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Flickr has been improved! Almost all photos on this blog come from my Flickr Photostream. You can now go directly to a page that shows all of my Flickr photo sets by following this link. It's the easiest way to navigate in my on-line photos.


Saturday, February 23, 2019

Return to Al-Yemeni for Coffee

Al-Yemeni remains the best place to buy coffee in Egypt.  Located downtown, they have a wide selection of beans and will grind them for you or let you take them away whole.  Plan to wait; there is almost always a long line.
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I usually buy a half-kilo at a time.  You can sample the beans before you buy.  Prices are quite reasonable, around $5-6 per pound - try the Ethiopian!  Or, go with a traditional Colombian.
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Annual Gasoline Price Post

The price for 92 octane gasolline (88 octane U.S) - also known as regular unleaded, rose from 5 EGP per liter to 6.75 EGP per liter over the past year.  Figuring in the current exchange rate of 17.5 EGP to the dollar gives us a price of:

$1.46 per gallon.

Prices are approaching "market level" - in fact they are now at market for Premium.

Here's the picture of a gas pump
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and this is the typical staff - this pair is from the Taqa station just down the street - but the price is the same at all stations including the military-owned ones.
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Typically there are two or three attendants taking care of each lane of cars, with one filling and the others washing or wiping the windshield.

Notice the wad of cash in the attendant's hand for payment and change.  Would this system work in your town?  I have never seen a credit card used at the pump here.
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Friday, February 22, 2019

Two Days in the Delta - The Suez Canal at Ismailia

We had finished touring Tanis by 2:30 and could have easily made it back to Cairo in about three more hours. That makes for a long day in the car so we planned to make an overnight stop at Isamilia.  This would let me check off an item on my personal "bucket list," a visit to the Suez Canal.

We hadn't eaten since breakfast, so we stopped in the village of San el-Hagar just beyond the new mosque under construction and picked up some bread items at this bakery.  We bought enough for the members of the police escort as well.
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It should have taken about an hour and a half to reach Ismailia but attempts to follow the directions of "the lady in the phone" - we had now named her Magda - proved frustrating to our police escort.  They had a different route in mind.  It seems that they were heading for Cairo and would hand us over to a new escort along their planned route.  This detour is shown on the map below by the purple line.  By the time we were actually on the road into Ismailia, we were only about an hour and a half away from Cairo.

This route took us through the rich farmland of the delta including some areas where greenhouse plants are grown - probably the source of some of the year-round tomato crop that is so plentiful here.
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Once we reached Ismailia, we consulted with "Magda" and looked at the local traffic signs for a suitable hotel.
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The Mercure is a modern facility on an island in the lake that adjoins the Suez Canal.  They had plenty of rooms in this winter season and we got a corner room on the third floor with a spectacular view of both the canal and the sunset.
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Checking the various on-line guides, we determined that the best place for a fish dinner would be at Hassan Abo Ali.  We were not disappointed.  I chose the grilled Mullet, my favorite Egyptian fish and Linda had the Sea Bass.  We tried the appetizer plate of gambarie (shrimp) and while these were better than last year's sample at Alexandria, they just don't measure up to Alabama gulf shrimp.
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In the morning we had a nice buffet breakfast including omelettes cooked to order and relaxed  on the beach.
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As we left the hotel, one of the entrepreneurs in the neighborhood was cleaning our windshield.  He was working very hard at it but needed a much cleaner rag which Roshdy supplied.
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We located a very nice observation point at the Aldenfah Beach Club right on the canal.  It is always wise to proceed with caution in a situation like this.  The Egyptian military does not like pictures taken of them, their facilities, or even strategic points like bridges.  Inquiring at the ticket window (it costs a foreigner 100 EGP to get in - 50 for a local) we were told that no cameras were allowed but pictures could be taken with a cellphone.  We paid up and entered.

There were not many guests inside and only one of the ever-popular waffle houses was operating.
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The view of ships passing by was excellent since they were only about a hundred feet in front of us.
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You might not have thought about it, but the standardized shipping container is arguably the most important invention of the past 75 years except for the computer.  Economist Marc Levinson makes the case in this book.

