A Travellerspoint blog

Tanzania

Dar Es Salaam To Kilimanjaro

semi-overcast 22 °C

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I'm back from the dead! Been a good long while since my last post and trust me, a lot has happened since then. I'm gonna save the story for a future post so I keep things all chronological and what not, but I will say this: shit got very scary but all is well now and I am completely recovered after a week long stay + surgery in Nairobi Hospital. And now back to bloggin'!

We arrived in Tanzania's largest city, Dar Es Salaam ( around 3 million people), early morning after our midnight flight out of Cairo. I'm not sure what it was, perhaps crossing the equator, but we were extremely jet lagged and basically required 2 whole days to recover from a really lethargic state of body and mind.

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Picked up a few supplies in good ol' Duty Free...

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Chillin' in our eccentrically painted hotel room...

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View of the street from our balcony...

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Our hotel was nice enough and relatively cheap, and the city itself seemed okay... definitely different from anywhere we had been but overall lacking in character and things to do and see. Our second day in Dar we spent touring around the downtown area and made a stop at the cities main museum.

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The museum was pretty basic but did have a few interesting sights. I got a kick out of this one...

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That's Tanzania's first ever ATM machine which dates back all the way to 1997. Got me wondering about when Canada first got ATM's? What a pain travelling would have been before this wonderful technology was introduced.

A wooden bicycle... now that's creativity!

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Because of Tanzania's geographical location within Africa, a great portion of the country encompasses what is called The Great Rift Valley which is indeed a valley formed by the separation of two tectonic plates in the Earth's crust. Many and most of the oldest human fossils have been discovered here along with numerous ancient cave drawings. The cradle of human civilization.

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These are the oldest footprints to have ever been discovered...

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Primitive humans (I'm not sure how old but it's millions of years) walked over top of this volcanic ash just before the volcano erupted again, encasing and perfectly preserving these footprints until there discovery around 60 years ago.

The following day we were back to our old routine... yep more bus travel... just another 12 hours lol. But some very interesting scenery along the way.

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I got a kick out of this... still not sure what to make of it lol....

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Why couldn't we ride on the Ghadfi Express lol...

Our first taste of real African scenery...

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Our final destination which we reached early that evening was the scenic little city of Moshi, which sits right at the base of the legendary Mount Kilimanjaro (highest point in all of Africa at 19,341 ft or 5895m). For the most part the weather in Moshi was overcast... but luckily enough I was still able to get a glimpse of Kili in her entirety from our hotel rooftop our first day in town... epic.

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Because we didn't have the budget to climb the mountain (over $1000 per person and about 6 days of climbing up and down) we had to find other things to occupy ourselves with for a few days. Just chilling out in the local cafes was one of those things.

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Surprisingly Tanzania has the best beer by far out of anywhere else we've been. And there are about 5-6 different local brands. A big 500ml bottle costs you about $1 in the store and about $1.50 in a bar... now that fits our budget.

While we were touring around town we eventually found ourselves a decent little tour company and booked ourselves a half day tour to a small village at the base of Kilimanjaro. I can't remember the name of it off hand, but that morning we met up with our guide named Johnny, jumped on a dhalla-dhalla (jam packed mini bus) and headed out of Moshi.

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Our guide Johnny was fantastic and we both have nothing but great things to say about the guy. The hike was nothing intense but it was really fascinating to learn all about the local vegetation and fruit. We both couldn't believe how lush everything was and for some reason it reminded us both a lot of Maui.

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At the half way point of our tour we made a stop for lunch at a gigantic waterfall which is fed by snow/glacier run-off from the top of Kilimanjaro. If we weren't going to be climbing it I made damn sure that I took the opportunity to go swimming!

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Super cool experience but man was it cold!! Definitely had some shrinkage going on afterwards lol.

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After swimming and lunch we continued on...

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For the afternoon we made a stop at a local coffee and banana plantation where we got to learn the local process to make coffee. Here are the beans on the trees...

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When they're red they are ready to be picked, shelled and dried. They look like this after...

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At this point their still covered in a sheath like shell which has to be threshed and pounded off...

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Next comes the roasting...

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Which is then followed by more pounding or grinding...

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Next comes the brewing and finally the drinking (I think we're all aware how to accomplish these final steps lol). We did all this at our guide Johnny's friend's house. Apparently his family has been farming this land for more then 4 generations. They also had quite a lot of banana trees which are usually grown together with the coffee plants because their relationship is quite symbiotic (I believe it's because banana trees don't have deep roots which would in turn suck up too much water and kill off the coffee). We couldn't believe the size of the slugs or snails on the banana trees...

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The main farm house made mainly from clay/mud bricks...

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We saw these a lot on our journey...

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Johnny explained to us that they are for honey collection... you wouldn't catch me messin' with them African bees lol. Johnny said though that these ones aren't dangerous. After the coffee making we headed to a local distillery to try another local delicacy... banana beer.

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Definitely not my favourite but worth a try nonetheless. Made from bananas and millet. The millet is left on the top of the beer as head and it's honestly a pretty thick layer to penetrate through. The beer underneath isn't bad, but I wasn't a fan of the millet... to me it looked and tasted like chicken feed (don't ask me how I know what chicken feed tastes like... ask my Dad... I do recall trying it once on the farm lol).

