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We visited Egypt in 1987 and decided it was time to revisit.

South of Egypt was ancient Nubia (now it is part of Sudan).

Ancient Nubia was often part of Egypt and for a hundred years ruled Egypt starting around 780 BCE (the Black Pharaohs of the 25th Dynasty).

We wanted to see Nubia also, so we went on back-to-back Egypt/Sudan tours.

 

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We flew to Cairo and spent several days visiting the city and the  pyramids. We then flew to Luxor and toured the Valley of the Kings, and the Karnak and Luxor temples. We drove to Esna and boarded a boat that took us to Aswan with many stops on the way. From Aswan we flew to Abu Simbel and from there back to Cairo. From Cairo we drove to the White Desert and back. We drove 1090 miles and boated 105 miles.

 

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Cairo is the largest city in the Middle-East and second-largest in Africa after Lagos. About 7 million live in the city and about 10 million live just outside the city.

Over 1 billion rides are made on the metro each year.

This is the view of the Nile River from our hotel room in Cairo.

We were surprised by the lack of river traffic; we noticed only a couple of fancy city tour boats.

As the city has grown the roads needed to grow also, so they made freeways double-decker. These go down the narrow old streets. An example is in the front of the photo.

 

During the 2011 Cairo riots, supporters torched Mubarak’s administration building to prevent his records from reaching the public. (Corrupt deals, torture reports, etc., were kept there). It still sits there, a burned out hulk.

We were horrified to find that the big fire was directly next door to the Egyptian Museum (pink building) which contains the greatest collection of Pharaonic treasures in the world (it contains the contents of Tut’s tomb).

Our guide saw the fire and said it was unbelievable.

This is in Tahir Square.

 

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In 3100 BCE Narmer unified Upper and Lower Egypt. Lower Egypt was the delta area and Upper Egypt was everything south of today’s Cairo. Narmer is the First pharaoh of the 1st Dynasty.

Egypt’s first pyramid, Djoser’s step pyramid, in Saqqara, was built in the 27th C BCE in the 3rd Dynasty...4700 years ago!

Prior to this pyramid, the royal tombs consisted of raised mud-brick platforms (mastabas) on top of underground rooms.

This pyramid was the first built of stone and consisted of many layers of “mastabas” each smaller than the one below.

 

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The funeral complex of Djoser is one of the richest archeological sites in Egypt (the area around the pyramid).

This restored very modern looking wall originally surrounded the entire area. It was 34’ high and included large courts, pavilions, shrines and chapels.

 

The area around Djoser’s pyramid contains a corridor containing 40 of what may be the world’s oldest stone pillars. This was far more impressive than it appears here.

Prior to this time columns were made of bundled palm stems.

 

Stone columns were first made to resemble that familiar shape.

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In the 4th Dynasty, three pharaohs decided to build the large pyramids west of Cairo on the Giza Plateau.

Beginning in 2589 BCE, the three large pyramids were built within 100 years.

Khufu’s pyramid was the first and contains 2 million blocks, some weighing 15 tons. Until the 19th C it as the tallest building in the world.

Khafre’s (Khufu’s son) was next, followed by Menkaure’s. The pyramids got smaller in time but the mortuary temples got larger.

 

This tele-shot distorts distance, but the fact is that ALL of those buildings have been built, illegally without permits, since we were in Egypt in 1987.

Mubarak’s government was so corrupt that this was possible. People built at night; in the morning they paid off the inspectors and the buildings were not torn down. In many cases there is not enough room between these apartment buildings for a fire truck to get through. Most are unfinished.

This is the situation all over Cairo.

When enough buildings are occupied, they demand that the city give them utilities! They get them!

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This boat was found (after we were in Egypt before) buried right next to Khufu’s pyramid, which was the oldest; built in 2589 BCE.

The boat had been constructed using wooden pegs and grass rope and had been sailed before being taken apart and the 1200 pieces put in the pit.

Experts spent 14 years putting it back together.

 

 

This wonderful rope is from the boat pit: imagine, this was made sometime between 2686 and 2181 BCE!  …4500 years ago!

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The boat was constructed so that when it was put into water, the wood would swell and the rope would shrink making the boat watertight!

 

The Sphinx, usually dated around 2500 BCE, is small next to the large pyramids!

 

The long ramp to the pyramid behind the Sphinx is the causeway that was built to carry the Pharoah’s body between the valley temple, where the body was prepared, and the pyramid for burial.

