After Luxor we headed for a week of relaxation on the Red Sea. To get there we took a 4.5 hour bus ride to Safaga, a small town on the coast known mainly for it’s ferry service to Saudi Arabia (used regularly for the Islamic “Hajj”). About 10 kms up the coast is a small beach, called Sharm-El-Naga, with a simple motel.
The beach was pretty and the motel was deserted so it was a great change from the hectic pace of Luxor. During the day lots of tourist (mainly Russians from Moscow) would arrive at the beach, on day-trips from Safaga and Hurgarta (a resort town to the north). The weather was a little too cool for us to swim (the Russians did not seem to mind, but then they are made of hardier stuff) so after two days at the motel we headed north to Hugarta.
Hugarta is a resort town catering mainly to Russians and Europeans. The resort strip extends for miles down the coast and is built up like Disneyland on the sea. We decided to stay away from the resort area and went to the suburb of Ad Dahar which is where the locals lived and where Egyptians stayed when on vacation. Our hotel was comfortable and clean and one of the cheapest we had stayed at so far on our trip (at $20 per night).
While in Hugarta, Meta and the kids got henna tattoos:
Caleb also got a silver necklace with his name in hieroglyphics.
And we all enjoyed the nice, quite break from all the rush-rush touristing of the previous two weeks.
Back to Cairo
After Hugarta we planned to spend 3 nights back in Cairo before our trip to London. We took a six hour bus ride to Cairo, up the Red Sea Coast towards the Suez Canal. These long bus rides seemed quite easy now after all the extended flights we had done during our trip. The buses had a small TV that would play a film (in Arabic) during the trip. The kids loved to watch even though they could only understand a word or two.
We pulled into Cairo before nightfall and enjoyed the views on the way into town.
After our experiences on our first trip to Cairo we decided to stay a little away from the touristy downtown area. We stayed in the wealthier suburb of Zamalek which is an island on the Nile. It is covered with trees and home to educated Egyptians and Ex-pats. We stayed at a fantastic hotel called “Hotel Longchamps” which had spacious and well appointed rooms. It felt like we were back in the 1st world, except for the prices ($60 US per night with breakfast included).
While in Cairo we prepared for our travel home, which would include a drastic change in climate. If you include our summer in Portland, we had seen 9 months of warm temperatures. Although London had been quite pleasant in the last few weeks, there was a forecast for snow on the day we were to arrive and a nasty cold front was coming across the Atlantic; this would mean cold weather in New York City as well.
We headed to the mall to find some cold weather gear. This being Spring in Lower Egypt there were not a great deal of warm clothing options. We did manage to find some cotton tights for the kids: they were white with pink butterflies, which elicited conflicting reactions from Caleb and Anna:
We found some long underwear for Dave and some tights for Meta as well. Sorry, no pics of those.
We also went to a puppet show, performed completely in Arabic, and packed with young Egyptian school-kids:
On our last day in Cairo we headed to the famed Khana-Kalili market to pick up a few souvenirs.
From there we made our final trip through the Cairo traffic
Since it was rush hour we found we were making little progress and ended up stuck in gridlock in front of the Egyptian Museum. We decided to get out there and wait for the traffic to abate.
Dave had wanted to take one last tour of King Tut’s treasures, so while Meta and the kids waited outside having tea (and Caleb did some busking)
Dave got to spend some quality time with his mummy.
Traveling in Egypt had been an incredible experience for the entire family. The welcoming attitude of the Egyptian people had been such a stark contrast to the image presented in the American media. Egypt certainly has it’s problems: poverty and corruption are rampant and the economy is shaky. Tourists come to Egypt for it’s history and beauty, but for us the treasures of Egypt are not found just in the Valley of the Kings or in the waters of the Red Sea; we treasure the people of Egypt and how they were willing to look past politics and government to see us as people much like them.
When Egyptians would ask, “Do you like Egypt?”, Dave would reply “Ana mabsoot giddan”, which means “I like it very much”. It literally means “I am very happy here”, which is perhaps a more accurate statement. Most Egyptians would respond with “and I am happy to have you here.”