginning of a major scam by Gamal Hassan Moly.  It cost us a minimum of $700 (not accounting for the numerous pay-off that were required to get stuff done) and took 7 days to pass the bikes through the system.  April 06, 2006, we spend all day at the Custom Department at the Airport to arrange the opening of the crates and inspection of the motorcycles.  April 07, 2006, Customs is Closed.  April 08, 2006, returning to the Airport Custom Department, we spend all day again at the Cargo Customs to get motorcycles, still in the crates, moved to the Car Customs.  The Egypt Air storage fee for two (2) days was 648 Egyptian Pounds ($130CDN) and the move of the crates came to 1066 Egyptian Pounds ($214CDN).  We were hosed constantly.  April 09, 2006, the Car Customs does not accept our Carnet's unless we get a Arabic letter from the Egyptian Automobile Association in downtown Cairo stating that the Carnet de Passage are valid.  Sitting at another office we wait 3 hours to get this letter and pay 240 Egyptian Pounds ($48CDN). Returning to the Car Customs at the Airport we start the paperwork to clear Car Customs.  April 10, 2006.  Egyptian Holiday.  Car Customs is closed.  April 11, 2006.  Back at the Airport Car Customs, we are finally cleared to proceed to the Traffic Department by noon.  At the Traffic Department, we receive the Triptick (another way to rip of foreigners when they try to bring in vehicles).  The cost for the Triptick, for two motorcycles, was 1100 Egyptian Pounds ($220CDN) valid for one month. Then we had to get liability insurance for the motorcycles before we could proceed to get our new licence plates, which we just received prior to closing by paying off a lady at the licence plate office.  From here we pay to get access to the motorcycle impound parking area, and pay again for parking and pay yet again to get to the exit gate and then pay again to have the guard open the exit gate.  In total the whole experience cost us about $1000CDN including all the pay-offs to get the motorcycles through the system in an amazing 7 days.  We are sure that half of the money was spent on "fabricated” fees as we went along.  This experience has shown us the true Egypt.  Not pretty.  A country we will never return to again.    

April 07, 2006.  Since the Muslim weekend was upon us and the motorcycles stuck in customs, we take advantage of some local sightseeing.  The Birqash Camel Market is best on Fridays and it is Egypt's largest.  Camels are brought up from Sudan by the 1000's and sold at the camel market.  It is located outside Cairo and takes about 1 1/2 hr taxi ride to get to.  The visit was organized by the Sun Hotel and cost 45 Egyptian Pounds per person.  Forewarned by the travel book to the animal cruelty and smell at the market, it wasn't too much of a shock.  It still is tough to see their legs tied and the constant beating.  Ready to return to Cairo, the taxi driver was leaning over the distributor of his 1970 automobile.  How he finally got it set we don't know.  With the afternoon open, we head into Islamic Cairo and enter at the medieval bazaar of Khan al-Khalili.  Traders line the streets of Sharia al-Muizz Li-Din Allah and Sharia Gamaliyya. Within seconds we are lost in the bazaar's narrow alleyways in the original Khan area. We walk past countless mosque and try to match them with our guidebook, some we find and some we didn't.  Entering one of the mosques we are accompanied by what appears to be a mosque caretaker, he takes us up to an extruding balcony overlooking the busy bazaar below.  For his service he expects a tip and asks for 5 Euro (outrageous as it is).  We only have 20 Euro bill and he promises change and pockets all 20 Euro.  We are both choked by this unscrupulous man and demand our money back.  After making a scene we get our money back and leave.  Lesson learnt. This scamming occurs continuously everywhere you go.  We continue on our merry way and pass the Midan Hussein and Mosque of Sayyidna al-Hussein.  Walking north of Khan al-Khalili toward the old northern wall we reach two gates built in 1087 and the entrance to Fatimid city.  The Bab an-Nasr (Gate of Victory) is square-towered and the Bab al-Futuh (Gate of Conquests) round towered.  Tired we return to the Sun Hotel.

