On the Nile

From Luxor we boarded Asiya Dahabya for the 190 kilometer journey to Aswan. Unlike the large river cruise boats we see we are able to stop at many small places along the river to meet the people ans see sites that are otherwise very difficult to see. One example is the quarry where the sandstone for the temples and tombs of the kings was quarried. Note the pyramids are limestone, a softer material than sandstone. 

At our various stops we have traveled from Asyia by boat, horse drawn carriage and tuk-tuk, so far. Some pictures are missing because the computer has chosen not to download them from the card I was using. I expect I will recapture them later since they are still on the card. here are some of the photos I can use from our recent stop in Fares were we met a man who makes boxes for mangoes from palm fronds. He had a bit of help. 

We are currently under sail for the second time in this trip. After our visit to the box maker we have been at leisure until 4 when we will have another adventure ashore.

Firsts

I am somewhat limited in ability to upload pictures from the Asiya Riverboat. They have asked us to limit wifi use from uploading all our pictures. I’ll see what I can do later.

Although the flight on the Boeing 777 -300 was not a first for the plane, it was a first for us on a B777, so I will start with that. Our Tour Leader, Caroline, is back from the cancellation of all tours following the revolution in Tahrir Square and this is her first tour of the season. We boarded an Egypt Air flight from Cairo to Luxor and found ourselves on an A220. Never hear of that plane from Airbus. The captain announced that this was the first commercial flight of the A220 on Egypt Air and this was the first A220 in the fleet. A double first.

We are sailing on Dahabia Asiya on the Nile. This boat was out of service for 7 years following the revolution and after a first season last year it has been completely renovated and we are the first group to travel on her. Caroline says it was not a very comfortable boat before although it was always a welcoming boat by the crew.  It is now a very comfortable boat with a very warm and welcoming crew. When we booked I chose the Suite option. Little did I know at the time that this is the entire stern of the boat. It is very spacious and we have the only access to the lower aft deck. Pictures when I can.

Sites seen since Karnac; Hotshipsut Temple, the Valley of the Kings with five tombs including Tutankhamen, Ramses VI and 3 others. OMG the colors in the Ramses Tomb are hard to believe and Tutankhamen’s mummy still resides in his tomb, well nearby in any event. Pictures were not permitted except for 10 pound baksheesh. Will post them all as a gallery. Luxor Temple late afternoon. and then today we took a balloon ride at 5 AM to greet the sunrise. After breakfast we boarded the bus to stop at a “small temple” then we boarded Dahabia Asiya for 5 days travel up the Nile to Aswan. I’m sure I missed something but will have plenty of time to make it up as we sail.

Cairo to Luxor

The Giza Plateau with the Great Pyramid and the others is breathtaking and is on so many bucket lists. I am not sure we believed we would ever see it with our own eyes. Naturally once there it opens new challenges and expectations. Not the least was to actually enter the burial chamber high in the center of Pyramid.  From our group only Carol and I and four women ventured up the steep ramp to the center [picture]. The climb was strenuous. The ramp must be at 30 degrees with cleats on the walkway to prevent slipping .The overhead is so low that I was bent over at the waist for most of the climb. A taller person would have an interesting time. In both directions we passed other groups going the other way on this narrow path. ALthough the diagrams show ventilation shafts became instant friends. There was no sense of any air movement and it was hot.

 

Carol climbing above me
Our group following UP
Cheops Sarcophagus – and me
Carol by the sarcophagus

Upon exiting we were greeted by a very smooth, aggressive salesman, one of several hundred it seems who make their living hustling tourists. Carol wanted to play along and in the end I was grateful to get clear for 200 Egyptian Pounds (about $12) and nothing to show for it except some fun pictures.

For this I paid good money? Don’t tell my Financial Planner

From there we drove around to the  Solar Boat. This wooden boat was built to take the spirit of the Pharaoh to the afterlife after which is was dismantled  and stored in a deep long pit (some 45 meters) and buried in sand and rubble. There it rested until the 1950’s when it was exhumed and 10 years were spent reassembling it. It is stitched together with cordage. The original cordage survived,  but not condition for reuse. The only nonoriginal parts are the cordage and one steering oar. The solar part is that it was considered to be dedicated to the Sun God and is so marked.

