November 26th - Dec 3rd, 2009
Continuing from part 1 - after a day at sea (and a few days for me to rest my fingers and brain for this blog) we are now off to Egypt. Yes, the most exciting part of the cruise for us. We arrived at the port early and had to eat and rush off to make our tour. This tour was organized by Rick (cruise critic person) for the cost of $265 per person. (Company was Nile Blue Tours) That included a security with us for two days, guide for two days, Nile Blue Representative for two days, entry to Sakkara (Saqqara) pyramid, lunch in Cairo, entrance into the Egyptian Museum, light show at the Sphinx and Pyramids, night at the Le Meridian hotel, breakfast at the hotel, and entrance to the famous Giza Pyramids. Oh, and of course our bus and a shopping stop. The ship sold this tour for $795 per person so we were happy to get it for so much less. For an extra charge you could do the Nile Dinner Cruise which was $45 per person - and we did. So, off we go onto the bus, security and guide with us.
After passing alot of poverty and canals filled with children swimming, people fishing, while at the same time you could see dead animals floating and trash everywhere - we arrived at Sakkara (Saqqara). Sakkara was the cemetery for Memphis and the capital of Ancient Egypt. The Step pyramid in the below photo was the tomb of King Zoser and is the oldest stone structure in the world. Sakkara is also the site of many tombs from the 1st and 2nd Dynasties. Most are made out of mud bricks, but some tombs are made of limestone.
Below Bob comes up from the Tomb of Titi. Our guide decided for us to visit this tomb since there were less people here than it would be in Giza at the main pyramids. This tomb would not be as hot and more air to breathe. You do have to duck while going down into the tomb and while walking around inside with only a couple small places to raise up. Not fun. lol
As we drove from Sakkara to the city of Giza/Cairo, you saw alot of animals being tranported by vehiles or on the sides of the roads. We later found out that tomorrow began the first day of a four day holiday. The first day is sacrifice day. Yes, one of the five acts of obedience of Muslims is to help the poor and this is one of the ways to do that. I will go into this more later.
Finally lunchtime. We ate on the Nile (non-moving restaurant) at the Le Pacha 1901. It was great food, very clean and included in our price. I will say that after seeing the floating cow in the canal, people fishing in that same canal, well, we all looked towards chicken to eat. lol But, was it really chicken. lol lol lol
Next stop - hours at the Egyptian Museum. We have to admit - we would have enjoyed this much more without a guide. The museum items are all labeled and easy to read. Matter fact, we learned more in King Tuts room than in the entire museum because our guide could not go in there. King Tut became King at 11, died at 20, married a half or step sister since he had to be married. He was buried in four coffins that fit inside each other like Russia wooden dolls. And his organs, except his heart, where placed in four smaller coffins. See, we can read. lol (by the way, no cameras allowed in the Museum and you go to security and they check)
From there - still not to our room. It was directly to the Light Show at the Giza Pyramids and Sphinx. Since we missed the English speaking time slot, we would have to wear headsets to translate it from French to English. Most nights there are four shows with each being a different language. Again, check out the photo or check out a short video. I do have to admit, the pryamids are soooooooooo huge that the Sphinx looks minature. lol
Finally we were checked into the Le Meridian. Very nice but we were so tired, we barely got into the room before totally collapsing. What a full day of activites we had. It was back up the next morning. breakfast and back on the bus for the best of all.
