Egypt 2004

Was in Egypt one week in December 2004. Charter trip. Just to see how the sun looks like. In Bergen the sun has left us. It's poring down month after month, to an unimaginable level.

Egypt was quite pleasant, despite the degree of harassment on the streets. From poor arabs asking for money. However, after a couple of days you get used to the hassle, and simple ignore the screaming hordes (or follow the Lonely planet guide advise: "Ya russki" (I'm russian = have no money). But the weather was OK, with temperatures up to 25°C during the day. Nights were quite cold, though, with temperatures dropping to 10-15°C.

Spent 5 days in Sharm El-Sheik on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula. This city is a typical tourist destination, built from the ground (or more correctly the sand) in the last 30 years. But sometimes it is OK with a typical tourist resort, with fine restaurants and an easy living. The most impressive aspect of Sharm El-Sheik was the Red Sea. Outside the city, it is only sand and mountains. Nothing grows in this desolate desert. Wonder how people survived here earlier? Not strange that Abraham left this peninsula in vain (if we are going to believe in what's written in the Bible).


The 11 kg golden mask of Tutankhamun, covering the mummy of this pharaoh king who ruled Egypt in the years 1336-1327 BC. Egyptian Museum, Cairo


Sharm El-Sheik, Sinai Peninsula, Egypt


But beneath the sea surface, an entire new world emerges. With thousands of fishes, beautiful coral reefs, and a transparent salty blue sea. I spent a long day snorkeling in the Ras Mohammed National Park. A very pleasant experience indeed.

Later I even did two scuba dives in the Red Sea. My first one's in years. Had to refresh some basic diving knowledge, but the company who organized the dives, did the necessary things to ensure I didn't drown. But who cares about the dive tables anyway?


Water pipe


Sharm El-Sheik at night


Ras Mohammed National Park, with a blue giant clam Tridacna maxima


Yepp, yepp, many species here...


Rusty parrotfish Scarus ferrugineus


The Cliff's at Ras Mohammed National Park



Snorkeling trip to Ras Mohammed National Park

Sunday. Up early. Bought a snorkeling trip to this famous, and often described as one of the best diving sites in the world. With some of the world's most brilliant and amazing underwater scenery.

"The crystal-clear water, the rare and lovely reefs and the incredible variety of exotic fish darting in and out of the colorful coral have made this a snorkeling and scuba-diving paradise, attracting people from all over the world."

We did two stops this Sunday. First we spent about one hour in the sea at the last formation west of the labyrinthine coral complex at Alternatives, a place called Stingray Station. Called so because one usually see many types of rays here. We saw two species; the blue-spotted stingray Dasyatis kuhlii and the blue-spotted ribbontail ray Taeniura lymma. And probably more than one hundred other colorful species of tropical reef fishes. The background of even more colorful corals, with the bluish giant clam in between, was equally impressive. I didn't get any photos, since my cheap, underwater camera was leaking...



The next stop was at a place called Jackfish Alley, not too far from Shark Observatory. This was maybe an even more splendid place to snorkel. This time I left the floating west in the boat, and was able to free dive down to 6-8 meters. Lots of fish species also here.

To be able to scuba dive in the national park, you need to have at least the "Advanced diver" course. They don't allow people with only the "Open water diver" course to scuba dive at this place. But due to the clear blue water snorkeling is also very rewarding. Absolutely a place I can recommend.

The company that organized the trip made a dvd, filming some of the encountered fishes (and the tourists) throughout the day. Some snapshots from the film can be seen below.


Bluespotted ribbontail ray Taeniura lymma

Anemonefish Amphiprion sp.


Young Olsvik free-diving down to maybe 7 meters

Colorful corals


Lunch on board the snorkeling boat


Nice weather


Also spent two days in Cairo, the capital of Egypt. Had to take a bus ride from Sharm El- Sheik to Cairo, about 500 km through the Sinai Desert. Cairo is one of the biggest city's of the world, with about 20 mill. citizens. Crowded, in other words, and with one of the worst driving cultures in the world. It is also very polluted, with the classical, big city haze and ozone laden air.

But anyway, I had the opportunity to visit the National Museum of Egypt; the Egyptian Museum, with all the great stuff representing this country's impressive history. The main focus in the museum is of course all the great items found by Howard Carter in 1922 from the Tutankhamun grave in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor. Especially the golden death mask of the young pharaoh, probably one of most epic items in the world today. But it was interesting to see the mummies of several pharaohs and their wife's at the museum, even if we had to spend an additional 70 Egyptian pounds to see them. I'm pretty sure Ramses II, one of the mightiest pharaohs of all time, didn't want tourists and everybody else to watch his stiff being displayed for amusement and lying as a freak at the museum today. Poor man, he built this massive tomb for himself. To ensure his mind was ready for a new life when his time came, and to prevent desecration of the grave.




The Citadel, Cairo


Khan al-Khalili market, Cairo


Felucca sundowner cruise on the Nile River


Nile River at night


Gaudy finery, Cairo


Donkey riding, Saqqara


The Step Pyramid, Saqqara


The Mereruka Tomb, Saqqara



The pyramids - impressions

First we went to Saqqara, close to Memphis, the ancient capitol of Egypt, and where the first dynasty buried their dead. Most impressive was the Step pyramid, which is 4654 years old, and claimed to be the oldest stone monument in the world (but what about Stonehenge, isn't that supposed to be around 6000 years old?). Other pyramids were also located in this region.

After having seen the tomb of Mereruka, we went into the Teti pyramid, still containing the sarcophagus and filled with hieroglyphs on the walls. Teti was the first pharaoh of the sixth dynasty. After Saqqara we made a short stop in Memphis and got a glimpse of the huge limestone statue of Ramses II and the sphinx made of alabaster depicting the same pharaoh next to it.




The Cheops pyramid, Giza. Very impressive indeed


In Giza we first stopped next to the massive Cheops pyramid, the largest one. It was claimed that one can use the stones of this pyramid to build a two meter high stone fence around the whole of France. Say no more. The cobbles were smaller than I imagined, but are probably weighing some tons. Much of the finer limestone's originally covering the pyramids have been ripped off and reused in other building projects through the centuries. Only the top of the Chephren pyramid still has some of these stones left. Went inside the Mycerinos pyramid, but there was little to see inside the tomb chamber.

The last "big one" at Giza was of course the Sphinx, the (nowadays' nose less) feline man called the Sphinx by the ancient Greeks resembling the mythical winged monster with a woman's head and lion's body who set riddles and killed anyone unable to answer them. It was carved from the natural bedrock downhill of the Cheops pyramid, and most likely portraying this pharaoh. It is unclear who hammered off the nose, but part of his beard is now on display in the British museum in London.


Camel police in front of the Chephren pyramid, Giza


The tourist in front of the Giza pyramids


The Sphinx in front of the Cheops pyramid, Giza


Egyptian museum, Cairo


The Giza police


Ramses II statue at Memphis


After my first scuba dive for years. Nice one


Scuba diving gear

      One last warning: stay away from Egyptian whisky, it tasted like camel pee. How do they make it? Norwegian moonshine tastes better.