Collapse! The heat had been in low triple digits and the sun was merciless. Also we had a 7 AM flight to Luxor which meant a 3:30 wake up to be on the bus by 5:15 to get to the airport and clear security.  We were in bed by 8:30 with full stomachs from too much dinner. One hour flight to Luxor and on to the bus to begin touring Karnac by 9. We were among the first groups in and although the sun was already hot it continued to raise the temperature as the  morning progressed. I am not sure words or pictures can do justice to the largest religious structure in the world. The 134 columns alone are a massive construction, but they are merely a part of this group of temples built over 1000 years. 

Collapse! We stopped someplace for lunch and checked into the hotel early. Unpacked, showered and flat out slept until late afternoon. The temperature in the garden when we awoke was 104 
F. Very slow movement.

To be continued.

Cairo

We flew in from NYC on a direct flight on Egypt Air. Maybe the roughest first couple of hours I can remember on any flight in many years. The next 9 hours were just fine. Got a reasonable nights sleep and decent food. On landing it took almost an hour for our luggage to come down the carousel. Then  our first venture into Cairo traffic. Our transfer guide suggested that any painted line markings were strictly for decoration.It proved so, even our driver was straddling lines most of the way. We arrived safely at the Cairo Marriott and found a  nice room waiting for us. 

We wandered around and met Caroline Fayez , our OAT Tour Leader, who gave  us some suggestions of places to wander if we felt up to it. Our first challenge was finding our way out of the hotel onto the street we wanted to see “26th of July” the day Mubarak was turned out of office in the beginning of the revolution in 2011.  Later we joined up with 12 of the remaining 14 of our group for an orientation walk in the area. On the way back Carol and I stopped at Thomases Pizza, a highly recommended pizza place not more than 5 minutes walk from the hotel.

In the morning we did our first touring at the Egyptian Museum. This was a 2 1/2 hour guided tour by Caroline that really covered the highlights of the collection. We had another hour to explore on our own and get into the King Tut Room and the Jewelry Room as well as the Mummy Room. Clearly no pictures allowed in any of these and pictures in the main galleries, while permitted are poor as the lighting is inadequate to show any more than you can find on the web. The repeated comment on the museum is that the collection is incredible, wonderful, priceless and enormous. The museum is in lousy condition, the lightning is poor and the labeling approaches nonexistent, so it requires a knowledgeable guide to help understand what you are seeing. The new museum will open in 2020 plus unknown extensions. In the mean time they are putting nothing into the old even though they plan on keeping it open.

In our rest time we walked to a nearby (?) garden  where met several locals and then took a walk to the Cairo Tower. Someday I must write a blog about using Google Maps in a foreign city with no wifi and a tired brain trying to get around. We hired a taxi for the last lap to the garden and then Google maps took us to the closest point of the grounds of the Tower while failing to note there was no access from that spot. We had to walk around 3 blocks to get to the entrance. It was worth it. The pictures from the top – some 62 stories above ground – would be magnificent if the sky were not cloudy with vapor and pollution.  

In the morning we head fro Giza and the Great Pyramid, the first we will see on this trip.

 

Preparing for Travel to Egypt

Yet another tour with OAT (Overseas Adventure Travel) We have mostly been letting days pass with minimal activity. The suitcases are already packed with our travel clothes and gear from the last trip. Preparing our travel phone for Egypt is a matter of recharging the multinational SIM card in it. Mostly we are running down the inventory of perishables in the apartment and thinking of things to put on the list. 

We fly into Cairo, direct from JFK and spend some time there seeing what needs to be seen, then we fly to Luxor for the usual sights there and a home hosted dinner. We may take a balloon ride while there, uh if weather permits we WILL take a balloon ride. From there we board ASIYA DEHABEYA to sail the Nile for 5 days. It is a small sail boat for 16 passengers. We will be slow and relaxed until we reach Aswan where we head for Abu Simbel. From there we fly back to Cairo and take a road trip to Alexandria. the trip ends with return to Cairo and flight back to JFK.on the 26th.

We will gather with family in NY on the 26th and return to Rochester the next day, the 27th. 

