Egypt is known for its pyramids, temples, tombs, and the Nile. But the peninsula separating Africa from Asia, the Sinai, is also a part of Egypt and distinctly different both in landscape and culturally from the Nile Valley.
The Sinai is covered in rugged desert mountains, their craggy shapes rising abruptly above the seashores from a rocky desert floor. The Red Sea sparkles out toward Saudi Arabia, turquoise and rich, deep cobalt.
Sleeper trains are wonderful. Sure, our next-door neighbor was an obnoxious SoCal man-child trying to woo some female backpackers in his room, and sure, they were so loud I had to open the window to drown them out, and sure, that open window allowed soot to settle on my face while I slept. BUT, it sure beats the packed sitting trains we saw leaving the platform in Cairo, with people hanging out of doors and sitting out the caboose, sardines for a 10-hour ride.
So we arrived in Luxor fairly well-rested. Our couchsurfing host, Hamdi, picked us up from the train station and ushered us through the crowd of taxi drivers and various other touts. One of the annoyances of traveling in Egypt is the incessant hassling on the street. Please look, come buy, good deal, pretty lady, etc. One Egyptian told us, “You look like an Egyptian, but you walk like a tourist.” Don’t ask me what that means. But walking with a local reduced the hassling to a minimum, which was nice. It also helped us avoid the inevitable 300% markups for “tourist prices” that are common throughout Egypt. A typical conversation:
Us: How much for this bottle of water?
Clerk: Fifteen pounds (about $2.50).
Us: Are you kidding? Five pounds.
Us: Two for ten.
For anyone who has never traveled to the other side of the world from wherever you live, let me tell you it is both exhausting and comparatively easy. That we can transport ourselves to the opposite side of the planet in a day is amazing. And yet traveling for 30 hours, sitting in cramped airplanes and meandering through airports, is exhausting and uncomfortable. Well worth it, but tiring.
Our flights connected in Chicago and Frankfurt, Germany. We had a 7-hour layover in Frankfurt, and so decided to take the S-bahn into downtown for a coffee and some breakfast (it was around 6am local time when we landed). After much needed coffee and some attending to a few affairs at home via wi-fi, we strolled through the public markets to find some food. Thanks to our confused internal clocks, bratwurst sounded pretty good. And it was! Continue reading →