Friday, November 26, 2010


Originally I was going to blog about Kenya and Tanzania as one entry but figured I would separate them. Our time in both countries is meant as a vacation from our vacation as we have said when describing it to others:-). The traveling that we have been doing hasn't always been easy. It takes a lot of work sometimes and the grind of the traveling can wear on you times too. The time in these two countries is a chance to see some amazing wildlife and scenery for a couple weeks while taking a break from the normal type of traveling we have been experiencing for the last 3 and a half months. Every part of our time here was arranged and paid for (minus a couple meals & tips) before we left the US. It actually made me a little nervous considering the expense involved because something could have happened along the way that could have kept us from this portion of our trip but we did buy some travel insurance that would have covered almost any type of disruption. To arrange for our safaris Alethea worked closely with a former colleague who has been leading groups to this part of the world for several years. They both did an excellent job planning our itinerary. We also reserved a place for the first five nights in the Cape Town, South Africa so we can ease back into our travel routine and have a place to stay once we arrive without having to worry about it while we are on safari.

Lake Nakuru 

I've really enjoyed our time in Kenya. It has gone very smooth. The only real hassle was when we transited through Cairo's airport which is a zoo. It was almost like we were the first transit passengers when we flew from Jordan on to our final destination of Nairobi. I have to keep in mind we are on a paid safari so everything should really go smooth versus the independent make up as we go type travel that we have been accustomed too. This being said the people of Kenya have been very nice even when we stop at tourist shop facilities for bathroom breaks. The hard sell for items has been pretty gentle and polite which is kind of amazing considering the level of abject poverty in this part of the world. Some of things I've liked besides the wildlife and scenery which I'll get to in a minute was the way that we traveled and our accommodations. In Kenya we had just one driver for 6 days which was nice considering that in Egypt we had 6 tour guides in 10 days. Our guide, Thomas, even knew our names and where we from when we were introduced in Nairobi. He traveled with us to each park. He was very personable and knowledgeable about the animals. I believe he has been a guide for 14 years. Another aspect that I liked where the variety of parks that we went too. The landscape in each of the parks were different as well as the animals within those parks. There was some overlap but a good deal of uniqueness too. 

Lion in tree at Nakuru

The parks or reserves that we visited were Nakuru National Park, Samburu National Reserve, and the Serena Mountain Lodge near Mt. Kenya. I'll briefly describe them. Nakuru is about a hour and a half northwest from Nairobi. Nakuru is a fenced in national park. It contained several species of animals including baboons, zebras, rhinos, flamingos, pelicans, gazelles, giraffes, zebras, and lions. It contains Lake Nakuru and was pretty lush with vegetation. The next park was the Samburu National Reserve which was 5 hours north of Nakuru. The roads to travel to this park where rough at times. The climate at Samburu is drier and hotter than Nakuru. The types of animals were the same except for orynx, dik dik's, warthogs, various birds, lizards, turtles, ostriches, elephants, crocodiles, hippos, and a leopard. We stayed two nights in Samburu versus one night for Nakuru. Samburu was quiet. Our lodge only had 60 rooms but wasn't busy at all. The electricity was even limited to 3 hours in the morning and 5 in the evening but it didn't matter much since we went on two 90 minute to 2 hour game drives per day. It even had a swimming pool that I used one day. I really enjoyed the amount of animals we saw there. The lions, elephants, and the one leopard we saw were my favorites. The Serena Mountain Lodge that we stayed at was a little over 4 hours southeast of Samburu. It is located up by Mt. Kenya at 7,200 feet elevation. The lodge is built around a natural salt lick water hole. the animals come to the lodge instead of you going out to the animals! There were all kinds of Sykes monkeys and some even climbed up on our deck. We got a quick view of Mt. Kenya which is the tallest in Kenya close to sunset. One interesting thing that they do at the lodge is during dinner a gentleman comes by with a clipboard and asked what animals you would like to see during the night. If one of their watchman see one that you select at the water hole then they will knock on your door and wake you. We thought it was funny that they had an animal viewing order form. Unfortunately though the animals that we selected must have had the night off because we did not receive a knock during the night.

I know I am being kind of repetitive but I've been very thoroughly impressed with the amount of wildlife we have seen. The pictures will have to do the talking. I was expecting to go on game drives for hours and only see a handful of animals but we saw numerous types of animals from beginning to end. We saw them in huge quantities except for the lions and leopards which are harder to find. We only saw one leopard but saw 4 lions at Nakuru and 3 lions in Samburu. The elephants at Sambura were something else. They are very smart animals that seemed pretty playful but they can be very aggressive if you get to close. Our driver kept his hand on the ignition to our van when we were stopped as they walked right by us. He knew when to start the van.

This wraps up the Kenya portion of our safari. We had 5 nights/6 days here and really enjoyed it. I would recommend Kenya as a place to visit. It isn't necessarily cheap but worth it. I am writing this on our last day in Kenya although it may not get posted until we arrive in South Africa. We had internet access at our hotel for the first night in Nairobi but have been offline ever since. We are headed to Tanzania next. In the pre-trip research I did I found more positive reviews on Tanzania than I did about Kenya. It is going to be hard to beat Kenya but we'll see.


Link to photo album:

Daily Log

Sunday November 21st
Entry is kind of long but illustrates a long day of traveling. Spent the previous day and into the morning traveling. We drove 3 plus hours from Aqaba to Amman, Jordan. Flew from Amman to Cairo (we left 45 minutes late). At Cairo we ran into some administrative delays. We had a 5 hour sit so it didn't really matter. We disembarked the plan on the runway & were bused into the normal immigration area and not to the transit area. Alethea asked one person where we should go and he initially said upstairs then asked someone else and changed his mind and told us to wait in line. We then asked another person after waiting in a slow moving line for 20 plus minutes. He spent 5 plus minutes walking around asking other people and he took us upstairs and hailed down a bus to take us into another area for transit passengers. We were met by a member of Egypt Air who was working with Kenya Airways to process boarding passes. He was pretty nice and seemed competent. He took our passports and came back after 35 minutes to giver us our boarding passes. He also made sure our bags were matched onto the flight. Alethea went into a lounge while I walked around the airport for over a hour. I did exchange my Jordan Dinars & Egypt Pounds for $5 US dollars. We boarded our plane a little after the departure time of 11:25 pm. I was kind of disappointed with all the transit was handled. It was as if we were the first transit passengers in Egypt's history. We flew two hours to Khartoum, Sudan where we let off 2/3rds of the plane and picked up some more passengers but did have a full plane when we left. We then flew 2.5 hours to Nairobi. I slept a hour on the first leg and 2 hours on the final leg. We deplaned in Nairobi or at least attempted to but the jet bridge door to the terminal was locked an no one could unlock it. We walked back down the jet way on the tarmac and up another ramp. It then took us a hour to go through a slow moving immigration line. We then met up with our tour company and took a taxi to the hotel. We then took showers and a 2 hour nap. We then woke up and ate lunch at the hotel buffet. It was good. Spent a couple hours reading by the pool. We decided to rest and catch up on stuff. The hotel has free wireless access but we were only given one user ID & password so only one of us at a time can get online. We are scheduled to be picked up by our safari operator at 8 am tomorrow.
So far so good in Kenya. Weather is nice and less humid than I expected. The altitude is around 5,000 feet which surprised me. Didn't realize it was this high.