After our banana beer pitstop we continued on hiking...

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But quickly made another pitstop at another local pub. This time to try local banana wine.

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Much better than the banana beer!! Another interesting quirk about Tanzania are these little gin bags everyone drinks...

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You can buy them literally everywhere and their dirt cheap. We chatted it up with the guy in the last pic while we drank our local banana wine and him his gin bag. Most people in Tanzania don't speak that much english as swahili is the main dialect.

Dhalla-dhalla ride back to Moshi... it's not common to pack as many as 20-25 people in these small vans...

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I love the Landcruiser trucks... too bad we can't get them back home...

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After our day excursion we decided that we really liked Moshi and it's surrounding area and figured why not stick around for another day. So we chatted with Johnny and we all agreed that we should just cut the tour company out of the equation (just an extra hand in our pocket) and inside just hire Johnny and spend the following day touring around Marangu. Marangu is another small village but at the gate of Mount Kilimanjaro Park (which also happens to be the starting point of the main route "most" people use to climb the mountain - The Marangu Route as it's called usually requires 4 days up and 2 days down, leaving lots of time to acclimatize to the altitude... I think the record ascent time is 19 hours).

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Us at the park gate...

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A porter carrying his load.

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It takes around 6 addition people for each climber (4 porters including a cook, 1 assistant guide and 1 guide). That may sound excessive but remember someone's got to carry all the food, propane, tents and sleeping gear etc. And also don't forget that if you succumb to altitude sickness someone's gotta carry your ass back down lol. Most of the porters only get paid $20 for the entire 6 day expedition... not a lot of $$ to hike 19,000 ft!

Check out the size of these grasshoppers in the park...

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A model of Mount Kilimanjaro at park headquarters.

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After spending some time watching climbers/porters prepare for their prospective climbs we again headed off to tour the surrounding area...

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I still can't get over all the fruit along our travels. By the end Johnny had us trained up pretty good and we could spot certain things based on the trees. No one minds your grazing either lol cause there is just so much fruit (Guavas, avocados, passion fruit, lemons, berries etc).

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Again the scenery that day was superb...

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When we got back to Marangu village itself, Johnny had arranged a special local dinner for us. Apparently there are multiple types of bananas (not just the sweet ones), so we got to try a kind that you fry and eat like a potato... which is pretty much what it tastes like.

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That last pic is of the main course which is called Nyama Choma (sliced bbq'd beef tenderloin - usually more tough than tender lol).

After lunch we made a pitstop at a set of Chunga caves (Chunga is a local Tanzanian tribe - most people around Marangu are Chunga including our guide Johnny) which were dug a few hundred years ago. After several years of intense drought, fighting broke out between the Chunga and the famous Masai tribe over grazing areas for their livestock (the Masai generally occupied the lowlands which were most affected by the drought). Since the Marangu area tends to remain rather lush year round due to its higher elevation, the Masai, who are renowned as great warriors, attempted to take over the Chunga lands and a war ensued. The Chunga dugs these tunnels/caves to hid their livestock and to ambush the Masai.

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After another very long day of touring we again retreated to a local pub to savour some more banana wine...

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Well folks that concludes our first week in Tanzania. Up next are stories and pics from our fantastic safari experience.... can't wait to share it with you so stay tuned!

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Posted by ttbwarren 08:15 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Cairo

Our Second Visit To The "Big Smoke"

sunny 42 °C

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Right now it's kinda hard to just pick up where I left off back in Egypt... it already seems like another world entirely. We're both absolutely just loving Tanzania!! What an amazing country! We both have nothing but great things to say about it so far and I can't wait to share our experiencse with you already. I'm happy to say that we'll both be offline for the next week as we will finally be going on our first SAFARI! So exciting! We get to go camping, hiking and wildlife watching in three different national parks and are pretty much guaranteed to see all the animals that we've dreamed about :) The last few days we've spent touring around Kilimanjaro and it's been fabulous.... I'll have to stop myself there... back to Egypt and Cairo...

After leaving Luxor we thought it would be a great if we could take in a little more scuba diving in the awe inspiring Red Sea, so we proceeded to go east to the small city of Safaga. Well not ALL things work out perfectly or go according to plan... the bus ride was twice as long as quoted and when we arrived in Safaga we quickly realized that it was hardly backpacker friendly. All the amenities were concentrated at the north end of town and all around the mega-resorts catering exclusively to eastern europeans. Upon discovering this we also discovered that there were almost zero budget accommodations and zero budget dive shops (it's not like we're anti-resort but when you go from paying $12-18 a night and are then expected to fork out $100-200 that's a pretty big jump! and the diving was ridiculously expensive and had to be booked ahead of time). In summary, Safaga was a huge flop and waste of our time (it doesn't sound that bad when you think 'oh well one location didn't work out', but understand that dealing with all this in the blazing heat with no outline/map in our guide book, in a city that speaks very little english, after stepping off a 7 hour bus ride with no A/C... not fun). To further make things worse the bus ride back to Cairo from Safaga took triple the amount of time that it was supposed to because the bus broke down three times!! Yep... 3 X's! Unreal. Should've took camels instead I think... would've been quicker lol.