April 10, 2006.  An Egyptian holiday and therefore the Custom office was closed.  We arrange a taxi and driver for the day through the Sun Hotel for 130 Egyptian Pounds ($26CDN).  At 7:30am we head toward the Giza Pyramids.  Our driver drops us off at a "so-called” government run camel ride outfit.  A three (3) hour camel ride with guide cost us 360 Egyptian Pounds ($72CDN) and includes the 80 pounds entrance fee to the plateau.  We looked the typical tourist part.  The camel ride was something we both wanted to do somewhere along this trip.  We entered the plateau through the back gate, witnessing the pay-off of the guard and then as we ride through the desert a couple of tourist police officers on camels come galloping along and more money (pay-off) is exchanged.  Entering Giza from the south gives us full view of all the pyramids.  Only the Pyramid of Khafre (Chephren) can be entered at this time.  A separate 20 Egyptian Pound per person ticket ($4CDN) is required to access the second largest Pyramid, it does seem larger than the Great Pyramid of Khufu, because it sits on higher ground.  The narrow low ceiling pathway into the tomb of Khafre is very humid and stuffy.  We enter a large room with the square stone coffin at the far corner.  The mummy and artifacts from this tomb are at the Egyptian museum in Cairo.  Prior to entering Mike and I take a papyrus picturing the sphinx and pyramid and dedicate it to Ruby's Dad's 60th Birthday.  Placed in a zip-locked bag we hide it in the Pyramid of Khafre.  From the Pyramids we make our way to the Sphinx, known in Arabic as Abu al-Hol (Father of Terror) and then back to the camel stables.  We both could feel our butt's for a couple of days, but it is pretty comfy riding a camel.  From the Giza Pyramid our driver takes us to Saqqara, which covers 7 km of desert.  Saqqara is best known for its Step Pyramid of Zoser, the world's oldest stone monument and the first decent attempt at a pyramid. Here we received the most harassment.  Locals posing as guides expecting money.  Even if you say no thanks, they continue to harass you.  A tip from other tourists is to just ignore them, but it is very tiring.  From Saqqara we head back to Cairo and the Egyptian Museum.  The initial entrance fee is 40 Egyptian Pounds per person ($8CDN) and then an additional 70 Egyptian Pounds per person ($14CDN) for the Royal Mummies Hall.  We spend several hours wandering around the museum and visiting the Amarna Room, Tutankhamun Galleries, and Old Kingdom Rooms.  Even though the Royal Mummies Hall is expensive it is definitely worth visiting.  It houses 11 of Egypt's most illustrious pharaohs and queens, who ruled from 1552 to 1069 BC, including Ramses II.  It is amazing to see eye lashes, hair and toes still intact. Another day filled with great history has past as we head back to the hotel.

April 12, 2006.  It is Ruby's Dad's 60th Birthday.  We get up at 5am and walk to the parkade where the motorcycles were stored.  This early in the morning and Cairo's streets are actually pretty empty.  We park the motorcycles right in front of the hotel entrance and are packed and ready to go by 6:30am.  By now we know the main roads through Cairo and turn onto the ring road leading toward the Giza Pyramids.  How can we leave  Egypt without having a picture of the motorcycles infront of the Pyramids.  At 8am we are the first ones through the gate and follow the paved road through the Pyramids.  The pictures speak for themselves.  We are finally on the road again and happy to get away from Cairo and the not so pleasant experiences.  Heading past Saqqara we take a wrong turn and the road turns into a sandy trail following the river.  We pass through small settlements, people are washing their clothes and dishes in the river, the main transportation is donkeys with carriages.  We are surprised to see this so close to Cairo.  Somehow with the help of our GPS we find the main road and stay on the east side of the Nile River.  Traffic is dense, but not as bad as Yemen.  Or maybe we are just used to it by now.  We drive/ride like those maniacs.  We haven't used signal lights for a while.  Once we hit El Minya, the military stops increase and we are supposed to have an escort.  But we play stupid, sometimes not even stopping for the check point.  A couple of times we just left without their consent.  The 400kms to Asyut take us all day and upon arrival we are escorted to the local Assiutel Hotel, no choice here and our most expensive hotel in Egypt at 230 Egyptian Pounds per night ($46CDN/night).  To get satellite phone reception we walk a couple of blocks to an open square and are followed by the military.  We call Ruby's Dad to wish him a Happy Birthday.  We are advised that we have to be in viewable distance of the hotel at all times.  KFC is just down the road and as we eat in the restaurant a military guy stands outside the KFC with his walky-talky watching us.  It is really ridiculous.