Monday November 22nd
Checked out of hotel at 8 am.
Met Rasheed from Pollman's in the hotel lobby @ 8 am. He introduced us to Thomas our guide. He knew our names & that we were from the US which is more than the Egypt guides knew each day.
Drove 3 hours to Nakuru. We stopped for a break about 1 hour into the drive when we first saw the Rift Valley. It was at at place with a gift shop. We were invited inside and received a soft sale approach. She wasn't too aggressive. Arrived in Nakuru Nation Park a couple hours later. Drove around and saw baboons, zebra, water buffalo, flamingos, pelicans, and rhinos from a distance. Can't believe we saw that many animals within a hour including numerous baboons.
Checked in at lodge around 12:30. Very nice. Better than I was expecting. Ate lunch around 1pm. It was a nice buffet lunch. I had more basic expectations but have been impressed so far. I knew we paid quite a bit for this but didn't think we would have it this nice.
Had a break from lunch until 4 pm. Looked at pictures I took in the morning. Took 137 pics before noon. Deleted over half within a few minutes. The scenery is beautiful here.
We met our driver shortly before 4 pm. We saw a whole lot of wildlife. We saw lions (4), giraffes, rhinos, hyaena, and birds in addition to water buffalo, gazelles and baboons that we saw earlier. We saw one adult male rhino that threaten to charge our van. The highlight though was seeing the lions. We saw one up in a tree. I cannot believe they can climb up in trees like they did.
I am amazed at how much wildlife we have seen on the first day. I figured it would take us several days to see the different types of animals that we have seen. I have taken around 300 pictures today alone although I'll probably have it narrowed down to below 100 before the day is over with. 

Tuesday November 23rd
Woke up @ 5:45 am. Ate breakfast @ 6:30 am.
Drove from Nakuru to Samburu starting @ 7 am. Arrived @ 1:30 pm
Ate lunch, rested and had quick cup of team before meeting Thomas for our 4 pm game viewing.
We saw warthogs, elephants, crocodiles, a hippo, lions, zebras, giraffes, gazelles, antelope, & birds. We saw three lions. We got real close. Two of them walked by our van by only a couple of feet. We saw one dragging around a fresh kill. We believe it to be a warthog. We saw elephants for the first time. We saw two full herds plus some stragglers here and there. The hippo we saw never got out of the water. The crocodile just sat there. We saw one approx 3 year old lion getting ready to start a hunt by a pack of antelope. The antelope were a few hundred meters away. They were all starting back in the directions of the lion. Very good sightseeing day. Very impressed.
Lodge is nice. Electricity is on only from 5:30 am to 8:00 am and then from 6:30 pm to 11:30 pm. They have 60 huts. It would make a great place for a small solar farm to power the place.
On the drive up we passed a small checkpoint. Saw a road that went to Somalia which still has no government. The road we were on before we turned off was heading to Ethiopia.
Other interesting sight was when we checked out in Nakuru in the morning there were porters stationed outside guests rooms so when they opened the door they were available to carry bags and earn a tip ($1 US per porter).

Wednesday November 24th
Woke up @ 6 am to go on a safari @ 6:30. Didn't see too much at first. Did see some elephants up close and some giraffes drinking water which was kind of neat. We were back by around 8:15 am to eat breakfast.
Hand washed some clothes after breakfast
Swam and lounged by the pool for about a hour
Drank beer at bar
Ate lunch
Edited pictures
Went for a safari @ 4 pm. Didn't see much for first 45 minutes. We then ran across some ostriches which are not that common. We then saw a pack of elephants heading back to the highlands for the evening. Saw a baby nursing on its mother. Then saw another pack walk real close to our car. We then saw a third pack with a baby who was very playful. Most of them walked by us to the river. Saw the dominant male. We were sort of heading back when we heard over the radio that a leopard had been spotted. We drove pretty fast to get over to it. It was sitting in a tree. Very beautiful. I'm glad we saw it. I took several pictures. We then drove back to lodge and got in about 10 minutes after the 6:30 pm curfew. You can get fined if not back at the lodge by 6:30 pm.

Thursday November 25th
Woke up @ 6:15. Ate breakfast and checked out of lodge by 8 am.
Drove to Mountain Lodge by Mt. Kenya. Took 4.5 hours
First bathroom stop involved a sales pitch and demonstration of some wood carvings.
Stopped at equator for pictures and demonstration of water flowing clockwise and counterclockwise. Person doing the demonstration tried to sell us a certificate stating we had been at the equator for $8 USD. We said no but tipped him $1 USD for the show. We were then escorted to a shop to look at some wood products. Since my spork broke I bought a wooden spoon/fork combo for $1USD. He first tried to sell it for $10USD! We haggled and he wouldn't come down so I walked away and he sold it to me for $1 USD. He said he was selling it to me at the price because he needed lunch money.
Checked into the lodge around 12:35 pm. To see the animals the lodge is built around a large watering hole so the animals come to you. It is also at 7,200 ft. elevation and was much cooler than Samburu was. We are only here one night before driving to Nairobi tomorrow. There was a nature walk available at 3 pm for 90 minutes but it cost $30 USD per person which is too much plus we've seen a lot nature already. I'd rather buy a beer & keep and eye on the watering hole.
Also forgot to mention that it is Thanksgiving back in the US. Happy Thanksgiving!
Around 3:30 pm we saw a whole bunch of monkeys invade the property by the watering hole. Eventually a couple walked by our deck which is I believe on the 3rd floor.
Spent a hour on my blog
Watched animals and viewed Mt. Kenya and drank hot tea for a couple hours on the deck until dinner
Had a very good dinner.
During dinner a gentleman came by with a clipboard and you can check off what animal you would like to see and if they spot it during the night they will knock on your door. It was an ordering form for animal viewing! We almost checked the wrong room since we sometimes lose track of all of our room numbers.
Attended the 9 pm slide show.

Friday November 26th
Alarm went off @ 6:15 am
Ate breakfast and checked out of hotel by 8 am
Drove 3.5 hours to Nairobi's Wilson airport. Ride was fine until we got to the Nairobi area. Stop and go traffic and detours. Our driver actually barely tapped another car but no real damage. We kept going.
Arrived at airport about 11:35
Said our goodbyes to Thomas and checked in.
Airport terminal was real small and we drove up to it.
Cleared customs
Waited for plane, flight was at 12:45 pm. Flight left a few minutes late, plane was a single engine 10 seat plane but only had 6 passenger and two pilots. It was somewhat of a bumpy flight at times. Couldn't see Mt. Kilimanjaro since it was so cloudy. Was kind of neat since I got to see the pilots fly. I pretty much starred at the radar and other instruments to see what they were looking at. Flight lasted 50 minutes.
End of Kenya blog :-)

Friday, November 19, 2010


Jordan is a country that I was for most part ignorant about before we started our trip. I had obviously heard of it and knew where it was on a map but the only real thing I knew about it was that Petra was there and the Jordan River/Dead Sea divided it from Israel. I read more about Jordan along the way and quite a bit while we were in Israel during some of our down time thanks to some info Alethea had forwarded to me. As I mentioned in the Israel post we intended to stay 8 nights here in Jordan but had to shorten it by two nights primarily due to Alethea being sick in Israel.

First of all we decided to drive through Jordan versus taking public transportation. Jordan doesn't have a developed modern transport network so renting a car made the most sense. Also, Jordan is not that big of a country from north to south. I believe it just takes 4 hours to drive it which is what we sort of did. We didn't start at the far northern Syrian border but ended up driving from the capital in Amman all the way down to Aqaba on the Red Sea.

We did some pretty interesting things in the time we spent in Jordan. We spent the first day traveling from Israel to Amman to pick up our rental car. It took longer than expected. We didn't get to our intended destination of the Dead Sea until after nightfall. We had a full day of driving the next day. We started at our hotel though by floating in the Dead Sea for a few minutes. It is a weird feeling floating in the Dead Sea. It takes no effort whatsoever to float and in case you taste it the water is nasty. After the Dead Sea we drove about 14 km to Bethany Beyond the Jordan to the site of Jesus's baptism. Ironically, we saw a documentary on the site on our flight from Hong Kong to Amman a month earlier. The evidence seems pretty strong on this one. The site is just beside the Jordan River which is a military area that separates Israel and Jordan. There were armed soldiers on each side. We then drove to the town of Madaba but on the way we stopped at Mt. Nebo. Mt. Nebo for old testament scholars is the place where Moses saw the promise land and then passed away. We then got on the Kings's Highway to drive what we thought was going to be 3 hours to Wadi Musa where we were spending the night. It took a little over 5 and was not that scenic in my opinion as we were led to believe. We also lost our way in the city of Karak. What made the trip a little more adventuresome was that there was an election recently and they posted election banners of the candidates everywhere including on the road signs which made it difficult to find our turn off points. I plan discussing this with the King if I ever get the opportunity.

