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Friday, December 31, 2010

Rain!

How symbolic.  It's raining on New Year's eve in Kuwait.  Well, it's morning on Dec. 31st, but it's still symbolic to me.   I've been here almost 7 months and almost forgot the smell of rain.  What a treat on this day... Washing away the old and in with the new!  Have a Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Taba Heights, Egypt Vacation

I was so excited about going to Egypt for the first time.  I had some awesome highs and some big ass lows;  Mainly due to travel and transportation FAILS.  In my last post, I was at the Cairo airport with the husband waiting for 5 hours to the connecting flight to Taba. We flew in using Egypt Air.  First mistake.  Never again will I use that crappy ass airline.  Customer service sucks.  The flight attendants didn't look happy.  Smiling at your customers goes a long way with me.  And they seemed annoyed when asked questions.  What's up with that?  I mean, the condition of the plane was shabby and old.  The seat I was in had some dirty ass looking ashtray still on the armrest.  I felt squished in like a can of sardines.  In my opinion, I was one step above  flying with the chickens and goats.  After 3 hours, we landed in Cairo and I was happy to stretch my feet.

                                      
After 5 hours of trying to stay awake in the ghost town airport, we hopped a tiny plane to Taba.  In a little under an hour, we arrived at Taba airport!  Hurray!  Well, not so hurray!  I thought there'd be an Egyptian welcome wagon... sort of like Hawaii.  You know, instead of hula dancers with leis, there'd be smiling attendants eager to show us to baggage claim and loads of taxis to take us to the resort.  Not!  It was a one room weigh station.  We got our bags in minutes and headed outside with the rest of the pack.  We were literally in the middle of the desert. (Click on the pictures for a larger view.)



 Desert mountains and rocks as far as the eye could see.  There were a few buses and one van outside.  To make a long story short, the van that was supposed to take us to the Taba Heights resort left us.  Apparently, our name wasn't on the list and even though we were holding our hotel confirmation, the driver refused to load our luggage and take us.  I was pissed.  We tried calling the number on our confirmation and it was the wrong number!  My cell phone was on the fritz, there was no internet, no pay phones.  I got scared then.  Everyone spoke little or no English.  For a moment, I thought we had come to the wrong airport. I had a hissy fit and started to cry. A security guard came to our rescue and after making some calls, he was able to find the number to the hotel and arrange for a car to pick us up.  A few tears and 30 minutes later, we were off to the resort.  I was in a terrible mood... for about 15 minutes.  Then I saw my first glimpse of the sea on the Sinai Peninsula.

After miles of desert and mountains, I was so excited to see the beautiful ocean!


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We asked the driver to stop so we could take pictures of this beautiful site.  We ended up in this cove a few days later, on a snorkeling excursion.  About ten minuets and an armed passport/checkpoint later, we arrived at the resort.  
The Sofitel main entrance

 I would rate the Sofitel at Taba Heights a 4 star hotel on a 5 star location.  Here's a  video peek at the main entrance and lobby.    

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The check-in counter was to the right of the lobby fountain, behind th glass doors. When we got there, the manager had heard about our ordeal at the airport and he was very apologetic.  Even though, the problem was had because of my travel agent, he treated us to an ala carte dinner at the Asian restaurant there.  The hotel is all inclusive, however, some people tire of the buffet choices (We didn't!) so there were 3 restaurants at the hotel offering ala carte menus.  Also, there was a free shuttle running to the other four hotels on the island.  Many choices for food and excursions.  And all the alcohol you could drink!

Our room itself had a great view.
Click to see my room video here.

The Plaza Room view from the enclosed balcony.  You can see Saudi Arabia just off the horizon.


We lucked up on the room with the best view!  Room 308

Pool side looking towards hotel restaurant.

Poolside overlooking the sea and Saudi Arabia in the distance.
I was impressed at how beautiful the scenery was.  It was like I was walking in a picture from a travel magazine.  Nature painted a perfect backdrop for this amazing hideaway.
A view from a walk up trail

A great view of the entire Taba Heights resorts

This walk up trail is next to the Hilton which was next to the Sofitel.

Here's a video from the beach... sorry, it was a little windy that afternoon.

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The only thing that bothered me was this smell that would come from bathroom after the water was run in the sink or shower.  Needless to say, we brushed our teeth with bottled water the whole stay.  I didn't come for the water in the room anyway.  We came to have fun and fun we did!

We went to Colored Canyon and hiked an amazing trail.  Although we were surrounded by canyon sand and almost no plants, the air was free from dust and smelled fresh like clean air should.
I was surprised to see vegetation in the canyons.

The canyon textures were stunning to see.

A camel!  How'd they do that?

Colored Canyon

A view of Colored Canyon

A Bedouin home.  That camel was real!  He looked so thirsty and dry that I thought it was a statue at first.


One of my favorite times was on a quad bike excursion through the mountains.  I felt like Laura Croft on Tomb Raider!

After almost drowning on my first attempt... I'm not a very good swimmer... I learned to snorkel (with a life vest) and saw beautiful fish and coral.
We snorkeled around Pharaoh's Island.  This is the fortress of Saladin.

This fish came right up to the camera!  Doesn't it look like its smiling?

Underwater pictures and video taken with my Olympus Stylus Tough 6020 camera.
5m/16ft Waterproof.

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I'm still trying to figure out what kind of fish this was.  An eel of some sort?
It kind of scared me so the video is only about 10 seconds.





An Indian Lion fish.



A sea cucumber.

This is the coral that the fish eat.  Coral is a living organism that takes years to grow.  I avoided touching or damaging it when taking these pictures.


  On our last day in Egypt, our flight back to Kuwait had a 10 hour layover, so we decided to tour the Great Pyramids and the Sphinx.  We even took a camel ride.
I avoided the stinky gifts they left on the ground.

Say cheese!

The city near the pyramids was crowded and dirty/dusty.  Don't wear your nice shoes here.





The Great Pyramids of Giza


The Great Pyramid 


The original entrance (North Side)to the Great Pyramid that is sealed.

The second entrance that visitors may now enter.  To learn more about these entrances of the Great Pyramid go to http://www.guardians.net/egypt/gp1.htm



It was surreal standing on the stones of this pyramid.
You can see the original sealed entrance above and the intrusive entrance below it.



View of the Sphinx from the street.
The Sphinx and the Great Pyramid of Khufu

 Once we got back to Kuwait, I could have done without Egypt Air losing my luggage and being rude about their oversight.  We did manage to get it 24 hours later.  We had to go back to the Kuwait airport to get it, though.  If I wasn't clear about it before, let me say it again... Egypt Air sucks!  Now that's all said and done I will say that I'm grateful for being able to visit this place that I've always wanted to see.  I enjoyed my Egyptian adventures and my lazy time at the Taba Heights resort.  I recommend bringing along a very good world phone when traveling to another country.  A GPS with additional travel guide and information would be good too.  Although the problems I had worked out in the end, I will be more prepared next time.  I'm looking forward to venturing out to other areas of Egypt... any recommendations?