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The Sphinx’s nose was gone before the 15th C, so Napoleon is not to blame.

 

 

We requested an extra day in Cairo (we had a private tour of Egypt) and we spent it in the old town. We were grateful that tourists are allowed in the mosques in Egypt. This isn’t the case in many countries.

This Mosque of Ibn Tulun (876 CE) is one of the oldest mosques in Cairo.

The arcades provide shade. The courtyard is large enough to contain the entire congregation on holy days.

The minaret at back is unique in Egypt. We climbed to the very top window, which was different as the stairs are mostly on the outside.

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This is one view from the top of the above minaret.

It was interesting looking down from the minaret onto the tops of apartment houses.

There are minarets and large mosques in all directions in Cairo – in that way it’s a little like Istanbul.

 

 

 

That day was a school holiday and there were families with their children everywhere.

Several families requested photos with us…even in mosques!

Yvonne is carrying her shoes. In a small mosque we leave them on the steps outside. In medium-sized mosques we leave them with an attendant. Here in this very busy mosque we decided to carry them as we wouldn’t be inside for very long. We could have left them with the attendant.

 

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Cairo was founded by the Fatimid dynasty in 969 CE.

We enjoyed our long walk through Fatimid Cairo.

In Egypt and Sudan we saw pottery pots on platforms in front of some homes. These are maintained by the family who lives there to provide water to passersby. This “water fountain” usually consisted of three pottery pots and a cup. Tradition held that the providers would get points for this in heaven.

In Fatimid Cairo, this consisted of a marble “bowl” at the front of a mansion. A few steps up were necessary to reach this bowl, which was in front of the house.

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The thirsty person would reach through to get the water with a cup which was provided. Look how worn down the ledge is! So many arms. (This one is no longer in use).

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The old area has been fixed up and now is a walking zone full of locals.

During the evenings the tables are set outside the restaurants and we were told the atmosphere is very festive.

Note the western dress. Only south of Cairo on the Nile do people wear the traditional clothing.

 

 

The Mosque of an-Nasr Mohammed (1318-1335 CE) has this beautiful mihrab (prayer niche).

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The entrance to the Sultan Hassan Mosque and Madrassa is memorable. It’s quite a doorway!

 

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The Mosque of Sultan Hassan is Cairo’s finest example of early Mamluk architecture. It was completed in 1361 CE.

This is a VERY large mosque, one of the largest in the entire Islamic World: 492’ long, with walls 118’ high and the tallest minaret 223’ high.

The construction was funded with money from the estates of people who had died in the Black Death, which hit Cairo in 1348. This policy added to the unpopularity of the sultan.

Yvonne is with our guide. It was good to have a woman guide in Egypt. She answered any question.

 

A lovely thing about Cairo is the presence of beautiful minarets in all kinds of styles.

We liked the belly dancer outfits in contrast with the minarets!

 

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After flying down the Nile to Luxor, we walked through the old part of the city when most shops were closed for the day.

 

This beautiful building is Queen Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Temple which was built as a place for honor her reign. It was also for use by her cult after her death.

 

This temple was damaged by her successors and later the Christians turned it into a monastery.

 

Excavation of the site continues by Polish archeologists.

 

The main axis of the temple is aligned to the winter solstice sunrise.

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A detail on the wall showing Horus in a protective motif.

 

Hatshepsut lived around 1500 BCE, reigned for 20 years, and is considered one of Egypt’s most successful pharaohs.

 

She began reigning as Queen but later claimed herself Pharaoh and dressed as a man.

 

She reigned peaceably, building temples and monuments, resulting in the flourishing of Egypt.

 

She organized a trading expedition to Punt (perhaps today’s Somalia).

 

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These columns on the portico around the upper terrace of Hatshepsut’s Temple are statues of Hatshepsut as the god Osiris.

 

She is characterized as a male king with a beard.

 

 

 

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The colors on these columns are faint but they’re original, from 1500 BCE!

 

 

 

The Medinet Habu temple is 2nd in size to Karnak.

 

This mortuary temple was built for Ramses III (1184-1153 BCE).

 

It is best known as the source of inscribed reliefs depicting the advent and defeat of the Sea Peoples during the reign of Ramses III.

 

The walls provided refuge for the entire population of Thebes during later invasions.

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The temple is 450’ long and has 75,347 sq ft of decorated wall reliefs!

 

Looking through the different pylons (walls) of Medinet Habu temple.

 

 

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This shows Ramses III’s scribes tallying vanquished foes by counting severed hands.

