You can find more portraits in an album on our Facebook page
Mummy portraits or Fayum mummy portraits (also Faiyum mummy portraits) is the modern term given to a type of naturalistic painted portraits on wooden boards attached to mummies from the Coptic period. They belong to the tradition of panel painting, one of the most highly regarded forms of art in the Classical world. In fact, the Fayum portraits are the only large body of art from that tradition to have survived.
Mummy portraits have been found across Egypt, but are most common in the Faiyum Basin, particularly from Hawara and Antinoopolis, hence the common name. “Faiyum Portraits” is generally thought of as a stylistic, rather than a geographic, description. While painted Cartonnage mummy cases date back to pharaonic times, the Faiyum mummy portraits were an innovation dating to the Coptic period on time of the Roman occupation of Egypt.
They date to the Roman period, from the late 1st century BCE or the early 1st century CE onwards. It is not clear when their production ended, but recent research suggests the middle of the 3rd century. They are among the largest groups among the very few survivors of the highly prestigious panel painting tradition of the classical world, which was continued into Byzantine and Western traditions in the post-classical world, including the local tradition of Coptic iconography in Egypt.
The portraits covered the faces of bodies that were mummified for burial. Extant examples indicate that they were mounted into the bands of cloth that were used to wrap the bodies. Almost all have now been detached from the mummies. They usually depict a single person, showing the head, or head and upper chest, viewed frontally. In terms of artistic tradition, the images clearly derive more from Graeco-Roman traditions than Egyptian ones.
Two groups of portraits can be distinguished by technique: one of encaustic (wax) paintings, the other in tempera. The former are usually of higher quality.
About 900 mummy portraits are known at present. The majority were found in the necropoleis of Faiyum. Due to the hot dry Egyptian climate, the paintings are frequently very well preserved, often retaining their brilliant colours seemingly unfaded by time.
The majority images show a formal portrait of a single figure, facing and looking toward the viewer, from an angle that is usually slightly turned from full face. The figures are presented as busts against a monochrome background which in some instances is decorated. The individuals are both male and female and range in age from childhood to old age.
The majority of preserved mummy portraits were painted on boards or panels, made from different imported hardwoods, including oak, lime, sycamore, cedar, cypress, fig, and citrus. The wood was cut into thin rectangular panels and made smooth. The finished panels were set into layers of wrapping that enclosed the body, and were surrounded by bands of cloth giving the effect of a window-like opening through which the face of the deceased could be seen. Portraits were sometimes painted directly onto the canvas or rags of the mummy wrapping (cartonnage painting).
The wooden surface was sometimes primed for painting with a layer of plaster. In some cases the primed layer reveals a preparatory drawing. Two painting techniques were employed: encaustic (wax) painting and egg-based tempera. The encaustic images are striking because of the contrast between vivid and rich colours, and comparatively large brush-strokes, producing an “Impressionistic” effect. The tempera paintings have a finer gradation of tones and chalkier colours, giving a more restrained appearance. In some cases, gold leaf was used to depict jewellery and wreaths. There also are examples of hybrid techniques or of variations from the main techniques.
The Fayum portraits reveal a wide range of painterly expertise, and skill in presenting a lifelike appearance. The naturalism of the portraits is often revealed in knowledge of anatomic structure and in skilled modelling of the form by the use of light and shade, which gives an appearance of three-dimensionality to most of the figures. The graded flesh tones are enhanced with shadows and highlights indicative of directional lighting.
People of Fayoum
Under Greco-Roman rule, Egypt hosted several Greek settlements, mostly concentrated in Alexandria, but also in a few other cities, where Greek settlers lived alongside some seven to ten million native Egyptians. Faiyum’s earliest Greek inhabitants were soldier-veterans and cleruchs (elite military officials) who were settled by the Ptolemaic kings on reclaimed lands. Native Egyptians also came to settle in Faiyum from all over the country, notably the Nile Delta, Upper Egypt, Oxyrhynchus and Memphis, to undertake the labor involved in the land reclamation process, as attested by personal names, local cults and recovered papyri. It is estimated that as much as 30 percent of the population of Faiyum was Greek during the Ptolemaic period, with the rest being native Egyptians. By the Roman period, much of the “Greek” population of Faiyum was made-up of either Hellenized Egyptians or people of mixed Egyptian-Greek origins.
While commonly believed to represent Greek settlers in Egypt, the Faiyum portraits instead reflect the complex synthesis of the predominant Egyptian culture and that of the elite Greek minority in the city. According to Walker, the early Ptolemaic Greek colonists married local women and adopted Egyptian religious beliefs, and by Roman times, their descendants were viewed as Egyptians by the Roman rulers, despite their own self-perception of being Greek. The dental morphology of the Roman-period Faiyum mummies was also compared with that of earlier Egyptian populations, and was found to be “much more closely akin” to that of ancient Egyptians than to Greeks or other European populations.
The patrons of the portraits apparently belonged to the affluent upper class of military personnel, civil servants and religious dignitaries. Not everyone could afford a mummy portrait; many mummies were found without one. Flinders Petrie states that only one or two per cent of the mummies he excavated were embellished with portraits. The rates for mummy portraits do not survive, but it can be assumed that the material caused higher costs than the labour, since in antiquity, painters were appreciated as craftsmen rather than as artists. The situation from the “Tomb of Aline” is interesting in this regard. It contained four mummies: those of Aline, of two children and of her husband. Unlike his wife and children, the latter was not equipped with a portrait but with a gilt three-dimensional mask. Perhaps plaster masks were preferred if they could be afforded.
It is not clear whether those depicted are of Egyptian, Greek or Roman origin, nor whether the portraits were commonly used by all ethnicities. The name of some of those portrayed are known from inscriptions, they are of Egyptian, Greek and Roman origin. Hairstyles and clothing are always influenced by Roman fashion. Women and children are often depicted wearing valuable ornaments and fine garments, men often wearing specific and elaborate outfits. Greek inscriptions of names are relatively common, sometimes they include professions. It is not known whether such inscriptions always reflect reality, or whether they may state ideal conditions or aspirations rather than true conditions. One single inscription is known to definitely indicate the deceased’s profession (a shipowner) correctly.The mummy of a woman named Hermione also included the term grammatike (γραμματική). For a long time, it was assumed that this indicated that she was a teacher by profession (for this reason, Flinders Petrie donated the portrait to Girton College, Cambridge, the first residential college for women in Britain), but today, it is assumed that the term indicates her level of education. Some portraits of men show sword-belts or even pommels, suggesting that they were members of the Roman military.
We stumbled across this strange silent B&W film, which is somewhat Orientalist, for the 1920′s traveler going to Egypt. The information is not completely accurate but the images are interesting, and it’s lovely to see Egypt as it was in that time. We hope you enjoy it.
CNNgo has named the world’s 50 top diving sites. Egypt off course featured quite a bit on the list. If you’re an avid diver or just interested in learning check it out, you might find yourself making travel plans. Don’t forget it’s never too late to learn this exploratory sport, and the number of diving schools,around the Red Sea, in Egypt is too great to count.
1. Barracuda Point, Sipadan Island, Malaysia
2. Yongala, Queensland, Australia
3. SS Thistlegorm, Red Sea, Egypt
This is the most popular wreck dive in the world, and for good reason. The SS Thistlegorm was a 128-meter-long British
transport ship, which was attacked and sunk in 1941 on its way from Glasgow to Alexandria.The ship was carrying a variety of rifles, motorbikes and trucks, plus armored cars, trailers, vehicle parts, radios and rubber boots. All of this sits at the bottom of the ocean, including the ship itself complete with the large hole where the German bomb hit.Dive groups now swim around and inside the silty wreck with flashlights to peer at its rusted machine guns, a railway freight car, torpedoes and more. You may even spot a few crocodile fish hiding in the sand by the wreck.