Alethea reading the sports section in the Dead Sea 

We eventually made it to Wadi Musa. Wadi Musa is where Petra is located. We spent three nights in Wadi Musa. It took two days of hiking to see Petra. It is much larger than what I realize it was. We hiked through the narrow Siq and to the spot where the final scenes of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade were filmed. I actually thought these were the only things to see at Petra but found out there is much more. On the first day we hiked up to the place of High Sacrifice which was a pretty good hike. The next day we hiked all the way out to Ad-Dayr which is over 2,000 years old and just as impressive as the Indiana Jones portion. It took over 2 hours hiking to it one way. 

Indiana Jones spot @ Petra

Our next stop after Petra was a quick hour drive over to the Wadi Rum. We spent a night in a tent at a Bedouin camp out in the Jordanian desert. I really enjoyed it and not because it was my birthday either. We went on a 2 and a half hour ride through the desert in the afternoon and enjoyed a scenic sunset. After dinner Alethea surprised me by arranging for a birthday cake. The people we were staying with at the camp with sang happy birthday and the workers sang happy birthday in Arabic. I never thought I would spend a birthday in the Jordanian desert next to Iraq and Saudi Arabia. 

enjoying a sunset @ Wadi Rum

The final stop on our Jordan tour was the city of Aqaba. We left our camp in Wadi Run around 8:30 and drove for about 35 minutes south to Aqaba. Aqaba is on the Red Sea and is the 2nd largest city in Jordan. We checked into our hotel around 9:30 and walked across the street to stick our toes into the Red Sea. We decided not to snorkel since it was a little windy and cool or at least it was for me. We spent the rest of the day doing laundry by hand and sitting outside in our swimming trunks reading and taking it easy by the pool. We wanted to rest up some before our all day plus of travel coming up on Saturday to Kenya. On a side note our hotel in Aqaba had a sign in the lobby that said we were only 10 kilometers from the Saudi Arabia border. We didn't try to go in because you have to have an hard to get visa and we have Israeli stamps in our passports which causes problems in some countries like Saudi Arabia.

I pretty much summarized our time in Jordan. Jordan is a pretty good place to visit. It has plenty of sights and some unique scenery that we hadn't yet seen so far on our trip. It isn't as modern as I was led to believe from some of the research that I had done. It is probably more modern in some ways than other Middle Eastern countries we've been in but some of the towns and things we saw almost reminded me of Egypt which is not always a good thing. It is a little easier to get around because more people speak English plus ATMs are more common as well as having the ability pay for things with a Visa or MasterCard. I would recommend visiting Jordan if you were in the region but I am not sure I would recommend that you go out of your way to visit it either. It was still interesting and am glad we ended the Middle East portion of our trip before we start our safari in Africa.

Link to photo album:

Daily Log

Sunday November 14th
Departed bus at Jordan border.
Went into building to be processed. Cannot take luggage inside so you have to leave it sitting outside. Fortunately there were only about 10 people around & it wasn't hot or raining.
Each got Jordanian visa which cost 10 Jordanian Dinars or $14 USD. They only take cash and there is no ATM. I had exchanged my last Israeli Shekels for Dinars at the border crossing to pay for Alethea's visa. She had to get into her back pack to get a $20 & exchange it for Dinars to pay for mine.
Met a young man from NYC and split a taxi with him to Amman. He is a Palestinian American who speak Arabic, Hebrew, & English. He negotiated a rate with the taxi driver and we think we got a good deal. On the way to Amman we got stuck in a small town because there was a town lunch going on, actually it was just over with. The local politician who won the recent election had a luncheon for everyone. We had to navigate around the traffic jam.
Rental car person picked us up from the circle that the taxi person dropped us off from.
Left Amman in rental car. Made it out of the city but got lost outside of the city because there was some construction and we had to take a detour off the main highway and didn't see how to get back on. Made it back on the main rode and drove to our hotel (Dead Sea Spa Hotel).
Had dinner at hotel. Screwed up my order and service was slow.

Monday November 15th
Swam in Dead Sea
Ate buffet breakfast at hotel
Went to Bethany Beyond the Jordan – believed to be spot where Jesus was baptized.
Went to Mount Nebo – where Moses saw the promise land and also died. Saw mosaics from 6th century.
Drove the Kings Highway from Mudaba to Wadi Musa. Supposed to take 3 hours. Took about 5 hours. Got lost in Karak. Wasn't scenic or pretty. Pretty much a wasted. I was not in favor of doing this. It was not an enjoyable experience.

Tuesday November 16th
Visited Petra. Bought a two day pass for 55 dinar (1 day cost 50 dinar). It is a very big place. Takes 3 hires to hike across it one way. We didn't arrive until about 11:30 am. We slept in due to the all day driving plus there were multiple loud calls to prayer around 4:30 am. We hiked to the famous spot from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade plus hike around different area including up a high hill where you can look out into a valley and where they performed sacrifices. The buildings and structures carved into the hill are amazing. Took a lot of skill and time. We got back to car around 4 pm.

Wednesday November 17th
Arrived at Petra around 9:35 am. We hiked out all the way to As-Dier (Monastery). It took a little over 2 hours. It was sunny today versus yesterday which was overcast and rainy. It was up hill once we got to the base. As-Dier is just as impressive as the Indiana Jones spots. We also hike to what the tourist signs described as the end of the world. I believe it was another sacrifice place. We stopped and had snacks by As-Dier and then started the walk back which took another 2 hours. We arrived back to our car around 2 pm. We stopped at a bar at a hotel which is one of the few places that serves alcohol in Petra and both had some beers which was our first alcohol in a few days. We then retreated to our hotel and waited for a restaurant to open for dinner since we didn't have lunch. We did snack on some bananas and apples in our hotel room.

Thursday November 18th
Drove from Wadi Musa to Wadi Rum. Took about a hour.
Met Obeidi who took us to our camp at the visitor's center. We camped at a Bedouin camp in the Jordanian desert. Our camp had about 12 people in it plus the helpers. We arrived around 1:30 pm. We went on a 2.5 hour ride through the desert in a 4 wheel drive Toyota truck. The scenery was pretty. We stopped at some old Nabatean inscriptions, Lawrence of Arabia's house, and a rock face. We also stopped at a tourist stop to see some carvings in a rock before going to a sunset point before heading back to camp. We then drank some tea around the camp fire and ate dinner. After dinner I got a surprise. Alethea had informed them that it was my birthday and they delivered a cake and sang happy birthday to me in English and in Arabic. We stayed around the camp fire before going to bed. Our tent was kind of off by itself. Not sure why, maybe it was for Americans? Our tent was plenty big. I could stand up in it and you could easily sleep 6-8 adults. The mattres was small. My feet hung off the end. It didn't sleep all that well. The moon was bright but we saw plenty of stars. I woke up around 4:45 to use the bathroom. By then the moon has set and you could see nothing but start. Been a long time since I've seen that many stars.

