Adventures in the Middle East
Yalla Yalla Habibi! I am in Israel, my 52nd country to visit, and just completed a two week tour of Egypt and Jordan. It was exhausting to see so much in such a short period of time. I normally prefer to make my own plans, but I decided to go on a budget tour through Egypt in Jordan and I think that is the best way to see the sites for most American´s. Driving in Egypt is about as crazy as it gets. If there are lane lines, they are optionial: and the stress of trying to drive there would easily ruin your trip. The numbers and many signs are in Arabic and you often have to pay tolls to the military police that don´t speak much English. My tour had us wake up really early for all the driving. The worst was a 2:30AM drive to beat the heat in Egypt. I arrived one day early for my tour so that I could see Alexandria on the Mediteranian.
Because of Ramadan, we couldn´t go into the famous library. We did go to the Citadel of Qaitbay, Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa, and the Serapeum of Alexandria. Here is what is left of the Serapeum after the Christians tore it down.
Alexandria was founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC and he only lived to 33. This was the capital of Egypt when they were part of the Greek Empire. Saint Mark was born in Libya, but he was killed in 68AD in Alexandria.
There is a very strong correlation between how much you like history and museums and how much you would like my trip. We saw the birthplace of history, but as my new Ozzie friend Grahm said, ¨I love the sites, but I don´t like being in Egypt.¨
Our official tour started in Giza, right next to Cairo. There are over 22 million people living in the Cairo-Giza Metroplex and it is a zoo. There is trash everywhere, the cars and motorcycles come way to close to you and honk incesantly, and our entire tour got diarrhea. It also sad to see the malnurished cats, dogs, and donkeys. My time in Egypt was safe, but the vendors everywhere were WAY too aggressive. I felt a constant level of stress with aggressive sales people, honking, and cars/motorcyles driving way too close. Here is an example of what a busy street in Cairo looks like.
The museums in Cairo are unbelieveable and they are about to open the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) in late 2023. The building looks awesome. The pyramids in Giza are awesome and I can´t image the work involved of cutting the stones and transporting them from Southern Egypt.
After Giza, we Flew to Aswan. The Nile River used to flood leaving fertile sediment behind. In 1970 they completed the Aswan Dam that created giant Lake Nasser so that their cities would no longer flood and they could grow crops multiple times per year. The new Dam flooded many ancient sites. From Aswan we took a short boat ride to the Philae Temple that used to spend half its time partially submerged until they moved it stone by stone to a higher island. The pyramids are great, but I hadn´t heard of Philae and it was my favorite thing to see in Egypt.
We woke up the next day at 2AM so we could drive to the Sudan border to see Abu Simbel. It also had to be relocated because of the Aswan Dam. There are two temples: one for the Pharao and the other for his wife. Both were moved to the new location to avoid the flood waters.
We then hit Luxor and the Valley of the Kings, where many of the Pharoes were burried in their tombs.
After that we had two free days on the Red Sea in Hurghada. I chose to Scuba dive and it was not as nice as most of the popular places in the Caribbean. Hurghada and much of the Sinai Penninsula are like Europe´s Cancun. It is very difficult to find alcohol outside of hotels in Egypt and our hotel in Hurghada was all inclusive. Egyptian beer and wine choices are limited and lacking. After Hurghada we had a free day in Cairo and then flew to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. In Amman we saw the Citadel and the Roman theater below.
We then drove South to see the ruins in Jerash. It was amazing. I got the sense that my fellow tourists liked being in Jordan more than Egypt. It is wealthier, the food was better, and there was less honking and fewer high pressure salesmen.
Our next day of the trip was my favorite day–the ancient Nabatean city of Petra. Once we began walking into this huge settlement built into sandstone, we realized the size of what was created. Pictures can not do Petra justice. The mountain range and hike would be worth going to; even if there were no ruins.
After Petra we drove close to the Saudi Arabian border and visited the beautiful desert of Wadi Rum. This is where the real Lawrence of Arabia lived and where they filmed the Martian, Dune, and The Rise of Skywalker. We rode in the back of pick up trucks and slept in huts with HVAC systems and bathrooms.
After Wadi Rum, we swam in the Dead Sea and ended our tour in Amman. I then crossed the border into Jerusalem and took a bus down to Fort Masada. It is a giant fort built by King Herrod from 37 to 31 BC. It is on a steep mountain with beautiful views of the Dead Sea. In 70 AD the Roman´s litterally burnt down Herrod´s limestone temple in Jerusalem. There was one last group of Jewish rebels holding their ground from the Roman Army in Masada. In either 73 or 74 AD the Romans arrived and burned down the wooden gate to the fortress. They let it burn all night and were going to invade the next morning. That night, the approximately 1,000 people living in the fort, decided that it was better to die than live as a Roman slave. When the Romans entered the fort the next morning, they found a mass suicide.
I am now off to Tel Aviv, the Sea of Galilee, and then back to Plano. Thanks for reading.