Thursday, August 20, 2009

And to luxor abu simbel and aswan we go...

Here I sit on my balcony at the Movenpick in Aswan overlooking the Nile and the hustling and bustling going on right across the river in town where life goes on for most Egyptians who live on few cents a day and depend on baksheesh.(Picture: Aren't I sexy?) What is baksheesh? That is the tip you pay these people to boost their income. For example, you use a bathroom in
the airport you pay 1LE baksheesh, you want toilet paper 1LE. Honestly, this is ridiculous, if they were paid a proper wage
then this would not be a problem. The way I see it is the rich egyptians who employ these people pay them the few cents and
then pawn them off to the travelers who they expect will cover the income gap with this baksheesh, ridiculous I say!I am trying to fight back against this baksheesh but it is not easy..more on that later.

Sadly, we check out at 1 from this beautiful(movenpick) place and head to the airport to catch our 330 flight back to our final destination - CAIRO. The movenpick hotel is located on an island which is serviced by the 24-hour movenpick ferry. The hotel cost $70/night but it is like a 4/5-star hotel(I can't tell nor know the difference). We get free breakfast buffet, a dinner buffet costs 100LE each, big water bottle 12LE each. There are also parfum shops that can make you anything scent youd like or a suit shop that will make a man or women the type of suit or dress they'd like. Also heard this song on MTV here which is amazing(Link:

I really do wish I walked more around Aswan but considering Tuesday and Wednesday nights were our only nights at a legitimate hotel we wanted to relax more and my lack of sleep finally helped me sleep better the last 2 nights.

Before I discuss Aswan let me step back a minute and discuss our little adventure in Luxor, after we got to our rooms at the Bob Marley we relaxed for a few got food and then passed out. There are no TVs or WiFi at this place because it is a simple hostel. Some people may be turned off by this but I loved it. The hospitality of the staff was amazing, soon as we came in they gave us Mango Juice which was amazing. The staff was just chill and the roof amazing. I passed out for a bit on their hammock and there were many other travelers who liked this place but onto what we did/did not do in Luxor.

So there are tons of sights in Luxor, they are: Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Colossus of Memnon, Hateshput temple, Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple.

We first headed to the Valley of the Kings where we saw 3 tombs which was great and if you wanted to see Tut's tomb it was an extra 100LE fee and didn't partake in that. After going to the Valley we were just dying of thirst, only if I listened to my own advice and brought water with me. No worries here I AM ALIVE and kicking after quenching my thirst. Another thing is inside the tomb photos are not allowed. I thought I would try to be sneaky and take photos until reality kicked in when as I was going in I saw a man and his wife/girlfriend's cameras confiscated inside the tomb. They are very strict about the no photography policy.

After the Valley we went to Hateshput temple where we stood outside and took photos, didn't think the fee was worth it or didn't think so because the tour guide said it wasn't, guess I will never truly know. After that we stopped by this Alabster place which the guide goes it is free but its such a stupid scam where they show you something in hopes of making you buy things at that point I said no and our tour guide got pissed at us.(so if your guide ever asks do you want to see alabster just say NO!) Then he goes why don't we take the boat across the nile and let our van come as itll take one hour to get back. We were like fine and paid 10LE and ended up at the Luxor temple when we wanted to go to the Karnak temple but whatever. The key to a successful trip is a good tour guide and this guy was horrible at best an asshole at worse. We did not tip him because of his bad service. Oh and as we were driving to the boat/pier we passed the Colossus of Memnon which looked cool but didn't think they were worth the stop.

By the time we were finished with all this it was about 12-1230 and our train was at 5 so we were like frack what do we do? Duh! Let's go back to the same restaurant we went to last night have a nice feast and get some free wifi to check our emails and stuff. We were there for a hour and half before we headed back to teh Bob Marley where we left our bags and went to the rooftop and passed out. We woke up around 4 headed to the train station only for our train to arrive at 550PM when the guy handling our tour told us the train will be there at 5. My god that wait was disgusting - so hot and humid and flies just loved us that we were covered in them. The train ride back to Aswan was uneventful but it wasn't as great of a first class
ride like it was to Luxor. Below I wrote down how much it costs to enter each of the sites we went to.

On Wednesday we had to get up a 2AM to make it across the river by 315AM to catch the 4AM convoy to abu simbel. There is no real military escort but a military person posted in the 1st bus and last bus of the convoy with lots and lots of checkpoints. Going through the desert that early in the morning is just a sight of its own. At 5AM on our way to Abu Simbel you can see millions of stars light up the sky and every now and then a shooting star which makes it a spectacular night time journey. You can take the 11am convoy, but why? And then at around 6-630 you see the sunrise in the desert which is just another amazing sight to see - it is totally mesmerizing. I want to note that when I was on this convoy I kind of do feel what the guys over in iraq and afghanistan must feel - that at any time a band of bandits or bombers might just come and kidnap you for ransom in the middle of the desert. Another reason there is a "military" convoy is because at 4am it is even worse to drive thru the road of Abu Simbel, for a period of few minutes we drove right thru a sandstorm which was pretty cool. I got to experience alot of deserty firsts and it feels great. The 4AM convoy gets into Abu Simbel around 7AM. That time is perfect because the sun has just risen and it is not hot yet. It felt like a good cool 80 degrees.(Also after the hatesphut temple killings in 1997 and the bombings of earlier this year it is good to have a "military escort".

Anyone that comes to Aswan and doesn't do the Abu Simbel tour is just crazy. Going to Abu Simbel has so far been a great highlight of my trip. Seeing those statues hundreds of feet high in the sky knowing this is what the Nubians(the african's south of egypt) saw when they first came to Egypt during the Phranoic times feels like I am a part of living history and it feels amazing. By 9-930AM it starts to get hot and lucky for us we were on our way back to Aswan because besides seeing the statues there is pretty much nothing else to do unless you dare trek further south to Sudan(gasp!).