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When we finally got to Cairo we were just relieved to be back in our old hotel in familiar surroundings (neighbourhood we knew how to navigate around on foot), with a big comfy bed and a warm shower.... and A/C! Because of our recent set back and misadventure we decided to spend the next day in New Cairo and pay a visit to the new City Stars Mega Mall and enjoy some lattes and shopping... whatever... don't judge me, I too have a posh soft side lol.

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You have NO idea how nice it is to get a REAL coffee... not Nescafe, not Turkish coffee, not sweet ass India coffee but real North American coffee (probably from South America of course lol)... how I miss our drip coffee machines back home! After some shopping and coffee we decided to enjoy a nice dinner in a fancy Egyptian restaurant...

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I figured if there was gonna be a place where I tried some new food it should be here... so I ordered the stuffed pigeon!

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Not much meat on 'em but it tasted great! Couldn't help but thinking though that the pigeon is basically the rat of the sky. If that's the case then I suppose rat would taste pretty good stuffed... stuffed rat... has a nice ring to it.

Our hotel was located in the downtown core and was quite an old building, but very clean with great staff and a great chill environment for backpackers!!

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Probably the friendliest, most pleasant staff we've ever had at a hostel (with the exception of Xingping China). Loved our stay here! Truly the oldest, most scary elevator of my life though!

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View of Cairo streets from the common area...

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And from our room...

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Because we had already spent several days in Cairo previously and had already taken in the "big sights" we decided to earmark the next day or two for shopping. Not mall shopping... this time we got back to our roots and hit the markets lol. The oldest market in Cairo, Khan El Khalili is massive and a great place to get a bargain... if you know how. Honestly it can be a completely intimidating experience if your not prepared for it (constant hassle, super high price quotes and a long drawn out bargaining process... not to mention a mass quantity of fake goods for sale). We knew what we were shopping for and had no problems finding it... first things first... get ourselves a shisha pipe!

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That's her... our new baby... on a plane home back to Canada as I write this. Too bad shisha tobacco is illegal back home... wtf??? We did end up getting to test her out for the inaugural smoke and it worked great, but that night we decided to celebrate our conquest by going to Cairo's oldest cafe which is in the heart Khan El Khalili...

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I've never been anywhere like it. I mean you sit there like in any cafe, drink coffee, smoke, but there's this constant traffic off people peddling their wears... and it's truly non-stop! One second someone is trying to sell you kleenex, the next it's socks or a watch or a wallet and on and on and on... very entertaining. If you can believe it (which I'm sure you can by now), we were so cheap that we actually planned to hit up Khalili for two days so we could max out our bargaining skills and hunt for the best possible deals (the shisha pipe was a steal of deal and the guys at our hostel couldn't even believe it). Always remember the key rules to bargaining: 1) Walk away at least once 2) Remember that they are never going to take a loss on something and I mean NEVER so as much as they bullshit you that this is "cost" it's NOT... EVER 3) If you finally agree on a price and they're mad... then you got a good deal lol -> this is possible for foreigners, even in Egypt.... it just takes a lot more time and patience. So like I said, we came back a second day... but first we made a pitstop at Islamic Cairo to tour the magnificent mosques...

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This next pic is of the Citadel which I believe was built by the great conqueror Saladin around the 11-1200's...

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Posing by all the election posters...

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Are you getting tired of seeing me in the same damn pink plaid shirt in every picture?? I am lol... if so send donations to my wardrobe foundation...

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Me fighting with another cab driver... I've honestly fought with these cocksuckers in 13 different countries lol... and in every single one they're cocksuckers lol.

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Probably some poor blokes rental car lol...

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Islamic Cairo was a pretty cool area. Very congested but full of life and culture.

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And the odd sheep...

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Now that's my kind of streetwalkin' prostitute... lol I had to throw in a Saskatchewan farmer joke sometime lol.

Back to the market...

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Since we had already bought our shisha pipe, this time we were on a different mission... Papyrus paintings. For those of you unaware Papyrus is a plant which is used to make a paper like material and was one of the first apparatus' used for scrolls and writing dating back as far as the 3rd millennium BC (I actually learnt about this in a University english class... what a waste of thousands of $$ lol). Anyways, there are many counterfeit methods of producing papyrus (mainly mixing with banana leaves), so we headed to a reputable shop listed on the net and in the Lonely Planet...

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Really amazing artwork and designs... spent a bit of cheese there... merry Xmas everyone... wink wink lol

After a busy day of sightseeing and shopping we tested out our pipe...

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Beauty... we also called home to assure a few worried mother's about the protest situation in Egypt! Man technology is great! Look who's in Cairo with us lol.

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Although things seemed pretty safe... I'll rephrase that... things were definitely boiling in Cairo but by this point we were fairly confident in our traveling abilities and using our six sense. However we were only 2 blocks away from Tahir square and the centre of the cultural revolution, so we passed through it with some frequency.

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So for our last night in Cairo we decided to take a walk around Garden City which is a fairly affluent area of the city and where a good chunk of the embassies are located. The neighbourhood is also stretched out along the Nile and offers up some pretty good views of the city.

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Probably the only car we'll be able to afford when we get home... it was actually filled with garbage too... extra buying incentive... bit of cash back at Sarcan lol...

