What's New On Tom's Travel Blog?

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.

Friday, February 28, 2020

A Satisfied Customer

One of the most fun places to shop (other than the big bazaar in Cairo) is on the way to Philae temple. The street leading to the ticket booth is lined with shops but this is not where the "fun" is.

Past the ticket booth and lining the walkway to the boats, you will find open air shopping.

Here you can find more local merchandise than your eyes can handle.

Once you find what you're interested in, you stop to choose which hat you think your brother will like. You'll likely hear a story of how the vendor's very own grandmother made this hat. True or not, it makes for a good tale to tell your brother. Now begins the bargaining. One of our guests was new to bargaining and a little shy to try it so I stepped in to help her negotiate a price that satisfied both buyer and seller. I'm willing to help you too if you'd like to visit Egypt.
SecondBatch-009   Phillae4-1

There are so many interesting things from which to choose.
SecondBatch-012       SecondBatch-014


Boats are waiting at the end of the walkway and you may think that is the end of the shopping.  But no! There are more and different offerings there. Now you get an up close look at necklaces and bracelets. "Try this one. It suits you." 

I bought one made by the seller's "mother". Something tells me that whichever one I bought was made by a relative of some sort. Mother or not, I was happy with my choice.

Now on to the other passengers. "Your friend bought one. How about you? I have different colors."
SecondBatch-004   SecondBatch-005

Here is a look at the type of boat that transported us to the island of Phillae.

In the end, a satisfied customer with a lovely souvenir of the trip to Philae.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Winter Weather

Winter returned to Cairo with a vengeance yesterday.  A bit before 2 pm there was a crack of thunder, a rare occurrence here.  Later a second rumble.  I got up and checked the thermometer.  The temperature had fallen to 59.

Lately, we have had daytime temps in the mid 60s.  Most years it is getting warmer by the end of February.  We have not yet broken out the fan we use during our lasts few weeks before heading home. As a matter of fact, we've used our two small heaters more this year than ever.

I checked the front window and sure enough, it was raining lightly on the Ring Road.  The traffic was still flowing smoothly.

It didn't take long for things to come to a halt, however.  I heard a loud "bang" as a truck tire blew - that happens 4 or 5 times each year close by;  if you aren't familiar with it, the sound is surprisingly loud.  Perhaps the driver was braking hard when he came up on the traffic jam - or maybe it was just the usual poor quality tires.  In either case, the driver had a serous "why me" look on his face as he inspected the tire on the far side of the truck.

RainyDay-3-1 RainyDay-4-1

The rain we had was pretty light by our standards - it could have been a half inch.  But it rained all day and most of the night.  And there really are no storm sewers along most streets.

Today when we went out for a long walk, there were puddles and mud.  These pictures show the two largest puddles we saw.  One at the entrance to the local gas station and a second around the corner.
RainyDay-5-1 RainyDay-7

This forced us to walk on the sidewalk, where available - an unusual thing to do here.  People almost always walk on the street to avoid the large curbs - and obstacles.

The main obstacles behind Linda here, are some tree limbs and some boards with rusty nails protruding - keep those tetanus shots up to date!  (No, this is not storm damage.  This is just a normal looking sidewalk obstacle.)

When we made our way down a normally dusty side street, the mud had dried out in the afternoon sun.  You can see some additional mud and water in the distance - but notice the boys kicking a football around in the midafternoon: school was cancelled today because of the rain! RainyDay-9

We can't give you an accurate report of the actual rainfall.  The Cairo Airport weather site does not include precipitation.  WunderMap - my favorite weather information source has only one reporting station in the Cairo area and it also had no precipitation figure.

I have considered bringing my own weather station for personal use and probably will next year.

Update2:  It took me a while to find the precipitation total for the big storm.  I asked local friends but they had never heard of measuring the rainfall in millimeters or centimeters - "heavy" and "light" perhaps, but no actual measurements.

I did locate the annual average rainfall for Cairo - numbers range from 0.7 to 0.98 inches depending on your source.  Finding the actual total for Monday's storm is like looking for a state secret.  But AccuWeather has it buried in one of their tables:

Yes, 16mm or 2/3 of an inch closes the schools here.  You could also look at is as "Cairo inundated by almost a full year's rain falling on a single day."

For the record, here is a chart showing actual temperatures versus average for the month of February.

By the way, today was sunny and dry - a typical winter day in Cairo.


UPDATE1:  A story ran in the U.S. papers today under the headline:

"Heavy rains, flooding pummel Cairo and parts of Egypt 

describing the storm as follows:
Heavy rains pummeled the Egyptian capital of Cairo and other parts of the country Monday, causing massive traffic jams and flooding on many key roads. The downpour also forced authorities to suspend classes the following day at schools and universities across the country, from Alexandria in the north to Aswan in the south. 
Egyptians shared scenes of the rain and flooding on social media, including submerged cars and snarled traffic. Parts of Cairo were left impassable, and trucks were seen fanning out to drain water from flooded areas of the city, home to some 20 million people. People also took to social media to criticize the government’s lack of preparedness for the downpour.
Nearly every year, the capital or other major cities are crippled by flooding from a rainstorm. 
Last October, heavy rains left eight people dead, including four children. The rainy weather was expected to stick around through Tuesday, Egypt’s Meteorological Authority said earlier this week. 
The office of Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly said in a statement that Tuesday's school closures were implemented “so relevant agencies can deal with the size of rain expected tomorrow.”  
The predictable flooding has raised questions about the country’s ability to deal with significant rainfall. Infrastructure, sewage and drainage systems have all suffered from a lack of investment and years of poor maintenance. 


