Wednesday, April 29, 2009



At 6:00AM we are anchored off Suez City and waiting to enter the south end of the Suez Canal. We go to the forward lounge on deck 8 and have some coffee and pastries while waiting to enter. Finally, about 30 minutes behind schedule, we enter and are sixth in line of the northbound convoy. The canal is roughly 190KM long and takes twelve hours to transit.

The canal appears to be heavily guarded with numerous one-man guard stations along its eastern side. Actually, the guarding appears rather amateurish.We do see several pontoon bridges stored on the western shoreand, in some cases, soldiers working around them. We guess these are so they can retreat from the East to the West bank in the shortest possible time. There is also wreackage all along the eastern shore. Hmmm....! Both sides of the canal are low and sandy with the eastern side being virtually uninhabited. The western side shows pockets of habitation and, in the area of the Great Bitter Lake,some very nice houses line the western shore. To the east is Asia; to the west is Africa. The canal finally makes Africa an island.

Toward the end of the transit we see two memorials, one for the First World War and a much more elaborate one with a park area around it for the 1967 war.There is also one railroad bridgeand a large auto bridge near the Mediterranean end.

Our transit ends right on time and we enter the Mediterranean and head for Alexandria.
The sea gets rough near dinner time, but that is fine we us...better to sleep!



The day starts with another Egyptian (Chinese) fire drill compounded by lack of communication from the ship to the passengers. Our driver from Cairo is waiting for us at 8:00AM and we are off the ship looking for him. There is no driver in sight. Fortunately, we have the cell phone numbers of our guide in Cairo and the driver. The driver is waiting at the port gate, as, despite his having all the required permits, port security will not allow him to enter the port complex to pick us up. Several other parties have a similar problem. After several phone calls and the handing of cell phones back and forth from the passengers to Arabic speaking officials and being told, “5 minutes …just 5 more minutes”, a port authority bus finally takes us to the port gate at 9:00AM.

Later, we discover that the ship knew we could not leave the ship’s pier until 9:00AM but they had not shared that piece of information. In addition, we conclude that making us wait for the bus to leave at 9:00AM was a ploy on the officials’ part to get us to pay “baksheesh” or a bribe to make the bus trip earlier. Being innocent, tight-fisted Americans, we never even thought of paying them to do their jobs.

We have a driver and a “security person” waiting for us at the gate. We later learn that no agent can provide a car and driver for a tourist without providing for security. We do not know if either man speaks English, as they say nothing to us the whole trip. They talk among themselves and eat some vile smelling nuts!

The drive to Cairo takes the predicted two hours.

On the way in, we see the remains of an awful car-truck-bus wreck from the previous day. Five or six cars lay crumpled into balls of metal on the side of the road. Two buses are totaled; one with the whole side torn off and the other with the rear-mounted engine pushed several feet into the passenger compartment. A truck tractor has burned out and its trailer is upside down on the side of the road. We are sure there were several fatalities in this wreck. So far, our day is off to a great start.

Despite the awful traffic jam caused by this wreck, we meet our guide just outside the pyramid area and proceed with our tour. All we want at the Giza pyramids is a good photo opportunity and we get several nice shots before heading down to the Sphinx for more pictures. The Sphinx is part of the funeral temple for one of the pharaohs buried at Giza. The crowds at the Sphinx cause quite a traffic jam in a corridor through which we must walk.

After Giza, we head down to Saqqara to see the Step Pyramid and then to the outdoor museum at the site of the vanished ancient capital of Memphis. King Djoser’s pyramid, now known as the Step Pyramid, is the first pyramid and dates from 2,670 BC. There is work going on to stablize the base. Men are using the same skills as the fist builders did. From the top of the wall that is part the funeral temple surrounding part of this pyramid, we can see some of pyramids nine miles south at Dahshur including the Bent pyramid. The outdoor museum is not much to seeother than an 80-ton statue of Ramses II, displayed lying on its side as its legs are broken off. However, the scenes of everyday life in rural Egypt are once again overwhelming. Our guide takes this chance to explain the differences in the mind set of the rural and city people. The country/rural population is very conservative, backward and tradition bound while the city dwellers are growing ever more westernized.

We next visit the Hanging Church in the Coptic section of old Cairo.The original church dates to 400AD. While interesting to see, it is small, dark, and hard to photograph. Carolyn buys an inlaid wooden cross here for 13 Egypt Pounds or $2.50US.

Our final stop of the day before heading back to the ship is for a 30-minute sail in a felucca on the Nile.The old man who operates the boat is very nice. He has worked on the Nile for 50 years and moved to Cairo from Aswan just this year. He lives on his boat. He expresses concern that Dick only has one wife and offers him one of his four!

The original plan for the day included a stop at the famous Bazaar in old Cairo, but with the late confused start and the dirt and traffic in Cairo, Dick has not been a happy camper today! Carolyn gives up on the shopping even though the guide says we have plenty of time and agrees to head back to the ship two hours early. The traffic is already getting bad and, of couse, we still have the hour plus ride through the desert.We head back to the ship shortly after 4:00PM and arrive at the port gates shortly after 6:00PM. We start to walk the mile or so to the ship but the port shuttle is running and picks us up after a short walk. That rides saves a mile hike in the heat.

Cocktails and a nice dinner improve both our attitudes