Egypt/Jordan, December 27, 2010-January 11, 2011

Posted: February 28th, 2011 | Filed under: Out Of Town

Our Grand Egypt & Jordan Adventure, or our pre-revolutionary Egypt Adventure, or if you include other revolutions, then our travels to pre-post-revolutionary Egypt. Everything that has transpired in Egypt over the last month or so has lent a fascinating retrospective perspective to the trip, and it’s weird to go through these pictures with the knowledge that perhaps much has already changed there and will continue to change in the months and years ahead. I mean, I guess all the ancient stuff — which occupied so much of our time in Egypt — will remain the same, but I imagine at least some of those images of Mubarak we saw all over the place will come down, if they haven’t already.

December 27-28, 2010: New York To Cairo Via Amman
After a weather-related delay, we were off on Royal Jordanian Airlines to Cairo via Amman. Twenty-four hours later, we got to our hotel. Long day — the less said about it, the better (though if you really want to hear more, I won’t stop you).

December 29, 2010: Cairo
Our tour guides drove us around Cairo via the Ring Road to our first stop at the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir Square. If I had known what Tahrir Square would come to represent in the weeks after we visited, I would have paid more attention to it. As it was, we were groggy and only thought to photograph the Ding Dong Bazaar. Oh well, what do you do?

Ding Dong Bazaar, Midan Tahrir/Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt

While in Cairo, we also went back and forth across the 6th October Bridge. We saw the Citadel (next to the Cairo Financial Center) and were to have visited the mosque there, but our guide decided to take us to the Mosque of Ahmed Ibn Tulun on Al-Saliba Street instead. Visits to Coptic Cairo and Khan el-Khalili Market before heading to the El-Giza train station for an overnight train to Aswan.

In all a busy day, and I wish we didn’t miss that first day because it made the breakneck pace of the trip that much more exhausting!

December 30, 2010: Aswan
We got to El-Giza train station at 7:29 p.m. on the 29th and didn’t get to Aswan train station until 1:11 p.m. The train ride itself was 14 1/2 hours. That’s a long train ride.

We settled in to the hotel and set off to walk around Sharia as-Souq to get something to eat (see also).

A quick turnaround before setting out for Philae Temple via Fatimid Cemetery (a drive-by, at least), Aswan Low Dam and Aswan High Dam.

Dinner did not include “crammed” (stuffed) pigeon (they were out). Dessert was good.

December 31, 2010: Abu-Simbel/Aswan
What to do after a 14 1/2 hour train ride? Get up at 2:30 a.m. to make the 3:30 a.m. military convoy to Abu-Simbel near the Sudanese border:

Temple of Ramesses II/Great Temple, Abu Simbel, Egypt

What to do after getting up at 2:30 a.m. to go down to basically the Sudanese border? Clearly, you want to sleep on a traditional felucca boat.

It’s no wonder we were so exhausted for so much of this trip.

Day one of the felucca stopped at a Nubian Village just a few miles away from our hotel in Aswan. We spent New Year’s Eve on the boat — forced ourselves to stay awake — I’ve been many odd places for New Year’s Eve but this was probably the oddest place to be.

January 1, 2011: Felucca Cruise
Day two of the felucca cruise. We woke up and took in the landscape from near our docking point:

Nile River From Hill Near Nubian Village, Aswan, Egypt

We floated underneath the Aswan Bridge. We swam in the Nile!

Felucca Cruise, Nile River, Aswan, Egypt

January 2, 2011: Felucca Morning/Drive To Luxor
Disembarking the felucca, then a groggy trip to Kom Ombo Temple, Edfu Temple in Edfu, then Edfu to Luxor before settling in at the hotel on Khaled Ibn El Waild Street.

Quick grub, quick shower. More to see. Lots more. So tired by this point.

Karnak Temple!

Great Hypostyle Hall, Karnak Temple Complex, Luxor, Egypt

Luxor Temple!

