The next day we headed out to scuba dive the Red Sea. Matt is certified, but I am not. As with many resort towns, Hurghada wasn’t too concerned. The last time I went scuba diving was on our honeymoon in the Caribbean (19 years ago) and I recall very specifically how my ears just wouldn’t adjust to the pressure. #tinyeustachiantubeproblems I had hope that somehow the intervening 19 years would’ve worked this problem out.
We had another early morning pickup and headed to a different marina where we were fitted for fins and filled out liability paperwork. On board the boat were around 15 other people who had been diving each day prior with this crew. Once notified that I was a newb, the instructor divided us up- Matt with another advanced diver and she would go down, then she’d come back and take just me.
The trip out was long- probably around an hour, and islands began popping up. Several did a moving dive into the water as we sped along. The wind was whipping and the sun was beating down, but the water was crystal blue as I steadied myself up top, focusing on my breathing and hoping that my body would cooperate when down below.
Matt headed out for his dive and I got suited up. Eventually, it was my turn and they put the weights and vest on me and told me to hop in. I placed the oxygen in my mouth and tried to steady my breath. Quicker than I would’ve liked, the brusque Russian guide grabbed my arm and motioned for me to dive. We pushed into the water and made our way to the reefs. All along, I chanted to myself- you can do this, you can breathe, you won’t die, you can breathe. My Slavic shepherd led me along, pointing out anemones and fish as we dove deeper. My ears felt like they would split in half. I continually blew my nose to make them pop, but to no avail. She checked in with me, and after my so-so sign, we pushed further. I tried to be present with the sealife, but with my intense focus on breathing and not busting my eardrums, I’m afraid I was poor sport. The next time she checked in, we mutually decided to surface.
Up above, I discarded my wetsuit and Matt and I headed up top to dry off and rest. We were both feeling a bit seasick, so we just let the sun hit us to warm us up and took anti nausea pills. Down below the cook on board made lunch, so we went and made ourselves some plates and took it back above. The food actually tasted quite good, but I could barely eat with the quease pulsing through me. We would all have one more dive that afternoon, but Matt and I both decided that we were kaput and not up for it in our current stomach state. The anti-nausea pills drowsiness effect hit hard and we napped down in the cabin while everyone else went on their second dives. We were glad to return back to the resort and lay low the rest of the day, tending to our now sunburned skin and bilious tummies.
The next day was a big one. Once again, we were picked up at the ripe hour of 5 am and loaded into our private car with Mohamed, our driver from the airport. Each time someone picked us up, they had to give all their information to the guards at the front of our resort- numbers, names, times and places. It’s a safety measure to make sure visitors aren’t kidnapped. We both still weren’t feeling tip top shape, and were glad to nap in the backseat as Mohamed made the arduous 4 hour drive from Hurghada to Luxor. There were military checkpoints about once every 30 minutes or less. Armed guards checked Mohameds papers and permission to drive the road to Luxor.
Hot tip from me: do not attempt to rent a car and drive around. Not happening. Only tour Egypt with a guide. Mohamed not only was able to navigate the combination of horse and cart, speed bumps and Tuk Tuk madness, he had the language, experience and papers that allow you to get from point to point.
We woke up at the end of the drive through the Saharan desert, and noticed the land change to more mountains and green. We were getting closer to the Nile. Soon, the towns leading to Luxor began popping up and we saw a tremendous amount of people out and about, hauling produce, farming the land, riding in a carts pulled by donkeys, hopping on the local bus that doesn’t actually stop- you just jump aboard. We picked up Sam, our Egyptologist for the day and he immediately launched into the history of Luxor, Egyptian rulers, and our first stop: Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple.
As we stepped out of the air conditioned car, we were immediately hit with the most intense heat you can imagine. Picture Needles, California x 3. As we walked up the long path towards the temple, Sam enumerated the feats of this woman-king. We passed the statues guarding the entry to the terraced temple and listened raptly as Sam pointed at each of the heiroglyphic images on the walls, telling of her reign. I was starting to feel a bit faint at this point and figured that the scorching heat, my sunburn from the dive and all the anti-nausea meds from yesterday were conspiring to make today difficult. We entered further into the temple into the Anubis shrine, where we walked down a tunnel covered on all sides with beautiful paintings and writings. At this point, I was positive that if I sustained this stuffy, crowded and hot atmosphere, I was going to pass out, so I let Matt know that I needed to exit, stat. He took me to Sam who graciously walked me back to the car while Matt continued taking in the temple. Along the way, Sam took me to the on site ambulance service where they checked my glucose and blood pressure. It was low. He put me in the air conditioned car next to Mohamed and went and grabbed me waters and juice. I was so grateful for his kindness and help!
The next stop was the Valley of the Kings. We took it slow and Sam grabbed a white shawl for me to protect me from the sun. This place was wild. In the middle of mountainous desert, with absolutely nothing to recommend it, there are an estimated 63 tombs cut into the rocks or caves of this barren land. It is the principle place for the burials of ancient Egyptian royalty. We entered 3 tombs, each more impressive than the last. Some wended their way into multiple chambers and most were covered in brightly covered hieroglyphics. I was feeling slightly better, but the heat was still crippling me. Sam took me back to the car and Matt walked around a bit more.
Up next was the Colossi of Memnon, of which I have very little to say. : )
Then, we were once more on the Nile in a motorboat, but this area of the Nile was much nicer than in Cairo. Sam had arranged for the boats captain to have our lunch catered aboard (made by the captain’s mom!) and it was the best food we had in Egypt. I was sad I couldn’t eat more of it due to my punk state. After lunch, we idled for a bit and I put my feet in the water to cool off. Sam dipped the shawl he got me in the Nile and told me it would be my “air conditioner” for our next stop. I was feeling much better at this point, thankfully, because the final stop was the cream of the crop for our Luxor tour.
The temple of Karnak equals or exceeds the splendor of the pyramids, both in size and awe. It’s a 70 acre temple complex absolutely bathed in hieroglyphics. Sam told us that it contains the complete history of all the rulers of Egypt. After he gave us some insight (Coptic Christians used this place for gatherings! Second tallest obelisk still standing on Earth!) we were then given around an hour to wander on our own. We feasted on the beautiful engraved walls and endless columns in the Hypostyle Hall and marveled at the continuity of the Egyptian dynasties that continuously added onto this place for close to 2,000 years. My “air conditioner” was working great and we drank in the beauty and wonder. This was the best way to end our day in Luxor.
We dropped off Sam and Mohamed took us back to Hurghada, where we had a late dinner and crashed. Our final day in Egypt, we took it easy on the beach, laying our in our beach chairs, reading, ordering lunch, and swimming every hour or so to cool off. We realized that we both were dealing with some Ramses Revenge, a nice bit of dysentery we suppose we picked up on the dive boat. It took around 10 days to fully disperse from our system : ( The next day Mohamed picked us up again at the butt crack of dawn to take us to the airport, where we had a mostly uneventful flight back to Frankfurt, then our trains and buses home to Heidelberg.
My next post will be a final wrap up of our time in Germany. Thanks for reading about our adventures! You’ve come a long way!