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Friday, April 21, 2017

Stranded in the Sahara

Ramses II (1279-1213 B.C.) built the Temple of Hathor (above, at Abu Simbel) to honor Nefertari, his first and favorite wife who died relatively young, perhaps in childbirth. With his 200+ wives, Ramses had 96 sons and 60 daughters and outlived most of them. He died at age 96. (Author's note: Wouldn't that make most Egyptians related to Ramses II?)/Photo by Patricia Leslie

What is a trip to Egypt without being stranded in the Sahara?

An incomplete trip!

Attention, General Motors and Ford. You may be interested in the following. There may be a market for your vehicles in the Sahara Desert (?).

These are photos of our day and night spent at the incredible Abu Simbel Temple which honors Ramses II and Queen Nefertari.
This is the Great Temple of Abu Simbel, built by Ramses II in the 13th century B.C. in his own honor, but ostensibly to honor the patron deities of Egypt's great cities:  Thebes, Heliopolis, and Memphis with Ramses being one of the colossi.  The facade is 108 feet high, and an earthquake in 27 B.C. caused the second deity (from left) to fall down and break his crown whose pieces and ruins lay upon the ground in the front. Please note the living humans at the bottom of the photograph to get a picture of the sizes of these statues. An Egyptian tourism official told us it is the fault of the French that photos inside the Temple are prohibited because when photos were permitted, the French held up the lines too long taking them.  Thanks, French!/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Look at this!  A sound and light show at the Temple of Hathor.  Super fantastic! Now where else could you see this? Nowhere! Photo by Patricia Leslie
In the sound and light show, Ramses II and friends at Abu Simbel look like beautiful lighted ivory candles or monsters in the sand coming to eat you alive, whichever you prefer, and you may name more possibilities/Photo by Patricia LeslieThe next morning we left Abu Simbel and our lovely surroundings on board the magnificent Prince Abbas which we sailed on Lake Nasser (crocodiles)/Photo by Patricia Leslie

The countryside we passed on our journey to Aswan. How do palm trees grow in the desert? I never found an answer
/Photo by Patricia Leslie

On the way to Aswan
/Photo by Patricia Leslie
I hope Egypt has massive production underway to sell the energy harvested from the Sahara's sun and wind. I would like to buy stock in this investment. (The bus windows are reflected in the top of photo) /by Patricia Leslie

Chug, chug, chugging along in the Sahara. While Gail and, I think it was, Kim, both said later they had omens about a breakdown in the Sahara, I was worried about the driver falling asleep at the wheel, given the monotony of the roadway. Hanging on the front windshield is what someone said was a "good luck" charm which made us laugh later, but Tarek, the tour director, said it really was a "good luck" charm, and you know what? He was right/
/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Soon after the photo above was taken, about an hour outside Aswan, the bus broke down.

The driver struggled to get his charges to a marketplace, and he succeeded.

The temperature outside was in the mid-80s, and the bus remained relatively cool inside during the two plus hours that we waited for rescue in the form of another bus or a skillful mechanic who just happened to be wandering on the desolate desert highway.

A breeze flowed from one open bus door to the other (thank goodness for two bus doors!).

We were not uncomfortable. No one panicked. No one screamed: "Are we there yet?"
The bus came to a stop, and the driver could not get it started again. In the foreground, a security guard considers the situation and shows his opinion of the chances of re-starting the bus. "Exit" appears on the inside of the bus/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Outdoor explorers leave the confines of the bus and set up a baseball diamond. From left, Patsy, Becky, and Steve. Variation in scenery was limited/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Meanwhile, on the other side of the bus collecting sand (really, Kim did, everywhere; she has a worldwide collection at home) were, from left, Dana, Kim, and James (with ear flaps up)/Photo by Patricia Leslie

In the morning's sun and wind, someone began a census count of the increasing number of mechanics who tried to repair the vehicle. Police members who regularly patrol the highway stopped by, too.

I think everyone had an opinion, including me.
 Nancy, Tarek, and Becky soon join the discussion on the meaning of sand. (Note James's ear flaps are still up.)/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Tarek didn't like it too much when I asked him about the frequency of bus breakdowns: "We use the best possible buses available! We use Mercedes!" he squawked. The plate on the big bus bore out his testimony.

