Goodbye Dubai!!

I’m all packed up and ready to get on a plane back to the United States! A bus is coming in a few hours to pick us up and take us to the airport. I can’t believe how fast my time in Dubai went. This has definitely been the fastest and best three months of my life, and I am really going to miss this experience once it’s over in a few hours. However, I am EXTREMELY excited to go back to the USA to see all of my friends and family! And tomorrow afternoon I will be heading to Cocoa Beach, FL for a week of spring training with the crew team! It will be a nice transition to the cold weather and will help me get my butt back in shape for the spring season.

I haven’t updated my blog in a while because week 10 and finals were pretty busy in addition to trying to fit in everything we still wanted to do in our last weekends here. So I will try to give you a quick recap of what I’ve done recently, before I get back to the US and have no motivation to write blog entries.

On Thursday, February 10, Allie, Nina, Maddie, Thistle and I (aka Team RIT Running with Scissors) rented a car and drove Dibba, Oman where we camped out on the beach. We didn’t get there until about 11:30 at night because there was some trouble getting the car, but we went through with all of our nighttime plans anyway. Thistle built a fire while we set up the tent, and we sat around it and ate the pasta that we brought with us. After we made some s’mores, but due to the lack of common s’mores ingredients at Carrefour, our s’mores were made of digestive cookies, flavored marshmallows and hazelnut chocolate. They still ended up tasting delicious. The next day we were running a 72k (about 45 mile) relay race up a mountain and back, so we figured we should probably get some sleep before we had to wake up early the next morning.

When we woke up in the morning it was still dark out and the teams in all of the tents around us were getting ready to start the race. The start times were 4am for solo runners (the crazy people who wanted to run the whole thing themselves) and 6-8am for teams. When the sun finally started to rise, we saw that we were surrounded by mountains! We hadn’t seen them the night before since it was dark when we left Dubai. The beach we had camped at was on the Indian Ocean/Gulf of Oman, and was nice and blue!

The beginning of the race was on a road and pretty flat. We each took turns running about 2-4k each. The rest of us followed in a support car (which was a tiny Toyota Corolla) and stopped to wait for the runner at each of the transition areas. A few legs in, the paved road ended and we were driving up the mountain in a wadi (which is why the race was called the Wadi Bih Run). A wadi is like a dried river bed through the mountains. The farther up the mountain we got, the rockier the terrain. Our car started having a tough time climbing the mountain so we had to drive really slow and let all of the huge SUVs pass us. Eventually the person running started to make it to the transition area before the car because we had to stop so many times to let cars pass. The steepest part of the mountain was still to come, and we were afraid that our little car wouldn’t make it up so Thistle said he would just run the whole top portion. Little did he know how steep the top portion actually was, and thankfully some nice people saw us suffering and offered us a spot in their car to go up to the top of the mountain. Maddie went in the car with them, so she was able to give Thistle a break after he ran the extremely steep leg.

Nina, Allie, and I waited at the car for them to come back down, so we were rejuvenated by the time they were back. The way back down was definitely a lot easier, although we were all pretty exhausted from the way up. It also was around noon and started to get really hot out. Finally, we made it back to the start at the beach, 7 hours and 20 minutes later. And boy was it great to be done! While it was probably the most fun and unique race I’ve ever run, it was also one of the most exhausting too, even though we weren’t competing to win. Since Dubai is flat and we can only really run around the track at the dorms, we weren’t really prepared to run a race like that, but we did really well for our current condition. That race, although painful, was probably one of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in Dubai. It was possibly the most beautiful and scenic run I’ve ever been on, complete with goats roaming the mountainsides.

