Friday, April 9, 2010

Luxor: Part 2

We cross the Nile river in a  little boat, and begin our Luxor: Part 2 adventure.  We soon begin to realize that Luxor doesn't just have a few historical sites here and there, but that much of  the land, and probably so much undiscovered land is full of history!  And because there is so much to see and all the people are spread out looking at so many of them, a lot of sites feel empty; which is a really neat feeling.  One pretty incredible site we got to see that day was the Valley of the Kings; tombs within in a valley.  Not only are these tombs within a valley in the middle of the desert, but all the tombs go down and under; pretty far down and steep steps.  Tombs are for the pharaohs and these tombs are very secretive, so secretive that the people that built the tombs were killed.  
One tomb that really blew our mind:  We walked up the first set of steep steps that were about 30 feet, and then another set of steps that were around 10 feet.  Once we were at the top of this cliff, we began to walk down the steep steps and into the tomb.  How the Egyptians were able to get that high with a sarcophagus is beyond me.
When walking down into the tombs, they had paintings on the wall and hieroglyphics all along as well.  The entrance of many of the tombs had life and death/protection hieroglyphics, and many of the paintings were so intact.  Within the tomb was the sarcophagus, and within the sarcophagus we could see carvings on the inner walls; one with a woman on one side, a man on the other, and above was the woman and the man united.
We continued our day looking at history, and finished by  heading back to our hotel and watching a belly dancer/spinning man show.  Ok, I should probably know the name of men that spin but I don't so in this story they will be “the spinning men.”  The show was in a  amphitheater of our hotel which overlooked the Nile river.  At night it was great to see the Nile with boats passing by with their lights on.  The belly dancer was not so good, but the spinning man, wow.  I don't know how he didn't get dizzy, but he just kept spinning and spinning for at least 10-15 minutes and while he was spinning he had on a layered skirt that would spin different directions. (A little hard to explain so in this case, a picture is worth a thousand words)

After the show, we all took a little nap and then headed over to the train station (which we were excited about because it was a sleeping train and none of us had ever been on one of those!)  The rooms were really quite functional; when we arrived the room was set up like oversized airplane seats, and here we ate our dinner.  After dinner, we brushed our teeth in our little sink with a mirror and there was even an area in the top region of our room to put our luggage.  When dinner was over, the train attendant came in and converted our eating space into bunk beds! (So functional)  That night I slept like a baby and when we woke, breakfast was served and we were off  to the Cairo Marriott where we spent our first few nights.  When we arrived, we find out that there are no more rooms available.... they tell us of the JW Marriott outside the city, and so we head over there.  This hotel was intensely beautiful, and by far the nicest hotel room I've ever stayed in.  The rooms had mahogany wood everywhere, big balconies, great bathroom floors, granite coutertops and the detail within the room made it top notch.  We found out that the hotel is a 7 star hotel, although we hear there is only one true 7 star hotel in the world (in Dubai, what a surprise)  Either way the hotel was out of our world and we enjoyed every minute of it.

The indoor pool was spectacular, nicest pool I've swam in.   Bren and I  were on their rock climbing wall for some time, which was fun and quite a work out.  My parents, Bren and I had dinner and shortly after my parents were off in a taxi and on their way to the airport, back to Huntington Beach, CA.  Waking up the next morning was strange because we were so used to waking up, calling our parents in their room and heading to breakfast...  No parents to hang with, and it was a weird feeling.  Such an unforgettable trip we had and time that will always be treasured.

Felt like we were in Indiana Jones

Dad checking it out

A modern day statue

Getting some dancing in on the sleeping train

Still dancing and got the gansta face going

Us throughly enjoying the JW Mariott

The indoor pool (there was cool lighting on the ceiling that reflected on the water)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Luxor: Part 1

Early flight and off to Luxor!  After checking into the hotel, we go and check out the Karnak temple; the biggest religious complex in the world.  We enter with a pathway of tall pillars that seem to have no end.  The pillars go as far North as they do West and East and your in a maze of pillars.

Karnak was filled with people, yet the whole area felt  peaceful.  There was so much symbolism in every pillar, in every wall; it was as if the walls were talking.  Towards the back was very interesting and you could see how Christianity came to Egypt, they took over temples that were once in use.  Sad but interesting to see history; what was once a statue of a pharaoh and his family, was later taken apart and sculptured into a cross.  What was once hieroglyphics on the wall, was painted over my Mary and Joseph, and saints.  It was very interesting to be able to see history in front of me.  After the Karnak temple, we head over to the Luxor temple; so incredible the amount of stone, and the weight,  how it was all placed in one spot, and then as if that wasn't enough, every stone is carved out with different meaning, and statues are everywhere.  Throughout the day, a man with a horse and carriage was taking us around from spot to spot.  Very sweet man, and after our day, he invited us to his house for some tea.  His family was so kind, and his brother's kid was too ADORABLE!

The symbol on the right means "The key of life"

The man with his horse and carriage that took us around for the day

My shadow looks pretty cool, and yes I'm steering the horse; liked it a lot
The man called his horse and carriage a "Ferrari" Pretty clever

This shows the Coptic Christians painting over the hieroglyphics. 

