Just got a nearmiss two days ago. Eyes on the road, hard braking and safe following distance saved me from otherwise a potential car accident of hitting a car in front of mine. Spaced nearly by one meter. Fortunately the guy at the back swerved his car to the right and I was relieved from being rear ended. It seems that one driver took an abrupt change and the following drivers had to apply sudden brake. I’ve seen many accidents of this type during my almost 7 years in Qatar (good examples could be those happened many times on a Al Gharafa Flyover). Really, I can emphasize enough the importance of safe following distance. The distances vary depending on what speed you are travelling, what conditions you are driving in and what type of vehicle you are driving. In most cases, a safe following distance is much greater than a car length. In general a driver in a car should drive at least two seconds behind the vehicle in front in ideal conditions. In poor conditions (dust, fog, rain) the distances should be increased. The thing here in Qatar is if you give a (two-second) space it is highly likely that somebody will fill in the spot. But for the sake of your own safety, ignore it and make another two-second space.
Baan means House in Thai. This two-story restaurant is located in the suburb of Muaither, just opposite Aspire Park on the Furousiya Street. Do not underestimate its appearance from the outside of the building which shares the commercial row with McD, toy store, and minimarket. Baan Thai is sleek, clean, and modern, once we enter. It’s also spacious although peppered with authentic Thai ornaments or accents throughout its both floors.
Not so long before one of the waitresses came to see us and handed us their menu. We’re overwhelmed. All looked so inviting that we took quite some time to decide. Finally we came up with this selection: tom yum goong (hot & sour tom yum soup with prawns, lemongrass lime juice and thai herbs), kai pad sub pa rod (chicken stir fried with pineapple), goong pad katriem (shrimp stir fried with garlic sauce), beef sautee, chicken fried rice, steamed rice, fish cakes, and thai ice tea.
The Thai fish cake, known as tod mun pla, is marvelous. They seems rightly spiced and herbed, and also not so soft not so hard. The seafood tom yum was a typical Thai taste if not on the sour side; too much lime?
The kids loved the fried rice and beef sautee, though the latter veered into oily and hard texture. They didn’t like the idea of pineapple married with chicken so that I’m responsible for most if not all the portions. Shrimp stir fried deserved our praise for its freshness and wonderfully spiced. Unfortunately, steam rice that accompanied our main courses was a bit hard.
We closed our dinner with Thai Ice Tea which we never regretted it’s chosen for its superb taste, if only it has a ready-made drink sachet for home.
Total damage? Check the last two pictures below.
Baan Thai Restaurant
Sun – Wed: 3pm – 11pm
Thu – Sat: 12noon – 11pm
Contact: 4029 8126, 33515591
Alexandria, or Iskandariya, or simply Alex is Egypt’s second largest city, a major economic center due to its strategic location on the Mediterranean coast.
We started from Nasr City, east Cairo at 8:30am, and it took us close to 4hrs to Alexandria (233km), including one stop in one of the rest areas along Cairo – Alex Desert road. The Desert Road is a highway, however, its northern end close to Alexandria suffers from bottle necking due to ongoing road construction hence slowing down the trip.
The Bibliotheca Alexandrina was our first stop (EGP 5 Egyptian, EGP2/5 Student, EGP70 Non Egyptian). This vast library (enough shelf space for 8 million books, though it’s not in full capacity today) is intended to revive the grand old library once stood close to its current site, before it was thought to be burnt or destructed.
- Admission into the Main Reading Area is restricted to ages 16 and above.
- Children under 6 are not permitted in the Library. They can stay at the on-site daycare facility, located behind the Conference Center, provided they are accompanied by a parent.
- Youth aged 6–16 are not permitted in the Main Reading Area unless with a tour group
- Bags and other items are not allowed inside the Library and must be deposited at the safekeeping facility next to the ticket booths
We managed to visit main reading areas, some exhibitions and Library Shop but not to its 4 museums, planetarium nor Culturama.