The next morning we woke up early again, and this time the whole group headed to Khasab, Oman for the day. Even though we had gone to Oman the day before, we didn’t need to cross through a real border crossing so we didn’t get a visa. Our UAE tourist visas only last for 30 days with a 15 grace period, so RIT Dubai sent us on an Oman adventure to leave the country for a few hours. A bus took us to Khasab, where we got on a Dhow boat to go for a lunch cruise through the fjord complete with snorkeling. After cruising through some beautiful mountains similar to the ones we had seen the day before, someone pointed at the water. We all rushed to the edge of the boat to see a few dolphins riding the waves next to the boat! There was even a baby one! We all spent a while trying to get some good pictures, and then we headed to the snorkeling spot. Everyone put their masks and flippers on and one by one we jumped into the water. I had never been snorkeling before, and when I first looked into the water and saw tons of fish below my feet, I freaked out a little bit. So I swam over to the coral area without looking in the water so that I wouldn’t have to see how many fish were surrounding me. The fish in the coral area stayed in the coral, so I was able to swim over the coral without having a heart attack. It was really a sight to see, filled with colorful fish, anemones, and even sea slugs! After snorkeling, one of the guides cooked us lunch which included fish that they had caught that morning! I’m not really a big seafood fan, but the fish was pretty good! On our way back to the dock, we passed an area that had a lot of small boats containing boxes covered in plastic bags. Our guide told us that the small boats smuggled in goats from Iran (which was only 60k away, about a 1.5 hour boat ride) in the morning and were smuggling electronics and other items back, because of the embargo and high tariffs. We even saw a boat that was smuggling a car! I have no idea how they managed to get it in there.

The next Tuesday, we finally went on our desert safari! Our previous one was cancelled due to wind and the possibility of rain (like it ever rains in Dubai…). We split up into two land cruisers and they took us dune bashing out in the desert. Our driver took us up and down huge dunes, practically sliding sideways down them. Every time we slid, a huge wave of sand would spray up at the windows, it was great! They stopped out in the desert to let us take pictures and run up some dunes, and then we headed over to the camp.  At the camp they had camel rides, sand boarding, henna, and of course food. We all took a turn on the camels and then headed into the camp for some food. Allie and I got henna and lady was so good at it! I don’t think she spoke English, but I stuck my hand out and about a minute later I had an awesome design on my hand! After we had a huge buffet of food, and when Nina went up for more kabobs, they gave her a huge plateful instead of just a couple. All of the food was great! After dinner was the entertainment, and there was a spinning dance man (which wasn’t as good as the guy we saw in Egypt) and of course a belly dancer.

Well that’s all I have time for before I leave…hopefully I can find time later to write about our last few adventures in Dubai. See you in AMERICA!!!!

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Al Ain

Last weekend we took a day trip to Al Ain, which is located in the southern portion of the UAE in the emirate of Abu Dhabi. We got up at the crack of dawn to take a taxi to the bus station and then a bus to Al Ain. It was about an hour and a half bus ride, filled with lots of traffic circles once we entered the city of Al Ain. When we got off the bus, we found a taxi driver who spoke English, and we tried to get him to take us to the livestock souk, but we ended up at the zoo instead. The people who worked at the zoo were really helpful and spoke great English and told us how to get to the souk. We found out that no one really calls it the livestock souk and if we had called it the camel market we probably would have gotten there on the first try. So we called some more taxis who knew how to take us to the souk.

The camel market consisted of a bunch of dirt roads going through lines of animal stalls. There were tons of goats bleating and sheep baaing and running around in their stalls. Finally we found the camel section. There were camels in various shades of brown sitting around in stalls. We even got to see a baby camel! A guy told us to follow him so we could touch the camels, but after our experiences in Egypt, Nina and I knew that he just wanted money. We went off in the other direction while Thistle and Steve followed the guy. Nina and I started getting followed around by a guy who kept asking if we wanted a picture with him; and of course we didn’t. He then proceeded to tell us that he didn’t see a ring on our fingers, and that was our cue to ditch him and find the rest of the group. For some reason the men here are on a constant lookout for a wife, especially a white one. We found a truck with a bunch of camels in the back that men were trying to unload. One camel was really stubborn, and even though there were like five guys pushing his butt he wouldn’t budge. After we had seen everything, we called more cabs and went off in search of the Al Ain Oasis.

The cab driver told us he knew where the oasis was, but he clearly didn’t. We ended up driving around in a complete circle, and then finally found the entrance in the opposite direction, no thanks to him. Since it was a Friday (The holy day in Islam), the oasis was really empty and peaceful. There were pathways built through a forest of palm trees and greenery. We ended up finding a palm tree with dates on it pretty close to the ground, so I got on Thistle’s shoulders to try and get some down, but I could just barely reach them. Steve ended up climbing part of the trunk since it was a little bent over and managed to knock some down. The dates were a little dirty since we found them in the wild but I tried a little bit any way. They were pretty good considering they’re not currently in season.

