Friday, February 19, 2010

Egypt Adventures!

Hi Friends!

After our "underwhelming" experiences (as a fellow traveler so eloquently put it) with our visits to the Valley of the Kings and Queens, I didn't expect too much from the remaining sights in Egypt... but I was wrong!

Our final day in Luxor (Wednesday), however, I had a great time. Ryan and I decided to rent bikes in the early afternoon and rode along the Nile to Karnak at the recommendation of some other people at our hotel. It was a nice ride and the breeze was wonderful since it was about 100 degrees there.

I wasn't sure if we'd be able to see Karnak from the outside, so we tried riding around it. We ended up riding through a residential village. At one point, I went to put my camera in the side pocket of my backpack and dropped it. I stopped my bike to get it, and a group of guys working on a building got our attention and asked me to take a picture of them. They were so fun... posing for the camera:

Ryan didn't want to go into Karnak. I thought it looked cool from the outside and felt like I should see it since we were there already, so I went in alone. I am soooo glad I did -- it is one of my favorite things I've ever seen!
(My attempt to "walk like an Egyptian")

Karnak is a fantastic temple built over the reign of many Pharaohs and more than a thousand years (I think). And it was AMAZING. I was in for about an hour and didn't see the whole thing... and I was moving pretty quickly. You walk in through a row of statues, and into this room with hundreds (again, I think) of enormous pillars all covered in pictures and hieroglyphics. Then there are rooms and rooms off of the sides, all different and interesting... With pictures like in The Prince of Egypt. From the pictures you could probably get a gist of the story being told even without being an Egyptologist. I was moving too quickly to come up with too many stories, but could have been entertained for a long time.  I like places where you can just explore, and it was like that:-).

While I was there, the cutest group of pre-teens came up and asked to take pictures with me. They practiced their English (What is your name?, Where are you from?, etc). And waved and said hi every time I saw them afterwards. I was continually impressed wih the gracious openness and kindness of every Egyptian I interacted with who was not trying to sell something, and even many who were. Apparently while I was in Karnack Ryan was getting his picture taken with 30 Cairo University students in the visitor center area:-).

After riding our bikes back, we went to buy train tickets -- intending to take an overnight train for the 11 hour trip back to Cairo. However, we found that there were no tickets on any train that evening, and foreigners were having trouble buying tickets for the next few days of travel, also. We went to the Tourist Information Center where an extraordinarily helpful man there tried pulling strings, and called the bus companies to see if we could take a bus back. Ultimately, we had two choices. The first was to take a bus to another city and then another bus to Cairo. The second "adventurous" (according to the guy helping) option was to get on the train and buy tickets en route. The risk with that option was that we wouldn't have assigned seats, so we might end up standing or on the floor. Neither of those options sounded good (especially knowing what the train was like)... but we opted for the train anyway since at least train travel was familiar, and because the guy called it the adventurous option (haha, if you know me that will make sense) :-).

I am soooo thankful that, by the grace of God, things worked perfectly on the train. We had to move a few times, but were in seats the whole time, and slept pretty much the whole way. Turns out trains lull me to sleep no matter how awake I am when I get on... what a blessing!!! We got to Cairo about 8:30 yesterday morning and easily found a good hostel with rooms. We were able to check in early, eat some breakfast, and shower before beginning our Cairo sightseeing. So nice!!!

Everyone kept warning us against high expectations for the pyramids, and we ultimately decided to see them more because it seems criminal not to go once you are in Egypt. I had lowered my expectations more than necessary... I thought they were really cool. They are absolutely huge!!! 

 (I'm the little pink and black person in the middle)

We decided to go in the smaller of the two large pyramids. I didn't expect this, but you have to walk waaayyyy down through a steep tunnel, crouched over because it is only about 4 feet high, and probably 4 feet wide also.

Once we started going in (with many people in front and behind us, and with no end of the tunnel in sight) I realized that I might have a problem with claustrophobia:-). I realized I was starting to panic... and then started imagining what would happen if I did lose it completely (which seemed quite possible at the time). Realizing how irrational my panic was but not sure if I was going to make it I started thinking of scenerios where people had to sedate me to get me out. Haha! Praise God that He gave me calm long enough to see the room in the middle and get back out. I was SO glad to see the sunlight again!

It was a perfect day and we enjoyed walking to a lookout point before seeing the Sphinx and leaving.
Finally, we took a taxi to the biggest mall in Cairo to meet Sherin, an Egyptian friend of Cara's, for a late lunch. She was so sweet and it was a wonderful finale for our time in Egypt!

Now I'm on a plane headed for Morocco, and look forward to seeing Kevin and Keely today! Hopefully I can get this posted this afternoon.