Citadel of Qaitbay is our next visit. The citadel is basically a 15th-century defensive fortress was established in 1477 AD by Sultan Al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Qa’it Bay. The Citadel was erected on the exact site of the famous Lighthouse of Alexandria, which was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
There was a very long queue when we arrived on site that we aborted our plan to go inside. Instead we rather had a walk around the citadel. The pedestrian entrance to the citadel was lined with street stalls selling Egyptian souvenirs as well as sea-based souvenirs with some offers a horse ride service. The Mediterranean Sea was so inviting that some people took a plunge to its blue water.
What could be better next than taking a respite from a hot day by licking roadside ice creams!
After a prayer in the Mosque of Al Abbas Al-Moursi with its beautiful interior decorations we headed to one of the Indonesian restaurants in Al Ibrahimeyah area located between the Bibliotheca and Alexandria Sporting Club.
We arrived at Montaza Palace just few minutes before sunset. To arrive here was a struggle in itself. Although the Palace is located only 15km from where we had our lunch, it took us nearly an hour owing to heavy rush hour traffic clogging the coastal road.
The Palace and its extensive gardens in the Montaza district of Alexandria is popular with residents seeking a lovely view of sunset, or simply picnicking on its large green park complex. Unfortunately, the palace is not open to the public.
Sunset in Montaza concluded our day in Alexandria. We went back to the city center to check-in into Le Metropole Hotel. Strategically located in front of Midan Saad Zaghloul by the corniche, the hotel was believed to be constructed on the very location of former obelisk of Queen Cleopatra, now it is a gift to the city of Paris.
It was an eerie feeling entering into the hotel’s 18th century building with classical decorations, small and old elevators, high ceilings, carpeted corridor and dimmed rooms. It’s paid off however with stunning view to Mediterranean Sea, or the nearby square and Corniche Street from our room balcony.
See my review to the hotel here.
The next day, waiting for our flight back to Doha, I and my eldest son decided to take a short walk to nearby Roman Amphitheater. A 15-min leisure walk (1.1km) took us to the site which is very close to Misr Railway Station . Beware that it is not as grand as you would expect, including the nearby (within the same complex) Villa of the Birds.
We proceeded to Graeco Roman Museum only to find it has been closed for renovation since years ago (2008).
An hour limo ride took us to the isolated Borg El-Arab International Airport (50km – southwest) (200 EGP normal taxi, 300 EGP limo if arranged through hotel. It could have been cheaper if self-arranged).
It is here where the blatant “where is my tips?” demand from the staff at the First Class Lounge in El Borg Airport seemed to justify the generalized accusation of ‘baksheesh’ culture in Egypt tourism industry, unfortunately.
Taking off Qatar Airways flight to Doha would only mean that we had to end our mixed feelings of experiences in Egypt. We’re glad we had an opportunity to sample Egyptian life, to dive into past rich history of Ancient Egypt, or the grand of Islamic era. We believe that each place has its unique charm and travelling is always an experience you can’t buy.
If only I could summarize Cairo in three phrases then they would be: dysfunctional trash bin resulting in litter strewn streets, very functioning horns, and culture of baksheesh. And all of them, fortunately with the rich history backgrounds that spanning more than five thousands years from the Ancient Egypt to Islamic era and minority Coptic community to today’s modern Cairo.
We spent the whole day exploring Cairo. Afwan, our guide, took us not only to those tourists usual sites but also the backside of Cairo not usually in the tour agent itinerary. He showed us areas full of student dormitories from Indonesia and Malaysia in Nasr City, visited student-run businesses such as restaurants serving the students, to Al Azhar campuses, or to mausoleum of Imam Shafi’i. He insisted us to aboard public boat ride on the last night in Cairo, which we’re grateful we accepted later.
Started at 8.30 in the morning we hit the road for the Mosque of Amr bin Al-Aas, the first mosque ever built in Egypt. Within walking distances to it is Coptic Cairo areas with as many churches in one single area as could be in Cairo.
We’re trapped in typical Cairo traffic trying to get to Asfour Crystal (hey check your purchase!) on the north Cairo before recharging ourselves with simple West Sumatra cuisines in Nasr City.
Then, tuck into a slum area of the City of the Dead, where 500,000 people depend their daily life to the eery city, for a mausoleum of Imam Shafi’i before going to the beautiful mosque of Ibn Tulun. The latter has inspired I.M. Pei to build Qatar’s Museum of Islamic Art based on cubism architectures in the mosque.
