MW Mobile Blog

For friends, family and the random search engine visitor. This blog started as an experiment in mobile blogging from my Palm TREO 600, 700, Prē, HTC Evo, Samsung 5, Pixel 3, Pixel 6 Pro. Now it serves as a simple repository of favorite activities. Expect bad golf, good fishing, great sailing, eating, drinking, adventure travel, occasional politics and anything else I find interesting along the way including, but not limited to, any of the labels listed here...

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Egypt Day 18 - Jordan Day 1: CAI => AMM - And More Mark Twain

 Sunrise in a room with a view of Amman 
Itinerary Day 18:  Egypt to Jordan
Last Day of Oriental Tours Egypt Itinerary 
"After breakfast, our rep and private car will pick you up for last transfer to Cairo Airport to board your flight to home" 
First Day of Jordan Select Tours Itinerary
"Arrival Amman - Upon arrival, a member of our staff will meet you at Queen Alia International Airport. Transfer to hotel in Amman."
We say our final fond farewells to our Egyptian hosts and are again expertly transported to and through the Cairo Airport. It's a short flight to Amman, but the Royal Jordanian Air flight was delayed over an hour before we got off the ground. Our bags were inspected three times from the curb to the seat. Once through an x-ray machine as we entered the airport. Again through the normal security as entered the gate area. Finally our carry-on bags were inspected by hand on the gangway as we boarded the plane. We're not sure whether to feel more secure or more nervous.

 Amman is colder than we expect, but the reception is warm.

This is an inflection point in the tour. Different country, different tour operator, but everything is still on track. Machmud greets us at the airport, escorts us through immigration, helps me get to an ATM and points me to the right network service to swap out the sim card on my Samsung.  We meet our driver Alaa who will be our point person accompanying us through our 10 days in Jordan. he drives us to the Le Meridien Hotel  through a cold rain. And, of course, yet another birthday cake and another room with a view. This is birthday cake number four if you are keeping track.

The Egypt portion of our trip is at end, but before we move on I feel compelled to wax poetic about the two weeks of amazing sites, sounds and people we experienced in this ancient land.  I feel like I should do that, but I don't have the poetic skills. So once again I will defer to Mark Twain from his 1869 travelogue "Innocents Abroad".

In this excerpt Clemons expresses frustration at using the written word to communicate the rich history and tapestry of touring Egypt and his reverence for what he saw.  If one of the greatest American writers of all time felt his skills inadequate to describe Egypt, what chance do I have with this little blog? So I'll once again just leave the task to Samuel Clemens and link the places he describes where they overlap our own experiences in Egypt:
"I shall not describe the great mosque of Mehemet Ali, whose entire inner walls are built of polished and glistening alabaster; I shall not tell how the little birds have built their nests in the globes of the great chandeliers that hang in the mosque, and how they fill the whole place with their music and are not afraid of any body because their audacity is pardoned, their rights are respected, and nobody is allowed to interfere with them, even though the mosque be thus doomed to go unlighted...  I shall not tell of Joseph’s well which he dug in the solid rock of the citadel hill and which is still as good as new, nor how the same mules he bought to draw up the water (with an endless chain) are still at it yet and are getting tired of it, too; I shall not tell about Joseph’s granaries which he built to store the grain in, what time the Egyptian brokers were "selling short," unwitting that there would be no corn in all the land when it should be time for them to deliver; I shall not tell any thing about the strange, strange city of Cairo, because it is only a repetition, a good deal intensified and exaggerated, of the Oriental cities I have already spoken of... 
I shall not speak of the boundless sweep of level plain, green with luxuriant grain, that gladdens the eye as far as it can pierce through the soft, rich atmosphere of Egypt; I shall not speak of the vision of the Pyramids seen at a distance of five and twenty miles, for the picture is too ethereal to be limned by an uninspired pen... 
I shall not tell how we feasted on fresh dates and enjoyed the pleasant landscape all through the flying journey; nor how we thundered into Alexandria, at last... as the mellow sun went down upon the oldest land on earth... I shall not speak a word of any of these things, or write a line. They shall be as a sealed book. I do not know what a sealed book is, because I never saw one, but a sealed book is the expression to use in this connection, because it is popular. 
We were glad to have seen the land which was the mother of civilization --which taught Greece her letters, and through Greece Rome, and through Rome the world... We were glad to have seen that land which had glass three thousand years before England had it, and could paint upon it as none of us can paint now; that land which knew, three thousand years ago, well nigh all of medicine and surgery which science has discovered lately; which had all those curious surgical instruments which science has invented recently; which had in high excellence a thousand luxuries and necessities of an advanced civilization which we have gradually contrived and accumulated in modern times and claimed as things that were new under the sun; that had paper untold centuries before we dreamt of it--and waterfalls before our women thought of them; that had a perfect system of common schools so long before we boasted of our achievements in that direction that it seems forever and forever ago; that so embalmed the dead that flesh was made almost immortal--which we can not do; that built temples which mock at destroying time and smile grimly upon our lauded little prodigies of architecture; that old land that knew all which we know now, perchance, and more; that walked in the broad highway of civilization in the gray dawn of creation, ages and ages before we were born; that left the impress of exalted, cultivated Mind upon the eternal front of the Sphinx to confound all scoffers who, when all her other proofs had passed away, might seek to persuade the world that imperial Egypt, in the days of her high renown, had groped in darkness." - Mark Twain

