west bank or land of the dead

Taking the tram into the Valley of the Kings

Today was filled with a visit to the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, Queen Hatshepsut Temple, the Colossi of Memnon, and a trip to an alabaster factory, where vases are carved and polished by hand. We started early, leaving the ship at 7am, and took a ferry across the Nile to the West Bank. After a short car ride we were in the Valley of the Kings. Despite the early morning visit the sun had already begun to shine on the exposed valley. It truly is the land of the dead - no trees, no plants, no shade.
Entering the tomb of Ramses VI

We started our tour by entering the tomb of Ramses VI. The tomb entrance and passages are quite large, unlike the pyramid tombs. Throughout the tomb the walls and ceilings are full of paintings. It’s amazing that the paint is still visible after thousands of years. Apparently the paint was made from ground stone and oils into beautiful blues, reds, greens, yellows, black, and white. We finished our visit to the Valley of the Kings by visiting two more tombs, that of Ramses I and Ramses III, both full of more colorful paintings.

Next we headed to Hatshepsut Temple, an imposing structure built at the base of massive limestone hills. Hatshepsut is an interesting historical figure. Originally a queen of Egypt through marriage (and the half-sister of her husband, the pharaoh), she stole the throne from her young stepson after her husband died. She chose to rule Egypt as a man and is portrayed in statues and paintings with a false beard. After she died, her stepson took power and defaced most of her statues and images. Her mummy was recently discovered and identified by a missing tooth.

Hatshepsut Temple

The Valley of the Queens, where the tombs were built on a much smaller scale, was a few miles away from Hatshepsut Temple. The grander tombs here actually belonged to the pharaohs’ sons who died before the age of 7 (after the age of 7 the sons were buried in the Valley of the Kings). These tombs were much more pleasant to visit, as they had fewer visitors. Here we saw the tombs of Prince Amunherkhepshep, Prince Khaemweset, and Queen Titi.

At the alabaster factory we were shown how alabaster vases were made with hand tools- chisels, grinders, files and sandstone rocks to polish the vases when they were finished. After our tour we had the pleasure of visiting the shop. One of my least favorite things about Egypt is purchasing goods.  L. and I were shown around and asked the price range. We were told, put what you want on the table and we will work out a price. This nearly put us off purchasing anything at all. We did find two pieces that we quite liked and began the bargaining process. The price started at some 1800 EP ($327) and immediately went down to 1600EP ($290) because of a discount. We said there was no way we could pay that much. He asked how much we thought we could pay. L. and I asked for a moment and decided we could pay at most 275EP ($50) for one or 440EP ($80) for both. He countered with 825EP ($150). We asked for a moment to talk it over and decided no, 440EP was our max. He said I can do 495EP ($90) and we said okay. So we walked out with 2 alabaster vases and 3 scarabs (a gift for good luck).

Our final stop of the day was the Colossi of Memnon, where we saw some really old graffiti (Greek and Roman). The Colossi are two statues of Amenhotep III, which originally guarded the entrance to his tomb (no longer present). The statues themselves are huge- 60 feet tall- but are incredibly poor condition. After snapping a few photos we made our way back to the boat for lunch.

L. and I had good intentions of heading into Luxor after lunch to check out streets off of the beaten path, but I drifted into a two-hour nap. The ship is now making its way towards Esna, which we will visit in the morning, and then Edfu and the temple of Horus.


yes, my friend, very nice

After our first night of real sleep since leaving for our trip L. and I woke up rested and ready to start the day. It felt so good to take a shower and put on clean clothes. AY. picked us up early today around 9:30 and drove us to Giza. Upon arriving in the city you can see the pyramids towering in the background, but because there is so much pollution they look ethereal. AY. dropped us at the ticket counter and this is where our education began.

