Friday, April 24, 2015

Pyramids, Camels and Silly Pictures

Nothing is more iconic than the Pyramids at Giza! To say this was a dream come true for Bob and I is a complete understatement. I have wanted to visit Egypt my entire life!  After moving to Germany it seemed like our chance had arrived--but then there was all that strife and revolution and we thought we might not be able to make it after all. Then last year, friends of ours went and came back giving it great reviews. Most importantly, they said they felt completely safe. So, with that recommendation we booked a tour with Memphis Tours.  

Normally, we aren't "organized tour" users, but for Egypt we felt it was the most efficient way to see the sites, get the information we were looking for and the safest way to travel about the country. I am glad we used them--Our tour manager (Fadi) met us at baggage claim upon arrival and dropped us off at security at the end of the week. We had a car waiting for us at every site, making our travel time efficient and to be honest, I would not want to drive in Cairo--it's semi-organized chaos. 

The other nice thing about using a tour company was they kept the itinerary. It was so nice to just sit back and listen to the history unfold before our eyes.  In Cairo we had a private car and tour guide, she was fantastic.  She is a freelance tour guide who works for Memphis, but is available for private tours not associated with a tour company. She gave us great information about the city and sites and also helped stage all the silly photos below.  I can not recommend her enough, she was great and my daughters liked her too.  
Shahinaz M. Medany: 01002047440 mobile 

Unfortunately, you are no longer allowed to climb to the top of the pyramids--instead they allow you to go about 10 feet--it's a small consolation prize. I was surprised at how close the city is to the pyramids, the city literally encroaches on the front side. The back however, is closed to development and remains desert. 

Another thing you aren't allowed to do is take pictures inside the pyramid which is sort of silly given that there is absolutely nothing inside to damage--and the fact that the guard inside the tomb offers to take your picture with your i-phone, for a tip of course.  It was super cool though to walk deep inside through the tunnel to the burial chamber.  

Eliza is standing next to a massive stone to provide some scale to the stones the Egyptians used in the construction of this temple. Given the lack of complex equipment, it is truly amazing the ancients were able to build such significant works.  

Bob and I took the optional camel ride behind the pyramids so we could get cool desert shots.  The only buggy thing about that was the camel guide wanted a tip on top of his fee and then argued  with us when we were unwilling to give him more than the agreed upon price. We found tipping to be a standard expectation in Egypt for absolutely every little thing. If you are planning a trip to Egypt, do some research on acceptable tipping practices and to whom you should be doling out extra money too. 

Serendipity is Sweet

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Hotel Review, Hurghada, Egypt

We spent one week at the SunRise Select Royal Makadi Resort in Hurghada, Egypt.  We booked the all-inclusive hotel online through The resort is actually about 25 minutes from the town of Hurghada which is appealing if you want to avoid crowded tourist areas, but limiting if you crave shopping opportunities or time away from the resort. We wanted nothing more than to sit poolside, so the remote location suited us very well.   
I actually didn't get any photographs of the massive complex because as you can see, we were busy having fun on the slides.  The resort is huge, but with 3 pools, several restaurants and 2 large lobby areas, we never felt like we were tripping over other guests.  The grounds were kept nicely and the hotel staff was very accommodating.   Following is a list of pros and cons.  

*We stayed in building 30, somewhat far from the main food hall, swimming pool and lobby.
*Our in room internet service was horrible.  We had to use the internet in the lobby if we wanted to get online.  I think part of the problem was our location.  Guests in building 10 said they had very good internet. 
*Water pressure was at times nothing more than a trickle.  We had two rooms and both rooms suffered from severely low water pressure.  Twice the water stopped completely--only for a minute, but it was a bit buggy.  Again, I think it was complicated by the fact that everyone was showing between 4-6pm before dinner and our location on the top floor.  Our friends in other buildings did not have the same problem. 
*Hotel salesmen come around daily trying to hawk their services.  It wouldn't be that big of a deal if it weren't a constant steam of workers. They are respectful and don't badger, but they are present.  

