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Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Petra is truly one of the splendors of the world, and home to some 30,000 people some 2,000 years ago. The Nabataeans were invaded twice by Herod the Great who after 31 BC controlled a large portion of their territory. Later, trade routes changed and after the Muslim invasion of the 7th century Petra became a forgotten outpost. In the 19th century it was discovered again and is now included in the new Seven Wonders of the World.
We were up early to get in by 6 AM to avoid the dreaded tour busses. The Common picture of Petra is the Treasury but there is much more. There are over 800 sites and 500 tombs in this large area and many require a long climb. It would take several days to just see the main points so with one day we were limited. It was great early in the morning but when the tour busses arrived the canyon gets crowded.
Tomorrow we head to the Dead Sea and on to Mount Nebo where we will bush camp. There will be no wi-fi until to Damascus, and that can be a problem. My last time there kept getting "not allowed" when trying to get on some web sites, including my own.

Colorful Sandstone, Petra

Petra, Jordan

Treasury, Petra

Petra, Jordan

2000 year old Theater, Petra

Theater Steps, Petra

Monday, Wadi Rum

After a short drive into Aqaba for food, we drove to Wadi Rum for a 4WD trip then desert camp. There is a definite change when you enter Jordan. As soon as we got off the truck in Aqaba we had people welcoming us to Jordan and we could walk past shops without shopkeepers trying to drag us into their shops. Main difference it was clean-a major difference, no trash blowing around. Wadi Rum could be Jordan's answer to Monument Valley in the US. Same but different and camping under the stars is always specular in the desert. Was out photographing from 5 to 8 AM. Then around noon left for Petra which may be the most spectacular stop of out trip.

Sunrise at camp

Wadi Rum Campsite

View from our Wadi Rum Camp.

30 minutes before sunrise

Woke up early to photograph, when I took this shot it was to dark to see the camera settings without a flashlight.

A Tree Grows in Wadi Rum

This tree is near a Bedouin camp, trees are rare in this desert but there must have been some winter rain as some flowers are growing. They get less than 10% of our yearly rainfall.

Wadi Run

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Leaving Egypt Sunday

So it's 5:36 PM and the noon ferry to Jordan is leaving and we and the truck are on it. We left our "Garden Camp" in Dahab at 6:30 Am and arrived at the ferry terminal at 8:30 AM to catch the noon ferry. Special thanks to the Tourist Police which helped us get through the immigration line. Would have taken hours without their help. We then entered a very large holding hall which main feature was smoke. Again we were helped by the Immigration and let us go to Police who saw us huddled by a broken window for fresh air and let us out a side door to go to truck. the truck, however was caught up in border crossing hell. It seems someone in Libya had put down the wrong vin number and the truck would not be allowed to leave. The problem was resolved in the usual way and joined us on board. We boarded around 1:00 PM and were seated in tables in what was the crews cafeteria. This would be our home for the next 10 hours when we arrived in Aba. from there in was a short drive to the Bedouin Garden Camp.

Camp in Aqaba

Our camp in Aqaba, Jordan. In just a few miles the shoreline goes through Egypt,Israel, Jordan, and Saudi. The next morning we were awakened by heavy machine gun fire which went on for hours and was apparently just practice. We could watch the rounds hit the water as we ate breakfast

Schoolgirls in Aqaba

Several busloads of schoolgirls were playing and dancing in buses in the parking lot. Of course, as typical with kids, as soon as they saw cameras they were stars. "Take my picture, I'm beautiful" said one, then they all had to look at the camera screen.

Ferry to Jordan

Truck caught in border crossing hell, ferry in background

Letter to Tourism Minister

To the Egyption Minister of Tourism

We enjoyed our two weeks in your country. There is no doubt that Egypt has many great monuments representing thousands of years of history but, sadly, it also has trash. Trash everywhere from the Pyramids to the streets of Aswan. Everywhere in large amounts and it is the most notable feature. On the train from Cairo to Aswan they would open the door after we left the station and dump the trash along the tracks.
Travel sometime to other countries that have large amounts of tourist and imagine what it would do to their tourist industries if they had large amounts of trash everywhere also.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Al Capones

Our favorite restaurant in Dahab,a few months before my last visit it was the site of one of the three suicide bombers that struck in one day.
Not sure why they use a hat and lariat, must go back to Al's dude ranch days.

Next stop , Jordan

Getting packed to load truck at 6:30 AM and head to ferry to Jordan. posting some misc snapshots of Dahab. Will be out of range of wi-fi for a few days.