The ride back to Aswan was uneventful as we got there by 1230, we went to our hotel, took a quick nap and then at 2pm were back across the river to see the high dam, unfinished obelisk and the phalean temple. At this point we got a tour guide named Rico who spoke great english, if you come to Aswan request HIM! He was great on giving us knowledge about each of these sites but also just general knowledge and tips about Egypt and Aswan. Much better guide than we had in Luxor and thus he deserved a good tip too. Now this is just funny, half the time people think I am egyptian and the other half they go Indian, NAMASTE! it is way too funny at the sites in luxor and aswan. I feel great looking egyptian so I don't get totally ripped off on buying things.

After the tour ended we went back to our room at 515 and took another catnap then went back across the river to take a sunset felucca ride, it was pretty cool ride but hate the fact that they try to sell necklaces and stuff, but i guess they need to make a living somehow. After the ride Essmat(our point of contact) took us to a shisha(hookah) place where the guys were doing shisha but lo and behold right across the street was a sugarcane joint - WOHOOOO!!! I ran across the street like a little boy would run after the ice cream man and just pointed to the sugarcane without saying a word. The cost was .75paistres. The guide told us locals pay .50 and tourists pay 1LE so I guess i am an in-between, fair enough for me for a good class of sugarcane juice.

Afte that we returned to our great movenpick where it costs 40LE to use the internet for 30minutes, what a rip-off but whatever. Anyhow this is where we got our delicious buffet for 100LE each and stuffed ourselves with such a ridiculous amount of dessert that we were on a dessert high and the staff looked at us in disbelief/awe. At one point the staff was scared of my brother because the amount of food he ate he just goes okay so take your time to eat..ahaha.

The next day(which is Thursday morning) we woke up at 10 and ran downstairs for our breakfast before heading back up and passing out for a bit to which I woke by starting this entry. This is where I say hahaha succkkaas in NY who started law school enjoy the work!! Anyhow at 1 we checked out finished paying the bill headed across the river and waited a bit before heading to the airport.

In between I went to the bank where I took out some cash and will be adding egyptian coins to my collection - yay! On my way back I had some pens in my pocket and I saw a little kid and gave him one and as soon as I gave him one he pointed to his friend who I gave one too also then out of nowhere I SEE this older kid who also asks me for one. I gave it to him and kept walking then he started hissing at me and calling to which I walked really fast even though I wasn't scared - I SWEAR I WASN'T! and walked back to my point of contact and driver.

Let me go back again to Baksheesh. I wanted to tip the people at the Bob Marley because of their superb hospitality and instead they go we do not accept tips our happiness if your smile and us providing good hospitality. So I said what I can do they said just enjoy it and you will get an email from hostelworld requesting a review and you just write whatever you want good or bad, I wrote only good things. But my hospitality came when I gave them 15 pens. And I know they truly appreciated them. You may ask how? Because they checked to make sure the pens actually worked. I feel like I did a bit of my work as an
humanitarian and it feels good to give back and just goes to show that things other than money CAN and WILL make people happy!

Anyway, the airport is 20-30minutes from the city and is a nice drive. On our drive Essmat brought us some dates as a gift and we headed to the airport. As we got there these guys came at us and took our bags. We had to tip them 20LE for carrying our bags when we were just as capable of carrying our bags. Out of the trip so far this part of the baksheesh for carrying our bags really really pissed me off. I was going to flip but kept my calm.
Another thing is that airport security is ridiculous with flaws. For example: To enter the airport in aswan you need to show yoru ticket and passport if you cannot then you cannot enter the airport. Then you go thru security before you can check-in to the airport. Once you check-in you go to your gate where there is a sign that liquids arent permitted, but guess what? It is definitely not enforced because when you go to the gate you go thru another security system. So security within security which is just a false sense of security in reality and really irritated at me when you had to show a ticket to just enter the airport. I mean let me show my American passport, seriously? Anyhowt the flight back to Cairo was uneventful as I had a whole row to myself and just passed out. The flight to cairo was good as the one to aswan was very scary cause of all the
turbulence but geez looking out the window the amount of pollution is pure ridiculousness. Once we landed in Cairo we had to wait 1hr just to get our bag and we were the only flight that came in in the domestic terminal. Sometimes the system is so inefficiently slow that it makes me mad but then I also like it because it is the old world egyptian/east asian way of doing things, slowly and with lots and lots of patience. At one point my brother joked maybe our bags aren't coming back the baksheesh hasn't been paid.

Back in Cairo on our way to Juliana via car was fun. Driving in Cairo is not for the faint of heart, driving in Cairo is like driving in Bombay and definitelty worse than NYC, only in places like this can 1 lane turn into 3 random lanes.

After getting into our place for the weekend we ordered some pizza hut where for the amount of food we received we paid only $5 per person, SO SO CHEAP. One thing I did notice is that Subway prices are universal they will be on par with US prices or more expensive. After dinner we walked around a bit(video here:[Will post video later as it is tooo big to upload here] picture here: picture is from garden city across the river, and that big phallic looking thing is the cairo tower) and headed to the galleria mall and hyatt hotel where if you are not a hotel guess each person must run a tab of 95LE and 1 toothbrush costs $5USD(so expensive!) before calling it a night. Tomorrow will be a great long day. I still need to buy my gifts and send some postcards out and see the grand finale we are all anticipating - the Giza Pyramids! Oh i forgot to put the prices, i will find the paper and post my calculations in my next post but the total spent on entrance fees per person so
far has been $60USD and tips so far spent has been about $100USD.

Hope ya'll enjoyed the pictures and videos!

Till next time!

Nilay, Under Construction

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