April 13, 2006.  We check out of the hotel early.  A tour bus is ready to leave at the same time and we are asked to tag along with the military escort. We have to stop for gasoline before leaving Asyut. Hoping to shake off the escort, but they stop and wait for us.  As we leave the gas station we take the military escort by surprise and blow past them.  Making sure that we lost them we head the wrong way and end up on the east side of the Nile, which turned out to be the better route.  Unfortunately we did not get away from constant military stops and escorts.  We tried to explain to them that we don't want escort, but it was no use.  What they didn't expect was the power of the BMW.  Everytime we would just leave them in the dust until we hit another military stop.  We played this game for 300km as we followed the Nile from Asyat, past Sohag through Qena and into Luxor.  We stopped at a road side restaurant for some rice and bread and the restaurant owner showed us freshly harvest sugar cane.  South of Asyut we had the Nile to the west and a mountain range to the east.  Several man made caves could be seen along the way.  Palm Trees lined the street and made the drive very enjoyable (beside the constant harassment of the tourist police).  The locals gave us thumbs up and the kids surrounded the motorcycles excitingly at every stop.  The more south we get, our faith in the Egyptian people returns.  Arriving in Luxor we find the Rezeiky Camp right away.  It is a campground and motel.  The manager and staff are excellent.  The room with bathroom is 70 Egyptian Pounds ($14.00) and we have a swimming pool.  Upon arrival we meet a group of Germans traveling in two Land Cruisers through northern Africa (www.dieweltreisenden.de) and exchange some of our travel experiences.  It was too bad that they were just leaving, but their military escort was waiting to take them to Safaga on the Red Sea.  Later in the day nine (9) Motorhomes from Germany arrived.  They have been on the road for 2 months, through Tunsia, Libya and now Egypt.  It is interesting to hear about their travel stories and some of the not so pleasant incidents.  We decided to hang out around the pool and update the journal.  In late afternoon we took a walk along the Sharia Al-Corniche.  Houseboat/hotels line the Nile shore three deep.  As the sunsets we walk around the Luxor Temple.

April 14, 2006.  We are up at 5am and at the Karnak complex, also called the Temple of Amun.  Enroute we walk the avenue of sphinxes.  One avenue goes toward the Nile and the other all the way to the Luxor Temple.  Unfortunately most of them are still buried under current resident houses and streets of Luxor.  Excavation is slow and most sphinxes are in poor shape and beheaded. The entrance gate just opens and we beat the tour buses at 5:55am.  The Temple of Amun is dedicated to the king of the gods.  It is spread out over 1.2 square kms.  It seemed we walked every inch of it.  The scale of the columns are overwhelming. We enter the site by the Tomb of Seti II, dedicated to the Theban Triad and are in full view of the Colossus of Ramses II.  It is a granite statue of Ramses II, with his daughter at his feet at the entrance to the Great Hypostyle Hall.  The cavernous hall once was supported by 134 gigantic columns.  Most of the columns are still intact.  We continue to the Great Festival Temple, built by Tuthmosis III.  Reconstruction of the pylons are in process.  The Sacred Lake mirrors the temple and palm trees.  Priest purified themselves in the holy water before performing rituals in the temple.  Some of the artifacts founds are displayed in the open air museum.  The Temple of Khonsu and Temple of Opet are in the southwest corner of the complex and often overlooked by Tourists.  With no one around we had plenty of time exploring every corner.  After 2 1/2 hrs we walked the exposed part of the 2km avenue of sphinxes toward the Luxor Temple.  The temperature was starting to get to the point of unbearable by 10am as we enter the Luxor Temple, dedicated to the Theban triad of Amun, Mut and Khonsu.  Most of the temple was actually buried by sand and a village covered most of the site.  Prior to excavation the village was removed with the exception of the Abu Al-Haggag Mosque, which stands high on the layers of silt accumulated over the years. It is actually a bit of an eye soar.  The first pylon, built by Ramses II, forms the façade of the Luxor Temple and is guarded by two enormous seated colossi of Ramses II and one (1) remaining 25m high pink granite obelisk. Beyond the pylon lays the court of Ramses and the Colonnade of Amenhotep II, with its avenue of 14 lofty papyrus columns.  The pictures taken from this day are superb.  Exhausted we head back to the Camp and relax at the pool.  Later in the day two (2) Swiss' arrive on fully loaded bicycles.  Natalie and Claude join us for supper in town and we exchange some great travel stories.

