Monday, May 4, 2009

Enchanting Egypt

A small deviation from our regular recipe posts - this is a travelogue on our most memorable and exciting Egypt trip.


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We reached Kuwait airport at around 5 pm and the flight to Sharm el Sheikh took off at 6.45 pm as scheduled. To our amusement, we found just 9 people on board including the two of us!

We reached Sharm at around 8.30 pm and by the time we reached our resort it was 9.30 pm. The resort looks like heaven. It is damn beautiful. We then settled down in our quarter 701. So wonderful and cozy. I feel I should stay here longer. :) Good night

Surprisingly we found a capsicum cheese pizza at 1 in the night, that too veggie, & OMG in Egypt.

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We had a wonderful fruit filled breakfast & set out with Albert to Sharm. We drove past Nama bay which is the centre of SES. Before that we also drove past the Sahara mountains. The terrain of SES is surprising as it not only has a wonderful beach and sea but also hills and mountains. We reached the old market, where I bought this book; rather he actually searched, found and bought me one. I also spotted two Indian restaurants, a NOVOTEL and a Marriot here at Nama bay. SES as I realize is at the tip of Egypt. It is a part of what is called the Sinai Peninsula.

We took the old ring road which heads towards Cairo to enter the desert. Like in Kuwait, habitation in Egypt is more towards the sea and lessens towards the desert. SES seemed more of a European tourist destination & not very populated otherwise.

We set out on a camel ride on the desert. At the nick of the time I got scared and I couldn’t get on to the camel. I wasted 800 rupees!! But he didn’t say anything. He enjoyed the ride. But the camel was very rugged and his legs were aching after the 40 min ride.

We then reached the McDonalds at Nama bay. As usual we didn’t find any veggie food. We ordered some garden salad and orange juice. It was a quick bite before the submarine.

The climate at SES is quite pleasant. There was a chilly breeze in the morning but the noon was quite sunny and warm.

After the quick bite, we headed straight to the submarine. There it was amazing. We got to the underwater world. I have no words to describe this. And my pics don’t even depict anything from what we actually got to see. Different kinds of corals and a wonderfully abundant number of fishes. Marine life is so beautiful. Except for the gold fish and zebra fish and banana fish, I can’t even get to remember the names of the fish… There were so many… big, small, colorful, colorless, but what is amazing about fishes is every specie has its own build and all the fishes in that particular specie will have that uniform build. They are not fat or thin like us! :)

After this amazing hour, we reached the most memorable part of our trip. I shall cherish this for the whole of my life… Yes!! The Dolphin show. An amazing family of 3 – Papa dolphin, mama dolphin and baby dolphin. They stole our hearts with their hilariously enchanting feats. You blink an eye and you would have missed a lot… I thoroughly enjoyed trying to catch a click of every of these innumerable tricks. An entertainment I never had but would never forget later. It indeed made our “honeymoon” sweeter!!

We then came back to the resort, though it was dark by then, we still tried venturing into the beach. An unimpressive attempt though.

After a tasteless, rather menu less dinner, a forced intake of food just as it was necessary we had it, we went to bed early.

*

12.30 am – The alarm rang and we got up and changed it into 12.45, then we changed it to 1. Yes and when the alarm rang at 1, we had to get up, for we couldn’t delay anymore. By 2.30 am we were fresh and ready and checked out of the room on a get, set, go!!

Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrr…. Yes it was chilly cold and very very icy. We had planned for something else and we were doing something else, as is always the case. We had planned to enjoy a beach side holiday and what were we doing? Driving through the dark roads of Egypt that pass through different kinds of terrain. It was dark, it was cold, we know not what was along the road, and sometimes they seemed mountains, sometimes water and sometimes desert. Nothing was visible and yes of course we were shivering!!! The only thing we could do was to cover ourselves with the towels we had taken to enjoy at the beach. We were also racing against time and that made it even colder…

After the 5 hour long journey and as the sun had just shone up a few minutes ago, our car stopped. Albert was enquiring the way from someone. It was all foggy. As we turned right to see actually where we were. And what did we see??

Through the fog, a misty glimpse of the PYRAMIDS!!! A gigantic mountain like structure stood just a couple of km away from us and beyond the fog… It was so beautiful! I couldn’t capture this on my camera as it was too hazy for anything to come into the picture.

Albert found his, or rather our direction and he took us towards the pyramids. There we hired a Tonga or a horse carriage to take us around. Though a little expensive, it was really useful and fun… The Tonga took us to the entrance and we got down and bought the ticket and entered through the so called security check. To the other side, the Tonga was waiting for us and we climbed in again. Our guide was the horse man and his English was not very clear. However, we tried hard and understood as much as possible. A thorough look at the info providing websites is utmost necessary anyway. We were first driven past the biggest pyramid, that of the King. It is called the great pyramid from what I could collect. It was open with an entrance to look into the tomb. From what I could understand from what the guide explained to us in his English was that the pyramids were actually tombs built to bury the dead bodies of the Kings, Queens, ministers and other in the royal family and King’s courts. There are a total of 96 pyramids in Egypt alone, 6 here at Giza and the remaining over 20 km away from there. The 6 at Giza are 3 big ones of the King, Queen and the minister and 3 small ones, no idea of whose these were. It took nearly 30 years for the pyramids to be built. There are 2 different kinds of stones used, one is granite, the others name starts with A, unheard by me and I was unable to catch it then. These heavy stones were brought in all the way from Luxor. It took 10 years to bring the stones, 10 to cut them into blocks and 10 to assemble to build the gigantic pyramids. The second pyramid though looked bigger than the 1st one (the reason I shall mention later) was polished at the tip on top. It is said that one Mohd. Ali did something to bring out that look and so it held his masjid inside. Now the 1st pyramid is 166 m high, where as the 2nd one is only 148 m and the reason why the 2nd looks bigger than the 1st one. We drove past the 3rd pyramid, which actually had the 3 small pyramids before it, into the Sahara desert, the greatest desert in the world. As we were busy clicking the biggest desert, we were told to turn around and have a look by our guide. And wow!!! We could see all the pyramids together, a breathtaking view!! After a photo session we rode back to the 3rd pyramid and the 3 pyramids before that. There was another guide there who took us around and showed us a few interesting things. We climbed the pyramids and then alighted. It was exciting, though it was not till the tip. To the right of this pyramid we saw, the remains of what we were told were the funeral temples built for burying all those who died during the construction of the pyramids, while working on the field. We had a look round this place and were shown where actually and how the mummies were buried and an account of innumerable jewels and other things removed from there. These pyramids were built 5000 years ago. And the architectural promise is just so amazing.

