Thursday, August 16, 2012
Hurghada and our last night in Cairo, Aug 13-16
Early in the morning we left our boat and met our new tour coordinator/guide, Aziz. Then it was into the van and off to Hurghada.
It was a four hour drive through the desert to the Red Sea. We did stop once at a washroom in the middle of nowhere. I had to laugh because they had a light up neon sign on the men’s washroom of a guy peeing.
We did have a blip with food when we got to our resort, Mercure. They could only accommodate Graham’s allergy needs in the morning. I had one crabby, hungry kid on my hands and no where to eat. Aziz returned to the hotel and got everything worked out…take out McDonalds. The boys were delighted.
John said it was rather ironic that I told Aziz that the kids were tired and cranky because they hadn’t eaten when the poor guy hadn’t eaten since 3:30am and wouldn’t be allowed to eat or drink until 6:30pm (Ramadan fasting).
John and I sat by the pool and watched the sun go down. There were mostly Russian people at the resort. Aziz told us that more than 2000 Russian tourists come to Hurghada a day.
The resort is gorgeous very similar to what you would see in Mexico or the Caribbean. The Red Sea is beautiful with its bright turquoise water. It is also warm. Mmmmmmm.
August 14, 2012
The next day we had our buffet breakfast then sat by the pool and swam in the ocean until 11:45am. Hubby decided to stay at the resort and relax whereas the boys and I went on a Bedouin Desert Safari adventure at their village.
A van drove to our hotel to pick us up. When they flipped open the doors, the back was already packed with five other tourists. The most substantial occupant (in build) was an older Russian grandma who wore knee length socks with a pair of capris with her buxam chest practically bursting the buttons of her shirt. The Russian tourists spoke no English but seemed friendly enough.
We jumped in and the van tore off into the desert. We were soon accompanied by other vans filled with tourists and a guy wearing a black Chel (scarf) around his head and face was sprawled across the roof of one of the speeding vans filming the excitement. I kept expecting to see him hurtling off into the sands.
We were flying across the desert so quickly that I am certain there were times when all four wheels were airborn.
All the vans stopped to check out a mirage and a guy put on our chels (head scarves). I have to admit we looked like a rather sketchy bunch when we were once again packed into the back of the van. The Russian grandma looked especially imposing.
As Arabic music played loudly on the radio, we returned to flying over the desert towards some very dry looking mountains. I was hoping we would get there soon because my feelings of queasiness increased with every bump.
Finally, within the dry sand/clay mountains, we reached the Bedouin village.
We clambered out and refreshed ourselves with cold water (brought in from Hurghada) and snacked on bread and cheese/marmalade and Bedouin tea served by a very solemn boy dressed in a galabiya and turbin. He was a beautiful boy with big dark eyes and a very serious expression.
Next it was off to the ATVs. They were lined up bumper to bumper in four rows in a shaded area. Cameron was disappointed because you had to be 16 to drive so he rode behind one of the leaders.
After looking us over, they put Graham and I in the woman’s ATV line. When they turned on our engines, the lady behind Graham, accidentally hit the gas bumping him which then caused a domino effect with the bumps down the line. I heard Graham mumble something derogatory about women drivers.
Soon we all started off into the desert with our scarves covering our mouths for the dust. Quite quickly, a larger and larger gap grew between me and the ATV in front of me. I heard Graham yelling “Speed up Mom” and the leader instructing me to go faster.
Finally the leader had me pull over and everyone passed except another lady and the Russian grandma.
Fortunately, I was not the last to get to the destination (a desert canyon). I was already stopped and was able to watch grandma putter in. She certainly did strike a memorable figure with her sturdy form and headdress covered by a helmet. The scene was an eclectic mix of Easy Rider meets the Dictator.
After a break, we returned to the village. Numerous times I drove off the path and got stuck in the sand. The leader always got me out. I don’t think I was cut out for this.
Next experience was donkey riding. The donkey was small but strong with the gentlest, expressive eyes. We petted him for quite awhile after the boys and I had our ride. I swear I saw his eye bulge to twice their size when grandma lumbered past. Mercifully, she didn’t ride.
After a break, it was time for the Dune buggy driving. There were two people per buggy. I rode with Graham and Cameron rode with Aziz. I let Graham take my turn as well as his to drive, but I must admit, it was a tad scary because he was going pretty fast.