Map at Hotel

This is a common modification to maps in the area.

Breakfast at Shams

This puppy came by to hang with us at breakfast.


Actually I have had two great cab drivers, Francciscow here in Dahab and one in Cairo who for less than $20 took us around to several places and waited for us to return for six hours. Both earned their tip. This post is for the driver in Cairo who after being told by interpreter and shown where on the map we wanted to go ended up going the wrong direction. As much as I insisted he was going wrong he insisted he knew the way. We wanted to go to the Egyption Museum and ended up twenty miles away. He then insisted this was better than the museum and wanted to charge us double. It was resolved peacefully but not quietly.

Room overlooking beach

Dahab Beach

Beach, looking south.

Dahab Beach

Along the beach to the north.


Yes, it seems like everyone smokes. Most restaurants have at least one person firing coals and maintaining water pipes. No smoking section-not here.

Outside local bar

Sign outside local bar.

Lounge area outside room

There are several lounge areas like this in our "Garden Resort".

Pop Tops

Ever wonder where all the pop top cans with removable tops went? There here, virtually all the sodas we get in Egypt have removable pop tops.

My Room in Dahab

Number 36 is my room in Dahab, the only room I ever had that had a salt water shower. It's a ways off the road and one block from the beach.


Last day in Dahab. This morning Francciscow, my cap driver, picked me up at 5AM to take to the mountains to catch the early morning light. He had told me yesterday that he would pick me up at 5 "real time" not "Egyption time" and he was right on time. The view of the mountains on our drive down from Mount Sinai was great, would have loved to drive it in a car with plenty of time to stop to photograph. Overlanding like we are is a great way to see a lot of country but the time constraint means you miss out on a lot of great photo opportunities. So I did get a chance to get back to the mountains for first light.

First Light

Mountains outside Dahab

Friday, March 19, 2010


Dahab is windier and cooler than normal. No problem when wearing long sleeve shirt but always worry about the camera when the sand starts blowing. Dahab is not an upscale beach destination like Sharm El-Sheikh, its origins go back to the hippy days and now seems to have a lot of divers from Russia and Eastern Europe. It does have great diving and budget places to stay. Saw a sign for a house for sale, less than 15,000 dollars a couple blocks from the beach. Lots of local markets, you can even buy frankincense and mure at the market down the street.

It's now Friday in Dahab and the wind is still very strong, to strong to go boat diving. We have a couple taking the certification class and they are shore diving in a cove protected from the wind. I hadn't planned on diving this trip but did wanted to rent a car and drive back into the mountains. With the sand that is blowing out there I will stay in town, after all we have driven through enough blowing sand already. We have one more day here so tomorrow may be better and this was set up as a rest stop after all we have covered in Egypt. Sunday we take the large truck ferry from Nuweiba to Jordan. Its a 4 hour trip but with loading and unloading normally takes 10 hours. A driver reported he was on the ferry 36 hours a few days ago partly because of the wind. It has to be one of the most complex customs points in the world with trucks, cars, and people from many countries. Last time met an Italian on a motorcycle that couldn't get into Egypt at he did not have Egyptian plates on his bike and was not allowed to go into Egypt to get them. He also could not go back to Jordan due to a visa problem and had been there several days trying to resolve his situation.

Local Market, Dahab

Restaurant, Looking towards Saudi Aribia

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saint Catherines Monastery, Mount Sinai

Crossing the Sinai

Spent Sunday afternoon in Luxor in an English pub watching the F1 race on a German TV broadcast. To get back to camp took a horse and buggy as they seem to outnumber taxi cabs. The driver was very talkative and was very proud of his horse which was named Jimmy Carter.....yeah, I know there is a joke in there somewhere.

Early Monday left for a 9 hour drive to Monastery of Saint Paul but never got to see it. Father Joseph met us at a checkpoint 2k away and told us no one could come in during the 55 days prior to Easter. I tried to get him to let me walk partway into take some photos but was told we could not walk in or climb the hills to view it. we were allowed to camp at the checkpoint as he said bush camping would be dangerous due to wild dogs. The next morning I left camp early to walk back to the highway and you could see the Monastery from a distance built on the side of the mountain. Did see three very large dogs that followed along a ridge, was told later they are wolves but not sure Egypt has wolves. The boat captain had told us before that wolves are why we can't sleep on shore when camping.