April 15, 2006.  With good intensions we head out at 5:45am to the Valley of the Kings on our motorcycles, located about 30km from our camp.  Entering the West Bank, the Colossi of Memnon is the first monument that can be seen.  It is two enthroned statues of Amenhotep II and tower 18m in height.  Here we noticed that the battery of the camera was fading fast and Mike went back to the camp to get the spare.  Upon his return we rode to the Valley of Kings, but were denied access to the parking lot with our motorcycles.  We started arguing with them and at this point fed up with the low IQ of Egyptian tourist police, decided to visit other sites instead.  Everyday is a constant battle dealing with Egyptian people.  The constant scamming, ruddiness and harassment is hard to take.  After talking to numerous tourists, we realize that we are not the only ones and that most people wouldn't come back to Egypt and would have left earlier if it wasn't for the great historical sites.  The "horror” stories are countless.  Tourism has spoiled these people to a point of were it is impossible to fix.  The government corruptness has trickled down to the people who are unscrupulous.  90% of the Egyptian people are unpleasant to deal with.  In all my travels I have not been exposed to this kind of dreadful people.  From here our day improved, we first stop at the Abu al-Naga Tombs.  The guard pockets the entrance money, and we promise not to tell, and in return he leads us to a grave with a skull and mummy.  Exposed to all the elements.  The Tomb of Roy, a steward in the 18th Dynasty and Tomb of Shuroy, an 18th-Dynasty official, both had colorful tableaux of daily life.  From the tombs we went to the Ramesseum Temple, it was built by Ramses II in the 19th Dynasty as a statement of his eternal greatness.  Tour buses do not stop at these temples and they are great to explore.  The first pylon was greatly damaged in an earthquake, and as usual we were approached by local Egyptian who wants to show us secret doors for a fee.  Here we were led through an internal walkway inside the pylon to the top. The shattered head and shoulder of the Colossus of Ramses can not be missed as we enter. It once was 18m in height and 1000-tonnes in weight.  Facing into the second court are the statues of Ramses as Osiris, god of the underworld.  The remains of mudbrick vaulted stores surround the Temple.  They used to be store rooms and living quarters for the locals.  From the Ramesseum it was onwards to the Medinat Habu.  Again the place was void of tourists and the stone carvings and colorful reliefs depicting religious festivals are in excellent shape.  It is the best preserved we have seen so far in Egypt.  The complex is dominated by the huge mortuary temple of Ramses III.  With a good day of sightseeing we returned to our camp and had an afternoon siesta.  The Camp makes us a great Egyptian dish for supper as we hang out with the Swiss couple Claude and Natalie.

April 16, 2006.  Today is our second attempt to visit the Valley of the Kings.  We arrive sharp at 6am at the entrance to the Valley of the Kings.  This time we lock all our belongings inside the side bag and leave the bikes outside the tourist parking lot, since motorcycles are not allowed inside.  Beating the tour buses, we purchase the 55 Egyptian pounds per person ($11CDN) tickets to enter the Valley of the Kings, which gives you access to three (3) tombs out of the 66 discovered.  An additional ticket of 70 Egyptian Pounds per person ($14CDN) is required to enter the Tomb of Tut-ankh-Amun.  The uniqueness of this tomb is that it still contains the king's body inside the gilded coffin.  Since we were only allowed access to three tomb's with our ticket and some tomb's are under restoration, we chose to enter the Tomb of Ramses III, Tomb of Tuthmosis III and Tomb of Siptah.  The Tomb of Ramses III was well preserved and had a good display of colorful reliefs of everyday Egyptian life.   The Tomb of Tuthmosis III, is dug 30m above ground and today is reached by a metal staircase.  The walls are painted with rows of figures portraying the Book of Amduat.  The Tomb of Siptah is one of the longest in the valley stretching 106m into the rock. We continued exploring the different pathways of the valley and came upon the Tomb of Thutmes IV and were approached by the guard, even though we had reached the three (3) tombs a day limit, for 10 Egyptian pounds payable to him on the side, we were allowed to enter the tomb.  It is from the 18th Dynasty and the paintings were in excellent shape.  From the valley of the Kings we ride to the Hatshepsut Temple.  It was designed by Queen Hatshepsut's architect Senenmut in the 18th Dynasty.  The temple is located at the foot of a sheer limestone cliff-face.  Adjacent to the main temple are the ruins of a much older Temple of Montuhotep II (11th Dynasty ruler) and Temple of Tuthmosis III (18th Dynasty ruler). Several of the Statues of Hatshepsut still remain intact at the temple.  It is time for us to return to our Camp and escape the tourists and tourist police.  Back at the Camp, Mike checks the motorcycles over and realizes that his rear drive is broken.  The play on the rear drive is worse then it was with Ruby's motorcycles on the Mexico Trip.  We are 3000km away from the nearest BMW dealership in Jordan.  This will also affect the rear shock.  Being a Sunday, we are unable to contact BMW road side assistance

April 17, 2006.  We arrive at the Valley of the Queens at 6am and find out that the Tomb of Queen Nefertari is closed for restoration.  We are able to enter three (3) tombs, which consist of Tomb of Amunherkhepshep, Tomb of Queen Titi and Tomb of Prince Khaemweset.  The Tomb of Amunherkhepshep is the tomb of Prince Amunherkhepshep (Amun), son of Ramses III.  The wall paintings are very well preserved.  The Tomb of Queen Titi once contained the remains of Queen Titi who was married to one of the Ramesside pharaohs of the 20th Dynasty.  The Tomb of Prince Khaemweset was one of Ramses III's sons who died in infancy.  From the Valley of the Queens we rode to the Deir al-Medina, an ancient village, which used to house the craftsmen, servants and labourers who worked on the royal tombs.  A staircase leads up the mountainside and we decide to climb the mountain and walk along the ridge.  It gave us an excellent view of the Nile and cultivated land and adjacent desert.  From the top we were able to see the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, the Ramesseum Temple, the Hatshepsut Temple and the Habu Temple.  It was a great 2 hr hike with no other person on the trail.  Our last day in Luxor we spend with the Swiss couple, a Dutch guy (www.cub-adventure.se), a couple from Sweden and a couple from Australia. All of them been on the road, for a while, looking tired and sharing with us different experience they encountered.

