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Red Sea Resort to Alexandria Chaos and Back to Cairo

Sunday, November 06, 2022

We left Luxor behind today, leaving early in the morning so we could make the five hour drive to the city of Hurghada, located on the coast of the Red Sea. The bus ride was long and arduous, but I spent much of the time either napping or watching Netflix. We all hoped the long journey would be worth it because we would be staying in an all-inclusive resort for the next two nights!

We arrived at the resort around 12:30 and waited in the lobby while Saiid facilitated the check-in process. Our rooms were not quite ready, but we were able to leave our bags to one side of the lobby while we had lunch.

The resort was massive, with several buffet restaurants, a large pool area, a water park, private beach, and a large seating/social area in the lobby. Our hotel rooms were in the rear of the resort, close to the beach. The rooms were alright: they were spacious, but not as nice as we had expected (especially from a so-called 5-star resort).

For lunch, we ate in the main buffet restaurant, which was crowded with the other tourists staying at the resort. I was surprised by how many Russians were there, and by the large number of children. It was a bit overwhelming and it slightly hampered my enjoyment of the resort. The food at the buffet was garbage: it was bland with very little variety. Everyone in the group was disappointed with the meal, but we hungry and needed the food.

We were able to check in to the rooms after lunch and then we planned to head over to the water park. When I arrived at the park, I was again disappointed: it was a mediocre place that was overrun with children. I decided to just spend the time reading and blogging in the hotel lobby instead (it was the only area of the resort that had WiFi).

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For dinner, we planned to dine at the Italian restaurant at the resort, which was also buffet style. It was crowded inside, but we managed to get two tables in one corner. The food was, again, awful. There was very little in the way of Italian-style food; the pizza was somewhat sweet, suggesting they used sugar in the pizza dough. Connected to the Italian buffet was the Indian buffet restaurant, which served almost the exact same food as the Italian place. None of it looked particularly appetizing; the entire group was beginning to truly dislike the resort.

I stayed up blogging some more in the lobby before heading to bed. I was not looking forward to having another full day at this resort.

Monday, November 07, 2022

I was awake at 05:00 this morning and just putzed around the hotel room until 07:00, at which point breakfast began to be served. As predicted, the food at the breakfast buffet was terrible and I ate very little. We were all starting to get angry with how shitty the food was at this place; we didn't expect the best food, but this was just one gross dish after another.

Most of the group was going on a snorkeling trip this morning, but I opted to remain at the hotel. Snorkeling is not something that appeals to me in any way, so I planned to spend the day just relaxing. After breakfast, I went back to the hotel and napped for a couple of hours. The lunch buffet was marginally better than dinner last night and I was able to find one dish that tasted alright. I then spent a couple hours reading and working on my blog (I had a lot of catching up to do!). I also walked over to the beach, but it was very rocky and not a place that I would want to spend a lot of time. I can now say that I've been to the Red Sea though!

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Dinner this evening was reserved at the seaside restaurant. We had expected it to be a more sit-down style place, but it turned out to be yet another buffet, much to our shared dismay. A plethora of crap food was served and I forced myself to eat something only because I was quite hungry.

There was a belly dancing show at the restaurant as well, which is what attracted us to the restaurant in the first place. When they show began, however, it was clear that this was not what anyone had expected. The dancers (two women and two men) walked around the tables and took many of the children on stage. They then proceeded to do the same four or five dance moves repeatedly for several minutes. It was underwhelming, to say the least. Once the first dance was finished, we all bailed on the performance.

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Rob, Keith, Andy, Andrea, Sushani, Maria, and I went to the hotel lobby to hang out for a little while. We spent some time chatting away before playing a card game. It was a really fun way to end the day and our stay at the resort. I have enjoyed getting to know everyone on the trip, particularly these six people. They each have a unique sense of humor and we can make one another laugh endlessly for hours. They have also been super supportive as I've dealt with the drama of rooming with Brian, which I thoroughly appreciate. I really feel like we've bonded quite well throughout the tour – I'm excited to see what the remaining few days brings!

