Deaf travels – Egypt

20 07 2007

I went to Egypt last week and it was the best holiday ever. When I booked the trip, I told the travel agency I’m deaf. They were great, and said they would inform the Kuoni tour rep personally. I didn’t really know what to do about flight restrictions, what items could be carried on board or not, as I couldn’t find the information online before I left home. Walking through security check in, I realised lots of people were carrying clear plastic bags with liquid items in them. Ooerrr. In my bag I had insect repellent, sunblock, contact lens solution, and water. I walked straight through, no questions asked. Hmmmmm.

When I arrived in Luxor, the tour rep told me to go to coach number 5 for the hotel transfer. Unfortunately there were two coaches with number 5 on the front. Of course, I got on the wrong one. Fortunately, the rep came looking for me and off we went to the hotel. During the transfer, she explained to the group that she needs to look at me when speaking so I can lip read her. She sat next to me and faced in the opposite direction, facing me and the group, and checked I could follow what she said. Very good!

The Sheraton, the hotel I had booked to stay in, had just had a fire in their kitchen, so we were transferred to the Nile Palace. That evening I had dinner on the hotel terrace, overlooking the Nile, watching the sun set, which was grand, except the pesky waiter kept asking me where I was from, how long I was there for, what had I done that day…. I wasn’t really in the mood for all the ‘err what’s that you said? sorry?’ You can watch feluccas and all sorts of boats sail down the Nile from the hotel terrace or from your room balcony. There’s a fantastic view from the rooftop of the Nile Palace hotel, if you don’t mind their pesky waiters.

The next day I transferred to the Sheraton and it is a much nicer hotel, smaller but smarter rooms, fewer children, and the staff were professional yet friendly. This hotel is also next to the Nile and has a nice pool.

Out for an evening of entertainment Egyptian-style, an all-you-can-eat-and-drink bash : for me, that’s a lot, hehehe! I watched a belly dancer shimmer around the tent…

… and some amazing dancing, accompanied by traditional music….

… getting into the party spirit, I rode a little camel along the river, then got started on the beer, a lovely light local Stella, very more-ish. As the night wore on, I tried smoking some sheesh (hookah) and it was ….. disgusting! It’s a very popular past time in what passes for the local coffee shops.

The snake charmer and his snake had us all spooked, the snake wasn’t cold like I thought it would be, it was warm and sickeningly dry and slithery. The entertainment was good, two men dressed up as a horse came in at one point and gave people rides, ditching the odd heavy rider, the kids absolutely loved it.

Musicians were playing all evening and I got rather tired of the local screech-dit-dit-ditty-dit-screech, but I *did* have a go myself! I went for a horse ride around Luxor for a few hours, through the surrounding countryside and even through the souk, ducking and diving under the garments hanging from above! I thought someone’s stall would get knocked over as there was barely room for a horse to get past sometimes, but there were no problems.

I passed an Egyptian wedding party which was very noisy and colourful. On the street you could see colourful piles of wood shavings, in bright red, blue, yellow, pink – these are used instead of confetti at weddings. The horses did not look particularly well cared for and their tack was in poor condition, so I tried to walk or take taxis after that ride. The local people were friendly and when I explained that I couldn’t hear, it didn’t bother them at all and they made great efforts to be understood. I didn’t buy any souvenirs, but some very kind shopkeepers gave me free gifts of jewellery as I browsed. These people have such big hearts and they *love* a joke. One waiter asked me for my room number so he could charge my beer bill, when I gave it to him, he looked puzzled and said, with a totally serious expression on his face, ‘but that’s MY room’ – I replied ‘sorry but it’s mine, I got there first’….

The temple of Luxor was worth a visit but it’s best to go at night when it is beautifully lit. I got plenty of hassle for baksheesh (tips) and this is where being deaf came in handy, for once! This temple is dedicated to the creator-god Amun. The huge statues at the entrance are of Ramses II. The temple itself largely dates to 1350 BC. While I was there, the muezzin at the mosque nearby started calling and I jumped out of my skin, it was so loud!

Across the Nile lies the Theban Necropolis, the royal cemetery which lies in the desert. Queen Hatshepsut’s temple was an impressive sight. She was the queen who made herself pharaoh, and the temple is dedicated to the cow-headed goddess Hathor. The temple is in poor condition as it was ruined by her jealous successors, Thuthmosis III and Amenophis IV.

The Colossi of Memnon sit at the edge of the cornfields. They once guarded the entrance to the mortuary temple of Amenophis III. They are made of carved blocks of quartzite and still intact although faceless.

In the Valley of the Kings there are over 70 tombs and I visited four of them with a guide who spoke very fast and heavily accented English – I gave up lip reading her after a while.

I visited the tombs of Ramses IV, Ramses IX, Ramses III, and my favourite, King Tut. The tomb of King Tutankhamun still has its’ granite coffin in the burial chamber.

