Showing posts with label Egypt travel safety. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Egypt travel safety. Show all posts

Monday, December 4, 2017

Egypt: Where Enchanting and Exotic Meet

There is something about the plane landing after dark in Egypt where the vast stretches of darkened desert provide a backdrop to the exotic feel of the adventure. It has a lonely sort of mysterious feel about it; there's no doubt you are leaving your comfort zone behind.

Our plane taxied to a stop some distance from the terminal - even though it appeared to be the only on that had landed in some time - and we traveled the last few hundred meters on a bus.

We were definitely excited but were feeling bit disorientated and vulnerable as we made our way through the empty arrivals area -- following a man we'd just met -- to collect our bags and have them checked through customs. He was also the one who would get us to our hotel.

Boats on the Nile in the evening's light - Aswan
Such was our arrival in Aswan, Egypt.

(And I have to admit we’d arranged transportation with our hotel so that man we were following was their representative. Well worth the $45US we spent for that service as it was a bit more complex than we'd been led to expect.)

Sunset on The Nile - Aswan, Egypt
He led us to a van parked some distance from the terminal building and then joined us and the van's driver for the trip to the hotel. After we'd traveled some distance along more darkened expansive desert we noticed traffic slowing to a stop for armed guards ahead of us. They were looking into vehicles and opening trunks. He explained this was being done because our route into town led us across the Nile River and we were about to cross the old Aswan Dam.

A darkened desert. . .armed guards. . .Aswan Dam! Nile River! It all added to the mystery and the out-of-the-ordinary feel of this travel adventure. We were definitely back in Egypt, one of our favorite travel destinations.

This time though we were spreading our wings beyond Cairo’s 'comfort zone.'  This trip we are spending most of our time in Aswan, Egypt’s southernmost city. . .in the land of the Nubians.

Image result for map of egypt

Land of the Nubians

The Nubian region stretches from southern Egypt into Sudan. It is believed the first Nubian civilization was in this area now known as Aswan as long as 5000 years B.C. With so much history here, there are plenty of museums and archeological sites to keep us busy. Not to mention two islands to visit, the Nile upon which we plan to spend some time and of course, who could come to Egypt and not shop in their enchanting souks?

Old Cataract Hotel - Aswan, Egypt
One thing that drew us to this city was our desire to stay in the Old Cataract Hotel. It had a large role in Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile.  Built in 1899 by Thomas Cook, the old hotel as well as its ‘new wing’ built in 1961 underwent a major renovation in 2008 and reopened in 2011. We are in one of the 76 rooms (along with 45 suites) that are in what was the original hotel, now called the Palace Wing.

Lobby area Old Cataract Hotel - Aswan, Egypt
I’ve struggled to describe this place as the words, 'old world charm', 'exotic', 'elegant' and 'magical' are so cliché sounding but sometimes those are the only words that work to describe a place like this. It is simply enchanting and staff members dote on guests. It's as though we've re-entered that golden age of travel for which Cook originally built the place.

PicMonkey Collage
Our room - Old Cataract Hotel - Aswan, Egypt
We splurged a bit booking a room with a view of the Nile River, although the garden view rooms have beautiful views as well.  But when in Egypt, and staying at this hotel in particular, it seemed we really should be viewing the Nile River. . .and do we ever!

Our room with a view - Old Cataract Hotel - Aswan, Egypt
We lucked out and also are directly across the Ruins of Abu on Elephantine Island. That settlement dates back some 3,000 years BC.

Ruins of Abu - Elephantine Island Aswan, Egypt
While it is difficult to pull ourselves off our deck and the amazing show created by the every-day activities on the river, we have visited the souk (or should I say, 'run the gauntlet' of the souk) and have been out on The Nile. Today we had an adventure when we set off to explore the Nubian villages on Elephantine Island on our own and ended up on a guided tour led by the self-proclaimed mayor of the village. A memorable experience but one we agreed most of our friends would not have enjoyed.

