The plan We plan to travel overland around Egypt in 29 days by the following route: Cairo Luxor → Aswan → Hurghada → Sharm el-Sheikh → Mount Sinai → Suez → Cairo → Bahariyya Oasis → Siwa Oasis → Alexandria → Cairo


July 6... Cairo, Egypt - "Welcome to Egypt," they say, with a gleam of backsheesh in their eyes... But more on that later. We flew from Yerevan to Cairo via London, and somehow in this process, one of our bags got left in London (or so we've been told, but it hasn't shown up yet). We're hoping it turns up soon, because we could really do with a change of clothes! Having arrived at 1 am in Egypt, we got a pretty view of the city with the lights looking hazy in the smog. Cairo has 20 million people in it and an awful lot of cars, making for one polluted place. Our taxi driver on the way in from the airport was a friendly local, fluent in English. We heard his interesting views on polygamy (he only had one wife, but really wanted two or more; his uncle has had 11 but currently has only three after a few divorces - four is the maximum allowed in Islam). He also had a bit to say about George Bush and even John Howard - he was opposed to the war and felt it was all over oil. But the funniest part of the ride was when he proudly put his second car horn into action - a police siren, which he uses to get traffic out of the way when it is too busy... We're staying in a suburb called Zamalek - a Nile island in the middle of Cairo, which is green and quiet (in Cairo terms). Walking around, we saw horse and carts side by side horrendous traffic, men in jeans and t-shirts as well as some in galabiyyas (traditional dress) with a small herd of goats, calling up to apartments to sell their goats' milk, a few women in full burkas, many with head-dresses and makeup, and a minority without head-dresses. We passed two women fighting each other with broomsticks at the entrance of a mosque, and a policeman came to settle the issue. There are guards on every street corner with machine guns and friendly smiles. Scattered among the vast seas of apartment blocks (all with a collection of satellite dishes on the roof) are tall minarets of mosques. On our first morning here we were woken up at around 5 am by the call to prayer... We were really excited about meeting Nicole's Mum and Dad the next day, who have flown in to spend three weeks in the land where Dad grew up. Dad remembers the layout of the city well, and it's been great to hear his perspectives on how things have changed since the 1960s - busier and more westernised on the whole but still with the same smell. After catching up and resting, we went for an easy meal - McDonalds. Here, it is considered "the place to hang out" among the more affluent. In the evening, we went on a felucca ride on the Nile, as the sun set and the city lights started to appear. A felucca is a traditional wooden sailboat - they have been in use for the last 3,000 years. It was a good chance for Dad to show off his bargaining skills... Today, we visited the pyramids at Giza. They are a magnificent sight - seeing them towering over everything else as we approached from the highway was amazing. They were the first Ancient Wonder of the World to be built (almost 5,000 years ago) and they are the only of the seven that remain today. The Great Pyramid was the tallest man-made structure in the world until the 19th century - they certainly struck us as being huge, and an incredible human feat. All that work for burial chambers - unbelievable! We wandered around the three main pyramids, the smaller Queens' pyramids (one of which we went inside), some temples, and the Sphinx, which was also bigger than we expected. We also saw the Solar Boat Museum, which houses a restored ancient Egyptian boat, thought to have been built for Pharoah Khufu's journey to heaven. There were hardly any tourists around but literally at least once a minute, someone tried to hassle us. If it wasn't camel rides, it was horse-drawn carts; if it wasn't model pyramids it was drinks or postcards. Man, it was infuriating! People would try to convince us that we needed them to guide us to the sphinx or a pyramid that was right in front of us. Their attempts to get our business were astonishingly persistent - "Where are you from?" "Money for children's school," "Money for sick children," "Good price for... (insert unwanted service or item here eg camel ride)". Dad was the most successful at shaking them off by switching to Arabic. There was no shortage of "advice" being given out - and with every bit of advice came the expectation of backsheesh - a tip. Even the policeman asked us for backsheesh just for standing there! The enjoyment was dampened by having to endure these glue-like hasslers, but then, it's all part of seeing Egypt... Love Graham and Nicole.

