Monday, 30 March 2009

Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens....

3000 years ago the Egyptian Pharaohs lived on the east bank of the Nile but when they died they wanted to be buried on the west bank where the sun set, believing that, like the sun, they would be resurrected. The imposing limestone hills were the obvious place for their tombs and so were born the Valley's of the Kings and Queens.

From the moment a new Pharaoh was crowned his tomb was begun - so those who survived many years like Ramses II, who lived to be 92, had huge tombs with many chambers - whilst those like Tutankhamen who only ruled for 9 years had much smaller tombs. These tombs told the story of the Pharaoh's life, in hieroglyphics, and contained everything he would need for his journey into the next life. When a Pharaoh died his priests had 70 days in which to mummify and entomb him. Then the tomb for the next Pharaoh would be started.

The Valley of the Kings is huge, absolutely massive, containing 64 tombs so far discovered, with many more the Egyptologists who work there know are yet to be found. The work is slow and painstaking as they always restore existing tombs before excavating a new one. There are only 2 or 3 tombs open to the public at any one time and unfortunately no photos are allowed in them - and my words cannot possibly do justice to the magnificent engravings and paintings in there. The paint is 3000 years old and yet in some it appears as if completed only yesterday. Over the years most of the tombs were plundered, only Tutankhamen's was discovered intact, and they are now empty apart from the sarcophagus. The Mummies are mostly in the museum in Cairo. Its difficult to describe the eerie feeling standing inside one of these tombs, even with dozens of other tourists, the sense of the ancient civilization who lived and worked there is overwhelming.

The Valley of the Queens is much smaller, but contains the best preserved tomb - that of a young Prince. It is very small having been hurriedly constructed within the 70 days allowed, but the paint and engravings in there are brilliant - so bright and vibrant - telling the sad story of a young life. It was very moving being in there and having the hieroglyphics deciphered for us by our guide, Mamal.

It was also very hot. And hard work walking around on the uneven ground and queuing to get into each tomb. But the feeling of being there is something I will never, ever forget - I touched the tomb where a long forgotten Pharaoh died thousands of years ago.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

A bomb hoax, a broken plane and a sandstorm....

......all conspired against us to keep us in Egypt for an extra 24 hours. But we didnt mind. We had an extra day of lazing around the pool, eating, drinking and just relaxing - which is just what we needed after 7 days of charging around Egypt at an unholy pace.

It is said the British love queuing. We seemed to spend the whole week queuing for one thing or another and it started at Gatwick airport. The queue to get through 'security' wound, snake like, all through the terminal. We had arrived in plenty of time thinking we could have breakfast before our flight, only to spend that time, over an hour, waiting in the queue for security. Once through we thought we could sit down for half an hour and have a cup of coffee, but no, a sign informed us we still had a 20 minute walk to our gate. What is it with Gatwick? Why is everything so far away? I longed for my intimate little Birmingham airport as we yomped down to gate 23 which seemed to be in the next county. Everything went pretty smoothly after that, flight was on time and 5 and a half hours later we were landing at Luxor - where, even at 6pm, it was hot. Very hot. Yet more queuing to obtain a visa and get through immigration, a short coach ride, and we arrived at our boat - the MS Da Vinci.

When we were in Turkey we were surprised at the number of gulets cruising around and similarly here we were surprised at the number of river boats moored up. There must have been dozens of them, all basically the same build - 3 floors of acommodation and a top deck with a pool for sunbathing. Shortage of moorings meant that these boats often had to moor along side each other meaning we would have to walk across others to reach ours. And they all look very similar. So similar in fact that on the first night one chap off our boat got slightly confused and ended up having dinner on another boat and it was only when he tried to get into his cabin later he realised his mistake !

Our cabin was on the lower deck, 'down with the bilge rats' as Martin put it, but it was very nice, quite spacious with a big window. When we opened the curtains we had a shock though as the water level came right up to the window, in fact it lapped over it, so our room was below water level !

Meals were at set times, on the same table sharing with the same people so we were slightly concerned who we would end up with. We struck lucky with a lovely group of people, similar sense of humour, and we ending up looking forward to having a gossip and a laugh with them. The food that night was disappointing to say the least. It did improve slightly during the week but on the whole it wasnt a patch on the food we have had on other cruises.
After dinner there was a meeting to explain the excursions we would be going on during the week and the fact most of them required an early start - very early in some cases. The next day was Valley of the Kings and our wake up call was at 6am so at 10pm we retired to our sub-aqua cabin to get some much needed sleep. It had been a long day.......

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Have feet will travel....

Remember when you were in your teens and would buy a new pair of very high heels and wear them all day and night and even go dancing in them? You may have got the odd blister but that was all. Comfort didn't come into it. It was how they looked that was important. And it still is for me, to some extent anyway. So it really didn't help when Catherine called my new, sensible and quite expensive shoes my 'Granny shoes'. Apart from the few occasions when I have gone out at night, for the past 2 years I have worn Uggs during the winter (soooo comfy) and flip flops in the summer. So my feet, even when not sore from Sutent, are pretty tender.

Hence my 'comfortable' shoes for our trip down the Nile. Except they arn't. Comfortable that is. Ive been wearing them on and off for the past week - without socks, with socks - and they hurt. All over. They are supposed to be the most comfortable shoes on the market - air sprung, flexi sole, but as far as Im concerned I may as well be wearing the box they came in. Im going to persevere with them, Ive got to. Hopefully if Im struggling there will be a handy camel for me to jump on !

Tomorrow I start cycle 11 of Sutent. I cant believe its been a year since I started taking it. And how lucky I am that it worked - and is still working. Ive had a lovely week off and am really looking forward to whatever Egypt has to throw at me - literally ! A couple of friends of ours have just returned from the same trip and had a few cautionary words - the heat (its 39 degrees there right now), the smell (not nice apparently) and they both suffered from upset tummies (situation normal for me then!) But it will be an experience, and one I have wanted to do for years now. And if it goes well and I cope well - who knows what I can plan to do next?

Monday, 2 March 2009

The Land of Cleopatra

Ive had a couple of 'upsey-downsey' months since Christmas. But finally, after doing 5 weeks on my last cycle of Sutent, Im feeling really well. Really, really well in fact. No pain, fatigue has gone and my hands are healing nicely. Which is a good job because, and this is the reason I did an extra week of Sutent, in 2 weeks time Martin and I are off to Egypt. To cruise down the Nile and see all the historical sites and temples and pyramids !

Im so excited. This is something Ive always wanted to do, Ive always been fascinated by the ancient Egyptians, but I really didnt think I would be capable of doing it now. Its quite a strenuous trip with a lot of walking, very early starts, and little time to rest. But Im so determined to do it.

Ive even bought myself a pair of 'sensible' shoes (from Clarks - a shop I havnt set foot in since the children were young) especially for this trip !