April 18, 2006.  The Rezeiky Camp was an excellent base for Luxor, its location and very friendly service was what we needed to recover.  Fully packed we head out of Luxor at 6:30am and wind our way along the Nile to Aswan.  A military escort is required for this 215km stretch, but the rebels we are, we have figured out a system to get around it.  At every military stop, we slow down, the police think we are stopping and then we blow by them.  There is always a lot of "Stop Masseur”, "Stop Sir” etc, but we ignore them and since we always take them by surprise, we get away with it.  We don't recommend this in Canada or any other country.  We arrive in Aswan by 9:30am and check into the New Abu Simbel Hotel located on the north end of the town on Sharia Abtal at-Tahrir.  It was the only budget hotel that had a garden where we could securely park the motorcycles.  The staff is friendly and the manager convinces us to take a tour to Abu Simbel.  It is a 600km round trip with military escort.  A special licence from the tourist police is required if we wanted to ride this stretch of highway.  The rear drive on Mike's BMW is worrying us and we decide to take the tour for 50 Egyptian Pounds each ($10CDN).  It would have cost us more in gasoline for the motorcycles then what we will be paying to be chauffeured.  After check-in we walk along the Corniche el-Nil.  Aswan appears to be a nice town, very clean and not the usual harassment of vendors trying to sell you on a Felucca or Carriage ride.  For supper we went to Biti Pizza and had a very friendly staff.  We are pleasantly surprised by this town and actually look forward to spending three (3) days exploring the local sites.

April 19, 2006.  Our wake-up call was 3am and the bus pick-up time was scheduled for 3:30am, but since the concept of time is foreign to Egypt, it was after 4am when the bus arrives.  At the edge of Aswan the tourist buses gathered for the convoy to Abu Simbel.  Wednesday is supposed to be a slow day for tourists heading to Abu Simbel, therefore "only" 17 buses and 9 minibuses headed down the deserted 300km stretch from Aswan to Abu Simbel.  Why a convoy is required is beyond us.  There is only desert and more desert.  In our opinion having scheduled convoys only gives the "would-be” terrorists a better opportunity to plan a possible attack.  It has been 9 years since the massacre of 54 German Tourists and since then the Egyptian government has been over paranoid. We arrive at the Great Temple of Abu Simbel around 7:30am.  It is one of the most photographed Temples.  UNESCO relocated the Temples in the 1960's 210m further inland and 65m above the original location from the rising water of the new dam.  The Great Temple was dedicated to Ramses II and its 33m high façade with four colossal enthroned statues of Ramses II is very impressive.  Even more impressive is the story of how the Temple was relocated by UNESCO.  A very good display in the information room shows how they moved both the Great Temple of Abu Simbel and Temple of Hathor.  Inside the Great Temple is the Hypostyle Hall with 10m high statues of Ramses as Osiris.  The inner Sanctuary displays Ramses II sitting with Amun-Ra, Ptah and Ra-Harakhty.  The smaller Temple at Abu Simbel was dedicated to the goddess Hathor and built by Ramses II to honour his favorite wife Nefertari. The façade alternates statues of Ramses II and Nefertari.  At this point we are about 45kms from the Sudan border.  We return to Aswan in the afternoon and hit the internet café.

April 20, 2006.  From our 60 Egyptian Pounds a night ($12CDN) air conditioned room we have an excellent view of the Nile River , the Tombs of the Nobles in the cliffs on the west bank and the Mausoleum of Aga Khan.  Taking the motorcycles for the local sightseeing, our first destination is the Temple of Philae, located on an Island south of Aswan and Aswan Dam.  Being early pays off and we beat the masses of tourists as we hire a boat for 40 Egyptian Pounds ($8CDN) to take us to Agilika Island.  The construction of the Aswan Dam in 1898 had submerged the Temple of Philae partially and with the construction of the much larger High Dam in 1972 the monuments would have been totally submerged.  Again UNESCO came to rescue and moved the complete temple to an Island called Agilika.  They even landscaped the island to look like Philae. We arrive at 7:30am and 30 Deg. Celsius and leave at 9am and 42 Deg. Celsius.  It is difficult to do any sightseeing in the afternoon in this area due to the heat.  From the Temple of Philae we head to the Unfinished Obelisk.  Here a giant unfinished granite obelisk lays in a quarry dating back to the New Kingdom.  If it would have been completed, it would have weighed 1.2 million kg and stood 41m high. The obelisk was abandoned due to a flaw in the granite.  Walking through the quarry, you can see where other objects were cut out and used in the various temples along the Nile.  We end our last day in Aswan by treating ourselves to a spaghetti dinner with meat sauce and red wine.  The restaurant is located beside the Nile River and we watch the sun set.  Our waiter informs us that summer as arrived, since the temperatures are now in the 40 Deg. Celsius range.