Depth: Up to 30 meters.
Visibility: Up to 30 meters.
Location: Around three hours from Sharm el Sheikh, on Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
4. Blue Corner Wall, Palau, Micronesia
5. Richelieu Rock, near the Surin Islands, Thailand
6. Gordon Rocks, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
7. Great Blue Hole, Belize
8. Tubbataha, Palawan, Philippines
9. Big Brother, Red Sea, Egypt
Beneath the waters surrounding the small island of Big Brother you’ll be greeted by Aida II, a 75-meter ship that crashed into the land in 1957, en route to deliver lighthouse staff to the island.
Surrounded by huge shoals of fish and covered in an explosion of colored coral, it sits at an angle between 25-65 meters in the ocean. Divers can play captain by swimming inside the engine room at around 35 meters or snap incredible shots of the large-lipped Napoleon wrasse fish in the area (the species can reach a staggering two meters in size).
This is a double-whammy dive; you’ll find white tip and hammerhead sharks congregating at the century-old Numidia wreck nearby, around a junkyard of sunken train carriages and large wheels a mere 12 meters down.
Deep divers looking for a challenge can also go in search of the boat’s rounded stern, complete with rudder and propeller at 75-80 meters into the abyss.
Depth: 15-80 meters.
Visibility: Up to 35 meters.
Location: 60 kilometers from land in the Egyptian Red Sea. It takes eight hours from Hurghada, meaning a liveaboard is the best option.
11. Sistema Dos Ojos, Playa del Carmen, Mexico
12. Tiputa Pass, Rangiroa, Polynesia
13. Point Murat Navy Pier, Australia
14. Shark and Yolanda Reef, Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt
Yolanda Reef is one of the more bizarre scuba experiences on our list. Here you’ll swim past toilet bowls, bath tubs and other bathroom objects, the cargo of the eponymous wreck that sank here in 1980.
This is also where the waters of the Gulf of Aqaba and the Gulf of Suez meet, so currents are washing machine-strong and nutrient rich, creating a flawless breeding ground for marine life.
Depth: Up to 50 meters.
Visibility: 10-30 meters.
Location: 30 minutes by boat, just off of the Ras Mohamed coast.
15. Silfra, Þingvellir, Iceland
16. Antons, Sodwana Bay, South Africa
17. Kailua Kona, Hawaii, United States
18. Middle Arch, Poor Knights Islands, New Zealand
19. North Horn, Osprey Reef, Australia
20. Elphinstone Reef, Red Sea, Egypt
This oval reef around 80 meters long and 10-25 meters deep has a steep wall and strong currents that offer a beautiful drift dive with myriad fusiliers, anthias and fan corals.
The most exciting factor by far is that hammerhead and oceanic white tip reep sharks swim together in this spot. Dolphins, and sometimes tiger sharks, can also be found here. A magical encounter that you’ll remember for life.
Depth: 20-70 meters.
Visibility: 20-35 meters.
Location: Dive trips leave from Marsa Alam, the boat ride is approximately 20 minutes from shore.
21. Liberty, Bali, Indonesia
22. Bloody Bay Wall, Little Cayman, Cayman Islands
23. Cod Hole, Great Barrier Reef, Australia
24. Manta Reef, Tofo, Mozambique
25. Bajo Alcyone, Cocos Island, Costa Rica
26. Sha’ab Rumi South, Sudan
27. Batu Bolong, Komodo Island, Indonesia
28. SS President Coolidge, Vanuatu
29. Elephant Head Rock, Similans, Thailand
30. Ulong Channel, Palau, Micronesia
31. Layang Layang, near Borneo, Malaysia
32. The Cathedral, Flic-en-Flac, Mauritius
33. Great white wall, Taveuni, Fiji
34. Banua Wuhu, Mahengetang, Indonesia
35. Manchones Reef, Cancun, Mexico
36. Cocklebiddy Cave, Australia
37. La Dania’s Leap to Karpata, Bonaire, Netherlands
38. Scotts Head Pinnacle, Dominica
39. Yonaguni Jima, Yaeyama Islands, Japan
40. Raja Ampat, Irian Jaya, Indonesia
42. Jackson Reef, Straits of Tiran, Red Sea, Egypt
In these gin-clear waters you’ll find brightly colored coral gardens that look as if they’ve been painted onto the ocean bed.
Bright red anemone flowers pop out from the floor and dance in the currents, while green and orange fire corals tempt you to touch their razor sharp branches.
White tip sharks, grey reef sharks and manta rays also enjoy the view: they congregate here year round.
Depth: 30-40 meters.
Visibility: 10-30 meters.
Location: Around 30 minutes by boat from Sharm El Sheikh.
43. Perpendicular wall, Christmas Island, Australia
44. Aliwal Shoal, Umkomaas, South Africa
45. The Canyons, Puerto Galera, Philippines
45. Japanese Gardens, Koh Tao, Thailand
46. Grand Central Station, Gizo, Solomon Islands
47. Aquarium, Mnemba Island,
48. Blue Hole, Gozo, Malta
49. Burroo Ned, Isle of Man, United Kingdom
50. Darwin’s Arch, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
It takes more than wind to find an ideal kiteboarding spot. Granted, that’s a big part of it, but there are other factors to consider, like how flat, choppy, or wavy the water is, the weather (other than the wind conditions, of course), and location’s overall vibe. Sure, if you have your own kite, board, and harness, you can go kiteboarding at a place close and convenient to you — may it be a lake or your local beach — but when you’re looking for a destination to go to get your fill of this increasingly popular water sport, here are ten picks from around the globe. All you need is a will, a way, and some wind. (Maybe a wetsuit too):
1. La Ventana, Baja California
2. Nabq, Egypt
Moses might not have had to part the Red Sea to get across if he and his people had a kiteboards, especially if he was in Nabq. Located on the southeastern coast of the Sinai Peninsula between the glitzy resort hub of Sharm-el-Sheikh and the backpacker haven of Dahab, this desert beach town is a draw for kiteboarders from around the world who want to “kiteboard like an Egyptian” in steady winds across the Gulf of Aqaba.
3. Tarifa, Spain
4. Isla Margarita, Venezuela
5. Le Morne, Mauritius
6. Boracay, Philippines
7. Boca Grandi, Aruba
8. Cumbuco, Brazil
9. Cabarete, Dominican Republic
10. Maui, Hawaii
Souce: Trip Advisor
What a stunning video! It takes you through some of Egypt, sharing some of the flavour of these fascinating places. Enjoy and hopefully you’ll be experiencing all of this firsthand.
The Nile at sunset from a felucca is stunning! Beautiful hues and scenic silhouettes. An experience you will never forget! This video conveys to you the magic of the region put to lovely music. Enjoy.
Source: Egyptian Tourism Promotion Authority February Newsletter
The Avenue of Sphinxes
An important event will take place in Luxor in March of this year with the official inauguration of the Avenue of Sphinxes. The Avenue which connects Luxor and Karnak temple, is one of the most important archaeological and religious routes in Luxor, and where the historical and religious festival - Opet Festival took place in ancient times. It marked the annual voyage of God Amun Ra, transferred from Karnak temple on a sacred boat to Luxor temple, where he visits his wife Goddess Mut.
The restoration project started nearly five years ago, It was built by King Nectanebo, who ruled Egypt during the 30th dynasty between 380-362 B.C. and replaced an older path, which dated back to the 18th dynasty – New Kingdom. The avenue measures around 2,700 meters long and 76 meters wide, and is lined with a large number of statues in the shape of sphinxes, (the body of a lion, and in that case, King Nectanebo’s features).
