Monday, May 04, 2009

Egypt

The Gulf of Suez, at the Northern End of the Red Sea, is quite scenic with sand swept mountains on both sides. We passed Mount Sinai where Moses received the 10 commandments and the Burning Bush is still thriving at it‘s base.

We stayed inside the shipping channels to avoid the hundreds of oil rigs on either side. Normally, we stay out of the shipping channels since that is where all the big ships are and in a game of “chicken”, they always win but our cruising guide said that there are many hazards in the Gulf of Suez not marked on any charts including remnants from the drilling process which have been sheared off just below the water level so you can’t see them. At night, we enjoyed the lights of the oil rigs which looked like small cities hovering over the water.

When we arrived at Port Suez, the southern entrance to the Suez Canal, we put Toboggan into a marina where we had running water and could hose off the sand that had blown onto her during a few sand storms. From our dock in Port Suez, we could watch the constant flow of huge ships through the canal. There is a constant flow of commercial traffic all day every day, except when there is a warship or a submarine going through (which is surprisingly frequently given the recent need for protection) then no other ship traffic is allowed.

With Toboggan safe in a marina, we headed inland for some sight-seeing. Most of Egypt is desert except for the lush green band on either side of the Nile where the majority of Egypt’s 80 million people live. We arrived in Cairo, the thriving capital, and visited the historic Khan al-Khalili bazaar at the core of the old city (previously known as Babylon). We toured one of Cairo’s earliest mosques and the Egyptian Museum which houses over 100,000 exhibits of ancient treasures including the contents of King Tut’s tomb.

The highlight of our time in Egypt was the pyramids. There are 9 pyramids in Giza, just outside of Cairo in an area of desert about 12 square kilometres. We decided to rent some camels to take us from one pyramid to the next. It was a huge extravagance for us ($50 US per camel) but it was worth it. We felt like nomads as we bumped along the desert with the sand blowing in our eyes but the view was spectacular. The guide kept control of my camel (I am after all, only a woman) but Steve became somewhat competent at getting his camel to do what he wanted including going forward, up and down.

The Sphinx was much larger than I had imagined (unlike the Mona Lisa). It has been totally buried by sand several times since it was built in 2500 BC. Napoleon’s army shot off its nose in the 19th century and it now rests in the British Museum.
After two days in Cairo, we took our bus back to Port Suez and prepared to make our way through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean.

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