Friday November 19th
Woke up @ 6:45 am with the alarm for our 7 am breakfast. Left the camp around 8:15 am.
Drover for about 35 minutes to Aqaba. Called for directions to our hotel (Bedouin Garden Village). Our hotel is only 10 km from the Saudi Arabia border which we cannot cross.
Checked into hotel around 9:30 am.
Walked to Red Sea which was across the street. Decided not to swim there. It was a little windy.
Swam in hotel pool for a few minutes but the water was cold.
Drove into town and bought 20 dinars of gas and a 6 pack of beer which is not always easy to come by in Jordan.
Spent a hour washing clothes by hand so everything would be clean for Africa.
Spent a couple hours finishing the book I picked up in Luxor called The Hunt for Pablo.
Worked on pictures and blog for the rest of the night.

Saturday November 20th
Plan is to leave around 11 am and reach Amman around 2 pm.
Our flight to Cairo departs @ 5:30 pm.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Now that we are three days into Jordan I thought I would finally get around to blogging about our time in Israel. I'll share some of my thoughts about Israel and what I thought were some of our highlights. First of all the only two cities we visited were Jerusalem and Bethlehem. Our original itinerary coming out of Egypt had us spending only 5 nights in Israel before moving on to Jordan. Alethea wasn't feeling well for a couple days plus I was getting over an illness that I picked up in Egypt and didn't really feel 100% until the 2nd or 3rd day.  We ended up adding two days to our Israel visit and shortening our Jordan time by the same amount. I am glad we did because we both needed to recuperate plus there were plenty of things we wanted to see in Jerusalem. We also had some flexibility because once we flew into Israel on the 7th of November we didn't have to be anywhere except Amman, Jordan on the 20th when we fly to Kenya.

Dome of the Rock

To start with Israel is one of the countries on our trip that I thought I wasn't sure that I would ever get to travel to. It isn't because it is that hard to get too especially when there are daily flights from a few cities in the US to Tel Aviv every day. The main reason was the security and political situation. At the present time things are relatively calm. There are stories about the peace process and Israel starting to build or think about building some more settlements in East Jerusalem but there hasn't been a bombing since I believe 2007. I felt safe the entire time we were there. There were several armed soldiers and police around but we just got through coming out of Egypt and saw the nearly the same thing. I did look up on Wikipedia one day an article on all the bombings since the mid 1990's and did found out that we went to some of the places including some of the streets and markets in Jerusalem where they took place. We even rode public buses which were one of the most targeted objects during the second intifada. We even took a side day trip to Bethlehem which is in the Palestinian controlled territory. The Palestinian section actually looked better than parts of Egypt we had visited. You could tell it was a few steps down from the rest of Israel but it didn't look to bad. If anyone is worried about the security situation at the present time in Jerusalem then that shouldn't keep you from coming. Don't get me wrong there are places in the West Bank that you shouldn't go to unless you are on an organized tour. It did seem maybe a little tense especially on a couple occasion where well armed guards looked into our vehicles at checkpoints but it isn't really something to keep you from visiting. There are cities in the US that I have felt much less safe in like Memphis for example.

Now that I shared some thoughts regarding security I'll touch on some of the highlights of our time there. On our second full day in Israel we took a day trip down to Bethlehem. Bethlehem is only 12 kilometers away from Jerusalem and as I mentioned earlier inside the Palestinian controlled territories. You can actually get there by bus or taxi although the bus has to be an Arab one and the taxi cannot be a Jewish taxi. We took an organized tour with transportation included. We did have to pick up our tour guide inside the West Bank since he cannot enter Israel currently without permission. He said at one point that he has to go to Jordan first and then travel to Israel but would probably undergo intense questioning and may not be allowed in. Anyway, on our tour we visited the Shepherd's Caves, the Church of the Nativity, and the Milk Grotto. The Church of the Nativity where Jesus born was worth the visit. The church is actually three separate churches with the Armenian one being the one on top of the spot where Jesus was born. Once inside the main church our tour guide through his connections was able to get us in front of everyone waiting in line to see the spot where Christ was born. We sneaked in the exit way two at a time. The actually spot is underground and is very cramped. There are a set of candles and a 14 pointed silver star to mark the spot. I was able to get in and touch the star and snap a couple of quick pictures. It was crowded so they pictures are only so so. In all it was pretty neat. It would have taken us well over a hour to wait in line but instead only took a few minutes. Our guide earned his tip that day. On the way back from Bethlehem our driver stopped and let us take pictures of the barrier wall. It is pretty tall and intimidating. It is unfortunate that it had to be built but on the other hand bombings have decreased 90% since it was built.

Israel\Palestine barrier wall 

After Bethlehem and a couple days to get back on our feet from being sick we continued visiting sights in Jerusalem. On our first day we actually took a free tour that runs almost daily from the Jaffa Gate which made it convenient for us since our hotel was located right by the Jaffa Gate. The free tour was a good way to orient ourselves to Jerusalem. Our guide took us by some of the main sites but we didn't get to stop at them for long or go inside them except for the Western Wall but we only stopped there for 10 minutes. We did though visit each of the 4 quarters of Old Jerusalem on the tour. We decided on our next to last day to take the Mount of Olives Tour which was little bit more in depth and organized by the same company that puts on the free tour. On this tour we visited the Mosque of the Ascension where Jesus ascended into heaven, the Pater Nostre church where Jesus spent his final days and taught the disciple the Lord's Prayer, Dominus Flevit (Jesus Wept), Garden of Gethsemane – Church of All Nations, & Mary's Tomb. I enjoyed the tour. These areas on the Mount of Olives are in the Palestinian/Muslim section and are not impossible to get to but a little tricky.

When we got through with the Mount of Olives Tour we then toured the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The church is traditional spot where Jesus was crucified, burried, and resurrected. There has been a church here to mark this spot since the the 3rd century. We were able to tour for about 90 minutes before closing time. We saw the Stone of Anointing, Golgotha where Jesus was crucified, and Jesus's tomb. At the tomb Alethea decided to sit outside and rest while I waited in line to enter. It was about a 30 minute wait to enter the tomb. Inside the tomb itself are two chambers. The first chamber displays Angel's rock which is supposed to be a fragment of the rock used to seal the tomb. Only about 6-7 people can fit in the first chamber. The second or inner chamber is a real small area in which you enter through a very small door. I had to practically crawl to enter. Only about 3-4 people can fit inside. In the chamber there is spot where Jesus is said to have been laid to rest. There are numerous candles and icons in this area. After about a minute one of the priest from one of the denominations started to usher people out. Some didn't want to leave. I thought it was very neat regardless of your religion or if you believe this to be the exact place where these events took place. We actually didn't have much time before closing and had to walk somewhat quickly through other parts of the church including the spot of the crucifixion. There you could wait in line and touch or as many were doing kissing the spot where the cross is said to have been placed in the ground. We didn't do so since one of the priest mentioned when we got up there that it would be closing shortly. The church itself is open from 4 am to 7 pm daily this time of the year and I believe it changes by a hour during the summer.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre from the roof
Some of the other highlights we did were visit Yad Veshem (Holocaust Museum) and the Israeli Museum where the Dead Sea Scrolls are located. Yad Veshem was pretty good meaning that it did a good job depicting the events of the holocaust. It is obviously sad and disheartening. We had been to Auschwitz last fall and have been in other holocaust museums. I would rate this one up there at the top and would recommend everyone to visit. The cost is free. The other museum we visited was the Israeli Museum. It is a national history and culture museum that has exhibits covering over 6,000 years of Israeli history. It also contains the Dead Sea Scrolls and a miniature model of what Jerusalem looked liked in 60 AD. The cost is 48 sheckels or around $13 USD per person but does include a free audio headset. I would recommend this museum as well.

