11 April ’04 Sunday. Happy Easter! Our last day in Egypt. Breakfast at the hotel. Not much to write about, tried to find out if there was a coffee shop or restaurant close by. It appeared not so we had a coffee and roll at the hotel. We asked one of the staff about the Easter holiday but he insisted it was Christmas. Oh well! Then off to explore, there were at least three Christian churches nearby. We took some pictures as the architectures was really beautiful. Then we saw it, couldn’t believe or eyes. “A mall” It was open too, so in we went. It was 6 floors of everything and we had fun looking. Joel bought a nice shirt for $13. The prices are amazing. On the 6th floor was a coffee shop so we had some espresso. It was a cool place. Then we found an electronics store, Compu-me, It has everything but the prices here were high compared to the U. S. We will use the internet café later today. Looking up the street we saw some "Golden Arches"…so we decided to have a look. It was in fact mickey d’s. Joel ordered an Arabic Meal. Very good and only 16 ep.(about $2.60) We were starting to feel right at home. Went back to the hotel and unloaded Joel’s shirt and my purse and then headed out for Merryland. Merryland is a park some blocks away. It was wonderful, nice gardens and a amusement area with a man made lake. The fun seemed to be in the lake, as they have pedal boats shaped like swans, and flamingos. Lots of kiddie rides around the park and some good looking restaurants. We had a early dinner of shisk something, and a wonderful salad with fresh baked pita and hummus. It was fabulous. The waiter said it was chicken, but we know better. It was fun to watch all the families. Everyone dressed in their Easter best. Then back to the hotel to write some updates for the web site. Now off to the inter net café.
6am, out the door to check out, grab a taxi, and head off for the bus. The bus was a little late arriving, but after settling into our seats we looked back on one heck of a weeks stay in Sharm el Sheikh. This resort community is very high on our list of “PLACES TO GO”. You will have to give this one a go… Well the bus ride was a bus ride with the trip up the coast of the Sinai being very pleasant. The water, the desert, the mountains, are right there. As we neared Suez we noticed more and more large ships anchored and waiting their turn through the great Suez Canal. We got to a point were we where right at the canal and we went under it via a long tunnel. A short hour and a half later and we were in Cairo. Upon arrival at the bus station and the door of the bus opening, we were totally engaged by every taxi driver in Cairo wanting to get our attention. I left Louise on the bus for a minute and met the mass directly and tried to negotiate our best deal. We needed a hotel close to the Cairo airport and in “our budget”. Without having any idea of just were we where at that time, we hoped for the best. Well, some of it worked out and some didn’t. We paid TOO much for the hotel ($60US) but it is close to the airport. It cost us 10 Egyptian Pounds for the taxi ride ($1.80US). Meals in the hotel are too expensive and downright s- poor.
9 April ’04 Friday. As we walked out into breakfast this morning we found 2 large buses full of people waiting to check in to their rooms. Baggage was everywhere and the management decided that to keep everyone from getting out of hand that he must feed them all breakfast or face who knows what… I must say, the ladies that would go through the buffet line fill their plates!!!! They do come prepared, from their hand bag they pull out these plastic bags and fill them with bread and other food items. You never know when you might get hungry…. Well for us it was off in a taxi to our next hotel…The Cataract Beach Resort. Check in, change into our bathing suits, out the door to the beach, find a spot that will work for a day in the sun, order a lunch and hit the water. After 5pm we again change and head out to the “Board Walk” for a walk with the masses, the beautifully tanned and well dressed. After sunset it was really amazing on the board walk. It started out slow but by 9 the masses really arrived. The lights of the businesses, the dress of the people, sounds of the music, warmth of the night, the families (how did all the kids get out of school for all this?)….God it was GREAT!!!! Well we only had one night of this so we made a good one. In the morning...we have to be at the bus before 7am, and ready to head off on a 7 hour bus trip up the Sinai to Cairo.
