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EGYPT TRIP AUG/SEPT 2009 - 10th Wedding Anniversary Holiday

Smooth journey into Gatwick only took an hour driver and car, very easy check-in.  Was surprised by the amount of security.  Sniffer dogs, shoes off twice.  Very strict on weight of luggage going out ,

 

 Had a lovely breakfast and time flowed nicely.  Saw Viv and Faye who were going to Sharm (Students).  Just started getting into the holiday spirit.  Really impressed with flight, with TV screens in seats in front of you with music, films and games, which were very entertainint, food quite good can see screens really well, even with my bad eyesight.

A bit of a delay coming into Luxor airport, and OTT with health mask on for swine flu!  Was a bit taken aback as everyone had to have there picture taken.  Before being allowed into Egypt.  Had to fill in two forms, luckily for us we did not have to Q for a visa as we had already got one.  But once outside all the form filling, cases were out very quickly and friendly transfer, only 6 of us in transfer coatch, Great and no children.  I think because the hotel we chose (Sofitel, Karnak) is just outside Luxor (10 mins) and you go there for the peaceful setting.  Very quick checking in at Hotel.  Wasso quiet. (off season). Beautiful reception, our room is looking out onto some wonderful gardens which surround the hotel, Only 2 floors to each block, and we are in RAMSES block, very clever idea with other ones called TUT, Nefertiti etc.  So lovely to hear the call the prayer again (except at 3.30AM in the mornings).  and already practicsed my Egyptian./Arabic.

Had our first meal, in the AMAZING Opet Restaurent, beautifully decorated in Egyptian blue, and lotus pillars, lovely selection of food, soup, salads, pasta, fish, chicken, beef, rice, 5 different types of breads, potatoes, 12 different deserts which were a work of art, and on many occasions on the  holiday I heard people exclaim 'wow' they look amazing and indeed they were, and wondefully no english music just Egyptian played while we had dinner and what do I hear but none other that SHIK SHAK SHOK. !! Brilliant.  Had a stroll around the gardens on first night.  We are really here.

1st Day.

 Breakfast brilliant - fantastic selection you can watch your pancakes being made.  Walked out to front of hotel, met Joseph (yes another one) the owner of the small supermarket, lovely man and cheap drinks etc. Taxi drivers are freindly and assured them we would be using there services, as cheaper and makes sure money goes direct to the locals.

The grounds of the hotel are FANTASTIC now we can see them in the daylight, beautiful , well kept gardens, well maintained, and I think this is looking like one of the best hotels I have ever stayed in.  Temperature - 9AM lovely from 10AM very hot.  But goes down pretty quickly from 3PM  - 6PM dark so probably not as much sun as other places in the world at this time of year.

Had 2 hours of sunbathing from 3PM, lovely breeze from the Nile.  But was dripping with sweat, must drink loads.

2nd Day

First trip , now we are fully refreshed and suitably covered from head to toe.  We caught the free boat taxi service into central Luxor took 45 mins.  Lovely very picturesque.  Took longer than I thought, compared to only 10 mins by taxi. dropped us off at the lovely Winter Palace Hotel (where Agatha Cristie wrote Death on the Nile).  Lovely to see again, and we found out they still do their folkloric shows on a Saturday night, which we decided to go to tomorrow only 130 Egyptian pounds) each.  We enjoyed it before and worth going just to see there amazing gardens.

We found Jolley's Travel and booked Valley of the Kings and Q , and the sound and Light show at Karnak, and saved ourselves a lot of money by not using English company.  always use the locals when you can.  (price for English company were working out to  £40 to £50) we only paid a third of that for all our trips using Jolleys and local taxi's (Jolleys are just to the left of the Winter Palace Hotel easy to find and I have the address if anyone wants it). 