The next stop was the Al Ain Air Show. They had a bunch of cool planes and helicopters on display. We got to see two girls sitting on the wings of a plane while it was flying and doing flips. It was ridiculous. They were also dressed like cats which was a little weird. They also had a pyrotechnics show, where really fast planes flew by and they set off explosions on the ground to make it look like the planes were actually shooting stuff. They told a story to go with it about what the planes were fighting.

After the air show, went back to the Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort. We saw tons of cute monkeys and big cats, including the white lion which is one of the world’s rarest animals. We went to the bird show and saw a lot of owls, falcons and even vultures! The vultures were funny because they kind of waddled and hopped after the guy leading them. We talked to another helpful guy working at the zoo and he recommended a restaurant for us to go to for dinner that was near the bus station. It was more of a local restaurant, so they had some really good Arabic food there, and it was also extremely cheap.

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Horse Races & Water Parks

Recently, we realized that we’re running out of weekends in Dubai, so we packed last weekend with a ton of stuff. Thursday night we went to a horse race to see what they’re like in Dubai. I’ve never been to a horse race before, so I didn’t really know what to expect. The race track was huge, and the architecture of the stadium was amazing, like usual. It was free to get in, and they gave us a little card where we could choose which horses we thought would win. Betting is illegal in Dubai, so the cards were free for everyone and there were prizes depending on the number of horses you guessed right. The racetrack makes most of their money from the personal boxes people can pay to watch the races from.

The horse races mostly consisted of waiting. We waited a while for the first race to start, and then we had to wait for at least another 30 minutes between races. We lost patience pretty quickly and left after two races. Since the track was so big, you couldn’t really see the start from the stands, so they had a HUGE TV showing the race. The TV is one of the biggest video screens in the world!

After we got bored of the horse races, we went to Dubai mall (which was nearby) for dinner. Craving some meat, a few of us went to Ribs & Rumps. We all got burgers and they were pretty decent for Dubai. Sometimes it’s hard to find good meat here because it has to be halal for the Muslims. This means that they have to drain all of the blood from the animal, so it doesn’t always taste the same as it does in America. Muslims also are not allowed to eat pork, so it’s very rare for a restaurant to have it. If they do have pork, they have to write on the menu which dishes contain it so Muslims don’t order it by mistake.

The next morning we headed over to the Atlantis Hotel on the Palm Jumeirah, which is also home to Atlantis Water Park. It was a beautiful day out without a single cloud in the sky, the perfect day to spend at a water park. This water park was bigger than Wild Wadi Water Park and had a lot more water slides. However, the way Wild Wadi was set up made it more fun. This water park had an extremely high slide called the Leap of Faith, which was a tubeless slide that went down really steeply into a shark tank. Yes, a SHARK TANK! I’m not really a fan of really steep drops, especially when I’m not strapped in to anything and I’m guaranteed to get a severe wedgie, but eventually I was talked in to going down the slide since I would never get the chance to be shot through a shark tank again. The wait at the top of the slide was definitively the worst part, and I survived the actually slide part. Unfortunately, my eyes were closed so tight I didn’t even see the shark tank. Luckily, there was also a tube water slide that was slower and also went through the shark tank.

People on a slide in the shark tank

While we were waiting at the top of the Leap of Faith, dark clouds started to roll in and the wind picked up, which is really unusual for Dubai. By the time we got of the slide, the temperature had significantly dropped so we decided it was a good time to take a lunch break. It looked like it was about to storm, and when we walked by the beach, people told us that it was closed. Since we were on a manmade island, there wasn’t a lot of sand near us, but if you looked toward the mainland you could see sand swirling around. We were really lucky that the sand storm didn’t affect us. After a while the clouds passed and the sun came out; back to typical Dubai weather! When we got back to the mainland later that day, we could see that the winds had been so strong that the tops of a few palm trees had been ripped off and there were a lot of branches on the ground.