 

Soldiers were given bounty based on the number of enemy hands they collected.

 

After it was discovered that some soldiers were cutting off the hands of their own dead, Ramses changed the bounty to be given for severed genitals.

 

As ancient Egyptians practiced circumcision and the enemies did not, it made this choice possible.

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Still in the Luxor area, Ram-headed sphinxes line up outside the temple of Karnak.

 

 

These statues of Ramses II as Osiris are in an inner courtyard.

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These are pillars in the Great Hypostyle Hall in Karnak Temple’s Precinct of Amun-Re. This temple is 50,000 sq ft in area.

 

There are 134 of these massive columns arranged in 16 rows.

 

Most of these are 30’ tall.

 

This is impressive to experience, and we remembered it clearly from our previous visit.

 

 

This wonderful pharaoh statue is in Karnak Temple.

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We took this photo as we were leaving the Karnak temple to show the arriving tourists.

 

The previous photos show what it was like visiting before the groups arrived; most of our photos don’t have tourists in them.

 

There are very few tourists traveling to Egypt now. The 250+ cruise ships are tied up and only a few are being used.

 

Tourists are still traveling to the Red Sea to get warm. There is a day trip from the Red Sea resorts to Luxor. The bus ride is 3 hours each way. Many of the tourists on the Red Sea are Russian.

 

Obviously, the buses arrived while we were inside!

 

This is a very large seated statue of Ramses II at Luxor Temple.

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Colonnade of Amenhotep III with the columns made in the style of the more ancient, pre-stone papyrus columns.

 

 

A section of Luxor temple was used as a Christian Church in the 2nd & 3rd centuries CE.

 

Christians defaced many of the temple carvings all over Egypt.

 

Defacing or eliminating iconography of a religion different from one’s own has a long tradition and is well alive today.

 

Here they plastered over the carvings before painting their frescoes.

 

It is interesting how early Christian representation of the religion took its form.

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Amoura Dahabeya

 

We lived for five days on a dahabiya, a traditional Nile boat that is now offered as an option to the large river boats.

 

A hundred years ago it was fashionable for the British tourists to use these boats, and now we used one.

 

Our boat, the Amoura Dahabiya should carry 14 tourists (in 7 rooms) but we were the only ones! The crew hadn’t worked for 3 months and they had no bookings for the time following us so they ran the tour - just for us.

 

 

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The Nile flows from south to north. The prevailing wind is from the north. This makes for interesting sailing.

 

The boats aren’t able to “tack” because they don’t need to. They can only sail southward. They flow downriver northward.

 

Therefore the sailors weren’t very comfortable or proficient out on the Mediterranean Sea.

 

This is our boat’s “tug” in the early morning. We only sailed when there was sufficient wind – so we were towed most of the time.

 

 

 

 

When the wind is strong enough we sailed using the sails which are both front and back.

 

Otherwise we were towed as shown here. It is evening in this photo and we are being pulled up to the bank for the night.

 

The crew was wonderful to us and understood we were sad for them due to the lousy tourism situation.

 

That little group on the bank turned out to be an entire family eating sugar cane and enjoying the sunset just like we were.

 

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Every afternoon we saw locals fishing in this manner.

 

The captain bought fish for our meal one day.

 

 

 

We sailed to Edfu and the wonderful Temple of Horus. We had a horse and buggy ride (like everyone else) from the boat to the temple.

 

When we arrived there was no room to park due to all the horses and buggies waiting for tourists in the temple.

 

Fortunately their visit was over and they were leaving as we were arriving. When we came out our buggy was the only one there.

 

We were so grateful that we weren’t in sync with others.

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The reliefs above and below show pharaoh Ptolemy XII (80-51 BCE) of Greek descent.

 

A fascinating feature of Egyptian art is that it changed so little over 3000 years.

 

This temple was buried under sand for nearly 2,000 years. It is the largest and best preserved of the Ptolemaic temples.

 

The first pylon (above photo) is 118’ high.

 

This hat is symbolically two pharoah’s hats: the crowns of the united Upper and Lower Egypt.

 

The crown of Lower Egypt is the outer high-backed one. It includes that backward curl at the top front and was red.

 

The crown of Upper Egypt is the inner one that looks a little like a bowling ball. It was white.

 

There is a cobra at the bottom front; with the united Egypt there were often two cobras.

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This Horus is amazing from any angle. We took many photos.

 

It is felt that the worship of Horus started in pre-dynastic times.

