Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Egypt Finale, and what a finale it was...

Well, it's only taken me about a month to document a seven day trip, but I hope you guys have had a little taste of what Egypt was like and how awesome the experience was of being there. Our final day could not have been better because of the one activity we did that day, hiking Mount Sinai at sunrise.

We woke up at 2:00 am, pretty tired and all of us just hoping that this would be worth it. The way up the mountain was actually really tough, I think in large part because of the cold. It was pitch black and freezing! We couldn't see anything around us. We each had our headlamps on but we were surrounded by black on all sides. Moses must have been some guy, climbing that mountain so many times at his age! I was hoping the temperature would get better but we hiked for a few hours and the higher we went, the colder it got. But whenever I would take my eyes off of the dark path and look up, it made it easier to forget about the cold. I don't think I have ever seen such a beautiful starry sky in my life. It was so clear up there. The entire sky was covered in stars, more than I've ever seen. It was pretty breathtaking. Before we started, one of our teachers mentioned when the Lord said, "Worlds without number have I created." Seeing the stars that night really made that come alive.

When we got to the top, it was still pitch black, and once we stopped moving, it got even colder. We all bundled up and cuddled close to try to stay warm.


Cuddle buddies!!!

We waited up there for probably 45 minutes or so before the sun started to come up, and then this is what we saw:


The sun starting to peak through



And then we looked around and saw the view that surrounded us. To think that this is where Moses was when he talked with God and received the Ten Commandments was a pretty overwhelming thought. It was so strange to think that this incredible view was there the entire time and we just couldn't see it. On the way up, I had no idea how beautiful the mountains surrounding me were.



I guess it just goes to show, we see so little of the big picture. As good and beautiful as the life we know is, there really is so much more to it than our own limited understanding can comprehend. And one day, we'll finally have the whole view, and all of it, the good and the bad, will come together and for the first time we'll really see.


It really was such a neat experience and I'm so grateful for it. Egypt altogether was a phenomenal adventure, and I loved the whole thing! And I especially love that I've finished the blogging of it, so sorry it took so long. I'm sure I'll have so much more to tell you and show you when I get home, so be prepared!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Egypt Chronicles: Day 7


Okay, this one's going to be short. I'm almost to the end of Egypt! Making progress I am! (haha, that sounded like someone familiar. maybe Yoda. or Eliza Doolittle).


After my 13 hour sleep, I was all set to be healthy for..........a really long drive. Thank heavens I didn't get sick on that day! I will be forever grateful. On Day 7 we left Cairo and drove and drove and drove. The drive itself was beautiful though. (The above is another shot by the artistic Richelle taken from the bus I believe. She has more artistic ability in her pinkie than I do in my whole body. And I recognize that. And that is why I steal pictures from her!


The bus got a little crazy with some insane games of truth or dare, but we finally made it the Morgenland Hotel at the base of Mt. Sinai. And that wonderful place is where I will pick up next time.

The Egypt Chronicles: Day 6

After spending the night on the train, needless to say, we were all a little groggy and exhausted. We went straight to our hotel, where we ate breakfast and then held our own Sacrament Meeting. It was really neat. Kind of weird that it was on a Friday, but in all honesty, since we've had the Sabbath on Saturdays in Jerusalem, it wasn't all that different to get used to. The Sabbath is the Sabbath.

We had just a little bit of time before we left for the Egyptian Museum. I have to say, this was one of my favorite parts of the trip. There was SO much to see in this museum, ancient coffins, statues of the ancient rulers, ancient papyri, ancient everything. There was too much to even really say briefly in a blog posting, so I'll just say a couple of the interesting things we saw:
  1. The treasures found in the tomb of King Tutankhamen or "King Tut". Most people know King Tut as the ruler who was just a boy when he died (He was technically around 18). He actually didn't really stand out much in history. The main reason that he is so famous today is because almost all the tombs of the ancient pharaohs were robbed by grave-robbers who took everything. However, Tutankhamen's tomb was somehow never found by them, and remained undiscovered until the mid-1900's when it was found by an archaeologist. Everything that was originally placed in the tomb was recovered and put in the Egyptian museum. It was incredible to see the riches and artifacts they'd found there.

