Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’ Down the River

Aswan
The moment we landed in Aswan, I knew it was my kind of city. It was warmer, and cleaner, and calmer. Just look at the difference between these two pictures!

Cairo:
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Aswan:
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As soon as we got to the hotel, we unloaded our bags, then went on a felucca sunset cruise. A felucca is a traditional Egyptian sailboat. Riding a sailboat, on the Nile River, without the sound of a motor, was so serene… At least it would have been if Mason weren’t acting like such a dickhead! We learned a very important lesson that afternoon. NEVER spend a day traveling with a two year old who hasn’t taken a nap, and expect to do something fun after. NEVER! Mason was exhausted, angry, and had an utter hatred for his mother. He was on a mission to kill himself by falling into the Nile, and after 10 minutes on the boat, I wasn’t sure I wanted to save him (I’m joking…kind of).

Thankfully I was able to get a few pictures that would trick you all into thinking all of my kids are little angels.

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The boys sailing a boat up the Nile. Just a typical Monday afternoon.
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Look at that sweet little face! How could he ever do anything wrong?
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Cruising on the Nile is one of my favorite things we did in Egypt. It was so beautiful!

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Luckily for me, the next day we got on another boat. This time it was a motor boat, and the stars aligned perfectly because Mason was a phenomenal boy. Bookie and I came to the conclusion that his repugnance for his mom stemmed from needing a little more love (at least I was hoping that was the issue), so I spent the day showering Mason with love and attention. Guess what! It worked. I now like my child again, and if he fell into the Nile, there is a 99.9% chance I’d jump in after him.
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We had a long day ahead of us, and we were on our way to a Nubian village. The Nubian people are tribal people that date back to the Pharonic Era. Their language has no alphabet, so to learn it, you have to be taught orally. I was anticipating the visit!

Nubian Village
When we got off the boat we were greeted by these wonderful creatures!

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The more I see camels the more I love them. I mean look at their faces! They always look so happy! Needless to say, Hunter and Mason just about pooped themselves when they found out we were going to ride them.

Here are some pictures of the Nubian Village.

The inside of the house. We were told that all houses are very similar to this.
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All the houses were this colorful!
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HENNA!
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Surprise, Surprise, Austin found a new friend!
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Austin was loving the music. He was dancing as this woman was playing the drums and singing.
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It was such a great morning. The boys and I got henna tattoos, there was dancing, Austin found a new home, they gave the boys toys. It was great. Their houses were really pretty and brightly colored. Sadly, we were rushed to leave the village because we had to get to our cruise ship.

Nile Cruise

Here is the Egypt map again. We took the Nile Cruise from Aswan (pink) to Luxor (turquoise) with one stop in Edfu (which was about halfway between the two), but before we started traveling, a new tour guide showed us around Aswan.

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Before continue, I need to talk about our tour guide, Amr. He was wonderful, phenomenal, terrific, fantastic… I could go on for hours. We adored him. For all my FAO friends, please call him and use him as your tour guide! If you are booking through American Star Travel, you can tell them that you want him as your guide, and they will make it happen. If you aren’t a FAO, please call him and use him as your tour guide! He was so great with our boys. Hunter, Mason, and Austin loved him. We loved him. I was so sad to say bye to him at the end of our trip because I felt like he was part of our family. If we lived in Egypt, I know we would have been great friends!

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Here is his contact information:
Name: Amr Elsharkwy
e-mail: amrelsharkwy@hotmail.com
Phone Number: +(002)01002500015

On the first day of our cruise, while still in Aswan, we saw the following sites:

Unfinished Obelisk which is the largest Obelisk ever attempted. They carved it directly into to mountain, and it cracked during the attempt. I would hate to have been the person to tell Queen Hatsheput that it cracked… I imagine it looked like the “off with his head” scene from Alice in Wonderland
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The High Dam was very interesting. It regulates the flow of water (duhh), but according to our tour guide, if it breaks, Egypt would be decimated because a majority of Egypt’s population lives near the Nile River. The dam created a huge lake behind it called Lake Nasser, which stretches from Southern Egypt to Northern Sudan. It is massive.