After a bathroom break - it was off for our 3 hour drive to the ship. During the night, the ship had left Port Said and moved to Alexandria so off to Alexandria we went. On the drive back, we ask our Nile Blue representative what the large birdhouses where at all the homes across the countryside. We quickly found out that maybe that wasn't chicken we ate. lol lol These large birdhouses are Pigeon houses as they raise them to eat. Well, if that was Pigeon we ate, then maybe I need to build some of these birdhouses at my house also. lol
Finally we hit Alexandria, Egypt. (large photo below) What a nice clean city. Our bus did take a drive through part of the city. Since it was a holiday, the kids were out of school and could be seen everywhere. And we were able to see two of the famous things in Alexandria. But first, a little history. Alexandria is the second largest city in Egypt. It was founded by Alexandra the Great in 331 BC. Until two earthquakes in the 14th century destroyed it, their lighthouse was one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Below you will see photos of the Alexandria Library and the Fortress of Qait Bay. The Alexandria Library (small photo below on left) was a huge international project which costs millions of dollars. The Library contains more than 8 million books and a reading area with two thousand seats. The Fortress in the Bay (small photo below on right) is said to have been built with stones from the lighthouse but no one has been able to prove that.
And if you remember, I spoke about Sacrifice Day as the first day of a four day holiday for the Muslims. In the below photos, you will see that the city streets of Alexandria, also the streets of Giza/Cairo, were used for this ritual. The many animals where brought to the city to be killed in the streets. Literally making rivers of blood everywhere. The meat is given to the poor for their food and this sacrifice is the Muslims obeying one of their five acts of obedience. This is over and above the six major beliefs they have. So if you have a weak stomach, you might want to scroll pass these two photos.
And finally, as the ship passed through the tightest area - you get a view of Italy on the left and Sicily on the right.
Sadly, our last night, great dinner and a great night sleep. And we said goodbye to our tablesmates, seen below in the two photos. Top photo: Alan, Mercedes, Ann, Phil, and us. Bottom photo: Linda and Leola (they showed up at the end of the meal). It is always great to meet new people and hear great stories of their lives and travels.
Our first day in Belgium started very early. A taxi ride to the train station and off to Brugge. We had heard alot about this city and even watched "In Brugge" the movie to see what it was like. But to see it was amazing. What a quaint place with alot of history. And its charm was breathtaking. Brugge is often called the "Venice of the North!" as it has many canals. Unfortunately, we were there when the canal boat rides no longer were running. What a site it would be from a boat.
And a little history that many might miss in Brugge is the hinge and stone wall. This hinge in the below left photo is original iron hinge from the old city gate. Just across from it you could also see a square left untouched from the original bldg.
As you walk around Brugge - the buildings lining the canals are breathtaking. It is said that artists come from all around to sit and paint these magnificent beautiful places.
Below are three pictures taken at the Minnewater. The Minnewater was built as a Flemish community for women many centuries ago. Since so many of the men had been killed in the all too frequent wars and religious crusades, well, it left alot of single older women who wanted their own community. Though still in use, it has been taken over by the Benedictine order and has been named as a World Heritage Park by UNESCO. It is now low income housing. The waters in front of the place is filled with waterfowl that add to its beauty.
Yes, just peek inside the bus and you will see Bob and I. lol The only ones upstairs. lol
Below is the bottom of The Congress Column. An eternal flame burns at the foot of the monument, in memory of all the Belgian victims of the two world wars. The column itself holds the grave of an unknown soldier. Every year, on Remembrance Day (November 11), an official ceremony is held at the site.
This is the "Chateau de Laeken", or the royal residence. It became the permanent residence of the royal family during the reign of King Leopold III. Look close at the tops on the lights. They are crowns and just below that you can see the two emblems (one on each side) that are the royal emblems. The public is not allowed to enter the palace grounds.
The below photos will bring you to some American looks. On the left is the Stock market exchange (for the holiday portable shops are set up) while on the right you can see a busy street as if you are in New York Times Square.
The Atomium, one of the trademark images of the Belgian capital, was erected as a temporary installation for the 1958 World Exhibition. It is a model of a molecule of an iron crystal, magnified 165 billion Times. It features nine massive spheres, symbolising nine Belgian provinces, connected with a network of corridors and an ultra-fast lift. (a fee to go into it)
From the first day arriving in Brussels, we needed to find Tram 94 to get from the Train Station to close to the hotel. Finally today we found our Tram. And since it was so cold, well, lets just say we were one happy couple at its site.