We then walked (note Karnak and Luxor temple are not that far away from each other in CENTRAL LUXOR) only took 10 mins, Nice to take your time than in a group to. although if you want all the historical gumpf that comes with a tour guide you will have to pay extra for that.  We got caught for the first time for Baksheesh (tips) by having our picture taken with the locals.  Good fun and only a couple of Egyptian pounds about 50p so worth it and a laugh.

If think they have done a lot more work at Luxor Temple to when I was last here. looking good.

Had a magical moment today, sitting/relaxing at 6PM looking across the Nile.  Very peaceful, watched the sun setting over the Nile on the West bank. it was very quiet.  Amazing moment.

A couple of random thoughts -

The grass in the gardens of the Hotel feel very alien but lovely, like very thick shag pile, lovely to walk barefeet on. Very different to ours.

Lots of Egyptian music played everywhere, FAB as there is nothing worse than hearing European music while you are abroad.  Even the mobile ring tones of the locals are famous Egyptian tunes. I love it.

3rd Day

Well a very long hot morning to the Valley of the Kings and Q, you are only allowed to view 3 tombs, which they rotate every 3 months.  Great to see again, this time we saw Ramses no. 1 very differcult to walk down, very steep, not good for people with leg problems (I am fit and I struggled). We also saw Ramses 9 and 4, much easier I am always amazed by how colourful they still are after all these centuries.  Glad I have been before as be warned, you are NOT allowed to take any sort of camera or video recorder in.  Best leave them in the coach, and you will go through a scanner machine so don;t try to take them in, you can by a book of postcards of inside of the tombs if you want to.

Only 6 of us in the group so another reason to go local, Queen Hapsetsut was just as great , new little trains to both of above take you up to ruins and there is now little souq's at the exits be warned the hassle here is great, and you have to be very stern. I was pleased to give out some pens to the local children as they cannot go to school with out one.  Take a pack of pens with you as even the adults ask for them.

Great day and as a very early start at 7AM back at hotel at 12.30PM still enough time for sun worshipping.

Aug 29th - C/tinueed...... 

Well to complete a fantastic day we too a taxi 'Ahmed' who was to become our regular drive, to the Winter Palace Hotel.  To see the folkloric show which they have every Saturday evening. I remembered this from my last visit so I wanted to come again.  People who are not staying at the hotel can go too as it was a very slow evening (only 12 attendees).  We did not even have to book.  I would HIGHLY recommend this evening (especially if you are a dancer), if nothing else just to see the gardens lit up at night, very romantic.  Meal (buffet) , drinks, and an hour and half's entertainment, stick dancers, folk dancers, band, belly dancer and whirling dervish all in all cost about £40 English pounds for two.  You could not afford it in London at a 6 start hotel. Brilliant.

The Belly Dancer - was Lovely - STUNNING looking.  Simple Red baladi dress with gold hip belt. long black hair, her name was CANOOZ.  Luxor dancers will not be wearing a cabaret costume for those of you who have not been.  (You can only see that in Cairo etc).  they have to cover up a bit more In Luxor.  Canooz did not speak any english but she invited me up to dance with the band (as if I could refuse).  Had a great time, no new moves but she did one which reminded me of a move I have not done in years, which was nice to be reminded off. Verticals with a lovely hand movement a very old star move and very glam.   I particularly enjoyed the male stick dancers (3 of them).  The show took place around the pool and they had placed candels all around beautiful.  Slightly different place to last time.  But it worked.

What a day, adventure, rest and high entertainment.  I think a days relaxing is called for.

Sunday 30th - At last started to catch some sun only took 4 days.!!

31st August

We had a visit to Karnak by night to see the sound and light show, and again with local company Jolleys only 4 of us.  As I remember it was a wonderful atmosphere, very hard to see where you are going (very uneven) and with my bad eyesight I hung onto Joe's arm). take a small torch with you.  Sadly our digiital camera althought brilliant usually does not like the Egyptian dark nights and will not take any good pics.  (Make sure you have a more expensive camera with you if you want good shots of show). I love Karnak especially the pillars they are so tall, imposing you always wonder how many people it took to build them and died!  Looking forward to seeing it in daylight.