Problem solved.

He said breakdowns occur with regularity on his tours, usually once or twice a year. He seemed to take my question personally.

"But," I said, "have you ever considered a GM or a Ford?" Oh my gosh, there they were: spoken words of heresy in the desert.

He guffawed at my boldness, said "Ha!" and threw up a high five. What a ridiculous idea! What do Americans possibly know about driving in the Sahara? Especially, an American...woman?

Tarek, in the U.S., Mercedes are considered a pile of junk. They are always in the shop for repair. No one, Tarek, drives a Mercedes in the U.S. unless the owner pays a retainer fee to the dealer for constant care!

(I apologize, Germans, for opining about your cars, but I don't much like your $8 stale veggie sandwiches at your Frankfurt airport either. Check out my review at TripAdvisor.)

The breakdown added something to our trip, a special "flavor," as it were, "something to talk about," especially considering none of us suffered any ill effects, and, per usual, Tarek had planned far ahead, allowing us plenty of time to reach our next destination, lunch in Aswan!

(That the breakdown was possibly planned has occurred to me more than once.)

Meanwhile, on the back of the bus where some of us took up permanent residency during the life of the tour (more room; less bothersome to the others with our chit-chat), James left us to join the outsiders for discussion.

His partner, Margaret, was soon fuming in her bus seat: "Would you look at him?" she said to no one in particular as she glanced out the window and studied the gathering crowd.

James is quite fair-skinned and needs sun protection.

"He doesn't even have his ear flaps down!" (On his hat). Margaret soon left the bus to go reprimand James, but not before she passed around his secret, emergency supply of Pringles he carries with him on their worldwide trips, "just in case."

This was a "just in case" moment. Although we had ample snacks and water onboard (thanks, Tarek!), Pringles were better, and James didn't seem to mind, once he found out his stash had been raided.

After all, Pringles are worldwide now, and can even be found in the Sahara Desert. Fresh! Not stale!

On left, Tarek explains to Nancy:  "Look!  I didn't plan this!" Please note the arrival of Margaret, on right, who tells James: " Your ears are going to burn up in this sun!" and James's ear flaps flop down/Photo by Patricia Leslie
"Mechanics" (aka highway troopers) at work in the Sahara/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Does anyone here play bridge? Dominoes? Go fish? (No reply)
/Photo by Patricia Leslie

How many policemen does it take to fix an engine in the desert? More than what's here! (Dear Security Patrol: Thank you for trying!)
/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Talk about tombs for the pharaohs: "Thar must be gold inside this bus tomb!" (Attention, Readers: This is how we talk in Tennessee.) I think that's Voltaire in the khaki pants on the left.  Voltaire made an enduring comment during the trip which became widely quoted:  "It must be a woman driver!" (Private joke.  You had to be there.  See what you missed by not traveling with us in Egypt!)
/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Meanwhile, back on board, Nancy listened to Bill, the distinguished Dartmouth music history professor, hum a few bars of "100 bottles of beer in the sand, 100 bottles of beer, take one out and what'd'ya got?" Sand!

Nancy, one of three Texans on the trip, slung it out in her native drawl: "This would never happen in Texas!"
/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Kim closed the curtains, Nancy and Bill sang, and Steve looked for an escape hatch
/Photo by Patricia Leslie
Nope, this fan belt won't work. (Is this a fan belt he's carrying?)/Photo by Patricia Leslie
 Tarek rushed to buy emergency food for his brood/Photo by Patricia Leslie

Ahoy, matey! Is that an apparition of a rescue ship on the horizon? I say it's not, by golly! (This is how we speak in Tennessee when we're pretending to be British.)
/Photo by Patricia Leslie
It is! It is!  A rescue ship had landed! Celebrating from the immediate left are Bev with Dennis and Dana, and, in the distance are Claire and Kim who jaunt off to welcome the lifesavers/Photo by Patricia Leslie

It didn't take long for desert explorers to hop on the new bus and finish the journey

/Photo by Patricia Leslie

This is more like it! An afternoon cruise on the Nile. Thank you to all rescuers, Tarek, and all the fellows who helped make it another exciting day in Egypt

/Photo by Patricia Leslie
On the Nile in Aswan/Photo by Patricia Leslie

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