In Istanbul

In front of the Blue Mosque

In front of the Blue Mosque

Since arriving from Thessaloniki on the Monday night train, we have been very busy, working hard at sightseeing etc, Friday we went ferrying up and down the Bosphorus, and climbed an ancient Byzantine (Genovese, they were allied against the Venetians) fortress. Saturday (today) we are rushing out to the Topkapi Palace. Why? because we are leaving on Monday for 3 weeks in the wilds of Anatolia, leavened by a few days on a gulet. This is our own homemade “Turkey encompassed” with a little help from our friends at Kirkit travel, a company run by a very nice friend of Kim Sanders. Continue reading

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The White Desert

The totally unique and overpowering White Desert was a highlight of our 5 day safari in Egypt’s Western Desert. White desert album

Wind sculpted from rock

Wind-sculpted from rock

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Under the veil

At Khan il Khalili market

At Khan il Khalili market

The situation of women in Egypt is every bit under the thumb as I expected and could get worse – more and more seem to be in full hijab which is very weird. Continue reading

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False doors of Egypt

False doors of Egypt: an excellent article on contemporary Egypt which gels with our own experiences. Also highly recommended: Devotion and division:,25197,25082492-5013491,00.html Continue reading

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Feluckin’ feluccas…or romantics beware!
The idyllic romantic Nile adventure, as described in Gecko’s travel notes:
The ideal felucca
Sailing down the Nile is a magic experience, lying on thick mattresses, watching the dark waters glide past. We stop off at Komombo to visit the classic Greco-Roman Temple of Sobek, overlooking the river and the rest of our time is spent relaxing and enjoying timeless scenes of local life as we travel slowly down the Nile. Nights are spent sleeping on board and our crew provides simple, healthy meals.

Life on board the Felucca
Feluccas are simple sailing boats, no more and no less. They have no engines and no toilets. There is a single deck on which you can stretch out during the day under a shade awning. It is an extremely relaxing way of travelling down the Nile, however many people find the pace very slow, especially when contrasted with a busy life back home. We strongly recommend you take books, magazines, card games, walkmans and any other items which might help to while away your time on board. Meals are simple. They are prepared by your Nubian crew and include chicken, rice, local breads and vegetables. Each evening your crew pulls into the shore. They generally find a flat, sandy area for the night. Toilet facilities are very basic. Note that, during the winter months (Oct-Mar), it be very cold on the river at night so you should bring thermals and a fleece.

The reality proved very different.
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Express to Alexandria

Room 301 at the Metropole

Room 301 at the Metropole

Alexandria East HarbourJourney to Alexandria
Feeling smug about avoiding ground transport and taxis, we boarded the Metro for Mubarek and walked into Ramesses Station. King Hotel to platform in 35 mins, carrying light packs and handbags. Train itself took about 2hr 20mins to cover the 200+km, would have been hard to have been one of Napoleon’s troops doing this through the desert on foot. From Iskandreya station we walked down Danial to the beautiful Metropole Hotel, a total joy with fabulous breakfasts, elegant furniture, the antique and slightly vertigo inducing central lift, and our gold gilded room was fit for minor royalty. Everything in the marble bathroom worked, a first for Egypt.
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Finding the Alfi bey

our best find in Cairo!

our best find in Cairo!

A quest for the Al-Azbakiyya Cairo book markets was unsuccessful; they were either closed for Sunday or we couldn’t find them. However, the quest led us to a sympathetic coffee shop and gallery with free wifi. This was the Kunst Gallery in Sharia Sharif near the imposing neo-classical Supreme Court in downtown Cairo. To get there, go west along Sharia 26 July from the Ataba Metro, and turn left onto S Sharif after a couple of long blocks. After a very acceptable and acceptably priced cappuccino we back tracked and found the Alfi bey in a block a little NE of where S Sharif runs into S 26 July, in Sharia Alfi bey naturally. This was a beautiful clean restaurant from Cairo’s graceful past with charming staff and even more charming prices. We had a terrific whole grilled chicken with rice for lunch. Thus fortified, we walked North to Mubarek Metro where we navigated the maze of underground passages and emerged into the sunlight of Ramesses station. Here we bought 2nd class tickets on the 9am express to Alexandria…

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Abdul drives his taxi

The Giza pyramids loomed up on our port side as we landed at Cairo airport joining a mass tourist haj that culminated when we finally reached the Giza site 4 days later. First experience of haggling and touts came with the effort to grab a taxi, finally set off with Abdul whose rate was 60le, a quarter the others. 60Le soon became 70 as we paid his parking fee leaving the airport. His beat-up Peugot local taxi tore through the traffic, rather hairy as the door didn’t close properly, only one ragged seat belt in front. And he was on his mobile phone and giving us a simultaneous commentary, not looking at the traffic.
Traffic lane markings are only there for decoration. Red lights are merely a suggestion to stop in this city of 18 million, most of whom seem to be pedestrians dodging across anywhere. Continue reading

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This may help you when driving in Egypt:

Lane markings: there for decorative purposes only.
Horns: your car is equipped with a horn, so use it constantly.
Red light: You may stop, but only if you feel like it.
Drive on the right is the rule in Egypt, but is largely optional.
Seat belts: must be fastened at all times when approaching a police check point, then release immediately.
Headlights, when driving at night, turn on your headlights occasionally. But keep off most of the time to save power.
Pedestrians: pedestrians have right of way, except when run down and injured or killed.
Mobile phones: you have a mobile phone, so use it, especially when in difficult traffic conditions.
Accidents and collisions: these are an opportunity for a lengthy argument in the middle of the road, and you can legally create a traffic jam.
Taxis provide transport from A to B as well as death-defying thrills. It is not required that the taxi driver watch the road if he is pointing out sights.

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First in a series of occasional jokes etc These are from a book called Disorder in the American Courts, and are things people actually said in court, word for word, taken down and now published by court reporters that had the torment of staying calm while these exchanges were actually taking place. Continue reading

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