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Dubai Marathon

Last weekend was the Dubai Marathon. A bunch of us decided that we wanted to join in on the fun, but knew we definitely weren’t capable of running a marathon. Andy and Maddie ran the 10k race, while Nina, Steve, and Allie, and I ran the 3k. Late Thursday afternoon we went to a hotel near the race site to pick up our numbers and free t-shirts. The race was taking place near the palm islands (which is like a 30 minute taxi ride from our dorms), so it was kind of annoying to have to go all the way out there just to get our race packets when we would be coming back the next morning. The free shirts were a pretty nice material and said Dubai Marathon on them. For some reason the only size they had left for both men and women was a medium, but luckily it fit me.

Thursday also happened to be the first night of the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF), and they were having fireworks to start the festival off with a bang (no pun intended)! After picking up our race packets, we tried to take a taxi to the park where they were showing the fireworks, but the driver didn’t really understand what we were saying and took us to a really nice club on the wrong side of Dubai Creek. We got out and were waiting for a new taxi, when a Lexus pulled up to drop people off at the club. It turns out the Lexus was a

Our aweseome Lexus taxi

higher quality taxi that didn’t have any of the typical markings on the outside so that people wouldn’t have to look like they were showing up to events in a taxi. The taxi was really comfortable and there were TV screens on the headrests. The only price difference we noticed was a slightly higher initial fee.

Because of the fireworks and the fact that it was a Thursday night, there was a lot of traffic. By the time we got in the Lexus taxi, the fireworks had already started. The “floating bridge” that goes over Dubai Creek was really backed up, so we decided to just get out of the taxi and walk. Unfortunately, by the time we made it over the bridge, the fireworks were over and we just wanted to get some dinner. Deira City Centre (one of the many malls) was nearby, so we walked back over the bridge to get some food at the mall.

We left the dorms the next morning at 6am and surprisingly, it was sprinkling. It had been sprinkling on and off for most of the week, which is really rare for Dubai. Someone told me that it was the first time it had rained like that since last February. I guess the marathon runners got pretty lucky, because running a marathon when it’s 80 degrees out and the sun is beating down on you is pretty difficult. The 3k race wasn’t until later in the afternoon, so those of us running it got to watch the start for the marathon and 10k. The runners at the front of the marathon were really intense and pretty much all from Africa. They even got special race numbers with their last names on them. The race had a 1 million dollar purse, so the winner would be getting a quarter of a million dollars!

After watching the finish of the 10k, we wandered over to the finish area where they were playing music and giving away a lot of free stuff. There were bleachers located at the marathon finish line, and a ton of people from a few African countries were decked out in the colors of their flags and getting really pumped up for the marathon finish. We went up in the bleachers to watch too, and when the first guy started coming toward the finish line, the crowd went crazy! It was amazing how fast these guys were running after having just run 26 miles.

The 3k wasn’t until 11am, so we had to wait around for a while before our race. We decided to head over to the start an hour before so that we could get a good spot on the line. Since the 3k was the “fun run” it was packed with little kids and parents, and a bunch of different organizations and charity groups. When they finally moved the start line out to the road, everyone rushed to get spots towards the front. There was one charity group raising money for the mentally disabled, and they got a spot front and center at the start line. The problem was, it was mostly kids and parents and they were holding signs, banners, and balloons; clearly not planning on running the race. Only one of them spoke really poor English, and the rest spoke none at all. The guy in charge of the race kept trying to get them to move, so that they wouldn’t be blocking everyone who actually wanted to run the race, but they didn’t really understand what he was saying. Instead they kept chanting and shaking their signs. One guy kept whistling obnoxiously loud with his fingers and yelling, and it was getting really frustrating for everyone. If you are planning on walking a running race, then clearly you shouldn’t be in the front. But for some reason, these people kept insisting that they wanted to be in the front.

After standing tightly packed for about 30 minutes, the race finally started. My muscles were really tight from standing there for so long, and it took me about half the race to warm back up. Most people in the race walked it, and half of the people who ran it decided they were going to cut back early. It was ridiculous. There was a kid in front of me rollerblading the race, and he kept going really fast and then falling. I also passed by another kid who had stopped on the side of the road because his face was covered in blood. It was a crazy race. There was actually a hill on the course, which was really surprising because Dubai in extremely flat.