Khan el-Khalili was the next stop, the perfect place to practice your haggling skills! We’re fortunate we had Afwan as he is fluent in Arabic and with his sense of humor he always managed to get big discounts. Prices for souvenirs here are cheaper by Qatar standard.
While in here, we visited El Fishawy coffee shop, tempted by a good review in Lonely Planet. With a glass of coffee as cheap as 4 QAR and shisha for 10QAR this two-century old coffee shop is a treat after that shopping marathon in the bazaar or if you fancy people watching. Prepare your refusal words though as no single minute passed without roaming vendors!
We closed our Cairo chapter by taking a cheap public boat ride (70 EGP for 3 adults 2 children?); a 20-min ride on the river Nile, accompanied by blaring Arabic music, tacky dances by the youth and with glittering views of building alongside the river.
Once we concluded our tour in Madinat Habu, we moved northwardly to the two most important historical sites: Temple of Hatshepsut and the Valley of the Kings.
TEMPLE OF HATSHEPSUT
Along the way we passed by Qurna Village -an old-fashioned, brightly painted mud-brick houses village sitting on top of suspected ancient tombs – and the Tombs of the Nobles.
Our guide, jokingly said to us that many would say ‘hot chicken soup’ in lieu of Hatshepsut, owing to the difficulty to spell it. Anyway. Queen Hatshepsut is generally regarded by Egyptologists as one of the most successful pharaohs. This mortuary temple is dedicated to the sun god Amon-Ra and is located next to the mortuary temple of Mentuhotep II. Unfortunately, the temple was the site of the massacre of 62 people, mostly tourists, by extremists that took place in 1997.
What we see today is basically a reconstruction of the temple (that was started in the early 20th century).
The superbly detailed relief sculpture within Hatshepsut’s temple recites the tale of the divine birth of a female pharaoh – the first of its kind. The text and pictorial cycle also tell of an expedition to the Land of Punt, an exotic country on the Red Sea coast. Interestingly enough there is a tree in front of Hatshepsut’s temple, claimed to have been brought from Punt by Hatshepsut’s Expedition which is depicted on the Temple walls.
Unfortunately many of the statues and ornamentation have since been stolen or destroyed, at order of Hatshepsut’s stepson Thutmose III after her death.
In later time, the temple became a Christian monastery and therefore it bears its alternative name, Deir el-Bahari (Northern Monastery)
The temple was built into towering pink cliffs back-to-back with the Valley of the Kings, behind the Theban hills. The entrance to the temple complex is quite far so use the train provided especially if you visit the place during hot weather.
After Hatshepsut tour our guide took us to an alabaster factory, run by Luxor villagers.
We noticed that he was welcome here and got free tea and cigarettes. I believe that tour guides definitely get commission here, which in turn means higher prices for you.
In this factory, they do a fake demonstration in front of you, a guy grinding alabaster the old fashion way , serve a hot tea (to prolong your sipping time) and to increase your guilt level). They said that there is no obligatory purchase here etc.
We did buy here, at half the price originally offered (fortunately not much) but it is still 2-3 times much more expensive than the same stuff we later noticed in Cairo’s Khan el-Khalili.
We also bought 3 pieces fridge magnets in one of the shops in Karnak Temple and again it’s 2-3 times more expensive. Remember Luxor is much dependent on tourist industry (especially in this climate of low tourist) and that this is just business. As one of the tripadvisor member has said: “I feel deep sympathy for the people of Luxor, their desperation is clear for everyone to see. But their way of dealing with the lack of income is counterproductive, and makes things much worse”
So avoid these similar places (perfume factory, papyrus museum, carpet factory or alabaster factory) if you can, or unless you are pre-equipped with high haggling skills, resist guilt level and know the prices.
THE VALLEY OF THE KINGS
The Valley of the Kings is a valley where, for a period of nearly 500 years from the 16th to 11th century BC, tombs were constructed for the Pharaohs and powerful nobles of the New Kingdom. At first glance there seems to be nothing to see in the valley, hidden behind the Theban hills; if not because of modern day pathways to access the tombs, the area looks lifeless. Towering above the Valley is a mountain, whose shape may have reminded the ancient Egyptians of a pyramid.