Tuesday, November 08, 2022

Yet again, we were faced with another early wake-up call today, time time it was 05:00 so we could depart the resort by 06:00 to head to the airport. Everyone was very tired as we gathered in the lobby, where bags had been prepared with takeaway breakfasts. No one was enthused about the bags for food: a banana, lukewarm yogurt, break, cheese, etc. I took the bottle of water out of mine and it was “accidentally” left in the lobby when we left.

We were flying from Hurghada to Cairo this morning, with the flight departing at 08:05 and lasting just under an hour. Everything went smoothly at both departure and arrival, thankfully. We packed our bags onto the bus at the Cairo airport and set off for the coastal city of Alexandria! An Egyptian police officer was assigned to our bus for the remainder of the trip, riding in the front to provide security... for some unknown reason.

We drove for two hours until we reached a monastery, where we stopped to have a quick tour. One of the monks met us there to guide us around to some of the chapels and other buildings. I was a bit confused as to why this was a stop for our tour – it wasn't a particularly remarkable monastery, in my opinion. The chapels we visited were simple, modest and nice, with some old paintings on the walls. Parts of the monastery were quite old, dating back several centuries. The entire visited lasted for half an hour or so.

Everyone was getting hungry by now and luckily there was a rest area on ten minutes away from the monastery. The bus dropped us off next to an Egyptian restaurant, but everyone walked over to the nearby McDonald's. Said found our choice of lunch amusing and had the bus move over to the McDonald's so we could leave quicker after the break. It was a fun communal lunch for the group.

We had another two hours on the bus until we reached Alexandria. I was thoroughly done with the bus by this point because my back and left leg were in a lot of pain (I think I was still aching from sleeping on the felucca several nights ago). I was delighted when we finally arrived at the hotel in Alexandria and could get off the bus.

The hotel was located in the heart of the city, just a couple blocks from the waterfront and adjacent to several street markets. Alexandria itself is a chaotic and busy city, with insane traffic and people everywhere. The street markets spilled out onto the roadways and sold all manner of items; what we all found delightful was that there was no hassling from the vendors as we walked around!

As I was getting settled into the new hotel room, Said called up to the room and told me that Andrea had an extra bed in her room and had offered to let me stay with her in order to avoid Brian's snoring! Her usual roommate, Sushani, had paid to have a private room in Alexandria which is why Andrea had the extra bed. I eagerly accept the offer and was very thankful to Andrea!

A group of us (Keith, Andy, Rob, Sushani, Maria, Andrea and I) went out to do some exploring and to get some dinner. We meandered through the crowded market and made our way over to a small place that sold shawarma, which Said had recommended. Only Keith and I were hungry at the moment, so we both ordered a chicken shawarma wrap. The food was flavorful and filling!

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We then walked over to the waterfront, walking along the seawall for a little while. We quickly made our way back to the sidewalk once we discovered several rats crawling along the seawall though. It was getting dark out, but the temperature was perfect for an evening stroll. Sushani and I were both craving Starbucks, which just happened to be a little further along the waterfront. Everyone else indulged us and joined us. We were elated when we arrived and were able to order pumpkin spice lattes – fully embracing our basic side! Rob had never tried a PSL, so I let him try a sip of mine; he didn't love it, but he said that it “wasn't bad”... so I'll take that as a win.

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped off at the shawarma place again so a few others could grab some dinner. Keith and I then ordered some fresh mango juice from another place further down the road. We were both very impressed with the juice and planned to return tomorrow for more.

Once back at the hotel, Andrea and I hung out for a bit in our room. She is such a bubbly, fun person to be around; I can always count on her to make me laugh! It was nice to be able to share a room and spend more time together. I stayed up a bit later to blog and, at 23:00, called it a night.

