Friday, July 19, 2013

Boys Day Out

Greg and Brian took Jules out to celebrate his birthday a couple of weeks ago. What better way to celebrate than a boys day out on the waverunners and a trip to Al Maya Island for a few beers.



Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt

After a short 1 hour plane ride from Cairo, we landed in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. Sharm is located due east of Cairo on the Sinai Peninsula and is the holiday destination for most Egyptians. We would have never thought of Egypt as a relaxing, holiday destination, but Sharm El Sheikh is beautiful and peaceful.

We stayed at the The Ritz Carlton on the Red Sea. The trick we learned from friends that have stayed there before us is to upgrade to the Club Level Rooms to take advantage of the free food and drink. It was a great deal, good food, and lots of beer and wine!

The reason we went to Sharm in the first place was because the Red Sea is considered to be the second best diving site in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. On our first day, we jumped into the sea and started snorkeling off the house reef. To our delight, we could see down at least 60 feet and all around us were beautiful coral reefs and schools of tropical fish. It was literally breathtaking.

We spent most of our 3 days in Sharm snorkeling and scuba diving. On Friday we went out on a dive boat to Ras Mohammed National Park and dove at several sites. Brian saw an old shipwreck from the late 1800's that was carrying porcelain bath tubs and toilets. The area around the shipwreck was covered with toilets. Can you imagine the photo possibilities (if we had a proper underwater camera - next time).

Sharm El Sheikh is extremely beautiful and the Red Sea is a divers dream. Flights from Abu Dhabi are easy and the accommodation is inexpensive. It's definitely on the list to return.




Cairo, Egypt

Believe it or not, now is the perfect time to visit Egypt. More or less. We expected the protesting and violence to erupt on June 30 and saw a window to take a trip to Cairo in the middle of June. And now that the people have been heard and a new, secular government is in control, it's safe for tourists to start returning. The hotel rates are really cheap and the people are very friendly towards tourists. It's strongly advised that you hire a guide to take you around the pyramids and Cairo for a couple of reasons. (1) Driving in Cairo is insane, (2) A guide can negotiate fair prices on your behalf, (3) A guide can help shield you from over aggressive panhandlers, and (4) you'll learn a lot more about Egypt's past, present, and future.

The guide we hired was simply amazing. Walid was an Egyptologist and held a second degree in English Literature. He was so informative and spoke in a way that was entertaining. Our driver didn't speak much, but did a good job navigating through all the traffic. On our first night in Cairo, our guide took us to a laser light show at the pyramids. It was a little touristy, but was a good introduction to Egypt. On the second day we went to the pyramids, the Sphinx, the Museum, downtown Cairo, had lunch on the Nile, and did a little shopping at an art gallery and perfumery.

Now here's the nitty gritty of Cairo. It's crazy. Cars are elaborately decorated, smoking is permitted everywhere (including the airport), traffic lanes are non existent, buildings are all left unfinished in an effort to avoid paying property taxes, trash litters the streets and is pushed into the canals, and 18 million people live in a very dense area with few jobs and a scarcity of water. Cairo is chaos exemplified and we loved every minute of the adventure.

Fun Fact: Georges-Eugene Haussmann was the City Planner that redesigned Paris in the 1860's under the direction of Napoleon III and was also the City Planner that designed downtown Cairo. The similarities in street design and building architecture are astounding.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Most Unfortunate Name

The name of a Pakistani taxi driver: Mofakher Hossain.

Grant's Abu Dhabi Adventure

Jessica's brother Grant graduated from high school in May and received a trip to Abu Dhabi as a present from his parents. During his 3 week visit in June, we took him jet skiing, to Qasr Al Sarab, Dubai, rode bikes around the F1 track, Ferrari World, the Grand Mosque, Emirates Palace, the Beach Club, and Egypt. It was quite the adventure for his first trip outside of the United States. We had a good time spending time with Grant and hope he comes over the big pond again soon.