first of all, egypt was amazing! i can't believe i was just there! but even though it was an incredible experience, i am very happy to be back home at the center - its weird that its gotten to feel like home now, but it totally does! only like 99% of us got sick in egypt, lol. me included, but it wasnt bad and nothing to complain about compared to how some others got it. if you want more details i can give them but i figured it would be a little too graphic and disgusting for a blog :)
this past week was the longest week of my life, but in a good way. it was SOOOO jam packed and it blows my mind when i look back on all of the things that we did, even the amount of stuff we did in one day is incredible. the planners of this trip are amazing and so are all of the staff members, teachers, tour guides, everyone. we grew so much closer as a group through the things we did and the shared experiance of egyptian sickness, it was awesome.
ok, for what we did. if you want more details, just ask and i can tell you more about specific events.
ok so on sunday we traveled all day and stayed at a kibootz which is a jewish commune type of thing. we got a tour and spent the night in their hotel in Eilot. it was very interesting. on the way to the kibootz we stopped at several places which is why it took all day. we went to beer-sheva where abraham lived for a long time, we drove through this big hole in the ground thats like as old as the earth, saw the place when the israelites camped for 38 of the 40 years (i had always thought they wandered the whole time, but they really only "wandered" for like 2 years, they were pretty stationary most of the time) and it was hot, deserty and not pretty. actually a lot of our trip ended up going the route of the israelites. it was very interesting and i have a greater appreciation for them. im pretty sure i would have been murmuring too if i were them - so i learned not to judge people in the scriptures :) that night we were right by the red sea so a bunch of us went to the beach that night. i but my feet in, it was very relaxing and cool to put my feel in the red sea.
after sunday, we travelled again for like 8ish hours on monday till we got to cairo. i cant even explain the excitement and feeling of turning the corner and everyone straining their necks to get a glimpse of the great pyramids! everyone's faces, mine included, were smashed up against the glass! i still cant believe that ive seen them, touched them, crawled through one... we got in in the evening, ate dinner and went to this cool but cheesy lightshow of the pyramids. the next day, tuesday, WE WENT TO THE PYRAMIDS!
ok so every season or every year they rotate which pyramid they will open to the public, and this season just happened to be the greatest of the great pyramids! i got to crawl through the GREAT PYRAMID! it was awesome and i am so glad that i am not claustrophobic :) it was definitely a tight space and it just amazes me to think how in the world the workers got everything through those narrow hallways and how the grave robbers got it all back out... the interior room had the stone sarcophagus as the only thing in there and after seeing king tut's belongings i can only imagine what else must have been in that room! anyways, it was incredible and i felt like indiana jones climbing through tight spaces and up the ramps. we sang some hymns in the main room. i thought it would be appropriate to sing "God be with you till we meet again" but we ended up singing something else. its so neat to sing hymns in all these different places. anyways, we got out of the great pyramid and walked around the others, taking pictures, climbing up them... jk thats not really allowed so we couldn't go very far, and being amazed at how HUGE they are, how big each stone is and how high the entire structures tower up and dwarf you. i know my pictures won't do it justice. wow i still cant believe i was there...
ok im going to run and get my schedule of what we did so i can give you the right information.... ok so after the great pyramids and the sphinx we went to a papyrus factory where they showed us how they make papyrus. we ate lunch with homemade pitas that we watched them put in this big stone oven thing, they were sooo good. after that we saw the step pyramid of zoser, the oldest major stone structure ever! we also walked through a mastaba which is what the pharaohs were buried in before imhotep realized that by stacking mastabas on top of one another it would make a pyramid (he was the architect for the step pyramid). anyways, that was neat and then we went to this outdoor museum in memphis where they had this ridiculously huge statue of ramses (everything ramses II made was larger than life) and other statues. after that we got on a plane to luxor (its still tuesday).