This was taken a few days earlier, when we were at the Valley of the Kings (burial place of the ancient Egyptian kings). Me and Richelle outside the actual tomb of "King Tut"

2. The mummy room. Wow. Have you ever seen a real mummy? If not, I suggest you find a way to do it. It is a crazy experience! We had to pay extra to enter this special room in the museum, but it was well worth it. This room contained the mummified bodies of at least a dozen ancient rulers, one of which was Rameses II who is believed to be the Pharaoh during the exodus when Moses delivered the Hebrews from captivity in Egypt. I looked at the body of the man who very likely spoke face to face with Moses. So crazy. Their heads and upper bodies were all unwrapped for us to see, and was it ever a sight to see! I can't believe that after 4,000 years, those bodies are still here, and still look like that! Some of them even still had hair! Sorry I don't have any pictures. Cameras weren't allowed in the museum, for obvious reasons. But man, it was amazing.

For lunch, we went to Hard Rock Cafe, Cairo edition! The best thing about Hard Rock is that this was honestly the sign on the bathroom door:

"No drugs or nuclear weapons allowed." What do you say to that?

After lunch, we went to the Muhammad Ali Mosque, which was beautiful (as shown below). It's a mosque Muhammad built himself to house his tomb.


Sorry there aren't a whole lot of pictures from this day. I wasn't "all there" health-wise so I wasn't really into doing the picture thing that day. I was a little out-of-it. In fact, after getting back from the mosque, I went straight to bed and slept 13 hours!! Kind of a boring night, but it paid off big time. I was ready for Day 7!

One more shout-out to Luxor

I forgot a couple things about Luxor.

First were my new best friends. These guys were the bomb. They were very desert sheik-ish and they sat outside our hotel and played their rockin instruments in a very Egyptian way (so it seemed to me). They even came into the hotel's restaurant once to sing Happy Birthday to one of our girls. They were hilarious!
Second, the Egyptian Bazaar. How does one explain it? Basically, these shop-keepers (most of which are young men) will do almost anything to get you to buy something from them. Seriously. I can't tell you how many times I heard them try to flirt with the girls to bring them into their shop. Here are a couple of their gems:
  • "Excuse me, you drop something.....my heart."
  • "You eyes are beautiful like a cow's" (Believe it or not, this is actually a compliment in Egypt. Apparently cows have really beautiful eyes. I guess I need to take a closer look next time I see one)
  • "Don't leave, you break my heart!"
  • "I pay one million camels for you!"
It got to be pretty ridiculous. There was even one that tried the "going in for the kiss" tactic. No good. The bonus to all of this: we got some good deals on souvinirs!

The Egypt Chronicles: Day 5

Well, seeing as how we haven’t used enough forms of travel in the last few days, we tried another. Day 5 started out with another falukah boat ride to the other side of the Nile, where we were picked up in……. horse carriages! Yep, I said horse carriages. It was crazy, we were driving along the busy crazy road with everyone else, weaving in and out of traffic. It actually was a lot of fun, except for that one time the Egyptian boy made me take the reins and told me I had to drive, and then the horse started galloping as I almost steered us into another car, of course screaming the entire way. What a sight that must have been...

Go on, just try to tell me this doesn't look sketchy. I was driving as we were swerving through traffic! And that crazy horse was galloping!



After the terror was over. I had regained my composure and we smiled with our kind dare-devil friend.

We finally made it alive to the Karnak Temple. And it was well worth it! This is one of those places that you hear about and never think you’ll actually get to. It was another feast for the eyes. In the center of the temple is a huge hall filled with 134 enormous columns, covered in writings and hieroglyphics. Our tour guide was telling us how they were able to chisel the hieroglyphics into the stone when it seems impossible because they go so high. Apparently, Egypt has an abundance of sand (who knew?), so they filled the ENTIRE hall with sand, almost up to the very top, and the workers would chisel away that top part of the columns until they ran out of room. Then they would drain some of the sand, just enough to give them more chiseling space, and they’d go at it again until they ran out of room. And so it continued until they’d carved the entire height of the 134 pillars. And let me tell you, they are a sight to behold! After Karnak, we went straight to the Luxor Temple, which was also beautiful in its own way. The whole day we were full of awe.

The beautiful pillars at Karnak



I ended up finding my own little nook. Cozy, no? I think I'll make it permanent.



An ancient hieroglyph found on the Karnak Temple showing the pharaoh being purified through washing and anointing in order to inherit eternal life.


Me, Heidi, Chris, and Annie taking some time out to show you how sweet our fanny packs are. Don't be jealous.


Just another gorgeous shot, compliments of Richelle.




Good times. Noodle Salad


After the temples, we headed back to the hotel, free for the rest of the day! Some swam, some went shopping at the Egyptian Bazaar (pretty much a market with all kinds of touristy gadgets), and just a few of us stayed behind to watch the most beautiful sunset I've ever seen. It was over the Nile River and absolutely perfect. It really was such a peaceful way to spend that perfect time of day, and to ponder about how lucky we really are to have all that we have.

