Monday, January 17, 2011

11. My Visit to Africa, July 22 to August 6, 1994 (16 days)


Private tour to Egypt and Kenya. 16-days from July 22 to  August 6, 1994 with Kapali, Sheila & Siva.

AFRICA: The second largest continent after Asia, consisting mostly of high mountains, plateaus which drop dramatically to narrow coastal plains.  It has a very short coastal line for its area. It has few fold mountains. Africa's longest rivers are the Nile, Zaire (Congo) and Niger. It is one of the driest. The Sahara desert, the World's largest and harshest covers 25 percent of the total area.  Soils are often poor. Its strength lies in its vast and varies mineral resources. The asset is its remarkably varied wildlife, in many places preserved in national parks and game reserves.

July 22, 1994: Leaving Charlotte via US Air to New York JFK. Leaving New York JFK via Egypt Air to Cairo.

An unhappy incident at the airport. When we were passing though the immigration check up the officials granted visas to Kapali, Sheila and Siva as they were carrying American Passports, however I was not granted admission into the country since mine is an Indian passport. They said that I must obtain the visa in advance before embarking the flight. This was a sad incident. Kapali ran here and there meeting the officials for my visa. There was a huge crowd of passengers at that time. The officials had no time to attend my case. Kapali pleaded my case to the higher authority and at last he had granted the visa to me. It took more than one hour to obtain the visa. Then we entered Cairo and proceeded to the President Hotel, Cairo, for our night stay.

EGYPT: A country of north eastern Africa bordering the Mediterranean Sea. It is mainly desert. The Greek historian Herodotus, said that Egypt was "the gift of the Nile". Along the river's narrow fertile strip the Egyptians built one of the World's earliest and greatest civilizations. It emerged about 300 B.C. Hieroglyphics, the early Egyptian system of writing. The Egyptians believed in an afterlife and preserve their dead for it, developed mummification. They buried the dead with possessions needed for their after life. The most remarkable Egyptian achievements were in architecture. They constructed Pyramids, tombs and temples that remain among the wonders of the World.

CAIRO: Capital of Egypt lying in the East bank of the Nile River. It is the largest city in Africa and one on the most important cultural, commercial and political centers of the Arab World. The pyramids at Giza, 13 Kilometers (8 Miles) southwest of Cairo and Egypt's many monuments and treasures ensure a busy tourist industry.

July 23, 1994: We engaged a taxi, went around the city and the banks of the Nile River. The Nile River in the north easters Africa, the longest in the World, 6700 Kilometers(4150 Miles) from its source in the highlands south of the Equator to its outlet on the Mediterranean Sea. The Nile is formed at Khartoum by the confluence of the Blue Nile and the White Nile. After enjoying the beautiful sceneries of the river and the metropolitan town we entered the one of the World's greatest, The Egyptian Museum of Antiquities where we discovered the World's richest collections of pharaonic treasures including Tutankhamen's baboon. Our special attractions were the mummies of the kings and queens exhibited there.

Trip to Giza to see pyramids: What is a Pyramid? A pyramid is a massive monument found especially in Egypt, having rectangular base and four triangular faces culminating in a single apex and serving as tombs and temples. We explored the Giza strip on the horses exploring all the pyramids, though it was a very hot day with a special guide engaged by us who explained the pyramids and other monuments.

The Great Pyramid at Giza: Built by more than 100,000 men in 20 years. One of the seven wonders of the ancient World, it was built by the 4th dynasty Pharaoh Khufu, also known as Cleops. It covers 13 acres and contains more than 2 million blocks of stone. It is 450 feet high still the world's largest stone edifice; the area of its base is sufficient to accomodate the Cathedrals of Milan, Florence and St. Peter's in Rome together with the Westminster Abbey and St. Pauls in London.

The Great Sphinx: The huge stone having a lion's body ad a man's head built by Khafre, Khufu's son.   The Sphinx is thought to be a likeness of Khafre and is the oldest known large-scale royal portrait. It is 240 feet long and 66 feet high at its head. This mythical creature the Egyptians believed guarded sacred sites.

The Stepped Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara was built in layers with each layer smaller than the one beneath. It measured 389 feet by 462 feet at its base and rose to a height of 204 feet. This pyramid may reflect its original spiritual purpose-- a staircase for the King to ascent to the heaven after death.

The three large pyramids at Giza are the tombs of Kings Menkaure, Khafre and Khufu. Besides these three, there are other smaller pyramids in the Giza Valley.

On our way back to Cairo we visited the Papyrus Institute and the Palm Carpet Factory and reached the Cairo Rail Station to board the train to Luxor-- 9 hours journey at night..

July 25, 1994. Reached Luxor. Town on the east bank of the Nile River in Central Egypt. It covers part of the site of the ancient city of Thebes, with great temple of Luxor. It was the old capital of Egypt.

