Day 9 – Dendera Temple and travel to Hurghada

For the third day in a row, we had to awaken very early, this time to go on a hot air balloon ride and experience the sunrise from high over Luxor. The launch area was on the west side of the Nile, so we took the van to the river, where we boarded a small boat to go from the east side to the west side, then another van to get us to the field.

There were dozens of vans arriving at the same time, filled with people preparing to go out in the balloons. It is always spectacular to watch the balloons go from flat shapes, to being puffed with air from giant fans, and ultimately filled with hot air to allow them rise. We were two of sixteen people in the basket that was attached to the balloon. My first experience with hot air balloons was in Cappadocia, Turkey and I was feeling very insecure. This time, I was anticipating how slow and calm the climb would be, and I was correct.

We flew over the Valley of the Kings, lots of farmland (which is only near the Nile), and homes with no roofs. This was on the upper floors and sometimes they had straw covering part of the roof, sometimes nothing. So, what did they do with those exposed upper floors? They housed chickens, goats, and even the occasional cow. It seems that the houses don’t have a lot of land near their homes, so the roof becomes the logical alternative.

You would never know that these areas existed from below. What I couldn’t understand was why they left all the rubble on the roof instead of making the space totally usable. Most houses have rebar sticking up, probably with plans to add another floor one day. This is very common in Mexico, as well. When they get the funds to complete the construction, they have the infrastructure to add more floors.

I took a lot of videos from the balloon, which I can’t upload, or some reason. I will include some of the still photos when I am able.

It was still early so we went to the Dendara Temple to avoid the normal crowds at this magnificent temple. Stretching out over 40,000 square meters, it is one of the best preserved complexes in Egypt. The remains date back to 330 BC and has many buildings. The epicenter is the Hathor Temple. It is considered to be the most impressive and important temple. Hathor was the wife of Horas, the god of the sky. Every column has the head of Hathor, although many of the faces have been damaged over the years. She was the goddess of motherhood and depicted as a cow in many of the wall paintings. Or, as is the case here, her face is carved with cow’s ears. An amazing fact is that many years ago, an Italian anthropologist measured each of Hothar’s heads that tops each column and found that they have the exact dimensions. Those calculations and how they were carved, most likely by many different stone carvers, were identical in size and shape.

As it turned out, there were no crowds today. Our guide said that in over 20 years of giving tours of Dendera Temple, this is the first time that it was not overrun with tourists. We were very fortunate, that’s for sure.

It was now time to head out from this part of Egypt to Hurghada, a resort area on the Red Sea. We drove the three hours through mountainous areas until we arrived to one of the many resorts along the shores of the sea. You can see many housing projects and resorts in the making, so it seems that this area will become very popular for city residents from all over the UK, Europe and the Middle East to purchase a getaway. Because Hurghada has its own airport, it is very accessible.

The Jasmine Palace Resort is a huge facility where we will be staying for the next three nights. Located on the Red Sea, it is cooler than other cities we visited (maybe by about 10 degrees), blessed with clear blue skies and lovely breezes. Hurghada only gets about 2″ of rain per year. Yet, it is gloriously green and lush with foliage

There are at least seven swimming pools, lots of restaurants and bars throughout the facility, and entertainment, which we avoided. We arrived, got settled and decided to visit the Dive Center to arrange a day of snorkeling, hopefully for the day after tomorrow. After the long drive, we relaxed, had dinner at the main restaurant (all-inclusive dining opportunities throughout).

The restaurant has a number of buffets, all seemingly on steroids. There are many options but sadly, the food is just so-so. Interestingly, almost all of the restaurants we visited in Egypt do not sell alcoholic beverages. They have lots of different juices, but they are rarely fresh. Instead, they are bottled or canned instead. We found this to be so strange since many fruits are grown here. There is plenty of hibiscus or jamaica water available, but adding a little vodka would have made it perfect.

In the main restaurant, you can get beer and wine, a few mixed drinks, along with tea and coffee. This restaurant is also unique in that it has sparkling water (agua mineral or con gas). By the way, coffee, the national drink all over Egypt, is almost always instant Nescafe. We were surprised that brewed coffee was never available. Fortunately for me, being a tea drinker, tea bags were always available.

It has been a long day. We arranged to go snorkeling and enjoy tomorrow as a day to explore the facility and finally get a good night’s sleep.

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