*Food.  Now there is always going to be someone who is dissatisfied with the quality of the food, but we found it very good.  The selection was incredible; they truly catered to a variety of pallets.  With 3 meals a day, plus snacks and free drinks in between there was no reason to ever be hungry.
*Staff.  Pleasant and helpful.  We had a problem with our laundry not being picked up and they arranged to have it express cleaned but did not charge us the extra service fee.
*AC.  Sometimes hotels advertise air conditioning, only to find it isn't powerful enough to combat the oppressive heat.  Not the case here--we were able to stay nice and comfortable.
*Pools.  My kids loved the slides and when we needed a break from the kid pool we could find a quieter one across the street.
*Tennis Courts.  Now, if you are Roger Federer you probably will have some complaints about the tennis courts, but for the average Jo, they were just fine.  I would recommend bringing your own rackets and balls if you are a serious player as the hotel's equipment is well used.
*Fitness Center.  They actually had a good selection of equipment--we used the gym everyday.

If you ever find yourself in Hurghada, this resort is ideal for families.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Valley of the Kings--From Above

I am finally caught up on laundry, I have edited about 500 photos and am now ready to begin blogging our trip to Egypt.  Egypt was amazing, sometimes uncomfortable, often hot, and so worthwhile. Many have asked if we felt safe.  The answer is a qualified yes. I will speak more about that later, but for now it suffices to say that at no time did I feel in danger and the Egyptians want you to know it is safe to travel to there. One of our guides pled with me, "Please go home and tell your American friends it is safe to travel to Egypt!"

One of my favorite days of the whole two weeks was the day we visited the Valley of the Kings--the famous valley where King Tut was found in 1922 by Howard Carter. The tombs are brightly colored and inscribed with the most amazing hieroglyphics.  Unfortunately, you aren't allowed to photograph inside, in fact, you are not even allowed to take your camera into the valley.
We began our day at 4am with sunrise balloon ride over the valley, it was AWESOME!  It was our first balloon ride and I was a bit nervous, but it was so smooth and peaceful up in the air that my fear soon abated.  Viewing the valley from above offered such a unique perspective.  We could see several temples including the Temple of Hatshepsut, rock cut tombs, unexcavated ruins and flew directly over a modern village. As we flew overhead we passed children walking to school, some ran up to their rooftops to wave at us.  We got a birds eye view into their gardens, barnyards and fields--I loved it!
The main cash crop growing in the fields is sugar cane, but other crops include alfalfa, wheat, and corn.  The contrast between the green of the fields and the brown of the desert is stunning.  Water is now pumped from modern wells and channeled to the fields.

The ride lasted about 45 minutes ending with the smoothest landing I could have imagined.  I was prepared for a jolt or bumpy landing, but we literally skimmed the surface of the earth as if landing on a cloud. We landed in a field littered with broken potshards--Our guide told us archaeologists have only excavated maybe 50% of what lays hidden in the earth.  Those potshards are a sign of that.

Enjoy the birds eye view from our hot air balloon, I sure did!

P52 Sweet Shot Tuesday with Kent Weakley

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Silent Sunday--Valley of the Kings

This photo of the Valley of the Kings was taken from my hot air balloon last week.  It was my first time on such a ride and oh my word, how fantastic it was! Can't wait to share more of our trip with you.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Spring Break

We are in Egypt this week for Spring Break.  I had high hopes to be blogging everyday, catching up on somethings I haven't written about, but dang it, we don't have internet in our room and I am having a good time with my girls. I did get too much sun today though, so I may stay indoors tomorrow to get some work done.

Our resort in Hurghada is fantastic!  The grounds are beautiful, the staff is very accommodating and I can sit in the lounge drinking diet coke for free all day if I choose.  Hope you are enjoying your spring break!  

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Songkran--Thai New Year

I don't have any real statistics to back this up, but I have to imagine that the worlds biggest water fight takes place in Bangkok, Thailand during Songkran or New Year.  It is a fantastically fun, if not crazy event.  No one is off limits--people line the streets with hoses, water guns and buckets of water. People riding in the back of mini-trucks carrying barrels of water, make a clean get away after they splash/soak unsuspecting pedestrians (such as ourselves).  I actually got off easy as I was carrying the camera and begged for mercy--the girls didn't fare as well, but given that is was like 35*C with insane humidity, the cold water was a welcome relief.    

I was told a few different things about why they have a water fight--Songkran marks the New Year as winter passes into Spring. It is the beginning or end of the rainy season and water represents washing away the old making new.  It is a time for Thai to visit temple shrines and participate in special observances.  The air is filled with incense and corner shrines are adorned with beautiful floral arrangements.  It is a wildly fun time to visit Bangkok!