First Pylon, Obelisk and Colossi of Ramesses II, Luxor Temple, Luxor, Egypt

Dinner at Sofra was good (highly recommended!) and — gasp! — even kind of relaxing. Mr. Fish took us back toward the hotel (see also). We tried getting a beer but that was a little tiring, too. Finally to sleep.

January 3, 2011: Luxor West Bank
After barely sleeping for the last six days, it made sense that we would continue the pattern and get up early to go look at more of ancient Egypt. First stop, the Colossi of Memnon:

Colossi of Memnon, West Bank, Luxor, Egypt

Second stop, Medinet Habu:

Medinet Habu/Temple of Ramesses III, West Bank, Luxor, Egypt

Third stop, Deir el-Bahari:

Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Deir el-Bahari, West Bank, Luxor, Egypt

Fourth stop, Abo El Hassan Alabaster Factory. Fifth stop, Valley of the Kings just past Howard Carter’s House.

Back across the Nile River to our hotel via the Mubarak Touristic Road. Don’t know if they changed the name or not since we visited.

Lunch, then walking along the Corniche toward the market. Construction on the Avenue of the Sphinxes plus an outdated map in the guidebook led to a detour.

This is not the market:

Neighborhood off of Avenue of the Sphinxes, Luxor, Egypt, January 3, 2011

Neighborhood off of Avenue of the Sphinxes, Luxor, Egypt, January 3, 2011

This is the market:

Scarabs, El-Souk Market, Luxor, Egypt

We got shopping done, then set off to dinner (a trek, that), then set out for the train station to get back on the train to Cairo again.

January 4, 2011: Cairo
Settled in to the hotel overlooking a nice square in the Mohandeseen section of Giza. We made up our visit to the pyramids on this “free” day, and got to see Saqqara as well:

Pyramid of Khafre, Giza Pyramid Complex, Cairo, Egypt

Step Pyramid of Djoser (Zoser), Saqqara Complex, Egypt

Giza, like its neighbor Cairo (think “Minneapolis/St. Paul”), stretches out for miles and miles. Even though they’re building elevated highways and even a subway system, it’s still pretty chaotic. (“Chaos” is maybe a poor choice of words these days, but you get the idea.)

If you’re in the neighborhood, there is top-notch koshary at El Omda Restaurant.

January 5, 2011: Cairo To Sinai
We took Highway 33 (I’m not sure how many people actually call it “Highway 33,” but I think that’s what it is) through the tunnel under the Suez Canal into Sinai. There’s not much between Cairo and the Red Sea coast save for some bathroom breaks, but the scenery is stunning in a lot of parts.

It’s exciting when the Red Sea finally emerges at the end of the drive, and the drive along the coast is also beautiful. The Fjord south of Taba is pretty:

The Fjord From Fiord Bay Rest House, Highway 66 Near Taba, Sinai, Egypt

We made it to Dahab late in the afternoon and checked in to the hotel on Mashraba Street. Dahab is about “relaxing” and “chilling” and you are reminded of this constantly when you visit there:

Chillax Dahab Gourmet Burger Restaurant, Masbat Waterfront Promenade, Dahab, Sinai, Egypt

We ate and basically went to bed. Unbelievably, the first night where we wouldn’t have to get up before, say, 6:45 a.m.

January 6, 2011: Dahab
Snorkeling at Blue Hole, just north of Dahab. Spectacular, and not even the sight of 200 Mikhail Prokhorov wannabes stomping all over the coral in order to rush back to waterfront hubbly bubbly can detract from the marvel of seeing what’s going on underneath the water’s surface. Really cool — and definitely glad we did that:

Camels, Blue Hole, Red Sea, Dahab, Sinai, Egypt

Walking all around Dahab and eating at one or two of the many shorefront places before leaving the next day.

January 7, 2011: Dahab, Egypt To Wadi Musa, Jordan Via Eilat, Israel
Still time for at least one stop before making it to Taba to cross into Israel.