 

He was the protector and patron of the pharaohs, both in Upper and Lower Egypt so was the choice for the unified country.

 

While the pharaoh was alive he was considered the embodiment of Horus.

 

The “Eye of Horus” was a powerful protective amulet.

 

This god was usually depicted as a falcon, or a falcon-headed man.

 

 

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We stopped for a look at the Gebel El Silsila Temple which is rarely visited by tourists and then only in small boats.

 

This is our wonderful dahabiya with its “tug” tied alongside.

 

 

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The Gebel El Silsila Temple is associated with the quarry which was used for temple building from 1500 BCE to the Greco Roman era.

 

This is a view of the Jebel Silsila quarry where pharaohs got their building material.

 

Note how carefully the blocks were removed from the area.

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This is what it takes for 2 tourists to visit the Gebel El Silsila Temple and the nearby Jebel Silsila quarry.

 

Left to right is the local guide, our guide, Yvonne, and the local police.

 

The large boat is a typical tourist river boat on the Nile. The ones we saw had about 20 guests instead of their usual 100+ guests.

 

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To visit a village, we walked across agricultural land until we came to a ferry.

 

There were a lot of vehicles (taxis) waiting for the passengers. This was the typical method of travel – the back of a pickup. They did have one van but it would have taken awhile before it would be available so we opted for the usual way.

 

There were already a woman and her teen-aged daughter in the back. Our guide tried to take

a photo but the girl’s “brother” had a tantrum because he thought her photo would be taken too, so that ended that. This photo is on the way back from the village to the ferry.

 

 

Walking through the village we came across these men sitting together and asked if we could take their photo. They all jumped to their feet and came together for us along this wall.

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These boys were playing ball when we walked by. They stopped and asked us to take their photo.

 

This is the village “gas station.”

 

The walk through the village was unique in all of our experiences. It seemed deserted.

 

We saw VERY few men and boys in the street, and only a couple of women.

 

Each house is a high-walled compound and everyone stays in that compound. The wall behind the gas station is one of them. Can you imagine?

 

While Juergen was talking with a man (via our guide translating) two little girls peeked out of a door in a wall. Yvonne went over to “chat” and they were friendly until their mother appeared. The inside of the compound she saw was bare.

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Evenings on the boat were lovely but usually too cool for us to eat on top. We did always have lunch here.

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One evening they served us dinner on shore. There were no people near this area.

 

This is supposed to be a dinner for 14!

 

It was delicious and fun.

 

The captain had a spotlight mounted on the end of the mast (the more horizontal one that moves around). He said it was to create a “moonlight” mood, with the light high above.  It did.

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The Temple of Kom Ombo is in a nice agricultural village. It is home to many Nubians who were displaced by the creation of Lake Nasser.

 

This is a Greco-Roman temple which overlooks the Nile.

 

This temple has two sanctuaries, one for the falcon god Horus the Elder, and the other for Sobek, the local crocodile god.

 

The temple was begun in the 2nd C BCE.

 

This is Sobek, the crocodile god.

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A museum near the temple houses 40 crocodile mummies from the nearby crocodile necropolis.

 

 

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Each meal was served in this formal manner.

 

At the back of the boat our captain is manning the rudder so that means the sails are up.

 

Our guide is next to the waiter.

 

Other than our guide, the captain, the waiter, and one captain assistant were the only ones who spoke some English.

 

The captain and the waiter were very nice and helpful. They each had one child, three years old.

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The veggie selection for one of our lunches.

 

From Aswan we rode in a little boat (there were hundreds of them, from better tourism times) to the Temple of Philae, the center of the worship of Isis.

 

This temple was moved, block by block to this little island to save it from the rising waters when the Aswan Dam was filled.

 

This temple of Isis was built in the late Ptolemaic and early Roman periods.

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The Temple of Philae taken from the boat which took us there.

 

 

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Goddess Sekhmet, one of the oldest known Egyptian deities; she is depicted as a lion-headed woman, sometimes with the sun disc on her head.

 

The wonderful myth: Ra (god) became angry at mankind because it would not respect his laws. He sent Hathor to earth in the form of a lion, which became Sekhmet and went on a rampage causing the fields to run with human blood. Ra told her to stop but she did not. So Ra poured 7,000 jugs of beer and pomegranate juice (which stained the beer blood red) in her path. She gorged on this “blood” until she fell into a drunken stupor. When she awoke, her rampage dissipated and humanity was saved.

She then became the protector of Ma’at (balance or justice) along with having many other associations.