July 8... Aswan, Egypt - After seeing the pyramids in the morning, we tried to escape the heat of the day by having an early dinner. We found an authentic Egyptian restaurant hidden behind a heavy wooden door - the food was fantastic - the best felafel we've ever had as well as veal kebabs, good lebanese bread, a chicken dish, and for dessert, a pastry served with honey and cream. There were some women there smoking water pipes (sheeshas), which Nicole's Dad found astonishing (it was an activity reserved for men only in previous years). After tea, we returned to the pyramids for the sound and light show, which gave a basic overview of ancient Egyptian history whilst the pyramids and sphinx were jazzed up with and lasers and lights... The following day, we visited the part of the city known as Islamic Cairo. Islam came to Egypt with the Arab invasion in the mid-7th century A.D. - a new encampment was set up and from there the city of Cairo grew. Islamic Cairo is a maze of winding alleyways, bazaars, and mosques, teeming with crowds. We visited a mosque for the first time. It was called Al Azhar, and is part of a Quranic university which claims to be the longest-running university in the world. There was a central courtyard used for prayer, surrounded by rooms covered by wooden screens, for rest and prayer. There were a few other halls with elaborate ceilings, decorated with arabic calligraphy. Two tall minarets and a few domes protruded into the skyline. All mosques here have a minaret or tower - some are simple but most are beautifully decorated; from the top, the call to prayer is sung five times a day. From here we wandered into the markets of Kahn-al Khalili. It provided for some interesting shopping and successful bargaining. Graham now has a Koran, a galabiyya and a fez, so he can blend right in now! You could buy almost any item you desired here, and plenty you didn't. Everyone shouts at the tourists going by saying "I have good deal for you!" which really means what one man said to us: "All I want is your money!!" (At least he was honest...) Another man said "99% discount!" It was a lot of fun. We got lost a few times, winding up in the non-touristy part of the suburb, which looked like another world - as if nothing had changed from mediaeval times... In the evening, we visited some of Dad's relatives - two elderly uncles, both living in the same apartments Dad had visited them in 40 years ago. Apparently, things are looking very run-down in Heliopolis. We also met with Dad's cousin Rami and his wife. We had an interesting discussion about current day life in Egypt. Rami explained how the traffic works here (Graham would love to give it a go). From chaos there is supposedly order - all you have to do is try not to hit the other cars or people. Red and green lights mean nothing, nor do lane markings, one-way signs or road rules. Rami explained that when he's driven in Europe, he can't cope - there's too much to concentrate on - signs, lanes etc. It might suit Egyptians but the technique has us fearing for our lives every time we get in a taxi or cross the road! Today we've travelled to Aswan by plane - it is boiling hot and we haven't done much yet other than book a Nile cruise. That in itself gave a good insight into how things really work here. Trying the normal approach of inquiring at the tourist office let us down, as the government employee would only tell us about a under the table arrangement with a friend that had dodgy written all over it. We made a fast exit before his mate turned up, disappointed at the corruption evident. Eventually we were successful in booking directly with the manager of a cruise boat at a third of the price from the offer we had from a tourist agency in Cairo... We hope everything is going well in wintry Adelaide. You can have a few of the degrees here if you like - there's plenty to spare! Love Graham and Nicole. P.S. - Our bag turned up yesterday! Yay!!

July 9... Aswan, Egypt - We haven't had a lot of sleep the last few days having had to wake up at 3 am each day - yesterday it was for the plane flight, today it was to make the journey to Abu Simbel, 280 km south of Aswan, 40 km from the Sudanese border. The only way to get there is as part of a police-escorted convoy of minibuses and coaches that depart twice a day. Towards the end of the three hour trip, the sun began to rise over the desert - quite a stunning sight. We had come to see the temples built by Ramses II to honour the gods, his favourite wife, Queen Nefetari, and of course, himself. The temples are breathtaking - carved into rocky hills, massive in size, striking in design, and with detailed and well-preserved interiors. The main temple entrance is guarded by four statues of Ramses II, each 20 metres tall. The inside features detailed art and heiroglyphs describing battles and sacrifices made by the Ramses to the gods. A second, smaller temple honours Queen Nefetari and featured many colorful pictures and statues of the god of beauty and love. We hadn't realised the temples would be so big or contained so much. They would have been lost under rising water levels during the costruction of the High Dam at Aswan, if not for an international effort to move the temples. The process of dismantling and reassembling the entire site elsewhere took four years... We had an interesting chat with our guide on the 3 hour drive back to Aswan. He was a Coptic Christian, and told us about living in a Muslim country as a persecuted minority. When a Christian converts to Islam, there is rejoicing and parties and people will knock on the doors of other Christians and say "it will be your turn soon." (In fact, most conversions are for economic reasons or to secure a divorce, he said). In contrast, Christians are not allowed to preach outside churches and the penalty of conversion from Islam to Christianity is execution - any converts have to flee the country. (The only legal way to become a Christian is to be born into a Christian family). Tonight we had a relaxing meal on a floating restaurant overlooking the Nile. After tea we took a look at the Coptic Cathedral. In fact it is not just a church but really a community centre. The place was bustling with people and we were warmly received as we looked around. We did some late night shopping at the markets, where a wedding made things even more lively - the bride and groom were surrounded by a band playing drums and singing... Love Graham and Nicole. P.S. - Mum and Dad say hello to everyone!