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Like most big cities pollution is still ripe throughout... even in the pretty areas... what a shame.

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We didn't go swimming in the Nile this time around, but we saw lots of people enjoying the river near Tahir.

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July 26th bridge which leads into Tahir Square...

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Heading back into Tahir where numerous protests were going on... Mubarek's trail had just finished that day and he was sentenced to 25 years in jail. Many people were very upset as I think most of the nation was hoping for his execution. To be frank it was pretty exciting to be somewhere in the world where the history of a nation was and is being shaped.

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The Egyptian Museum right off of the square...

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Walking back to Midan Talaat Harb (our hotel's area downtown)...

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Our favourite cheap restaurant located right next to our hotel. Their meals would actually cost you $3-4 together... now that's cheap... and tasty!

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Well that's all I got. Cairo and Egypt on a whole were fantastic. One of the cheapest countries we've travelled to so far. Looking back and thinking about how many miles we travelled in a month, I'm impressed. Egypt was by far not the easiest country to travel, whether it be the heat, infrastructure or of course the millions of touts, but I'd have to say that it was one of the most rewarding countries as far as the sights we saw. It's still hard for me to wrap my mind around some of the things we did and saw... well worth all the headaches (and shit bus rides lol). Egypt was our last Arab country and I gotta say I'm gonna miss the culture (and the shisha lol). Completely unique as far as food, customs, climate and people. But it's time to move on... and I'll gladly trade the Muslim 4 am call to pray for the 5am lion's roar of the Serengeti!! Ya baby!!

Posted by ttbwarren 07:47 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Luxor

Temples, Tombs & Touts

sunny 45 °C

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We made it to Tanzania safe and sound, and I am happy to be writing our first blog post here. Our flight went okay (not a great sleep) and we arrived in Dar Es Salaam at around 7 am local time. For some odd reason we were both extremely jet lagged and ended up sleeping almost our whole first day here. Even today we were both still feeling the effects (maybe this is from crossing the equator??) but managed anyways to take in a few sights around the city. Very excited about travelling here so I'll just leave it at that.

We arrived in Luxor after one crazy train ride (still can't believe we were basically like family with this wedding party) and were quickly approached by several touts all hassling us to stay in their hotels (touts rake in hefty commissions). Even though we had a hotel already picked we decided to venture with one guy and take a look at his establishment because according to him it had everything we would want in a hotel. After travelling in Egypt already for 3 weeks we had gotten pretty used to the harassment but sometimes it can be beneficial as you tend to be able to wheel up some decent deals from these yahoos. So for $18 a night we got a wonderful hotel room, swimming pool, rooftop patio, and breakfast buffet... not to shabby. The only downfall is that your subjected to sales pitch after sales pitch on the way there for tours, taxis, sightseeing, bookings, drugs etc etc... everything is for sale... but in order to get the good hotel deal you play along and say maybe, or maybe later to everything until your all booked in and squared away. All in all it worked out and we didn't have to buy shit lol.

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We quickly celebrated our conquest with shisha and a dip in the pool...

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If you've never travelled to southern Egypt I'll sum it up for you with one word: HOT

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Don't get me wrong, the rest of Egypt was always hot but in both Aswan and Luxor I've never experienced anything like it. Going from your A/C room to outside felt like you were stepping into an oven. That picture and the temps listed doesn't even sum it up properly because I know it was hotter then that. Now remember this fact when you view the pictures below. Most of our days in Luxor were not really that sunny (thank God for that), but there was rarely a breeze and by mid-day the heat was almost unbearable. For us young folk it was doable but NOT enjoyable. I mean your trying to take your time at these amazing monumental sites and your just dying from the heat. Your sweaty, thirsty, tired and then to boot your constantly being bombarded by touts, or guys trying to lead you this way and that demanding "backsheesh, backsheesh" (tips)... completely draining... but still well worth it.

Luxor itself is divided in two by the Nile River and therefore there is the East and West Bank. The West Bank is where the bulk of the ancient temples, tombs and ruins lie, while the East Bank is home to a few major temples and the proper city of Luxor. You can stay on either side of the Nile and then just use the ferries to cross back and forth. We stayed in proper Luxor on the East Bank and decided for our first day to hit up its sights: Karnak and Luxor Temple.

Our first stop was Karnak which is a vast open-air museum and the largest ancient religious site in the world. It is believed to be the second most visited historical site in Egypt, second only to the Giza Pyramids near Cairo. It is an absolutely massive complex (not sure of the square area). Just outside it is a small museum highlighting it's rediscovery and restoration.

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A small diesel train used by archeologists during its restoration work. After leaving the museum you quickly gain perspective of the shear size of Karnak.

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About a quarter of the way into the complex you reach what is called the great Hypostyle Hall which contains 134 massive columns, 12 of which are 21 metres tall! How the hell did they erect these things??

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You can tell that a lot of restoration work went into piecing the complex back together. It is kind of disappointing to realize that it was almost completely rebuilt (like most ancient sites we've seen) but you quickly realize that without restoration work all you would be staring at is a massive pile of stone (we saw pre-restoration pictures). I can't imagine having to work in that heat!!

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Above: One of the few massive obelisks.

Building of the massive complex was undertaken by numerous pharaohs which lead to Karnak's massive size. Trust me, there was way too much to take in all at once, especially in the sweltering heat.