 

Some scholars suggest that the deity was introduced from Sudan as lions were plentiful there.

 

This is a Goddess (Anuket?) nursing the pharaoh.

 

She was worshipped as a protective deity during childbirth, among other reasons.

 

Early Christians touched places they considered holy until they obliterated the relief.

 

Here, they associated Anuket with Mary and Jesus, so they rubbed the area to get blessings.

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After dinner on our last night on the dahabiya the crew put on a lively show for the two of us.

 

They sang a song where each guy made a contribution, saying why they were happy we came on the boat. It must have been funny because they all were laughing.

 

During the five days, we never could tell which guy was our chef because he didn’t run around in the chef’s outfit.

 

Here he is, beating time with his serving pieces.

 

It turned out he was VERY shy, but he really liked the attention we gave him (through using the others to translate).

 

This was a fantastic cake.

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Here, the dahabiya cruise is over and we’re waiting for our ride to Aswan. The boat is just down the bank.

 

Half the guys will “float/pull” the boat downriver back to Esna in one 12-hour push.

 

The others will take public buses back to Luxor where they live.

 

The captain is at the far left, our waiter at the far right.

 

The great (really, he was) chef is the second from the left.

 

It was sad, we all standing there with them going to a very uncertain future.

 

 

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From Aswan we flew 45 minutes south over Lake Nasser (formed by the Aswan Dam) to see Abu Simbel.

 

The visit there was about 3 hours, after which we flew back to Aswan, stayed on the plane, then continued flying back to Cairo. All in one day!

 

These two temples were moved block by block to save them from the lake formed by the dam (1960-1971).

 

News about how the move was accomplished was worldwide while it was occurring.

 

 

 

Some of the many lovely reliefs Inside the temples.

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Inside the artificial mountain which contains the temple the rooms are much larger than they appear here.

 

The Hypostyle Hall with the Pharaoh Ramses II in the god Osiris form – carrying crook and flail.

 

The colossi on the southern pillars wear the Upper Egypt crown, while the northern ones wear the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt.

 

The walls showed Ramses II making offerings to his deified self (he was quite the egotist!)

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The temples are placed against a man-made “mountain” that matched the one that is now under water.

 

The temples are much larger inside than we remembered, and are beautifully decorated.

 

From Cairo we took 2-day tour to the White Desert and oases in the Western Desert.

 

It was grueling as we drove about 400 miles each day.

 

Here we hiked a bit off road to look at this petrified tree.

 

This was the only landscape “feature” for miles and miles.

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We went into some old tombs.

 

In Bawiti, we climbed down into the Tomb of the Noble Bannitu.

 

We spent a lot of time in the wonderful White Desert.

 

In the remote past, this was a sea-bed formed by sedimentary layers of rock which were formed by marine fauna when the ocean dried up.

 

Later this was a savannah with green areas, large animals, and lakes full of fish.

 

This landscape was formed by the plateau breaking down leaving the harder rocks standing while the softer parts eroded away by wind and sands.

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Some of these features are very large.

 

 

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This photo shows our 4WD and the escort 4WD with its five policemen to protect us.

 

This desert area is between Cairo and Libya. While we were in Egypt ISIS in Libya executed some Egyptian Christians. That wasn’t good news for Egyptians who were hoping for tourism to resume.

 

Therefore our stay in a nice permanent tented camp near to Libya was cancelled and we stayed in a hotel in the oasis.

 

Security was much increased.

 

 

 

These features are called mushrooms.

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This one is really famous and can be seen from a long way off.

 

Believe it or not, this is a named oasis! El Santa.

 

It still has a spring with slowly running water that is caught in a pool.

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We also stopped at Crystal Mountain which consists of these quartz rock formations visible everywhere.

 

How do tourists eat when there are NO hotels or markets or restaurants?

 

Either the guides provide a picnic or they “borrow” a kitchen; this one belonged to the owner of a gift shop along the road.

 

Our driver is doing double-duty; he does the food preparation and the cooking.

 

A single woman lives/works here. She has two very pretty sweet daughters who where home from college when we were there.

 

This woman (and her husband had college degrees) and they both worked until he died.

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His family tried to force her to marry again and to stop working. She refused.

 

She found this place along the road, bought it and runs it alone.

She is having a new place built across the street where she’ll be able to provide better service.

 

We asked her if the local men bothered her and she said that as she didn’t date they treated her with respect. She said there would be trouble if she dated.

 

 

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