Grand Africa, voyage – Safaga Egypt

Arrival Safaga, Egypt, photo by Barbara SAF

1 November 2022  Safaga for Luxor, Egypt

Big day today.  I was up at 6am, quick Lido breakfast of Egg Benedict, Pineapple, Orange Juice, and Coffee. Briefly enjoyed family Halloween texts and photos.
Instead of leaving at 8:30am, my tour gathered in the theater at 7:15am to leave at 7:30am. Elevator down to disembark and present passport to Egyptian authorities.  
Found my bus #3 and met guide Hatem and driver Ouda.  I found a good shady window seat for the long day.

Egypt has its own rules.  Before our bus could leave the port, we were required to walk into the Safaga port terminal for X-ray and pat down security clearance.  Men in one line, women separately.  I did get a nice Luxor booklet in French, none available in English.

We were on our way at 8:10am, driving through the port city of Safaga and into the Eastern Desert, which would last for 100 miles.  Several security check points livened things up with stops and road bumps.  Terrorism hit Egypt’s tourism hard, fearful of western bad habits.  Our bus traveled in a convoy with security.  No photos allowed of police or military.
Tour guide Hatem told us what to expect today, and he told us about Egypt trying hard to catch up with the rest of the world.  15% are Christians.  Egypt has a long history.

About 10am we neared the city of Qena.  Civilization.  When we followed a water canal, the scenery got interesting with green fields and towns with people, donkey carts, tuk  tuks , trucks & cars, bright flowers.  (Bougainvillea, etc)
Three head-covered teen girls looked friendly, so I waved.  One smiled and waved back.

It was about noon, when we crossed the Nile River to the West Bank.  Prolific crops, especially sugar cane, were growing.
Our guide announced that if we wanted to go inside King Tut’s tomb, it would cost $15 extra, and we would miss part of our tour.  Nobody chose to do that.
We drove by the two huge statues, the Colossi of Memnon.  We could see new archaeological excavations and an empty cluster of houses (residents were moved), where future digs are planned.

We arrived at the Valley of the Kings about 12:30pm, anxious to use the restroom, although our bus did have a toilet for emergencies.
A bazaar full of souvenirs and pushy salesmen came before the restroom area.  Long lines. A man was offering toilet paper.  I gave him $1, and he showed me the preferable handicapped stall to use.
Tour guide Hatem handed us each a ticket, and we went out to board carts.  That saved a lot of walking, but one lady said later that she had 10,000 steps today.  I probably did too.

This tour “Luxor: Valley of the Kings & Temple Sound & Light Show, 14 1/2 hours, moderate activity level, $369.95 .  .  .  Your first visit will be to the Valley of the Kings, the city of the dead where 62 magnificent tombs have been discovered.  Potentially hundreds of tombs were originally carved into the desert rocks, intricately painted with various mineral and stone dyes, which have maintained their rich hues and are filled with treasures for use in the afterlife by many dynasties of Pharaohs.  You will have a chance to visit two tombs at the Valley of the Kings.”

I was disappointed, when Hatem told us to leave cameras on the bus.  Only cell phone photos are allowed in the Valley of the Kings.
Soon we were walking into the first tomb, that of Ramses II.  Long entry hallway with walls covered with patched up paintings. Hieroglyphics and flat figures told stories.  Blue decorated ceilings too.  A local man offered to take the best of photos of the tomb itself.  He hopped up to stand on the hand rail and photographed the top of the tomb with the colorful ceiling.

Outside we walked up to our second tomb, that of Ramses VI.  Another long hallway with decorated walls.  I liked the dog or jackel and the snakes and maybe a crocodile.  This led to a dark open space, possibly for burial?

We had been encouraged to photograph the sign for the Tomb of Tut Ankh Amun, even if we did not pay extra to enter it.  A kind stranger photographed me by the famous sign.
I saw several ship’s crew members enjoying the Valley of the Kings.  A crew bus had brought 40 lucky ones.

I spotted a shop next to our meeting place and found the “Art & History of Egypt” book that I wanted.  The proprietor wanted no Euros or US dollars, only Egyptian Pounds or a credit card.  1150 EGP, but we agreed on 1000 EGP on my VISA card.  By this time Katie, the Holland America representative on the tour, had come looking for me.  The bookseller gave a gift scarab to both of us as part of the deal.  Then he asked what gift I had for him?  Maybe 5 Euros?  I handed him a Port Angeles postcard.

Katie is Jeremy’s fiancé who boarded the ship in Souda, Crete.  I told her that I had heard negative things about the HAL tour reps being useless tagalongs nowadays.  She is different.  “I try to be helpful.”