July 12... Luxor, Egypt - Shimmering water, dense strips of palm trees along the banks, with an expanse of desert beyond - that was our view as we cruised the Nile for two days. We passed a few Nubian villages, and plenty of ibises. Having two days of luxury came as a nice break, but we had all reached our cruise-boat tolerance by the end of our trip. Along the way, we stopped off at two temples - Kon Ombo, and Edfu, both very impressive, with fascinating detailed artwork. We've decided the ancient Egyptians must have been obsessive-compulsive because there's not one inch that's not covered in painstakingly carved pictures or heiroglyphs! Kom Ombo temple is dedicated to the falcon god and the crocodile god; there is a deep well on the site were crocodiles were once kept as part of honouring the crocodile god. There was plenty of time for us just to relax on the sun deck - we'd chat in the shade, and marvel at the Spanish tourists (whose tour group made up the rest of the passengers on the boat), who had managed to turn themselves into walking blisters after two days of roasting in the sun. In fact today, Dad's thermometer was reading 51 degrees... We are now in Luxor, once the ancient Egyptian capital of Thebes, and home to some of the most important phaeronic sites. The largest and most significant of these is Karnak temple - a huge complex of halls, statues, obelisks and other ruins. It's hard to take everything in but the features that impressed us the most were the "forest" of huge columns in the main hall, and the row of sphinxes that line the entrance. The ruins are on such a grand scale that it is incredible to think what the place would have looked like in its former glory... Walking round in the heat though, one column or engraved wall can look very much like another and we are all getting the warning signs of "phaeronic fatigue" otherwise known as "ancient Egyptian overload."... Love Graham and Nicole.

July 14... Hurghada, Egypt - If the last website update looked a little skimpy, that was because poor old Graham started feeling sick just after sitting down at the computer and went back with Nicole's Dad to the hotel to vomit and have diarrhoea, and Nicole and her Mum were left with two sleazy guys who immediately sat down in between them, reading over their shoulders and generally giving them the creeps. We've noticed that some of the young men in Egypt show very little respect for western women and often make suggestive comments (even if you are holding your husband's hand!)... Anyway, for our remaining day in Luxor we crossed the Nile and visited the Valley of the Kings, the temple of Queen Hatshepsut and the Colossi of Mennon (two mega statues of some king dude). The Valley of the Kings is an area in the desert that contains over 60 tombs of pharoahs from the New Kingdom - including Tutankhamen's. We walked down three of the tombs, which had long passageways with elaborate artwork and heiroglyphs etched into and painted on the walls. Seeing the colour and detail here was fantastic. The temple of Queen Hatshepsut is a huge column-filled structured carved in into a rock-face. It was at this site that 104 people were murdered by terrorists in 1997. We were shocked to hear that our guide's wife was in the temple during the attack and was shot in the ear and the back - luckily she survived... After this we had some McDonalds (after Graham's vomiting and diarrhoea episode he wanted something relatively safe) and tried to admire the sunset over the Nile whilst constantly turning down offers of felucca rides and horse and carriage rides. In desperation they finally say, "Maybe tomorrow?" - "Maybe" we reply knowing full-well this means "No chance buddy"! Today we caught a bus to Hurghada - this so-called resort town is dumpsville - the sea, although warm, is full of garbage and rocks and the streets are full of unfinished hotel complexes that people are rushing to put up, with no concern for city's appearance. It's a good thing we're catching a ferry out of here tomorrow to Sharm El-Sheik... Meanwhile, Egypt is starting to feel like shonkyville... In arranging to come to Hurghada we made the mistake of ignoring our do-everything-ourselves principle and letting the hotel staff make a "reservation" for a hotel in Hurghada (Hotel Snafa) given that it was high-season. The warning bells rung when they told us to pay them up-front. They also booked our ferry tickets for us - initially they asked for $40 US dollars, but later demanded another $8 each, telling us it was because "taxes" had risen. When we got the tickets with the $40 fee clearly written on each one, they admitted that the extra $32 they had collected was actually their commission and had nothing to do with taxes. Pretty steep we thought! Then they told us that Hotel Snafa which they had already "booked" for us, had no rooms left and they tried to con us into accepting another different hotel. We firmly refused and got our money back. To our total surprise, on arrival at Hurghada bus station a man was waiting to take us to Hotel Snafa saying that there were rooms. Mr Dodgy proceeded to take us in a taxi to a different hotel, explaining on the way there were no rooms at Snafa and his hotel was "next to" Hotel Snafa. Exasperated at the scam, we refused to book into that hotel. Mr Dodgy quickly disappeared and we wandered to another nearby budget hotel, and who should be at the desk waiting for us. None other than Mr Dodgy! We couldn't escape! It sounds funny to us now, but at the time it was infuriating. We finally found a place to stay - overpriced and crummy, but with honest (we think) staff members. We just can't get over the dishonest lengths some people go to for money... Love Graham and Nicole. PS - Graham's diarrhoea has completely settled, but now Nicole's Mum has it!

