|Subject: Re: 3rd installment of Egyptian adventure|
Margo & I are headed across the desert from Cairo to Hurghada by ourselves. Wish us luck!
The bus left at 1:20am & not many people were onboard. No other English-speaking people. The bus was comfortable, big windows, reclining seats, trays, & a WC. The drive through the desert to Hurghada was to take 6 hours & actually took about 7 ½. About 2 hours into the drive there was another bus from the same, El Ghouna company broken down & we loaded all those passengers into our bus so it was very crowded#people had to stand in the aisle..all were young Arab men, though. The few women & older people got the seats. The wind blew & sand blew the entire way. Many places we went through military check points but no one ever boarded the bus & we weren#t asked for passports or identification. The road was relatively well-paved & fairly smooth, although it seemed quite narrow part of the way. That may have been because of the security checkpoints. Although Margo & I were the only Americans on board & there was an Arab #shoot-#em up# blaring on the video monitor & we were surrounded by young Mid-Eastern men in the middle of the Egyptian desert in the dark of the night, we never felt threatened or insecure. One young man helped explain what was happening & interpreted the announcements & you could tell that he hadn#t spoken much English since his school days.
Friday, January 23, We finally had a rest stop about daylight in a small town#rural café, not very clean toilets, never any toilet paper, but all regular toilets, not holes in the ground. It was also a place where the Muslims prayed since it was Friday which is their holy day. We finally got to Hurghada about 8:30am & Mohamed from Milano Travel was there to meet us, smiling & transfer us to the Sultan hotel. He was definitely less-helpful than the Cairo people but he seemed to try but spoke much less English than the reps in Cairo. Our room wasn#t ready until about 10am for early check-in..really nice after a less than restful night. So we went to buffet breakfast#had to pay because our 3 breakfasts with our 3 nights, start tomorrow. The huge buffet breakfast cost 25LE each, about $4. We had lovely fresh omelets, large array of fresh breads, cakes, pastry, salads, tomatoes, cucumbers, butter, jam, lovely Egyptian cream cheese made from yogurt & called labna, juice, & instant coffee! Oops, the only downer#but it tasted good anyway. A little food & coffee revived us.
We didn#t hear any English spoken, lots of German guests here, a few Arab, some Greek, Russian. We got into our room about 10:30. The balcony has a lovely view of the grounds which have lots of palm trees, lots of water, fountains & swimming pool, & further out to the Red Sea. It is a good-sized room with twin beds, good bathroom with large shower, table & chairs, closet, 2 low dressers, tv, refrigerator which we found by accident, hidden in a cabinet under the tv! I slept until about 2:30pm & then went exploring. Margo slept another 4 hours & seemed quite tired. It#s nice to have a clean, airy room & time to rest. I visited the health club & got info so Margo & I decided to have a #lose weight# treatment tomorrow. It consists of 30 minutes on fitness#there#s a treadmill & other weight machines, 30 minutes in the sauna, 60 minute acupuncture treatment (I thought), & a 60 minute massage. All that pampering for 140 LE..less than $24! Oh, my. Didn#t quite turn out that way, but more on that later. I had quite a discussion with Jimmy, the health club attendant about America & tourism#why Americans don#t come to Egypt. Then I went & peeked in the billiard room, on to the hotel gift shop to buy a map of Hurghada so I can orient myself & a notebook so I could keep journaling.
Outside the day was sunny & a bit breezy but comfortable as I was in tee shirt & knee-length shorts. I went to the market & bought a liter bottle of water & 3 diet or lite Pepsis for 9 LE or $1.50! I went back to check on Margo, climbing the 3 flights of stairs instead of taking the elevator. I booked our health club treatments, then went off to explore the hotel grounds. There is a large, lush, tropical plant garden around a lovely free-form swimming pool, a volleyball court, several café-type eating places, disco, dive shops, out to the beach area, about ¼ mile. There were lots of umbrellas, chaise lounges, & a coarse, sandy beach, bordered on each side by a cement walkway. It was all deserted. There had seemed to be plenty of people in the large breakfast room but it must have been too cold for lounging around. It was getting dark by now & the breeze was cool so I didn#t walk to the end of the pier but I could see several boats & a couple individual or 2-person paddle boats.
We ate dinner in the hotel#s Italian restaurant..very good#supposed to be spinach pasta lasagna but the noodles were white but very tasty. We had quite a time getting waiters to bring us olive oil & vinegar for the bread. They brought butter & didn#t
understand that we wanted oil & balsamic vinegar. Finally they brought #salad dressing# which was olive oilll, lemon, spices & was very good to dip our bread in. We came back to the room & got someone to fix the leak in our bathroom. The pipes needed tightening & now it only leaks a little. We hopped into bed & slept 4-5 hours. I#ve been writing now for almost 3 hours & it#s a quarter to 5am..time for a nap. All of a sudden I#m overwhelmed with missing Roger & home. It is Friday afternoon at home & Roger#s getting ready to go meet the Board at Nordman. Hope the weather#s turned cold again & he#s getting in lots of snowmobiling.