Thebes: Town of ancient Egypt. It flourished from the mid 22nd to the 18th Century BC both as royal resident and as the center of the worship of the God Amen.

Karnak: Village in Central Egypt on the Nile River. It is the site of the ancient Thebes, with great Temple of Amen.

Luxor Temple: One of the great monuments of ancient Egypt. Built bu Amenhotep III. The king's statue is one of the most valuable single piece of sculpture ever to emerge from the soil of Egypt. The half-buried pylons, those giant heads raising in ghastly resurrection before the gates of the temple were magnificent. Beyond that entrance lay a smoky, filthy, intricate labyrinth of lanes and passages. The 65 feet tall colossi of Memnon located opposite to Luxor appear to float on the annual Nile River. We visited temples and monuments in a tourist coach. We had already arranged a cruise on the Nile River from Luxor and boarded the ship "Sherry Nile" (3 days and 2 nights). The Cruise started at 9:00 PM. Do you want me to explain the splendor and beauty of the cruise on the Nile River? Standing on the deck to look at the shining moon and the stars above the blue sky cast shadows on the glistening water, was a spectacular sight to behold !!

Our ship anchored at the Valley of the Kings and we went to visit it.Valley of the Kings:  Long narrow valley in Egypt, the site of ancient Thebes and now occupied by Luxor and Karnak. It is the site of at least 60 tombs of Egyptian Pharaohs of the 18th, 19th and 20th dynasties including the tomb of Tutankhamen- Egyptian Pharaoh of the 18th dynasty. His tomb with its magnificent contents was discovered almost intact (1922) by the British archaeologists Howard Carter and the Earl of Carnarvon.

We also visited the Valley of the Queens. In the valley of the queens many pharaoh's wives and princesses were buried. On returning to the ship we visited on Alabaster Factory.

Leaving Luxor reached Esna. Visited Abu Temples, trudging toward the 66-foot tall monoliths carved on cliff above the Nile. The two temples were built by Ramses II far up the river as a monument to himself and his favorite wife Nefertiti.

Aswan Dam: Not visited but enjoyed the sight of the magnificent structure of the dam while cruising on the Nile. The dam is 114 meters (375 feet) high and 3600 meters (11,800 feet) long. Its reservoir Lake Nasser, is one of the largest artificial lakes in the World.  Before reaching the dam the ship was raised by two locks, the purpose os which is to raise the water to the upper level of the river so that the ship could sail on. Visited the Esna Temple which is 30 meters below the ground level. Night halt in the ship at Edfu.

Visited Edfu -- The city was begun in 237 BC. Visited the famous Edfu Temple of Horus. It is considered  to be the most beautiful of the Egypt Temples. The guide told the tales of the legendary battle took place centuries ago. The outer court of the Temple records the pillars still un-excavated with Egyptians living in Porticoes and conversing in the court yard. Cruised from Edfu to Kom--ombo. Visited Kom-ombo Temple which once served as a storage for gold and other immaculate treasures of the god-like Pharaohs. Our Cruise journey was ended and we boarded the train at Kom-ombo to Cairo as before in the night train of 9 hours journey. In the train there was a small incident. At the counter in the Kom-ombo rail station the clerk issued a wrong ticket to Sheila. The ticket examiner in the train demanded excess fees for the ticket. But as usual Kapali objected the demand and met the higher authority who overruled the demand. We reached the Cairo Rail Station early in the morning safely.

Visited Alexandria: Egypt's leading port, standing at the western tip of the Nile River on the Mediterranean Sea. It was founded by the Alexander the Great, in 322 BC and became famous for its two royal libraries. Its pharos (light house) was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. We engaged a taxi and visited the Alexandria City. Toured Pompey's Pillar, Roman Amphitheater, swimming in the Alexandria Bay, where Cleopatra, once ruled as Queen of the Nile, with her alluring eyes which adorned the regal golden throne sailing in her snake boats drawn by swans. Smoked ookka in a restaurant overlooking the Marina. Left Alexandria and reached the Cairo Airport.

July 29, 1994: Leaving Cairo Airport via Egypt Air to Nairobi, Kenya. Arriving Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi, Kenya.

KENYA: East African republic lying across the Equator. The fertile southwest highlands are Africa's major source of coffee and tea. Tourism is a major industry. Kenya was proclaimed British Colony in 1920. The savage Mau Mau rebellion of the Kikuyu hastened independence under Jomo Kenyatta and stability prosperity ensued. Kenya is one of the most popular African countries to visit due to its scenic beauty as well as abundence and variety of game animals.

NAIROBI: The capital of Kenya. Founded (1899) on the Mombasa-Uganda railway, it lies in Kenya's eastern highlands. It is a major industrial and commercial center and is also one of Africa's chief tourist centers attracting visitors to the Nairobi National Park, a wildlife preserve on the city's outskirts.