Wednesday, November 09, 2022

We were able to sleep in until 06:30 this morning, allowing us time to have breakfast at the hotel before departing for our city tour. The breakfast was the usual meh buffet and I ate very little. We were still amazed that the breakfasts could be so bad in Egypt given how delicious food for lunch and dinner have been thus far.

Our city tour of Alexandria began at 08:30 and the police office joined us again; we also had a police escort through the city, which we all found bizarre. It didn't help clear the streets of traffic for us, but I supposed it was to provide some measure of security and reassurance. It was raining when we left the hotel, but we were lucky that it stopped by the time we arrived at the first stop.

The first stop of the day was at the catacombs. There was one entrance down to enter them and we were among the first to arrive today. Hundreds of people had been buried in the crypts, which had been built around a central tomb for some unknown person. The main tomb contains some paintings and statues of the tomb owner, but there were no writings to name who was buried there.

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My inner tour guide returned during this visit and I provided... supplemental information after Said had given his explanation. The entrance was a spiral staircase that wound around a large shaft, providing both an inner shaft and an outer shaft. When Said mentioned the word “shaft”, several people looked over to me and smiled. The central tomb had several carvings around it: some human figures lining the top, with large snakes topped with Medusa head on either side. I explained to the group that the human figures represented the, um, fluffers who helped erect the tomb owner's shaft. The Medusas were used to symbolize getting the “shaft” stone hard, just as Medusa's gaze would turn a person to stone. Yes, once again, everything turned to sexual imagery.

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Said gave us some free time to walk around the catacombs, which were not very large. It was interesting to see all of the spaces where the bodies once rested. As we explored, Keith got in the spirit of my “alternative facts” tour: he pointed to a rather suggestive post and said that it was obviously the dildo of the ancient king! There were some wooden planks lying on the ground, which were “my ancient king's” wood. It was great fun! Outside the catacombs were the remains of some stonework, which looked rather suggestive... Keith and I both pointed out that they were the ancient fleshlights used to get the... shafts ready.

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We took a group photo inside the shaft and then a few people decided to crawl through the very small tunnel where the bodies were once pulled before they were buried. I skipped going through the tunnel because it was far too small for me to get through without further hurting my back. There was one more smaller tomb above ground, which contained some paintings on the walls. It was small and not terribly remarkable.

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The second stop was at Pompey's Pillar, which was only a short drive away from the catacombs. The pillar stood in what was once a large temple and was the largest of the pillars in the temple. Only ruins remain of the temple, but the pillar is still standing, along with two sphinx statues that flank it. Nearby were some buried rooms, one of which was a small library from the ancient Roman times.

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Naturally, the pillar was just screaming for me to provide my expert guidance. Rob was finding it all quite hilarious; I enjoyed watching him laughing hard at each awful pun or description I would make. We all commented at how shiny the shaft was after the rain, especially the very top of the shaft. There was a large, almost bulbous, topping there – we described it as the shiny knob due to the rain. While the shaft was clearly representative of a penis, the sphinx statues, we decided, we the, um, balls. There's just no cleaner way to describe this mighty shaft.

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We had some free time to walk around and admire the pillar/shaft. Naturally, we all had to walk up and handle the shaft ourselves, feeling it's mighty girth in our hands. We took some ridiculous photos of the pillar/shaft, all of which were suggestively sexual in nature (as it tradition). We also took a nice group photo in front of the pillar. Such a mighty and firm shaft – top quality shaft rings were used to keep it erect for so long!

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For the next stop, we drove to the modern Alexandria library. The famous ancient library of Alexandria was destroyed centuries ago, but this new library was very impressive. We were given a short tour around the facility before being given some free time to explore on our own. In addition to be a library, there are some items in museum-style displays. Of particular interest was a cloth panel that had once been around kaaba in the Great Mosque of Mecca. There was also a pyramidal box that was used the transport part of the kaaba shroud to Mecca each year (the covering was made in Egypt for hundreds of years).

