Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Egypt: A Journey as interesting as the Destination

Sometimes we’ve found the journey is every bit as interesting as the destination. That was certainly our experience during our introduction to Egypt . . .

Early morning arrivals had become the norm on that Magic Carpet Ride of a cruise we took from Bangkok through the Middle East to Istanbul last spring. As we approached Port Safaga, (Bur Safaga) an Egyptian port on the Red Sea, the early morning sun was illuminating the mountains surrounding it.

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Port Safaga, Egypt
Mountains? In Egypt?  Those towering tan peaks were just the first of many things about Egypt that blew away many of my pre-conceived notions. Silly me, I thought Egypt was a flat, dry, sun-baked stretch of endless sand.

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Port Safaga, Egypt

Unlike the working port where our Oceania Nautica would be docked next to local ferries for two days, Safaga, the resort town some 37 miles away, hosts snorkelers and divers drawn here from around the world for its stunning reefs and fish. In 1993 it was the site of the World Windsurfing Championships. Silly me, did I know that tourism promotions had billed the Red Sea here as one of the “Seven Wonders of the Underwater World”?

P1000995Cruise ships stop at this working Port Safaga because its location, about 230 kilometers or 143 miles, away from Luxor, the city built on the site of the ancient Egyptian capital of Thebes. It is the gateway to that treasure trove of antiquities.

Frankly we find these working ports, teeming with frieghters, commerce, ferries and everyday life far more interesting than the beautifully landscaped cruise ship ports. But we didn’t have a lot of time to watch port activities because. . .



. . .we’d opted to visit Luxor on one of the ship-sponsored ‘big bus’ tours. We were new to Egypt and weren’t quite ready then to explore it on our own, as we recently did on our visit to Cairo. It wasn’t so much security concerns - and there are security considerations when traveling in Egypt - it was more a question of acquainting ourselves with the country in a short amount of time.

 (BTW, thanks to the world’s geopolitical situation, it could be said their are security concerns in going to your own local grocery store these days, so it isn’t fair to single out Egypt.)

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Caravan loads and departs
Safety and security were taken seriously by ship’s staff. We were told we would travel in a caravan of buses, with an armed escort vehicle in the lead. And that the front two seats in each bus would be reserved for the armed escorts (actually, we didn’t have any in our bus, but others did report having them). In reality, our ‘caravan’ lasted until we hit the open road when the drivers took delight in passing each other and setting out on their own.

We didn’t have a sense of caravan on our return trip to the ship. However, the local tour guide assigned to our bus had us back aboard and out of Luxor by 6 p.m. because after that time vehicles weren’t allowed to leave the city and travel the route we were taking back to the ship.

The Journey to Luxor

So off we headed for Luxor on a near three-hour journey each direction; a journey that we quickly realized was as interesting as is the destination!

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En route to Luxor
I have no idea what this sign says, but I can tell you that it was the first I saw as we left the city and I read it as, “Whoa! We aren’t in Kansas anymore, Toto!”

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Egypt
Vast long stretches of sand, helped keep my preconceived notions about the country alive, but still the topography was more varied than I had expected.

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One of many guard stations in Egypt
Elevated check points stations randomly appearing along the route were reminders of heightened security. Armed officers were visible inside most and the height of the bus put us almost at eye level -  even this shutterbug wasn’t going to aim and shoot at them – I waited until I saw an empty window.

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Views from the bus - every day people. . . doing everyday things
The best part of this journey was the chance to see ordinary people going about their everyday lives.  Viewing this unscripted spontenity of life makes up some of our favorite travel experiences. As we came to towns we could see the families tending their small herds, and the workers creating roadways and lining canals. We pondered how hot the woman dressed from head to toe in black must be considering the temperature was in the high 90’s F.

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On the way to Luxor

As we neared the Nile River, the life giving impact of is tributaries was evident in the greening of the landscape - trees and agricultural fields lined our route.  This portion of the trip by far was the most fun because we had such an unexpected welcome:

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An enthusiastic welcome to Egypt
Children along side the road greeted our parade of buses as if they were carrying rock stars. Waves, shouts and smiles. . .