In the mean time (or as Steven Colbert would have it “mean while”)  I have delved into Ancestry.com and tracing my family’s genealogy. This is another time sink suitable only for people with no other job, or some might say no other life. For years I have been told that the family name “Goldberg” replaced Sklaroff when my grandfather entered through Ellis Island. I have now seen documentation of at least one member of the family using that name and tracking it back to a parent in Russia. I feel like I put a chip in a brick wall with that find. I also found a 3rd cousin who is tracking similar interests in a different line of the family. I will stop with that there or I will bore everyone with the minutia. 

Watch for my next post from Cairo Egypt (not Illinois).

 

Not a Rant

I still have more to rant about, but will attempt to refrain as I move on to more pleasant subjects. We have been so busy that I have not taken the time to write. I’m not sure anyone really cares how many dinners lunches and brunches we have had this month. Besides, I would have to get out the calendar and would be bored trying to get that all into print.

The major event was a trip to Hamilton where we had a wonderful small cousins gathering to celebrate Aunt Dorothy’s birthday. 96 is wonderful age to reach with sharp mind, and the great beauty she has carried with her as long as I have known her. We had lunch at cousin Marilyn’s home, Al is gone, with Harvey and Leslie and Arnie and Peggy. It was a fun gathering with plenty of reminiscing and sharing of pictures.

After staying the night at Marilyn’s place , we set out for Niagara on the Lake and the Shaw Festival Theater for a performance of GBShaw’s “Man and Superman” with the 3rd act “Don Juan in Hell” included. This started at 11 AM broke for lunch after the 2nd act and resumed at 2:30 finally concluding at about 5:15. It is indeed a long day of theater. And Shaw being Shaw the number of words would have filled two plays of the same duration. The soliloquys in Act 3 were so long that Shaw even had one character comment  that the length of Don Juan’s speeches were very long, twice! It is amazing that that the actors were able to deliver these lengthy lines almost flawlessly. The program notes reference the nature of this play as a marathon or grand opera. It takes stamina on the part of the performers AND the audience. We were thrilled with the performance and delighted to have had the rare opportunity to see this production in full. It was the first of 17 scheduled performances. After a light dinner in town we had a pleasant drive home.

My major time sink this month has been Ancestry.com. Carol and I did DNA testing a couple of years ago and neither of us has taken the time to do anything about it other than to look to see that we are indeed where we thought we were from with no real surprises. I have spent endless hours building the family tree on both the maternal and paternal sides of my family and assisting Carol in starting to build her tree. From my grandparents “down” it has been pretty easy although I have found a couple of cousins I did not know about and the links to many more at the 3rd cousin level who I do not have names or lineage for. Tackling the pedigree side of the tree is more difficult as there are few people around with any memory and much memory cannot be trusted without some documentation. I will need to upgrade my database access to see documents from out of the US and have been putting that off until I have a couple of months in the US to do the work. 

My only comment on the political scene is that I am sick to my stomach with the hate speech from all sides and I fear for future generations of non-white non-European stock in this country. In all my life I have never seen such raw antisemitism expressed by public figures in public venues. If the blame for whatever failures are  fantasized, is placed today on Latinos, Asians, nonwhite immigrants, how long before the Jews join the ranks of scapegoats?

I promised not to rant. . . . . . . .  promise broken, so sorry!!!! 

A Rant

We have been busy with seeing people and dining here and there, even going to see “Once Upon a Time . . . Hollywood” on film and watching Bathtubs Over Broadway on Netflix – do watch it. My head has been buried in politics and questions of Free Speech and “2nd Amendment” rights. I need to get some things off my chest so either close this post right now or come along for the ride.

I will not quote the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States here, it is readily available. I have never owned a handgun, rifle or shotgun and have no intention of doing so.  I do not oppose any one owning and using these weapons. I understand the pleasure of target shooting, I even get the desire to hunt. Some people need rifles or shot guns to protect themselves from wild animals or even to euthanize wild animals that are injured. All of these needs can be fulfilled with weapons that can fire at most 6 shots on a reload (I am basing that on the 6 shot revolver). I see no purpose in high capacity magazines, upwards of 200 rounds! other than engaging in a fire fight with similarly armed people or to commit mass murder. We must start  by banning the possession of  magazines greater than will fit within the body of the weapon. By that I mean anyone possessing such magazines will be first subjected to fines and then to imprisonment for subsequent offenses. Put this together with the bumpstock ban and we have a start. Background checks are nice, but don’t solve a thing nor do Red Flag laws. Bad guys with evil intent will find their way around those because there are already so many weapons in circulation. 