The project was preceded by a series of excavation work, during which workshops of clay pots, wine factories, a huge water cistern and several reliefs were unearthed. One of the reliefs bears the cartouche of Queen Cleopatra VII (51-30 BC). It was believed that Queen Cleopatra visited this Avenue during her Nile trip with Mark Anthony and implemented restoration work that was marked with her cartouche. Remains of Queen Hatshepsut’s chapels, which were reused by King Nectanebo I in the construction of sphinxes, have also been found. Queen Hatshepsut has recorded on her red chapel in Karnak temple that she built six chapels dedicated to the worship of God Amun Ra on this Avenue, denoting a mere religious importance to the Avenue.
The excavation and restoration work is a purely Egyptian initiative- a collaboration between the former Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) and Luxor Government to revive the Avenue.
The SCA allocated a large amount of money to remove all encroachments around the area to make way for a complete view of the Avenue and compensate those who own houses and shops along the route, as well as for the excavations and restoration works.
In total, excavators unearthed more than 650 sphinxes out of the original 1350. The most preserved and nearly ready for the inauguration is the section behind the Luxor Heritage Center, or south of the road that leads to the airport, which has a little over 600 meters of the total Avenue. A descending ramp from the main road makes way down to the Avenue, where tourists can enjoy a leisurely walk back in history. Moreover, approximately another 200 meters of the total Avenue is currently complete and is located right in front of the Luxor temple. The remaining three sections are visible from the road level, but visitors cannot gain access to all of it yet, pending removal of any obstacles.
While visitors are at the Avenue of the Sphinxes, they will be able to also visit the Khonsu Temple. It is positioned at the southwest corner of the confines of the Karnak temple complex in Luxor and is dedicated to the moon God Khonsu, who was the son of Amun and Mut, and together they form a triad, which is a group of three worshipped in Karnak. The earliest construction of the temple dated to the reign of King Ramses III – 20th dynasty, New Kingdom, and was followed by other kings. On the walls of the temple are also the pictures of other different kings all the way up to the Ptolemaic area.
The temple is currently undergoing a restoration phase, (one of the initiatives of the American Research Center in Egypt), and will hopefully be opened during the month of March as well. Nevertheless, at the moment visitors can still gain easy access to the temple, wonder its halls and marvel at the colorful decorations after the restoration, and compare them with others that have not been restored yet.
The temple’s entrance façade or the so called pylon, is preceded by an avenue of sphinxes, which dates back to the reign of King Amenhotep III – New Kindgom, and is connected to the main Avenue of the Sphinxes. The Pylon is in the form of two towers, measuring around 32 meters in length, 18 meters in height and around 10 meters in width. On its façade are four grooves, the purpose of which is to house flags. The scenes on the façade are mainly offering scenes to the triad of Thebes – Amun, Mut and Khonsu presented by Panedjem of the 21st dynasty. The pylon escorts visitors to the temple’s precincts including a peristyle court, housing a number columns. The court makes way to a hypostyle hall with another series of columns. The temple ends with the sanctuary, which usually housed a statue for the chief God of the temple carried on a sacred boat. The sanctuary is surrounded by side halls and visitors could come across a stairway leading to the temple’s roof. The scenes on the different walls of the temples are mainly religious ones, showing different Kings idolizing and making offerings to the chief God of the temple, and other Gods and Goddesses as well.
Source: Ahram Online
Nevine El-Aref , Wednesday 1 Feb 2012
Egypt’s first museum devoted exclusively to crocodiles was inaugurated on Tuesday by Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim
Within the context of a plan by the Ministry of State for Antiquities to build museums at the country’s most significant archaeological sites, Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim this week officially inaugurated Egypt’s first ever crocodile museum.
The museum is located on the doorstep of the Ptolemaic Kom Ombo temple on the banks of the Upper Egyptian city of Aswan.
The museum displays 22 mummified crocodiles of various sizes out of forty to have been unearthed in Aswan. The crocodiles are arrayed on a sand hill inside a large glass showcase, allowing visitors to see how crocodiles passed their days in ancient Egypt.
A collection of crocodile coffins and wooden sarcophagi, along with crocodile foetuses and eggs, are also on display, in addition to stelae and statues depicting the crocodile-god Sobek, bearing a human body and the head of a crocodile. Replicas of Sobek’s original tombs and niches are also on display.
During the opening ceremony, Ibrahim said that most of the museum’s c
ollection had been stored in Kom Ombo except for two stelae and a statue of Sobek borrowed from the Luxor Museum. The most significant artefacts currently on display, he said, were the gold and ivory teeth and eyes that had been inserted into the dead crocodiles following mummification.
Abdel Hamid Maarouf, head of the ministry’s ancient Egypt department, noted that the crocodile museum was the third museum to be inaugurated in Egypt recently, after the Imhotep Museum at the Saqqara Necropolis and the Meneptah Museum on Luxor’s west bank.
Mohamed El-Biali, head of Aswan antiquities, explained that Sobek had been worshiped in ancient Upper Egypt, especially in Kom Ombo, where a great temple was built in his honour. Following a crocodile’s death, Maarouf explained, it was treated like a god, mummified and buried like a pharaoh, replete with funerary items.
A memorial plaque at the new museum, like the one at the newly-opened Suez National Museum, does not include the names of any ministers or officials, merely a dedication to the “revolution’s martyrs.”
Source: National Geographic News
For most of the year, the inner sanctum of the main temple at Abu Simbel is shrouded in darkness.
On two days, traditionally the anniversary of the birthday and coronation of pharaoh Ramses II, a shaft of sunlight pierces the gloom, illuminating statues of gods and the king in the temple’s inner sanctum.
On February 22, a day celebrating the king’s birthday and again on October 22, a day celebrating his coronation, sunlight illuminates seated statues of the sun gods Re-Horakhte and Amon-Re, as well as a statue of king Ramses II. The statues sit in the company of the Theban god of darkness, Ptah (who remains in the shadows all year).
The spectacle—which has endured more than 3,200 years of Egyptian history—draws thousands of tourists to Abu Simbel to watch this ancient tribute to a pharaoh whose name is still known up and down the Nile Valley for his military exploits and monumental building projects.
Temple of a God-King
Ramses, who ruled Egypt for 66 years from 1270 to 1213 BC (about 50 years after the death of Tutankhamen, better known as King Tut) made a name for himself by battling the Hittites and the Syrians, Egypt’s enemies to the north.
To celebrate his victories, Ramses erected monuments up and down the Nile with records of his achievements. He completed the hypostyle hall at Karnak (Thebes), and completed the funerary temple of his father, Seti I, at Luxor on the West Bank of the Nile.
The main temple at Abu Simbel, which Ramses ordered built near the border of Nubia and Upper Egypt, was dedicated to two sun gods, Amen-Re and Re-Horakhte. Standing 100 feet (33 meters) tall, the temple was carved into an already-standing sandstone mountain on the banks of the Nile.
Four colossal statues of Ramses, each 66 feet (22 meters) high, guard the entrance to the temple. Rising to the pharaoh’s knees are smaller statues of family members: his mother; favorite wife, Nefertari; and son, Prince Amonherkhepshef.
Inside the temple, three connected halls extend 185 feet (56 meters) into the mountain. Images of the king’s life and many achievements adorn the walls. A second temple at Abu Simbel is dedicated to Nefartari, who appears to have been Ramses’ favorite wife.
“Abu Simbel was one of, if not the largest, rock-cut temples in Egypt,” says Bruce Williams of the Oriental Institute of Chicago, “The rock was sacred because the Egyptians believed the deity was living inside the mountain.”
Rock-cut temples may have been especially significant in ancient Egypt because the bulge in the otherwise flat land may have signified the location where the gods emerged from the Earth, says Williams.