I'd hoped to have some Agatha Christie mojo rub off on me but with so much I want to tell you about this place, I am feeling more like Scheherazade  – so be prepared. I don't have 1,001 tales for you but I've got many more coming from this enchanting Land of the Nubians.

Old Cataract Hotel Gardens and entry - Aswan, Egypt
Following last week's post, a number of you've sent wishes for a safe trip and others flat out expressed concerns for our safety in Egypt. And we thank you who took the time to write or comment for caring about us. What saddens us is that a group of terrorists can so negatively impact tourism in this country and keep so many travelers away.

We have been traveling on our own and have wondered through Aswan’s souks, along its main roads, and through Nubian villages -- and never once have we felt unsafe or threatened. In fact, just the opposite - we've been warmly welcomed. We’ve been thanked for visiting. People are geniunely flattered that we like their city. 

We've barely touched the surface - and we'll definitely be back!

That’s it for this week from Egypt.  Safe travels to you and yours and thanks for being with us. We hope you'll be back next week  ~

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel InspirationBest of Weekend

Sunday, November 26, 2017

When Travelers Become 'Nestless' and Restless

The symptoms were all there. I had just ignored them.

The first appeared shortly after arriving in Greece: I wanted to make a meatloaf for dinner. That was followed by a near frantic quest the following week to find and buy brown sugar, oatmeal and raisins to make cookies.

I am not one to lust for the kitchen.  I’m the have-bag-will-travel-at-a-moment’s-notice gal. Ready in a nano-second to try a new restaurant.  The one who goes into the village bakery for a loaf of bread and comes out with a bag of cookies as well. Bake cookies. . .at home?  Really?!

A road trip through the Greek Peloponnese is a favorite outing
Yet, there I was in the kitchen having traded my travel guidebook for a cookbook; my camera for a cookie pan.

I realized then, that this traveler was suffering from a need to nest.

Nest: a home where people live.

The Stone House on the Hill from our olive grove

That self-realization may have been the biggest surprise that came out of our ‘summer of slogging’.

For those not with us in recent months:  we got rid of our life’s accumulations, sold our U.S. home of 30 years, filled two storage units with our remaining treasures, packed an enormous pile of suitcases (by our travel standards) and came to Greece for a full-time expat adventure.

Ancient pathways to discovery - Monemvasia, Greece
While starting the new chapter has been an exciting time, we found that closing out the last wasn't. During our last few weeks in the Pacific Northwest our day-to-day necessities were kept in plastic storage bins and suitcases. We slept on a mattress on the floor.  Dinners became a stream of 'Happy Hour' outings as nothing remained in the kitchen with which to cook. Lunch was often a cellophane wrapped sandwich from Starbucks.

We had a roof over our heads but for all practical purposes we really were ‘nest-less near Seattle’. 

Our Casa Kirkland January 2016
Our last two days of that chapter were spent in a at a hotel a few miles from what had been our house. It was similar to a ‘staycation’ but more appropriately named by The Scout, it was a ‘leavecation’.

“Welcome to Bellevue! Have you stayed with us before?” asked the chipper desk clerk at the Marriott Hotel. ‘Well, no. Until today, we used to live just down the road.’

The Three E's: Euphoria, Exhaustion and Expectations

Those ex pats to whom we turned to for advice and encouragement described feeling euphoric at the new sense of freedom this new lifestyle brings.  I hate to admit that I am still waiting for that euphoria to hit. The reality was that we arrived in Greece feeling, well, . . .exhausted.

I'I didn't shed a tear (somewhat to my surprise) as we drove away from our Kirkland home. It was such a relief to be done with cleaning it out and selling it that if I came close to euphoria that might have been the moment.

Our new garden spring 2017 at The Stone House on the Hill

By that point our focus was expectations for Greece: how large the new plants would be, the size of our olive harvest, the type of car we'd buy.

