Saturday, November 29, 2008

Fayoum Thanksgiving

We got back from our two day trip to the Fayoum Governate last night. We left early Thursday morning. REALLY early. We caught the bus at 6:45, drove downtown to pick up the rest of the group and then we were off. The Fayoum is an area southwest of Cairo, the main reason people travel to this area is the lake, but there are also dozens of historic sites both Egyptian and Greco-Roman. Once we were outside the city, we had to hook up with our police escort. Before entering the Fayoum, tourists have to have a police escort. So, a truck full of officers accompanied us the rest of the way. Our first stop was at the ruins of an ancient city. We were able to see a temple and a few remaining structures in addition to some etchings. We then made our way to the Harawa Pyramid. I guess now would be a good time to tell you about the whole pyramid thing. So, how many people thought there were 3 pyramids in Egypt? The ones we see in all the pictures and all the movies? I don't know about you, but I'm raising my hand right now! It turns out there are about 180 pyramids in Egypt. And those are just the ones that have survived! So, back to the Harawa pyramid, it's not pointy like the Giza pyramids, it kind of looks more like a mound. There were also the remnants of a labyrinth and a Greco-Roman cemetery. From there we went to Lahun pyramid. This one was more impressive to me, it sat up high on a hill and could be seen for miles around. After excavating the tombs around the pyramid, there were jewels discovered which are now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art and known as the "Princess Collection". We also literally drove over a vast 13th century wall that was part of an artificial reservoir that fed water into the Fayoum. We were totally exhausted after all of this and most of us fell asleep on the bus on the way to the hotel. The Panorama Hotel was right on the lake. It had amazing views of the lake and had basil growing all over the grounds which gave off a beautiful scent. The accommodations were less than thrilling, but we were luckier than most of our traveling companions. We heard stories of not so clean room and linens as well as LOTS of mosquitoes. I thought we were in the clear, but last night I discovered about a dozen bites on my leg. In the morning, we went for a short walk and had some breakfast. We boarded the buses and made our way to Wadi El-Hitan. We stopped right outside entrance to the Wadi and we waited for the police to tell us that we could proceed. We waited. And waited. Finally, Louise (one of our trip organizers) gave us the bad news that we weren't going to be able to see the Wadi, which included whale fossils (with feet!!), because the bus drivers were refusing to drive the 34 kilometers to get there. The good news is we got to get off the bus and play in the dessert a little bit. Which actually ended up being one of the best parts of the trip. After that, we went to Wadi El-Rayan which is a lake with 3 small waterfalls. It was very pretty and I went wading with Belle and Amy! From there we went to the Temple of Sobek. Very cool, lots of little rooms and crypts to explore. We also climbed to the top of the temple, the views were beautiful. We then made our way back to Cairo, tired and a little sunburned, but that's ok!

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