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                                HURGHADA AND LUXOR, Egypt - THE RED SEA                                     

Hurghada

April 9

We were so thankful to get tied up safely to the dock in Hurghada Marina. Lucky to have made it because our weather window slammed shut. We had our first Med moor experience, meaning that the bow is tied to a cement wall and the stern is tied to mooring balls. This makes for some creative acrobatics to get on and off the boat!

It was blowing very hard in the marina and the first night all the boats were threatening to bang into each other; one of our mooring balls was pulled right out! A huge dive boat on the outside wall, sank, pulling another boat down with it. This morn there was a Mayday called by a fishing boat also. Not a day to be "out there." And again, we have another layer of brown filthy sandy dust all over everything!

Marina Life

The marina was surrounded by contemporary buildings, all vacant. But the city was only a block away so it was easy to get supplies and the marina offered facilities for internet, fuel, propane and laundry.

Our priority was to assess the damage down to the engine. Gord discovered that the breakage of the brass replacement part that was made in Cairo stripped the gears on our camshaft. The bits of brass were imbedded through the oil pump into the oil pan, timing gear housing and all through the engine. The crank gear and the cam gear were badly damaged. 

Then came the arduous task of removing the damaged gears from the crankshaft without dismantling the entire engine, a feat which everyone said could not be done. Since we did not have the specialized tools required, ever-resourceful Gord spent days and days building tools to do this. He drilled holes in sockets and attached screws and spare fittings and constructed guides for the gears out of anything he could find lying around. In the end, he had to grind down the crank gear into pieces to release it from the shaft.

We found a cow magnet at a local shop and managed to secure it to the end of a coat hanger to retrieve the steel bits out of the oilpan. Getting the brass out was much trickier and the process took many many days of patiently wiping the inside of the engine gathering a mountain of tiny bits of metal shrapnel and using pinchers to remove the foreign particles.

Our search for new gears was exhausting. We still needed the plastic gear, but  now also  the crank gear, cam gear, tack sensor, seals, etc, etc. Luckily we had internet so used Skype to call all over the world. After talking and
emailing no less than 30 suppliers we were able to source all but the crank gear, which we were told was obsolete, no longer made. Of course we still had to deal with how to get the parts into the country. To import parts into Egypt, one has to hire an agent and pay a minimum $300/shipment plus agent fees. And then there is all the baksheesh that would be on top of that!

It finally became apparent to us that we were not going to be able to obtain a replacement cam gear as the part, made for our 20 year old engine) was obsolete. There was a world wide call put out to see if someone had one sitting on a shelf somewhere gathering dust. No  result.

Augusta had a friend visiting them from Norway so we arranged for her to bring the crank gear, along with some seals and other parts we were able to order in Norway. This relieved us of the custom and duty hassles for some of the problem. She was due to arrive in only a couple of days so we felt ourselves very lucky!


Convoy to Luxor

While waiting for our boat parts to arrive, we arranged a trip to visit Luxor. We thought we could just take a public bus there but things weren't quite so simple. "White" people are not allowed to take the local busses because any travel done by tourists must be arranged through a travel agency to ensure that it is done in a convoy. The convoys run twice a day, congregating in Safaga, and number hundreds of buses, automobiles, trucks and mini vans travelling  bumper to bumper and competing for speed records. Intersections are barricaded by the police and everyone must wait for the convoy to pass. The convoy goes through red lights and does not stop for anyone, as noted as the pedestrians had to dive for cover. For 3 hours twice a day, a snake of vehicles ties up the highway supposedly for the safety of foreigners. I cannot image a better target than this one set up by the Egyptian government. Of course one might argue that it is merely a money grab because the tour companies have to pay, although there really is not much offered in the way of protection if a threat was to materialize.

We made arrangements with a local for a 2 day overnight package trip. Our mini bus of about 20 other mostly Russian tourists joined 300 other vehicles and we reached Luxor about 8pm. Luxor is a modern city of some 150,000 people.  Most of the buildings are designed to appear as paranoiac constructs.  We were taken to a very nice hotel and given dinner before our complementary buggy ride around the city.

We passed the Luxor Temple, unfortunately closed and dark at 10 pm.

City Tour

Our buggy and horse clip-clopped through the street like a robot who had done the route a hundred times before, weaving in and out of the noisy traffic, unaffected by the bustle of people and the roar of motor cycles and cars.