Saturday, January 24#Very strange adventure today. We went to the health club for the losing weight treatment. First, the treadmill didn#t work, the belt was very worn & we couldn#t use the resistance machines because they didn#t work, either! So we forgot the 1st part of the treatment#.should have known that didn#t bode well for the next part, either. We went to the sauna & it was wonderful, warm & cleansing. Then we each had the hour massages. What I hadn#t understood was that the cream they used & massaged into our bodies with vigor was to get rid of cellulite#.got lots of that! And it was very cooling. In fact, I was shivering & finally got the masseuse to stop. I got back in the sauna to warm up & waiting for the acupuncturist to come & put small needle patches#3 on each ear. We each kept those on for 3-4 days but I didn#t see any curbing of my appetite. Oh, well, it was an interesting experience. I told the acupuncurist that I had lots of pain in my right thumb down to my wrist on the inside. He said it had something to do with my neck#pressure points & reflexology. He put needles in 6 places in each hand & inside my elbows#ok, so far. Then he put little #jumper cables# on some of the needles & ran electric impulses through the needles into my hands. Hurt like Hell! That went on for 15 minutes or so#felt like hours! He also used pressure points to massage my head. An interesting 3 hours but not an experience I care to repeat. We#re both wiped out after that so we#re resting.
This morning I talked to Reham about maybe flying back from Aswan on Thursday. If we take the train, we#ll miss a day in Cairo. She is to call back & let us know. She didn#t tho, which caused us major headache in Aswan on Thursday.
Later we walked across the street to get water, talked to several shop owners who echo what we#ve heard before that they have not seen many Americans since 9/11, they don#t like Bush because he is too arrogant & wants to rule Iraq, he has disturbed the balance of power in the Middle East. It#s their perspective & we#ve had many interesting discussions. I went down to pay the health club & found a major problem with the acupuncturist price. We thought everything was included in the initial charge of 140 LE but since the acupuncturist did extra treatments, the price was 120LE more each! I walked out without paying anything & asked Margo to take down the initial payment & speak to the doctor. She#s not quite as angry as I am. 8-) He wasn#t in until the next day so everything waited until then.
Sunday, January 25# After breakfast we took a public mini-bus into the little village of Dahar, about 10 km. for 2 LE each. We were cautioned to establish the price before we got in the vehicle. Dahar is an old Arab fishing village which hasn#t grown very gracefully#reminded me of Puerto Vallarta. The Arabs who lived there were going about the business of living while tourists cavorted at the resort hotels along the Red Sea. We went into Bank Misr to change money. Lots of people in the bank but no Americans or any Enlgish speaking. I got 123 LE for my $20. Money goes a long ways here. We walked several blocks to find an internet café. Some Swedish girls wanted to know where the tourist bazaar was. No clue! They were young & a bit frantic. Pays to be an #old# traveler. We were never hassled by Arab men, always treated with respect.
We hailed another bus to go to the Sharaton hotel where our guide book said there was an internet café. The bus dropped us off on Sheraton road by a Marriott hotel. We never found a Sheraton but a gal at the Marriott said to walk 7 minutes to the internet café in front of the Madeline Hotel. Well, 15 minutes later we found the Marlin hotel & sure enough across the street was the internet café. It was cheap, 12LE..$2 for an hour & 1LE for a copy. I wrote of my adventures so far to Roger & he#ll forward the emails on to Iris, Erin, & Scott. We had tea in the hotel by the internet access place & then hopped another bus back to our Sultan hotel. Weather is lovely, sun & about 65 degrees, bit of breeze. We #talked# to a Russian gal on the public mini-bus. She knew German#& I know just a bit so we had an interesting conversation with a lot of gestures.
I had my laundry done for less than $7 #.2 pair of slacks, 1 jacket, 3 blouses#all washed & pressed & returned the next day. Later in Portugal, I had less laundry done for about $20! We packed up so we#ll be ready for the bus to pick us up at 5:30am tomorrow for the next part of our adventure#a 6 hour ride by armed motorcoach caravan to Luxor. Good for Margo. She went to the health club, talked to the acupuncturist, told him it was dishonest not to tell us that the treatment cost extra. So instead of paying 120 LE more per person, we paid 60LE each which was about $10. She did a great job & saved my blood pressure!
Monday, January 26#Mohamed of Milano Travel had called on Sunday to tell us his colleague would pick us up at 5:30am to go to Luxor#.didn#t say whether we were getting on a public bus or what & where Ahmed of Milano would meet us in Luxor & at what time. Little sketchy on the details. When 5:45am came & still no one to pick us up, I checked with the desk & they tried to call Mohamed. About that time several young men came in & they put us on the motorcoach with mostly Russians. We picked up several others at different hotels. We finally understood that we were to ride all the way to Luxor on this bus, ok, but we hadn#t known the arrangements earlier. I had thought that the public bus left at 6am & we were late! It was a very interesting caravan#small buses, mini-vans, & large luxury motorcoaches met at Salaga, about 20 miles from Hurghada. There must have been 50-70 large motorcoaches in the caravan.
At 7am we all rolled down the road, one after the other with security guards, too. We stopped once for WC & coffee at 5LE each + 1 LE to use the WC. The hotel had given us a box breakfast so we were set. The caravan stayed together until we reached Karnak temple at Luxor, arriving about 10:45am. It seemed to be the day#s entertainment for the locals who all gathered in little trucks, on bicycles, motorbikes, donkey cart, etc. to watch the modern-day caravan roll by. There was a mix-up on arrival for Margo & me. We didn#t know where Ahmed was meeting us so we had the man in charge of our bus, call him on the cell phone. He arrived in about 15 minutes, took us to the Nile Jewel, our boat home for 3 nights. The water brought us some red fruit juice which Ahmed called Egyptian wine because Muslims don#t drink alcohol. He explained that lunch was at 1pm & he & the guide, Ahman, would pick us up at 3:15 for a tour of the Karnak temple.
So much for Hurghada. About to start our adventure on the Nile cruise & the Valley of the Kings! I've waited 50 years to see these sights. More on another day, though. That's all of my journal I have typed.
Carol Bailey time to rest in N. Idaho