8 April ’04 Thursday. Our climb really showed on us this morning. Our legs just didn’t want to take a step up or down ANY stairs, pure jelly!!! It was really tough. It was decided that possibly the best medicine was to get out and walk, so that’s what we did…. Louise’s step counter showed 23,300 steps. It all started with a trip to the “Old Market” in Sharm el Sheikh. A little “shopping” wont hurt? Well, as we left the hotel (our second since arriving) we had to head out for “The Stairs”. This is a “shortcut” to the market and it includes a series of 65 stairs (I counted them). Now for those who have been in Cabo San Lucas and walked the “streets” of the Pedregal know what stone stairs are like… uneven as they can possibly make them, then there are those were the stone step is completely gone leaving a hole to step in. Shopping our way through the morning we decided to have lunch at one of the many little restaurants around. While sitting there enjoying our beverage of choice a man walked down the stairs into this little restaurant swinging a basket full of smoking coals. He disappeared into the kitchen area for awhile and curiosity got us. It seems that this man goes from business to business every morning with his coals and incense to bring good luck and much business. Well, the waiter stopped him and he came over to our table, swung the coals all around our heads, set the basket to the table spreading hot ash coals over our clothes (and quickly brushing them off) bid us good luck (for a small pittance). I guess this is a good time to put in a little word about the CAT’S…. Cat’s are everywhere !!! Some are very cute and look in good health and then there is the other side. They pretty much stay to themselves and run off except when there is food around and then they just wait to see if there is a handout. Following lunch we slowly made our way back to the hotel for a little pool time and rest before going to Naama Bay to look for our 3rd hotel needed because we were being evicted after Thursday. It seems that Easter has become a “holiday” here for all to come to the beach resorts and smell the flowers (something like “Spring Break”). We needed one more night and felt lucky to find a room. It did cost us $80US but we were able to stay in town and it was a resort on the beach…NICE! Now a quick cab ride to the bus station to get our tickets for our trip back to Cairo on Saturday. As luck would have it, you can’t buy your tickets until the day prior. Well, a quick walk over to the “Old City” for a sea food dinner, back to “The Stairs”, around the corner and back for our last night in the Sunset Hotel which we had to be out by 10am.
7 April '04 Well yesterday was Mt Sinai. The guide book said you should be "reasonablly fit" to make the climb. Well we consider ourselves reasonably fit. No way. We almost died. We are so sore and we can hardly walk. There are 700 rock steps of all different sizes to reach the summit. That's after about 4 miles of steep ascent on a rocky camel trail. Then we took the 3,700 step decent that the monks used to use. It was hell.
The monk's used to do it on their knees saying a prayer on each step. It must have taken them a month !!!! We should have enough penance to last for a while. The tour started out at 10:00 at night a bus picked us up from our hotel. When we got to Dehab (some where up the coast) at the check point we were told we could not continue because our driver did not have a valid drivers license. Our guide was able to flag down another bus that would take us with them to St. Catherines Monastery. It was crowded but we made it. We started the climb about 3:00am and reached the top at 5:15 am. We had missed the sunrise by about 30 minutes. It was so beautiful to be there at this chapel and on top of Mt. Sinai... this small chapel, which is no longer in use, is to mark where Moses recieved the Ten Commandments. Once you reach the top, you just know that you've got to go down. We arrived back at the Monastery about 7:30am only to find the Monastery was closed and getting ready for Easter. OK, now let's get back on the bus and start our drive back... What no Bus? That's right our guide was trying to find us a bus. So feeling a mass take-over, he took us to a crummy restaurant for breakfast. At breakfast we were told there was a chance that the Monastery might open for an hour at 11:00am so that we could visit. The "English" wanted to forget it and return to Sharm El Sheik while the Italians wanted to chance the Monastery would open. Our bus finally arrived just in time to take us back to the monastery. So back we went. It was worth the wait and the fact that they did let us in. We couldn't go into the church but could peak through the door. We did see the burning bush where God spoke to Moses. It was healthy and green, though they say it doesn't recieve any water. Also, they still use the original well that Moses and his family used when they lived there 40 years before God spoke to him. Now we have a three hour ride back through the desert. Unfortunately, we also had to check out of our hotel as they were booked due to an Egyptian holiday. After checking out, we went over to the market to buy some snacks for our 7 hour bus ride back to Cairo. We'll be traveling up the Sinai, following the roadway that runs beside the Suez Canal. About 2/3 the way up the channel, we'll drive down into a long tunnel that runs from one side of the canal to the other and then onto Cairo...
