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The rarely updated blog of Joel Dixon

Viewing blogs tagged Nile Cruise

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Nile Cruise, Egypt - 2012

# Posted by Joel Dixon at 18/11/2012 23:25:57

Throughout my time in Europe I've certainly had some unique experiences. I've spent time in places that cannot understand any English, driven roads seemingly designed to cause confusion and interacted with people from all walks of life (including sitting next to a girl on the Cairo airport transfer bus that recognised me from high school). None of this adequately prepared me for the experience of landing in Aswan, Egypt - for the beginning of a river cruise up the Nile to Luxor.

For a start, it is complete desert out there - with nothing on the horizon. Catching the Metro or heading to the taxi rank was not an option at the Aswan airport, we could only waltz over to the group of locals offering a ride into town. In Egypt I was joined again by Paola - and it was comforting to have a second opinion when deciding whether or not the helpful local was planning on robbing and murdering us or hopefully just playfully ripping us off. We made the right choice at this time and had an enjoyable drive towards Aswan centre, constantly reminding ourselves that we were in Egypt and the crazy scenery was probably normal around here.

I assume this is the local DFO

The hotel had a best exotic vibe about it, but was nice (and with an impressive view of the Nile). We went for a quick walk and was again smacked in the face by the strange sights - but also comforted by an occasional familiarity (such as a Vodafone logo and movie poster with hammy actors). We needed to eat - so I added the continent of Africa to the locations that I have enjoyed a McDonald's meal (joining the likes of Australia, North America, Asia and Europe). I probably shouldn't have been - but again I was surprised at how McDonald's can taste exactly the same no matter where it is produced (presumably with locally sourced ingredients).

Ok, so from the poster I can gather that this movie is incredibly high quality. A man with a penchant for pink shirts and pin-stripe vests is surprised when he meets a thick-necked and straggly-haired woman. The rest of his family, including his poor disabled daughter that was born without a palm on her left hand (the fingers connect directly to the wrist), are understandably scared of this. His uncle just wants someone to hi-five him (and has trouble keeping his eyes open when getting his photo taken). Hijinks are sure to ensue

Surprisingly they didn't offer a McPyramid salad or a 6-pack of Sphynx Nuggets

I knew there was a lot of interesting things to see in Egypt, but I also knew the country was full of hassles. I made the decision to book a cruise from Aswan to Luxor and organise a private guide for the pyramids and Alexandria because I didn't think I'd be have enough time to organise everything myself. I was a little worried that I would be disappointed by a cookie-cutter experience with this approach - but thankfully that wasn't the case and I had an amazing time without having to organise much at all. I also tasted some of the most delicious soups I have yet encountered.

The cruise ship was quite classy, the staff were fun and helpful, the other cruise participants were interesting and great to hang around with each day - but it was the soups that impressed me the most. Each day on the ship we had a different soup as part of the lunch and dinner buffet and I almost died a new death of satiation each time I tasted the liquid silver (silver was more precious than gold back in the days of Pharaohs - I thought I should stay on theme).

I wanted to take a photo of the soup so I wouldn't forget it in the years to come. Pfft - like there's any chance of that happening

The first day of the cruise we were taken to a few interesting sights such as the Unfinished Obelisk and Aswan's High Dam. I enjoyed the symbolism and stories behind each of the temples we visited - and started to recognise each crazy Egyptian God by sight. I have never had a great deal of interest in Egyptian history as a youngster, but after a few of the sites were explained to me (by our helpful guide) my enjoyment levels increased.

The first temple we were taken to - I now understand the Wu Tang Clan's logo

The next morning was a quite interesting experience - taking a felucca ride after saying no to the hundreds of offers we had heard in the last few days. It was a nice relaxing cruise around the Nile (unfortunately Ducky Poos was stuck back in the suitcase) with lovely scenery before our guide informed us of the incoming pirates. Two young boys (aged around 8 and 12) rowed up to our boat and started singing random songs hoping for a tip. The songs were amusing, as they would occasionally get the lyrics or melody correct - but never both at the same time. After the felucca ride we had some free time on the cruise ship while we headed up the Nile - and it was one of the nicest parts of the experience. Swimming around in the sun deck's pool or sunbathing on the chairs while watching the amazing and varied scenery was indescribable.