The tombs are tunnelled deep into the hillside (some reach hundreds of meters). There are 62 numbered tombs (by initial KV) in the Valley , ranging from a simple pit (KV 54) to a tomb with over 121 chambers and corridors (KV 5). Most were found already looted and ravaged.
Unlike the West Valley, the East Valley contains most of the tombs and is the most commonly visited by tourists.
Tourist access to the Valley is through a single gate entrance complex where a simple information hall, tourist market and ticketing office are clustered. The ticket is valid only for 3 tombs; a tomb keeper would punch your ticket against the access. So please go pre-armed with information on which tombs are found to be most interesting. No camera is allowed inside the tomb; I’ve seen at least two occasions were tourists caught by the guard for taking pictures. Please be aware that some tombs may be closed for preservation precautions.
Unfortunately, although it is almost a compulsory stop on most organized tours and the best-known of all tombs, tomb of Tutankhamun is an anti-climax. A separate ticket is to be bought for Tomb of Tutankhamun.
Check Theban Maping Projects for a detailed description, images, and map/plan of every single tomb in this valley:
Tombs Map & Plan (http://www.thebanmappingproject.com/sites/)
Our guide selected for us three tombs he thought of most interesting, and now pity I can’t really remember except two and that I found it worth visiting: KV 14 (Tomb of Tausert and Setnakht) and KV 17 (Tomb of Seti I). The other most interesting tomb is KV 9 (Tomb of Rameses V and VI).
- KV 14: a joint tomb; a joint tomb, used originally by Tausert and then reused and extended by Setnakht. It has two burial chambers, the later extensions making the tomb one of the largest of the Royal Tombs, at over 112 metres.
- KV17: is one of the best decorated tombs in the valley, but now is almost always closed to the public due to damage. The longest tomb in the valley, at 137.19 metres.
- KV 9: Ramses VI took over the unfinished tomb of his predecessor, so he was getting a head start in construction of his own. Reaches 83m into the hillside and its wall richly decorated with complex illustration of the Book of the Dead ( a kind of guide to the afterlife)
We visited in April and it got very hot in the Valley. Do bring hat, umbrella, sunglasses and water. They provide several shades though.
Once we finished our business in the West Bank, our last stop would be Karnak Temple on the East Bank. We opted to take a lunch break and start the tour at 3pm to catch up our flight back to Cairo at 6pm and to avoid sunblasting walking tour in the temple
Fortunately enough Nefertiti Hotel allowed us to use one of the rooms to take a rest.
It is worth visiting Karnak twice: once in the evening for the excellent Sound and Light Show, and second time during the day when we can see the vast scope of the complex and look at its detailed inscriptions, reliefs or murals.
Entrance is by a processional avenue guarded by ram-headed sphinxes which leading to the first pylon and then the Great Court.
Two granite colossi of Ramses II guard the second pylon, leading to the Great Hypostyle Hall, famous for its 134 gigantic columns (with diameter up to 3 meters and 10 meters high). Further ahead are more pylons gateways leading to the oldest section of the complex. The most striking feature is the 29m Obelisk of Hatshepsut (one of the three remaining obelisks in the entire Egypt).
The key difference between Karnak and most of the other temples and sites in Egypt is the length of time over which it was developed and used. Construction of temples started in the Middle Kingdom and continued through to Ptolemaic times. Approximately thirty pharaohs contributed to the buildings, enabling it to reach a size, complexity, and diversity not seen elsewhere.
Visit to Karnak concluded our one-day visit to this largest open-air museum. We’re lucky enough to visit Luxor, and still amazed on the level of architectural feats of the Ancient Egypt. To me, Luxor is a must visit. Keeping all those tourist traps and hassles, a tour to these historical sites will definitely be an eye opening experience.
Thanks to Nefertiti Hotel and Aladdin Tour for their excellent service, knowledgable guide, and hospitality!
BTW, Luxor Airport has a very nice facade. Don’t miss it.