On a entertainment note - althought the show is good, I think they could make a lot more of it, maybe actors in costumes etc.

1st Sept

Well our first vist to the Luxor Museum (never made it last time) by local taxi.  Only takes an hour and half to get around (about 80 Egyptian pounds each - -£7.50).  Really well laid out.  Has some beautiful pieces, jewellery, statues, etc and a few pieces from TUT's tomb.  Very well preserved, not busy worth a visit.  They insist you go and see a short film beforehand, in the theatre only 7 minutes long - we were the only ones in there at the time, I think they are very proud of it but again my bad eyesight let me down, went toppling over the steps in the dark.!

Our taxi man Ahmed waiting for us and then took us to the local government market very near the museum, set over 3 floors.  Papryus, on ground floor (Again groan).  Middle floor is the best for gifts, etc.  brought a lovely Egyptian photograph album which I was looking for, and a few gifts, expensive had to barter hard, got down from 1500 Egyptian pounds! Blimey.  to 450!! Our taxi man Ahmed then took us back to hotel a good mornings trip all for 60 Egyptian pounds for travel.  By the way the shops in the Hotel are surprisingly reasonable.

End of 1st Sept - Just watched the sun set again over the Nile. ... Wonderful.

Forgot to mention we found a wonderful Egyptian bar called the Sundowner, high up so great view, dark, candles, and LIVE BAND, fab they come round to each table, tomorrow there is going to be a BD in the hotel, so will have to check that out.

2nd Sept

Had a dip in our own private pool - well it may as well as been mostly empty.  Had it to ourselves, I have never been somewhere that is so peaceful, relaxing, Bliss I think that is because this is not high season, which tends to be OCTOBER TO MARCH for Egypt.

Tomorrow Karnak by Day.......

Evening of 2nd Sept

Just got back from the free show at the Hotel (they have there own theatre) and it was brilliant better than the show at the Winter Palace, although much shorter (even better it's free).  Belly Dancer was lovely she really worked hard, 20 min show - did not get the dancers name until later RABAB.  Again very simple costume,not sure whey they insist on wearing them slashed to the hip so high you can see there underwear (at least she was wearing some).  She danced to guess what SHIK SHAK SHOK along with a lot of Hakim.  (all very fast) and a stick dance.  Also a Whirling Dervish.  Great free show, hope pics have come out.  (I also did a turn on the stage) as soon as you shoulder shimmy back to them that's it they know you can dance.!!!

3rd Sept

Got up early to go to KARNAK temple by day!  We went again by Ahmed the taxi man.  He said tourists don;t tend to go by taxi they prefer the local free shuttle bus, but that way the locals know you are coming and hassle you when you get off.

 Anway I love Karnak, great to see again,  I always particularly like to see the remaining colours on the pillars etc. Amazing to think how old these are, would'nt it be great to see them how they would have looked like (Maybe a future Doctor Who story would be a good idea - sorry sidetracking).  As already mentioned my favourite part is the pillars just past the main entrance.  Makes you feel very small I love there strength, I admire strength in all things, you can also get away from the hoards of tourists here, and they are a lot of them.   They provide a very big contrast (the tourists) between the grey/brown of  Karnak and seeing al these groups of colour like coloured dolly mixtures/sweets. 

Tomorrow is our anniversary day, and we have arranged a horse and carriage trip along Luxor from hotel.  Will be lovely as we cannot do our ballon tryp over Valled of K & Q as they have cancelled them all Boo. But understandable as they had the big accident 3 months ago where 6 French people died.

Note:

I have suddenly got the itch to photoall the lighted lanterns at night, they look so beautiful, so many different colours.  Looks like the photo's have come out well.  Digital camera doing well there.

 Hoorah - working on holiday!  Just finished the most amazing veil troupe dance for next year.  It's brilliant / complex be warned Daughters of Hathor this will really work you hard.  But I think you will love it - in pairs - to a funkly modern pop Lebanese piece (no Not Emad Sayyah). 

