Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Egypt and the Nile

 Winter is an easy time to reflect on voyages taken, recent and distant. The cold settles us into quieter occupations than ambling. Well, some of us anyway. I am not a skier or snowshoer but do like to get out a bit. The snow keeps the landscape distracting from the chill. I took my daughter to Egypt.

 What an expedition it was! My daughter and I long dreamed of going so finally we just did. Waiting for the perfect time, the safest time, the holiday time is not an option anymore. One must seize the day.

We chose Egyptair as it was direct. Probably not something I would do again. It is a long flight with relatively poor service. I would have been happier doing an overnight or couple of days at a layover point on a better airline. Live and learn.

I chose to go with a tour agency- Audley, connected with Emeco in Egypt, a rare event but recommended for places which may have very different customs and attributes. I was glad I did. They brought the car and said go here, meet this guide, see the history. Did we ever!

Egypt is a complex country. We think of it as being it’s history, but it is also very present. There are 22 million people in Cairo, part of which is modern and recognizable, Skyscrapers, offices and architecture and part of which is houses of clay bricks, donkey carts and neighborhood stores. They coexist comfortably side by side with the craziest traffic I have ever seen, anywhere in the world. So glad I wasn’t driving. I don’t recommend renting a car in Egypt. Just. Don’t. Do it. From the city, in the distance you can see the pyramids of Giza, 2500BC so  5000 years old. It’s all here, the new the old, the always, the ancient. Mosques for Islam and churches for Coptic Christians. Between neighborhoods are plots of farming. Tumbled houses, folks on foot and plenty of dogs and cats.

I always felt safe. In every hotel, museum, historical spot there are security scanners and police presence. I felt welcome and was always treated politely- everywhere -for the entire trip. There were not a lot of American tourists. I believe we are a gullible bunch to media stories. There seemed to be a lot of Spanish speakers and lots of Asians but each stop seemed to have a wide variety of global representatives.
But I chiefly came for the history. In Cairo we had a fabulous guide, Abeer, a woman in a man-guide world. She was knowledgeable and open, very clear and willing to answer any questions. We found out about ancient life as well as family life in current times. Not too different issues in modern homes and family relationships, accenting the commonality of people anywhere. The first couple days we just tried
to wrap our heads around the history and the scale of production, in quantity and size. She showed us the Giza pyramids, sent us off on camels, took us to ancient Memphis, the Museum of the History of Civilization and introduced us to the most delicious food that locals eat. Thanks to our driver, Mohammed as well for knowing little places to go for food treats and making us feel welcome. Cairo was a bustling crowded city.

The center slice of the trip was on the river cruise on the Nile which is an extremely popular way to see this portion of the world. We are told that there are currently over 300 river boats that tourists can take going up the Nile (which is actually traveling

South). Most of the time you don’t feel the quantity of boats. They are not running at the same time. When you dock you sometimes walk through the boat next door to get to the shore. But we were with  pleasant international group of visitors so it was a minor inconvenience. What are you going to do? Our guide for this segment was Hani. A gentleman from Luxor who also was knowledgeable and looked after everyone in the group. With him we saw the Temples of Luxor, The Valley of the Kings and
Queens, Hatshepsut’s tomb, Aswan, Philae, Kom Ombu. It was spectacular. Paint that was 3000+ years old, some graffiti from travelers in the 1800's, foundations of pharoahs that were eradicated, the importance of the system clearly made these monuments last. It was awesome. That is an often used word that doesn’t impart the real awe you feel looking at these iconic achievements. I will let the pictures speak for me.  This is a very small portion. Keep in mind that all the paint is the original paint, yes, 3000+ years old.

The cruise ended in Aswan where we drove across the desert for 3 hours to Abu Simbel. We stayed at a charming “Nubian” Hotel- the Eskaleh Chez Fikri. Again, super hospitality, clean, good food and pleasant location on a cove of Lake Nassar which was frequented by many birds. The staff was attentive and the rooms well enough appointed, although simple.

Our guide picked us up in the evening for a Sound and Light show at the tomb of Ramses ll and his favorite wife, Nefertari. It was well done, a little hokey but also pretty awesome to see at night all lit up. The highlight, however was at sunrise the next morning when we were taken back to see sunrise on the tomb and go inside to view the spectacle. With so few visitors there it was really a special place and you could feel the reverence for this king gone over 3000 years before. What an achievement! Quite moving actually.

For a fascinating look at the history of moving this huge monument check out this documentary

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Did you hear that?

 When I was contemplating putting this trip together I had a lot of songs going through my head. While driving I would listen to music or an app called Autio or HearHere. It was begun by Kevin Costner of all people and connects via GPS to tell you historical, geological, curious facts of the area you are driving through. One of the most memorable was near Lincoln New Mexico. That's Billy the Kid land. This section of the country is preserved (luckily) so as you drive, and listen to the wild west stories you can practically see the outlaws come out of the woods. Anyway, I digress. 

In no particular order-

Picking up on some songs I thought I would check the places out- 

All come to look for America....It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw....(Paul Simon). I stopped in Saginaw Michigan and it was a disappointment. It could have been anywhere USA. There was a small historic downtown- very small. We staying in a hotel, for some reason I can't remember. ANyway, forgettable. I could see why he wanted to leave. Sorry, Saginaw. No pictures from here- nope.

