Port Said – Cairo – Alexandria Egypt - 11-18-08 & 11-19-08

We arrived at Port Said this morning at 6:00am. After clearing Egyptian Customs at the ship we loaded onto our buses for our overnight Cairo trip. We had a private tour with 3 busses and about 100 people. Princess had about 70 busses going. Glad we weren’t in that bunch! Port Said is the port city to the Suez Canal which links the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. The Suez Canal is approximately 100 miles long and opened in 1869. The only time the canal has been closed since that time was during the Arab – Israeli wars of 1967 & 1973. From the time we boarded the buses and all along the highway running parallel to the canal we had a police escort. Each bus had police trucks that ran in front of and behind us. When a car would pull alongside us, they would come up and turn on their lights and sirens and that car would pull over. In the back of each truck were at least two men with rifles and side arms! We weren’t sure if this made us feel better or worse. Ha

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Driving along beside the Suez Canal we saw lots of large container ships and some strange cone shaped buildings with holes in them that our tour guide told us were pigeon houses. They eat them here.

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It was about a 3 hour bus ride to Cairo, and along the way you could tell this is very much a 3rd world country. The poverty level here is unlike any we had seen before. We passed busses of school kids and they all waved and yelled “Welcome to Egypt”. Our tour guide told us that kids were taught in school to be friendly to the tourist as it is one of the biggest industries. We can say they are doing a very good job.

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When we passed a school they were all hanging out of the windows and waving and smiling. The picture below was our first view of the city of Cairo as we were coming in on the bus.

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The smog here is really bad, they have a huge pollution problem. Cairo was founded by the Arabs in 641 A.D. and today is the capital of Egypt with a population of over 20 million. It is the largest city in Africa and the Islamic world. Our first stop was the Step Pyramid of Zoser at Saqqara. It is the world’s oldest stone monument and built around 2100 B.C.  The great pyramid covers 13 acres. Napoleon calculated that it contains enough stone to build a 10 foot wall around all of France! Below are pictures of the entrance to the pyramid and of Tony with Ishmael! HaHa

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From here we headed to lunch. Along the way we saw groves of palm trees, we had never seen a grove of them before. Also there were lots of fruit and vegetable vendors and lots of fields of rice, cabbage, and cauliflower.

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After lunch we headed to the Egyptian Antiquities Museum. It is well known as the home to King Tuts treasures and also tracks 50 centuries of history along the Nile. We couldn’t take our cameras in. It was very crowded with people from all over the world. It was pretty amazing to see the actual thrones of kings and mummies and so much gold! While I was sitting with Christine outside a Chinese girl came up and sat down beside me. I didn’t think much about it until she leaned in against me and another Chinese girl took our picture! She got up and said Thanks! We just laughed and Christine said it was because I looked so much like an Egyptian Goddess. Ha Soon after Phyl and Jim were sitting close by and a guy came up and did the same thing. It was weird but we heard that everyone likes to have their picture taken with an American. I’m not sure I believe that.

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From here we went to the sound and light show at the three pyramids of Giza. The traffic was unbelievable but we made it in time. It told a story about the pyramids along with laser lights.

Afterwards we noticed the Hard Rock Café across the street, along with a Pizza Hut and a KFC! It just seems wrong. Ha

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After the show we were informed we had been upgraded on our hotel. It was supposed to be the Hilton Conrad, but instead we got the Marriott Palace Hotel and Casino. If you want to see it go to www.cairomarriotthotel.com  Our room was in the Gezira Tower section. It was a beautiful resort hotel that used to be a real palace. We were very tired, but still wanted to get something to eat. Stephanie asked if she could come to eat with us and we had a very nice visit with her while having a local beer called Stella and a club sandwich with beef bacon, as they don’t eat pork here. Stephanie is a D.A. for Miami and reminds me so much of our niece Becky. When we checked into the hotel we noticed that they put up barricades behind the bus when it pulled into the parking lot. Then we had to pass through security just like at the airport, putting our bags through an x-ray machine. That was a first for us, but made us feel pretty secure. Below are pictures from our balcony, the breakfast room and around the hotel.

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After breakfast the next morning at the hotel we headed off for the pyramids at Giza. What a sight to see in the daylight! The great pyramid of Cheops is the sole survivor of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. The sphinx guards the tomb of the pharaoh Chephren. The other two pyramids here are for Chrphrens son and grandson.

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The picture below is a close up of the base rocks of the great pyramid. Most building blocks weigh between two and three tons. Originally each had a layer of fine limestone, but most of that has been taken away to use on newer buildings in Cairo.

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I had promised Sofia before we left that I would take a camel ride. The closer the time came to do that I became convinced I couldn’t. I could just see me falling off as the camel stood up. You have to lean way back when they stand up and they don’t walk like a horse, both left legs move at the same time so they have a funny gate. When the time came there were about 11 couples of us and we about died laughing at the expressions of people’s faces as the camel stood up. I gathered my courage and Tony and I were going to ride on one camel. As I got on, the camel stood up before Tony got on!! I thought I was going to disappear in the desert never to be found! Ha The guide made the camel sit back down and let Tony on. We rode for about 20 min. over to the pyramids and it was a blast. They made some very funny noises. We will never forget this ride. We took some pictures of our group and also had our guide take a couple of us. Then Tony took one of our shadows in the sand.

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I did it Sofia!!

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After leaving the pyramids we stopped for lunch. We had been told not to drink the water or even the ice. No lettuce or vegetables that weren’t cooked. We had flat breads that were served with dipping sauces and mostly rice and chicken. Our bus was constantly being guarded while we were stopped. They were armed at all times and we never saw anyone approach the busses.

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After lunch we went through more unbelievable traffic to get to a papyrus store. They did a demonstration of how papyrus is made. She took a stalk of the plant and cut it to the size you would want your picture or scroll to be. Then soaked it in water and pounded it and said it would be pressed for about a week, then several other weeks’ long process. We got one with our horoscope sign of Scorpio on it and a guy wrote our names on it in hieroglyphics.

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This was our last stop before boarding the busses for Alexandria and back to the ship. It was another 3 hour drive through the desert to get back. It was tons of fun, if not a little scary sometimes (at least for me) but everyone on our bus was always on time and stuck together. We had lots of laughs along the way.  The pictures below are of Alexandria and a map of Egypt to show you our route. By the time we got back to Alexandria it was getting dark and we only had about an hour before the ship left port so no time to sight see or explore here. Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great. At its peak Alexandria was the second city in the Roman Empire. St. Mark brought Christianity to Egypt here.

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We are at sea until we arrive back to Rome. After leaving the ship we will head straight to Milan to pick up Dad!! It has been a fantastic cruise, with sunny skies and calm seas. We couldn’t have asked for anything better.

We will see you in Milan…

Tony & Candy