We learned about the spices and medicinal plants the Bedouins grew and some Bedouin women showed me how to roll and cook Bedouin bread. They were thoroughly covered from head to foot and didn’t speak. We also watched other Bedouins do sand paintings.
It was after that when I had my unfortunate camel experience. The camels lie down when you mount them but it is still pretty high. I swung my leg over and slammed my front lower leg, close to the ankle against the thing you hold onto on the saddle.
It is quite the experience when the camel rises. They straighten their back legs first which pitches you forward, then the front legs are straightened which pitch you back. Yikes.
Over all the camels were well behaved. However, an hour after I hit it, did my lower leg ever swell and I now have a pretty vibrant bruise on it.
We toured a Bedouin house then they took us to their make shift zoo of animals and reptiles of the desert. I still can’t figure out what an ostrich was doing in the collection along with numerous snakes and lizards.
Poor Aziz was really counting down the hours until he could have water and eat. It was soooooo hot.
Evening was approaching so a Swiss couple and my family were taken by our guides to another desert valley where we were all told to yell a word in unison. The echo was amazing.
We made our way to an open air circle surrounded by seating and tables. They washed our hands in flower scented water and we enjoyed a meal of grilled meats, rice, salad and bread (water and coke). Many people also partook of the sheesha pipes (apple flavoured) but the boys wouldn’t let me. We relaxed and enjoyed the Bedouin hospitality as the sun set.
As soon as 6:30 hit, Aziz and the other guide guzzled a bottle of water and dug into the food which they had already placed on their plates.
We were entertained by an Egyptian flute and drums, then a belly dancer and finally a fabulous whirling Dervish.
Once again we piled into the vans and took off into the desert, stopping in the middle of nowhere to go out and look at the star filled skies. They had telescopes and with no light pollution, the viewing was fabulous. I saw Saturn so clearly.
Back into the vans and to the tune of some wild Arabic song, we sped towards Hurghada. At one point, some animal ran across our headlights.
We slept well.
August 15, 2012 – Our twentieth wedding anniversary
After breakfast, Graham and I were picked up at our hotel for our snorkelling excursion on the Red Sea. My hubby and Cameron decided to just kick back and relax at the resort.
Hurghada is truly a tourist place; lots of resorts and shops. More prettied up but less real than the other towns we had been at in Egypt.
The marina is all brand new and beautiful. Aziz got us on the right boat and we went for about 45 minutes to a private island/beach area. The snorkelling even off the beach was great and it was even more spectacular from the boat.
I was almost the first one off the boat and after about a half or ¾ of an hour, I looked up and I was one of the last ones still in the water. This was just as good as Haunama Bay in Hawaii. The water was soooo vibrantly turquoise.
Graham had gone out with me but then after a while said his flippers were hurting him and that he was going to take them off and come back out. He stayed on the boat reading Ann Frank’s diary.
We returned to the private beach with its palm leaf covered umbrellas and restaurant. We had a lunch, including grilled chicken…lots of grilled chicken served in Egypt. Then after a nap under our umbrella it was time to head back.
When we returned, hubby and I sat by the pool until the sun set, then went to the hotel restaurant for our 20th anniversary dinner. It was a buffet and even had crabs. After we finished our main courses, about 6 staff came in clapping and gave us a whole cake that said Happy Anversay.
We watched the poolside dance show for awhile before heading back to our rooms to pack.
August 16, 2012
Aziz and the driver picked us up at 8am and we drove for 5 ½ hours through the desert to Cairo. The one thing about Cairo is that they do have a garbage issue that they need to deal with. There were two dead cows or ? in the canal by the side of the road.
After lunch at the Kleopatra restaurant, we returned to the gorgeous Mena House Hotel. Once again they gave us our exact same rooms except one floor lower. We have a fabulous view of the pyramids. Staff at both the restaurant and hotel remembered us from a week and a half ago.
When the worst of the afternoon heat subsided we all went to the pool for a swim, then risked our lives and crossed traffic to go to the boy’s favourite Shawarma place.
Graham pointed out that although there seem to be no traffic rules, there are not many accidents. He’s decided that this is because there are not many women drivers.
I feel really sad to be leaving Egypt tomorrow morning.