Jewish Holocaust Museum
Another interesting thing that we experienced was the Jewish sabbath which runs from sun down Friday to sun down on Saturday. The best way to describe it is that Jerusalem shuts down one day a week like the US does on Christmas day. There is very little open. On Friday afternoon we were in a market eating a late lunch when we noticed two Jewish people walking around blowing a horn and making some type of announcements in Hebrew. They were in fact letting people know it was time to shut down. They even had orthodox Jewish people with funny looking hats walking around inspecting places to make sure they were closed on Friday and Saturday. We ended up delaying our departure from Israel from Saturday to Sunday because of the sabbath. The bus that would have taken us to the border crossing didn't run during the day on Saturday and we didn't want to go at night. The Israeli Museum was actually one of the few things open but the public buses do not run on Saturday so we ended up walking about 45 minutes from our hostel to the museum. If you travel to Jerusalem over the sabbath be prepared. There are sighs open to see but most shops, restaurants, and transportation options will be closed. 

Sabbath business inspector
Well that pretty much wraps up Israel. It is very special place considering all the religious and historical things to see. In my opinion it is safe and you can see most of it on your own but I would recommend signing up for some half day tours here and there. Israel is also a modern country so you shouldn't feel too out of place if you haven't traveled that much outside the US in my opinion. The Middle East is a volatile region so even though things are relatively calm now, I am sure it could change real quickly. The next stop on our voyage is the country of Jordan!

Link to photo albums:

Daily Log

Sunday November 7th
Landed in Tel Aviv around noon due to flight delay.
Took another hour to clear security and get bags.
Took 45 minutes to ride a sherut (shared taxi) to the Jaffa Gate
Hiked up the hill and checked into our hotel.
Mapped out things we wanted to do over the next few days.
Waked next tour to the tourism office.
Walked around for a little bit before finding a place for dinner.
Came back to hotel and got on the internet.
Still a little sick with diarrhea.

Monday November 8th
Woke up around 8 ish.
Ate breakfast at hotel (New Imperial Hotel). It was ok. Ate bland and conservative to help my internal systems. :-)
Went on free Jerusalem walking tour. Tour lasted three hours. We did this tour to orient ourselves to the city and see some sites with a tour guide for free. We walked and stopped briefly by the Church of Holy Sepulchre then walked up to the roof where the Ethiopian Church has its place. We then walked to the Muslim Quarter. The odd thing is that there isn't that much to divide it and I could barely tell we had crossed into it. We then walked over to the Western Wall. Had to go through security to get through to there. Tour guide gave us only 10 minutes at the wall itself. I went over into the male area and touched the wall. You can actually now email and Tweet a request to be printed and put into the wall. The women have to go into a separate area right next to the male area. I liked it. We then walked up and were able to take some good shots of the Dome of the Rock and see some of the other Muslim mosques. We then toured the Jewish Quarter and went up to another spot to take some more pictures. We then toured a small part of the Armenian Quarter before heading back to where we started at the Jaffa Gate which is only about 50 meters from our hotel. We did tip the tour guide. We then followed him back to their travel center which we had already heard about.
Booked a trip to Bethlehem. It is a half day trip and is in the Palestinian Territories. Should be fun.
Took our laundry into the new city area. We walked away past where we needed to go. Found decent directions at a hostel. Did laundry self serve. Took a little over a hour.
Ate lunch at local place. Pretty good.
Bought a Palestinian beer called Taybeh at local corner market. Kinda hoppy and not bad.
Got online and worked on Jordan stuff.
Starting to feel much better. Getting closer to 100%.

Tuesday November 9th
Woke up with the call to prayer around 4:45 am. Had difficulty sleeping.
Church bells woke me up shortly before my alarm went off at 7 am.
Took organized tour to Bethlehem. Tour started at 8:30. Bethlehem is in the Palestinian controlled territories. We went through a check point to Bethlehem which is only 12 km away from Jerusalem. You cannot really tell where Jerusalem ends and Bethlehem begins except for the barrier wall and checkpoint. We first went to the Shepherd's Field where the Shepherd's were first told of Jesus's birth. Climbed down into some caves and walked into a church on the site. We then drove next to the Church of the Nativity. It is located on a hill about a kilometer away. It was packed. Our guide who we actually picked up inside Palestine took us in the back door way. We got to jump in front of hundreds of people. We first went to an underground area of tombs where some of the children murdered by King Herod were buried along with St. Jerome who was responsible for translating the bible to Latin. He then talked to another guard and snuck us in two at a time to the underground area where Christ is alleged to have been born. People were probably waiting a hour or two and we just walked up. I never heard anyone complain though. I got to bend down and touch the 14 pointed silver star that marks the spot. I then went over to another spot a couple meters away which is allegedly the spot where Jesus was put in the manger. It is a small area. My pictures turned out ok but not great but it is so crowded with so many people in line that you have to be quick. We then toured the Milk Grotto church after taking our break in a Christian souvenir shop. On the way back we stopped at the security wall that the Israeli government has built and took some pictures. We then had to go through the checkpoint and had to show our passports (our driver handled it). Two armed soldiers with machine guns also peaked into our bus as well. We then drove back to the Jaffa Gate. I really enjoyed it and glad we took the tour. There was only 7 of us total and we were back around 1 pm.
Snack on some bread, apple, and crackers. We're still not 100%. I will not go into details.
Worked on Jordan research for about 90 minutes before the internet went out. Went downstairs to ask about and they said it would be out for hours.
We then decided to walk through the old city to the Austrian Hospice (hotel) to the roof of the building. Best panoramic views of Jerusalem I've seen so far. It was close to sunset and the call to prayers from what I counted were 6 different mosques were in progress.
We then tried to get as close to the Dome of the Rock as we could but were stopped by 3 heavily armed soldiers saying the area was closed to non-Muslims until tomorrow morning. We didn't argue.
We kind of got lost on the way back. A 12 year old kid started guiding us sort of and I knew what was coming. He started demanding money from me. He wouldn't leave me alone and kept repeatedly asking me for money. I also noticed he was eying me up and down and figured he might try to grab something but I had my wallet secured in a front pocket with half my money in my wallet and the other half in another pocket. If he would have touch me I would have knocked him on his rear. He eventually left. I also kept a close eye on him as he started to follow us again but quickly turned back. I sort of worried he would sneak up and take Alethea's camera or backpack. We made it to the Jewish quarter and then I led us back to where our hotel was at where we ate dinner at a restaurant right outside our door.
Bought two beers at the local market and came back to the hotel where the internet is now working. Doing some online stuff including photo editing while drinking my beer.

Wednesday November 10th
No sightseeing today. Alethea woke up with a bad headache. She describes it as brain swelling. A lot of pressure on her head. Went on a minor grocery run. We'll rest today and make a decision tomorrow about going to a doctor. Probably will have to delay our departure to Jordan by a day or so. Need to be more healthy before traveling.

Thursday November 11th
Alethea still not feeling that well but a little better.
Transferred rooms to a larger room around noon. We knew we had to do this on the last night.
Spent about 3 hours looking for places to stay since our place was booked full and we couldn't extend our stay. Alethea is too sick to travel plus there are things we would still like to see plus have enough time to see Jordan. We ended up finding a hostel called Jerusalem Hostel on Jaffa Street which is about a mile away.
Tried to mail post cards but post closed as I was trying to squeeze. This location is also closed.
Bought two slices of pizza.

Friday November 12th
Visited Yad Veshem Or Holocaust Museum – best Holocaust Museum I've seen. Not as depressing as Auschwitz though. I'll never understand the holocaust or how thousands of Germans killed millions of people including 6 million Jewish people. Some of the exhibits didn't speak well of the Pope and I don't blame the, because he didn't do enough or at least speak out against what was going on.
Transferred from our hotel in Old Jerusalem to the The Jerusalem Hostel on Jaffa Street.
Walked around market area close to hostel.
Stopped and ate some good shwarma in the market.
While we were at the mall we saw orthodox Jewish men walking by blowing a horn and telling shop owners they needed to be closing before sunset when the sabbath starts.
Grabbed a couple beers at the local market.
Spent three hours planning out Jordan. We had to redo our itinerary a little bit with Alethea getting sick.
Read an article on Wikipedia regarding suicide bombings in Israel since the mid-1990's. We've been in multiple areas that were hit and we rode public buses that were also hit several times. Also, since they built the wall the bombings are down 90%. There are also a lot of well armed police and military too. I don't feel unsafe. It is actually feel pretty relaxed.