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We had spent almost 2 hours exploring the many temples and halls of Karnak until we just couldn't take anymore of the heat. We hopped in a cab and proceeded to downtown where we found a McDonalds so we could enjoy massive drinks with of course ICE (which is still almost impossible to find in Egypt... even the most cold drink you can find without ice is warm within minutes lol). Conveniently located in front of McDicks is Luxor Temple...

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Because of the steep admission fees into most of these sites (we were denied student cards in Cairo due to our age lol) we opted not to enter Luxor Temple as you can see most of everything just walking around it's perimeter (it is in the centre of Luxor). But we came back at night to view it again during sunset.

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Don't even think for a minute that we weren't harassed the entire time by touts... "taxi... taxi sir?... want take ride in carriage?... cheap price... want a guide mister?... this your wife?... very lucky man... where you from?..." lol and on and on and on it goes. Here's us at the Avenue Of The Sphinx's which starts at Luxor temple and continues on for 3km to Karnak. They only recently discovered it and are still in the process of tearing down buildings to excavate it in its entirety.

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More of Luxor Temple at sundown...

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So the plan was to spend around 3 days or so in Luxor, of which 2 would be spent across the Nile in the West Bank. So on day two we boarded a ferry and headed across the Nile.

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Pretty much after that picture was taken a man sat down beside me and began his sales pitch for his taxi services or some bullshit across the river. This mind you while I was mid-conversation with Stacey about our game plan for the day. Look, at some point enough is enough, so I turned to him and said "listen man, I just sat down. I'm having a conversation with my wife which you just rudely interrupted. This boat ride is gonna take 15 minutes and I'll be damned if it's gonna be spent listening to you. Now I'm gonna sit here, enjoy the view and your gonna piss off. Because you interrupted me I WILL NOT under any circumstance use your services so you can stop wasting both our time" LOL. Not even kidding... at times enough is enough. I wasn't gonna let it ruin our day though. Remember this harassment is just the beginning... we hadn't even crossed the river yet lol.

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Above: Jumped in a truck taxi while running away from taxi touts at the ferry dock.

First stop of the day: The Colossus Of Memnon

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The twin statues depict Amenhotep III (14th century BC) in a seated position, his hands resting on his knees and his gaze facing eastwards towards the river. The statues are made from blocks of quartzite sandstone which was quarried at el-Gabal el-Ahmar (near modern-day Cairo) and transported 675 km overland to Thebes (ancient Luxor). Unreal huh? These next pictures were nearly impossible to take as we were constantly heckled by several old men for backsheesh lol. We managed though. What... I wasn't gonna let the only free site of the day cost something. Not this backpacking couple anyways... find yourself another bloke to hassle buddy lol.

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After Memnon we hopped back in our truck cab (cheap rate lol), made a quick detour at the main ticket office where we bought two separate tickets, and then set off to the Temple Of Ramses III.

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Just to give you an idea of it's size these next to pics are of me in the entrance...

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By far the highlight of our day! The structure was in great shape (probably due to restoration) and the hieroglyphs on the walls were unbelievable!

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Did You Know: that the mysterious hieroglyphic code wasn't cracked until 1822 thanks to the discovery of the Rosetta Stone which was a inscribed decree written in Memphis in 196 BC. The reason for the great significance of the Rosetta Stone was not because of the decree itself but rather because the inscription was in hieroglyph as well as Demotic and Ancient Greek, allowing scholars to be able to finally crack the Egyptian code.

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Another taxi... gotta love these old crappy cars...

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The last stop of our day was to Ramesseum which is the memorial temple (or mortuary temple) of Pharaoh Ramesses II. This complex again is absolutely massive and only parts of it remain today. What's really interesting in the statue of Ramses II himself, which is the largest remaining colossal statue (except statues done in situ) in the world. It's estimated height is 21 to 28 meters and it would have weighed over 1000 tonnes. Again it is alleged that this great statue would have been transported via land over 300km's! Wow.

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Another amazing spectacle. The craziest thing was that we were the only two people there and had the whole temple to ourselves. Maybe we were the crazy ones because it was mid-day and it must have been 45 + C outside lol. Either way we enjoyed ourselves.

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Security and their AK's at the entrance...

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Cab ride back to the ferry...

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View from our hotel rooftop...

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For our final day in Luxor we went back to the West Bank and this time straight to the Valley Of The Kings which is a series of tombs dedicated to the late pharaohs of ancient Egypt. Admission to the area is quite steep considering that your only allowed to visit 3 tombs (most are closed for maintenance) and it's extra if you want to see certain tombs like King Tuts ($20 extra and all the grand treasures are at the Egyptian Museum is Cairo... which we already saw... how stupid). The shittiest part was that you weren't even allowed to take a camera with you. Oh well... got a shot of the valley itself though.

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To be honest after touring temples for the previous two days the Valley Of The Kings was fairly unimpressive. Of course I snuck my phone in with me BUT this time I was caught snapping pictures and had to fight with a guy to even get it back lol (it turned out he was a nobody claiming to be a somebody which we quickly figured out, called his bluff and just grabbed my phone back from him and ran off... Stacey was not impressed with me afterwards lol).