 Anniversary Day - 4th Sept

Married for 10 Years today - Gone so quick and spending it with Joe, Ahhhh. Horse and Carriage organised by our taxi driver Ahmed.  (his brother drove it Mohamed).  and a lovely horse called Natalie.  Wonderful trip we were out for over an hour.  Taken all round Luxor.  Saw some places most tourists do not see.  Very interesting.  Found out Mohamed and Ahmed have 8 brothers and sisters, and 3 horses.  Do not worry Natalie the horse looked very healthy and well looked after.

 Happy 10th Anniversary to us.

NB: Drove past the Pyramisa Hotel which is where we stayed last time we were here.  Did not look as nice, looked like it has gone downhill.  the shops that were just outside the hotel which we had a good time at last time, were gone (no taxi's waiting outside either).

5th Sept

Going to Souq (have not been to the one in Luxor before).  Wish us luck, suitably attired and hair covered we set off early to the very old part of Luxor.  Quite a large area, glad we had Ahmed with us (found out late is was his twin Hamada).  We would have got lost without him.  We got some good stuff, including some new dance CD's - Hoorah.  Although I think a couple of them are copies.  A new Amr Diab amoung them.

Interesting note:- Saw a funeral procession.  All men attending woman not allowed.  A green coloured coffin. Hamada went to touch the coffin out of respect.  (Sad but interesting to see).

6th Sept - Rest Day

7th Sept

WOW, another memorable day and interesting.  Day with our driver.  We decided to go to a place I had not been to before. DENDERAH.  and see the TEMPLE OF HATHOR.  Well I could not miss it as my dance troupe are called the 'Daughters of Hathor'. Now usually the tourists will go by boat and take the whole day.  We went by taxi and we left at 8AM.  Big difference.  Having said this I can understand tourists going by boat, we did not know it but there are several 'checkpoints' along the way complete with army and machine guns.  Thankfully they di not need to see out passports (left at hotel).  They just made a note of our names and where we were staying.  Only stopped once,  I think those with a nervous nature may prefer the boat.  Ahmed was brilliant (he was doing 80MPHat some points.)  he is ex-army so he was great.  Well took an hour and half to get there.  But goodness was it worth it.  Blooming amazing especially so well preserved inside.  Better tan Karnak I think.  Was so pleased I saw it.  Searched our bags on the way in, took some good photo's, was able to walk up on roof for view and was gob smacked when I saw a picture on the wall of a SISTRUM (an old type of tambourine).    So pleased I went great memory.

Note:  I have seen Keti Sharif on lots of dance cd's here, good to see a familiar face.

8th Sept

Our last full day here - BOO

This holiday gets better and better just been to check out the times for pick up (boo again), and as an anniversary present we can keep the room until 3PM and pick up at 3.30PM how lovely.

The Hotel - (Sofitel, Karnak) I cannot recommend it enough.  Free stuff - Jacuzzi, sauna, pool towels, table tennis, tennis, squash court, gym.

Food amazing with chefs making sure you like the food.  They should hang onto there desert chef his is brilliant.  My favourite is the white chocolate cup cakes with cream and nuts in. Hmmmmmm.

If you go for a week there is so much to see you would not have time to relax going for two you can take it easy much more.  Another plus is they don't have the Euro. much, much cheaper than Turkey I found, (once you get out there).

Airport (a military one) - a bit high on security, on way back took ages to check in, be warned they weigh your hand luggage as well.  Luckily we were under .  BUT THEY WILL CHARGE YOU IF YOU ARE OVERWEIGHT.

Lovely to spend some memorable time with Joe, One of the best holidays holidays, I always have a brilliant time in Egypt.

I hope this has brought a smile to your face, and helped if you are going to take a trip yourself to Luxor. 

Happy Travelling.  Dawn - September 2009