Saturday November 13th
Walked to Israeli Museum from hostel. Took about 45 minutes
Toured Israeli Museum. It is basically three parts. Dead Sea Scrolls, miniature Jerusalem model from 60 AD, and the museum. Very good museum. Spent 2.5 hours.
Walked to Jaffa Gate which took around 30 minutes.
Ate pizza at Jacob's pizza. Very few things are open. Jerusalem shuts down for the sabbath like the US does for Christmas except this is once a week not once a year.
Took Mount of Olives Tour – Took nearly three hours. Took taxi from Jaffa Gate to Mount of Olives. Went to Mosque of the Ascension, Pater Nostre – Lord's Prayer (french church) had caves where Jesus spent his last week, Dominus Flevit (Jesus Wept), Garden of Gethsemane – Church of all Nations, Mary's Tomb.
Walked back to Jaffa Gate & tipped Danny our guide.
Toured the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Arrived around 5:30. Left around 6:50 pm. Waited in line to see Jesus's tomb (about 25 minutes – people were pushing), saw anointing rock where Jesus's body was laid after he died, saw Golgotha or place where he was crucified but couldn't touch the spot there was a line and it was getting close to time to closing time even the priest said it would only be a few more minutes.
Walked back to hostel and bought a couple beers & for the first time since outside the US some Reese's Cups. Israel is the first country outside the US I've been to that has had Reese’s.
Went to good soup restaurant for dinner.

Sunday November 14th
Woke up @ 7 am
Went to Jaffa Str. Post Office and mailed 5 post cards
Picked up bagels form Holy Bagel and ate them for breakfast at our hotel
Checked out around 9:15
Took city bus down the street to Central Bus Station
Central Bust Station is more shopping mall than bust station. Bought tickets & navigated our way on to a bus bound for Beit Shean border crossing. Several armed Israeli men 7 women on the bus that made multiple stops. Took two hours to reach the town. Waited hour for bus to go a few kilometers to boarder. Bus finally came by and drove right by us despite Alethea waiving. I hailed a taxi. There were few. Paid exit fee of around $26 US per person to leave Israel. Have to take a bus a few hundred meters over a bridge over the Jordan River.
End of Israel blog.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Egypt was somewhat of a different challenge than the previous countries that we had visited. For the first time on our trip we utilized the services of a travel company to coordinate our activities. We had been on some tours before during our travels but had not used a travel company for more than one day. Our travel agency, Ramsey's Tours, based out of Alexandria, Egypt, helped us package a tour that included time in Cairo, a Nile River cruise, Alexandria, and finally back to Cairo. We booked our tour before we left the US. I am glad we did this because I am not sure I would want to coordinate all the guides, trains, hotels, and cruise items on our own. Operating in Egypt is a little shady. I never really felt unsafe but as Alethea mentioned in a conversation it is definitely a place that I feel people will take advantage of you in a heart beat. You pretty much have to keep your guard up at all times out in public and be alert. It is not petty street crime like pickpocketing that you have to be aware of but people trying to take advantage of you in some way. Tipping is also much more common in Egypt plus people will flat out just ask you for money. If you haven't traveled outside the US much or never before I would recommend a competent travel agency to be your handler. I am not sure I would recommend ours completely since their communication was not great but things worked out in the end. Alethea kept up with the math on how much everything costs and we think we got a pretty good deal overall even though I am sure the travel agency paid less than the published prices we could see.

Giza Pyramids

I wrote this blog entry a little differently. I went into a little more detail when writing some of the daily log activities versus narrating a play by play of the trip paragraph by paragraph. I'll list some likes and dislikes followed by the links to the photo albums, and then the daily log. Overall I enjoyed Egypt. It is a place I always wanted to visit but wasn't sure I would be able to get there especially since they had an incident in Luxor back in 1997 where 27 tourists were shot dead by terrorists. We actually visited the place of the shooting . One of our tour guides referred to it as the tourist accident. Some accident. My favorite activity may have been going on a camel ride at the Giza Pyramids followed closely with walking inside the tombs of the pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings exhibit in Luxor. I enjoyed the numerous temples too with probably the Temple of Karnak in Luxor being my favorite. We both enjoyed our three night Nile River cruise. It was a peaceful way to break up some of the touring between cities without having to travel anywhere other than our boat. I have never been on a cruise before but I could see this advantage of going on one now. Somehow we managed to score one of the two suites on the ship including our own private deck area. We didn't request it nor did we pay extra for it to our knowledge. 

Anyway, after finishing up Egypt we're headed off to Israel for a few nights before heading to Jordan. Everyone take care!

Rich history of the Egyptian civilization
Giza Pyramids
Camel rides
Overnight train from Cairo to Aswan (private cabin & bigger meal than we were expecting)
Nile River cruise – size of room, three buffet meals a day, nice break probably wouldn't want to do that much on own, very relaxing and comfortable
Aswan hotel room was large & nice.
Valley of the Kings – Tombs were nice and art work was intricate and superb
Karnack Temple – massive columns
Luxor Temple
Day room hotel room in Luxor arranged by travel company at not charge. Didn't want to have to wait at the train station for hours.
Weather was good. Little hot in Luxor during the day. It felt good cruising down the Nile even a little cool at night.

Us on our camels @ the Giza Pyramids

Tour Company (Ramsey's Tours in Alexandria) – Didn't received itinerary until several days into trip. We had a basic one in email which took multiple emails to get but we had nothing showing us times and durations of things we would be doing along the way. Each day or at the end of the previous day we would have to ask about the next day. Nothing bad happened but each day there were issue with timing, seeing things one day that were on our email itinerary for a different day, and other miscellaneous items. Communication was poor at first but got better. We also paid for our trip  when we arrived in Egypt (outside of our 10% deposit that we paid months ago) by handing our first guide the entire cost of the trip in cash on the first morning. Doesn't feel right but that is the common way to do things in Egypt.
Always have to keep your guard up for scams such as the papyrus museum incident in Cairo or the mosque imam incident in Luxor. If the first question is where are you from, then you're probably in trouble.
Couldn't take pictures inside the tombs at the Valley of the Kings in Luxor.
Tips or demands for money.
Being run through the gauntlet of tourist shops on the way out of exhibit. People would be coming up to you quite often and putting things in your face.
Tour guides didn't know anything about us so we would have to explain it each day. Not a big deal but you would think they would know a little background info like our names and what country we were from before the day got started. I believe we had 6 tour guides.
Armed security guards. You think this would be a positive since they are everywhere but they often weren't paying attention. It was common to see them texting on their phone and I even caught one sleeping . Both had machine guns around their shoulders.
Overnight train from Luxor to Giza. It was a real rough ride which made it tough to sleep.

This man encouraged us to take his picture then asked for money.

Link to photo albums:

Daily Log

Friday October 29th
Arrived around 4 pm in Cairo.
Bathroom attendant tried to get me to pay him at the airport. We had not even made it to immigration or to an ATM. He was not in front of the bathroom. He was inside handing towels to people who had washed their hands. I didn't pay. He didn't seem too happy. I wasn't too surprised by the incident itself just that it happened within minutes of arriving and in an area where I wasn't expecting it.
Tried to go through immigration but didn't have visa stamp. We knew there was $15 USD visa charge but what we didn't know was that you have to purchase them from one of the bank kiosks before immigration. We thought they were just people withdrawing money. The bank people try to flag people down. I am sure they get a portion of the visa.
Found driver and drove to hotel.
After checking in we went out looking for a market and got scammed by what we thought was a some type of security guard who guided us to a papyrus making shop where we listened to sale's pitch for a while before walking out and back to our hotel where we ended up eating. It could have been worse. The guy who guided us to the papyrus shop even asked for money on the way back.
Found free wi-fi access in the lobby. Ethernet was going to be 3 EP per minute in the room!