We all see art differently and isn't that a wonderful thing.  There is a lot of symmetry in Egyptian art and architecture. I see the beauty of symmetry. For example, the columns of Luxor Temple.

Or the symmetry of the Avenue of the Sphinxes between Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple.

Or the columns and capitals of this small temple at Philae.

But the architecture that thrills me is the asymmetry of the capitals at Philae Temple.
LBP1-07  LBP1-06

Here it looks like the architect was trying to satisfy lovers of both symmetry and asymmetry with the same head of the goddess Hathor on top of different capitals.

LBP1-04  LBP1-18

LBP1-17  LBP1-16

I'm captivated by these differing capitals every time I visit Philae.
LBP1-14 LBP1-13

I remember learning in school about the different types of capitals (Ionic, Doric and Corinthian etc.) but I was never shown pictures like these. They are magnificent!
LBP1-12 LBP1-11

LBP1-10 LBP1-09


Friday, February 21, 2020

What's for Dinner

One of our favorite meals is taco pie. It's low in carbs, easy to make and delicious. (It's also Keto for those interested.)  This year we have found sour cream readily available. I was prepared to make sour cream this year so I was pleasantly surprised to find it. Another surprise find was salsa.

With all the correct accompaniments in the house, I decided to make taco pie for dinner tonight.

The addition of the ubiquitous Mediterranean salad and some spicy pickled egg plant made it a complete and satisfying meal.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

What's Inside the Pyramids, Part 2

Last July, the interior of the Bent Pyramid at Dahshur was opened, with much fanfare, to public inspection for the first time in over fifty years.  (See, for instance, this Smithsonian Magazine article.)  I could hardly wait to return to Egypt this year,  anticipating a visit to see it.

The Bent Pyramid was the second attempt by King Sneferu (2613-2589 BC) to build a suitable pyramid for his final resting place.  His first attempt was a few miles away at Meidum (we visited it in 2018.) and his third attempt was just a few hundred yards away, the Red Pyramid.
Maidum2018-1-1 Red2007-4

But the Bent Pyramid remains one of the best know monuments in Egypt due to its tapering shape.

Our group of Egypt travelers visited the Bent Pyramid on the final day of January.  As we were circling the base of this pyramid, over three hundred feet in height, I heard the pyramid calling to me to come inside.  Or, maybe it was just the guard and young man at the top of the 40 foot tall entry scaffold.  But I was sure that I should make a quick inspection tour.
Bent2020Arrow-1 Bent-2020-1

Aziz was the name of the young man at the entrance who would accompany me through the inner passageways and chambers.  At the base of the descent along the very long entry ramp he quickly told me, "No camera!  Only phone!"  We soon came to an understanding of what he actually meant, "No camera, no tip!"

As we prepared to ascend the internal scaffolding to the next barrier, Aziz proved to be a capable camera handler, himself.
Dhashour2020-2   Dhashour2020-3


It turns out that the Bent Pyramid has a more complicated interior structure than other pyramids,  All pyramids have an entry tunnel on their north side facing Polaris, the North Star.  This pyramid also has a second tunnel entering from the west side which descends to a large (possibly) burial chamber.  The two tunnels do not meet!

Distinguished Czech Egyptologist, Miroslav Verner, in a book published originally in German in 1997, had this to say about the two tunnels:
'... they were connected only by a narrow, irregular tunnel roughly hacked through the masonry of the pyramid core.  It began in the lower chamber and came out in the western descending corridor … " 
Somehow this didn't seem to be deemed worthy of mention in that Smithsonian article.  Well, I didn't come this far to not reach the final chamber.  "Let's go!" I told Aziz.

I got about two thirds of the way through this very tiny tunnel - there are no climbing aids installed - when I visualized possible headlines on an article in newspapers:  "American tourist suffers third heart attack while exploring..."  I checked my pocket for my Nitroglycerine tablets.  Present and accounted for.

Scrambling out of the tiny tunnel, Aziz and I resumed our descent, finally arriving at another tall scaffold in the corbel-vaulted final chamber.  Looking around, I wondered, "what are those spots on the wall?"  As my eyes adjusted to the light, I recognized them - bats!

And the ceiling was covered with them.  I didn't stay long.  Just long enough for a good picture taken straight up.  All those tiny black dots are bats.

The reverse climb out is not bad as I expected.  Even with several rest stops along the way, the whole trip in and back out took only about sixty minutes.  I would recommend it to anyone who is not bat-o-phobic.  But, bring good climbing shoes for that roughly hacked connecting tunnel.

Once again, a picture is easily worth a thousand words.  We go to the incredible R. F. Morgan, courtesy of Wikicommons.

Robin Morgan's YouTube video of the computer-generated Bent Pyramid can be found here.  Please do follow the link.  Robin's work deserves a great many more views than she has received so far.