The final stop on our great Luxor tour was to the very picturesque Hatshepsut (or as the touts would joke "Hot Chicken Soup" lol hilarious).

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Again it appeared to be almost completely rebuilt. But it was beautiful. We actually met a lady in front of the temple and got her to take our picture (first pic of the blog). It was funny to see how frustrated she was by the touts (we weren't the only ones), and she actually left us as she was being harassed saying "make them just stop" lol.

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And that concludes our journey in Luxor. Overall an amazing place to visit and any trip to Egypt definitely warrants a stopover there. You gotta be able to handle the heat though. But once you get past that, and the touts of course lol (I mention them a lot I know... you have to experience it to believe it), it's absolutely stunning. I think we spent the perfect amount of time there although we would have liked to spend more and just relax in our great hotel, drinking beer and smoking shisha by the pool all day. You can never have enough beer, shisha and shade in Egypt! Stay hydrated guys!

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Posted by ttbwarren 11:42 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Aswan

The River Nile

sunny 47 °C

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Well this is it... our last day in Egypt. Tonight we board a plane and cross the equator again and land in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. We finally get winter... not really but technically it is winter in the southern hemisphere. Last time we were in the south hem. I forgot to check and see if water does swirl the opposite way down the drain lol. We're both pretty excited to get to see yet again another different part of the world. I know that technically Egypt is part of Africa, but it really doesn't seem that way. Africa is a pretty stereotyped continent and I, like much of you, tend to associate it with images of safaris and native tribesmen. I believe Tanzania will give us the experience that we are hoping for. I actually get goosebumps even thinking about getting to do a safari!! Surely our month in Tanzania will be epic...

From Cairo's main train station in Rameses, we took a night train (12-13 hours) south to Aswan. Instead of booking a sleeper train we decided to cheap out and only buy a 1st class seat ticket. The cabin was quite nice and properly air conditioned, BUT it still was not a very enjoyable sleep (I pretty much just stayed up and read all night). When we finally did arrive we were both very exhausted and not much in the mood to be searching for a hotel. But this is our life... moving from hotel to hotel to hotel. Not gonna lie it can be pretty exhausting, especially when the temperature is +45 C (I'm not kidding... our hottest day in Egypt was 48 C... I hated it lol). We decided to spend a little bit extra over our budget that day, but finding the right hotel took us over a hour in the midday heat. But we ended up finding a nice hotel with a nice room and even a pool.

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We honestly spent the rest of our day just relaxing (travelling can be exhausting... almost like a full time job with no pay... this blog doesn't pay worth a shit either lol but I guess you have to be a good writer to get paid... and travel). The heat more than anything is what's exhausting. At times it seems like we're travelling the hottest countries in the world only... God I miss Canadian weather.

After spending only one night in a "fancy" hotel we changed rooms to a budget place, but it still had a much better view.

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So Blair, why travel 12 hours south if all your gonna do is bitch about the heat? Well, the reason we travelled to Aswan was to use it as a jumping off point on the Nile River (obviously it flows north), and the plan was to take a felucca boat north for a few days to Luxor. Felucca boats are basically, as you will see, a small sail boat and there are hundreds if not thousands of them on the Nile. Hiring one and taking a ride is one of the "must do's" of travel in Egypt. The plan was to spend a fews days on one BUT because of the heat and the fact that you'd have to crap over the side of the boat (Stacey's slightly potty shy lol) we decided against a multi day trip (also had no one else to sail with) and instead opted for a half day tour.

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So we found a boat, a captain and some beers and set off on our inaugural Nile sailing experience...

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As you can see the scenery was amazing at Aswan as the Nile there has numerous islands (mainly Elephantine) that really add to the ambiance of the river. Plus the water was super cold and clean and perfectly fit to swim in... which we did very chance we got. There are at times risks of contracting parasites (they swim up your pee hole lol... not even joking) but because it was late spring the flow was fairly fast, making it safe to swim in.

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The felucca would get going pretty fast at times and there were even a few small rapids on the river.

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I was eyeing up these cliffs thinking about jumping...

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...but they were pretty high and I needed my cliff jumping buddy Shannon there to cheer me on lol.

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Our boat crew... Abdullah, Amore and Mahmoud (spelling?? I'm not very good at Arabic lol).

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Of course we timed it so that we could enjoy the sunset on the river... you see the best things in life are always free!

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We both had an amazing time on the felucca and after our experience we were both debating whether or not we should spend a few days on it heading north. In the end we opted not to, for the reasons stated above, and I think we made the right choice. That night we had dinner and enjoyed the view of the Nile from our hotel room.

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The following day we hopped on a day train and made the journey 4 hours north to Luxor (ancient Thebes and the heart of ancient Egypt). I wish I had more pictures but we ended up being seated on a train with an entire family who were heading north to Luxor for wedding. By far the craziest train ride of my life! Bongo drums, singing, dancing and chanting for the entire 4 hour trip.

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The girls didn't want us to take there picture but they did let us shoot there henna tattoos which they had just got for the wedding...

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This was the first time in Egypt where the girls were more interested in me then the guys in Stacey lol. It did feel slightly out of place. Sorry to dash your dreams ladies but this guy is taken... and he definitely wouldn't make much of a muslim husband lol.

