We’re sitting in the airport in Luxor about to take our third inter-Egypt flight. We’re heading to Cairo, but we’ve already been to Sharm El Sheikh and spent a couple of days here in Luxor. The journey in was pretty miserable - it was smooth and even enjoyable until we landed in Cairo, and then things got a little messy. First - the airport is impossible to understand. There are multiple terminals but they aren’t connected and some are too far to walk. We found out later that there’s a monorail that connects them but unfortunately non of the workers even know about it and it was too late for our first journey. We walked in circles trying to find the location of our connecting flight, and we had lots of issues getting back into the airport once we left to walk between terminals. Also, our flight was delayed over 3 hours - which we didn’t find out until after rushing our hearts out to make it to Terminal 1 to catch it in the first place. Terminal 1 is domestic flights only, and there is nothing really in it, so a 5 hour delay there was horrible after 25 hours of flying. We ended up aborting the terminal and went to a restaurant in the airport hotel, but even though the scenery was nicer it was still a tough layover to stomach. When we finally did go through security to check in to our flight we encountered some of the odd Egyptian customs and had to wait a LONG time while multiple friends and family members of the person originally at the counter in front of us cut us in line.
|Business class digs|
|This made traveling while sick a little easier - thanks points!|
Luckily, things started looking up once we made it onto the plane and on to Sharm. We were picked up at the airport by someone from the hotel and were taken to the Renaissance Hotel, where we were spending a night before boarding our liveaboard diving boat. The hotel was beautiful. We got in late so we went straight to bed, but the next day we snorkeled and spent time at the pool before a 6 p.m. pick up to head to the boat.
Our diving trip was an absolute dream. The crew was incredible, the diving spots were beautiful, and we got to be in the water 3-4 times a day. We had minor issues with our room’s A/C, but mostly the week went incredibly smoothly. We would wake up at 6, go on our first dive, change into a dry swimsuit and put on a shirt, eat breakfast, lounge around for an hour, go on a second dive, put on the swimsuit from the morning (which would already be dry from the sun), eat lunch, lounge, dive again, eat snacks, lounge, then do a night dive before showering and having dinner then bed. This repeated every day, with only a few variations (like taking our Nitrox certification course!). The crew was the best - they helped us with all of our gear for every dive, we were given fresh juices when we got out of the water, and the food was pretty darn good. When we finished our Nitrox course we were given a cake with our names on it, and on the last night we celebrated the week with a big roasted turkey, a special cake, and a night of dancing to Egyptian music with the crew. Highlights from the diving included swimming with a school of dolphins at 30m, seeing sea turtles, giant moray eels, and large fan corals, and even spotting a reef shark from a far! I learned A LOT about diving from the trip. Before this I had hardly topped 20 meters, and on this one we were swimming out into the blue at 30! I dove with Nitrox for the first time, and did my first real current dives as well. It was a wild ride, but I’m so grateful for it and already cannot wait for my next liveaboard experience!
|Boat mates / diving crew|
|First day on the Red Sea|
|Neil checking out the boat|
|In between dives we'd lounge on the deck|
|Some dives required the Zodiac to get us close to the reefs|
|A sample day itinerary - we'd do between 3 and 4 dives every day!|
|Gorgeous waters near the Strait of Tiran|
|Playing Monopoly Deal with Tim - a friend from Holland|
|Another daily itinerary|
|We got our Nitrox certification on board, and we celebrated with cake when we finished the process!|
|One of the many wrecks in the Strait of Tiran|
|The largest mosque in Sharm El Sheikh|
After the week on the boat we had one final day in Sharm before departing for Luxor. Our flight was at 2 a.m., so we booked a hotel room for the night at the Hyatt Regency with Neil’s points. They upgraded us to an INCREDIBLE villa like room and we had an absolute blast snorkeling and swimming across the property’s many pools (they even had a lazy river!). It was the best day.
Our 2 a.m. flight to Luxor was a little tough, but we made it to the airport with just enough time to check our bags before the counter closed and the flight took off on time. We arrived at our hotel in Luxor at 4 a.m., but the check-in staff was incredibly welcoming and understanding of our late arrival. The next morning we woke up at 10:20 to catch the end of the free breakfast, and then frantically try and find a tour to see the city since we hadn’t been able to successfully book one from afar. While we were talking through options at the breakfast table our neighbor gently interrupted us and told us of the positive experience they had with the tour agency located on site. We decided we’d visit right after breakfast, and were extremely relieved to find that they could organize a private tour for us beginning that afternoon and the next day that covered all of the highlights of the city.
We had an AMAZING time. It was literally a dream to walk amongst the ruins of ancient Egypt and I was at tourist level 1000000 taking photos of EVERYTHING. I don’t remember the last time I geeked out like that. Our guide was very knowledgeable, and we learned a lot about the different dynasties, the deities, and some famous kings and queens associated with the sites. On the first day we went to Karnak Temple, Luxor Temple, avenue of the Sphinx, and the Luxor Museum. On the second day we visited the Tombs of the Nobles, the Valley of the Kings (where we got to see King Tut’s Tomb!), the Colossi of Memnon, the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut (also known as Al-Deir Al-Bihari Temple), and the Medinet Habu Temple. We learned about the reliefs, the paints, the different roles of people represented in the images, and the symbolism used. We also stopped at an Alabaster workshop where we purchased a few nice pieces for our new apartment. I took a million photos and asked a million questions and truly felt like a kid again alight with curiosity.
|Spinx outside Karnak Temple|
|Entrance to Luxor Temple|
|Luxor Temple from the back|
|Avenue of the Spinx|
We also drove through a lot of the town while we were going from the east bank to the West Bank. I was impressed by the number of public water fountains, and I learned from our guide that they are provided by people as a celebration of something big, such as their child doing well or a family member overcoming and illness. I thought that was really sweet and demonstrated the strength of community in Egypt. Another thing that struck me was the contrast between the desert and the fertile areas next to the Nile. You can see how the river has been the center of life throughout history just by looking at how civilization exists around it today. Finally, like in many developing countries, it was fun to see the mix of vehicles on the roads - there were cars, motorcycles, and donkey drawn carriages. The donkeys were work-focused and you only saw tourist horse-drawn carriages by the major temples on the East Bank.
|Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut|
|Tombs from the Valley of the Kings|
|Learning about Alabaster|
After the second day of touring we spent the rest of the afternoon at our hotel enjoying the pool, sun, and views of the Nile. Tonight we go to Cairo for our final stop before returning to the U.S. We’re meeting Neil’s friend Ahmed in the morning, then heading to the Cairo Museum and perhaps the Giza pyramids in the afternoon. The next day is Ahmed’s wedding, so we’re spending the night celebrating him and his fiancé! We leave the day after for a 15,000 mile journey home where we’ll start working hard on moving Neil to Dallas. SO much happening, but still so grateful for the opportunity to see it all. [post script - we went - it was awesome - pictures below!]
|Mosque and military fortress in Cairo|
|Neil, Ahmed, and a kid who wanted a photo with them|
|The Egyptian museum in Cairo - what a magical place|