In the afternoon we took a horse-drawn carriage to one of the local markets which is a good point to discuss the reaction that Pao would get from the locals. As a young, attractive and tall Western woman Pao quickly drew the attention of the Egyptian males. Only very occasionally did this result in the kind of behaviour that I was expecting (kind of like the Naples response but without waiting for Pao to walk past). Far more frequently we would hear a "Lucky Man!" directed towards me. I suspected it was mainly a ploy to separate us from our money (we heard "You're a lucky man - I will give you discount!" a few times) until we heard the call from guys that weren't even outside of a shop touting. Later I thought I heard a shout of "Shakira, Shakira!" but assumed I imagined it until we also heard the same cry over and over. Sure they are both South American - but Pao is tall, brunette and Argentinian to Shakira's short, blonde and Columbian appearance - I guess all latinas look the same to an Egyptian.

That night on the cruise ship was designated to be "Party Night" - which was actually really fun. We were awed by a Tanoura dancer (YouTube it - amazing!), let down by a belly dancer, then played some games. I was selected to be turned into a mummy and I resisted my urge to complain about the lack of authenticity (I am pretty sure that toilet paper was not used during the original mummification process). All-in-all it was a great night and a good chance to get to know the others on our cruise better.

If you look really closely, you can see this is not a real mummy

The last full day on our cruise was spent exploring the tombs of Luxor. While most of the big name sights are in Luxor, including the tombs of Tutankhamun and Hatshepsut, this wasn't my favourite part of the cruise. The tombs were pretty basic and lost some of their interest with all of their treasures removed. Even so it was another fun day seeing ancient sights I never thought I would have the chance to see. We also walked through the Luxor market but days of withstanding locals trying to take my money had really put me on edge. Whenever someone starts talking you know there is a 90% chance that they are just after your money and it really gets tiring (causing me to not spending money on things I normally would have).

The temple of Hatshepsut, apparently pronounced "Hot Chicken Soup". I scoffed at this silly memory device - until I notice that even now I can recall the name quite easily (although it makes me hungry)

The room animals (apparently another couple on the cruise had a crocodile) that the cleaning staff were really cool - but again I couldn't help thinking that they were just looking out for the tip we needed to leave upon checkout

Before flying to Cairo we had a hot air balloon early in the morning. I have never had a desire to get onto a hot air balloon in the past - but when it was offered as an extra part of our cruise I figured I'd give it a go. It still wasn't the most enjoyable experience I have ever ... um ... enjoyed - but it was a heap of fun nonetheless. It was great seeing the sun rise over Egypt - but the best part of the experience was the landing. It was pretty clear that we were blown a little off course as we ended up landing in a banana field. Thankfully the Air Egypt flight wasn't similarly off course when we left the city of Luxor for Cairo later that night

For some reason this picture made me think of the Muppets just now - a quick google solved that mystery

This is the 31st in the EuroJoel - 2012 series
City 1 - Lisbon, Portugal - 2012City 2 - Porto, Portugal - 2012City 3 - Madrid and Toledo, Spain - 2012City 4 - Valencia, Spain - 2012City 5 - Barcelona, Spain - 2012City 6 - Naples, Italy - 2012City 7 - Rome and Vatican City, Italy - 2012City 8 - Florence and Pisa, Italy - 2012City 9 - Milan and Bologna, Italy - 2012City 10 - Venice, Italy - 2012City 11 - Prague, Czech Republic - 2012City 12 - Dresden, Germany - 2012City 13 - Berlin, Germany - 2012City 14 - Legoland, Denmark, 2012City 15 - Edinburgh, Scotland - 2012City 16 - Nice and Monte Carlo, France - 2012City 17 - Lyon, France - 2012City 18 - Dijon, France - 2012City 19 - Provins, France - 2012City 20 - Paris, France - 2012City 21 - Ireland - 2012City 22 - London, England - 2012City 23 - Killarney - Ireland, 2012City 24 - Amsterdam, Netherlands - 2012City 25 - Brussels and Bruges, Belgium - 2012City 26 - Warsaw, Poland - 2012City 27 - Krakow, Poland - 2012City 28 - Vienna, Austria - 2012City 29 - Budapest, Hungary - 2012City 30 - Bucharest, Romania - 2012City 31 - Nile Cruise, Egypt - 2012City 32 - Cairo, Egypt - 2012

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