That's it for now. They next Egypt post I write will be from Tanzania. Can't wait!! Next up Luxor... temples, ruins and tombs... good times.

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Posted by ttbwarren 09:36 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Pyramids Of Giza

The Great Pyramids & Tuts Treasures

sunny 42 °C

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After returning to Alexandria from Siwa and spending the night, we caught a quick 2 hour train south to Cairo. The plan was to then buy our onward ticket for the same day to Aswan (12+ hours south), a night train leaving that evening at 9pm. Well unfortunately tickets were all sold out for the next few days, so we had to think fast and quickly modify our plans. We figured that although being landlocked in Cairo for a couple of days was not ideal, it was by far not the worst place to be stuck as there is just loads to see in the Egyptian capital mega-city (20-25 million). So we bought our train tickets for the next available departure, jumped in a cab and headed for our hostel of choice.

First off let me just say that Cairo is a big, dirty city... but it's not all bad. At first however it can be quite the shock to the senses and the fumes and horns from the millions of cars are super overwhelming. And the TRAFFIC!!! My God I have never seen anything like it. Picture the worst rush hour you've ever experienced, times that by 100 and don't limit it to just a couple of hours.... the entire city is literally gridlocked 24 hours a day. Once again, traffic lights?? What are those? Crosswalks? Designated traffic lanes?? Dream on lol. A four lane road will honestly have 6 or 7 make-shift lanes of traffic weaving in and out with each other. I'm amazed that the system even works. We had a good laugh when we started looking at the sides of all the cars as each and every one has scrapes and dings all over. I'm not exaggerating either. Why anyone here would buy a new car is beyond me as it would be damaged immediately after leaving the lot lol. I think a better system would be if everyone just drove bumper cars.

Talaat Harb - the area/traffic circle near our hostel...

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We opted to stay in the old downtown area as that's where all the best hostels are located. Also located only 2 blocks away is Tahir Square where the Egyptian Revolution took place only a short year ago. At the time of our visit the first round of the Presidential Elections hadn't yet taken place so we decided to head down to Tahir and see what all the hype was about.

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Look at that traffic! Cars will literally triple or quadruple park each other on the street! Madness...

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(that's parked cars not traffic... I'd hate to be the guy parked on the inside who just had to run a quick errand lol...)

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Not much going on during our visit, mainly just a bunch of reporters and media there interviewing people about the upcoming election. We saw a few rallies and things and at night it would get pretty rowdy with whole streets being occupied by marching protestors or political supporters.

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A quick chicken shawarma for lunch.

So we only had really two days in Cairo before our train left, so we decided to knock off some big ticket items: The Great Pyramids Of Giza and The Egyptian Museum. We decided to hit the Pyramids first because we assumed it would be the more challenging of the two because of the heat and distance away from the downtown core. So we hopped on a local shuttle bus and headed out of Cairo.

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About a hour later we arrived in Giza. Right away the first thing you encounter is TOUTS!! We were well aware from reading and speaking with other travellers about how bad they were at the Pyramids, but I don't think that anyone could really mentally prepare themselves for it. One word to sum it up: unrelenting. As soon as your off the shuttle bus and still about 1km away from the entrance your being harassed by people using a variety of different tactics. The main one goes something like this: "Hello, how are you? Where are you from? Canada, very nice people. Welcome to Egypt. First time in Egypt? Going to the Pyramids my friend? The gate isn't that way, you have to come this way. Here I'll show you. Hello. Hello. Excuse me. Sir. It's this way not that way".... and on and on and on. The intro tactic is usually always the same as they will engage you in what seems like friendly chit chat. To the unseasoned travel this just seems like a nice friendly experience (oh the locals are so friendly lol) but TRUST ME... there is always an angle!! My tactic is usually to just ignore them completely. Then all you hear is "Hello. Where are you from? Hello? Hello? Excuse me. Excuse me sir." Lol no one in this world is that desperate for small talk! So straight off the bus we're being harassed and lied to. You see we had a good map and were well prepared as far as navigation went because we knew that the touts would be bad and trying to steer us in the wrong direction. We were honestly told no less than 5 times on the way to the gate that we were going the wrong way (even with the Pyramids in full view lol) and that the entrance was in another direction, in a obvious attempt to steer us near a souvenir shop or something. F@*king tout bastards!!

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On the way to the main gate (there are actually two gates) you walk past a golf course. I still can't believe that not a single person was golfing there. I quickly understood why though as the course was in just terrible shape and I'm sure extremely expensive. Still I couldn't help but wonder why this wouldn't be a world renowned course? Look at the view!!

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Getting our tickets...