Saturday October 30th
Tour guide for today met us in hotel lobby @ 9:30 am. We were told multiple times that we wouldn't have to be ready until 10 am. He didn't seem too happy but I didn't care. We went back to hotel room and packed up.
Withdrew remaining cash.
Paid tour guide in cash (EGP) for the remaining balance of our trip. Doesn't feel right doing this but this is apparently the way it is done in Egypt.
Toured Giza Pyramids. Basically got out and took pictures at a couple spots. You cannot or should not climb on them. One person tried to ask us for tickets for an area as a scam but were told we didn't need to show ours anymore by our tour guide. He was dressed in regular western style clothes and looked Egyptian.
Decided not to pay $20 per person to go into the pyramids. Heard it was disappointing just a dark room.
Did take a camel ride. We each had our own camels for a 30 minute ride on the back side of the Giza Pyramids. The ride isn't exactly smooth and when the camels stand up or sit down the angle is steep. You have to lean back quite a bit. The pictures will interesting. It cost $25 per person. We tipped the 12 year kid that guided our camels on his donkey. When we returned his dad wanted a tip but we didn't tip him since he didn't do anything. Our guide helped usher us away.
Drove down to the where the Great Sphinx is at. Took some pictures for about 15 minutes.
Drove 30 minutes to Egypt Museum. Toured museum which has tons of artifacts from the pyramids. All are originals except for copy of the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum which I've seen. He tried to get us to go to the Mummy Room which was extra but we passed. Highlight was seeing King Tut's stuff including his coffins and famous mummy mask. The bad thing was that we couldn't take our cameras inside. You have to check them outside although I saw some people taking pictures with their cell phones.
Went for lunch at local cheap Egyptian place. Total cost for all three of us was only $5 US.
Took 1 one hour felucca ride that lasted 45 minutes in a zig zag pattern over the Nile. The driver actually let Alethea steer and she actually parked it back at the dock. Our guide said it was the first time in ten years of doing this that he had seen a customer be allowed to dock the boat.
Went to grocery store then pharmacy store to get Alethea some contact solution. Her's leaked everywhere in her bag during the flight from Istanbul. I went to the ATM to pull out more cash. I had a voice mail from Visa security when I came back since I made three quick somewhat large ATM withdrawals within 24 hours. I called their automated numbered to approve the transaction.
Driver took us to train station where we paid for the day's activities and tipped our drivers.
Waited 2 hours at train station.
Train was 15 minutes late. Dinner served on train was bigger than I was expecting. Bigger than an airline meal.
We have a private bunk room on our overnight train which is a plus for me. Hopefully I'll sleep good. This is now the 5th overnight train that I have been on. Starting to get used it since I pretty much do not have that much difficulty going to sleep.

Sunday October 31st
Arrived from overnight train around 8:30 am.
Guide picked us up from train. Itinerary originally said we would check in at the hotel & have the rest of the day to ourselves. Instead our tour guide took us to the sites we were supposed to see the following day before boarding our boat for our Nile River cruise. We toured the Aswan dam which was pretty much getting out and seeing some water and hearing a 5 minute speech in which the tour guide said that the US and international community wouldn't help them build the damn but instead the Soviet Union did. We then went over to the Philae Temple which was moved due the flooding of the Nile when the Aswan damn was built. We were there for about a hour as our tour guide explained the temple. It was pretty good. He and his driver who said his name was George took us back to the hotel where we checked in around noon. We then talked him to call George back to take us into town and go to the alcohol shop and to get a quick bite to eat at a local cheap place. We then went back to the hotel, ate lunch, took showers, and then took naps. We then sat by the pool which is on the Nile for 1 hour as the sun set.
Ate dinner at hotel.
We have internet access so will spend this evening online while drinking a cold Egyptian beer at 10% alcohol. It actually didn't taste that well. The higher the alcohol content the sweeter the beer.
Not impressed with tour company. Nothing has been bad just tour guides not having correct information or no information. Alethea has fired off an email to the cruise operator.
Built tipping spreadsheet so we'll be in the same page and to estimate remaining tipping expenses.
Hand washed 2 pair underwear, 2 t-shirts, 1 pair of pants, & 1 pair of socks.
Weighed in on scale in hotel bathroom @ 81 kg or 178 lbs. When we started the trip on 7/31 I weighed 194 pounds. I weighed in on another scale a few days prior at 85 kgs but I had some more gear on my so I think the weight readings are accurate.

Monday November 1st
Ate breakfast at hotel. Pretty good.
Electricity at hotel room went out around 10 am. Front desk said it was an Aswan city utility issue and would be off for 1 hour. Electricity came back on about 2 hours later @ 11:55 am. Some things were on generator such as the internet.
Picked up from hotel @ 1:00 pm
Checked in @ boat around 1:20 pm. You have to walk through other boats to get to your own boat! Kind of crazy & potentially confusing
Alethea spent time on tour guides phone discussing issues with the cruise with a couple different tour officials.
Ate lunch around 2:00 pm.
After lunch bags were still in lobby. Bell hop carried them to our room. Our room turned out to be a suit that is about 3 times larger than I was expecting. Alethea mentioned it is larger than any room she has seen on a cruise ship. We didn't pay extra for this. We also have a private deck. Only two rooms have this with ours being one. Not sure how this happened but will not complain :-)
Boat left around 2:30. Spent the afternoon relaxing on our deck.
Docked around 5:40 pm at Kom Ombo temple. Tour guide named Samuel met us and toured the temple with us for about 45 minutes before returning to boat.
Convinced bar attendant to open one of the bottles of wine we smuggled aboard the boat. He didn't want to do this and walked to our room to open the bottle. He tried to get us to go to the bar to get something to drink.
Ate dinner @ 7:30. Talked to couple from England and woman traveling by herself from Tokyo, Japan.
Pretty good day. Impressed with accommodations on boat. I was expecting a room the size of the sleeper cabin on a train but not the luxurious room we ended up with.
Good pair of sunglasses broke (left hinge screw came out). Alethea fixed them as I held them in place.

Nile River from our deck

Tuesday November 2nd
Awaken by call to prayer at 4:30 am. There are at least two and I am sure more mosques right near where our boat was docked in Edfu. It was very loud. When we heard the call to prayer we thought it was more like 6 am. :-(.
Received wake up call at 6:10 am even though I had the travel alarm set for 6:15 am.
Met our tour guide in reception area of our boat around 6:50 am.
Took horse carriage ride to Temple of Horus or Edfu Temple (about 10 minutes away).
Toured temple for 1 hour. Bigger than previous temples we have visited. Tour guide did decent job explaining the different aspects of the temple. I like this one. It is pretty big. Took 182 years to build.
Purchased sunglasses in market outside of temple. I paid 80 EP or $14 USD. He started the negotiations at 250 EP. Still paid too much. Not that good at bargaining quite yet. He probably paid 10 EP or $2 for them.
Returned to boat around 9 am and ate breakfast.
Processed photos from this morning and read 48 page Israel tour guide summary .pdf that Alethea found on the internet. Pretty decent material. I feel pretty prepared for Israel. We'll see what actually happens. Expected boat to be under way by 9:30 am but as of 12:50 pm it still hasn't left yet.
Ate lunch @ 1:00 pm
Boat finally departed @ 1:45 pm. We were told we would be at the locks by 1 pm.
Took nap for about 90 minutes. Didn't sleep well the previous night.
Arrived at locks around 5:30 pm. We had to tie up for a little bit before going through. We were completely through around 6:55 pm.
Ate dinner @ 7:30 pm. Drank wine on deck with British couple & Japanese woman.
Watched belly dancer and some type of whirling male (clothed) dancer too.
Went to bed around 11 pm