This Morning drove along the Red Sea to Suez and took the tunnel under the Suez Canal. Strange to watch large ships that seem to be sailing along through the desert. We followed the Red Sea for awhile then turned inland and climbed the mountains to Mount Sinai. Along the Red Sea there are hundreds of developments with tens of thousands of condos all crowded together in several story buildings with the sea to one side and sand as far as you can see on the other. Most of the developments looked unfinished and all seemed deserted and rundown. The other strange site were all white cats with pure black tails we saw at several places along the route. Not just white but very white and so out of place in all the dirt and dust. Read an article once where both Egypt and Turkey claimed to be the origin of cats. Do not know where these fit in.

Later we turned inland and drove to Saint Catherine's Monastery at Mount Sinai. Saint Catherines is the oldest continuously inhabited Christian Monastery in the world, built in AD527 by Emperor Justinian to replace a chapel Empress Helena built in AD337 on the site it was believed Moses saw the burning bush and it is claimed that the bush by the chapel is a direct descendant. The well inside is also said to be the well where Moses met his future wife. Some of the group elected to climb Mount Sinai with the rest of the pilgrims, but having done that before, I stayed below to photograph first and last light on the Monastery from the rocks above. Pilgrims from all over the world climb the mount at night to watch the sunrise but once is enough as it is cold and crowded at the top.

After breakfast we drove 3 hours to Dahab where we are staying a "quaint" hotel near the beach for 4 days while some get there dive certification and others can dive and snorkel at the Blue Hole, a great dive site that goes several hundred feet down right off the shore. The biggest attraction was a shower after two days in the desert.

Ian flipping pancakes

Coffie Shop, Mount Sinai

Camels and Goats at Mount Sinai

Saint Pauls Monastery

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday, Karnak Temple

Up at 5 AM to walk to Karnak Temple, the idea is to beat the crowds and to photograph in good light. Also was hoping to get my tripod in, it always creates a problem trying to get 35 pounds of camera equipment into some regulated space, but a tripod seems to set off alarms. In Turkey any place that has an admission charge refuses to let tripods in. Arrived before they opened and found some one to let me go around the metal detectors and xray equipment but after getting in was stopped by the gatekeeper who said I needed a ticket for my tripod. If I had known I could bring it in with a ticket I would have bought one but getting such information is impossible, everyone I asked didn't know and sometime the rules change at a whim. At least I was able to photograph before the crowds arrived. Arrive they did, when I left at 7:30 there were many tour buses filled with tourists from the monster Nile cruise ships. Once we leave Egypt there will be far fewer tourists with Petra and Ephesus being the exceptions.

Karnak Temple

Steps to the Past

Shadows, Karnak Temple

First Light, Karnak Temple

Karnak Temple

Worker, Karnak Temple

Saturday, March 13, 2010

On the Nile

"If you come to the fork in the road, take it"

Thursday was the start of our three day sail down the Nile in Feluccas. At 5 AM took the ferry over to the island to try and catch some reflection from the rocks of the cataracts but the current was flowing to swiftly to have smooth water. While waiting for the ferry a kid with his donkey cart filled with propane tanks was unloading his cart to take the tanks to the island. Later I counted the steps, 43 steps of Aswan red granite. After I got to the bottom heard a series of crashes as one of the tanks rolled all the way down. Then I realized it wasn't a slip up on his part, he was rolling the tanks down the steps. One tank hit the wall and started hissing gas much to the dismay of some one cooking over an open flame at the ferry dock. As we left on the ferry he was hitting the valve with a rock to stop the leak while I expected to see a large ball of flame. Much different code for handling hazardous materials .

At around 10 AM we left Aswan in two Feluccas camping out two nights on the Nile. Having raced sailboats, these were vastly different from anything I have ever sailed but completely unchanged from the way the Nile has been sailed for hundreds of years. They seem ungainly with not only the boom moving but also the mast. At times one of the crew would climb almost to the top of the mast to free a line. At night the Nubian crew would entertain us with there drumming, singing, and dancing. Of course while enjoying our Nile sail it is proper to feel sorry for the passengers in their air conditioned staterooms as they chug past in their large Nile cruisers. Just like when your ridding through the Valley of Kings and beyond on your donkey and are passed by poor tourists in their large coaches so isolated from real Egypt.

It is now Saturday and we are in Luxor for two days, was just down to the Luxor Temple but it is hotter than normal, about 110 degrees and normal should be 80 to 90. Also it is severe clear, no clouds, need to get out and photograph early. Plan to be at the Karnak Temple at 6 AM.

Cruising the Nile

Nile Camp One

Fleuccas on the Nile

Nubian House, Elephant Island