3 & 4 April ’04. Saturday and Sunday. The “fast ferry” was to leave at 8am and according to the ticket package they wanted us there 2 hours early but, the person who sold us the ticket said 1 hour was plenty. As it was, we were the 2nd to arrive and REAL early. When the crowd started to come they seemed to arrive all at once. One thing we found was, as the crowd arrived, they all pushed to the front of the line...lesson learned. Let me tell you, we had heard that no one recognizes the formation of a line and that is a fact. You’ve got to learn to get right up there and set yourself for the position that you want and HOLD IT UNDER ALL COSTS !!!!
The ferry was actually quite large and handled cars as well in the crossing of the Red Sea. It was to last 90 minutes but because of the heavy seas that we encountered it was just a little over that. The inside was like getting into a Boeing 747 except the windows were about 2 feet wide and 10 feet high and was quite nice and comfy.
It was somewhat unexpected by me but, it was full. That would have been about 250-300 people. The music that seems to be played almost everywhere, including the ferry, is western pop and it’s also interesting that we hear “Christmas” music quite a lot. We met young man and his son from Keiv that was sitting in front of us. One of the things that Louise and I are doing is flying by our shoestrings on these ventures so we don’t normally have any idea were we might find ourselves staying the night. Well Sergai helped us make our decision in this case. After we went through the baggage and security check (for the second time) he came and found us. He was holding his ride for us just in case we might want to check out his hotel. Well, here we are….and it is quite nice and is costing us $50US a night including breakfast and taxes.
We will be here for 4 days at least. This afternoon we laid by the pool and headed out to the Sharm City Market this evening. This place (Sharm el Sheikh), reminds both of us of Cabo San Lucas in a lot of ways but quite honestly, Cabo would appreciate the comparison a lot. This is a very nice spot and I would recommend it to anyone who wanted to find a great vacation location and it just happens to have one of the finest snorkeling and diving spots in the world. Now I must get this in print….. every time you go out for a walk here in Egypt you’ve just got to remember…. The car has the right away and lo the pedestrian !!!! You’ve got cars on the road driving full out and no headlights !!! They do run with these little running lights and as they approach you on the road as you are crossing they start flashing their lights, honking their horn and it seems like they start aiming right for you as they step on the gas!!! It make’s it quite exciting for all. If your riding in a cab it doesn’t change for the pedestrian out there and it becomes a “white knuckle” ride for those of us in the cab. The vehicle rules the road!!! Now, when it comes to other vehicles on the road, well I’ll get to that later…it’s a good story on it’s own. Sunday, we jumped on a free bus to explore Naama Bay. Very picturesque with low rise hotels lining the beach area. Each hotel had their “Private Beach” but in between about every 3 private beach there was a public beach area.
Just about all you could see the full length of the beach was umbrellas with chaise lounge chairs everywhere. Lots of restaurants lined the “Promenade” which ran the whole length between the hotels and the beach. There is good snorkeling right off the beach and again the water is wonderful… It seems like the largest group of tourists comes here from Italy and Russia. We stand out with our “accent” every time we speak. I think that we have only been I.D.’d as Americans only twice. One thing for sure, we have always been greeted with a warm “welcome”…. we do feel welcome every time and in every way. This has been a great trip!!!!
In bed till just after 8am, leisure shower, taking time to exercise sore muscles and find an air conditioned restaurant for breakfast. Now I must admit, this is going to be a boring journal today but I’ve just got to do it anyway. We were told that “the” man at the internet café would be in this morning at 10am and he most likely could get us so that we can do our thing once more. He wasn’t there but, we were told he would be there tonight at 8pm (maybe…Egypt and Mexico have some things in common). We decided to walk down to the Marine Aquarium and pay a visit to the fish to see just how many we might recognize from yesterdays outing. Small but nice and it was air-conditioned. Today is a day of “High” humidity and guess what has just happened….IT RAINED !!!! They said it was the first time in 10 or more years that it has rained this time of year here in Hurghada. Glad we didn’t miss this one!!!! We spent a little time around the pool to enjoy the cool water there as well. It was 86 degrees and I’m sure the humidity was in the mid to high 90’s. We have to check out tonight because of the early departure of the boat in the morning. We would like to be there at the landing by 7am for a 8am departure. Hope for the best….
