Egypt and the Nile
Mike and Judy Henderson
September 29 - October 10, 2018
We had originally considered doing this cruise after our tour in Israel but there was too much dead time between the end of the Israel/Jordan tour and the start of this Uniworld cruise in Egypt. But then Judy noticed that Uniworld had this same cruise in 2018 and it began the day after the completion of our Sicily cruise. So we'll do the two cruises back-to-back and save on the airfare.
If you'd like to see our Sicily cruise, click here.
9/28/2018 (Friday) We fly from Malta to Cairo today. The driver was picking us up at 8am to take us to the airport, so we got up about 6am and walked around the town of Valletta before that. It's a charming town - we both wish we had more time to explore it. We had breakfast in the hotel and the driver showed up right on time. I didn't take a picture of us leaving the hotel but here we are arriving at the airport.
The airport is medium sized and easy to navigate. We checked in, went through security, and then waited for our flight, which was about 11am.
We were taken to the plane by bus. It's a 737-800 and it was fairly full.
The flight was a couple of hours and we arrived somewhat after 2pm Istanbul time, which is an hour ahead of Malta.
The Istanbul airport, by contrast, is huge. And the procedures for doing an international transfer are not very clear. We had to go to a "transfer desk" to get our boarding cards for the Air Egypt flight to Cairo, then go through security again, and finally go upstairs to the international departure area. While this sounds simple as I write it, it was not simple or easy since we didn't know the process and made several mistakes before we finally got to where we were supposed to go.
But eventually we found our way and boarded our flight to Cairo - an Embraer 170. I didn't get a picture of the plane but this is what it looked like (picture from the web). Not a bad plane - two seats on each side. One strange thing was that the seat numbering started at 20 instead of 1. We had seat 21 which I thought would be way in the back, but it was right up front.
The flight was almost two hours - Cairo is an hour behind Istanbul - and it was dark as we arrived over the city.
The driver from Uniworld was waiting for us when we arrived at the terminal. He took us through passport control and guided us to the luggage claim area.
As we drove to the hotel he briefed us on the tour and mentioned that there would be a one-day tour of Alexandria tomorrow (Saturday) but we'd have to be in the lobby at 6:30am. Since we didn't come all this way to miss seeing Alexandria, we readily agreed.
When we arrived at the hotel - the Four Seasons, a very nice hotel - a bomb sniffing dog checked the car before we could drive to the entrance, and our luggage had to go through a scanner before we could enter. I suppose that's a commentary on the state of security in the Middle East.
We were given a large room on the 27th floor overlooking the Nile - but we just fell into bed because of our early departure for the trip to Alexandria.
9/29/2018 (Saturday) We were up about 5am so that we'd have time for breakfast before meeting the bus at 6:30am.
There were only eight guests on the trip to Alexandria. I suppose most of the people were arriving today. We left the hotel parking lot a bit after 6:30 and headed toward Alexandra on the desert highway, the one marked 75 on this map.
At first, the land along the road was farm land - and green.
But it soon turned to dry desert.
One thing that I kept seeing were these unusual structures.
We learned that they are pigeon houses. The Egyptians eat pigeon.
After about three hours we saw the first buildings of the city of Alexandria.
The part of the city we drove through was obviously poor - it was run down and there was trash everywhere. It's hard to capture in a picture or two what the city looked like, but here are two that are representative.
Egypt is a Muslim country and their Sabbath is from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. We were in Alexandria on Saturday so what we saw may not be representative of activity in the city during the work week.
There were many small shops with men sitting in front of the shop, smoking a water pipe and drinking what I assume was tea.
We went to the Alexandria Catacombs. They don't allow you to take pictures there so I'll have to try to get some from the web when I have Internet access. The catacombs are cut from the rock, tunnel fashion. There are burial places for wealthy persons, as well as simple rectangular places where several bodies of average people might be placed together. There were no bones in the catacombs, as you can see in the Paris catacombs.
Here are two pictures of the interior of the catacombs that I took from the web. A sarcophagus that we saw.
These are the places where poorer people were buried (stacked). There was no water in the catacombs when we were there, but excavation is limited to certain depths in places because of the water table. Sorry for the small picture - that's all I could find.
Just outside the catacombs was this house that I thought was interesting. The left side had a foundation problem and the two parts separated. I couldn't tell if anyone was living in the part on the left.
All over Alexandria - and later Cairo - we saw these private buses. Most were in better shape than this one.
For short distances, these three wheel taxis were available.
They also have traditional taxi cabs.
Then we went to Pompey's Pillar.
Here's our group at Pompey's Pillar. That's Sam, our guide, in the center. (Judy is stretching.)
There's actually not a lot at Pompey's Pillar - just some ruins and the one pillar.
There were two sphinxes at the site but they looked like recent additions.
Next we went to a Roman theatre.
This theatre was discovered in the 1900's so it's in fairly good shape.
Then it was time for lunch. We headed to the port area.
Lunch was a a restaurant called The Fish House.
Here's a picture of Sam at the Fish House.
After lunch we went to the Citadel of Qaitbay. The citidel was built with stone taken from the Lighthouse of Alexandria, which was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
There's a small mosque in the citadel.
A view of the Mediterranean Sea from the citadel.
Then we headed back to Cairo along the same road - about three hours driving.
That was it for today. We had not gotten a lot of sleep on Friday, and we got up very early for the Saturday trip to Alexandria, so we went to bed after a snack in the bar.
Our adventure continues here