Reality can dash those expectations as quickly as exhaustion can quash euphoria. Many plants had been baked into the ground by the summer’s unusually hot temperatures. Even those heat-tolerant plants were varying shades of brown and tan. The olive crop so small we considered not harvesting at all. And you know from the previous post what an adventure we had buying a car. 

However. . .

Those Sunny Skies ~ And An Indian Summer

Nesting on the hillside in the Peloponnese

That same sun that had baked the garden only weeks earlier had mellowed by the time we arrived in October. It continues to make one of the loveliest Indian Summer backdrops to this new life that you can imagine.

We've replanted the garden. Flowers and vegetables have already begun flourishing. Our olive harvest was small, but we had one. Our Hi Ho Silver has already had his inaugural road trip.

Oh, yes. . .I also made that meatloaf. And I baked cookies (having successfully found two of those three ingredients and substituting Craisens for raisins). I’ve puttered, or pottered as my British friends here would say, in the garden on a near daily basis.

Our village, Agios Nikolaos, slows for the winter
Now, after nearly two months in our Greek home, we are back into the rhythms of village life. Olive harvest is in full swing now in the Messinian Mani marking the end of autumn, many restaurants and tavernas have closed for the winter. Just as the village slows its pace, so have we.

We have rested and nested.

But those of you who've been with us for awhile must know that means for us. . .

It's Time to Fly!

“A bird in a nest is secure, but that is not why God gave it wings.”
  - Matshona Dhliwayo

We had different responses to our summer of slogging: I suffered from a need to nest while The Scout grew restless. We had far too little travel. Travel planning came to a screeching halt. So while my nose has been in cookbooks, his has been in guidebooks.

Pyramids, Cairo, Egypt

Since part of the reason for relocating here was to take advantage of travel on this side of the Atlantic, it is time to do just that!  With low airfares and close destinations, it is difficult to decide which direction to head. Did you know it takes less time to get from Athens to Egypt than from Seattle to San Francisco? You can be there in less than a couple of hours.

The Nile as it flows through Cairo, Egypt

And that fact won the coin toss. We are heading back to Egypt the end of this week. We're going to spend most of our time in Aswan, a new destination for us to explore, but must spend a couple days in Cairo - one of our very favorite cities!

[Note:  Timing is everything. I'd just finished writing this post when news broke on this side of the world about the despicable terrorist attack at the mosque in the Sinai. We've not changed or cancelled our plans to visit Egypt as result of that incident. Our feeling is that life is rather a crap shoot these days no matter where in the world you are; you could be a victim of mass murder while attending a concert in Las Vegas or while attending a small church in rural Texas or while praying at a mosque in Egypt.]

We know many of you have made lifestyle and life location changes recently and we are curious about what you discovered about yourself as you transitioned to your 'new normal'? We’d love to hear about them in the comments below or shoot us an email! 

As always, thanks for being a part of this new journey of ours – the time you spend with us is always appreciated. 

Happy and Safe Travels to you and yours ~

Linking this week with:
Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday – 
Photo Friday
Weekend Travel Inspiration

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Departing Cairo ~ A ‘touch’ and go affair

Gently her hands circled my breasts before moving down my rib cage, then up my back and front in a seemingly unbroken motion of discovery. She’d averted her eyes as we stood face-to-face barely inches apart, her concentration focused on what she was – or wasn’t – feeling. Her palms down my arms, around my wrists; up the leg – all the way – and down the other. Front and back, round and round.
It reminded me of some of the massages and the Turkish bath that I’ve willingly shelled out big bucks to experience. This was, however, free and to my way of thinking, had a much bigger potential health payoff:  it just might just keep some nut from boarding my flight and blowing it out of the sky.

View from the plane as we depart Cairo, Egypt
That wasa portion of the security check we underwent just inside the newly renovated Terminal 2 at the Cairo Airport. The terminal, scheduled to open in late 2015 had been only open for two weeks before our December 2016 departure.

