Egypt 2004
     
 

In December 2004, I treveled to Egypt for one week. Just to see how the sun looks like. In Bergen, Western Norway, the sun has left us. It's poring down month after month, to an unimaginable level. It has rained almost every single day in the autumn. Egypt was quite pleasant, despite the degree of harassment on the streets. Poor Arabs are constantly trying to sell you stuff you don't need or asking for money. However, after a couple of days you get used to the hassle, and simple ignore the screaming hordes (or follow the advise given by Lonely planet: screem "Ya russki" (I'm russian = have no money). The weather was nice, with temperatures up to 25°C during the day. Nights were quite cold, though, with temperatures dropping to 10-15°C.

I spent 5 days in Sharm El-Sheikh on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. This city is a typical tourist destination, built from the ground (or more correctly the sand) in the last 30 years. But sometimes it is OK with a typical tourist resort, with fine restaurants and an easy living. The most impressive aspect of Sharm El-Sheikh is the Red Sea. Outside the city, it is only sand and mountains. Nothing grows in this desolate desert. Wonder how people survived here earlier? Not strange that Abraham left this peninsula in vain (if we are going to believe in what's written in the Bible). But in the Red Sea, there is another world.

 

The 11 kg golden mask of Tutankhamun, covering the mummy of this pharaoh king who ruled Egypt in the years 1336-1327 BC. Egyptian Museum, Cairo

 

Sharm El-Sheikh, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt

 

Neneath the sea surface, an entire new world emerges... With thousands of fishes, beautiful coral reefs, and a transparent salty blue sea. I spent a long day snorkeling in the Ras Mohammed National Park. A very pleasant experience indeed. On a second daytrip in the Red Sea, I even did two scuba dives, my first dives in years.

Had to refresh some basic diving knowledge, but the company who organized the dives did the necessary things to ensure I didn't drown. But who cares too much about the dive tables anyway?

 

Sharm El-Sheikh

 

Sharm El-Sheikh

 

Sharm El-Sheikh at night

 

Arab water pipe

 

Sharm El-Sheikh merchandise

 

Local art

 

Stella, the local companion

 

Laughing Dove (Spilopelia senegalensis). Not many bird species to be seen on the trip. Other photographed species included Caspian Tern, Sooty Gull, Cattle Egret, Hooded Crow, Common Bulbul, Rock Dove, White Wagtail

 

Red Sea outside my Sharm El Sheikh hotel

 

Yepp, yepp, many species here... Including Indo-Pacific Sergeant Major (Abudefduf vaigiensis)

 

Red Sea corals

 

Rusty Parrotfish (Scarus ferrugineus)

 

The Cliff's at Ras Mohammed National Park

 

Dry land

 

 

Snorkeling trip to Ras Mohammed National Park

Sunday. Up early. Bought a snorkeling trip to this famous, and often described as one of the best diving sites in the world. With some of the world's most brilliant and amazing underwater scenery.

"The crystal-clear water, the rare and lovely reefs and the incredible variety of exotic fish darting in and out of the colorful coral have made this a snorkeling and scuba-diving paradise, attracting people from all over the world."

We did two stops this Sunday. First we spent about one hour in the sea at the last formation west of the labyrinthine coral complex at Alternatives, a place called Stingray Station. Called so because one usually see many types of rays here. We saw two species; the Blue-spotted Stingray (Dasyatis kuhlii) and the Blue-spotted Ribbontail Ray (Taeniura lymma). And probably more than one hundred other colorful species of tropical reef fishes. The background of even more colorful corals, with the bluish giant clam in between, was equally impressive. I didn't get any photos, since my cheap, underwater camera was leaking...

 

 

The next stop was at a place called Jackfish Alley, not too far from Shark Observatory. This was maybe an even more splendid place to snorkel. This time I left the floating west in the boat, and was able to free dive down to 6-8 meters. Lots of fish species also here.

To be able to scuba dive in the national park, you need to have at least the "Advanced diver" course. They don't allow people with only the "Open water diver" course to scuba dive at this place. But due to the clear blue water snorkeling is also very rewarding. Absolutely a place I can recommend.

Colona, the company that organized the trip made a DVD, filming some of the encountered fishes (and the tourists) throughout the day. Some snapshots from the film can be seen below.

 

Bluespotted Ribbontail Ray (Taeniura lymma) (still from a poor DVD video)

Red Sea Anemonefish (Amphiprion bicinctus)

 

Me free-diving down to maybe 7 meters to say hello to the filmmaker (Ras Mo site)

Halfmoon Angelfish (Pomacanthus maculosus), Red Sea

 

Red Sea wrasse (not sure of species, there are 82 wrasse species in the Red Sea, but think it is a Humphead Wrasse/Napoleonfish (Cheilinus undulatus))

 

Red Sea Bannerfish (Heniochus intermedius)

 

Red Sea snorkling trip

 

 

Great lunch on board the boat

 

I also spent two days in Cairo, the capital of Egypt. Had to take a bus ride from Sharm El- Sheikh to Cairo, about 500 km through the Sinai Desert. Cairo is one of the biggest city's of the world, with about 20 mill. citizens. Crowded, in other words, and with one of the worst driving cultures in the world. It is also very polluted, with the classical, big city haze and ozone laden air.