April 21, 2006.  On the road by 7:00am we blow through a couple of military stops without stopping, since we took them by surprise.  They don't expect any tourists that early.  We avoid military escort to Qena (268kms), because every time they tell us to stop for 5 minutes and move over to the side to let the traffic through we don't.  There is no such thing as 5 minutes in Egypt, maybe 1hr or 1day.  The moment they turn around we blow the check stop.  The stretch between Aswan and Qena is patrolled the most and has probably 20 check stops.  In Qena we stop at a local small shop and have ice cream and diet coke.  The girl in the store provides us with a make shift bench in the shade.  This is what you don't see when being in a tour and escorted at a 110kms/hr through towns.  This is because the Egyptian government doesn't want you to come into contact with its own people.  People who are happy to see you and not exposed to the tourist frenzy.  They are called the Tourist police, but don't speak English.  Their only purpose is to make sure that the government is not overthrown and to control the tourists every movement.  In Qena we turn east and surprise a sleeping military guard as we pass the checkpoint without stopping.  The 160kms through the desert to Port Safaga is uneventful, with the exception the temperature was climbing to 47 Deg Celsius.  From Port Safaga the road heads north to Hurghada.  As we enter the town, we ask ourselves, is this the same Egypt we have become to love (hate).  The town is sprawling with tourists.  The coast line is lined with resorts after resorts.  People walk around in shorts and tank tops.  Welcome back to civilization.  We get a room at the Zak Hotel for 176 Egyptian Pounds ($36CDN) a night including a good breakfast.  The motorcycles are monitored all night by security and our room is on the 3rd floor with an ocean view and swimming pool. 

April 22, 2006.  We leave Hurghada at 7:30am and head north toward Suez.  Only 60km outside town we run across the Dutchman that we met in Luxor on his bicycle.  We stopped to talk to him and he wasn't doing to well.  Dehydration had set in, as the temperatures had hit 47 Deg. Celsius the previous day and heat was building already today, he had pushed too far.  We provide him with some warm Diet Coke and water that he happily drinks and then he vomits it up.  He was told by a truck driver that a store was only 10km down the road.  We ride there and pick up some more Diet Coke and water for him.  Returning he is back on his bicycle, we hang out with him for a bit longer until we knew he would make it.  His goal was to make it to the store and sit in the shade.  We might run into him again someday. Following the coastal road we pass oil rigs on shore and off shore.  The sky is covered in the smoke of the flared gas and the smell of oil is thick.  This reminds us both of home.  The 400km to Suez are eaten up fast.  We try to get as close as possible to the entrance of the Suez Canal, security is evident everywhere.  We spent a good hour or more trying to find the tunnel across the Canal to the Sinai Peninsula.  It is never easy.  On the Sinai Peninsula, we pass through several military stops, but they are only interested in your Egyptian Visa and Licence Plate to ensure they are not expired.  Heading south on the west side of the Sinai Peninsula we are again following the coastal road on the Red Sea for about 200km and then turn inland 50km past Abu Zenima toward St. Catherine's Monastery.  From the flat coast we enter the Sinai Mountain Range and the last 100km is twisty and the road is half covered with sand and debris.  It seemed a big rain flash flood had come through recently and clean-up was still in progress.  Approx. 30km before the St. Catherine's Monastery the road was torn apart and a grader was spreading loose sand across it.  "Perfect” after a long day of riding.  Even through we were a close to dropping the bikes a couple of times, we made it through.  Just before sunset we reach the Fox Desert Camp.  Salama & Amdy welcome us.  We set up our tent and have a traditional Bedouin meal. Our two day stay including one meal cost us 76 Egyptian Pounds ($16CDN).