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And another group of enthusiastic greeters. . .
. . .this group jumped, shouted and high-fived each other when they made eye contact with those of us on the bus. . .

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We'd reached agricultural land en route to Luxor
Irrigated fields stretched for miles along our route, giving us a glimpse of this agricultural part of the country.

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Man and beast

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Moving the crop
Everyday scenes creating long lasting memories. . .

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Waiting to cross the road. . .
How could Luxor’s antiquities possibly top these scenes? In our next post we’ll focus on what we found in Luxor. . .  That’s it for this week. Thanks for the time you’ve spent with us. Happy and safe travels to you and your family ~

Linking this week:

Mosaic Monday – 
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

43 comments:

  1. Indeed a virtual travel through your photos.Thanks for sharing the great clicks.

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by and glad you enjoyed the tour!

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  2. I have to confess that I too think of Egypt as sand in varying shades of tan with dunes rather than mountains. Changing those preconceived notions is one of the best things about travel. Loved the enthusiastic greeting your group received as well as seeing pics of people involved in their daily activities. Being reminded that we have so much in common with others, no matter where we are is another great thing about traveling!

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    1. You do learn so much from travel, don't you Anita? I absolutely am becoming intolerant of my friends who don't go see the world but prefer to judge it and its people by just what they read in the headlines. . .

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  3. Great photos and so much to learn from your travels. I too was under the mistaken impression that it was all flat sand. Looking at the pictures of the young childeren outside the buses reminded me of my youth when I would visit Greece and the kids would be waiting outside the buses and playing around. Looking forward to the next post!! :)

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    1. Glad you enjoy the tour and I do so love the enthusiasm of children in greeting 'strangers' to their areas. And your mention of Greece has me counting the days until I return (six weeks and we are back!)

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  4. I, too, thought of sand when I thought of Egypt...maybe photos of all those camels walking across the sand...?
    Thanks for sharing these lovely photos of your trip... it looks so amazing.
    xoxo

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    1. I've got some of those photos of camels BJ, they'll be showing up in future posts!

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  5. Fascinating - thank you so much for sharing at http://image-in-ing.blogspot.com/2016/02/potted.html

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  6. Interesting that you would mention the working ports. We stopped at many of them in South America and Genoa is also one of our favorites~

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    1. I have a less-traveled friend who snarled at a cruise she'd taken because the ship was docked at a working port, I couldn't understand what her complaint was - we love those ports and the activity that takes place there.

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  7. One of my favorite things about traveling is just looking out the window and glimpsing daily life. I asked my Syrian foster son what the sign says and apparently it's just one of those signs announcing what company is doing repairs on the road. Sorry to disappoint!

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    1. We suspected it was simply directional as it appeared early on as we left town and headed into the unpopulated area.

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  8. The "Moving the Crop Photo" I've seen before on the other side of the continent in Morocco! I can feel the excitement of the bus ride through your photos.

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    1. It was fun and a nice way to see a lot of the country going about its regular daily routines. Thanks for stopping by Jan!

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  9. When I went to Egypt (more than 10 years ago), two body guards were assigned to the group. Nobody said we were having body guards but we kind of understood why they were with us. I observed a lot of security measures (like when taking a taxi). I guess some things have not changed.

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    1. Taxis were without any kind of security and we took several (aside from having trunks and under bellies of cars screened as we entered hotel parking lots but then that is done in Turkey and other countries as well. We had security at the entry of each hotel but not sure they'd have had much effect had some heavily armed group come bursting in. Thanks for the visit, Ruth!

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  10. Life and travel should always be about the journey. I like seeing the everyday people, not sure about noise around the working ship yard but that would still be better than the tourist area.

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    1. Noise never seems to be too major a factor in these shipyards; certainly not like Fort Lauderdale and Miami cruise ports where the happy cruisers let you know they are there! ;-) Thanks for visiting ~

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  11. A wonderful introduction to traveling in Egypt. I long to go there. Sorry though to see as in many developing areas that garbage is a big problem. No infrastructure or traditional support, I guess.