Editors Note: I intend to pre-load and schedule automated blog posts with the daily itinerary for our Egypt and Jordan adventure. For those interested, this may be an easy way to follow along. Internet access is always a crapshoot. My hope is that by pre-loading the itinerary it will be easier to add some pics and journal commentary as time and the internet permits. If there are no pics or commentary, you'll just have to wait until we get back. Further Edit: Links and pics will be added to Clemens excerpt as I get around to it updating this journal in the weeks and months following this trip. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Egypt Day 17 - Disembarkation Esna / Luxor / Cairo and Home Cooking

Itinerary Day 17:  Disembarkation Esna / Luxor / Cairo
"After breakfast, we bid farewell to Captain Hassan and the crew. Your luggage will be collected and will be ready for you to travel to Luxor to get your flight to Cairo . when you arrive at Cairo airport our rep will be waiting for you to transfer you to your House in Cairo for overnight."


Our last full day in Egypt. Woke up to brilliant sunshine but still cold. Some other boats were moored behind us in the night. I threw the loaned fishing line off our balcony deck with a bobber in the vain hope I might still catch something while packing for departure. I can't help but think some of the warm feelings from the captain and crew on our sendoff last night were dissipated when they had to haul our four large heavy bags off the boat, up the embankment, and into the waiting car this morning.

The short flight to Cairo was uneventful. Once again the arrangements facilitated by Oriental Tours Egypt was seamless. The handoff from guide, to crew,  to driver and airport made the security and transfer process simple, fast and less painful than flying in the U.S.  In Cairo, we are again met by Ramadan, who met us on our initial arrival. It felt like a homecoming. Actually, it was a homecoming.

We are whisked through crowded Cairo streets to the home of Sayed and his wife Noha. Sayed is the owner/director of Oriental Tours Egypt, arranged the Egypt trip with Sigrid, and has invited us to spend our last night in Egypt in their guest house.

They have a meal waiting for us on arrival. The warmth and hospitality they show us is something very special.  We enjoy another spectacular home cooked feast with Sayed, Noha, and their three delightful daughters - Sama, Hana, and Rana.

After dinner we talked about the trip, showed pictures, discussed the state of the travel industry, and even indulged in a bit of politics and religion.

As mentioned before, Sayed and Oriental Tours Egypt specializes in custom and small group tours of Egypt. To at least some degree Chinese, Japanese, and Russian tourism have partially filled the gap left by the dearth of American tourists in Egypt. However, those tourists tend to travel in large groups. Sayed's approach of smaller, individualized custom tours with superior service is more appealing to American and European travelers. He's hoping that we are in the vanguard of  American tourists returning to Egypt in some numbers. We'll do our part. When (not if) we return to Egypt, there is no one else we would consider working with.

If you are planning to tour Egypt, you can't do better than working with Oriental Tours Egypt and Sayed. With the exchange rate you could not pick a better time than right now. As far as safety, don't worry about it. I mean, do you really want to create the impression that Americans have become bigger travel wimps than the Chinese and Japanese?

Editors Note: I intend to pre-load and schedule automated blog posts with the daily itinerary for our Egypt and Jordan adventure. For those interested, this may be an easy way to follow along. Internet access is always a crapshoot. My hope is that by pre-loading the itinerary it will be easier to add some pics and journal commentary as time and the internet permits. If there are no pics or commentary, you'll just have to wait until we get back. Further!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Egypt Day 16 - Back to Esna - Gelbe el Silsila

 The entire passenger manifest on the deck enjoying lunch.  
Itinerary Day 16:  Edfu
"Enjoy breakfast at your leisure, sailing along the Nile, enjoy the wonder scenes between east and west bank of the Nile. You have a possibility for walking in the city or doing another optional visit to Edfu Temple to find out more of the great temple secrets and watch the wonderful scenes on the great temple walls, or you can stay on the sundeck to enjoy reading a book."

As noted previously, our usual routine is a visit to an ancient temple or site in the morning and back to the boat for a late lunch. The difference this day is that there were only three passengers left on the dahabiya - me, Sigrid, and our guide Ismail.  After the rest of the passengers departed in Aswan, we started back north, moving with the current on a return trip to Esna. Last night we anchored near the Gebel el-Silsila sandstone quarry  - the source of much of the sandstone used to build temples and tombs in the new pharaonic era - and the Speos of Horemheb.

This site was originally planned for yesterday's itinerary, but that was a busy day so we're picking it up now.  It called for a dinner among the illuminated temples on the grounds in the quarry. However, that was preempted by an active archaeological expedition working out of a dahabiya moored directly in front of us. Dinner was on board the dahabiya, which was fine. It's pretty cool in the evening.

Artifacts found at the site waiting to sorted and stored. 
Their presence, cold temperatures and wind kept us on the boat for dinner and moved our site exploration to this morning. As usual, Ismail provided fascinating insight into the history and details of the quarry and temple.

Then it's back to the boat for customary refreshments, and our last meal on the top deck.

Guava and Hibiscus juice. 

The captain turned the boat back to the South with the prevailing wind at our back, just so we could enjoy the dahabiya under sail for another hour. 

Then it was time to drop the sails, turn back to the North, and finish the relaxing return trip to Edfu, while watching the river flow by. 

We arrived at Esna late and said our goodbyes to Ismail who was eager to rejoin his wife and two sons.  After a week of escorting two Americans up and down the Nile, I was sympathetic. He was one of our favorite guides ever, and that's saying a lot. I insisted on a group shot with Ismail and the crew before he departed.

I thought it appropriate to wear my galibea one more time.

Our last night on board was memorable. After dinner the crew surprised us after dinner with yet another cake and raucous song and dance sendoff.

I'll miss these guys. The dahabiya Nile cruise aboard the Amoura was a great experience and the best way to see Egypt.

Editors Note: I intend to pre-load and schedule automated blog posts with the daily itinerary for our Egypt and Jordan adventure. For those interested, this may be an easy way to follow along. Internet access is always a crapshoot. My hope is that by pre-loading the itinerary it will be easier to add some pics and journal commentary as time and the internet permits. If there are no pics or commentary, you'll just have to wait until we get back. Further!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Egypt Day 15 - Kom Ombo Philae and Agilkia Island

Itinerary Day 15:  Kom Ombo - Gebel El Silsila
"Here we visit the Greco Roman Temple at Kom Ombo. The temple building is totally symmetrical with two entrance's two halls and two sanctuaries dedicated to the Falcon God Haroeris (Horus the Elder) and the Crocodile God Sobek. We set off for the relaxing journey to the temple of Gebel el Silsila, another of our less frequented destinations. You will be amazed as we tie up alongside the Speos of Horemheb. If possible dinner will be served in the grounds of the illuminated temple or on the upper deck whilst soaking up the tranquil atmosphere with music to match the mood."
Actually we did none of that. We flip-flopped some sites between the itinerary for day 13 and today. We've already been to the Greco Roman Temple at Kom Ombo and the Speos of Horemheb is still in our future. As we are now the only passengers left on the boat, presumably the itinerary was juggled to coordinate travel logistics and accommodate our fellow passengers. Either that or Ismail modified the itinerary because it just made more sense this way. Doesn't matter. We totally trust the guy.