July 17... Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt - The last few days have made up for all the hassling in Egypt. We caught the ferry to the Sinai region, crossing the Red Sea (which is actually a gorgeous dark blue). On the way we saw some dolphins and plenty of rays jumping out of the water. The land here is barren, with rocky mountains and cliffs and no trees in sight. That is, of course, except for the palm trees that are found in the sprawling kilometres of hotels that line the beach. There's not much budget accommodation here, so we're at a fancy hotel with buffet dinners, swimming pools and a private beach with coral reefs. We went snorkelling almost as soon as we arrived - and were totally amazed by the underwater beauty. We've seen dozens of different sorts of fish (including many of those that make an appearance in Finding Nemo), a blue spotted ray and several poisonous fish - puffer fish (that look kind of like racoons) and lion fish. Luckily we haven't run into any stone fish though! Swimming out in the coral reef, we can't help but become angry and really sad at how many tourists we are seeing standing on the reefs destroying the coral. Coral, we've been told, grows at a rate of a millimetre a year, and so can take centuries to recover from even minor damage. We've also been disappointed at all the rubbish we've found in the water. The final surprise at the private hotel beach is the number of women bathing topless, which apart from being illegal, does nothing to help the belief of many local men (who watch on) that all Western women can be seduced at the drop of a hat. The day after arriving we took a boat trip out to Tiran Island (very close to Saudi Arabia) to some excellent snorkelling sites, with pristine colourful coral and large schools of fish... Late last night we headed off to Mount Sinai which is about 300 km drive from Sharm El-Sheik. We started the 3 hour climb at about 2:30 am along with several hundred other people. We wanted to see the place where God spoke to Moses, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery," and delivered the 10 Commandments (or the 10 Committments as our guide kept calling them). We found the climb tiring but the view from the peak was beautiful. Unfortunately Nicole's mum felt quite unwell and vomited a lot, so she and Nicole's dad watched the sunrise from a Bedouin hut half way up. At the bottom of the mountain we visited a Greek Orthodox monastery called St Catherine's. Enclosed within its walls are a bush that is claimed to be the burning bush from which God first appeared to Moses, and the well at which Moses supposedly met his wife. Twenty-four monks live at the monastery, including one Australian. We were surprised to see a mosque also within the walls. This was built a few centuries ago when a Muslim ruler (El-Hakim) was destroying Christian sites and the monks figured that if they built a mosque he'd leave them in peace - and they were right. El-Hakim also banned women from wearing shoes so they had to stay in the home, and forbid the cooking of a particular green soup on penalty of death just because he thought it tasted so disgusting! What a strange man... Love Graham and Nicole.