ok tuesday night we got to luxor. wednesday morning we went to the valley of the kings! this is the place where all of the pharaohs of the new kingdom were buried. we went into the tomb of ramses 4th, king tut, thutmost 3rd, and ramses 9th. all of the tombs were so colorful! it was like they had been painted yesterday. we weren't allowed to take pictures, so you'll just have to trust me. the walls were plastered and painted white and every inch of them was covered with hyroglyphs from the book of the dead, figures, gods and goddesses and all sorts of symbols that i had no idea what they meant. they were all empty except king tut's tomb. king tut's tomb was amazing! first of all, it was small, which blew my mind when i saw all of his belongings in the cairo museum. second of all, he was in there. i wasn't expecting that but we walked in and to the left, there was king tut, sleeping in a little glass box, he was small, black and wrinkled but the priests did a pretty good job of preserving him for sure! it was really neat and weird and my first mummy experience. i really liked thutmose 3rd's tomb. it was trek up and down some stairs up the side of the mountain, but it was worth it. especially from a mormon perspective to see the tree of life painted on one of the columns. ramses the 9th's tomb was neat too. they all were and the paintings were all so beautiful! they were also very humid. i think i sweated out my entire water bottle in thutmose's tomb.
after the valley of the kings we drove over to the valley of the queens and saw hatshepsut's mortuary temple. she's pretty awesome. she couldn't be buried in the valley of the kings, even though she was pharaoh, so she just built a temple in the valley of the queens and had a temple dug which basically made it so she was buried in the valley of the kings. i absolutely loved going to her temple. it was so incredible. i think that if i was pharaoh and going to be buried in any of the places we saw, including the pyramids, i would want to be buried in hatshepsuts temple. it was very pretty :) it had three levels and as the levels went up, it got holier, if that makes sense. the hyroglyphs would represent more holier scenes and at the top was an inner room called the holy of holies. kind of interesting... all of the temples in egypt were set up this way, with degrees of holiness and purification scenes, ritual scenes and other scenes....
after hatshepsut's temple we at lunch and THEN we went on a FALUCCA RIDE AND CAMEL SAFARI! it was soo much fun. if you asked me my favorite thing i did in egypt, i couldnt tell you. you would have to give me catagories of favorite. the camel safari and falucca would have to be my favorite fun thing we did. a falucca is like a sail boat. we sailed over to the camels. it was so fun gettings up and riding the camels, i loved it so much. my guide was just 10 years old. his name was mahkmud and he was hilarious. my camel's name was casanova. i hope you know the song "sally the camel," if not its this girls camp song about sally who has so many number of humps and then you count down to no humps and sally becomes a horse. anyways i taught my guide that song and he thought it was so much fun so me and him and my friend candace and this other 10 year old guide all sang it together. it was hilarious! after the camel safari we rode the falucca back to the hotel. the sailor guys had this tape or cd or something playing. i definitely was NOT expecting to be listening to celine dion, shakira, or any classic 90s songs while sailing the nile! but we did and it was so much fun!
ok so after all that and dinner we had some free time so we ventured into the market. i thought jerusalem merchants were agressive, but they were nothing compared to egyptians, lol. these guys have the WEIRDEST lines to get you to come into their store. i think somewhere along the way there was a miscommunication and one merchant kept saying "hey chickens" and then we realized that maybe he meant to be calling us "chicks." this other guy burst out of his store announcing that he was single and so we should come to his shop and marry him. some tried reverse psychology or something and said that they were the meanest and had the worst prices... most of them just yelled crazy things, i cant even remember half of them. i first felt very uncomfortable walking through the bazaar but by the end i was laughing, it was so ridiculous. i discovered on this egypt trip that im not a very good bargainer. so people are able to bargain very... agressively in this group, they can work with the merchants for like 20 minutes and get them to go pretty low. i always felt like it was a waste of time for a few bucks, plus they were all really nice. the merchants seem desparate and scary at first but once you go in their shop and just talk with them they are all such nice people.
anyways, that was wednesday.
THURSDAY. we went by boat and horse drawn carriage to the karnak temple and from there to the luxor temple. this is the day that i was the most sick... so i might not have a lot to write about.... i really feel for those people who got really sick. mine was not that bad, but it still made me have a hard time BEING there and really appreciating all of the sites they way they should be appreciated and just soaked in. it was incredible though. the carvings and sheer size of these temples was incredible. the hypostyle hall at karnak i think it was had enormous columns. we fit 31 people around the base of one of them, shoulder to shoulder and the top fans out even further. when herodotus, a historian from ancient greece, saw these columns he said you could probably fit 100 people on the top of one, and it sounds ridiculous but i believe it. both of these temples were monumental, huge! they streched for a half a mile in one direction and a half a mile in the other. i can only imagine how incredible they must have looked after they were built. there would have been rows of sphixs leading up to the temple, going on for miles. the carvings on the temple walls were very interesting.... the statues and design, everything was beautiful. so far the overall feeling of this trip, both egypt and jerusalem, has left me amazed at how devoted all of these people are to their religion. it really is incredible.