I don't know how much longer the long hair is lasting

I was in a "taking pictures" day, hence all the pictures of Bren

Mom taking it in

If you were to touch the hieroglyphics in the background, it meant protection, shelter, good luck and I think something else as well, but can't remember 

Love him

Sunset at the Luxor Bank

Our driver and his adorable nephew

Friday, April 2, 2010

I Turn Another Year

We take a bus ride to Sharm and then a cab to Dahab (coastal city)  On the bus ride, midnight strikes and I hear the birthday song: "Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you..."   Being with family on my birthday and being sung to will ALWAYS put a smile on my face!  We arrive to Dahab early early morning and take a nap.  Relax on the beach, take an Egyptian cooking class and Bren sets up a romantic dinner for 2 on the beach through the hotel.

 At the cooking class, the head chef was our instructor and found out we would be doing the dinner on the beach.  He was so excited and made sure we got the best cut of the lamb, the biggest shrimps, delicious starter salads, and he even baked me a birthday cake.  The atmosphere on the sand in front of the quiet beach, with candles and rose petals all around was so Beautiful!  After my B-day dinner we got ready to climb Mt. Sinai, but not before receiving b-day cards.  Very special part of my b-day.  received cards from Javs, Mama C, Papa G and my parents.  Not to mention the birthday email from Ang, and facebook posts I received.  Thank you to everyone.  You make me feel special and very loved.  My day just kept going.  11pm and off to Mt. Sinai.  Mt. Sinai is a hight mountain that you climb at night to be at the top when the sun rises over all the rocks and turn them a golden color.

You may have also heard about Mt. Sinai and Moses; this is where God presented Moses with the 10 Commandments.  Why Moses climbed all that way to talk to God was a mind boggler, but when we got up there, I realized this place would be a pretty great place to have a conversation; peaceful.  When we arrived to the base of the mountain, there were many many people and all were making the trek!  My parents went up on camel, while Bren and I really felt teh urge to climb the mountain.  On our way up, there were people with lights and in groups singing religious songs in all languages.  Very interesting and cool to be a part of.  We meet the parents up at another base and had to walk 750 steps to the top and the camel could not climb this part.  My mom, with her sprained ankle, makes it to the top.  We hang at the top for about 1 hour before the sun begins to rise at the top of Mt. Sinai. the sun begins to rise: serenity and not one person is talking.

What a neat feeling with the sun rising on top of Mt. Sinai on my birthday.  We hand on top of the mountain for some time and soon the crowds begin to dissapear and we find ourselves alone on Mt. Sinai: Peace  Once we get down, we walk into St. Katherine's Monastery; the 1st and oldest monastery.  Within the walls of the monastary we find ourselves with the biblical "burning bush."  1st the spot of Moses and the 10 Commandments and then the burning bush.
Recap: Happy Birthday song at midnight, Egyptian cooking class, romantic dinner on the beach, trek up to Mt. Sinai, trek down to the monastery, finished by what felt like a 5 minute drive back to the hotel, only becasue we were all so tired, we fell asleep as we got in the car and didn't wake till the driver woke us up.  What a birthday...need I say more?

Mom doing some shopping

Mom's really getting a hang of the camel thing!

Who's afraid of heights???

The Famous Pyramids

Late night, early morning; it's how we do.  Off to the step Pyramid in Saquara (the oldest pyramid known to mankind)  Egypt is a great country to learn, but there are of course people trying to make money off tourist.  Let's just say Egypt is 5-10x's worse.  Our taxi ride to the first pyramids was a really dishonest taxi driver and Bren and I had been in Egypt for about 3-4 weeks at this point and roughly knew taxi prices; this man really rigged the meter.  Really tired of all the Egyptian haggling, we tell the man we aren't paying according to the meter and we had seen him rig it.  The man gets offended (That's his way of saying 'You caught me, but know I have to keep the lie going."  Longer story short, we got out of the taxi mid road and at that moment the public bus was passing by and we hopped on, perfect timing.

The Step Pyramids was located in the middle of the desert with the sun beating down (really felt like we were in Egypt)

Next to the pyramid were many tombs with intricate carvings and intact color paintings.

We learned about the symbolism and what certain symbols meant.  Re-curring symbols were the eye of protection and the key of life.
Our next stop "Pyramids of Giza."  Before entering, we found ourselves some pretty camels that would take us around the pyramids.  My mom is scared of heights and camels are pretty tall animals, so watching her get on the camel was really a funny sight.  The very neat thing about taking the camels, apart from them being beautiful, the route the camels went, we felt like the only people out in the desert, amidst these large pyramids.  How they got there is still a mystery, though there a few hypothesis, but still no certainty.  After we checked out the Sphinx, which feels a lot smaller in person, although that could also be because it is next o the massive pyramids.  We then headed over to the restaurant, Barry's; where we had a delicious dinner as the sun was setting and the pyramid light and sound show began.  The light show can be a little cheesy with all the colors, but the way it lights up the enormous pyramids is purely spectacular.  Wonderful way to end a great day!

Our guide was cool

Pretending to find some old ancient artifact

This picture almost looks fake.  The carvings were so deep and the perfect.  I wonder what they did when they messed up on a picture; kind of hard to erase a carving...

Eating some grub before going to the Pyramids of Giza

These animals are so fun

Dad having fun on the camel

We're getting closer to the pyramids

"Walk like an Egyptian"

The Sphinx

Cute girl we played with

A girl that began to talk to us, then...

A whole group of girls!

Our dinner view!