April 23, 2006.  We get an early start and ride over to the St. Catherine's Monastery, which is situated at the base of Mount Sinai.  Hundreds of people walk up Mount Sinai every day for sunrise.  As we are not as everyone else, we head up the 3750 steps of the "Stairs of Repentance” to the top of Mount Sinai, just as everyone else is getting to the bottom.  We are in fact the only ones on the Mountain for our complete hike.  It was truly amazing, we always will remember the peacefulness and quietness of the place.  Mount Sinai stands at 2,286m and its significance is that the biblical story indicates that Moses spent 40 days and nights on top of the mountain before receiving the Ten Commandments.  The steps led us past several votive sites, including the Moses' Spring, the St. Stephen's Gate and the Elijah's Basin.  At the summit of Mount Sinai is the Chapel of the Holy Trinity.  Here we sat in awe overlooking the surrounding mountain range with no one else in site.  On our descent we take a rest half way as the bells of the St. Catherine's Monastery started to ring.  The tour book indicates that the nine bells donated by Tsar Alexander II of Russia are only rung on religious festivals.  Maybe it is Easter Sunday.  The monastery is closed on holidays and Sunday's.  It is only 11am as we return to the small village and make acquaintances with the locals.  It seems a much friendlier community, without the harassment of main Egypt.  English is spoken widely and back at the camp site, Mike talks to the manager and gets some history on the government of Sinai.  The Sinai Peninsula is governed by a separate entity then the main land.  Their goal is to preserve the Bedouin history and work with the people as tourism ever so much expands over the area.  They are aware of the harassment and scamming that occur on the mainland of Egypt and try to listen to the tourists.  Their efforts are very much visible in this area.  We are still wary, but have been treated very well since our entering into the Sinai Peninsula.  The Fox Desert Camp is located only 200m from the first round about of the town and is run by Bedouin's.  The staff are very friendly and there is no one trying to sell you a tour.  We recommend them dearly.

April 24, 2006.  It was one of our coldest nights in the tent.  Checking the GPS elevation we were sitting at 1445m.  As we head out of the St. Catherine's Protectorate Park, we see water in the ditch with a cover of ice.  The temperature reads 13 Deg Celsius, it feels just like Canada, but we are now acclimatized to the Middle East.  The 120km drive to Dahab situated on the coast of the Red Sea is beautiful.  The sky is crystal clear blue and the reddish mountains stand out in contrast.  We are in Dahab by 8:30am, a touristy small town with character.  The first couple of hotels, even though nice, were a bit pricy at 180 Egyptian Pounds ($36CDN).  Our main concern is always the motorcycle security.  In the centre of town, only a couple hundred meters from the beach, we find the Miramar Camp.  80 Egyptian Pounds ($16CDN) we get an air conditioned room with a partial ocean view and a courtyard with secure motorcycle parking.  The town has a nice walkway along the beach/ocean front.  It is not a particularly great sand beach, but an amazing dive/snorkeling area.  By early afternoon we were snorkeling in the Red Sea.  Even Mike with his past diving experience had never seen a coral reef like this one.  I felt lucky to experience it on only my third snorkeling trip.  It is accessible directly from the beach and about 100m off the shore the coral reef wall dropped 50m.  The reef was alive with color and we saw all types of fish and even a jelly fish.  Visibility was amazing, we were able to see to the bottom of the Sea. The not so good news was the results after contacting the BMW Dealership in Jordan.  It really was a joke, but with a rear drive problem as ours it wasn't funny.  After 20 minutes on the phone with them, they don't have motorcycles tires and they don't know what a rear drive is.  We were placed on hold numerous times and handed off from the service department to the parts department etc.  They asked us how long it would take to install a rear drive and what it looked like.  We are very discouraged and surprised by the poor service.  The rear drive has eaten away on the rear brake, we are on borrowed time until total failure.  Not to mention that the handling is brutal.  We will try Addy's friend in Amman and Beirut and see if we can get some kind result from them. Meanwhile we keep on heading toward Jordan.