Today we learned:

  1. People will try to help you, when you don’t need help, and then expect a tip for their (your) trouble.
  2. No fee/I don’t want any money means I expect you to give me money.
  3. Do not take anything from anybody, esp. when they tell you it is a gift and start quickly unwrapping packages.
  4. ALWAYS set the price beforehand, even if you think you already have, and emphasize the fact that you will be paying in Egyptian Pounds.
  5. Make the camel driver drop you off where there are other people.
  6. Carry money in a wallet, not in a money belt and never let anyone see US dollars.

We should have read the sign before visiting the ticket office. On it we would have seen that it costs 60EP to enter the site, 30EP to enter the second pyramid, and 100EP to enter the main pyramid. When we asked for tickets to see the pyramids the ticket agent gave us 2 tickets to enter the second pyramid We took these tickets to the entrance gate and the man there told us we needed a ticket to enter the site, but not to worry because he would get it for us. Instead of going over and getting the tickets ourselves, like we should have done, he told us he would get us two student tickets (half the price of the regular tickets). When he came back he had pocketed the rest of the money (40EP) and then wanted a tip on top of that. Handing out money left and right gets tiring quickly.

After going through metal detectors we were able to enter the site. As soon as we stepped out the other door someone asked to see our tickets and said don’t worry I work here. He took our tickets and started walking us to some structure. When we got there we told him that L. and I wanted to walk around the pyramid on our own and he said okay we will go here and here and then we can get a carriage, and we this and we that. We said no, us without you, and again the we this and we that, this time with illustrations in the sand of all of the wonderful things we three would do at the pyramids. This time we said no, not with you and walked away. Luckily he did not follow.

At this point we were very hungry because we hadn’t yet had breakfast. We decided to fast track it to food and look at the pyramids later. We walked out of the site and asked the guard if we would be able to reenter with the same ticket. He said, “Yes, do you have a pen?” I gave him one thinking he had to mark on the ticket in some way. Instead he shook the pen at me and said, “A souvenir” and proceeded to keep it!

In the city we found a delicious fruit smoothie place. For less than $1 L. and I both got a glass of strawberry, some Egyptian fruit, and mango, with banana and pear slices. It was delicious. Then we went and had a proper meal. We found a kebab restaurant and ordered kebab. When the food was delivered we couldn’t believe the portions. We must have gotten an entire chicken, along with a pound of mixed meats. We stayed at the restaurant a long time, but we (mostly L.) ate all of it.

Sayings that Hint Trouble:

  1. My friend, my friend (followed by anything)
  2. I make you very happy, you make me very happy (with money)
  3. No problem, no problem
  4. A gift, a gift
  5. America forever
  6. Where are you from?
  7. Don’t worry
  8. I work here
Back at the pyramids we went to see the Sphinx first. It truly is spectacular. The base of the Sphinx is protected by a stonewall, so it must be viewed from a story or two up. Behind the Sphinx you can see the first and second pyramid in the distance. We spent some time taking photos and talking with a man from Vermont.

My personal space was invaded for the first time on our way to view the pyramids. L. and I were walking through the sand up a large hill to get back to the first pyramid when a man approached L. and asked him where he was from. L. replied America and a broken conversation started. As we kept walking up the hill the man shoved something in L.’s hands and said a present for you. L. said thank you but I don’t need a present and tried to give it back. The man wouldn’t take it so we hurried on. The man ran up to me and said a present for you and shoved the same thing in my hands. We kept walking and he followed. He ran up to in front of me and took the thing he gave me out of my hands. L. and stopped walking, big mistake, Before I knew it he took my hat off of my head, unwrapped the package, and shoved the traditional desert headdress on my head. A second man ran up and quickly began unwrapping three pyramid statues and shoved them into L.’s hand and then demanded money from him. L. said we don’t want any of this stuff and they started yelling at him. L. gave them some money to get them to stop. What a hassle. We did learn that if this happens again to just drop whatever it is they shove at you and not to stop walking no matter what.

Inside the pyramid.