It took just a little more than fifteen minutes to get to the Jordanian border. Stuff is really close together in some parts of the Middle East.

From Aqaba we took the Desert Highway to Wadi Rum:

View From Bluff Near Mushroom Rock, Wadi Rum, Jordan

We got a well-deserved steam bath and massage before eating and checking in to the hotel.

January 8, 2011: Petra, Jordan
Petra. Knocked another wonder of the world off the list. It’s pretty fantastic:

Al-Khazneh (The Treasury), Petra, Wadi Musa, Jordan

Ate, watched the sunset from the hotel room and ate again.

January 9, 2011: Wadi Musa To Amman
Before leaving Wadi Musa our driver took us by Moses’ Well before starting up King’s Highway toward Amman.

Along the way, we took in the sights of Tafila (which, if our guide is to be trusted, is kind of like the New Jersey of Jordan — no offense to New Jersey or Tafila, of course). The butcher shops there are impressive:

Butcher Shop, King's Highway, Tafila, Jordan

Continuing up King’s Highway, we visited Karak Castle in Karak, drove through Wadi Mujib, saw the famous Madaba Map in Madaba and stopped by Mount Nebo.

We learned about the palatial Everest Resort on our way into Amman, checked in to the hotel near Wakalat Street and took a taxi over to Jabal Amman where we got coffee, a drink and ate a fantastic dinner at Fakhr El-Din where the raw lamb platter blew our minds (I was thinking we’d tried something wonderful and exotic until we learned later that there are several places in Brooklyn that also serve this — apparently there isn’t anything you can’t already get in New York . . . disappointing; that said, this raw lamb was pretty brilliant, raw lamb being what it is, of course):

Fakhr El-Din Raw Platter, Fakhr El-Din, Jabal Amman, Amman, Jordan

January 10, 2011: Jerash and The Dead Sea
There are these beautiful images of the giant Abdali urban project on the back of the Royal Jordanian boarding passes (which I forgot to take a picture of). For now, here’s what it looks like as you pass it on your way north out of Amman. We were headed out to Jerash. Amazing old stuff is starting to blur together at this point, but Jerash, it is said — and I agree — is even cooler than the Forum in Rome:

South Theater, Jerash, Jordan

View of Oval Plaza/Forum From South Theater, Jerash, Jordan

Another public works project.

The Dead Sea is one of the weirder things you’ll ever experience. Yes, you bob up and down in the highly salinated water. It also tastes like poop if you happen to get some near your mouth, which you really shouldn’t try to do. And then you’re like over a thousand feet below sea level. I had been looking forward to swimming in the Dead Sea for the whole trip, and it was still strange when I first plopped in the water. Very cool.

Beach Area, Dead Sea Spa Hotel, Dead Sea, Jordan

Dead Sea, Dead Sea Spa Hotel, Dead Sea, Jordan

On the way back, our driver Abdullah talked our way into an olive oil factory, which was also cool. He said to act like we were American investors or something, so we tried to do that. Funny.

We wanted to see a mosque, so he took us to King Hussein Bin Talal Mosque, which was built in 2006 in a park in West Amman on a hill overlooking the city:

King Hussein Bin Talal Mosque, Al Hussein National Park, Amman, Jordan

At dinner a few of us learned how women in burqas eat (by observation, not actual experience).

January 11, 2011: Amman To New York
Out on Zahran Street to the airport, where we did some duty free shopping before having some blunt tweezers confiscated and flying back home:

Route Map, In-Flight Entertainment Touch Screen, Royal Jordanian Airlines Flight 261 From Amman, Jordan To New York City-JFK, January 11, 2011

Here is what we ate in Egypt. Here is what we ate in Jordan. Here are all the camels we saw in Egypt. Here are all the camels we saw in Jordan. Here is what the money looks like in Egypt. Here is what the money looks like in Jordan.

Finally, here are all the Grand Egypt & Jordan Adventure Slightest Entries.