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Finally, we drove over to the citadel of Alexandria, which stands on the site where the famous ancient lighthouse once stood (one of the seven wonders of the ancient world). The stones from the ruined lighthouse had been used in the construction of the citadel. It was an imposing fortress and we were given time to explore it on our own. The interior was mostly empty, but the views from atop the citadel walls were quite nice.

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Everyone was hungry, as usual – indeed, some of us were getting hangry. There was a small shop outside the citadel selling snacks at reasonable prices, so many of us bought some chips or candy bars there to tide us over until we ate lunch.

Said managed to get the police to let us deviate from the prearranged route so we could stop for lunch. He took us to a local Egyptian restaurant, where we were served a variety of dishes: hummus, baba ghanoush, bread, fried cheese, falafel, etc. Everything was incredibly tasty – we had so much food that we couldn't finish eating everything. Once again, Said had taken us to an amazing place to eat.

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Most of the group returned to the hotel after lunch, but three of us (Andrea, Rob, and I) decided to see some more things around the city during the afternoon. We made the short walk over to the ruins of the ancient Roman amphitheater. It was a small complex and the amphitheater itself was in good condition. Scattered throughout the area were several columns in various stages of disrepair. There was also an area for the baths and other buildings.

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During this visit, we let Rob take over the guiding since he had tried to usurp my guiding position back at the Luxor Temple. He did a good job explaining about the various shafts and how they were used by the ancient Romans. There were shafts of varying sizes, allowing the ancient Romans to ease themselves up, starting with the smaller ones until they were ready to tackle the great shaft of Pompey nearby. Obviously! The amphitheater area was where the ancient Romans would have their orgies after being paraded naked through the nearby street lined with shafts. We were all laughing hysterically by the end of our visit.

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We took an Uber over to the Sidi Morsi Abu al-Abbas Mosque, which we had passed by earlier in the day. Said had recommended visiting there in the afternoon, so we thought we'd follow his advice. It is simple on the outside, but the interior is rather stunning. The support columns and walls are all intricately carved with amazing detail. We were lucky to have arrived in the afternoon when the sun was streaming in through the windows, making the interior shine with golden light. The visit was quick, but nice. As we were leaving, we had to pay a tip to the man at the front in order to get our shoes back, which irked us all a little bit. I have never been asked to tip for anything at any mosque that I have visited.

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We decided to walk back to the hotel as it was only 20 minutes away by foot. We strolled through a small street lined with shitty amusement rides for kids. They looked very poorly maintained and quite rusty; it looked like they would instantly fall apart if anyone were to try riding them. The street led us to the waterfront, where we made a leisurely stroll until we reached the memorial to the unknown soldiers.

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Back at the hotel, we had about 90 minutes to relax before meeting up with everyone for dinner. Andrea and I hung out in our room and rested. I intended to do some blogging, but I had little motivation after the long day.

I left the hotel with Rob, Maria, Sushani and Andrea to grab some dinner and do some walking around the markets. We wanted to find a box of some sort to give to Said tomorrow night that would hold all of the money for his tip from the group. Everyone except Hansa and her husband Andy had agreed on the amount to tip Said, and we agreed to pool our tip money. Our walk through the market was initially met with little success as none of the shops sold any boxes.

We made our way down to the waterfront and spent some time strolling along there. As with last night, it was a very pleasant walk and we got to enjoy the city a bit more. When we turned to head back to the shawarma place to grab dinner, we found a street vendor that sold wooden boxes! The price was insanely cheap and the box looked quite nice, so we eagerly bought one; it was the perfect box to give to Said.

As we waited for our shawarma wraps to be made, Keith and Andy arrived as well. They had been trying to change their flights home all evening, with no success. They too bought wraps and then we walked over to the fresh juice shop that we had visited last night. I again got the mango juice. Next to it was a small street food place that made waffle-crepes filled with various toppings; I bought one with Nutella and another with cookie butter. They were outstanding! Keith bought some small doughnut balls from a different vendor. We joked around about his balls... I told him to be sure to tongue those balls well, and he promised that he could fit them all inside his mouth. He gave me one of his balls, and the jokes about them continued until we were back at the hotel.

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Andrea, Rob, and I went to Maria's room to hang out for a little bit before bed. It was nice to just kick back, joke around, and chat with one another. They are all such kind, funny, warm-hearted people and I enjoyed getting to spend this time with them. The group dispersed around 22:00 so we could go back to our rooms and get some sleep. It was hard to believe that the final day of the tour was tomorrow!

Thursday, November 10, 2022

The final day of the tour dawned early as we had a 07:30 departure time from Alexandria. We had one final sight to see before returning to Cairo: El Alamein. The drive there lasted about two hours and I again spent the bus ride watching Netflix. It was not as arduous as the bus ride to Alexandria, for while I was grateful.

I was particularly keen to visit El Alamein because it was where a major battle took place during the Second World War. It was here that the German general Erwin Rommel faced off against the British general Bernard Montgomery. Rommel had been wildly successful during the North Africa campaign with his panzer tank division, but El Alamein was where the Allies began to push him back. It was a major turning point of the war.

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Sadly, our visit only included one sight: the cemetery of the Commonwealth forces. The site was very large, with dozens of rows of grave markers. There was a large memorial hall with the names of all of the dead soldiers, including the ones they could not find or identify for burial. Nearby was a memorial for the Australian forces who died in the battle as well. It was a solemn and beautiful memorial for the battle. I wished we had the time to visit the nearby museum and the German war cemetery, but that was unfortunately not possible.

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After the visit to El Alamein was concluded, we had a three hour drive back to Cairo. Roughly half-way through the drive, we stopped at a small rest area to grab something to eat. The cafe there did not have anything that looked appealing to the majority of the group, so we walked nextdoor to a small convenience store to get some snacks. The store had a plethora of important candy from the States, which made me quite happy. The snacks were not filling, but they would tide us over until dinner this evening. The store even had the group's favorite imitation cookie: Borio!!

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Back in Cairo, we checked in to our final hotel of the trip. We were supposed to have stayed at this hotel the first night back at the start of the trip, but the tour company had moved us to a different room because the first hotel had been sold out. I preferred this new hotel to the more “luxurious” one we had stayed at two weeks ago. I was again rooming with Brian for just one more night (thank god!).

The majority of the group took Uber cars over to a large market in the afternoon, but I opted out of going. I did not feel like walking through the crowds or dealing with the hassling from the various vendors. Instead, I went to the hotel cafe, ordered a sahlab to drink, and read my book for a bit. I then returned to the hotel room to work on my blog before everyone returned.

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I had held onto the box for Said since we bought it yesterday and I de facto became in charge of collecting the money from everyone. Most people had given me their money throughout the day and, once back from the market, the few remaining people came by the room to deliver their portions of the tip for Said. We all agreed that he had more than earned the tip – he had worked tirelessly to make sure this trip was the best it could possibly be, going the extra mile (and beyond) for each and every one of us. Said is truly a remarkable tour guide. Since Hansa and her husband Andy had decided not to join us in combining tips, I put a small thank-you note in the box that listed out who had contributed.

At 18:30, we went down to the hotel cafe/restaurant for our final meal. It was great having this last night together as a group and we spent the time as we always did: joking around, laughing, and chatting the hours away. Several of us finally got to enjoy the much talked about Borio milkshake, and it did not disappoint. Said made a very nice farewell speech and then Andrea presented him with the box and tip money, which he appreciated. We didn't stay at the restaurant too late though because a few of us (myself included) had to be up at 04:00 for our airport transfers.

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The goodbyes were sad and we went around hugging one another. It was bittersweet, but everything must come to an end sometime. I was glad to have met everyone and I'll keep the memories we made for the rest of my life.

Egypt had come to a close. It had been a most amazing and incredible trip, far surpassing all of my expectations.

Posted by Glichez 01:22 Archived in Egypt

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