We signed up yesterday for a boat trip out to the islands for a day of snorkeling. The bus arrived about 8:30 and took us to this nice cruiser and off we went island hopping to visit the coral and fishes of the Red Sea. Again the first thing that strikes you is the brilliant Turquoise Blue of the water circling the islands and the mainland. Then as you get off shore into deep water the term “Deep Blue Water” really comes into play. It is FANTASTIC !!! We had prepared ourselves for the sun by applying a good liberal coverage of #30 sunscreen prior to leaving our hotel. It was surprising just how totally sunburned some of those people on board were prior to today. As it was, after a full day in the sun and snorkeling even with a “total coverage” we also found ourselves with a little too much sun. I feel a little touchy around my shoulders and top of my head…not too bad, but… Louise is just “hot” around those shoulders and back. We did see some beautiful coral and wonderful fish. The view through the water was magnificent and you could see long distances without any problems at all. Even jumping off the boat was a little disconcerting because you just couldn’t tell how deep the water level really was. As it turned out, I couldn’t reach the bottom on a free dive so it had to be somewhere over 25 feet were we left the boat. “Giftun Island”, which is a national park was a real treat to explore. After taking the boat right up to the beach we were able disembarked from a ladder to the sand. This was our own little “Paradise”, covered canopy areas for shade, a bar for all that you might want, and a loooonnnngggg white beach. We made the trip back in 45 minutes as the sun was going down and a nice cooling breeze cooled our bodily needs. As we were riding the bay, we came across a pod of dolphin. One more beautiful site for the day.
31 March ’04 Wednesday. Like we said when we arrived in Hurghada, this is going to be a week of just pool and beach time…..laid back with nothing planned. Today we had our usual breakfast (it comes with the room), scrambled eggs (or hard boiled), tomatoes (really red and fresh picked), hard roll, cheese slices (very thin), some meat slices (also very thin !!!), and “Nescafe” or tea. Then we hiked up to the neighboring 5 star hotel. They have a private beach that we kind of "borrowed" for the afternoon. The beautiful turquoise blue lagoon of the Red Sea, 2 small restaurants to serve your every need, and great lounge server (he was always right at your right hand). There is always a young man there to bring you a towel and mat for your chaise and a cold beer or Pepsi if needed. It turned out to be a whole day of just this and we really enjoyed every minute of it. In the evening we went to the internet café (I don’t know why they call it a “Café” because they don’t have any thing but 8 computers and nothing else to offer). Oh well, we’ll take it anywaywe can, but wish we could get our laptop configured to work with their network. We did find the ferry to Sharm El Sheikh, on the Sinai. We bought our tickets for Saturday morning. It will take 1 ½ hour for the crossing. It leaves at 8am so we will have a early start on Saturday.
We had decided to get up early for breakfast and get an early start at the beach. Well, we were up prior to 8am (not too bad), headed down to have our buffet breakfast (it comes with the room) and as we passed through the lobby we saw what seemed to be enough people to fill this hotel, all checking out…. Well, it seems that yes, they were all checking out and second, they got up earlier than we did and ate ALL the breakfast buffet. Even the hot water for coffee and tea was limited and that meant I had to skimp on my “Nescafe”(can you believe Nescafe?). Now to some of you, that just means that you jump into your car, go down the street a block or two and you will find a little coffee shop that will fill your caffeine needs. Well that’s not here…. we only had 20 minutes before our bus was to come and pick us up for the beach so we have learned to just sit back and enjoy what you have now because you it doesn’t do any good to fight it anyway and honestly, it’s still OK. The bus that picked us up was also picking up those that were going diving for the day. The beach that we were going to was set into a cove with a nice sand beach, sparkling clear, turquoise blue water and the dive depot. We found ourselves a great spot to call " with 2 lounges, a large umbrella for shade, and nothing but a full day of sun worshiping ahead. I have always heard that the Red Sea is the premier diving spot in the world and from what I saw today it just may be true. We enjoyed a water temp of about 80-82 degrees and the day temp was 85-90. The bus arrived in time for us to get back to the hotel, shower, change, and head off to dinner by 6:30. Another night of a (1) beer and peanuts and then off for some great shrimp….well, we volunteered to do this you know. I have had some problem getting the Internet Café’s networking system working with my computer so our up-loading has been sporadic and I apologize.