It is time for a little background information for those wondering why we popped up in Egypt recently. Sandra, my wife, turns 50 this March. It is a milestone birthday and one to celebrate. For a few years our vacations have been bird orientated, Sandra is a history nut, especially Roman and Egyptian. We were also due a return to the old country to see family and friends and so we chose the birthday period to visit. The set up was for a few days in my former home location, Nottingham, a week in Egypt and then a few days in Lancashire, birthplace of the old dear, both locations can be Googled for further details.
Everything went very smoothly until 20 minutes before boarding in Montreal when Sandra was extracted from the departure lounge and whisked to Lakeshore General with a possible heart attack. After a night in ER she was declared fit and not dying, the problem lie elsewhere and she could travel. We set off a day later than planned and had no more issues other than loosing a day in Nottingham. The schedule was edited and some friends will be getting a `sorry`email c`est la vie!
The flight to Egypt was quick and efficient and we all got to know each other really well due to the airline`s space allocation policy in relation to seats. We arrived at Luxor in Egypt on time to see a beautiful sunset, were taken our resort on Crocodile Island, now renamed King`s Island to calm nervous tourists, and were carried to our rooms on golf carts and started to settle in. Our room did not have a Nile view which was not birthday quality and so it was back on the golf cart, change the room with nil fuss and back to settle in again.
The week was pretty good. We visited all of the ancient rubble, birded daily and generally had the sort of relaxing vacation we don`t normally take, except, Sandra`s parents who had travelled with us both came down with food poisoning and were unable to take the excursion to Abu Simbal that we had booked on arrival. We were fit though and so did the trip and what fun..
We were up at 04:30 and taken to the train station in Luxor. The first train we saw was a surprise and the travel rep had fits of laughter when we asked was this our train. Our train had first class compartments, we had our own and we had a breakfast served by the porter, it was like a 1930s throwback. We were met in Aswan by an agent and an excellent guide, Maryama, who showed us the high and low dam and did everything to make us happy. After dropping the bags at the hotel and taking a lunch we cruised the Nile, birding as we went. The next day we rose at 03:00 to take the minibus south to Abu Simal, just 35 miles north of the Sudanese border. The trip was done in convoy, everywhere we saw tanks and armed troops guarding the dams and power stations. The removal of Mubarrack was lauded by everyone we met, the Egyptians were once again free.
After three hours plus of stiff driving we arrived at Abu Simbal and entered the grounbds of the reconstructed temple, sat high above Lake Nasser. Sandra went with Maryama to enjoy the reassembled rocks, I birded the temple site hoping to find some of the Abu Simbal specialities, African Pied Wagtail, African Mourning Dove and anything else that happened into the area. To cut the story short, it was blowing a gale, I saw a few birds but not the hoped for specialities, Sandra enjoyed her temple and we met the Lanius Bird Tours party for the second time on the trip, hello again Neil Glenn! Our trip back involved a change of driver. The new chap liked going somewhere between 140-160 kmph while eating Sunflower seeds and talking into his cellphone. I mentioned this to our guide who told him of my displeasure, the speed remained constant, the cell turned off and the Sunflower seeds lived to see another trip!
The trip back was smooth in another first class carriage and inclusive of dinner, which was basically the same as breakfast but with Yoghurt! We arrived back after a long day and flaked out. The next day Sandra`s dad had improved, her mum was still off but improving. The last couple of days were spent seeing more rubble and some more birds. I got no ticks this trip but that was not the point, Sandra had a memorable 50th in more ways than expected. As we boarded the plane home I started to get the tell tale signs of food poisoning, I spent the day after landing asleep fighting off the bug, I don`t think I have spent the whole day in bed since I was two!
So, there you have it. The next post will have birds, if you got this far well done. Egypt is a great country with super friendly people and some fabulous birding. We were perhaps a week to ten days too early for the best birding but we had no choice and I blame her parent`s lack of forward planning for that one! Politically there is still work to do in Egypt but they want you to visit, to see their wonders and enjoy their hospitality, don`t be put off by recent events, Egypt is safe, go if you can.