Walk like an Egyptian (Day 810)

What?  Has somebody used that line already?

I’m about to squeeze almost 4 weeks of Egyptian experiences into one blog post.  Are you sitting down?  Good.

An obligatory stop is those little pyramids Egypt is so famous for.  They are mostly what you imagine:  ancient (4,000 years old!), massive, with perfect geometry… and overrun with tourists.  It’s hard to avoid the hordes, but the pyramids are still worth visiting.  What you might not have expected is that they are not out in a remote desert somewhere;  they are in the middle of a modern neighborhood on the outskirts of Cairo.  There is actually a golf course next door.

In Egypt they also have some desert.  (Just a little.)  I visited the aptly named “Great Sand Sea.”  Sand dunes for as far as the eye could see.  I tried to cycle out to the them, but it turns out bikes don’t work well in soft sand dunes.  I had to abandon the bike and trudge through on foot to get some sand dune pics.  Travelling is a tough job .  (Did I mention it’s hot in the desert?).

It was right about this time, right here, when I decided that “The Great Sand Sea” was the perfect name for this place

More desert anyone?  Near the Bahariya Oasis, desert sand clashes with crazy white rock formations.  It’s a creates a surreal landscape.  I had the privilege of sleeping out in this desert, under the stars.  Actually, seeing the canvas of stars from my sleeping bag was a pleasure; freezing my nuts off was not.  Who knew a place so hot during the day could get so damn cold at night??

Chalk-white rocks and sand, a combination I’ve never seen, and probably never will again

I encountered something new during my stay in Cairo:  a sandstorm.  It was official, too, I checked the Cairo weather forecast on the internet and it said “Sandstorm.”  It’s super windy and the sun gets blotted out from the sky.  It’s pretty cool for about 45 seconds, then every exposed square inch of your body gets caked in sand, and you can’t see anything because the sand is stinging your eyes… right about then, it starts to suck.

In other news, I found some peanut butter in the diplomatic area of Cairo.  Score!  I have learned how to find peanut butter in foreign countries.  Go to the neighborhood where the foreign embassies are located.  That’s where the expats live in work.  If there is any PB in the country, you’ll find it there.  That’s today’s travel tip.

After a one year hiatus, I returned to the world of scuba diving in Egypt!  I dived the Blue Hole in the Red Sea, one of the world’s most famous.  The sensation of being suspended underwater has not lost its novelty for me.  Great stuff.

About 10 years ago I stayed in the Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas.  The hotel is in the shape of a pyramid.  I just realized this is strange, because I’ve now been to Luxor, and there are no pyramids there.  There are a lot of tombs, ruins and temples, though.

These are the two bouncers at the Luxor Temple.  Don’t piss them off.

If you get past the bouncers, here is a little of what you get to see:  columns, oh yeah!On a blog administration note, I’m running out of words to describe impressive things I see around the world.  I used up all my superlatives about 18 months.  My vocab simply is not that big and I feel like this blog is becoming a broken record.  But, I’m just telling it like a see it.  So, when describing some far-flung location, if I use “awesome” for the 83rd time in the last two years, it’s because it is awesome.  You are just going to have to trust me.   (Or better yet, if you haven’t already, get out here and go see the world and see what I mean!)

Speaking of superlatives… These temples, tombs, pyramids, all this stuff the ancient Egyptians have built, really are grand and mind-blowing.  I had figured that the Romans were the most extravagant civilization in history, but no, I think even their monstrous constructions are humbled by what the Pharaohs had built.  Could these Pharaohs be the most egotistical people in history?  Maybe.

I hope you had a Merry Christmas!  This is my third Christmas on the road.  It might have been a little different from yours.  People don’t celebrate it down here.  I don’t think anybody knows it’s happening.  It’s just another day here in Aswan, Egypt.  So Christmas for me consisted of hot temperatures, seeing some temples and going for a felucca (traditional wooden sail boat) ride on the Nile River:

I have a Christmas present for you:  more Egypt pics.  I know, I know, it’s just want you always wanted.  You’re welcome.

I was in an internet cafe the other day trying to open the computer’s CD tray.  The stupid thing was stuck.  I tried a couple of tricks I knew from my years in the biz, but no luck.  The guy who works there comes over and starts rubbing his hand over the computer’s case, all the while mumbling in Arabic.  All of a sudden, WHACK!  WHACK!  he slams the top of the computer!  … And the CD tray opens.  I start laughing.  He smiles and says, in a very thick accent, “This is Egyptian way.”  I like it :)

This is my last post from a part of the world that is traditionally called the Middle East.  I have been almost 3 months in this interesting part of the world.  As I do a quick look back, for me the Middle East has been a lot of history, impressive structures & sites (castles, mosques, temples and pyramids, oh my!), great cities, and incredible food.  For a few reasons, I have partied a lot less in this part of the world than I have elsewhere.  But this is probably a good thing for my shrinking bank account and growing beer belly :)

So.  I’m heading into Africa.  I will be going to places where internet cafes are few and far between, so we might not talk much for the next few months.  But, I’ll be back…

I hope you have killer New Years.  Tomorrow a boat is taking me south.  To Sudan.

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7 Responses to Walk like an Egyptian (Day 810)

  1. Anonymous says:

    visit botswana and let me know what you think…wanna live there with the fam for a year. or two.
    keep livin’ life!

  2. Joe says:

    We spent 3 nights in the Western Desert. The mushroom shaped rock formations were ay-mayzing. Also loved the Fellucca ride. Thanks for bringing back some great memories. Have a great time in Africa. We’ll definitely be picking your brain about that one. Are you going all the way to Cape Town overland?

    • smartelo says:

      I would love to, it would be epic, but I think I might pull up short of Cape Town. Having said that, I’m not quite sure what the hell I’m doing, so you never know. Watch this space :)

  3. Lauren Harvey says:

    Congratulations on your SEVENTH continent, Shawn!!!
    Keep up the *awesome* updates. I always look forward to them. :^)

    • smartelo says:

      Thank you! I definitely will where ever these African internet connections allow. I think dial-up would be faster than what is happening here in Ethiopia :)

  4. Pingback: Summary and Best Of: Europe, the Middle East, and Africa | Shawn Was Here

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