Still so new it looks almost empty - Terminal 2 Cairo Airport
The sleek, modern building is expected to boost annual passenger capacity by 8 million. It’s expanded capacity, which will include accommodating those enormous double-decker A380 planes, is hoped to play a role in luring travelers back to Egypt. In articles about the new terminal tourism officials said that in addition to enlarging the terminal they were taking steps to make visitors feel safe while visiting the country.

Plenty of eateries from which to choose - one day anyway
If our experience at the airport is any indication, they are taking that safety and security business seriously.

That first security checkpoint was footsteps inside the front doors. Bags, coats, and shoes went into bins and through an enormous scanner (we find it curious that after the ‘Shoe Bomber’ incident a few years back we often are NOT required to remove shoes when going through airport screening on that side of the Atlantic).  Here shoes were off then humans walked through a scanner, then were hand searched as I described above.

New shop being readied in Terminal 2 Cairo Airport
That was the first of four such thorough security checks we would encounter between the front door and our boarding gate. A second one was done after obtaining our boarding passes and checking bags. British Airways required boarding passes be issued at the airport, you couldn’t print them out in advance.

Business Class lounge - Cairo Airport
The third screening was just outside the Business Class lounge that serves several airlines.  The lounge was spacious and comfortable and made waiting for the flight a pleasant experience. However, just steps outside the lounge we again ran bags through screening machines, walked through a scanner and again each of us was ‘patted down’. (We had to wait a bit until they could round up a woman to ‘pat me down’ at this checkpoint.)

New terminal 2 at Cairo Airport
We entered the waiting area at our gate by walking through a scanner and there officers ran a swab over our clothes and bags – all belongings -- then checked the swab for traces of explosives. By then we’d had enough screenings; I’d announced the glamour days of travel were long gone. We’d pulled out and replaced into our bags our computer and the plastic bag of carryon liquids enough times for one day (although we did it again in London). Our passport and boarding pass had been scrutinized by many. . . enough, already!

Waiting area Terminal 2 Cairo Airport
Intimate and intense pre-boarding security checks aren’t new to us and like other frequent travelers we could probably tell a horror story about the process encountered at any of the major European and American big city airports.  But because I’ve devoted a number of posts to the wonders we’ve encountered in Egypt, I felt I needed to tell a bit more of ‘the rest of the story’. Airport security is intense if not tedious, but after two recent plane crashes of undetermined-but-suspected-terrorism causes, it should be.

We’d been home only a few days when the Seattle Times newspaper ran an Associated Press story, about the crash of the EgyptAir flight last spring.

It was headlined, Explosives found on crash victims of EgyptAir flight
'CAIRO – Traces of explosive have been found on some victims of an EgyptAir flight from Paris that crashed in the Mediterranean Sea in May, Egypt’s government said Thursday, a find that could deal another major blow the country’s tourism sector.'

Tourism in Egypt has tanked thanks both to a well-publicized revolution in 2011 and those two airplane crashes not to mention a couple other attacks on tourists. Many of you have written comments saying that safety concerns are keeping you from visiting.  And while I’ve written glowingly of our explorations, both with guides and on our own during our last two visits, the environment is one that not all travelers – no matter how well-traveled – may want to tackle.  However, we are already excited about what we will do in Egypt next March when we fly via Cairo to get back to Greece! 

A final smoggy view of Cairo from departing flight
It’s a new year and we hope it is filled with travel adventures for you – whether real time or armchair.  We do want sincerely thank you for the time you’ve spent reading our posts, sharing them with others (the icing on the cake!) and for taking time to comment or send an email about them.  Our world is better because you are a part of it!  Until next week, stay safe and be happy!

Linking up:

Through My Lens
Our World Tuesday
Wordless Wednesday
Travel Photo Thursday
Photo Friday
Travel Inspiration


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