The Abu Simbel temples do not sit in their original location. Egypt’s growing need for electricity prompted the controversial construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s.The dam created Lake Nasser, and rising waters flooded a number of important archaeological sites along the banks of the Nile and displaced thousands of people who lived in the area.
The rising waters threatened the temples at Abu Simbel. Members of the United Nations Education, Science, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) orchestrated a massive construction project that moved the temple back 690 feet to its present site.
Piece by piece, craftsmen cut the temple, and the nearby temple of Nefertari into massive blocks of sandstone up to thirty tons. Both temples were carefully reassembled on a new steel and cement “mountain,” safe from the water’s edge.
The only result of the move is that the days of illumination have shifted by one—the illumination used to occur on February and October 21.
Festival of the Sun
That the days of illumination correspond to actual days in the life of Ramses is highly unlikely, says Leo Depuydt, an egyptologist at Brown University.
“The Egyptian calendar was based on 365 days and while it was precise, the solar calendar is minutely different from year to year,” says Depuydt, who adds that it is also difficult to know the precise date of the birth or coronation of Ramses II.
“Regardless of the alignment, if the temple faces East, the sun is going to shine in it twice a year,” says Depuydt, who adds that “excitement is the key here—people are going to come to see the sun in the temple. But science is a different matter.”
Have you dreamt of golden sands, purple mountains, camels at sunset, Bedouins, and incredible starry skies? A desert adventure displaced from your daily life? We’ve compiled great photography from around Flickr, so you can have an idea of the magic in the deserts of Egypt. Here is a small collection of what you will see on the perfect Egyptian Desert Adventure!
Sinai from above
An encampment among the desert mountains
A Bedouin’s Camel
The famous red and purple hues of the Sinai Mountains
Experience desert sunshine on an eco-friendly safari
Thousands of years of wind have created beautiful rock formations
The Mushroom Rock is one of the Sinai’s stranger and more colourful rock formations
You will spot some green in the desert as you approach the hidden oases
Camels await the trail
The greenery of the oases is a pleasant surprise
Bite into the sweet desert palm fruit
Meet the Bedouin tribes
Relax in the shade at noon
You don’t wanna mess him!
The Faithful old Kitchen Jeep
A perfect resting place in the Coloured Canyon
Witness unrivaled sunsets
Incredible night skies
and stunning sunrises!
Source: National Geographic
By Carl Hoffman
Writer Carl Hoffman traveled to Egypt in February 2011, a week after popular demonstrations led to the president’s resignation. These are his observations.
The air was smoky but sweet, the sounds unmistakable: glasses clinking and dominoes and backgammon dice clacking, newspaper pages turning, and the constant low hum of voices.
In Egypt there is a coffee shop on every corner. Sometimes in the middle of the block, too, and even right next to another one. They’re all different and all similar—open to the street, often old, with feral cats prowling underfoot and ceiling fans slowly turning overhead. Men drink tea, smoke water pipes, play table games, and talk or read the newspaper. Some cafes are tiny holes in the wall; others are large and sprawling. Often they fill whole alleyways, especially at night.
Called ahwas, the shops are an Egyptian institution. Mostly you’ll find only men in them, though tourists are almost always welcome, and in parts of downtown Cairo, accompanied Egyptian women are seen.
As protesters and revelers moved in and out of Tahrir Square I took refuge from the action to slip inside an ahwa for a shisha and sweet tea.
The tea is always in glasses served on an aluminum tray and the shisha, or water pipe, comes with fresh, flavored tobacco topped by hot coals. The smoke is smooth and gentle, even to a non-smoker like me. Sit as long as you want; there’s never a hurry, and there’s always time to talk.
One afternoon I fell into conversation with Shady El Tawansy, 26, who gave me the lowdown on Egyptian dating.
“We don’t date,” he said, taking a long, slow drag on the hookah. “You go out in groups. To the mosque on Fridays. The parents and families are very involved in the process all along the way. It is very complicated.”
Source: Experience Egypt
Marsa Abu Dabbab
A shallow and sandy reef, Marsa Abu Dabbab is great for divers of all levels. The reef is located a little to the North of Marsa Alam and is the best place to spot the endangered dugong (sea cow), meet playful dolphins and swim with graceful sea turtles.
The Dolphin Reefs: Sataya/Dolphin Reef and Samadai Reef
Marsa Alam is perhaps the most dolphin friendly area on the Red Sea. Long hailed as a diver’s paradise, the city is close to two reefs known for dolphin encounters, Sataya or Dolphin Reef and Samadai Reef also known as Dolphin House. Both the Samadai and Sataya Reefs are horse shoe shaped reefs that are close to Marsa Alam and accessible by live aboard and boat. You can also spot other pelagic marine life including white tip sharks and barracuda, as well as many reef fish and corals.
St. John’s Reef
A group of reefs, St. John’s features giant gorgonians and black coral, silver tip and hammerhead sharks, and soft corals with an abundance of colourful reef fish. You will also see St. John’s Cave, a string of caverns, home to some very interesting sea life. The reef is to the South of the city and is most easily reached by live aboard.
The Elphinstone Reef
A 300m long wall diving site, the Elphinstone Reef can drop to great depths. Best for experienced divers, the reef is best seen by a drift dive, relying on the strong currents. Lots of colourful soft corals and a diverse collection of sea life conglomerate on the wall, also attracting large pelagics and sharks.
The Daedalus Reef
This reef is also known as Abu el Kizal, and is one of the most well preserved reefs in the area due to its distance from the shore. The reef encounters some pretty strong currents so it’s best visited by experienced and intermediate divers only. Here is one of the best locations to see large pelagics such as sharks, tuna and morays.
Who hasn’t dreamt of going to Egypt?
We were recently in Seattle talking with the executives of Expedia.com and while all of them are well travelled and have been all over the world. When we told them they were going to Egypt next, they talked of how it was either their favourite destination or for those who hadn’t been there, their dream destination.
Everyone fantasizes about this ancient land.
We loved Egypt
It is filled with iconic landmarks and remarkable landscapes. It has a rich history and strong culture and it boasts world class diving, incredible beaches and exciting nightlife.
Egypt has it all.
In honour of our current trip to Cairo where we are speaking to the tourism industry about working with Travel Bloggers, we thought that we would revisit our favourite sites in Egypt. We spent a few weeks there before and during our cycling race from the top of Africa to the bottom of the continent and we are so excited to be going back to see more!
Pyramids of Giza
We hired a camel, a horse and a guide to take us to see the pyramids. Weaving through the back streets of Cairo on our trusted steeds, we entered what seemed like a shady opening to the grounds. Are we going to get anywhere near them? Well actually yes!
We road our camels through the desert right up to the massive structures. Our guide urged us to walk up the steps and we weren’t sure if we were allowed or not, but we graciously accepted.
After touring around the 3 main temples, they took us to a high dune overlooking the complex. Yes, we were being scammed and taken to the cleaners by the nice old man that kept layering us in robes and head dresses, but even though it cost us a bit of cash, we couldn’t put a price on securing this photo.
We arranged a $15 a day tour to the White Desert through the Dahab Guesthouse in downtown Cairo. It ended up being an incredible trip. We were told, if there is one thing you should do in Cairo, it is see the White Desert. We listened and it didn’t disappoint.
Giant White structures jutted out of the desert landscape creating incredible formations. Brought on by erosion, these chalky mounds create the illusion of massive mushrooms, eagles and turkeys and even one that looks like a camel.
Experiencing a true Bedouin experience, we camped out under the stars. With just 3 walls made of blankets to blog the cold desert wind, we slept under thick sleeping bags and blankets grateful for the warm tea that our guides made us after our delicious Bedouin meal.