Well, the beauty of the Sunset was phenomenol, but we still had more to our day. The time came to leave Luxor and head back to Cairo where we still had more to see. It was a sad day. I LOVED Luxor. One day, I'll come back again...

So that night, we took an all night train to get back to Cairo. Remember the before-mentioned meal of bread, bread, bread, and one more piece of bread? Yeah, that was on this train. It probably wasn't the cleanest place I'd ever been, but I think Romanian trains prepped me, so it wasn't too bad. I got to share a room with Eliza, my roommate on the Egypt trip. I feel it's necessary to do a shout-out to that girl. She really made the tripsuch a blast. I loved sharing a room with her, even if it was just for a week. Especially in those moments when we busted out her ipod and sang every song we came across at the top of our lungs. Ah....good stuff.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Egypt Chronicles: Day 4

Well, you already know that Day 4 started with a beautiful view of the Nile River. But we didn’t get to sit and enjoy it for long. We got up and rushed out the door, ready to begin another full day!

We started out today at the Valley of the Kings, which is the ancient burial place of a lot of the famous pharaohs of Egypt (Seti I, Rameses II, Tutmosis III, King Tutankhamen or “King Tut”). It was really neat to see it all, to walk down into the tombs and see the stories and messages the walls carried (let’s be honest, we wouldn’t have understood any of it on our own. Thank heavens for Brother Skinner!). It was really cool especially to see the similarities there are between ancient Egypt and our gospel principles of the LDS church today. Pretty crazy actually.

After the Valley, we headed off to the Funerary Temple of Rameses III (another pharaoh. Sorry if this info is boring to you, but it was incredible to see firsthand). It was such an overwhelming sight! Seriously. HUGE stone walls with hieroglyphics ALL OVER THEM! I just stared up with my mouth open the whole time.



Annie and I at the Temple of Rameses III




Is this for real?



Taking my place among the greats

So after we ate lunch, it was FINALLY the moment we’d all been waiting for: The Camel Ride. Oh yes, yes yes, we rode camels. And what an adventure it was! The camel ride was on the other side of the Nile, so we set sail on a falukah (sp?) boat from our hotel (since it was right on the water) and sailed across the Nile. On the way, we discovered the Egyptians today have an obsession with Bob Marley. Really. Isaac, I thought that'd make you happy.




Elyse and I on the Falukah ride, really excited about our boat's motto.
"God Pless Us Everyone."



Our boat's subtle tribute to Bob Marley

Once we got there, we each met our little Camel helpers, little Egyptian boys. My little Mohammad was so dang cute. Didn't speak a whole lot of English, but we bonded. He informed me that my camel's name was Bob Marley (the obsession continues). It was SO MUCH FUN!! We rode in a big caravan, along the shore of the Nile, and through this small Egyptian village. It was definitely an eye-opener to see how humbly these people live, but how simple and beautiful it was at the same time. I loved it.


Our Camel Caravan


Here we go!!



My little Mohammad, Bob Marley, and Me!

What a day! It was so much fun. I kept waiting to think I was bound to be disappointed at some point of this trip, but it never happened! Every single thing we did was such an awesome experience! Today just added to the glory of Egypt!

Out-takes from Day 3

video

One more thing, just so you can see how great these people are. These are my roommates at the sphinx. I've never posted a video before, so let's see if this works!

The Long-Awaited Return to the Egypt Chronicles: Day 3

Hey!

Yeah, I can give you my excuses for not having blogged, but even though I did have a lot of school work, that's no excuse for going like two weeks without it. I'm a new woman (let's hope) and I'm going to try to do as much of this darn Egypt trip tonight as I can, because I have so many more things to tell you since Egypt! It's funny, this really is exactly what my real journal sounds like in about every single entry. The only difference is that now, all you guys get to see what a bad/seldom writer I am!

Okay, so back to Egypt. Our third day was AWESOME!! (Prepare yourselves, this might be a long one, but complete with many a picture). So we wake up in Cairo and meet our new tour guide, Noha, who lovingly requested that we nickname her "Mama Pharaoh." She was HILARIOUS! Some of her pearls of wisdom include but are definitely not limited to:

"We have lanes, but they are more for decoration." (in reference to the insane traffic in Cairo, where there are about seven lanes of cars across a three-lane highway. Seriously. This is no joke.)

"Traffic is amazing, amusing, and confusing." (in reference to the same traffic).