As an RVer who often boondocks and camps amid other RVers who I don’t know, my only safety concern is the paranoia of a fellow camper with a high powered weapon who fires it and misses leaving his missile to pass through the walls of my RV on its way to oblivion. My only weapon is a 380 horsepower diesel engine ready to start and be underway out of Dodge in minutes.

End of 2nd Amendment rant – for now.

Free Speech; I may have bitten off more than I realized, but here goes.

I am not looking into laws abridging freedom of religion or the press also significant aspects of the First amendment. “Congress shall make no law . . . or abridging the freedom of speech . . . ” This limits what Congress can do, not what private parties or states can do. Further many states (I have not researched this fully) have similar clauses in their constitutions. As I understand this there is no way under Federal law to ban or punish hate speech. Anyone can stand in the public square and proclaim whatever hateful ideology they choose so long as they to not incite violence. If they can find a publisher willing to print it, they can  have it printed and distributed by those willing to distribute it. Let’s give Facebook and YouTube and 8chan the benefit of the doubt that they are “the press” and thus are free to distribute what they choose in hate, porn, lies. They are also free to refuse to publish. We are free to refrain from supporting them by refusing to use their service. It does seem a stretch, but if several million people abstained from Facebook for a week they might take notice. 

I do not have any great hope that I will see the day when any of what I propose will actually happen. We are divided and afraid, we have been raised with hate for the “other” and when I note I am driving through El Paso I hear from friends and readers that it is dangerous because it is so close to Mexico. One not so small fact; the white folk invaded Mexico and carved out the state of Texas which had a substantial local population also New Mexico, California and Arizona. We are the invaders! 

I warned you. 

Keeping Busy

We continued our rather active lifestyle for another week. After a lovely cocktail hour with Berch and Roselyn on Monday we set out Tuesday to drive to the Berkshires to meet Toby and David, classmates from Brown, for a couple of nights in a VRBO in Washington MA. It’s a good thing we are used to backwoods/backroads isolation. This place was was back in the Berkshire Hills, the last 1/4 mile was a dirt road. The house was built by the owner who maintains a wood working shop over the garage – accessible from the second floor of the house. It is clear he is still working on improvements. All the wood was sourced from his lot. 

Although we had come to enjoy the solitude and quiet of the woods, we also were committed to sampling the cultural offerings available within a 30 minute drive. We started with a lovely dinner in Lenox , Zinc Bistro, followed by a classical guitar performance by Milos.

A selfie to give a sense of the distance to the stage, we were halfway back on the lawnWe had lawn seats at Ozawa Hall and were able to see him (just as well as the blurry picture shows) as well as hear quite clearly. Wednesday morning it appeared that rain was likely so we set out for Williamstown MA to the Clark Museum which Carol and I had not visited in many years. Oh my! What a change. We started with Ida O’Keefe, Georgia’s sister, and learned a lot about sibling rivalry. We took the trail up from there to another venue to explore the  history of the Venice Biennial. It would have meant much more had we been been following it for the years. 

As we left that venue it started to pour, but as luck would have it a shuttle bus appeared at the door to return us to the other buildings where we ate in the Cafe and viewed the Permanent collection before moving on to the Renoir Exhibit. At some point we entered a gallery featuring  a sound installation with 40 speakers ranked around the room, each cluster of 5 representing part of a choir. The 40 Part Motet was quite an experience with the ability to move from voice to voice and experience the sound from within the choir rather than as an external audience. 

Back to the house where we refreshed before heading off to Jacobs Pillow Dance where we attended the free performance which on this particular day was Ice Dance, yes you read that right Ice Dance in July at Jacobs Pillow. It was a rain day so they moved it indoors! The ice rink was a special plastic and the performers did indeed dance on the rink

We went from there to Dream Away Lodge closer to the house for dinner. This old roadhouse has a rather limited menu, but we all found good food to eat and adjourned to a side room where a casual group of guitarists were playing as much to amuse themselves as the audience which was mostly us. Carol and I did get up and dance to one of the numbers.