Lol I honestly can't stress enough how bad the touts are there! Even after buying your tickets you have unofficial guys loitering around asking to see your ticket. Naively at first I whipped 'em out and showed him not even realizing he's a nobody. Then as he's holding on to them pretending to check them he starts trying to sell camel rides and other shit. Oh okay, I see... piss off (as I grab back the tickets). Once that debacle is over it's bombardment all over again. "Mr... Hello... you want camel... good price... hello... where are you from... buy postcard... good price... hello... want camel... how much you pay... your wife??.... lucky man... I give you 100 camels for her... hello... Mr".............. and on and on and on... BY FAR THE WORST TOUT EXPERIENCE OF THE TRIP. It is so unrelenting that it almost completely ruins your whole Pyramid experience. At most times you can't even carry on a normal conversation because your constantly being harassed. And not even just by the touts but also by the Egyptian men in general. I was going to touch on this later but now is as good as time as any... they are f@&king pigs!! I consider myself to be pretty fair and neutral but here I feel that I'm justified in this generalization based on our experience. Total pigs. Constantly staring, gesturing, gawking, commenting and even catcalling to Stacey... most times I'm right there. It's horrible and completely frustrating (more so for her than me lol). The whole situation just makes me sick because they never do it to Muslim women... just western women cause their all harlots and whores right? (this stereotype is somewhat prevalent based a lot on the media and certain tourists - some of the shit we've seen Russian women wear does a good job to support this stereotype lol). It's mostly young men (kids even) but lots of older men too. I don't have enough time to document every occasion of harassment but trust me, it's been really bad. Never in my life have so many men asked us if we were married lol. Even in a restaurant, the minute I leave to go to the bathroom the waiters will be over at our table subtly harassing Stacey (ya cause every western girl wants a waiter that lives in a mud hut and rides a camel... great game boys lol sorry if I sound harsh... as you can tell it frustrates me). Sometimes it really pisses me off and I have to remember quotes from our favourite book to remember to practice patience and understanding lol. Examples of these incidents include but are not limited to: grabbing at Stacey's chest or butt, dumb comments like "sex", "I love you" or much much worse, and also guys that are so embolden that they'll actually grab their crotch and make gestures..... remember I am present for all this. It's pretty hard to keep your cool (for both us) but you really don't have much other choice (you can't be getting in fist fights all day) which makes it that much worse. Oh well... the good and the bad.

Back to the good lol. The Great Pyramids! The last existing Ancient World Of The World. Being in their presence was pretty awe inspiring...

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The whole area is quite large and in the heat of the day (42-44 C) it can be pretty daunting hoofing it around because that sun is just so punishing. There are around 9 pyramids on the site (the biggest being Khufu or Cheops, followed by Khafre and Menkaure - the main 3 you see in all the pics) + outer ruins and tombs and also of course the Sphinx.

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It's rumoured that Napoleon Bonaparte is the one who broke off it's nose and it's is apparently on display in a museum in England. The Sphinx was pretty impressive but it really does pale in comparison to the size and might of the pyramids. It blows my mind at how big the stones used to construct them are...

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Different perspective...

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The second largest pyramid Khafre still even has some of its casing stone left on the top...

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Apparently that casing layer was around 5 ft thick and made of Tura white limestone. In all, it is estimated that 2.3 million limestone blocks were used in the construction of the largest pyramid, Cheops. 'They new how to build stuff right back then' lol... it's true... do you think our modern houses will still be standing in 4,500 years?

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Your still allowed to enter Cheops and tour the inner chambers but it's very expensive, no to mention extremely hot and claustrophobic. But we snuck up the side of Khafre and peaked down its now closed chamber.

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Look at the ancient garbage... they must have been a super advanced civilization lol. The entrance isn't that far up the side...

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It's too bad that they don't allow tourists to climb them anymore. That was actually the thing to do when European tourism first took off in Egypt. Cairo would've been a lot smaller back then. It can actually be quite a shock to people to realize that the city stretches all the way out to the pyramids.

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The site is pretty surreal and it sure leaves you with lots of questions, mainly 'how the hell did they build them?'

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For our last day in Cairo we decided to get cultured and go see the Egyptian Museum. We knew that it too was massive and packed full of all sorts of treasures, mummies and antiquities. The museum is located just outside Tahir Square.

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Passed by Cairo Tower on the way there which was the tallest building in Africa for years until it was surpassed by a tower in Johannesburg.

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Like in most museums you have to check your cameras at the entrance :( but not your phones :) There were tons of plained clothed security guards watching you though, but I still managed a couple of remarkable shots.

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Okay why I said 'remarkable shots'?? This is because the museum also contains the legendary treasure of King Tut. You'll know what I'm talking about when you see the famous 11kg solid gold mask...

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That's the crown jewel of the museum and I was dying to get a picture! Well as it turned out the an alarm had accidentally gone off, so the security guard watching the mask darted off, leaving me all alone to snap that shot! (this is a big no-no and I would have surely been kicked out if caught or worse)

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The treasures in the museum were absolutely stunning, but there was just SO much of it. Also you could tell that the museum really must lack funding because there was literally nothing to read about all the artifacts... and I mean nothing. You could hire a guide I suppose but who really knows if half of what he's telling you is just bullshit lol. Probably the coolest thing we saw were the mummies. Unbelievable how well preserved these ancient pharaohs and queens are! It cost us quite a bit extra to go and see them, and there was NO WAY I was snapping off pictures in there. They were creepy... just the detail in faces... wow... hair, skin, finger nails and all... they even had animal mummies...

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That first pic is of a dog and a monkey (supposedly good friends the caption said lol) and the second is of gigantic mummified crocodiles. Pretty unreal stuff.

Well thats all on our first stop in Cairo. I will be updating again very soon. Next stop, the southern Egyptian city of Aswan and the epic river Nile.

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Posted by ttbwarren 00:21 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

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