Tucumcari, AZ- Well, I've been from Tucson to Tucumcari....- a Little Feat song, probably others

have done it. It was along Route 66 which is off and on amusing in itself. I stayed in an RV park because there was not much else. It had a lot of cats, much to Gina's delight and I got laundry done. BUT- besides the main street of town being funky Western Americana there was a super Mexican restaurant (Gina stayed in the car) I felt a bit out of place. It was a locals spot. Everyone knew the waitress but I had a Tacos Carbon that was the best Mex meal EVER. So Tucumcari has a soft spot in my heart.

Luchenbach, TX- Every time I think of Luchenbach there is a song attached. Let's go to Luchenbach, Texas, Waylon and Willie and the boys...- Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. In my Texas rambling chapter with BFF Molly Tew we had the opportunity to go to Luchenbach. I expected a little Texas town but turns out it is solely a music venue with a colorful history. There are a couple stages in wooded groves, a small camping area, dance hall, big parking lot and a couple of friendly souvenir shops- that's it. Super charming though and very
good vibes. It was one of my favorite pauses.

Somewhere near Salinas, Lord I let him slip away, he's looking for his home and I hope he finds it....- Me and Bobby McGhee -Janis Joplin version. So I went to

Salinas after visiting cousins in Napa. What I didn't realize at the time is that Salinas is also the homeplace of John Steinbeck (Travels with Charley, Grapes of Wrath, etc). It is a 50/50 town, 50 percent interesting, 50% industrial and dreary. I found the main drag which was all about Steinbeck but staying there in a sleezy little hotel that would take dogs was not particularly fun. It was rainy, rainy, rainy so that may have affected my mood. Probably spring is better.

Rollin', rollin', rollin' on the River- Tina Turner. Hannibal Missouri. The birthplace and stage setting for Mark Twain. I thought I would come into this terrific little American town

and stroll around, looking at the shops, drink coffee with the literati. Another hope dashed. It is a town that sadly has seen it's heyday. I felt like the town council is really letting these folks down. There are terrific houses, old architecture from a riverboat heyday.  Most are in serious states of disrepair. There were token nods to Twain/Samuel Clemens but, sigh. So we took a "steamboat" ride on the Mississippi River. Gina seemed to like it just fine although there was nothing to chase she was nonplussed about the rumble of the engines. I did cover her ears for the departure toots!

Hey, Mr. Spaceman, won't you please take me along, I won't do anything wrong-

The Byrds. It's not the reason I went to Roswell but it kept running through my head there. Roswell is highly amusing. They are capitalizing on their space "experience" and it is thriving. The tourist center has a selfie op and all through town there were space memorabilia, museums, statues and such. Funny. We stayed at a campground outside of town and I was disappointed not to have ET visitors.

We did stand on the corner in Winslow Arizona- The Eagles/ Jackson Browne. It was amazing how lively the town was next to the town I stayed at the night before which seemed to be struggling as a truck pass by. I can only attribute it to the Frey/Browne song and the fact that some town council had the foresight to say, hey

people will come here to stand on the corner and see a girl in a flatbed Ford slowing down to take a look at me. so they made the corner, painted a mural and it is a destination. I heard folks talking and one guy had brought his family en route to Norfolk, VA. He was talking to a vet from CA, making friends. The power of music. Is your town faltering? Get a good songwriter.

I had playlists for road songs, blues, country, I tried to fit the surroundings. Listened to a few podcasts on the way home but music made the miles roll on.

Music makes everything roll on. Symphonies are especially nice in the majestic National Parks of Arches, Bryce and Zion.

Here are some more of those places-

The general store
Ready for a boat ride on the Mississippi


A Route 66 motel in Tucumcari


In reviewing the trip it still seems pretty awesome that I had the opportunity to do this for miles and miles. 13,387 miles to be sort of exact. What an amazing country we live in, so diverse, so beautiful. Now that I have been home for a couple of weeks I am thinking of where to go next. Who knows? At the moment I am researching to see what will work out best.
If you would like the trip as an overview, go to the beginning first- scroll down to October 15 when it all began and work your way up. SO many memories to cast back on! I went to 19 states, plus Canada. I stayed at 32 campsites, 18 hotels, 5 friendly houses (relatives and friends) 3 Airbnb's. Learned a lot of history via my Autio App. I crossed the
Chisholm Trail,
The Great Cattle Trail
The Continental Divide
the Erie Canal
saw Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Ontario
The Mississippi
The Ohio River, many other state rivers
Lake Meade, the Salton Sea
National parks, state parks, county parks, Canadian parks
went through many indigenous lands
went through Alien Country
saw the border wall
traveled Route 66
and so many more views, vignettes, experiences, contemplation...

Here are some more pictures that I just liked-

Sandhill Crane on the shore of Lake Michigan- Bay State Park

Gina enjoys fall colors in Battle Creek, Michigan

Gina gets a better view when riding on country roads

Route 66 runs through Pontiac, IL and has a museum

Bygone grandeur along the Mississippi

Mural in Cuba, MO along Route 66

Bryce Canyon was chilly and beautiful

Capitol Reef National Park, UT

Arches National Park is not just arches...

Winslow AZ was brought back to life through song.

The best taco in the world

The funky restaurant in Tucumcari that served the best taco in the world

Palo Duro Canyon in northern TX

A terrific sculpture in Oklahoma City about land grabs

My favorite park- Pomme de Terre, Missouri

There will be more......