Located on Lake Nassar we caught a glimpse of this monument from our ferry to the Sudan. The staff of the ferry told us to make sure we were out early in the morning to witness this wonder as we passed by.
Originally located on The Nile, Abu Simbel needed to be moved when the Egyptians created the Nile Dam project. It would have been engulfed by water never to be seen again until the government came to its rescue taking it apart piece by piece and rebuilding it high on the banks of the lake.
Built as a monument for Ramses the IV, this would definitely be enough to deter invaders from entering his kingdom.
Nile River Cruise
When in Cairo, you must book a dinner cruise on the Nile. It is here that you can sample Egyptian entertainment such as belly dancing and the Whirling Dervishes. Pass along the cityscape while you enjoy authentic Egyptian cuisine and imagine what legendary heroes and villains floated along these waters over the centuries.
Valley of the Kings
We were all fascinated with King Tut as children and it is here that you can visit his tomb. It is here that you can visit every King of the Pharoahs tombs. Ramses, I-V and everyone else in between were laid to rest here in extravagant tombs filled with riches and jewels.
You won’t see the treasures in these tombs today, but you will see the paintings and heigroglyphics drawn on the walls of these massive chambers that are as big as a house.
The tombs are impressive but the valley itself is even more incredible. I can see why the ancient Egyptians chose this as the resting place of their most important leaders.
Temple of Hatshepsut
This impressive temple is dedicated to the female King Hatshepsut . Leader for 27 years, she has a monument to rival even the greatest of kings. Built between 1490-1460BC.
It is impossible to imagine that the Nile reached the grounds of this temple complex and that the area surrounding it was lush and green. Today the desert is dry, but the temple is no less impressive.
Felucca Ride in Luxor
So your Egypt holidays are going great. You’ve done a Nile dinner cruise in Cairo, now its time to feel the wind in your hair on a sail boat in Luxor. We simply walked down to the river to find ourselves a boat for the afternoon. We walked along until we found a captain we felt comfortable with and negotiated a deal for him to take us out for a few hours.
Sailing along the fabled Nile, I wondered exactly what bank Moses was left on? I don’t know a lot about the bible, but I do know that he was sent floating down the Nile somewhere!
The sun was shining as we lazily drifted pass the cityscape. Camels and goats walked along the river banks and the day was silent as we fulfilled yet another one of our dreams.
Checking off the Bucket List
When visiting Egypt, you will check of many of those items on your bucket list. For us it was Sleep in the Desert, Sail on the Nile, See the Pyramids and Visit King Tuts tomb. We did it all and what do you do when you’ve accomplished something?
Add to it of course.
We now have a new bucket list that is ever evolving.
This time in Egypt, we’ll actually make it inside the Egyptian museum and take a tour to Alexandria. Stay tuned for more coming from Egypt.
I was awoken at 5am on Christmas day by the local Muezzin, giving Allah his dues. The last time I was up at 5am on Christmas day I was six years old and had peed myself with excitement.
This time I stayed dry and instead of rushing to the Christmas tree I headed to Cairo Gateway bus station to get a bus to Dahab in the Sinai.
I arrived shaken & stirred many hours later and headed to Dive-Urge where I had organised a room at last minute. The greeting was warm and I was given some Bedouin tea (with sage) and told that there would be a Christmas dinner on the beach in a couple of hours.
I skedaddled to the local bottle shop (imaginatively titled “Drinks”) and purchased some Stella [sans Artois]. Safely back on the beach, the food was slowly served up and honestly [sorry mom] it was the best Christmas meal ever. It was like the Egyptian chef had taken a Christmas dinner cooking course. Succulent turkey, red cabbage, stuffing, crunchalicious roast potatos, bread sauce… The works.
Spent a week in Dahab, which is as relaxed as it gets. Diving, sleeping, eating, sleeping, diving, repeat until done. Dive Urge is a fantastic place, highly recommended. But after this it was time to get on the road again.
Source: Visiting Egypt
To anyone standing on its shore and gazing out across its heavenly waters, the Red Sea may seem to be a mislabeling. Its blueness is eternal and anything less red cannot be fantasized. The Red Sea, where the desert meets the ocean, is truly one of the planet’s most exotic and fascinating natural seascape environments. The Red Sea is located between Asia and Africa. At its most northerly point forms the Sinai Peninsula and stretches over 1000 miles south to join the Indian Ocean, between Ethiopia and Yemen. In the north and west are desert plains, while in the south a mountainous region (2642 meters high), which is part of the mountain range stretching from deep in Saudi Arabia, across the Sinai and then into Nubia of the African continent. The Red Sea holds beneath its crystal blue surface an oasis of living creatures, reefs, and coral formation. Its use as a highway between East and West has attracted man since the beginning of time.
The Red Sea was created by the movement of plates in the Earth’s surface about 30 million years ago. In that time, the Arab peninsula started to part from Africa along a thin break line which was filled by the ocean’s water. However, “Mother Nature” did not stop there. Twenty million years ago another geological movement started. The Arab peninsula which parted from Africa, started to move to the north. That movement struck resistance in Turkey and swung to the east, and another break line was formed. This one stretching all the way from the northern part of Israel, through the Jordan valley to the Dead Sea, and finally through the Gulf of Eilat to Ras Mohamad at the southern point of the Sinai. The young age of the Gulf of Eilat is what makes it so deep, 100 meters in Dahab and 1800 meters north of the Straits of Tiran. On the other hand, the old Gulf of Suez is relatively shallow, with a 85 meters maximum depth. The Red Sea is still widening at about one-half inch per year, the rift is the youngest region of continental breakup on the planet, allowing geologists to learn about processes that occurred in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans hundreds of millions of years earlier.
Water temperatures in the Red Sea remain unusually constant year round, averaging 22^ C in the summer. Low pressure systems develop in the Sahara Desert and draw hot dry east winds from Asia which cause the temperature to rise frequently along with sand storms. At the same time, lows develop over the Red Sea, bringing moist cold air from the south and creating clouds, haze, and more often rain. The northern land mass is the primary influence over temperature in the gulf, but this decreases to the south the closer you get to open sea. The open sea’s cooling effect creates an interesting temperature pattern: maximum summer temperatures are lower in the south while minimum temperatures are higher in the north with the opposite occurring during the winter. In any case, the coldest moth of the year is January and the warmest months are July and August. The Red Sea is notorious among seafarers for its high speed surface winds and aggressively short irregular motion. It may be calm on the inward shore, but journeys to exposed sites like The Brothers islands, a remote off-shore site east of El Quseir, can be perilous and boats have been seen literally to fall apart under the force of the journey.
This video is an advertisement by a UK tour operator, but it really shows you the sights of Luxor and the surrounding Nile Valley in an informative way. You can also find out about the different activities on the Nile and around Luxor as well as the different types of Nile Cruises available to tourists. Perhaps you’ll get inspired and find yourself booking a trip!
This morning the air felt much cooler as we had our morning coffee on the roof terrace and I noticed the haze that has been around since we arrived in Luxor seems to have finally cleared. Sam and I decided to drive over to the West Bank again.
Once more crossing the bridge and turning right along the pretty tree-lined road towards the Gezira cross-roads, I noticed again the activity involved with the sugar cane harvest. Trucks, tractors and donkey carts trundled along the road piled high with canes. One interesting development I’ve noticed this year is the arrival of a new type of vehicle in the form of a motorcycle with a pick-up back, like a motorised donkey cart but much faster. I guess this progress is inevitable and I wondered how long it will take before we no longer see donkeys on the roads. Is this a good or a bad omen for the donkeys who will become redundant?