July 20... Alexandria, Egypt - We spent the final day in Sharm El-Sheik swapping between the pool and the beach... this is the life! We can't get over what we saw - can you imagine swimming next to a three metre long moray eel with a blue spotted ray ambling by? Or actually finding Nemo and his Dad bobbing around their anenome whilst a curious rainbow-coloured parrot fish looks on? We took dozens of underwater photos between us and still managed to have run out just before spotting two poisonous but beatiful lion fish and a large eagle ray. If any pictures come out, they'll be on the website soon... We caught a bus to Suez the next day - it was stinking hot and humid on the bus, and our destination was a run down concrete jungle. We saw some shepherds with goats wandering inbetween the seemingly neverending rows of identical five-storey beige apartments. While there weren't any traditional tourist attractions, there was some local excitement - a crazy man in a galabiyya and bare feet shouting Arabic swear words being chased down the street by a policeman with a big machine gun... Today we caught a bus through the green of the Nile Delta to Alexandria. We saw women doing their laundry in the rubbish-filled tributaries, as well as kids bathing in the dirty water. Catching a taxi to our hotel gave us some more insight into the cut-throat world of Egyptian taxi driving. Apparently our taxi driver jumped the queue of waiting drivers to take our business. A very angry driver stormed up to him and shouted various insults including "your father is a donkey" (a classic Arabic insult according to Nicole's Dad) and then proceeded to headbutt the driver - a small fist fight broke out but to our relief, an outsider calmed the air... Alexandria is quite a pretty city set on the Mediterranean ocean. Once a grand and cosmopolitan place, it has apparently lost its population of foreigners and hence some of its character in recent years. But, to us, it seems quite charming and interesting; we've enjoyed wandering the streets and looking out for the nice architecture that is rare elsewhere in Egypt. Tomorrow we plan to visit El Alamein war cemetery and the new Library of Alexandria... Love Graham and Nicole.

July 23... Cairo, Egypt - Getting to El Alamein seemed too difficult and costly for just a short visit, so we gave it a miss, instead visiting the Graeco-Roman Museum. Alexander the Great conquered Egypt in 332 B.C. founding Alexandria and leaving a dynasty of Greeks to rule Egypt (the Ptolemy pharoahs). The Romans took control in 30 B.C. until the Arab conquest in the 7th century A.D. removed the Byzantine rulers. Hence, there was plenty of Graeco-Roman stuff for archeologists to dig up and put into a museum. The labelling was almost non-existent, so we made our own fun imagining the significance of the artifacts. Our favourites were the rows of tiny sculptures of women's heads, arranged in groups according to hairstyle, and a mummified crocodile. Later we walked to the new Great Library of Alexandria. The old one, a centre of learning for the ancient Mediterranean world, burnt down a few millenia ago. In an effort to restore Alexandria's place on the literary world map, a huge new library has recently been built. We liked its modern design, especially the letters from alphabets of the world carved in granite on the exterior. It houses 5 million volumes, give or take a few. While we were looking around, we were approached by three different groups of local university students, who asked if they could take a photo of us with them. It was kind of nice, but puzzling - why would we be of such interest? We thought it might have been the fact that Graham and Nicole's Dad seemed to be the only men in town wearing shorts. But they explained that it wasn't the bare legs - they just found foreigners interesting... The next day we came back to Cairo on the bus, and taking an "afternoon off" saw Spiderman 2 at the local cinema. We noticed three differences: there were virtually no women in the audience; there was an intermission half-way through; and we had to surrender our video camera batteries at the entrance... Today, we visited the Step Pyramid at Saqqara. Graham's Mum always wanted to see the Step Pyramid, and she tells a story of a taxi driver pretending to know where it was, driving round all day aimlessly and never finding it. Almost in a repeat of history, our taxi driver pretended to know where it was, drove around an awfully long and winding route, and stopped many times to ask directions - but he got there in the end! Actually, the detour through a small village was interesting - lots of donkey-pulled carts on the streets, and traditionally-dressed locals. The Step Pyramid was the first pyramid ever built in 2,650 B.C. and still looks impressive today. In the distance, we could also see the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid. Nicole was very excited because she has now seen all the pyramids she had to make models of in year 8 humanities class! This afternoon, we went to Coptic Cairo, a compact walled suburb with narrow streets and many important religious sites. Christianity came to Egypt in the 1st century A.D. and today's Coptic Church is the main denomination here. It separated from the churches of Greece and Rome in the 6th century over a matter of docrine regarding the nature of Christ, along with the Armenian and Syrian churches. We visited the Church of St Sergius (along with many locals who had come to pray there), a small unassuming building built over a cave, which is said to have been where Joseph, Mary and Jesus lived when they fled to Egypt shortly after Jesus' birth. We also saw inside a synagogue for the first time - called Ben Ezra, it was supposedly built over a branch of the Nile where Pharoah's daughter found the baby Moses in a basket. There is something inspiring and fascinating about seeing churches that have been active places of worship for 2,000 years... Love Graham and Nicole.