This is a special Journal Entry.  A day that neither of us will ever forget.  I just finished the journal entry and the time is around 6pm in the evening on April 24, 2006.  We decide to grab a bit to eat at a Koshari place around the corner of our hotel.  A choice that probably saved our lives.  Mike remembers looking at his watch at 6:30pm as we return to the hotel for me to use the bathroom.  Soon after we are walking along the beach shore walkway.  It is dark and all the restaurants line the beach front with colorful lights.  It is a pretty picture and Mike decides to take a picture.  We try different settings on the camera for exposure.  We continue our walk, passing over a small bridge.  The area is busy with tourists.  I remember one host of a restaurant joking with me and telling us that he would give us the best table.  I laughed and told him we ate already.  A Backgammon Board in a local shop catches Mike's eye and we enter.  The friendly store owner asked us if we know how to tell the difference if the chess figures are carved out of camel bone or elephant bone.  Just as he starts to explain the first explosion occurs.  The shock waves passes through our body.  Our first thought is gas explosion.  Then another explosion and the third explosion we see bright light a couple of 100m away from us.  At that point I didn't know what to do, where to hide to take cover.  There is a lot of yelling and people running.  We are confused.  The store owner tells us to stay put.  I will never forget his look on his face.  Sadness.  Before it even was confirmed, he said it is bombs.  In broken English he asks us what country is safe?  And I reply Canada.  It was reflex.  No country is safe.  A school kid walking into a class room and opening fire on his mates.  This happened in a small town in Alberta.  This store owner wants to ensure that we don't blame the Egyptian people.  With all likelihood he probably lost his business with this attack, because tourism for this small town will grind to a halt.  At this point it all hits me and I am near tears and start shaking.  We see smoke in the area of our hotel.  We wonder if the bikes are still there.  It is total chaos.  We make our way toward the hotel, and realize that only 50m from were we stood looking at the backgammon board the first bomb had destroyed the restaurant we had breakfast at only 8 hours earlier.  There was blood & glass everywhere, I needed to get out of there.  There is no control.  Where are the ambulances, where are the police.  Jeep vehicles transport the wounded and I look straight ahead, because the images I see now will be imprinted in my memory forever.  Taking the back roads we get to the hotel and we realize that the second bomb went off only 300m away from our hotel.  We get the satellite phone and I try contacting my parents, because I know that it would hit the news instantly.  They knew we were here, but I can't reach them.  Mike calls Randy and tells him to call Ruby's brother Rusty.  Randy is shocked to hear the news, but happy that we are fine. Then we call Mike's Mom.  Someone was looking over us.  I finally get a hold of my sister Mandy, my mom and finally my dad.  As I am talking to my Dad, he informs me that he is watching Deutsche Welle and that the news about the bombing is already getting televised.  A German Journalist is holidaying in Dahab and talking live on the news.  The death total is 30 and 150 insured.  No one has taken responsibility as of yet.  But the bombing is linked to Israel.  Tomorrow is the anniversary of Sinai's liberation from Israel and a large celebration was planned.  At this point we don't know what this will mean for us regarding leaving tomorrow or the next day.  The military has taken over and we will know more in the morning regarding travel restrictions.  What a day it has been. To close for us.

April 25, 2006.  We didn't sleep much.  Discussing what happened and what ifs. We are one of the lucky ones.  News crews from all over the world have invaded this small town.  The military is here in full force.  Since our hotel is only a few hundred meters away from the last bomb, there is a constant stream of fire trucks and military personal moving in.  Unsure of the situation regarding travel, we cancel our ride down to Ras Mahammod and instead hang out at Dahab. We spent most of the afternoon on the internet updating the website and posting on Adventure Rider, Horizons Unlimited and UKGSer regarding our rear drive failure.

April 26, 2006.  We say good-bye to Dahab.  It is still one of the nicest places in Egypt.  It has a small town, laid back atmosphere, with nice friendly people, a coral reef right of the beach.  It is unfortunate that a terrible event occurred.  There have been many positive e-mails to our account, which have helped to keep the focus on continuing our journey through the Middle East.  We arrive at the Nuiweba Port to check out the requirements of Customs and Ferry inquiries to Aquaba, Jordan.  No buildings are marked and a boy shows us the way to the ticket office.  It is 9:45am and the ticket office tells us that we can still get on the ferry today.  It costs us 120.00Euro for two (2) people and two (2) motorcycles to get on the slow ferry.  We enter the compound and start the custom export procedures.  Actually, as we are all familiar with Egyptian customs, there is no procedure.  Rules change continuously.  We enter and a man in the first building takes down all our information, then we drive to another unmarked building.  A tourist police man leads us to a man in a booth, who prepares, for a nominal fee of 10 Egyptian Pounds each, two folders with all the forms of documents required for the next phase, and all our information was photocopied.  A very unenthusiastic man walks over to the motorcycles with a small piece of paper and licks it and sticks it to the serial number of the motorcycles and takes a pencil and tries to make an impression of the numbers, since he is unable to write English letters.  This takes about half an hour.  Meanwhile, we have to go back to the start, because we missed a step (an unmarked building) and get two small pieces of paper with our names on it.  We don't know what it is for. Mike proceeds to another unmarked building to get two (2) Trip Ticks for Traffic Customs for 2.50 Egyptian Pounds each. From there we ride to the customs/traffic building to return the licence plates, fill out more paperwork, pay some more money, get some more stamps, and another half an hour passes.  Now we proceed to customs with our carnet de passage.  We had to pay another 20 Egyptian Pounds for no reason to get a receipt and the carnets are stamped with the exit stamp.  From here we were able to proceed to the ferry loading area and were asked numerous times for our passport.  Just as we are to enter the ferry, they realize that our passports are missing the exit stamps and we have to ride back to another unmarked building.  The total procedure took about 2 1/2 hrs.  It is probably an understatement to say that we were both very happy to leave Egypt behind.  The Ferry left about 3pm.

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