Inside the tombs the carved scenes are very colourful and well-preserved, depicting the good things of life that the pharaoh will need in the afterlife. Photography inside the tombs is not allowed although you can buy photos there. Oops, did they say not allowed? What was that again, I didn’t quite catch it…?

The royal mummies have been removed, restored and placed on display in Cairo’s Egyptian museum. So….. off I went to Cairo!

Cairo is a huge huge city and very polluted. Luxor is a much better holiday base. I made my way to Giza (I was totally ignoring the guide by this time) and I caught my first sight of the pyramids, the last surviving remains of the Seven Wonders of the World.

It’s 4,500 years later and they still inspire awe. I wonder what the market price is for an apartment in Giza – ‘one bedroom apartment with balcony, pyramid number 2 is in your back garden (no weeding required)’

At the base of the pyramids, there were a lot of local people hanging around trying to sell things, which rather spoiled the moment. You can actually enter the pyramids themselves, and climb down into the burial chamber in the centre. I couldn’t stop laughing as I felt like Indiana Jones, climbing inside the pyramid of Khephren. It was hotter inside the pyramid than outside, and the air was rank. The tunnels were so small that everyone was doubled over, I wonder how they fit all the large items into the burial chamber – perhaps it’s like the ship in the bottle, or even an ancient version of IKEA – flat-pack your next life away! The pharaoh’s red granite sarcophagus is still in the burial chamber. This pyramid still has some white limestone facing on the top – all the pyramids originally had this smooth finish, but it was removed in the Middle Ages to build houses in Cairo.

The Sphinx is the mystic guardian of the pyramids. The head is said to be that of Khephren, and the nose was shattered by Mameluke Turks using it for target practice. It is being restored at the base where it looks conspicuously new.

Final pit stop, the Egyptian museum. This museum is huge with more than 100,000 pieces of art, a lot of it 4,000 or 5,000 years old. It’s very hot inside as there is no air conditioning. The information provided around the museum is poor but it’s still worth a visit. In the Mummy Room, the 27 famous pharaohs lie as if asleep – skin, hair and nails intact just like the Irish bog people! They were small people, about 5 feet tall, and very thin. In Tut’s room, I marvelled at all his gold, shiny new and bright, larger than life. I could imagine how imposing King Tut must have been, wearing all this oversized gold jewellery, sitting on his gold throne, with gold sandals and gloves. His gold coffins and huge bejewelled death mask took my breath away.

On my last day, other tourists I met said the hotel’s Egyptian facials were wonderful, so I decided to try one. I went into a small salon in the grounds with 2 fellas on the reception desk watching every move. The woman wore hijab but thankfully no veil, or I would not have been able to lip read her, and she told me to sit at the sink. No, I don’t want a hair wash, I want a facial. I was told to sit on a chair and then something unintelligible was said, I don’t know what. One of the men came over and gestured that I had to move down in the chair. I won’t go into details but the woman obviously didn’t know what she was doing. So I spent 20 minutes sat on the edge of a chair with the crick of my neck on the back of it. It set off my scoliosis, ouch. I left and hobbled over to the hotel building and booked myself in for a massage with their German therapist. Now I was ready for the joys of sitting in a tin can airplane for 5 hours.

I was told by a number of people that they thought I was brave travelling on my own. Why do people think this? There weren’t many tourists when I visited Egypt as it was hot, 40C and climbing, too hot for most. My flight home was delayed by 3 hours. The air stewardess asked if I needed assistance at Gatwick and was there anything I needed whilst on board. Realising I am deaf, the lady next to me told me what the crew announcements were and kept me updated. Before take-off, the crew asked everyone to cover their noses and mouths, and walked up and down the passageways spraying fly spray into the air. Several people were sick and one person passed out during the flight. We arrived at Gatwick around midnight, but luckily a lovely family I met in Egypt lived close by in London and they gave me a lift home. I came home with conjunctivitis (seems there was too much chlorine in the hotel swimming pool), to no food in the fridge, and to a barrage of messages – my poor dog had been taken to the vet for sedation as he got a spiky grass seed in his ear which needed surgical removal. Welcome home.

I’d recommend a holiday in Egypt. Go on, step into the desert and step back in time. But be careful which suncream you take. I took sunblock factor 50+ and came back all stripey.



2 responses

20 07 2007

Nice pictures, enjoyed reading your holiday travels.

“I was told by a number of people that they thought I was brave travelling on my own”

Sigh! Did you tell em you lost your carer and need some help bathing, feeding and winding!

26 07 2007

Well, it is a brave thing to do. Although I do say that it’s just like visiting another city in the UK for the most part.

Egypt I enjoyed visiting there, and been to some of the places Tina’s been. The walking sellers at hotspots are a huge pest and is quite difficult to deal with them when they get desperate.

As for them loving jokes, I wholeheartedly agree! I work with Egyptians and they always mock you – in a very pleasant way.

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