We retired to the house and slept soundly until morning when we started to pack and reminisce over breakfast. We had one more stop planned, Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge MA. Somehow the house kept calling us back and each of us had to return to pick up something forgotten. We arrived in time to attend a talk on the history of the Saturday Evening Post covers for which he was most famous. The museum is celebrating its 50th anniversary with an exhibit “Woodstock to the Moon 50 Years of Illustration” to do it justice view the website in the link. 

We parted at the museum Toby and David eventually headed East, back to Rhode Island, and we headed West to unpack, clean up and go out to dinner with Freddy and Marvin. We planned on a relaxing Friday to recover for our next round of activity starting Saturday morning with breakfast at the Public Market with Rohma and Josh and cocktails and dinner with more friends. I think Carol said we have another day of rest on Monday. Oh right, breakfast with Rudin counsins.

Tour Guide

We had a visit from our friends from Jojoba Hills, Greg and Mary Beth. They arrived late afternoon and we picked them up at their hotel to visit our apartment and go out to dinner. Somehow I immediately slipped into tour guide mode and had to take the long way around to the apartment. Since the actual route was a straight line, it was a a bit of a meander along River Road though Genesee Valley Park and Mt Hope Cemetary (or was that Tueday?) We finally decided on dinner at The Dinosaur Barbecue, rated by most sources as the #1 restaurant in Rochester. I would argue the rating, but

not that it is the very best barbecue in the state and one of my favorites. Someday I’ll have to order something besides the brisket plate. Tuesday we I picked them up while first dropping Carol off to an unavoidable appointment. We went to Lock 32, one of several  Erie Canal locks near Rochester. After watching a couple of boats lock though upstream (west bound), we picked Carol up and headed up toward Charlotte at Lake Ontario. By now I was in full flow, spouting history and stories of Rochester like one of the seasoned tour leaders we enjoy so much in our travels. I kept surprising myself as I took turns that even i had forgotten I knew, like Boxart Street off Lake Ave to get to Turning Point Park where we walked down to the board walk along the river. Carol made it down and back up just fine.

Turning Point Park on the Genesee River. Carol, Greg, Mary Beth

Lunch was at The Port of Rochester Terminal building at Bill Gray’s. We were shocked at how high the water is, overflowing in places where it seemed least likely. We have been hearing the lake shore people complaining and are certainly aware of how high the lake is, but to see it was another thing. The east pier on the river is almost completely submerged. Our path took us though Durand Eastman Park, up to Empire Boulevard and down into the neck of land where Irondequoit Bay meets Irondequoit creek that is flowing from Ellison Park. I was defeated in finding parking as the public lot was underwater. From there we returnied to the apartment with some digressions to rest up for dinner.  After an hour break we headed out to Wegman’s where they needed to do some minor shopping. While we were in the store, Carol booked a table at TRATA (The Restaurant At The Armory). We avoided expressways and took some residential roads that eventually brought us into yet another park, Cobbs Hill, which was teaming with baseball players of all sizes and abilities. After dinner, which was very nice, it was collapse time for all, but first we drove around the Cobbs Hill Reservoir which was crowded with people enjoying the pleasant evening and the view of the city skyline before dropping them back at the hotel and going  home to sleep.  

The remaining must see on the list was the George Eastman Museum. We met in the parking lot and entered in time to join a wonderful docent lead tour. I have often said I could give the mansion tour having been in and around it most of my life, but Shari brought some fresh insights and I found myself enjoying the tour. After lunch in the cafe, we went through the galleries rather quickly and said our goodbyes as Greg and Mary Beth went out the door to the parking lot.

I finally stopped talking and thinking about where to next. this guiding shtick would be a lot easier if I had a planned and timed route, but it would not have been as much fun for me. If any of you readers from out o f town want to tour the places I have described, come and visit, but you had better hurry as we will be gone early September. 

 

Seeing the World/Seeing the US