Egypt Fam Trip 2011
Date: 16 May 2011
Location: Manchester – Luxor- Esna.
A very early start! I woke up at 5am and headed for Manchester terminal 1. Once I arrived at terminal 1 I headed for the Cosmos/Monarch desk where I was to meet our hosts. After everyone had arrived we checked in our bags, lucky for us we had security fast track tickets and we were whisked through as there was a massive queue (approximately a 40 minute wait) to go through without this. On board the Monarch flight we were given front row seats so there was ample room. After a lovely 5 and a half hours we landed at 16.35 in Luxor. We then took a 15 minute coach transfer to our ship the MS Lady Mary. Upon arrival we were greeted by the staff and given a complimentary drink.
We set sail for Esna at 18.30 and had a welcome meeting where we met Bridget, the rep from Cosmos, and Ehab, our Egyptologist. We were also given the itinerary for the week and a list of additional extra’s that we could book, after the meeting it was time for dinner.
The open buffet-style restaurant has a Capacity of 160 guests at one sitting. The food was lovely; there was a selection of Braised beef, Grilled Sea Bass and Roast Chicken. For starters there was a choice of soup, a salad bar and an amazing selection of homemade breads that they cook on board. The other side of the salad bar was the desserts selection made up of cakes, jellies, mousses and pastries.
After a few drinks and getting to know people I headed for bed at midnight.
Date: 17 May 2011
Location: Esna, Edfu & Aswan.
An early morning call at 7.30 but being excited I was up at 6.20. Each morning you get a wake up call on the telephone 30 mins before breakfast opens. During the night we had docked at Esna which is 55 km south of Luxor. To get to Esna we went through a lock system which we will experience in the daylight later on in the week but we did it late last night.
After breakfast we departed the ship with Ehab our Egyptologist and took a short walk through a narrow shopping street full of Bazaars where we were offered scarves, Galabeyas and souvenirs. Ehab had already advised us what prices were to be expected for the popular items and he said that they always give you a ridiculous price so give them a ridiculous price back. As we turned a slight corner we came to the magnificent Esna Temple, standing 9 meters below the existing street level we made our way down the stairs to the temple.
The Temple was breathtaking, the hieroglyphs on the outer walls which are thousands of years old look like they were only just done. Ehab explained how the temples are preserved, with the floods and sand storms that happened and the change in religion the temple got abandoned and disappeared underneath the sand.
After an hour and a half we were back on the boat, here we were greeted by a cool face towel and a refreshing drink. The rest of the day was free time as we cruise down the Nile towards Edfu. We docked at Edfu for approximately 4 hours; the other passengers on the boat who didn’t go to Esna Temple then went to Edfu temple.
Once everyone was back on the boat we again set sail for Aswan, this is the furthest south we go. The entertainment at night was a Gala Dinner with the Captain with cocktails and a disco on the top deck.
Date: 18 May 2011
At 6.00am it was time to wake up, this was for the visit to the High Dam. After a fantastic breakfast onboard the Lady Mary we set off on a 20 minute bus ride to our destination. The Dam was built to stop the Nile from flooding the city, it took 10 years to build and I can see why. It’s massive and a great opportunity for photos. After the High Dam we took a small boat ride over to the Island of Philae. The Temple was moved to this island as it would have been swallowed by Lake Nassar when the Dam was created. As we walk through the temple guided by Ehab he points out not only Egyptian writings but graffiti from Greek, Roman and Napoleon times and to my surprise my name has been carved into the wall, dating back to 1862… I must have been here in a former life!
After Philae Temple it was off to a local perfumery to pick up some bargains to take home. We all jump out of our skins as the man who’s making a delicate glass bottle pops a glass bubble and it explodes with a massive bang.
After a busy morning we’re all starving and head back to the MS Lady Mary for lunch. There was just enough time to freshen up before our afternoon adventure into the city.
First stop is the El Tabia Mosque set on a hill overlooking Aswan. My first impression is that it looks like the White House. As we are sat on the floor in the mosque listening to our tour guide, a man begins the call to prayer. The wonders of modern technology means they now use a microphone to power his voice over the city; it’s wonderful to hear and is very musical.
After a quick lesson in how to haggle we nervously set off for the Souk to buy spices, jewellery, scarves and a galabeya. I have more skills than I thought and got two scarves down from £40.00 to £10.00. But what makes me laugh are the English phrases the traders have picked up such as ‘cheap as chips’ and ‘lovely jubbly’.
After a busy day I have my dinner then time for an early night, I go to bed happy after a successful retail therapy session.
Date: 19 May 2011
The Botanical Gardens at Aswan are on an island called Kitchener’s Island, The Island was given to Lord Kitchener as a thank-you for his services in the Sudan Campaign. The small island is a paradise of exotic trees and plants with carefully planned walkways. The garden gives host to many tree’s and plants that can’t be found anywhere else in Egypt. To get to the Island we boarded a Felucca which is a traditional sailing boat.