When I got to the finish, they gave me water and a medal, which was a pretty cool souvenir. I went over to the finish area party to load up on the free stuff they were handing out. I made the mistake of taking some tea they were handing out, and let me tell you, hot tea does not taste good after running a race. One booth was giving out an energy/vitamin drink called Vitaene C. We all got some, along with some matching Vitaene C sweatbands, and of course we put them on. We were pretty much walking advertisements for their product, so some photographer came over and took our picture. After we accumulated all of the free stuff we could, we walked over to Jumeirah Beach Residence for lunch before heading back to the dorms.

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Parachutes, Ibn Battuta, & Ski Dubai

Last weekend was filled with a lot of activities. Friday we decided to check out the International Parachuting Championships. There were parachutists there representing countries from all over the world, competing in events such as accuracy and speed. We got to watch part of the accuracy event, and parachutists would jump out of a plane or and helicopter and try to land as close to the center of a small bullseye as they could. The landing pad was electronic, so it recorded the distance from the center of the first body part that hit. It seemed like all of the parachutists we landing almost directly on the center of the pad which was pretty impressive since they had started from so far away. We even got to see a team from the USA jump.

The parachuting championship wasn’t very close to our dorms, so we decided to make our time in that area of Dubai worthwhile. We were pretty close to Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) which we had heard a lot of good things about, so we walked there for lunch. JBR is an area of tall residential buildings located on the beach with a walk consisting of a lot of cafés, stores, and restaurants. We found a Mexican restaurant called On the Border that had outdoor seating. None of us had had Mexican since we left the US so of course we had to eat there. We received extremely good service with free refills on drinks and unlimited chips and salsa. They would replace our drinks with a fresh one before we even finished the old one. The food was delicious too, and they gave me so much I couldn’t even finish it. After lunch, we went to sit on the beach to digest. Unlike the beach at Jumeirah Beach Park, this one had sea shells! Nina and I walked down the beach for a while collecting shells and pieces of coral that had washed up on shore.

The next day we decided to explore a new mall; Ibn Battuta Mall. So far I think I’ve been to seven different malls in Dubai, and that’s not even all of them. This mall definitely had the best architecture of the seven. Ibn Battuta was a famous Arabic explorer, and the sections of the mall have architecture from the different areas he travelled to. There were sections for China, Persia, India, Egypt, Tunisia, and Andalusia, all with different architectural styles and decorations. It was really cool to see the Egyptian section after traveling to Egypt because they captured the style really well.

Sunday we got to experience a little slice of home at Ski Dubai! The ticket included a jacket, snow pants, and ski equipment. After we put all of our gear on, we took our skis up an escalator to the slope. Since it was a weekday morning the place was pretty empty, and we never had to wait to get on the chair lift. The slope was pretty small, but it was good for being indoors in the middle of the desert. The snow was actually a lot better than I was expecting, since they can freshly make it and groom it every night and regulate the temperature of the room. There weren’t any icy sections like you would normally find if you were skiing outside. The room felt like a giant walk-in freezer. I wasn’t expecting to get very cold while I was skiing, but by the time our two-hour pass was up I was freezing. I’m glad that we only did a two-hour pass, because after a while going down the same slope over and over again can start to get a little boring. It was really nice to get a chance to go skiing this winter and experience a little bit of the cold Rochester gets every day. It made me love escaping Rochester’s winter for this warm, sunny weather even more.

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Egypt: Day 9-Home (12/31-1/1)

Friday morning, our train arrived in Cairo and we got a taxi back to the hostel. They let us take showers again and then we brought our luggage down the sketchy elevator. We got a driver and van for the day to take us back to Alexandria. Before we left Cairo, we stopped at the Khan el-Khalili Market. This market was a little touristy but we were able to get a lot of souvenirs. I got a lot better at bartering, and even walked away from a lot of stores when they wouldn’t give me a low enough price.

Our driver picked us up from the market, and we were off to Alexandria. It was about a 3.5 hour drive. The driver asked us if we wanted to listen to music, and he put an Akon CD on. We were ok with listening to the CD the first time, but after it ended he just let the CD keep going. We ended up listening to the whole CD at least three times, and by the end of the car ride we had all had more than enough of Akon. One weird thing we noticed during the ride to Alexandria was that there were speed bumps on the highway. Every time there were speed bumps, there were also people selling scarves, and they would wave them in your face as you drove by.