The Nile Side:
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The Nasser Side:
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Someone didn’t make it to see the dam, and I’m willing to bet he didn’t give a damn! (I know, I know SUPER cheesy, but I couldn’t help it, it was TOO easy)

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Earlier I mentioned that the High Dam breaking (or being destroyed) would be detrimental to Egypt. If that is true (and believe me it is) why in the world would they put this up?

Please note, this picture has been edited for [obvious] security reason. I refer to this as The Map of Egypt’s Destruction
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The parts blacked out are actual measurements. They pretty much printed the blueprint, made it public, and then said, “Hey everyone, please don’t target this dam”. Not the best national security play if you ask me, but what do I know… I am really hoping they changed numbers around!

Isis Temple-Now referred to as Iziz because of obvious reasons

We had to take a boat to the Temple! So Hunter and Amr sprinted to find one for us.
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I think Hunter is trying to Walk (or sit) Like an Egyptian!
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Look at the two gods. The one on the left was defiled by early christians because the Egyptians treated them as idols. The entire temple was like this. Almost every depiction of a god or a person was chipped away. This was one of the few that wasn’t.
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Another fascinating thing about this temple is it was completely submerged in water after they built the first Aswan dam (different than the high dam). In the 1970s UNESCO helped move it. They took this entire temple apart and rebuilt it on the island. Amazing!

That was the end of our Aswan trip. We went back to the ship, drank some hibiscus tea…

…which Mason clearly enjoyed…
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…and set sail the next morning.

The ship left the dock at 4:00 AM, so when the boys woke up we were moving. Bookie and I woke up to this:

Mason: Hunter Hunter!
Hunter: Yes, Mason?
Mason: We are moving, look Hunter, we are moving!
Hunter: Wow! Really cool!
Both started laughing and pointing out things. Two minutes later
Both: Mommy, Daddy, the cruise ship is moving, the cruise ship is moving!

We got out of bed, ate food, and as soon as the ship docked we were off to our next adventure!

Crocodile Temple

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Before we got to the temple, we made a quick stop to see…

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…an Arabian Cobra! What can I say, I’m a badass.

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And so is my husband…
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… and so is Hunter…
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…and Mason…
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…and Dave!
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Okay, I guess we are less badass, and more really freakin’ crazy, but the snake was cool.

Here are pictures of the temple:
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Then, we stopped by the Crocodile Museum where they had mummified crocodiles on exhibit.

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The ancient Egyptians like to mummify everything. We saw a mummified baboon, mummified crocodiles, and a mummified still born. They even had a mummified crocodile fetus. How the hell did they even do that?!?!

Oh, and here is a little fun fact. There are no more crocodiles in the Nile River. They are all now on the other side of the high dam. There is actually very little in the form of aquatic life. We were told there are only a few different species of fish and a majority of the fishing happens at Lake Nasser.

Back to the boat! We’re heading to Edfu!

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On the way to Edfu we had to go through a (much smaller) dam. In Egypt, the merchants are very aggressive. While walking in and out of the tourist sites, mobs of merchants followed us around with some of their goods trying to sell them to us. I even had kids coming after me, and if it weren’t for Bookie, I would have spent hundreds just giving cute Egyptian kids all of my money. I was prepared for this because I was warned. What I wasn’t prepared for was what happened on the ship.

As we approached the dam, I went to the roof, where there was a pool and lounge area. The ship was approaching a chamber, and how a dam crossing works is the ship enters a chamber. Then, depending on which side you are on, the chamber either fills with water, or empties to match the water depth on the other side. In our case, the chamber emptied.

As we were approaching the chamber I heard yelling. I looked over the side of the boat to see what it was. There were 5 little row boat literally hooked to our cruise ship. They had rugs, shirts, jewelry, and who knows what else. Enjoy this interaction:

Crazy ass merchant: Hey lady, hey lady! Buy this!
Me: “La shukran” (meaning “no, thank you”)
Crazy ass merchant: Hey lady, hey lady, just look. (as he is winding up to throw it).
Me: No, no. I don’t want it
Crazy ass merchant: Just look! (he throws it on the freakin boat.)
Me: I don’t want it!
Crazy ass merchant: Just look. I give you good price.
Me: No thank you (I get ready to toss it back)
Crazy ass merchant: NO NO NO NO Don’t throw it! It will go in water.