Galabeya Night – A Galabeya is a traditional Egyptian garment native to Egypt and the Sudan Nile valley, everyone on the boat had to dress up. We had traditional Egyptian dishes for dinner and then we made our way upstairs to the top deck.
We played games; the one I liked the most was where we were dancing and then the leader of the game shouted out a number or instruction, for example, 7 and we had to get in a group of 7, those who weren’t were out, next instruction 2 women 1 man and so on until there was a winner.
Date: 20 May 2011
Location: Kom Ombo, Esna & Luxor
During the night we docked at Kom Ombo. We had an early morning start at 6am and had to be out for 7am. We disembarked the MS Lady Mary and made a short walk to the temple of Kom Ombo. This temple is situated between Edfu and Aswan. Kom Ombo has very impressive remains of a double temple. The right hand temple is to honour the God Sebek and the other side is for the God Horus. On the walls there are rare engraved images of what is thought to be the first representation of medical instruments for performing surgery, including: scalpels, curettes, forceps, dilator, scissors and medicine bottles dating from the days of Roman Egypt.
After the tour of Kom Ombo we start to head back towards Luxor. At about 5 o’clock we come to the two barrage bridges which straddle the Nile. One was built by the British in 1906 and the other is an “Electricity Bridge”, this was built in the 1990s. It can take some time for vessels to negotiate their way through the lock system. This was an experience, the locals are on the key side tying to sell you scarves, table cloths etc., they throw them up to you on the ship and if you want them you through them money down in the bag the items came in.
Date: 21 May 2011
I was up at 5am and on a small boat at 6am heading to the West Bank. We head on the bus towards the Valley of the Kings but our first stop is the Colossi of Memnon. There isn’t much left of the massive temple that stood here but they are excavating the area still. All that’s left is the massive stone statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III.
We then started our way up in to the valley towards the Valley of the Kings; we travelled past the Valley of the Nobles, the Ramasseum, lots of alabaster factories and past the British Egyptologist house of Howard Carter who found Tutankhamen’s tomb.
The First tomb I entered was KV62 the tomb of King Tutankhamen. It’s small but the most historical tomb ever, if you don’t know anything about Egyptology this was the only intact tomb ever found to date. The Tomb is quite small and due to the early death of the ‘boy pharaoh’ it was not complete. There are only hieroglyphs on 4 of the many walls. The most amazing part is that even though all the treasures have been taken to the Egyptian museum in Cairo the mummy of the 19-year-old pharaoh is on display in his underground tomb. His linen-wrapped body was removed from its golden sarcophagus to a climate-controlled glass box. His body is covered but you can see his head and feet.
It was a very hot morning and it didn’t help climbing up and down the stairs to 4 tombs but it was well worth it and I now know why they get you up early for the excursions. The next place we visited was Queen Hatshepsut mortuary temple, this is outstanding; it is located beneath the cliffs at Deir el Bahari on the west bank of the Nile near the Valley of the Kings.
After a busy morning we’d also got a busy afternoon planned; we were picked up from reception and made our way to one of many hotel visits.
The Maritim Jolie Ville Kings Island
The Maritim is a 4 plus diamond hotel located on its own private Island surrounded by the river Nile. There is a free of charge shuttle by boat and a bus in to Luxor City Centre which is approximately 4km away. The hotel has 647 rooms which are separated into old rooms and new rooms. All rooms are housed within bungalow complexes. At the Maritim there is no disappointment for variety and choice of restaurants & bars.
The highlight of this hotel must be the Horizon Pool, it looks as though you will go into the Nile. There is also a large swimming pool area with a waterfall, children’s pool,and tranquillity pool.
The Pyramisa Isis hotel
The Pyramisa Isis hotel is 4 diamond hotel and has a number of room categories. It has 460 rooms and suites that have large balconies or terraces with views of the Nile. The hotel has two swimming pools and extensive gardens.
The Nile Palace
The Nile Palace sits on the banks of the Nile, at the heart of Luxor, The Palace is rated a 5 diamond hotel. On first impressions it looks very nice. As we walk through the reception we come to a open courtyard where some of the resturants are overlooked by some of the hotel rooms and to one side there is a stage where entertainment takes place.
Date: 22 May 2011
Up at 6am and on the way to Luxor Temple at 7. Luxor temple is situated in the town centre. As we enter the grounds of the temple we are given a tour by our egyptologist. He points out The Sphinx avenue which they are still uncovering; they believe it will run underneath the city and houses all the way to Karnak Temple which is 2 miles away. As you enter the temple one of the most interesting sights at is The Mosque of Abu Hagag, it was mostly built in the 19th century, but parts, such as the 11th-century northern side are much older.