We stopped at a bridge where below were the remains the excavated dromos where the alley of ram-headed sphinxes once linked Karnak with the Luxor temple.

Before retiring we walked around the streets past little shops and lots of people in the streets.

After breakfast, the usual cucumbers, tomatoes and olives with bread, we boarded a mini bus and headed to visit some of the numerous preservation of  monuments that Luxor has to offer.

First stop

Memnon Colossus

A massive pair of statues rise 18 meters above the plain. The faceless statues one of which is believed to be of the legendary Memnon, King of Ethiopia, are the remains of what was once the largest complex of the 'West Bank, covering  a larger area than Karnak. The disappearance was the result of it lying on the flood plains of the Nile which caused it to be eroded away through the centuries.

The stark hillsides were dotted with dwellings where people lived amongst numerous holes excavated into the rock, the remains of burial places from long ago.  

Alabaster

Of course there was the mandatory Alabaster Shop Stop. It was actually quite interesting  to see the demonstration of how they worked with the stone. An array of items carved from different minerals found in the area including grey, white and pink alabaster were offered for sale.

 

Karnak Temple

Located about three kilometers north of Luxor, the Karnak Temple is encompases 247 acres of land. Although badly ruined, the Temple is an impressive sight. It is the largest temple complex ever built covering a site almost a mile by two miles in area, and represents the combined achievement of approximately 30 pharaohs,  built and enlarged over a 1300 year period beginning in the 16th century BC.

 

Arriving at the temple, there is a statue of Ramesses II with his son between his feet.
The Avenue of Rams leading to the West gate of the Karnak Temple complex. The impressive Sphinxes have the head of a Ram and the body of a lion and are symbolic of the God Amun.
The main Avenue running West to East within the complex leading towards the Hipostyle Hall

The Hypostyle Hall  is considered to be one of the world's greatest architectural masterpieces.It is filled with 134 enormous andstone pillars, the highest 70 feet tall, and each about 45 feet around. The whole thing covers 64,586 sq ft.   The walls, ceilings and columns are painted with the natural earth tones.

The reliefs throughout the hall contain symbolism
of Creation.

The outer walls of the Hypostyle Hall are covered with scenes of battle.

The Temple of Karnak is actually three main temples, smaller enclosed temples, and several outer temples and chapels, 25 in all. The largest and most important group in the site is the central enclosure, the Great Temple of Amun.  Sanctuaries, obelisks, and groups of columns all feature accounts of the heroic deeds of the sponsoring pharaoh.

Obelisk of Hatshepsut (1473-1458 BC)

The tallest standing obelisk, it is 97 feet (29.6m) high and weighs approximately 320 tons.

The pink granite for the obelisk was quarried at Aswan, which is several hundred miles south of Karnak.

We saw the mate to this obelisk while in Istanbul, Turkey

We started to recognize letters from the Egyptian hieroglyphic alphabet.

The temple area is in constant state of reconstruction.
The southern part of Karnak contains the temple of Mut,

After a couple of hours at Karnak it was back into the mini bus. A stop at a Papyrus Factory where they demonstrated how paper was made using the reeds from the Nile River. A gallery full of painting on papyrus paper were offered for sale.
Lunch on the Nile

We had an amazing buffet lunch, seated right on the banks of the Nile. We watched the boat traffic which consisted of tourboats, river cruise boats, ferries and sailing feluccas.

After lunch we boarded a ferry that portaged us across the river to rejoin our bus headed for the tombs of the Pharaohs.

 

 

Valley of the Kings

We drove a twisty road through the desolate mountain landscape, the heat waves dancing off the highway.

The Valley of the Kings, in Thebes, is the burial place of the pharaohs of the New Kingdom,18th,19th, and 20th Dynasties. To date, more than 62 tombs have been identified.

Most of the tombs were cut into the limestone hills following a similar pattern: three corridors, an antechamber and a sunken sarcophagus chamber. These catacombs were harder to rob and were more easily concealed. Construction usually lasted six years, beginning with the new reign.

We ascended into 3 of the tombs where the pharaohs body and worldly wealth were once laid. The walls were adorned with paintings, perhaps of the events of the pharaohs life. Much of the color still remained although none of it was protected from roaming hands or graffiti. you were not allowed to take photos and we saw one tourist that was being threatened to have his camera confiscated.