We stopped briefly at the Colossi of Memnon, the statues of Amenhotep III at the entrance to his Kom el-Hettan temple, because the sun was lighting them perfectly in the late morning. After mid-day the front of the statues are in shadow. A long screen has been erected in front of the excavation area so there was no chance of seeing any work in progress. We had a glimpse from the road of the statue of the king that has been re-erected in the temple area with its replica head. Knowing that visitors are quickly turned away, there was no point in stopping.
Sam drove along Monument Road again slowly so that we could see what has been going on excavation-wise. How lazy is that? But we were on our way to the Carter house, where the famous discoverer of Tutankhamun’s tomb had lived and worked.
I had expressed an interest in seeing the recently re-opened ‘Castle Carter’ last week. I remember from my first excursions onto the West Bank years ago, several people told me that ‘Castle Carter’ was the domed building on the hill at the entrance to the road to the King’s Valley. I was even once taken inside part of this building, which was also a dig house. Later however, I learned that Carter’s house was at the foot of this hill and surrounded by overgrown trees that went a good way to hide it. The larger and more prominent house on the hill is in fact Stoppelaere House, built to a plan of Hasan Fathy in the 1950s as both a guest house for the Department of Antiquities and the headquarters and apartment of Dr. Alexander Stoppelaere who was the chief restorer of the Department at that time.
The real ‘Castle Carter’ was in fact Howard Carter’s second home on the West Bank, his first being near Medinet Habu. The one we visited today has been beautifully restored and we, the only visitors, were welcomed free of charge and shown around by a guide. A fantastic job has been done on the restoration of the house. It is an Egyptian traditional mudbrick house with a dome in the centre to keep it cool. Each room is furnished with lovely period pieces from the time when Carter lived there and even though I knew they were not original to the house they felt like they belonged there. It certainly captured my imagination. There are many copies of photographs and reproductions of some of Carter’s original handwritten notes and his drawings to add extra interest and the present Lady Carnarvon has done a beautiful job of designing posters and history boards with photographs of the two famous men.
Howard Carter built this house shortly after beginning his association with his benefactor Lord Carnarvon of Highclere Castle in England, in 1910. He lived in Luxor for many years and it was his base while excavating in the Valley of the Kings and searching for Tutankhamun’s tomb. Carter’s story after his 1922 great discovery is well known and his last years are rather sad, but it was lovely to see the life this house must have had while he lived there.
The most interesting part for me was the darkroom, now lit with the traditional red light and looking like Carter or his photographer Burton might step out at any moment. The walls were hung with black and white photographs and there is even a huge wooden plate camera on display. The restored house is surrounded by a newly-planted garden that will be very pretty when the plants grow and there are shady rest areas where visitors will be able to get refreshments. Outside there is a wonderful view of Thoth Hill, and with my long lens I was able to take a picture of the temple on it’s peak. I’ve never yet managed the two-hour trek to the top.
After leaving ‘Castle Carter’ Sam and I decided that Deir el-Bahri, where we were headed next, would still be too busy with the morning rush, so we went into the Ramesseum rest house for a drink to while away an hour or so. We finally arrived at Hatshepsut’s Temple around 2.00pm when most of the visitors had gone. Deir el-Bahri has also changed since my last visit and now has a big new visitor’s centre. We were told we were not allowed to walk up to the temple but had to go on the little taf-taf train. It’s becoming like Disneyland here. We bought our tickets (30 LE plus 2 LE for the taf-taf) and off we went.
I visited each terrace in turn taking photographs of the walls. because many of the reliefs have been newly cleaned since I was last here. The right-hand second terrace is looking especially good and the shallow relief depicting the divine birth of Hatshepsut now shows up well. The Chapel of Anubis has also had a face-lift and the painted walls are now bright and colourful. I love to visit the little Chapel of Hathor with its lovely Hathor-headed columns and today with my zoom lens I got some good pictures of the adjacent Middle Kingdom Mentuhotep Temple from there. I also got some pictures of the old Metropolitan dig-house, a magnificent huge building to the south of the temple that for many years has been used by the Polish Mission working at Deir el-Bahri.
We left Deir el-Bahri when the temple closed at 5.00pm, making our way through the bazaar that is now the only exit. Sam had to park on the road because the enormous car park is now for coaches and taxis only. We drove back into Luxor in the crazy evening traffic, trying to work out why drivers mostly ignore the red traffic lights.
Luxor is not a place to go for large, glamorous shops. There aren’t any. There are, however, bargains to be had, as well as souvenirs.
Typical souvenir items include carvings and mouldings of gods, pharaohs and queens, papyrus illustrations and glass scent bottles. The bargains include egyptian cotton, leather, gold and silver (but in all cases be careful about manufacturing quality).
Prices in hotel shops will normally be beatable, but they are worth checking if only to give you a benchmark for when you go to town.
It is also worth visiting non-tourist shops in town, where prices are marked and where, as far as we can tell, the tourist pays the same as local people. Most of these shops are in and around Station Street and Television Street. Station Street is the wide road that leads from behind Luxor Temple towards the railway station. Here you will find shops selling shoes, clothing, small electrical items and an optician. Television Street is a long road that leads from behind the Old Winter palace and runs more-or-less east (away from the Nile).
It helps to have a note of Arabic numbers because although prices are often displayed, they are usually only written in Arabic.
Haggling – the price you have to pay
You don’t have to haggle in normal shops, such as the ones along Television Street and Station Street.
Elsewhere, you haggle for most things, especially in the market and in the tourist shops. Once upon a time the general advice (which is still given by some tour reps) is that you start to haggle at half the price asked for by the merchant and meet somewhere in the middle. The shop and market people are wise to that, so they up the starting price. It is not at all unusual for a seller to start the haggling process six, eight or even ten times higher than the price they would accept.
The best bet is to become familiar with value of things by checking the price charged in the government shop, other fixed price shops, non-tourist shops used by local people and hotel shops. There is no magic formula. Do your homework and with that background information decide what you are prepared to pay, then barter. If you buy for that or a lower amount you have a bargain. If you want to know the lowest price, just show interest, barter a bit, then walk away. The price he shouts after you as you begin to disappear back into the crowd is probably as low as he will go.
Fruit & Veg shopping
There used to be plenty of fruit and veg stalls in the tourist market, but most of these have now gone. There is a new fruit and veg market just across the railway line, behind the station. This is where local people buy their fruit and veg, so look for one with the prices marked, go armed with the arabic number list (above) and shopping is easy!
There are also lots of fruit and veg shops and stalls in Medina Street, which turns off Television street at the Vodaphone shop and more scattered around town, especially close to the railway crossing near the station and between Station Street and Television Street.
There used to be a big and dusty Government Shop in the maze behind Luxor Temple. There is now a new Government shop at the southern end of town. To get to it, go down the road opposite the Lotus hotel, past Joan’s, Snobs, Casablanca etc to the end of the road. The Government shop is on the corner of that road and the busy main road. On the ground floor are clothing and linens, such as sheets, table cloths etc. Downstairs there are fabrics and domestic machines. This is not the same as a duty free shop. It is simply owned by a government company.
It helps to know the procedure for buying here. The shop is similar to a British corner draper from the 1950s. There are counters and each member of staff has their own territory and specialty. Prices are marked in arabic. Staff speak English. They will willingly show you what you want to see and tell you the price. Prices are fixed but seem to come with an automatic discount.
When you have chosen your purchase(s) you are given a chitty. Take the chitty to the cash kiosk opposite the main entrance. Give the chitty and your payment to the cashier. He will receipt the chitty and return it. Now take the receipted chitty to the dispatcher who has his own counter to the right of the cashier. If the goods have not already arrived at the dispatcher’s desk he will go to the place where you started, to collect your purchase. He then wraps it and gives it to you with your receipted chitty. If you buy things from more than one counter, collect your chitties as you go round and take them all to the cashier together.