View of the Mediterranean from our balcony

Since it was New Year’s Eve and the last night of our trip, we decided to treat ourselves to a 5-star hotel for the night. The maximum number of adults they allowed per room was three, so we had to sneak one person in. To make this task even more difficult, Mike forgot his camera in the van. He was the one who we were originally sneaking in, but he needed to talk to the staff so that they could call the driver and get his camera back. The whole time we were looking for the bag, Nina was just standing out on our balcony behind the curtain, hoping that no one would notice her. Mike finally got his camera back and we gave the bell hops a big tip for helping us.

We walked down the road outside the hotel until we found a decent looking restaurant for dinner. This time we were in the nicer touristy part of Alexandria and I felt a lot more comfortable walking around. It probably also helped that I had gotten more used to Egypt in the last week. It seemed like it was mostly cafés that lined the road, but eventually we found one that served food as well. They were having some sort of New Year’s celebration with loud music, so we figured we’d give it a try. The waiters didn’t really speak English, so we ended up kind of pointing to the English words in the menu, and one of the waiters seemed to understand what we wanted. To our surprise, our food came with no mistakes! It was pretty good food, although Allie and Mike’s burgers didn’t seem to be completely cooked. After dinner, we decided to have some delicious Alexandria ice cream, even though it was a little chilly outside. We had passed by a shop on our way to dinner that looked really good. Instead of storing their ice cream in the cylindrical cartons most ice cream shops do, all of the flavors we put together in one giant block of ice cream. It kind of looked like an entire freezer full of Neapolitan ice cream but with like six flavors. I got a cone with lemon and chocolate ice cream. Everyone made fun of me for my flavor choice, but I though they tasted really good together. Not only was this ice cream delicious, but it was insanely cheap! It only cost me about 50 cents for two scoops of ice cream! In the US it would have been at least three dollars.

By the time we got back to our hotel we were exhausted. Because of the time difference, it was almost midnight in Dubai. We found Dubai’s New Year’s celebration on TV and watched as fireworks were shot off the sides of the Burj Khalifa. We still had two more hours to wait before New Year’s hit Egypt. It didn’t seem like there was going to be any exciting celebrations near us and we didn’t find any Egyptian celebrations on TV. We sat in our beds for a while watching TV, and Allie fell asleep before midnight. I was falling asleep too, but I forced myself to stay awake until 12. When it finally hit midnight some cars outside started beeping more often than usual, but that was about it. I was exhausted and just went to bed.

We got up early the next morning to make our way to the airport. We got a taxi from the hotel that was thankfully able to fit all of our luggage in the trunk this time. It was an hour ride to the airport, so it was nice not to have our laps piled with bags the whole ride. On the way to the airport it started raining!! It was the first time I had seen rain in over a month! They don’t get very much rain in Egypt, so the cab’s windshield wipers didn’t work well. They only moved at one speed; and that was fast. The driver had to keep turning them on and off because it wasn’t raining very hard. It was kind of nice to see rain for once though.

When we got to the airport, we were a little early so we had to wait for the check-in to open. Allie, Nina, and I all checked in successfully, however Mike needed to check a bag that he hadn’t paid for online. His plan was to just pay for it at the airport, but they told him it would cost about 1000 pounds (around $200) and that he could only pay with cash. They also didn’t have an ATM at the airport. Of course Mike wasn’t carrying 1000 pounds with him since we were about to leave the country. He tried talking to the manager, who told him he still had time to pay for a checked bag online. Thank goodness for modern technology, because I had my iphone with me so we were able to use that to access the internet through the airport’s wifi. For some reason, the option to check a bag didn’t show up under Mike’s ticket. I tried my ticket, and the option was available for me, so we added a checked bag to my name even though I had already checked in. The guys at the desk then proceeded to tell me that I did not have a checked bag under my name, so I showed them the confirmation email I just got and they finally believed me. Mike’s bag was finally on its way to the plane, and we were all about to go home! A four hour plane ride later, we were back in the UAE and enjoying every minute of our quiet, clean, metered cab ride home with a diver who understood English. Egypt made me love Dubai just that much more.