Wednesday November 3rd
Actually was not awaken by the call to prayer this morning. Appears we docked in area with no mosques close by.
Ate breakfast @ 8:00
Met Mohammed our tour guide for the day in reception on our boat @ 8:45
Drove for about thirty minutes to Valley of the Kings on the west bank. Unfortunately you cannot take your camera into this area so there will be no pictures. I thought it was pretty good. We walked into the 3 tombs (Ramsey IV, IX, & XIII). All three appeared to be in good condition. There are plenty of interesting markings and drawings including a sarcophagus in the first tomb. The tombs went back underground about 100 meters or so. Each was longer than the last. The third tomb of Ramsey's XIII was interesting because it was not finished. It was not finished because the pharaoh died before it was finished. The first part & first few chambers were finished then the remaining rooms were sort of carved out but not decorated or finished off. It takes 40 days for the mummification process and once the 40 days were up the pharaoh was buried in completed section of the tomb. We also could have paid an extra 100 Egyptian Pounds per person (~$20 USD) to enter King Tut's tomb. His body is actually in the tomb now but most of his stuff is in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
We then went to Al-Dier Al-Bahari Temple about 15 minutes away. It was for a female ruler who called herself a king. She was a queen first. This is where the terrorist shooting in 1997 took place in which I believe 27 tourist were killed per our tour guide. We stayed for about 30 minutes taking pictures.
We then drove a few minuets to the Colossi of Memnon and took pictures for 5 minutes. They are two big statues marking the entrances to a former temple for one of the Ramsey kings I believe.
We then drove back to our boat for lunch.
Ate lunch & took nap for 1 hour.
Met our guide at our boat around 15:45.
Drove into the city of Luxor which is about 5 km away.
Toured Temple of Karnack. Very big complex. The columns there are massive. I believed there were 124. There were some obelisks. Karnack is actually 24 temples. Each ruler would add on to the temple. Stayed there for about a hour.
Toured Temple of Luxor which is only 2 km away from Karnack. They used to be connected and the city is in the process of recreating the connection between the two. Toured Karnack for about 45 minutes. Tipped our driver 30 EP & our tour guide for the day 100 EP.
Went around and into a 11th century mosque that was built inside the Luxor Temple. A person started speaking English to us although he was dressed in more native attire. We pretty much knew he was going to guide us. We tried to walk or go where we wanted but he kept following us. As we were leaving he introduced me to the Imam and said that tourist give him money for the children who stay in this one room that don't have any mother or father that he showed us earlier. Of course that door was closed and you couldn't see inside it. He repeating his request for money but I walked away. As we were making our way to the exit he then demanded that I give the Imam money and another old guy came over and started to ask where are you from. I ignored him even though he was saying why do you not say where you are from. The other original person was still demanding I give money to the Imam. He started to follow us out of the mosque but left us alone once we got back into the square. I think they were afraid of drawing the attention of the tourist police. First time I've been scammed or demanded to give money to someone in a religious building before. I wasn't too happy about the whole experience but I wasn't too surprised and quickly put it behind.
Waited for Ihab by an ATM which was in front of another mosque for a few minutes before meeting him. He took us back to the boat and advised us of our schedule for the next day plus told us how much to tip our wait staff and how to do it when we check out the next day.

Thursday November 4th
Started morning with wake up call at 7 am even though we didn't ask for one.
Received another call at approx 7:30 am that said, “breakfast now”. Breakfast had been at 8:00 am on the previous days. I suspect they were calling the rooms of people who were checking out for wake up calls and to let them know that the breakfast was being served.
Checked out at 8:30. Left tip of 50 EGP in a white envelope.
Walked to road and waited until 9:00 for Ihab to pick us up.
We drove around the city of Luxor for a hour. We went really sure what we were doing because it was a little confusing on our itinerary. We weren't sure if we had seen everything or not. Ihab drove us around different streets in downtown Luxor. We stopped at a market and briefly walked around. We like stopping at markets just to check them out no matter what country we are in. We then walked to a food street vendor. Ihab bought us some felafel sandwiches.
He then drove us to our day hotel that he had arranged for us to stay at until he picked us up later in the evening.
Picked up ~ 18:50 from hotel and driven to train station. Ihab walked us to the platform, waited for the train, and helped carry bags to our train cabin. He got a 50 pound tip for his services.
Train left about 19:35 about 5 minutes late (this would never happen in Japan). :-)
Ate dinner within a 30 minutes of getting on train.
Alethea went to bed around 9 pm since she wasn't feeling well. I read for about 90 minutes all together a book from the day use hotel. The book is the story of the man hunt for Pablo Escobar.

Friday November 5th
Alarm went off @ 4:45 am.
Had coffee but took our breakfast to go. Left train @ 5:30 am.
Met greeter who led us to driver.
Drove 3 hours to Alexandria. Stopped once for a restroom break. Went to bathroom which had an attendant to tip. Gave a 5 expecting change back. He kept the whole bill so I argued with him. He gave me back 2.50. It should have been only 1 pound. Not a big deal just another minor example how you have to keep your guard up in Egpyt.
Met our tour guide Heba in Alexandria. She was nice and the first & only female we had out of our 6 tour guides.
Toured sites of Alexandria for next 4 hours. Included the last king of Egypt's Alexandria palace, Citadel, Catacombs, & 3 mosques downtown.
Had two hours to kill after morning session. Went to mall in Alexandria. I ate McArabia Kofta sandwich @ McDonalds. Tried to pay with a 200 pound bill but person @ McDonald's refused to accept it so I paid with a smaller bill. I was trying to break the smaller bill for future tips.
Went to Carrefour to buy some toiletries such as wipes, dental floss, & crackers since we had the use of a car.
Walked around mall for another 15 minutes. The US based stores I remember were Nike, Timberland, Reebok, H&M, McDonald's. KFC, Hardes, & Baskin Robbins.
Drove over & toured the Library of Alexandria. Took about 45 minutes. It is a new (less than 10 years old) modern 11 story library. The original ancient one is believed to be 300 meters to the west in the Mediterranean Sea.
Stopped at pharmacy on way to hotel & bought two sticks of Lamisil for athlete's foot. Mine has started to flare up again after getting much better plus Alethea has minor bit of it too.
Checked in at the hotel. Mediterranean Azure hotel pretty nice.
Had dinner at hotel. Bill had a 10% service charge plus 12% sales tax plus the waiter rounded to give himself two extra pounds on the tip which is sort of common in Europe.

Saturday November 6th
Woke up with case of diarrhea. Alethea had it yesterday but hers started the night before with headaches and she had stomach cramping which I don't have at this time. I am attributing mine to something I ate. It could have been the McArabia Kofta from yesterday. Whenever I eat McDonalds's which is about 1 to 2 times a year if that then I sometimes get sick from what I remember.
I am glad we didn't go to take the day trip into Cairo because neither one of us is 100%. I think a day of rest would be best.
Checked out of hotel @ 11:45
Arrived in Cairo ~15:00
Tipped driver $150 EGP. He did a pretty job.
Rested next to pool for about 45 minutes and ate some crackers and continued to drink plenty of water.
Ate dinner & went to bed around 9:30 pm.

Sunday November 7th
Woke up @ 5:15 with Alethea's alarm.
Left for airport around 5:45 am.
Flight was scheduled to leave at 9:00 but we didn't board the plan until 9:15. The plan to Israel was a white unmarked plane. We also had to identify our bags before they loaded them on to the plane. There was no announcements made but we didn't take off until 10:50 and landed around noon.

This how close our hotel room was to the Giza Pyramids