Many of the people involved may ask for tips, but this is out of habit. Tips are not really expected or normally given.
Tourist shops in town tend to be clustered and they all sell similar things, especially alabaster, resin mouldings, leather, t-shirts, other cotton and jewellery. The goods in tourist shops are rarely priced. Hassle and bartering are the order of the day. One cluster of tourist shops is along the main Corniche either side of the Winter Palace, extending into the Marhaba centre, to the left (as you face it) of the Winter Palace. There used to be more around the Horus hotel, between the market and Luxor Temple, but these have been cleared as part of the town improvements. For a while they were relocated along the main road on the town side of the El Luxor hotel. They are now in a new purpose-built shopping centre, called Savoy Market (see below). At the other end of town there are plenty of shops along the main road from the Nile Palace hotel (previously called the Meridien hotel), all the way through to the Sheraton and down some of the side streets along the way.
The Savoy Market has replaced many of the tourist shops that used to be clustered close to the Luxor Temple. This is part of the thrust to improve facilities for tourists, but it was also necessary as part of the clearance of a tract of land between Luxor and Karnak temples to reintroduce the ancient avenue of sphinxes.
The Savoy Market is on the town side of the El Luxor (previously the Mercure) hotel. It has an arcade at ground level, which goes through to the road at the back, and two further floors. There are dozens of shops, selling the full range of tourist souvenir things. There are also several toilets, which were once quite acceptable by local public toilet standards but have not aged well, and an internet cafe. Some of the best known local low-cost restaurants have also been relocated to the Savoy market with the shops. Altogether there are three restaurants, El Hussien (yes, it is spelt that way outside) and Amoun are on the second level and King Tut is at the top.
For atmosphere when shopping, a must-visit is the traditional market in Old Market Street. There are many access points into Old Market Street. For one, start at McDonald’s. With your back to McDonald’s, go right, past a few shops and to the junction with the main road. The main road is Station Road. Cross this road and look for the new sign “Le Souk”. This is the entrance to the market.
At this end of the market most of the shops sell jewellery, bags and leather goods, souvenirs, spices, scarves, T-shirts and other clothing, and other items aimed at the tourist. As you progress through the market, the emphasis changes, with fewer shops targeting the tourist. There used to be lots of stalls selling fruit and vegetables, household utensils, tools and other goods providing for the needs of local people. However, most of these, especially the fruit and veg, have now been moved to a new fruit and veg market on the other side of the railway line, not far from the station.
Some guides and occasional visitors to Luxor will advise against shopping in the market. Their reasons may include the inevitable hassle from shop or stall holders and the possibility that you will pay too much for your purchases.
As far as the hassle is concerned, certainly there will be plenty of local people keen to ‘help’ you and you will not progress far in Old Market Street without being ‘encouraged’ to go into shops or to look at wares on a market stall. That kind of hassle is hard to avoid anywhere in Luxor. A little tolerance and good humour will usually be enough to get you by.
What you pay for your purchases is largely up to you. Many of the stall holders work on commission. Everything has a minimum price that the owner will expect. If the seller can get more than the minimum then the difference will probably be his earnings so yes, many may maximise their earnings when they have a chance. Some guides will suggest that you offer half the starting price. The sellers are wise to that advice and so will often start much higher than twice what you need to pay – even ten times as much.
There is no magic formula. Do your homework in the hotel and local shops.
With that background decide what you are prepared to pay, then barter. If you buy for that or a lower amount you have a bargain. If you want to know the lowest price, just show interest, barter a bit, then walk away. The price he shouts after you as you begin to disappear back into the crowd is probably as low as he will go.
Egypt has always held a fascination for me. I have travelled all over the Middle East, and to parts of Africa, but for some reason had never made it to Egypt.
So when we were deciding where to go for a family holiday, it seemed an obvious choice.
Discover Egypt organised the trip for us and were efficient and helpful, particularly as at the last minute we had to split up, two of us flying to Luxor and the other two flying straight to the Red Sea.
Everything was re-organised with the minimum of hassle and I caught my first glimpse of the Nile with my youngest daughter Domenica when we arrived at the Maritim Jolie Ville Luxor Island hotel.
The hotel is in a superb position, on the shore of the Nile, with a beautiful infinity pool looking over the river. A new reception area was being completed and I hope that the next bit of updating will be to the rooms, which are pretty basic.
We had breakfast on the terrace before the heat of the day, watching life on the river, including vast boats passing serenely in front of us. From there we drove across the desert to El Gouna, on the Red Sea, where we stayed in the Movenpick Resort and Spa.
This is a vast complex with several restaurants, swimming pools and beaches. It is overwhelming until you have worked out where everything is.
Then it is like being a part of the computer game The Sims, a virtual world where the player is in control of the people and the buildings – you make it exactly as you would want it.
In Movenpick everything interconnects and works like clockwork and the rooms are comfortable and well-thought-out. The food was exceptionally good, particularly the buffet lunch and at the fish restaurant.
The Movenpick is one of a series of hotels built around the lagoons of El Gouna, an artificial construction on a vast scale.
It is a hugely ambitious project and we spent a morning going through the lagoons in a boat to get a sense of its size.
Satellite masts are hidden in fake palm trees and everything is pristine and spanking new, which reinforces that computer-game feeling.
That evening I went with my eldest daughter Savannah to a Bedouin dinner in a strip of desert outside the main compound.
There were camel rides, an ostrich to look at and food served while we sat cross-legged on cushions in the sand.
The Moon was full and it was a lovely, if somewhat touristy, night, complete with whirling dervishes and plaintive Arab music.
Water sports are a theme in El Gouna so I persuaded my husband Dominic and Savannah
to have a go at parasailing. We were driven to the Old Marina, which is an isolated spit of sand with a hut and an incongruously placed sofa on the beach.
Just seeing Dominic and Savannah’s faces as they were strapped into their double harness on the parachute before they had even taken off made the whole trip worthwhile.
Savannah has a certificate from her school on the kitchen wall at home for the dubious accolade of ‘probably attending the least number of PE lessons in her year group’.
And Dominic hates all ‘unnecessary’ movement. To see the two of them suspended high above us, attempting – as they told me later – to have a normal conversation to disguise their fear, was a sight to behold.
When they were reeled in they had a ceremonial dunking in the sea. I asked Dominic what it had been like and he replied that he would like a ‘gin and catatonic, please’.
One night we went to dinner by the harbour in El Gouna. It was a balmy night and the harbour was busy – one had a sense of being in some recently constructed Mediterranean port.
In a few years, when everything has mellowed, it will be a very different, vibrant place. As it stands, its very newness is somewhat disconcerting.
Savannah and I spent a morning snorkelling along the reef, seeing all manner of brightly coloured fishes, and then we set off across the desert plains to return to Luxor for our last two days.
Dominic and I got up at dawn, were driven to the Nile, crossed over in the dark, and emerged on the west bank to a surreal landscape of billowing hot-air balloons.
We clambered into a corner compartment of the basket of a huge balloon, and – very slowly – we rose majestically above the Nile to watch the sunrise.
It was stunningly beautiful, eerily quiet and one of those dawns and sunrises that one will never forget. There were muted colours and stirrings of life and then the sudden explosion of light shattering across the desert landscape and shafting on to the temples.
We landed abruptly in the middle of a smallholding, with ancient, inscrutable men in traditional robes rushing forward to help us alight. From there we went to the temple of Queen Hatshepsut, built on three terraced levels.
She was one of the rare female pharaohs, and in order to legitimise her position, she depicted herself wearing a pharaoh’s kilt and a beard. This temple is an extraordinary monument to the first known reigning queen.