After this short but informative round, we rode back along the Pyramids saying a bye bye. But wait a minute! The Tonga was going down the lane in a different direction from where we had come and then we got to see the Sphinx. An architectural marvel!!

It is said that the excavation of the Sphinx revealed a whole story of a dynasty and gave historians a completely new direction of what actually prevailed 5000 years ago. Here we saw it had the body of a lion and the face of the Pharaoh.

After this we rode back to our car and said a thank you to the house and were driven to a perfume shop. There we had a look of the different essences they had and were given an overview of how perfume is made. Though not very informative, it was fun, especially because we got to try out the different scents. And by the time we got to the car, we had variably smelly hands.  We then drove to a papyrus showroom, where we were told about the making of paper and the paintings at display. The natural and ancient method of making paper seemed rather interesting and nice to know. The stem of the papyrus plant is peeled and cut into long pieces and soaked in water for 6 days to ensure the loss of sugar content. These long pieces are then stuck together horizontally and vertically and covered by two cotton/woolen sheets to help binding. They are kept under a hard box to ensure they stick. In ancient times, animal skins and stones were used respectively. After a polished denial to buy anything, we returned to the car and drove through Cairo to the Egyptian museum.

We were short of time and already half tired, so we just had a look around the museum, a whole single round took us a complete 1 hour!! A big and beautiful one, I agree, that it is a must visit on an Egyptian tour and if interested and patient, it may take 6 – 7 hours to go around the museum.

We got back to the car and were all set to get back to SES. As drove through Cairo, we were shocked at the evidently vast difference between Cairo and SES. Disorganized traffic, oldest of the car puffing their way through the busy roads, crowded and people living in half constructed or even just bricked, it all reminded us of our homeland and the striking similarity was evident by the flyovers constructed badly and to nowhere!!

But as we drove through, we saw the Nile River, the longest river in the world!! Wowww!

After a short drive along the longest river, we were out of Cairo on our way back to SES. It was day light and we could see what we were passing through. We first passed through a tunnel built under the Suez Canal. We then drove along the Suez Canal toward the Sinai Peninsula. It was a beautiful view, though we had no time to stop and see. We also drove past the memorial built for the soldiers who lost their lives during the 2nd world war. The tunnel ride was wonderful and exciting. The famous suez tunnel goes beneath the canal and it another man made marvel!The 1st time we also got to see some greenery and paddy fields of Egypt.

We then had to drive through the Sinai mountains to enter SES. This drive was excellent. High mountains on one side and the Suez Canal, later merging into the Red Sea on the other. As we drove through the Sinai mountains, we stopped at a mountain called the Moses Eye. It seems that there is a hot water spring below the mountain from where water is taken and this steam of the water and the sand of the mountain are used to cure various ailments like Rheumatism, Arthritis, etc We also drive in between the mountains and again caught the road with the sea on one hand and mountains on another.

As we neared SES, it was almost past 5 and we got to see the sunset. This is the first time that I have seen such a colorful sunset. To the right we had the sea where the sun was setting painting the sky in hues of bright orange and yellow. Underneath was a clearly blue clearly blue sea and above was a not yet dark blue sky turning gray. To the left, was the line of mountains painted in different colors of red, purple, pink, blue and brown!! Oh! So beautiful and breath taking!! My God!!

We reached SES by 6, exchanged the money to be paid to Albert, as we hadn’t planned the Cairo trip before, packed some food at Taj Mahal, an Indian restaurant at Sharm El Sheikh and got dropped at the airport 2 and a half hours before the flight scheduled time. We gulped the vegetable biryani, which was fantastic for Egyptian standards but palatable for Indian standards, checked in and boarded the Al Jazeera flight 513 to Kuwait and get back home… The icing on the cake, our flight arrived two hours before the scheduled time at Kuwait!!! We had traveled 1200 km and 729 miles in 24 hrs.

A never dreamt of trip, the memories that we will cherish forever, the pictures that I may spend hours explaining and showing Neehari, and a great beginning of the New Year…
This trip is my 1st trip in the new year, 1st after my wedding, 1st international trip, 1st time I went to another continent, 1st time he saw a wonder of the world and the 1st time I could sustain in the chilly, icy weather!!!

With so many 1st, this is our sweetest journey the memories of which will make the journey of our life also the sweetest…

Thank you Pavan and Thank you God

Om Namo Narayanaya

**

A few things that this 2 day experience taught me

1. If there is a will, there is a way
2. Time vs. money, time is important
3. Be patient, be firm
4. Never have two minds
5. Vegetarians can live anywhere in the world
6. For a good revision of Geography textbooks, Egypt excursions are a must
7. Amitabh Bachchan is world famous
8. The Israeli & Palestinian talks were on in SES all this while!!

3 comments:

Pavan said...

most memorable trip ever...

akhila.s said...

wooow!!! :)) can u post more pics

sushma said...

A very detailed one! All the best.

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