As we make our way through the temple we see the grandeur of how this temple must have looked, students are working on parts of the ruins to bring the temple back to its former glory. You can see them scraping away the thousands of years of sand to uncover the colour underneath; it’s magnificent.
After the quick trip to Mcdonalds for those who were missing home, we head 2 miles down to Karnak temple, travelling past and alongside the excavation site where they are uncovering The Sphinx avenue; you can see where they are knocking down the houses to uncover this amazing find.
As we reach Karnak temple, although badly ruined, no site in Egypt is more impressive. It is the largest temple complex ever built by man. The temple is actually three main temples, smaller enclosed temples, and several outer temples; these were all built at different times each adding to the size. As we get closer and closer to the temple you can see the sheer size; it is huge!
The complex is a vast open-air museum and the largest ancient religious site in the world. It is believed to be the second most visited historical site in Egypt, second only to the Giza Pyramids near Cairo. As we walk further into the temple in to the Hypostyle Hall, Ehab advises us just to soak up the atmosphere and walk among the columns. When asked how do I feel I replied very small due to the height and splendor of this magnificent structure which has stood here for thousands of years.
After a busy but astounding morning visiting Luxor and Karnak Temple, we head back to the boat for some well deserved lunch ready for the afternoon trips to hotels.
The hotel is situated on the bank of the Nile, the hotel is within a short distance to many of luxors main attractions, Karnak temple, Luxor Temple and the Luxor Museum. The hotel is a 5 diamond hotel with 330 standard rooms and 21 suites.
Within the hotel there is a choice of restaurants; Opet is the restaurant that is decorated as though you are sat inside a temple whilst over looking the swimming pool and the Nile. O’nile restaurant is situated on the terrace and offers an a la carte menu. There are a number of bars scattered around the complex also.
This hotel caters very well for children offering them a children’s club, a heated children’s pool, baby sitting service, baby cots and high chairs.
There is a kidney shaped heated outdoor pool which is surrounded by exotic palm trees and majestic Nile views.
El Luxor hotel
The Hotel located right in the town centre is rated a 4 diamond Hotel; it is situated between Luxor Temple and the Museum on the waterfront of the Nile. El Luxor hotel is tucked away amidst shady gardens beside a blue-tinted swimming pool shaped like a crescent moon, the spacious and light-filled rooms all look out onto the Nile or gardens.
Sonesta St George I hotel.
This was my favorite hotel of the day; it’s a 5 diamond hotel on the banks of the Nile. The hotel has 322 guest rooms and suites and they are out of this world; lavishly decorated with a comtempory and classical elegance. Within the hotel is a luxury shopping arcade offering everything from Egyptian handicrafts to gold and diamond jewellery; you don’t need to leave the hotel. The one thing apart for the amazing style of rooms is the magnificent restaurants that it has.
There is also a luxury cruise ship. As you walk though the door the elegance hits you with the amazing reception area. The cruise ship has 47 deluxe cabins and 10 suites; it’s noted as one of the most elegant ships on the Nile and it most definitely is. The St. George offers a full-service spa and fitness center, restaurant, bars, nightly entertainment and guided excursions.
Date: 23 May 2011
Location: Luxor – Manchester
An extremely early morning up at 3.45am to get a boat to the hot air balloon on the west Bank. The hot air balloons are piloted by qualified pilots; today we are flying with ‘Bob’ Ahmed Mahmoud. As we board the small boat to make our way over to the west bank we are given an early morning cup of tea and a pastry. As we move across the Nile, Bob explains to us the landing procedure and we have to fill in a weight form so that the balloon can be balanced out as it will hold all of us; that’s 16 people plus Bob. We get on the bus on the west bank and head just past the Ramasseum.
As we arrive there are five or six balloons ready for take off; we all stand nervously watching as these massive balloons slowly ascend. Then it was our turn; we had been previously warned not to wear short skirts due to being lifted by two men in to the basket which was an experience in itsself. There were several men all around the balloon and one inside keeping the hot air going in to the balloon; the men standing around the balloon ensure that we don’t fly off without Bob. Once Bob is happy with the balancing out of the balloon he hops in and takes the controls. Suddenly the ground starts to move away from us as we slowly start to float up as the grounds men wave us off. Inside the basket it gets very hot with the flames blowing and can be quiet noisy. We slowly move over towards the Ramasseum and then make our way to the Valley of Colour which is where they stored the paints for the tombs, over towards Queen Hatshepsut mortuary temple.
After an amazing hour and reaching the height of 2,500 feet our trip comes to a end it did literally fly by. With a fantastically smooth landing our Egyptian adventure sadly comes to a end.
I was extremely lucky to be able to experience so many spectacular wonders; there is so much more to Egypt than I had thought. These amazing experiences and memories will surely stay with me forever.