“Is it scary Dad?” Fathan asked me before he was going to bed. We just wrapped our day in Luxor as we returned from Karnak Sound and Light Show, and prepared for a long day tomorrow, starting with a balloon ride. This is his first time.
The hotel staff told us to be ready at 4:20am for the balloon ride but three minutes before the time, telephone rang from the receptionist asking us to go to the lobby. The receptionist has also prepared 4 breakfast boxes as per our request. Then one guy asked us to follow him walking down to the river Nile, passing through an Egyptian tourist bazaar. There, a wooden boat waited for us. Few minutes later 2 couples, two staffs and one cameraman joined us and off we sailed 500m crossing the river Nile.
Arriving at the balloon launching pad, an open area close to the road to the Temple of Hatshepsut, we saw several balloons were getting prepared. One ballon was taking off when our ballon was being warmed. Soon after our pilot came and provided a short safety briefing, focusing on how to respond to crash landing. Wew…this only made Fathan more scared.
A hot air balloon consists of a bag called the envelope that is capable of containing heated air. Suspended beneath is a gondola or wicker basket , which carries passengers (our basket has 16-person capacity divided into 4 boxes, separated by a pilot and fuel cylinders area in the middle) and a source of heat (four propane cylinder with quadruple burners). The heated air inside the envelope makes it buoyant since it has a lower density than the relatively cold air outside the envelope. The pilot manages the flight by a combination of actuating a specific burner, and opening a vent. He also takes into consideration the prevailing wind.
The first balloon to take off was Sindbad then followed by our Salem balloon . Later while up in the air we found out that the Sindbad balloon ventured out close to the Nile while ours only maintained a close position to the Temple and vicinity.
In this 45 minutes floating over Luxor, we could see contrasting images of monotonous color of the desert and green-yellow farming area, peeked into a private life of the villagers, and enjoyed a golden rays of sunrise. Life is indeed totally different when it’s seen from a bird eye view.
The flight took us from seeing the Valley of the Kings, and nearby Temple of Hatshepsut, then to Rammeseum, the Tombs of the Nobles, and Qurna Village.
The balloon finally made a soft landing on a different landing area and immediately a group of people jumped out of the truck, knowing what they’ve got to do.
On 26 February 2013, a hot air balloon carrying foreign tourists ignited and crashed here, killing 19 of the 21 people on board, making it the deadliest balloon accident in history. Since then, the industry has been under scrutiny. Choose only reputable and certified company.
COLOSSI OF MEMNON
Our van dropped us in a parking lot near Colossi of Memnon. We were then met by our guide, Hassan.
Hassan started his story of the two statues in front of us. He said that they are the statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III and has stood for the past 3400 years (since 1350 BC). They were intended to stand guard at the entrance to Amenhotep’s memorial temple. Unfortunately, with the exception of the Colossi, however, very little remains today of Amenhotep’s temple, due to annual inundations.
Madinat Habu refers to an area on the West Bank, Luxor, however it is well-known for its temple: The Mortuary Temple of Ramesses III. The temple is an important New Kingdom period structure and is probably best known as the source of inscribed reliefs depicting the advent and defeat of the Sea Peoples during the reign of Ramesses III.
What amazing about the temple is its decorative structure including use of colors, details of relics and neatness of art workmanship. Majority of them are still well preserved.
The complex has three pylons. The first pylon leads into an open courtyard, lined with colossal statues of Ramesses III as Osiris (was an Egyptian god, usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead) on one side, and uncarved columns on the other. The second pylon leads into a peristyle hall, again featuring columns in the shape of Ramesses. This leads up a ramp that leads (through a columned portico) to the third pylon and then into the large hypostyle hall (which has lost its roof).
As we were in the hypostyle hall, a man approached us to follow him to the tombs but we politely and consistently refused him.
Hassan told us a story of what the life looked like in the past including the use of middle area as a festival area where common people could come, and meet the King, and the inner areas where only nobbles and the King relatives could go in.