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This particular container ship passing through the canal from north to south is the Adrian Maersk.  By coincidence, there is a time-lapse video of the same ship making the entire hundred-mile trip in the opposite direction that can be viewed here.
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If you are curious about what the fees are for a ship passing through, there is an on-line calculator here.  You will have to supply your own estimates for the cargo weight but can use the ship's data from the previous link.  I am guessing around $100,000 to $200,000 for this load.  I'll also guess there are about 2000 containers on board.  You do the math from there.  There is an interesting article on the economics of the canal here - low current fuel prices offer an alternative to tolls for tankers.


We departed Ismailia around noon.  Our police escort rejoined us for the trip up the four and five-lane highways toward Cairo.  They flashed their lights and finally dropped off as we approached the metropolitan area at the outer Ring Road.
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If you were wondering, Ismailia is named for Le Khedive Ismail, one of Egypt's governors who worked hard at modernization in the late nineteenth century.
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Two Days in the Delta - Exploring Tanis

 After the two hours of slow meanderings over many a speed-bump and through numerous small towns, we arrived at a gate with hieroglyphic inscriptions on the supporting pillars and an Arabic inscription, "Welcome to San el-Hagar," at the top.
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Welcome, indeed, to one of the former capitals of Egypt!  We proceeded to the entrance of the archeological site where we paid the 25 Egyptian Pound entrance fee (about a dollar and a half) - the lowest fee we have seen anywhere for several years.

I photographed the map posted above the ticket window to record it for later translation.
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This is one of the most important archeological sites in Egypt because of four untouched tombs that were discovered here in 1939-40.  While the treasures from those tombs are no longer here (we'll catch up to them in Cairo after a bit) the site is littered with columns, obelisks and pieces of statues.

Early French archeologists from Napoleon's era unearthed some treasures from the area, but it was Pierre Montet who spent over twenty years systematically exploring, excavating and cataloging the ancient city.  Montet spent nearly ten years in exploration before he turned up the first of four unmolested burial sites in March of 1939.  He uncovered the last major grave-site in February of 1940.

Of course, in between those dates, Germany declared war and invaded France; Italy attacked Egypt and the world's attention shifted away from archeology.  (See our blog posts from last year at El-Alamein and vicinity.) It's important to note that this site and its treasures are equal in importance and value to Carter's discovery of King Tut's tomb. If the war had not taken media preference, we would likely all know about this site and its Pharaohs as their treasures travel to various museums throughout the world, just as Tut's treasures do today.

There is an excellent French language video about Montet, his career and discoveries (but with horrible English subtitles) on YouTube worth watching.  Perhaps someone with good French language skills will translate it for us and leave the text in the comments to this post or, give us a proper audio translation to post here.

As we entered the gate, we glanced at the now closed "old museum" and some of the items from it, standing against a building and wondered if this trip was going to be a big disappointment.
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Then we walked down a hill toward the huge open field and were overwhelmed.
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Here Linda shows us how deep some of the Hieroglyphs are.  This was done to make it harder to erase a previous king's name and substitute your own, something that was often done when new pharaohs came into power.  In fact, the Tanis kings usurped the statues of quite a few earlier kings.   They made sure this wasn't going to happen to them later.
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The ability to wander through these stone treasures without a crowd of other tourists makes the trip up to Tanis worth a day of anyone's time.
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Accompanying us on the tour, besides some security personnel was Ezzat, the local site guide.  Ezzy was very knowledgeable and patient as he showed us around.  He pointed out that he is world famous as he is mentioned in the Lonely Planet Guide to Egypt.  (It's true.)  He also mentioned that he had the key to the tomb of Osorkon but that we would need the permission of "the minister" to enter.  As is usual in this country, that red tape was easily cut and we toured the tomb.
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Ezzy unlocked the gate and we cautiously entered the tomb.
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As always, the tomb was empty, but the painting and hieroglyphs on the walls were notable and with some original color.
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Like many tourist sites in this country, this one continues to be explored.  The French are still working here and have a project planned to reconstruct one of the statues that has been found in pieces.
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If you would like more information about Tanis' history, try this Tour Egypt page and follow the links.

For more information about Pierre Montet the pickings are slim in English - but this author's page at Good Reads has a good synopsis. New World Encyclopedia also has an article.  If the name of Tanis sounds vaguely familiar, it is because the career and explorations of Montet served (very loosely) as the inspiration for the movie, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark.