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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.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Reminder to Site Visitors

You can click on any of the pictures and you will be taken to our Flickr photo-sharing site.  Pictures there are organized in sets and you can follow or bookmark this link to go view photos.

If you are interested in more of our pyramid pictures, you can put "pyramids" in the search box  at the top of this page and hit "Enter" to find our posts on this blog about various pyramids.

The Pyramids at Abusir - Part II

On this visit, we took a long look at the Abusir Pyramids.  The three prominent pyramids that we photographed on the previous visit are the tombs of Sahure, Nyuserre and Neferirkare Kakai.

That photo was taken from the Northwest.  This time we walked up to the North face of the crumbling pyramid of Sahure.  We learned that the entrance to the burial chambers in all pyramids faces the north, oriented toward the north star.

We also explored a bit of the plazas in front of the pyramid of Nyuserre where some of the better stones carved with hieroglyphics are displayed.

We passed back past Sahure's pyramid as the sun began to set.

Horseback Riding at Abusir

After our lunch and dessert at Abusir, we walked out into the desert to visit the nearby pyramids.  Several riders on horseback passed by.

If you Google the phrase "Horseback Riding at Abusir," you will find a number of people describing their rides through the desert.  We asked about the options at this farm and found that they range from a nearby ride around the pyramids to an overnight trip to the Fayoum oasis.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

How's that Kitten Doing?

Our kitten has responded quite well to his eye-treatment.  We apply a total of four medicines twice a day and just finished his three-day treatment program.  This seems to have cleared up the eye infection and he now has both eyes open and is a much more lively cat.

Here are before and after pictures:

Another Day at Abusir

Our outing to Abusir a few days back was so pleasant that we decided to arrange another visit, this time with a lunch.  Most people were staying close to home on the third anniversary of the revolution and no one that we know was headed downtown to rally in Tahrir Square.  If you would like an update on how the day went, across the country, this is a very good news website.  Follow a few links from there to get the flavor of things.

We know an excellent chef and desert guide, Taha, who has provided the meals on our camping trips described here and here.  Taha cooked lunch for us today at the horse farm in Abusir.  Here he is tending the grill as he slow-cooks a part of the chicken.

Taha had prepared the vegetables, salad and another batch of chicken in advance along with the always abundant rice that accompanies an Egyptian meal.  Linda had requested this potato and vegetable dish that is one of our favorite side dishes here.

The chicken came off the grill and onto the traditional bed of parsley.  It was served with a mixed salad in addition to the vegetable dish.

The table was briefly covered with a feast fit for a pharaoh.

For dessert, Linda had brought along a batch of freshly made brownies which were very favorably received by the chef.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Sad Day in Cairo

Three bombs exploded on the streets of Cairo today. One very serious one, downtown near the police headquarters - and of the very worst kind, a suicide attack, according to this Canadian News Report.

This BBC report says that  an al-Qaeda-inspired militant group has said it carried out the attack on the police headquarters.

At this point, little is known.  We heard nothing and activity continues around this area with the usual reduced traffic typical of a Friday.

This, more recent report from this afternoon, suggests that the first large bomb was not a suicide attack.  As Donald Rumsfeld said, "first reports are almost always wrong."  Note the general reaction toward the Muslim Brotherhood from citizens quoted in all the reports.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Luxor, Before the Revolution and Now

When I was checking on the background of Sarah Benhaida for the post below, I came across an article that she wrote and which appeared in The Nation earlier this month.  There, Ms. Benhaida does a good job of describing the situation of many in the tourism business in Egypt.  Read the whole thing.  Here are some pictures from pre-revolution 2010 to go with the article.

Queen Hatshepsut's temple.

Crowds pass through the major temple complex and a horse carriage waits near the entrance to the shops.

Prices are very good right now.  As the vendor in the article says, “It is so cheap now that you can buy gifts for even those you dislike.”

Here Comes the Anniversary of the Revolution

It is hard to believe that it has been three years since the Egyptian Revolution.  There is considerable discussion among friends about how the anniversary will be celebrated.  The official anniversary is January 25.  But that will be Saturday, and Fridays have become demonstration days.  And last night we heard from a friend that protests and American flag burning had begun downtown on January 22!  Here is a report from that demonstration.

Demonstrators burned US flags during a protest march at Talaat Harb Square in the capital, Cairo, late on Wednesday.

They accused Washington of supporting the military-installed government and chanted slogans against the military.
That link took you to the website of Press TV, a 24-hour TV news network located in the Islamic Repbulic of Iran. 

Were these Muslim Brotherhood members or others?  I certainly don't know.  But I do know that the Brotherhood is not held in very high regard by most folks that we are acquainted with.  Consider a few paragraphs from this article:
The Brotherhood, which has won all elections in post-Mubarak Egypt, is in complete disarray, with its top leadership behind bars and hundreds of members and supporters on the run or living in constant fear.

After several approaches, some of its members finally agreed to meet up with AFP at their homes or cafes in the capital.
"Ibrahim", 23, played host at his residence in a Cairo neighbourhood, but only after assurances that his real name would not be revealed.

At the gate of his building, Ibrahim cast worried looks around him, afraid that the doorman who he suspects of being "close to the security forces" would report him for meeting journalists.

And before he started to talk, his friend Mohamed removed the SIM cards from mobile phones, saying the "security forces can tap conversations even when the phone is switched off".
That link took you to "Your Middle East," a digital newspaper published in Stockholm and staffed by a variety of independent journalists.  The article was written by Sarah Benhaida of the French news agency, AFP, who supplied the picture of the burning U.S. flag in both articles.

The current government appears strongly interested in seeing that there is little trouble here on Friday and favorable demonstrations on Saturday.  A week ago, the Interior Minister called on the citizens to turn out on the 25th:
Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim called on people to take down to streets on 25 January next to celebrate the anniversary of 25 January revolution and to confront the Muslim Brotherhood plans for a counter-revolution to 30 June revolution on that day, according to Ibrahim.
Three days ago, Ibrahim announced that he was ready for any counter demonstrations:
Ibrahim also stressed that prisons and police stations have been provided with a heavy arsenal, not only automatic weapons, and orders have been given to all officers to fire live ammunition in case of any attempts to storm any prison or police station.
As for what is in the rumor mill, I can't say with any authority.  But there have been travel restrictions announced for Friday.  For example, trains from Alexandria to Cairo won't be running.  This morning, there was a longer than usual line at the gas station on our side of the street.  Perhaps people are stockpiling?  The station across the street did not have a line - perhaps just it was just a bargain price on our side.  There were two people in line at the ATM up the street - more precautionary stockpiling?

As for us, we plan to spend the 25th at an undisclosed location nowhere near downtown.  Stay tuned!


I Lost my Online Editor

Linda always proofreads and edits my blog posts as soon as I publish them.  I need the support.  Little grammar and spelling errors always seem to creep in.  And of course the there is the embellishment problem that I have ...

But as of yesterday, this blog will no longer load on her iPad.  So now I have to go my Tom's Rants blog and post another iPad entry! I appologize to all iPad users for Apple's problems and hope you will let me know if you are having the same problem.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

A Visit to the Veterinarian

You are never very far from a cat in Cairo.  Feral cats abound and any restaurant with an open door will have several.  They are usually quite well behaved, just looking for a handout.  Our building currently has three regulars.

Well, make that four with this little one living on our doorstep.

His mother, we call her Dusty, has lived in the building for several years.  Last year she had a litter of kittens a few weeks after we arrived.  It took her a couple of days this year to discover that we were back in town and appear at our door.  A short time later she escorted her little newborn kitten down the stairs to begin living on our welcome mat.  Here they are together.

If you look closely at that first picture, you will notice that the kitten's left eye is closed.  We couldn't seem to help the situation ourselves so we needed a veterinarian.  After asking several people we soon located an animal shelter with a vet.  So this afternoon, we headed out to the countryside to get a professional assessment.

The road took us to a fairly rural area.  A pickup truck of boards was in front of us.  I don't know if the tire is being used to hold the boards in place as the truck goes over the many speed bumps or is just in a convenient location.  The mother and daughter carrying some bulky items are a typical sight in the country and sometimes seen in the city as well.

The veterinarian seemed well trained.  He quickly diagnosed an eye infection and gave us a list of four medicines including an antibiotic ointment and a boric acid eyewash.  The vet doctor's charge was zero but we could give a donation to the shelter.  We did so.  The four medicines later came to a total of $5 at the neighborhood pharmacy.  The animal shelter has a separate area for cats and dogs and I paused to take a couple of pictures.

There are stories on the Internet of several people in Egypt helping with the feral cat problem.  There are limits to our generosity and interest.  We are not going to match this couple from England who spent about $10,000 to bring their Egyptian cat home.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Pyramids at Abusir

We talked to an old friend on the phone a few days ago and suggested that we could buy him tea or pizza to continue the visit.  He said he knew of a place near us and would pick us up yesterday around 1:00.

Linda has taught me to be prepared when anyone takes you out.  Eat some in case it is a long stay.  Don't eat too much in case you end up going for a large feast.  Always bring the camera.

After being picked up, we drove about six miles south and ended up on a small horse farm on the edge of the desert at Abusir.   We were served freshly picked mandarines and tea while we visited.  Is that a pyramid just beyond the palm trees in back of the horse stable, I wondered?

There are over 130 pyramids discovered so far in Egypt.  We were sitting just a few hundred yards from the Abusir pyramids which date from about 2500 B.C. 

One of the nearby attractions is the sun temple of Nyuserra, and we headed over to visit it.  Here I got a brief explanation of the hiroglyphics on one of the stones

This is another of the less visited pyramid sites that is enjoyable to visit without the presence of the souvenir sellers, etc., at the great pyramids of Giza.  We were the only visitors at the sun temple.

This site was explored by Czechoslovakian archeologists and we had the good fortune to have access to a copy of Unearthing Ancient Egypt: Fifty years of the Czech Archaeological Exploration in Egypt.  The Czechs also explored a number of sites in the south in Nubia and this line in the book caught my eye.

60 degrees Centigrade corresponds to 140 degrees Fahrenheit and exceeds the hottest known temperature ever recorded.   This is why we recommend coming to visit Egypt in the winter and not the summer, especially if you are planning to go visit the monuments in the south.

To visit the Abusir pyramids from your own computer, just plug these coordinates into your Google search field and click on the resulting map. 29.896755,31.20352

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Politics, Egyptian Style

One question we are sometimes asked about traveling to Egypt is, "Aren't you afraid?"  And we usually respond with, "of what?"

The question we are always asked here is, "Why don't Americans come to Egypt?"  We say, "they are afraid."  The response is, of course, "of what!"  They watch enough episodes of CSI and NCIS to know what goes on in America.

I suppose we typically greet fifty or so Egyptians on our daily walk.  I usually say, "hello."  The response is always, "hello," and usually, "hello, welcome!"  We rate the Egyptians as the most friendly and welcoming people of any place we have visited.

Egyptians separate their feelings about Americans from the American Government.  And rumors rule the world of politics in Egypt.  So here are a few "government" opinions I've picked up in the past week.
  • One neighbor is still upset that President Obama came here and said he would shut down Guantanamo and still hasn't done it.  He thinks that shows that America is really controlled by Israel.
  • Another recent friend is certain that Obama is supporting Israel against Egypt.  His two favorite former U.S. presidents are Nixon and Carter.  I guess you would call that an "eclectic" taste in leadership.
  • And what can I say about the opinion of our ambassador, Anne Patterson, that wasn't summed up by this Egyptian who was quoted in the New York Times last summer: "She manipulates people and secretly governs the country.” 
  • Our neighborhood baker, however, told me again this year that he still loves President Obama because he (Obama) is from Kenya.
I'm looking forward to learning more in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, rest assured that Americans are very welcome here.

Out For a Walk

On Friday, we headed north to explore a bit more of the neighborhood that we haven't visited yet this year.  Friday, of course, corresponds to Sunday back home and no shops are open until after noon prayers at the mosques.  Here, you see yesterday's Koshary shop closed.

Traffic is also pretty light which makes for easier walking along a busy street.  Linda took this picture along the side of the road.  The general level of trash in the streets is one thing that disturbs many visitors not accustomed to seeing it.  Inside of people's homes, people keep things clean.  The idea of keeping the outside clean too just doesn't register.  Compare the street view here on the left to just off the street at the entrance to the Grand Pyramids Hotel.

At the Grand Pyramids, we stopped in for a freshly made orange juice and strawberry juice beside the pool.  Occupancy seemed very low.  This is an excellent spot to stay if you are in Cairo as it is close to the pyramids yet has quite reasonable prices. 

Koshary in the Neighborhood

If there is an Egyptian national food, it is koshary.  I posted a good recipe for it a couple of years ago here.  There is a koshary shop right across the street from our neighborhood market at the end of the block but we have never stopped in.  I suggested we give it a try on Thursday.  Along the way, we passed a new restaurant three doors to the left of the Vodafone store that I had not noticed earlier and Linda suggested trying it.  There was no English language menu but she was able to discern from the owner that the specialties were liver, brain and fish.  We don't do fish here unless we know for sure where they were swimming, so we moved on to the Koshary shop.

We picked up a take-away order for 6 pounds, Egyptian (about 86 cents, U.S.,) and headed back to our apartment.)

I weighed the pasta/rice/lentil/garbanzo-bean container and it came in at 1 pound, 3 ounces.  Note the convenient packaging used for the tomato sauce, vinegar sauce and hot pepper sauce.  You can easily open a corner with a pair of scissors (or your teeth.)  This makes about two meals apiece for us.  Truly a bargain compared to the previous day's lunch at Chili's.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Shopping Day - Attention Carrefour Shoppers

We made this our major shopping day.  We headed out by taxi to City Center mall in Maadi.  The large Carrefour store there is Linda's favorite for produce.  We started out at Chili's restaurant in the mall for lunch.  I had the Chicken Enchilada Pasta, Linda had the Classic Bacon Burger.  I don't think Linda is going to order the burger again.  And, Egyptian beef bacon doesn't have quite the same look as the picture on the menu that was shot back in the U.S.

We then stopped at the Bank of Abu Dhabi and their automated currency exchange machine.  You just insert a stack of U.S. currency into the machine, verify the total, and out comes Egyptian pounds at a a very good exchange rate.

It is a bit unnerving the first time you put your currency in, but it turns out to be a very no-hassle method of changing money.  I had brand new bills with me from Wells Fargo in Minneapolis.  Oops!  They were rejected.  Too new!  The machine doesn't accept them.  I had to go inside and at a window, have the new bills changed into old U.S. bills.  Then back to the machine.  It worked fine with the old bills.

Carrefour is the second largest retailer on earth, although you might not be familiar with it since it has no U.S. operations.  The entrance take you first past electronics.  They were running specials on 32"-46" televisions today and a high percentage of mall patrons had one in their shopping cart.  At least some parts of the economy here must be doing OK.

Here's Linda going through the "potatoes for fried" to pick out some for us.

The trick to shopping this section is to watch the signs carefully since some items are sold by the piece and some by weight.  There are no scales at the checkout counter so it is the shopper's responsibility to have all items weighted and priced before getting to check out.  Here you can see the crowd gathered around the weigh station.  At busy times, like Thursday or Friday nights, this can be quite a chaotic location in the store.

Note the cheerful slogan, "From one day to another our daily fresh vegetables deliveries make it full of fibres and vitamins."
While we were in the produce area, the workers re-stocked the frozen hamburger patties that were on special and everyone made a dash for them.  There must have been a two-item limit as that was what everyone seemed to pick up.  I didn't get too close.  Never get between an Egyptian and a Carrefour Special!

Here is a sample of produce prices after translating the kilograms and converting the Egyptian pound:


U.S. $ per pound
Sweet Potatoes 0.26
Potatoes for fried 0.34
Bulk potatoes in bag 0.24
Red Bell Peppers 0.94
Green Bell Peppers 0.49
Apples 1.08
Bananas 0.98

Of course, when we got to the checkout, we had an item sold by weight and it hadn't been weighed.  Linda really wanted those carrots from the Netherlands because they are slim and snappy while the local product is fat and floppy.  (Slim and snappy costs about three times as much.)  Since they are sold in a plastic bag with a bar code on it, who would have thought it was a "weigh" item?  I ran back and had it weighed and we were done.
Sharp-eyed readers will, no doubt, notice that this is the 12-digit European Article Number and not the 10-digit Universal Product Code used in the U.S.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Connecting the iPad to the Internet in Egypt

(For techies only!)

OK, here goes this year's post about getting connected to the Internet.  

The past few years we connected via Etisalat's 3G service but response time got pretty sluggish last year so I decided to try Vodafone instead.  This also seemed like a good idea because there is a Vodfone store less than a half mile down the street.  So we headed out for a walk on our first full day here and stopped in.

I wanted two connections, of course.  One for the iPad and a USB "stick modem" for the laptop.  I took along the iPad and we took a number at the store.  After about fifteen minutes, my number was called and we were greeted by an employee I will call "Henry."  Henry was the only person staffing the counter.  He spoke fair English and proceeded to go to work on the iPad.  He knew how to pull out the 3G chip carrier and quickly handed me our old AT&T chip and after a few tries got a Vodafone chip in place.  Then it was off to the settings page.  To make a long story short, Henry never did get us connected but after he made a couple of calls said "it won't be active for an hour."  Total time elapsed to get to that point was about 45 minutes.  I was so glad that I wasn't behind me in line.  A couple of people who unfortunately were behind me left. 

Henry gave me his phone number and said "call me if it doesn't work."  Once I got home, I took the USB stick modem out of the package, put it into the slot on our laptop, found the install file, ran it and was immediately connected to the Web.  The iPad connection still was no-go.

The iPad was successfully locating the Vodafone network since I could see the "Vodafone 3G" label in the upper left corner of the iPad.  But apparently, it was not connecting.  I have managed to use our iPad for two years without ever opening the Cellular Data settings menu.  I opened it up.  What in the hell is an APN?

Since the Internet appears to contain the sum-total of all human knowledge, I opted to look there instead of calling Henry.  Wikipedia explains Access Point Names (APNs).  I found this wonderful site which list APNs along with the necessary UserID and passwords for connecting to Vodfone's networks in several countries.

The APN etc., that Henry had input was completely different.  I changed them to those listed on the web and voila!  We have Internet access on the iPad.  Why does an iPad user need to know and set the APN stuff and not someone with a stick modem connecting to the same network?  Your guess is as good as mine.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Taking Care of the Routine Stuff

The doorbell rang at about 6, this evening.  It was a man with a calculator in hand and a small stack of papers.  He wanted money.  191.73 Egyptian Pounds to be exact.  It turns out that this was the electric meter reader.

Here, the meter reader takes the reading, calculates the balance due and rings your bell to collect payment in cash.  How else could it be done?  I gave him a 200 pound note; he gave be 5 pounds change (no one ever has small change here) and we were now current for the current.

This morning, Linda discovered that our shower drain was backing up.  Our close friend who handles problems for us promised a specialist either today or tomorrow.  He called about 10:30 tonight to ask if we were still up.  The plumber and our friend's bawab showed up at about 11 pm.  The plumber set his plastic bag of tools down on the dining room table, took out a screwdriver and went to work.

Besides clearing the drain, they squeegeed the shower floor and bathroom floor.  Floors here are always made of tile so that you can throw water on them and use a squeegee to push the water to a conveniently located drain, usually in a kitchen or bathroom.  You vacuum, we squeegee.   I'll let you know the cost later.

Flying to Cairo, 2014

We departed on Wednesday afternoon for the annual trip to Cairo.  I frequently get the question, "how long is the trip?" so I put together a picture this time.  Basically, it is about 13 hours in the air over something close to 24 hours.  Your experience may vary.  This time we flew Delta Airlines via Chicago and Paris and the times looked like this.  We were scheduled to leave Minneapolis at 1 pm, arriving in Cairo after about 22 hours, around 7 pm their time.

Good news.  We qualified for the new TSA pre-check program.

That meant that we got to keep our shoes on (I'm still seven years away from the "old guy" exemption on shoes) and I could leave my laptop computer in my carry-on bag.

Bad news. Linda had too many suspicious wires and electronic devices in her carry-on and had to unpack the whole thing for TSA.  Or maybe it was the bubble-wrapped music box.  Once we made it to the gate, we saw a final reminder that it was still cold.

More bad news.  Delta flies a tiny Bombardier CRJ900 jet with 76 seats (2x2) to Chicago and that's what we were on.  Please plan on surrendering your carry-on if it is of any significant size.  Linda smiled, promised to put it under her seat and got an "OK."  She wasn't surrendering that music box to anyone else's control.

Still more bad news in Chicago.  Delta's domestic flights come into Terminal 2 but flights to Paris leave from Terminal 5 so we would be going through security again.  No TSA pre-check here.  And, a broken water pipe (it was cold there too) meant no access to the "people mover" and we should look for a shuttle bus on the first level.

Terminal 5 at O'Hare is a very nice, newly remodeled building.  Delta, following in Northwest Airlines tradition, apparently bought the cheapest gate - the one at the end of the very long walkway.  The concourse is lined with some very nice pictures of international destination.  There was even one from Egypt.

But there was now good news again.  We were offered exit row seats with exceptional legroom for the long portion of our trip.  We took quick advantage of that.  And this plane was a new Boeing 767 with incredible high-definition displays for movies, television etc.  They had a wide selection of movies and assorted video.  The only problem was that I could see about 4 different movies from my aisle seat, all somewhat intriguing.

We arrived in Paris to find we had another terminal change and security check to pass.

The departure schedule offers a lot of choices and the flights are sorted by departure time - that seems to be a world standard except in the U.S.  There we are - Le Caire - right between Ho Chi Minh and New York.  Once again, at the end of the concourse.

On this flight, we had seats several rows apart.  Linda's section was called to board first and just after she got on board, a mechanical problem was flagged and boarding stopped.  The flight crew had found a problem with damage to the speed indicator and repair was called for.  This was an Airbus and we all know about the Airbus and their pitot tube problems, don't we?  I had no idea what was actually going on.  Linda was getting continuous updates from the pilot walking the aisles on board.  Those of us in the boarding area were getting the "ten minutes - less than an hour" sort of updates from the gate.  We were about two and a half hours late leaving Paris.

The French, like the Dutch in Amsterdam, make accommodation for smokers with a well-advertised "smoking box."  It was unoccupied when  I went by but looked like it had been used a good deal.

Friday, January 10, 2014

We're Back in Cairo

We arrived back in Cairo after a full day's travel from Minneapolis.  The trip deserves it's own post which I will save for later.

This year we flew via Chicago and Paris.  Chicago offered the most interesting view from the aircraft window.

We had our bags in hand here by about 9 p.m., local time.  As always, there were plenty of people willing to find us a ride from the airport across town to our apartment.  Linda was thinking of a conventional metered taxi, but of course, I opted for the stranger who offered to get me a "good deal."  He's a professional "finder" who works inside the baggage claim area.  He handed us over to the "pricer" with whom we negotiated a fee.  He in turn took us to our driver, who loaded up our baggage and we were off.  (Warning!  Don't try this at home, say, in Chicago.)

Our driver loaded and unloaded the baggage.  Our building's bawab took it all up to our floor.  Linda had done a near-perfect job of packing the three checked bags to 48, 49 and 50 pounds (it's a 50 pound limit on Delta for international flights) and it was nice to have help.  I had the driver wait while we put the bags inside and then take us up the road to the supermarket to pick up a few groceries.  We always say, "everything is different" in Egypt.  For example, take bacon and eggs:

Notice that the bacon is beef and the eggs package contains ten eggs.

Today we went out and picked up two Internet connections.  That is also worth its own post, later.  Along the way, just down our street, this building development has sprung from the ground since we left in April.  Usually, these projects are much slower in our neighborhood.  Someone has a crack crew on the job.

Note the building bawab performing security duty on the second floor.  It was chilly, around 60 degrees today, so he had a nice fire going there next to the television.  He also had a jacket and stocking cap on.

After buying our way onto the Internet, we stopped to pick up a freshly roasted chicken with salads and bread at our favorite take-away restaurant.  That set us back a bit over five bucks.

Life is different here.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

"You can't be wearing high-heel shoes with your toes in nylons"

Well, duh!

That's a part of the helpful advice from the medical director of emergency services at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, as reported in this article that showed up in the Seattle newspaper.  Perhaps he is new in town or just very busy and hasn't noticed that high-heels aren't commonly worn on the icy sidewalks of the Twin Cities.

This year, I have no picture of deep snow by the mailbox as part of my last Minnesota post before we head out to Egypt.  We do have a few inches of snow as this early morning picture of our neighborhood shows.  (No, that's not a school-bus - it's the party bus bringing home the owners of all those cars around 1:30 a.m.)

But this year the story is the cold.

We failed to get out of town before the dreaded "polar vortex" descended upon us.  I could see this coming during the summer when we returned from Tanzania.  I took several pictures of the ice as we approached North America.  It was pretty clear that we were going to have real winter this year.

Minnesota's governor closed all of the schools yesterday and most remained closed today.  What's anyone going to do with the schools closed and weather so cold that it could kill you in minutes?  Go shopping, of course.

And why not.  The parking lots have plenty of room.

And it's certainly not too cold to go outside for a smoke break.

But with today's noontime temperatures around zero, I noticed that no one was wearing gloves, much less the recommended mittens from that newspaper article that I referenced at the beginning.

Admittedly, the wind was calm, the sun was out and the temperature had risen to a more hospitable level.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Another Egypt Update

Perhaps you saw the recent news in USA Today that tour companies are returning to Egypt!  Last year we were two of 127,000 Americans that visited Egypt during the first six months of the year.

Here is a link to G Adventures website offering that 8-day tour for $999 - plus your airfare.  By the way, the cost of an Egyptian visa, available upon your arrival in Egypt, is still a bargain $15.

We depart on Wednesday, January 8th.

In case you were wondering, here is a screen-grab of last night's temperatures in Minnesota/Wisconsin about a hundred miles north of the Twin Cities.  These are actual temperatures, not wind-chill or "feels like" stuff.

A hearty greeting is extended to all of my California cousins who will be watching the '49ers at Green Bay on Sunday!