He made fun of the boys by asking them different names of Egyptian god and how they are represented on the reliefs:
– Anubis – a jackal-headed god associated with mummification and the afterlife
– Horus – usually shown as a falcon or as a human child, linked with the sky, the sun, kingship, protection, and healing
– Isis – goddess of health, marriage, and wisdom
– Osiris – god of death and resurrection who rules the underworld and enlivens vegetation, the sun god, and deceased souls
– Ra – the foremost Egyptian sun god
– Amun – king of the gods and god of the wind
COLOSSI OF MEMNON
Today is our fourth day in Egypt. Our plan is to fly out of Cairo to Luxor, a city frequently characterized as the world’s greatest open air museum .
We had until 10am in the morning before we checked out from Novotel. Not long before we’re ready for a short walk across Tahrir Bridge. It was Saturday, traffic was expectedly low and quiet, and the weather was so pleasant. We leisurely walked on the bridge that spanning around 360m over the river Nile, down to Tahrir Square, and then back to the hotel. A good 30-min walking exercise before good breakfast at Novotel.
The flight to Luxor is only one hour. Egypt Air offers multiple flights daily (starts from 500 QAR return) including ones early in the morning from Cairo and late evening from Luxor; making Luxor as a quick weekend escape.
We stopped-by briefly at Wisma Nusantara Cairo for storing our luggages – we would stay here for two days upon our return from Luxor. This hostel is currently managed by the Indonesian students in Al Azhar University. From its guestbook it can be easily noticed that it’s a favorite among Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei visitors and it’s received positive feedbacks. Apart from the hostel, Wisma Nusantara hosts a rentable hall, offices for the Islamic activities as well as accommodations for its management. It may worth your consideration when you are planning to visit Cairo, so you can contribute to its sustainability. Its close location to Ganena Mall, KFC and QNB ATM and a short drive from the airport is also an added plus.
Telp: (20) 2 -22609228
WhatsApp : +201151046377
Email : Wismanusantaracairo@gmail.com
Luxor is a laid back small city, at the opposite contrast to chaotic Cairo. Its population (currently about half a million) is heavily dependent upon tourism. However, large numbers of people also work in agriculture such as sugar cane (clearly visible during the balloon ride and from a short ride from the airport to the city center).
Twenty minute van ride from the airport saw us Nefertiti Hotel , a small budget hotel where its affordable price doesn’t correlate with its strategic location and very excellent staff services; winning accolades from TripAdvisor. Tucked away in the entrance to Luxor Market, Nefertiti also offered an excellent restaurant and incomparable rooftop seating area, overlooking Avenues of the Sphinxes, the Nile and the Theban Hills on the West Bank.
Via the hotel (who also manages Aladin Tours), we’ve booked one-and-half-day tour in Luxor; starting from Karnak Sound and Light Show at 7pm, and then balloon ride and the West Bank in the morning and Karnak Temple in the afternoon.
The sun has just set on the horizon with the Nile and the Theban Hills as backdrops; providing one of the unforgettable memories of sunset watching ever. Still enough time before we would be picked up for the Show in Karnak Temple, we chose to have early dinner in the rooftop; tasting what Egyptian Authentic Bedouin cuisines like. Camel meat dish, Egyptian style omelette, mixed grill, and umm ali were probably representable
The Show, in English, starts at 7pm. Karnak Temple is located about 3km north of Luxor city center. In the past, and we can see it today, Luxor Temple and Karnak Temple are connected by the Avenue of the Sphinxes. Some 1,350 sphinx statues are thought once to have flanked the path. Unfortunately this path is not well maintained the way I see it.
The show, which last for about one and half an hour, tells the history of Thebes and of the Pharaohs who built, extended the temple. Images of the Pharaoh were projected on the temple wall, accompanied by narration of the history of Luxor and the temple. Looking at the massive, grand temple in the dark, illuminated by the light of full moon above us seemed to throw us centuries or thousands years ago. The magical feeling of walking side-by-side to the floodlit 134 gigantic columns inside the Hypostyle Hall was indescribable.
Upon passing through the fallen obelisk (one of the three remaining obelisks in Egypt), visitors were escorted to seating areas by the Sacred Lake for the final history-telling show. That made up our fourth day!
KARNAK SOUND & LIGHT SHOW