We made it to the second pyramid where we had tickets to go inside. The way into the pyramid is down a narrow, low-ceilinged, poorly lit shaft that looks never ending. We followed a line of people down until we reached the actual entrance. People were both going down and coming up at the same time. I panicked and couldn’t do it. It took three or four times for me to attempt entering before I finally got up the courage to go in (I waited until it was only L. and I in the shaft) I proceeded to run down the wooden planks, bent over at the waist because the shaft must have only been 4 ft tall by 5 ft wide. I didn’t want to get caught in the shaft with another person. Once you have gone thirty to forty feet down the shaft straightens out and the ceiling raises to about 5’9”. You have to walk another twenty to thirty feet before having to walk up another narrow, low-ceilinged shaft that leads to another straight shaft and into the burial chamber. The heat inside was suffocating. Inside there were no hieroglyphs and only the bottom of a large, unadorned sarcophagus. After spending a minute or two inside the chamber we made our way back to fresh air. I’m glad I worked up the courage to go in; it was quite an experience.

L. and I decided that we wanted to take a camel ride to the third pyramid. The guidebook said camel rides cost 35EP for an hour ride, but to negotiate. We found a camel rider who agreed to take us for 30EP.  The ride started out innocent enough, a slow walk toward the far pyramid. When the camel driver stopped the camel my personal space was invaded for the second time. The camel driver had the camel bend down and he climbed on and proceeded to sit in my lap! I was so uncomfortable sandwiched between the driver and L. as the camel ran across the desert. All along the way the camel driver kept saying, “Are you happy? I make you very happy, you make me very happy.” We got to the third pyramid, took some pictures and then returned to near the first pyramid. When we stopped the camel driver made us get off in an area where there weren’t any people. He then said we needed to pay him $30. We said, no we agreed on 30EP (about $6). He started yelling at us. We gave him his money and left. The people of the pyramids are like pirates, they really give Egypt a bad name. The silver lining is we learned from this and can share the info we E. so that she doesn’t run into the same problem.

On our way out of Giza we stopped at the first pyramid again to climb up it to where the burial chamber entrance starts. L. and I went individually up so that we could get pictures. I went up first and then L. When L. was climbing my personal space was invaded for the final time. When I was sitting near the pyramid a little girl with a nose totally crusted over with bright green buggers came up and asked me for a piece of gum. I gave her a piece and she hugged me and kissed me on the check. For the next 10 minutes as I waited for L. she asked me for a piece of gum every minute. I would say, “I already gave you a piece” and she would reply “Oh yeah, oh yeah, I sorry.”

I was happy to get back to our house. The pyramids are cool, but it’s exhausting being approached every two seconds and asked for money. On a side note I discovered that gas station bathrooms are incredibly clean and the preferable place to stop to use the lou.



This is what our snowstorm looked like from the air. 

L. and I finally left for our trip to Cairo today. We left early this morning for Dulles, got our tickets for the first leg of the trip to NYC and checked our bags on to Cairo. There was no panic, no mad dashes through the airport to catch our plane(some what of a change for us). The plane ride was pleasant- it left nearly on time and we both got single seats. So far so good. 

When we got to JFK we went to the Egypt Air ticket counter to get seat assignments for the second leg of our journey. Unfortunately that's not what happened. The ticket agent told us that we did not have reservations with them even though we had electronic tickets saying that in fact we did. The best that they could do was put us on standby. After a calm panic we went to the Northwest ticket counter. Unlike our experience on Saturday the ticket agent was incredibly helpful. After a log time of searching for flights to make this trip possible she found a flight headed to Amsterdam and then on to Cairo arriving on December 24. Our bags however were already headed to Egypt Air. We were assured that our bags would be pulled from the plane and that we could pick them up and recheck them on our KLM flight. After grabbing a beer and food we headed down to the domestic baggage claim to wait for our bags. We waited and waited and waited...no bags. After nearly 3 and a half hours of waiting and a plane boarding in less than an hour we had no luggage. 

Holding back tears, as this had already been an incredibly stressful trip, where nothing was seeming to go right, I spoke with the baggage claim handler who told us that it looked like our bags went on to Cairo. Her advice was to speak with EgyptAir upon our arrival (at 2:15am) to locate our bags. On a side note, we are planning on leaving on a camel caravan later that morning if we are able to book it. That means that L. and I will be stinky, without a clean change of clothes after two days of travel, with a two day trip into the desert. I can't see myself wearing the same clothes for 4 days in a row. Maybe I should've picked up some undies at the Victoria Secret in the airport.

This is what I have been working on off and on while waiting in the terminal all day.
Pattern: Rowan free gift with subscription cowl



At 1 am on Friday L. and I made the treacherous 50-mile journey to Fairfax in the heavy snowstorm that hit DC. The drive to E.’s house was scary and I was really glad when we finally got there. Earlier that evening I found out that our flight had been cancelled. I called Northwest to figure out what was going on and after nearly 5 hours of being on hold and not reaching a live person I hung up. I figured it would be easier to talk to a ticket agent at the airport.

We left for the airport around one. When we got there a snide, sarcastic ticket agent greeted us. After arguing back and forth about getting on the next flight to Cairo we were told everything had already been rebooked and we would have to wait until Tuesday to fly. I was pretty irked by this news as it meant that we missed our Nile cruise (already paid for). Not only that, but it also meant that we missed 4 days from our trip, we were no longer going to Amsterdam, and that we had to fly with EgyptAir (I purposely paid an extra $200 per ticket when we booked our flight so we wouldn’t be flying EgyptAir). We received tickets to leave on Tuesday, fly into NYC, and then on to Cairo.

I guess the next few days I will be knitting in Fairfax as we wait to make our trip to Egypt.


tick tock...

Mr. S models his sweater for the ugly sweater party he will attend later this weekend.
I love the miniature sweater pockets appliqued on- they add a nice touch.

I can't believe we have 1 day left until we get on a plane headed for Africa! But can you believe it- a stupid snowstorm is heading our way (usually snow storms are not stupid as they close schools here in VA). We're supposed to get 11-14 inches. I hope that 95 isn't closed and that our plane isn't delayed too much. AHHHHHH!

I'm so excited about our upcoming trip. L.. and I are leaving on Saturday and arrive in Amsterdam early Sunday morning. Because of a lengthy layover we get to spend a day touring the city. On the agenda are Anne Frank House, a canal tour, breakfast and lunch, and perhaps knit shops (I heard a rumor, that I'm hoping is true, about inexpensive addi turbo needles). At 8:55pm we board another plane bound for Cairo and arrive in Egypt at 2:30am.

In elementary school I read the Egypt Game and ever since then I have been fascinated by Egyptian history. I can't believe I'm actually going to visit all of the places about which I have read! After arriving in Cairo we are going to take a cruise down the Nile from Aswan to Luxor. Then we will  take a camel caravan into the White Dessert for 4 days. Back to Cairo for New Year's Eve and then a 5 day trip to Petra and the Dead Sea in Jordan. Finally, we will tour Cairo and Alexandria with my sister E. and her boyfriend D. when they arrive in January. I'm hoping to come back with lots of treasures, from Egyptian cotton fabrics, to buttons and beads, and yarns and fiber. Wish me luck in the markets!

I feel like this past month has been full of marathon knitting. I finished my two surprise gifts for my mom and sister's birthdays in November. I was really happy with how the feather and fan cowl (for my mom) and the neried fingerless gloves (for E.) turned out. Best of all I have enough yarn left over from both projects to create a cowl and fingerless gloves for myself!

Holiday knitting commenced right after finishing the birthday gifts. I've gotten a good amount done, however today is crunch time. I have the tops and thumbs to put on two sets of fingerless mittens, and the leg and cuff to put on a pair of socks. How I will accomplish this before leaving tomorrow I'm not sure. It will truly be a holiday miracle. I do have a silver lining to this fury of knitting- because we aren't celebrating the holidays with L.'s immediate family until we get back those presents can be done on our vacation.

Happy holidays to all. With any luck I will be posting from Egypt in a few days!
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