Are you kidding me man? WTF do you want me to do with it now?

Me: I don’t want it. (I gave it to one of the ship waiters since I had no clue what to do with it, and I figured he was right. There was a 99.9% chance it would end up in the water because my aim is shit. )

After a few more minutes of him yelling at other passengers, and a ton more attempts to get me to buy it, their tune started to change. The ship was almost completely in the chamber, so the needed their stuff back.

Crazy ass merchant: Hey Shakira (talking to me again) throw it back.
Me: You want me to throw it now?

He just asked the person with the worse aim to throw him something he was going to attempt to sell to someone else. Luckily, I got it to him.

Crazy ass merchant: Thank you Shakira

Man, if he would have just started calling me Shakira in the beginning I would have bought his entire boat. I freakin’ love Shakira! Better luck next time Crazy Ass Merchant. Ma-Salama (bye)!

Edfu
When we got off the ship in Edfu, the boys were met with a surprise…

…more horse riding!
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But this time somebody got to drive.

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Edfu ‘y'all!

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Now, take a minute to look at these hieroglyphics… do you see it?

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Let’s zoom in for a minute…

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Yes ladies and gentlemen, apparently humans have been drawing penes (I swear this is the correct plural form) on walls for thousands of years. Amr told us the story behind it, but I was so excited to see a penis I couldn’t concentrate (wait, that sounds wrong… I mean a penis drawn on a wall… sigh…whatever). That also means I feel a little better about Mason’s recent art project…

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…it is supposed to be a “shape person”, but we all know what it looks like.

Remember when I talked about how spectacular Amr was? Well, the boys were beginning to melt down, so he played a game with them, and kept them happy for another 30 minutes. He had the boys look for different figures on the walls. They loved the game!

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Even Austin tried to participate!

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Mason was so happy when he got to drive back with Dave and Amr (although Amr didn’t make this photo)!

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Another highly productive, and successful day! We got back to the boat. Did a little dancing, went to bed, and woke up in Luxor.

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Luxor

We started the morning with Valley of the Queens then Valley of the Kings. Both places cameras and phones were not allowed. Valley of the Queens is where the royal families’ tombs are, and Valley of the Kings is where the kings’ (and Hatshepsut’s) tombs are. It was awesome. We went inside three tombs including King Rameses II, and King Tutankhamun. One of the tombs of an obscure pharaoh had a long and steep entrance. It wasn’t too bad going down, but coming our was a little on the difficult side. Everywhere we went, as you can see from the photos, Bookie and I were wearing kids. The majority of the time I had Austin (roughly 20 lbs), and Bookie would take the other two (about 60 lbs together). Now, imagine climbing close to 500 stairs, (only there wasn’t a staircase… it was a piece of wood with planks on it) with all of that extra weight, in 90 degree weather. It was difficult. Bookie and I decided to just push on without taking a break. Bookie was passing people left and right, and they were just gawking at this man, carrying a backpack with a Mason, and a Hunter on his shoulders. As we made it to the final stretch, he passed a large group of Asian tourist. As I passed the tourists (because I wasn’t trailing too far behind him), I heard, “oh look at strong man”. Then, a couple of the tourist said to Bookie, “you so strong with all those babies”. Thanks guys, you turned a confident man into a… for the good on my marriage I will not complete that statement.

Now, BOOKIE’S CORNER!!