Walked through the bazaar shopping stalls to get back to the bus.  The most aggressive salesmen yet.  “Only $1” (for this beautiful T shirt)  Wrong size.  Dug out right size and wanted more money.  I left.
Back to the bus, driver Ouda always offered hand sanitizer.  We had each received snack bags at 2pm.  Two sandwiches, juice, apple, banana, cake slices.

“Stop for photos at the Temple of (Queen) Hatshepsut, rising out of the desert in a series of brilliant white terraces.  Hatshepsut was both a female and a Pharaoh.  She dressed like a man and wore a false beard to counter the considerable  bias against ruling females during that era. ( 1500 BC )  You will notice that the mortuary temple of Hatshepsut merges with the sheer limestone cliffs that surround it.”
We made two photo stops.
“The second photo stop will be at the Colossi of Memnon – two immense statues of Amenhotep III that guarded the entrance to Amenhotep’s great temple.”

“Then you will proceed to the East Bank (of the Nile River) where you will visit the Luxor Temple.  This temple was once connected to the Karnak temple via the Avenue of Human Headed Sphinxes – more than a mile in length.  This temple hosted many celebrations, including the Festival of Opet, which lasted 27 days.”
This is in downtown Luxor with McDonalds right across the street.

Tour Guide Hatem told us how the Luxor Temple used to have two tall obelisks in front. 
One got moved to Paris, France.  There are other Egyptian obelisks in London, New York City, and Istanbul.  He called our Washington Monument a “fake obelisk.”  At least it is not stolen property.

“After your visit to Luxor Temple, head to one of the city’s leading hotels for dinner.”
You can just imagine all of the tour bus passengers taking elevators to the 9th floor dining room.  But we all made it.  Buffet tables had foods for dinner, desserts, breads, and local Egyptian food.  One special drink included.  I was so tired, that I ordered a Coke, rather than trying the local wine.  Afterwards I went out onto the balcony for sunset views of the Nile River.  Breathtaking.
Luckily I had been allowed to use my Sony camera after the Valley of the Kings.

A stunning visual encounter awaits you now, as you go to the complex of the Temple of Karnak to witness the marvelous Sound & Light Show.  Take a fascinating walking tour through the history of the world’s largest temple complex, guided by the voices of ancient pharoahs.  Ominous shadows play off the enormous columns in the grand Hypostyle Hall – an unforgettable experience.  Once the Sound & Light Show ends, you will have an approximately 3 1/2 hour drive back o the port of Safaga to rejoin the ship.”

By now we were all exhausted.  Our tour guide could not believe that anyone would put together such a long itinerary.
The parking long presented a long walk to the 7pm Sound & Light Show.  I was prepared with a flashlight for the unlit paths.  When I finally caught up with the group, someone kindly showed me a place to sit down, but the view was poor.

I had assumed that this show meant sit down and watch.  This was a walking tour through the huge temple complex in the dark.  The lights and sounds were impressive.
Soon everyone was on the move.  Again and again.  I did my best to keep up with my flashlight and hiking stick, but I missed a lot.  Eventually the group was far ahead, and our guide showed me a place to sit at a cafe, but far from the show.  The dark atmosphere was mysterious.  Lights and sound came and went.
Two nearby cats meowed and hoped for food.  A handful of people were sitting with me.

The return walk seemed to take forever.  Near the end, someone offered me a wheelchair, but I thought that I could make it.
I crossed pathways with a friendly big black dog.  Spoke to her, but did not touch.  She pulled on one side of my shirt, then the other, hoping to play.
Our guide was pleased with my progress.  “You did it.”  And he showed me a shortcut through another bazaar of shops.

“Only $1” for a striking T shirt. (again). When the price went up, I splurged and offered $2. He returned with the right size in a bag and tossed in a scarab for good luck.  I insisted on seeing the size label, and it was a different top!  I liked the red embroidery on black and handed him $2.

It was late when the bus full of exhausted passengers started the long drive back to the ship.  I dozed part of the time, woke now and then at the security speed bumps.  Finally we reached the port at 11:20pm.  The Safaga cruise terminal had us all get out of the bus and go through X-ray security again.  We reached the ship at 11:30pm.  Officers, staff, and crew welcomed us home (after showing passports again) and made sure that we knew food was still available in the Lido.

I made one more long walk from one end of the ship to the other, to my room.  No time for anything except getting ready for bed after such a spectacular day.
It sounded like ms Zaandam left port about 12:15am

Photo Gallery, by Barbara Cummings

One thought on “Grand Africa, voyage – Safaga Egypt

  1. OMG, Barbara. What a long day to see so many wonderful things.
    I bet you were exhausted.
    Take the next day off to rehydrate and elevate your feet and legs.
    Loved all the pictures. Brought back so many good memories of when
    Ray and I visited. We did an OAT tour. Spent more time so not as tiring..
    So glad you got to see those extraordinary sights.
    One of the Wonders of World.

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