Unfinished Obelisk

Our first stop was the Unfinished Obelisk at the granite quarry in Aswan. An open air museum, an active archaeological site and a historical window into just exactly how they built and transported those things (no aliens needed). This is where the great Egyptian obelisks were quarried.

Philae and Agilkia Island

Next stop, a water taxi to the island of Philae and another relocated drowned temple complex...

... a temple complex originally sited on nearby Philae Island:
"The most conspicuous feature of both islands was their architectural wealth. Monuments of various eras, extending from the Pharaohs to the Caesars, occupy nearly their whole area. The principal structures, however, lay at the south end of the smaller island. The most ancient was a temple for Isis, built in the reign of Nectanebo I during 380-362 BC, which was approached from the river through a double colonnade. Nekhtnebef was his ancient Egyptian royal titulary and he became the founding pharaoh of the Thirtieth and last native dynasty when he deposed and killed Nepherites II. For the most part, the other ruins date from the Ptolemaic Kingdom, more especially with the reigns of Ptolemy II Philadelphus, Ptolemy V Epiphanes, and Ptolemy VI Philometor (282-145 BC), with many traces of Roman work in Philae dedicated to Ammon-Osiris."
The island was more underwater than not in the era of the Aswan Low Dam. In the sixties, like Abu Simbel, the ruins were relocated to higher ground on nearby Agilkia Island, and that is where we toured this day.

Temple walls and Turkish coffee.

I'm standing on Agilkila Island where the ancient temples stand now.
Behind me, Philae Island where the temples used to stand below water level.
And in the further distance,across Lake Nasser, the Aswan High Dam.

 Aswan High Dam

For millennia, the annual flooding of Nile Valley literally determined the ebb and flow of human civilization in Egypt. The floods depositing silt created the rich agricultural base that made the wealth and power of the great kingdoms possible. Transportation and communication on the Nile tied the kingdoms together. Barges lifted by the predictable floods moved tons of rock from quarries to the site of pyramids, temples and monuments that attract tourists today. The Nile floods made Egypt. But the Nile floods are no more.

In 1970 the annual flooding stopped with the completion of the Aswan High Dam, unarguably the most consequential construction project in the history of Egypt and perhaps all of Africa. It curtailed the destructive effects of the floods, generated a significant percentage of the country's electricity, permitted more predictable and reliable navigation on the Nile, spawned a fishing industry in the new inland freshwater sea, and made agricultural irrigation consistently productive. It's construction also had negative consequences, including the forced relocation of hundreds of thousands of people and drowning historic archaeological treasures. Other consequences are still being tallied and will continue to have ripple effects on the Mediterranean,  the river delta, wildlife, farming and culture for decades into the future.

Few would argue anything other than the benefits outweighed the costs, but the scales will be measured and balanced for decades to come.

Standing on the dam, contemplating it's meaning in the context of all we had seen, was a fitting finish the last upstream stop of our Nile cruise. It's all downstream from here.

Gamel Nasser played off relations with the US and the Soviet Union against each other during the cold war of the sixties. One benefit to Egypt was Soviet financial help building the Aswan High Dam. This massive monument to Egypt USSR friendship was erected to commemorate the completion of the dam.
I expect the Trump - Putin Friendship Monument planned for Central Park, NY to be even larger. 
Back to our cabin on the Amoura ...

Our cabin boy leaves us a new towel & blanket critter everyday. 
... and relaxing on the aft deck veranda with refreshments as we resume our cruise back North.

Sigrid says she is planning to move permanently to the Winter Palace in Luxor.

That's fine. I'll just stay on the Amoura.
Editors Note: I intend to pre-load and schedule automated blog posts with the daily itinerary for our Egypt and Jordan adventure. For those interested, this may be an easy way to follow along. Internet access is always a crapshoot. My hope is that by pre-loading the itinerary it will be easier to add some pics and journal commentary as time and the internet permits.