Yeah, she was great. There were a lot more but I never wrote them down. So anyway, the first place we went to were the PYRAMIDS!!! Off we go to the Giza Plateau!!


The Three Great Pyramids of Giza



Human pyramid at the pyramids of Giza! Here we are at the first and biggest of the three, the Pyramid of the Pharaoh Khufu. I'm on the bottom cause I'm rough and tough.







AAHHHH!!! We're at the Pyramids!!!



Is this crazy or what?! This pyramid alone has 2.3 million stones!

Here's some more crazy fun facts about the pyramids that you'll enjoy (I was fascinated):
  • Get this. Their architects and builders were so exact in their construction that the longest side is only 7 inches longer than the shorter side. It is almost a PERFECT SQUARE!

  • I can't remember this fact exactly, but it's another one of the architecture ones. The entire base of the pyramid is on almost the exact same level. There is only a variation of a few centimeters for the level of the entire base!

  • It took about 20 years to complete and if I remember right, they guess that there had to have been about 10,000 men working on it constantly for those 20 years.

  • The pyramids are SO OLD! About 4,600 years old to be exact. That means that when Abraham (who's one of the oldest people we know of in the Bible) came to Egypt, he saw the pyramids himself, and they were already about 800 years old. I looked on the same sight that Abraham did. That's mind-boggling.

So yeah, the pyramids were incredible. We also stopped by to see the very first pyramid ever, called the step pyramid. (The very first one was made by Pharaoh Zoser's architect Imhotep who stacked mudbrick structures on top of each other, thus creating the step effect. And yes, I also realized that Imhotep is the guy from "The Mummy," though I don't think they're really the same person...)


The Step Pyramid at Saqqara (This is actually huge like the others, but the artistic abilities of Richelle are unmatched)

While we were at the pyramids, we stopped over at the sphinx. Yep, just stopped on over. It's right in front of the second pyramid of Giza, and is all made from one single stone. I think there are a lot of debates as far as who it's supposed to represent, but the human head represents the intelligence of mankind and the lion body represents the strength of a lion.



Annie, Me, Sphinxie, S. Allison, Alexis


He loves me



We Love Egypt!! (Me and my roomies I love so much in with the pyramids)


Well, we finally left the Giza Plateau and headed to the Papyrus factory, where we learned how ancient papyrus was made from a Papyrus plant. Pretty cool stuff. It was so neat to see all the authentic Egyptian symbols and paintings on real papyrus. (I may or may not have bought a couple to bring home....)



Valorie and I trying to squish the papyrus plant


Wow! What a day! We also went to Memphis (the original capital of Ancient Egypt) and by the end we were exhausted. But oh no no, our day was not over yet. We left the majority of our stuff in Cairo, packed one small backpack, and hopped on a plane to fly over to Luxor for a few days. It was pretty exciting. Let me just say, Egyptian airport security- not too particular. In fact, they never even checked the names on our tickets once, so I flew as "Alisha Anderson." It was an awesome flight.


Me and Elyse SO excited to fly Egyptianair. Woot woot! Don't mind that we look like we're about to fall asleep. It was a long day.


So once we got to Luxor, we went straight to our hotel, which was a HEAVEN ON EARTH!! The Sheraton gets two thumbs way up from me! Seriously, I didn't even realize how beautiful it was until the next morning when we woke up and realized where we were and what we overlooked! This was the view from where we ate breakfast. It doesn't even do it justice AT ALL, but that is our swimming pool, overlooking the Nile River. Wow. So beautiful. Luxor was a beautiful experience altogether. But that post is for Day 4.



Wednesday, February 11, 2009

To Hold You Over....


Oh hey! I'm so sorry that I am so awful at keeping up with this darn blog! I'm comin back to finish this Egypt novel, I promise! The problem is that I've had/am still having a crazy week with school. Quizzes, papers, midterms! After this Friday I'll have some time so until then, please enjoy the above glimpse of my one true Egyptian love.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Egypt Chronicles: Day 2

This post is gonna be really easy.

We drove. All day.

We finally crossed into Egyptian lands and got a pretty sweet stamp in our passports and we began immediately to walk like an egyptian.



After hitting Egypt, we still had to drive for a bit to get to Cairo. Don't you worry, we found ways to entertain ourselves on the bus. It was a 7-day party. We finally got to our hotel that night, which happened to be located RIGHT BY THE PYRAMIDS! This was our very first glimpse of the pyramids. Unreal. My eyes wouldn't believe it. I kept having the feeling that I was just on the strip in Las Vegas, looking across the city at the Luxor hotel. So surreal!