thursday they gave us lots of free time which was wonderful. we wandered around luxor, it was kinda funny.. i think some people got frustrated but they were all fine when it was done. this kid that works at our hotel found us and wanted to show us where to go to shop and he kept saying "its just around the corner" 30 minutes later we found it, lol. it was neat though just to walk through the typical, non-touristy streets and see the people and where they shop and live. it was very sad actually, a lot of poverty in egypt, a lot of little kids asking for money. on our camel and our carriage ride they would pick a flower and run up to us and ask for money. it really broke my heart. i really hope things in that country improve.
thursday night we got on a night train and headed back to cairo. we all kinda felt like we were on harry potter for a while there. it was interesting and fun! i am amazed at the transportation on this trip - we saw egypt by bus, plane, falucca, camel, carriage, motor boat, train, foot... i think covers it....
FRIDAY we had church. i have now had church everyday of the weekend. we have church on saturday in jerusalem cause thats the jewish sabbath and we had in a friday cause thats the muslim holy day. we then made our way to the cairo museum which was incredible. we only had like an hour a half in there because there was a wreck on the freeway. our bus tried to give us more time by flipping a U turn on the freeway. it was very exciting, lol... anyways the museum was awesome! i wish we would have had more time. i saw so many incredible things, RIGHT THERE that i had learned about for years. we saw awesome statues. they like to make the statues out of wood or rough stone and then put alabaster stone in for the eyes so they look like they're alive... its kinda creepy. we saw all of king tuts treasures - o my goodness it took up well over half of the second floor of the museum. we saw mummies of like over 20 pharoahs and noble people including ramses the second who many think was the pharaoh during moses' time. most of them still had hair and nails and it was weird. i also saw and mummified crocadile (can you imagine embalming that? it was over 15 feet long!) and a mummified dog that looked like it had just died, it still had all its hair. there was mummified baboons and cats and geese and all sorts of other animals.
after the museum we ate lunch at the hard rock cafe. it was sooo much fun! after we sat down they randomly turned up "we will rock you" and we all got up and had a random dance party to a few songs right there in the restaurant! it was pretty awesome! we then did some more haggling, shopping and bargaining at a bazaar, had dinner and after dinner we had another random and awesome dance party in the lobby of the hotel (we didnt have engouh time to go out into the city that night unfortunately)
saturday we explored old cairo and went to a beautiful mosque of muhammed ali, not the boxer. it was beautiful, you'll just have to see pictures that wont do it justice. we saw the place were some believe that joseph, mary and Jesus Christ stayed when they were hiding from herod. we had kfc for lunch, which was good but random and drove all the way to sinai. that night we went to bed as soon as we could but that just meant like 10:30 instead of midnight or later. the next morning, sunday, we got up at 2 a.m and made our way to mount sinai!
hiking mount sinai took 2 hoursish. we started our hike at 3:15 and made it to the top around 5:10 in the morning, just as light was starting to come through the horizon. it was kind of a hard hike at first, because it was sandy and gravely. i have never seen a night sky quite like that before though. there was not a cloud in the sky and we were in the middle of nowhere. it was beautiful, one of the prettiest things i have ever seen. i could not believe the number of stars that i saw. it looked like a picture. that was the first time i had ever been to the top of a mountain. it really makes me want to hike timp when i get back to utah and see the sunrise from there. i still can't believe i was on top of sinai. it really was an incredible experience. we stayed up on the top for over an hour and then went down a little ways to elijah's spring where our bus group had a testimony meeting. we made our way down to the bottom at around 8.
from there we drove back to the jerusalem center! we stopped by the red sea and swam around for less than an hour but it was awesome. the water was so clear, so beautiful! there was coral everywhere and you had to watch out for the sea urchins. it feels good to be back in jerusalem, and the center. im sore in really weird places... but i love it! i loved this trip and still cant believe i was blessed with this INCREDIBLE opportunity. it really was amazing. please let me know if you have any questions or want to know more about any parts of it. theres a lot of people online emailing family and friends and so i cant send pictures right now but i will in the next day or so send just a few so you can see the places that i have been talking about. i love you all and hope you had a great week! thanks for everything, especially your support!