Hatshepsut Temple

A long walkway and staircase led to The Temple of Deir El-Bahri, one of the most characteristic temples in the whole of Egypt, due to its design and decorations. It was built of limestone, not sandstone like most of the other funerary temples of the New Kingdom period.

The Temple was built for the great Queen Hatshepsut (18th Dynasty), to commemorate her achievements and to serve as a funerary Temple for her. Hatshepsut was a woman who dared to challenge the tradition of male kingship. She died from undisclosed causes after imposing her will for a time.

The three-tiered temple was found beneath hundreds of tons of sand tens of centuries after its construction. Two ramps connect the three levels.

The sphinxes had the heads of Hatshepsut, and she is also represented as a lion in some of the temple's reliefs

   
There was military presence throughout the complex packing their Oozies
The surrounding barren hillsides were dotted with hundreds of holes that were the remains of tombs in the rock face from the 18th Dynasty.

We headed back to town on the Western Bank and marvelled at the traditional customs of the farming community where the donkey still has its major role.

Since our bus wasn't due to join the convoy back to Hurghada for a couple of hours, we took a river cruise down the Nile.


River Cruise

Our boat put-putted down the river, slaloming around feluccas which were drifting with the current in the still air.

Feluccas are traditional wooden sail boats that have been used on the Nile for thousands of years. The rig consists of one or two sails usually full of holes but they seem to do the job all the same.
We passed fields of rice and other crops growing in the rich fertile soil of the farming lands bounding the Nile.

Our boat pulled up to the shore and we hopped off at the head of a trail leading to a little restaurant which was in the middle of a banana plantation. Of course, we were served bananas.

Shisha

Our guide took the opportunity to relax with a Shisha (water pipe), with is the custom in Egypt.

This ancient water pipe has been used for centuries to smoke away the day's stress, while relaxing with friends and family.

Shisha is a Middle-Eastern smoking tradition that began hundreds of years before the invasion of the big American cigarette companies. There are numerous cafes where one can lie on long cushions and spend the time talking to your friends and enjoying this Arab delight. Tobacco is soaked in fruit shavings such as strawberry, apples or grapes. This mixture is then smoked through a large water pipe. Men and women of the upper classes in the Arab world have been entertaining guests with hookah pipes for centuries.

Gord checks out an array of pipes.

Our bus returned to Hurghada and we arrived about midnight feeling that we had seen a lot that day!


Back in the Engine Room...

A few days later our parts arrived, including the new crank gear, but of course we still did not have a replacement cam gear.

There was no option but to try and reuse the damaged cam gear so Gord proceeded to resurrect and smooth the teeth as best he could using a hacksaw, file and sandpaper, hoping there were enough teeth left to mesh with the crank gear.

Once again Gord used his home built tools to refit the gears. The shaft was cooled with ice and the gears were heated on the propane stove to make them slide onto the shaft using the sleeves that Gord had made so the shaft would not push thru the back of the engine.  Gord equated the process to performing brain surgery with a hammer and chisel!

Days later, the engine was put back together with all the seals replaced with new. Nervously we started the engine, dreading another horrendous clamour that would mean our permanent stay in Egypt. Another bout of rattle, rattle, crunch crunch crunch!! as the old damaged gear meshed with the new, breaking off some of the teeth on the new gear. But the noise stopped before we could shut down the engine so once we retrieved the additional bits of metal from the oilpan, the resulting union of the gears seemed to be okay.

There were all sorts of new issues that evolved, as happens when you start messing with a 20 year old engine (ie, stripped bolts, corroded parts, etc). A major challenge was when the engine was started, it would begin to rev faster and faster to a screaming loud runaway pitch whereby Gord had to rush down and smother the air intake to get it stopped. A very scary sound as I was sure the engine would blow!! It took a while to figure out that the culprit was a missing tiny ball bearing with a hole in it that was suppose to be on the governor. Since we couldn't find the little piece, Gord made one, using his Dremel tool and an acorn screw head. It worked!!!

April 23/08

It was hard to maintain an optimistic attitude of escaping  the clutches of Egypt but finally there was a promising 3 day weather window, just in time as our 2 month Visa was running out fast. So we set off, on a lick and a prayer, hoping to get all the way to Port Suez in one 2 day hop.

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