First, I’d like to say that my wife is doing an amazing job recounting our travels. I think her blog does a great job of giving a vivid recount, while injecting plenty of humor. With that out of the way, I wanted a “Bookie’s Corner” for this particular event not because Shannon is incapable of telling the story, but because she risks sounding vain and stuck up:

We were at Hatshepsut’s Temple (our guide advised us to pronounce it, “Hat-cheap-suit,” and it worked for me) and enjoying ourselves. Dave and I walked over to a statue to discuss something about the architecture, and as I turned to share the insight with Shannon, I noticed a man was taking a picture with her. Of course I thought nothing of it, just another guy wanting a picture with my Austin, but as I looked closer, I realized Shannon had Austin on her back, and the guy was making no attempt to include him. This guy was taking a picture with Shannon. When he got done, two of his friends took their pictures with Shannon. The flood gates were open. In a span of 5 minutes, 15 different guys took 15 different pictures with her (and these guys weren’t in the same tour group). I could make a joke about, “15 guys in 5 minutes,” but my kids will read this one day. After speaking with some of the guys in Arabic, I found out that they thought she looked like an Egyptian Goddess. How can a guy get mad at that?!

Okay, I’m back! I hope you enjoyed my husband’s “kind” words. He thinks he is funny… 15 guys in 5 minutes… Enjoy some pictures while I build a dog house for Bookie to sleep in tonight.

It was hot, and they were tired!
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At this point in the trip, Hunter and Mason were exhausted. We went back to ship to put the boys down for a nap, and they didn’t wake up for the second part of the trip. My wonderful husband was nice enough to let me go on the other two excursions while he stayed on the boat with the boys.

I cannot believe I got this far without mentioning the wonderful couple we met. Peter and Linda came on all, except one, of the excursions with us while we were on the cruise. They became good friends, and saying bye to them at the end of the cruise was just as difficult as saying bye to Amr. They became impromptu grandparents to the boys. During every meal, Hunter would run up to me and say, “Mommy can Mrs. Linda and Mr. Peter eat with us?” It was very sweet. Bookie and I joke about us becoming them when we get older. Linda was the sweetest woman, and the kids loved her (just like me, right? RIGHT!). Peter was hysterical. He was unapologetically blunt, and an undercover sweetheart. Our trip wouldn’t have been the same without them! While the older boys were sleeping, Austin and I went to the Karnak, and Luxor Temple with them, Amr, and Dave.

Karnak Temple
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These sphinges (another unexpected plural) were interesting because they were rams instead of lions.
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It was beautiful!

Amr was able to talk a guard into allowing us to go into a locked area. Behind the locked door there was a statue that has never been moved. The guards shut us in the room so we could have an idea of what it would have been like during the Pharaonic Era. The room was dark, and there was an opening in the ceiling about the size of a brick, which was the only light source in the entire room. The shadows the statue cast looked so intimidating, imposing, and beautiful. I didn’t get a good picture of the statue while the doors were closed, but here is the statue under decent lighting.

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Luxor Temple/Thebes

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This mosque was really cool. It is called the Abu Haggag Mosque, and it was built on top of the temple before the temple was rediscovered. It is still a functional mosque today. That door you see in the picture used to be the front door, although I don’t think it is very functional anymore.
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That was the end of our Nile Cruise. That night the crew hired a belly dancer and an Egyptian whirling dervish, which was fun to watch. Then we went to bed. The next morning we were off to our next hotel, but before we all parted we took a few pictures together.

Here is Amr and Austin. They were besties by the end of the trip.
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Here is the group minus Dave. Dave woke up early and was off before we could squeeze in a picture. Don’t worry Dave, I will crudely photoshop you into a picture!
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Bam! A work of freakin’ art! Flawless!
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We had such a great time, but it was also very sad. As you can see from all of my pictures, the temples that used to be filled to the brim are now sparsely populated. Tourism used to be the bread and butter to the people of Egypt, especially in Aswan and Luxor. Everywhere we went was practically empty. Great for us, but terrible for the Egyptians. In Aswan, there were over a hundred cruise ships parked because there is no need for them. That is hundreds if not thousands of potential jobs that no longer need to be filled. The ship we were on had the capacity to hold 150 people. There were only 15-20 of us. When we saw the merchants, it was apparent there was a desperation to sell us stuff. I really hope with all my heart, for all the great people we met, that people start traveling to Egypt again soon.

Believe it or not, our traveling is still not done yet!

 
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