July 27... Cairo, Egypt - Poor old Nicole has been sick the last few days, so we have been taking things very easy (resting in bed) instead of travelling to Siwa Oasis (near the Libyan border) as we had planned. Nicole's parents flew out of Cairo yesterday, on their way to Singapore and then home. We heard Dad vomited on the flight so that means all four of us have vomited since coming to Egypt... On Saturday, we went to the Egyptian Museum, the place where most of the ancient Egyptian stuff winds up. Among the best things were Tutankhamen's gold death mask and the other treasures found in his tomb. He was a relatively insignificant pharaoh, who died at the age of 18. His tomb was one of the few that was never found by grave-robbers; if he had all these treasures, we can only imagine what riches some of the more important kings were buried with. After having learnt about these important kings over the last few weeks, and visiting the temples they built, seeing the Royal Mummy Room was quite amazing - we could actually see the bodies and faces so carefully preserved of Ramses II and other royalty from 3,500 years ago... On Sunday, we attended an English service at All Saints Anglican Church, which has a varied ministry with the many Sudanese refugees in Cairo, as well as visitors like us, and occasionally local Muslims. Afterwards, we hired a taxi and went searching for some significant historical sites of Nicole's Dad's life - his high school (Heliopolis High School for Boys) and the last house he lived in. We nearly gave up looking for the school as everyone Dad asked kept directing us to the girls' school, and we knew he didn't go there! Eventually we found it and even had a tour by one of the teachers. Dad's house was on the second floor of an ordinary apartment complex. We were all excited to find it and had begun to take photos and film, when an angry man in a brown suit yelled at us to stop. Shaking his finger at Dad he was uncompromising when we explained what we were doing there, and told us that the whole area was off-limits to cameras because President Mubarak lived nearby. We didn't believe him, but obeyed him anyway, making a quick exit in our taxi. Sure enough, just across the road, was an absolutely enormous palace that we had completely overlooked on our way there... We ended the day by visiting the Citadel, a huge walled fortress built by the Islamic rulers of Egypt to protect them from the Crusaders. The area contains palaces and several mosques. The largest mosque was built under the direction of Mohammed Ali a couple of centuries ago. Although remembered as an early Arab nationalist, he was quite an evil character, who invited his enemies to the Citadel for dinner, then cunningly had them locked in a room and murdered. In the courtyard of his mosque there is a large clock, which we read was given to him by the king of France in return for an ancient Egyptian obelisk which is capped with gold. We had seen the obelisk in La Place de la Concorde in Paris, and wondered why on earth it was there, knowing only it was "a gift from Egypt" - seeing the crummy clock, which was damaged on delivery (and is yet to be repaired) we think the French definitely got the better deal! We enjoyed our last meal with Nicole's Mum and Dad in a cafe overlooking the Nile, although Graham has now had enough Egyptian food to last him for the year. Spending the last three weeks together has been excellent and added so much to our experience of Egypt - thanks Mum and Dad! Love Graham and Nicole.

July 28... Cairo, Egypt - Well, time to say goodbye from Egypt... Our impressions of this place? HOT, actually VERY HOT, all the time; lively, noisy, dirty, smelly, bustling, and constantly interesting. There was heaps to see and heaps of people who could always show you that little bit extra (for just a little bit extra)... The beautiful Nile, with its surrounding greenery, which sharply turns to desert, is obviously central to Egypt. We liked simply watching the sunset over the water, as well as trying to appreciate the lives of traditional farmers making a living on its banks. The number of people, farmers and city-folk alike, living in poverty here is clear to see... Being in a country dominated by Islam has been fascinating. Hearing the calls to prayer, visiting mosques, seeing people pray in the middle of the footpath, and passing women covered in black from head to toe have all been unique experiences for us. In the background, there lies both a more secular and wealthy Egypt as well as a Christian minority... As far as all the pharaonic sites go, well, they're everywhere, and none of them disappointed us. In fact, we both were amazed at the scale and detail of these monuments. You have to see them to comprehend their magnificence. It's just a pity about all those camel drivers and souvenir sellers... As for the Egyptian people - they always start with a "Welcome" and then the inevitable "Where are you from?" Half the time, its genuine friendliness; the other half of the time, they're only hoping you'll open your wallet... But the best that Egypt had to offer wasn't above land - it was under the water in the Red Sea. Here there were no hassles, beautiful water and plenty to see; this was our haven from an otherwise busy and noisy land... Finally, seeing the country would not have been the same if it weren't for Mum and Dad being there. Hearing Dad converse in Arabic was fantastic, as was watching his face light up at memories... All up, Egypt's been great. Love Graham and Nicole. P.S. Did we mention it was hot?

Click here to see some of our underwater photos from the Red Sea

Click here to see some of our photos from Egypt