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Egypt: Day 8 (12/30)

Queen Hatshepsut's Temple

We got picked up at the train station and got in a van with a bunch of other tourists. The first place they took us was the Valley of the Kings, which is a mountain that’s home to the tombs of many ancient Egyptian kings, including King Tutankhamen. The tombs are dug by hand underneath the mountain. Workers start digging when the king comes into power and stop when the king dies. So the longer the reign of the king, the longer and bigger the tomb. Inside, the walls of the tombs are covered in hieroglyphic paintings. On the other side of the mountain was Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple. Even though Queen Hatshepsut was a woman, she was still treated as a King and has a tomb in the Valley of the King’s as well that goes under the mountain and connects to her temple.

Next we went to lunch on the Nile. It was a buffet lunch and had ice cream for dessert that was delicious. After lunch I went to the bathroom and paid the girl to get in like usual. I couldn’t figure out how to flush the toilet, so I turned a knob that ended up being for a bidet that was inside the toilet. Water started shooting out of the toilet onto the door of the stall and I panicked and quickly turned it off. The floor was covered in water and I was pretty wet too. The girl working in the bathroom must have secretly been laughing at me. I went to wash my hands and she kept apologizing to me and tried wiping some of the water off me with a tissue. She was probably the nicest bathroom girl I encountered on the trip.

Karnak Temple

After lunch, our guide gave us a tour of Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple. Karnak Temple is the biggest temple in the world, and even though we were only allowed in a portion of it, it still seemed huge! Luxor Temple is a little smaller, but still a really cool temple. By the time we got to Luxor Temple it was starting to get dark, and they had parts of it lit up. They are still in the process of excavating the “Sphinx Avenue” that used to connect the two temples. The Sphinx Avenue is a road lined with Ram-headed Sphinxes on both sides.

The van dropped a couple of the other tourists off at the train station, then took us back to the hotel in Luxor that our tour had been organized through. We had a few hours to waste before we had to go to the train station, so we decided to explore the area a little. While we were walking around, a papyrus shop owner started talking to us and asking where we were from. We were about to leave when he told me that he needed help writing a postcard. He said that his friend had sent him a Christmas card that was written in English, and he wanted to send a postcard back but he needed help writing it in English. We were all pretty hesitant about helping this guy, but we figured he couldn’t do too much if there were four of us.

So we followed him inside the shop, and he pulled out the letter and told me to copy the return address exactly as it was written. The owner spoke pretty good English, so I was surprised he couldn’t just copy the letters himself, but I went along with it anyway. He also had me write a nice Christmas and New Year’s message to his friend. For doing him this favor, he said he would make me a papyrus bookmark with my name in hieroglyphics for free. He also wanted to make us tea, which didn’t surprise us because it was a common thing for people to do in Egypt. He told us to look around the store while he made the tea

The papyrus painting I bought

and book mark, and told us he would give us half price on any of the paintings since we helped him. We told him we had all already bought papyrus, and didn’t need any. We looked around the store and saw that the prices were a lot cheaper than what we had paid at the other papyrus shop. This guy was a really good salesman and kept asking us which one we liked and he would offer us good prices for them. Then he pulled out a painting from a shelf that wasn’t on display. It was definitely my favorite one that I had seen so far; a really detailed, intricate painting with gold, black, and silver. I really wanted it. I’m not sure how he convinced us to get these paintings that we didn’t need. He was good. Mike and Nina both ended up buying another painting too. While he was finishing up my bookmark, Nina was reading some letters that had been used to decorate a glass tabletop. A few of the letters talked about how nice the store owner was and how he had given them great prices and free stuff just for addressing a letter for him! It didn’t surprise me that we had been scammed, but at that point I didn’t even care anymore because we had paid pretty decent prices for the papyrus compared to the last shop.

We had a quick dinner at the hotel, and then got back in the van with some other tourists to go to the train station. This time a guide stayed with us at the station and showed us to our seats once the train arrived. The whole process was a lot smoother than the night before. This time our seats were all together in a six seat cabin with one of the other tourists. She was an American who was teaching English in Japan. It was nice to talk to another American. It didn’t take long before we all passed out; exhausted from getting no sleep the night before.

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