Rented a car from Avis and travelled throughout Kenya. When we were traveling on Meru and Embu ROad we passed the imaginary Equator passes Line and took pictures before the billboard indicating the line. Night halt at the Meru Country Hotel.

July 30, 1994: Our safaris began from the Meru National Park. On the way we visited Mara Village Market. Passing through the Meru National Park we saw elephants, buffaloes, Zebras, deer, antelopes etc. Night halt in Mulika Lodge in the National Park.

Our Next visit to Nyahururu Lake -- home to literally thousands of beautiful pink flamingos in the Nakuru National Park. Lake Manyara National Park. Lake Manyara is situated in the Great Rift Valley. Enjoyed the wildlife in particular the many species of water fowl, including ducks, pelicans and flamingos that inhabit the area around the lake. Here a small problem. Our car was plunged into muddy filthy soil. The car was not moving. The Park Guard came to our rescue. We tried to lift the car. But failed. Then the guard went in his jeep and brought 10 or 12 men in a truck and they lifted the car. We thanked them and gave $30/- as tips. Night halt in Serena Lodge in the Marai Mara National Park.

Marai Mara: Is an extension of the great Seregeti Plain and is generally thought to be the most significant game viewing spot in Kenya. We started our safari very early in the morning so that we could see more animals. We saw giraffes, zebras, elephants and a host of other wildlife as they exist in their natural habitat.

Visited "Thomas Waterfalls" the highest Waterfalls in Africa in Nyahururu -- 30 meter high falls. Night halt in Thomas Falls Lodge. In the lodge I met with an accident. When I took my shower early morning, I poured the hottest water on my head accidentally which burned my head and forehead. Kapali took me to a nearby Nursing Home where the Nurse applied some ointment in the forehead and put a bandage on the wounds.

August 1st 1994: Leaving Nyakururu to Nakuru National Park. After visiting the Nakuru Park we were proceeding to Mombasa.

Flat Tire Problems: When we were driving on the freeway at night, one of the back wheel tires got flat. While we were fixing the tire the Patrol police came and helped us. We went about ten miles and  Oh.. My God.. another tire gone flat. We had no spare tire. We were blinking and standing on the road without knowing what to do. Fortunately two newspapers trucks were passing by. They stopped their trucks and came to our help.  In one truck me and Siva with our baggages, to avert the theft of the luggages and in the other Kapali and Sheila with two flat tires were driven to the nearest gas station. They unloaded the luggages and went away wishing us a happy journey.  Siva and me were sitting in a tea hotel at the gas station with the luggages and Kapali and Sheila repaired the tires, went back to the car and returned to the gas station.  It took more than eight hours to recover from the hurdles. Then we reached Mombasa and stayed for 2 days in Kenya Beach Hotel at Mombasa Beach.

MOMBASA: Sea Port and industrial center of Kenya. It is the country's chief port and also handle trade for Uganda and Tanzania. Spent 2 days in Mombasa. Sight seeing, city tour, walking and playing on the beach, swimming in the sea and hotel pools and taking rest.

August 3, 1994.  Leaving Mombasa, reached Tsawo National Park. According to the rules of this park nobody was allowed to drive themselves without the convoy. A convoy should accompany in the car with a gun to take care of the visitors from the attacks by the native people. So a convoy escorted us. Again one tire gone flat. This time the convoy helped us. The roads in the parks are only laid with gravel and stones. No black top or smooth leveling to keep the natural environments for the animals to cross or walk on the roads. Reached Amboseli Lake. Night halt in O.L.Tukai Lodge.

August 4, 1994: Amboseli National Park is the perfect viewing point of Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountains. The safari was better than the other safaris. We saw more elephants, zebras, giraffes, buffaloes, monkeys, leopards and rhinos. A herd of elephants composed of seven members was just crossing the road in front of us. We stopped the car and got down to take picture. The Park Guard in his jeep came running behind us and warned us not to step down from the car while travelling the park, which is against the rule of the Park. After enjoying safaris reached Nairobi. We had our dinner in Minar Hotel, the famous hotel in Nairobi.

August 5, 1994: Leaving Nairobi to Cairo via the Egypt Air and reached Cairo by 5:00 PM. Once again the visa problems to me. But this time I was treated as a transit passenger and given free boarding and lodging in the Airport Hotel itself. It was a blessing in disguise to me since I had enough time to take complete rest in the hotel room. Kapali, Sheila and Siva went out and stayedn in a hotel for the night. The next day they strolled again on the streets of Cairo to view the city and came back to the Airport at night.

August 6, 1994:  We boarded the Egypt Air, left Cairo to New York and from La Guardia Airport to Charlotte. We reached home safely.

Though we had many problems, incidents and accidents which were thwarted by Kapali's efforts, ability and capability, we enjoyed the whole trip to the most.


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