EGYPT 2018

"Come to Egypt!" she said.  "I went there for my 40th birthday, and I'm getting a group together to go back for my (let's say 39th) birthday!"

She arranged an incredible trip at a reasonable price. What was I going to say?

To sweeten the pot, she brought along her sisters, Paula and Anne, and other family and friends for the trip. And I was especially blessed that Karen and
Cassandra Brigham, Sally Nungesser and Fay Woo were also "in the caravan."

Happily for me, Janice's "family and friends" included at least five people who deal with images in a professional matter.  I took a camera, and some of my
photos are below--but all the good ones were taken either by Janice or her nephew, Ryan Miles. (I mean, if Janice is willing to do this to get a shot, I
almost feel obligated to use it.
So here's our team picture . If you're in the group, you know who you are.  If you're not, you don't care.
We started in Cairo.  This (left) was the view of the Nile from my hotel window at the Nile Towers. Our
AWESOME guide, Hany Tawfeek, told us that the staff at the hotel were particularly happy to see us because
they haven't seen a lot of Americans since the Arab Spring of 2011.  He told us that someone at the hotel had
actually said that seeing Americans "made them feel human again." Did somebody actually say that?  Who
knows. I'd like to think that they did.
Our first stop was the Egyptian Museum (left) in Tahrir Square in Cairo. It was nice to catch up with an old friend, King Tut, who I hadn't seen since I stood
in line for hours and hours on three different occasions to see him in New Orleans in 1978.  He hasn't changed a bit. (I don't know why, but I really liked
the jackal (second from left).
Stop Number Two on our busy first day were the Pyramids of Giza. When people asked me what were my favorite things on the trip, I told them that they
don't call them the "Great Pyramids" for nothing. As you can see from the photos, we did the camel ride and the Sound and Light Show in the evening.  

My camel (I called him "Percy") was great, but in our little caravan, I was followed by Karen Brigham who wa riding the camel you see at right below.  
Don't let the coy smile and the long eyelashes fool you.  He was pure evil.  He spent about half our 45-minute ride, pushing up against me and trying to
nudge me off of Percy. We were told that one of the camels in our group had been ridden President Obama when he visited the Pyramids in 2009.  
It was probably this guy.
After an early morning flight to Luxor (we look much more chipper than we felt), we went to the Valley of the Kings and the Temple of Karnak.
The Valley of the Kings was amazing, but also quite a workout.  The passages were kind of cramped, kind of steep and kind of long. Over the
centuries, tomb robbers have been able to move 150-ton sarcophagi up and down some of these ramps.  
It was all I could do to get my butt up and down some of them.
But after a few days of intense touring, we boarded the M/S Livingstone (named for the the explorer) for a four-day cruise on the Nile
from Luxor to Aswan.  The ship was lovely, and the staff couldn't have been nicer.  Every day, when we'd leave the ship to see
something and come back in the afternoon, we'd be greeted in our cabins with some sort of creation made from our linens. We saw
the Towel Elephant, the Towel Gator and of course, the dreaded Towel Cobra.
Like I said, my favorite part of the trip was seeing the Great Pyramids.
But a lot of people on the trip would have said that their favorite thing was the hot air balloon ride we took over Luxor.  
Kind of hard to argue with that.
In the evening, we took a horsecart tour of the Luxor Night Market.  (Here's Sally and Fay with their 12-year-old driver.  
It was an unforgettable collage of sights and smells.
So what was my LEAST favorite thing on the trip?  Pretty much this.  We took a boat ride from our ship to see the Philae Temple near Aswan. Along the
way, we allowed a couple of the Nubian merchants to ride with us and show us their jewelry and whatnot. I bought a couple of wood and camel bone
bracelets, which they put into a bag. He then tried to sell me a couple of camel bone necklaces. I said no, but that I would look at them on the way back to
the ship. Unbeknownst to me, he put the necklaces in my bag, which asked Fay to keep in her purse.  On the way back to the ship, he accused me of not
paying for the necklaces (they were four dollars each) that I didn't even know I had.

I later realized that if that was going to be my least pleasant experience in Egypt, I was doing fine.
This is about where Tourism Fatigue Syndrome (TFS) set in. We did the Crocodile Museum (mummified crocodiles, not pretty) in about five minutes.

The Egyptians are very proud of the Aswan High Dam (but not so proud that most of its grounds are buried under about a foot of litter and trash), but I
was expecting something spectacular like the Hoover Dam.  Perhaps its enough to say that it was built by the Russians.

I was very impressed, however with a sunset cruise to a Nubian Village on an island in the Nile near Aswan.  We held crocodiles (like Janice is doing),
bought stuff and reveled in the bright colors and vivid scents of the spices that were sold everywhere.
But it was a cruise to celebrate Janice's big birthday. (Let's just say that twenty years ago, she went to Egypt to celebrate her 40th birthday. This year
she went back to celebrate her 39th.) Even though her actual birthday doesn't roll around until August 22nd, a cake was presented and everybody
sang. (BTW, the Egyptian "happy birthday" song goes on for about forty minutes.)

On the 26th, we had another cake for Fay, who was actually celebrating her non-specified birthday that day.

And being a cruise, we had to have a theme night.  Try to guess the theme.
On the last day we were all together, we stopped in some little town that is on the site of the great city of Memphis. We posed for
our last group photo in front of the world's oldest pyramid, 500-1000 years older than the Great Pyramids.  

I also took a photo of a couple of Memphis Hound Dogs. (They're not dead.)
And our last adventure was a visit to the great city of Alexandria. We saw the Catacombs and the Great Library--and the Citadel that was built
out of the stones of the Great Lighthouse. It was a beautiful day on the Mediterranean Sea, and except for the omnipresent banners advocating
the re-election of President al Sisi (It was Election Day, and he was unopposed. Of the THOUSANDS of banners we saw, this was the only one in
English. Not sure who the target audience is.), it really didn't feel much at all like the rest of the great country surrounding it.