Funny story: When we got to the hotel, we soon learned that all these people wanted to cater to our every need because they really want our group to come back again. So when they found out we were looking for something to do, the hotel offered to put on some "American music," and host a dance party. Well, the problem is they don't really have a room for stuff like that. So they set it up in the front lobby of the hotel. Bahaha, fifteen minutes later, you walk into the hotel and you just see 50 American kids jumping up and down and singing their hearts out. In the front lobby! It was SO funny. All these Asian tourists (Alisa, I think one of them said he was your cousin) congregated in the front doorway of the hotel, and just stared at us. Eventually, they whipped out their cameras and were taking pictures up the wazoo. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a video on youtube of American kids going crazy in Egypt. But the management of the hotel was right there being entertained right along with them, so I guess it was okay.

The Egypt Chronicles: Day 1

Okay, it took me a few days to get going, but I finally got all the pictures from everyone else's cameras loaded onto my computer. (I broke my own camera a few weeks ago and am thus dependent on everyone else for quality visual aids). Now, I can finally start blogging about the Egypt trip!

DAY 1--Sunday, January 25th

We loaded the buses at the crack of dawn (without much sleep from the night before) and took off ready to have the time of our lives! By that night, we still hadn't crossed the border into Egyptian territory, but we did a lot of driving (all barriers were broken down in our beloved bus) and made a few stops along the way. In all the different places we visited, there was one constant: camels. There were camels everywhere. If you look to the left, clearly, I am the only one taking the "Beware of Camels" warning seriously. You can never be too cautious.....



First we stopped at Tel Beersheba, an ancient biblical city. Joseph and Mary may have passed through here on their flight to Egypt when Christ was a child. Abraham also had many experiences in and around Beersheba. This is where he was living when he received the commandment to travel to Moriah (near Jerusalem) and offer up his son Isaac as a sacrifice.
Next stop, we went to an overlook of the Wilderness of Zin where Moses and the children of Israel wandered for forty, yes FORTY, years after escaping from Egypt, looking for the promised land. It shouldn't have taken so long for them to reach the promised land, but they kept turning to wickedness, so the Lord kept them in the wilderness for a VERY LONG TIME. Let me just say this, when the scriptures said "wilderness," I had it in my mind that it was like trees and woods. Oh no no no. It is the most desolate thing I've ever seen. It's just flat out desert. Plain, dry, hot, rocky, sandy desert. Poor, poor Israelites. Here we are, pondering how bad it would stink to be stuck here (look beyond us) for forty years.

Okay, after that, the only other place we stopped was called Avdat. I'm pretty sure it had some significance with trade routes or something. All I know is that it was like a great, big, ancient playground. Complete with caves, ditches, the whole shebang. It was a blast.

That night we finally made it to our home for the night: a Kibbutz. Basically, it's like a socialist compound where everyone in their community lives and works. It was pretty interesting to learn about. Of course we spiced up our night with dancing, finger-fencing, and a few rounds of big booty. Then off to bed to get ready for tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

FALLIN' IN LOVE WITH EGYPT!!


Wowzas!! Well, we're finally back from the land of pyramids, sphinxes, temples, camels, and very bad hot chocolate, and let me tell you, it was MAGICAL! Okay okay, so some things weren't exactly magical, like the general cleanliness, parasitic water, interesting train food (bread bread and more bread), and the fact that just about everyone got really sick at one point or another. But as for the rest of it, WOO YEAH!! It was AWESOME!!


Okay, seriously, I was excited for Egypt before we left, but I think I definitely underestimated how fun/cool/fasincating it was going to be. Egypt outdid herself in my eyes. That may have been due in part to excellent planning by our teachers who packed more activities in a week than you could possibly imagine and let us get several glimpses into the Egyptian life (both ancient and modern). Honestly, by Sunday night when we arrived back home at the JC (and yes, it definitely felt like home) it felt like we'd been gone a month at least, and it had only been seven days. Seven VERY FULL days! I loved every single minute of it and, though it feels so nice to be home, part of me wants to go do it again right now.


So, I want to let you guys know what went down in the Land of Mystery, but it'll take me some time to get it together. So instead of doing it all at once, I'm going to split it up. A post a day about what happened each day there. That way, it won't be one HUGE novel-length post. Of course, that might just make it seven slightly smaller but still HUGE novel-length posts knowing me, but that's life! So anyways, I'm going to bed right now, but tomorrow I'll start on Day One! Goodnight!!
P.S. Yep, those are my fingers, just incase you couldn't tell from the pudge factor