But anyway, I had the opportunity to visit the National Museum of Egypt; the Egyptian Museum, with all the great artefacts representing this country's impressive history. The main focus in the museum is of course all the great items found by Howard Carter in 1922 from the Tutankhamun grave in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor. Especially the golden death mask of the young pharaoh, probably one of most epic items in the world today. But it was interesting to see the mummies of several pharaohs and their wife's at the museum, even if we had to spend an additional 70 Egyptian pounds to see them. I'm pretty sure Ramses II, one of the mightiest pharaohs of all time, didn't want tourists and everybody else to watch his stiff being displayed for amusement and lying as a freak at the museum today. Poor man, he built this massive tomb for himself. To ensure his mind was ready for a new life when his time came, and to prevent desecration of the grave.

 

Two-day trip to Cairo

 

The Citadel, Cairo

 

Cairo suburb

 

A very polluted city. Haze above Cairo - view from the Citadel

 

River in Cairo

 

Modern and old

 

Traffic was crazy in Cairo

 

Egyptian museum, Cairo

 

A security guard outside the Egyptian Museum. Islamic terrorism was a concern also in 2004

 

Khan al-Khalili market, Cairo

 

Gaudy finery - stuff you don't need. Khan al-Khalili market

 

Khan al-Khalili market

 

Tea and waterpipe

 

Hijab required!

 

Coffee break near the Khan al-Khalili market

 

Nile River waterfront

 

Women rowing on the Nile River

 

Went on a "classic" sundowner cruise on the Nile River with the Felucca boat

 

Nile River at night

 

Interestingly, ox and donkey still in use. On our way top Saqqara south of Cairo

 

Ox in the city, south of Cairo

 

Donkey corner, south of Cairo

 

City life in the outskirts of Cairo

 

The Step Pyramid (Pyramid of Djoser), Saqqara

 

Local man, Saqqara

 

Local man, Saqqara

 

Local man, Saqqara

 

The pyramids - impressions

First we went to Saqqara, close to Memphis, the ancient capitol of Egypt, and where the first dynasty buried their dead. Saqqara is situated about 30 km south of Cairo. Most impressive was the Step pyramid, which is 4,654 years old, and claimed to be the oldest stone monument in the world (but what about Stonehenge, isn't that supposed to be around 6000 years old?). Other pyramids were also located in this region. After having seen the tomb of Mereruka, we went into the Teti pyramid, still containing the sarcophagus and filled with hieroglyphs on the walls. Teti was the first pharaoh of the sixth dynasty.

After Saqqara we made a short stop in Memphis and got a glimpse of the huge limestone statue of Ramses II and the Sphinx of Memphis made of alabaster depicting the same pharaoh next to it.

 

Desert at Saqqara, 30 km south of Cairo

 

Inside the Tomb of Mereruka, Saqqara

 

Egyptian anciet drawing and hieroglyphs, Saqqara

 

Sphinx of Memphis

 

Ramses II statue at Memphis

 

Me in front of the Giza pyramids

 

Camel

 

The Pyramid of Cheops, Giza. Very impressive indeed

 

In Giza we first stopped next to the massive Cheops pyramid, the largest one. It was claimed that one can use the stones of this pyramid to build a two meter high stone fence around the whole of France. Say no more. The cobbles were smaller than I imagined, but are probably weighing some tons. Much of the finer limestone's originally covering the pyramids have been ripped off and reused in other building projects through the centuries. Only the top of the Chephren pyramid still has some of these stones left. Went inside the Pyramid of Menkaure/Mycerinus Pyramid, but there was little to see inside the tomb chamber.

The last "big one" at Giza was of course the Sphinx, the (nowadays' nose less) feline man called the Sphinx by the ancient Greeks resembling the mythical winged monster with a woman's head and lion's body who set riddles and killed anyone unable to answer them. It was carved from the natural bedrock downhill of the Cheops pyramid, and most likely portraying this pharaoh. It is unclear who hammered off the nose, but part of his beard is now on display in the British museum in London.

 

Pyramid of Menkaure, Giza

 

Pyramid of Menkaure entrance

 

The Sphinx

 

The Sphinx in front of the Pyramid of Chephren and the Pyramid of Menkaure (left)

 

Giza site

 

Pyramid stones

 

Camel police in front of the Chephren Pyramid (Pyramid of Khafre), Giza

 

The Giza police

       
       
 

One last warning: stay away from Egyptian whisky, it tasted like camel pee. How do they make it? Norwegian moonshine tastes better.