The advantage of going to the temple so early in the morning is that it was completely empty. By the time we got to the Valley of the Kings the crowds had appeared, and that, coupled with the intense heat, makes the viewing conditions of the tombs very difficult.
You feel as if you are on a conveyor belt and, just as you are beginning to understand a particular piece of wall painting, you are pushed forward. I would recommend going out of season if you are serious about Egyptology.
The scale of the tombs and the extraordinary sophistication and elaborate detail overwhelmed me. All this was achieved at a time when in Britain we were rushing around in loincloths and living in caves.
The following morning I went to the temple of Karnak, with an informative and charming guide, and from there went to the temple of Luxor.
There is work going on to uncover the sphinx road that connects the two, so in various places in the hustle of Luxor you come across destroyed buildings, and, emerging from the rubble, sphinxes that have somehow survived unscathed throughout the centuries.
The temple of Luxor has traces of so many different civilisations, from the ancient Egyptians, the Romans, the Greeks, the Christians and the Muslims. The original temple was completely buried for hundreds of years and was re-discovered when a mosque was built on top of it.
The mosque is now an integral part of the site. We spent a last afternoon visiting the Winter Palace Hotel, which used to be the Winter Palace of King Farouk. I had a family interest in visiting this, as my grandfather had been King Farouk’s lawyer, and wrote his abdication speech.
It is now a very grand Sofitel, and requires a king’s ransom to stay there. From there, we took a boat meandering down the Nile back to the hotel to watch the sunset from the water. On one bank of the river, nothing appears to have changed since biblical times.
You see children playing in the water, women swaying through the fields as they carry their shopping home on their heads, and donkeys carrying their loads.
Yet, on the other bank is all the bustle of modern-day Luxor. It was a perfect end to the trip – a contrast between the ancient and the modern, with a glorious sunset to end it all.
- “ the Barbeque reality ” 8 Nov 2011
- “ Overated! ” 5 Nov 2011
Shopping in Alexandria
If you are thinking about the various things to do in Alexandria in Egypt, then we can assure you that you will be spoilt with plenty of options. Shopping in Alexandria is a delightful experience. Alexandria is dotted with several colorful shops. The shops offer you everything under the sun from fruits to vegetables, desserts, food, gold and jewelry. These goods and products come in unbeatable prices.
If you are seeking to shop your heart out, then SOUQ is the place to be in. This market place offers you everything you need, from old watches to fresh fruits and groceries. This multi-storied shopping center makes for an excellent shopping experience. Alexandria is home to antique malls, art centers, cigar shops, children’s stores, ladies’ boutiques, spa centers, gift shops, souvenir shops and florists.
The antique malls offer a gamut of shopping options. You can collect excellent antique furniture, glassware, silver, art, jewelry, lamps and other decorative items. The best English, French, and American antiques are exhibited at these beautifully decorated antique stores. The malls also have fine boutique items and gourmet items on offer.
If you are seeking for fine art pieces in Alexandria, you won’t be disappointed. A sophisticated array of bisque pottery, different paint colors, design templates, brushes, stamps, and stencils are all available at the stores. A variety of cigar shops are also found in the city. The cigar shops offer cigars, humidors, cigar gifts and cigar accessories.
You will find the choicest variety of children’s clothing at the various specialty stores dotting the city. The specialty stores offer baby furnishings, clothing, rugs, and accessories. Several boutiques offer a fine selection of ladies clothing, lingerie, jewelry, accessories, and unique gifts.
If you want to revive your mind, body and soul, day Spas are the ultimate place for you. The packages offering therapeutic massages, facials, manicures, pedicures, and body treatments make for holistic healing. The florists offer gifts, lamps and accessories. If you are looking for gourmet foods and coffees, candles, canisters, lotions, throws, books, home decor items and gift baskets, the gift and souvenir shops will offer you the same. You can also collect some fine and exquisite jewelry at Pattons Fine Jewelry.
Markets in Alexandria Egypt
Alexandria in Egypt is rich in history and culture. The historic sites, churches, businesses and museums are major attractions for tourists and locals alike. Apart from visiting the major historic and cultural sites in the city, you can also indulge in a delightful shopping experience. Alexandria is dotted with several shopping malls and markets. Markets in Alexandria, Egypt are bustling with life and color.
Features of Markets in Alexandria, Egypt:
The local markets exemplify an animated look. The markets are popular with the local people. Men sitting outside the cafes with their hubbly bubblies dominate the local market scenario. The best bargains from the local markets would be fruits, vegetables, desserts, food and animals. The markets sell everything from old watches to fresh fruits and groceries.
Shopkeepers try to draw in visitors with a wide variety of goods. You can return home glad after some successful bargaining. If you are seeking to buy food to gold and jewelry, Markets in Alexandria, Egypt offer you the same. The local markets embody the true Egyptian way of living. Popular with the Egyptians, the markets offer them everything under the sun at unbeatable prices.
The items found in the markets cater to the needs of the young and the old alike.
Zaharan mall, imperial mall and other major malls of the city offer everything from expensive gift items to local goods.
The stores offer attractive holiday items.
Supermarkets in Alexandria sell most of the common food items like cheeses, meats and cakes. Clothes, shoes Pizzas and donut shops and more traditional kebab shops are found in the markets of Alexandria.
The Green Plaza is a shopper’s paradise dazzling with cinemas, restaurants and outdoor cafes.
San Stefano Grand Plaza Mall in Alexandria
Shopping in Alexandria is a memorable experience. The major shopping malls in Alexandria are Deeb Mall, Mina Mall, San Stefano Grand Plaza Mall, Zahran Mall, Kirosez Mall and Imperial Mall. San Stefano Grand Plaza Mall in Alexandria in Egypt befits the taste of the contemporary and international visitors. Pulsating in the center of San Stefano area, looking down upon the Mediterranean, San Stefano Grand Mall offers a delightful shopping experience. Strategically located, San Stefano has some of the best districts in Alexandria nearby like Gleem, Zizinia, Roushdy and Lauren. The mall was designed by one of the premier consultants, Canadian “D.I. Design & Development Consultants Ltd. An extensive research and survey ensued in order to estimate the improvements that were to be made. What followed was what the world sees now. San Stefano Grand Plaza Mall boasts of being one of the best shopping malls across Europe, the United States, Canada and Egypt.
St. Mark’s Coptic Cathedral in Alexandria is the seat of the Pope of Alexandria, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The cathedral is said to stand on the site of the church founded by St. Mark the Evangelist in 60 AD.
St. Mark the Evangelist (author of the second Gospel) has been connected with the city of Alexandria since earliest Christian tradition. Coptic Christians believe he arrived in Alexandria around 60 AD and stayed for about seven years.
During this time, Mark converted many to Christianity and performed miracles. He is considered the founder of the church in Alexandria and the first Bishop of Alexandria. According to tradition, St. Mark was arrested during a festival of Serapis in 68 AD and martyred by being dragged through the streets. He was buried under the church he had founded.
In 828, the body of St. Mark was stolen from the Alexandrian church by Venetians to be enshrined in the grand new St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. However, the head of the saint remained in Alexandria and every newly-appointed Patriarch of Alexandria began his service with holding the holy head of St. Mark in his lap and changing its cloth shroud.
The head of St. Mark was moved around a great deal over the centuries, and has been lost for over 250 years. Some of the relics from the body of St. Mark, however, were returned to Alexandria from Rome in 1968.
What to See
The present St. Mark’s Coptic Cathedral is of recent date, but is said to stand on the site of church founded by St. Mark himself.
Names: St. Mark’s Coptic Cathedral; St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church; St. Marcos Orthodox Church; Morkosia
Location: Alexandria, Egypt
Denomination: Coptic Orthodox
Dedication: St. Mark