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    1. That's the beauty of travel on our own Elaine, we can see the warts as well as the wonder. I sometimes question those who rave about places when they have taken hosted trips and have seen only what the tourism folks want them to see and then they report what they've seen as though there were no garbage, strikes or traffic jams or other of life's realities. Guess I kinda like seeing that less-than-pretty side of life; makes it more real somehow. Thanks much for stopping by!

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  12. Now that you mention it, Jackie, that's exactly what I've thought of Egypt too. I'm scratching my head trying to think were I would have gotten that idea.
    Like your posts on Greece, I'm really enjoying your posts on Egypt. Your first two photos had me staring at it for a good minute.

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    1. Glad I am not the only one Marcia! I suspect I read children's books about camels and deserts and therefore figured that is what it looked like. Oh travel is so good about breaking down those preconceived notions, isn't it?? Thanks for the visit!! Happy Valentine's Day~

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  13. Hi Jackie, the journey is indeed as rewarding as the destination. I loved how you captured the people going about their daily lives. Your photos of them gave a good feel of the spirit of the place. I look forward to see your Luxor post. I know it will be grand.

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    1. Marisol, how nice to see a comment from you but on Valentine's Day? I imagined you two Sole/Soul Mates out on some romantic adventure! ;-) Happy weekend~

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  14. I'm glad they are taking tourism seriously with guarded check points, unfortunately they have to work this way, but the journey is definitely interesting.

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    1. It is a way of life so utterly different from that which we know that it is difficult to comprehend - security checkpoints, yet smiling children along the way. Thanks for visiting today Noel!

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  15. Great intro and looking forward to more on Luxor. I would love to go to Egypt, even now. So happy you were able to.

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    1. I do hope you make it to Egypt - such a wonderful country so rich in history that it is sad the events in recent years are keeping so many people away; it is a world treasure. Hope to see you back again for our look at Luxor coming up next.

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  16. Fascinating. The security and checkpoints would have unnerved me. People going about ordinary life and the waving children would have been a welcome antidote to that. I too imagine this area as vast stretches of sand, but the mountains in the background of your photo remind me or Arizona.

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    1. Well, it was like Dorothy in Oz, Donna. The security and checkpoints are so far removed fro life as we know it, that it does take you back for a moment. But the kids, those kids were so incredibly special - I'll remember them longer than the checkpoints. And that is a great point about the landscape (I'd once thought of Arizona as flat desert-land as well ;-) )

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  17. Looks like a great "magic carpet ride." It's always nice to see how real people live out of the tourist spots!

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    1. My favorite part of travel is going to and through those places that aren't 'tourist destinations' - I love seeing the everyday lives of people! Thanks for the visit~

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  18. We really want to see Egypt but have been hesitant. Glad to see everything was OK. Guess we should start planning.

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    1. As I've written about our more recent trip to Cairo, we did feel safe. Unnerved every once in a while like when passing those security checkpoints, but never 'unsafe' (On the flip side there was tight security everywhere like pulling into the hotel parking lot and having bomb sniffing dogs and officers check the vehicles, having bags scanned at hotel entryways, but yet the historical treasurers and the kind, warm wonderful people were such an antidote to those things, that it made it all worthwhile). If you get serious about planning DM us or write, we've got some suggestions for guides and such).

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  19. I had no idea Egypt had mountains either!! What a stunning contrast between water and land.

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    1. Isn't that crazy, that you get a notion of how something 'should' look and then it doesn't and it knocks your socks off??!! Hugs to you~

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  20. I love the "everyday people" photos, as well as the breathtaking landscapes. What a trip!

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  21. So interesting to see a different side of Egypt! A fun post.

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  22. Ii´m also looking forward to read it. Great pick!

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  23. Egypt has taken security seriously for many, many years. I look forward to visiting Luxor with you!

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  24. We did Egypt with a private guide in 2007 and also did the caravan to Luxor.

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