Thomson Cruise – Egypt and the Promised Land

This cruise, taking in Cyprus, Syria, Egypt and Israel was booked with Thomson Cruises in 2008. We flew with Thomson airlines to Paphos, Cyprus then were taken by coach to meet the ship at the port of Limassol. The ship left port at around 11pm bound for our first destination, Syria. We had decided not to venture into Syria as we had booked three days of full excursions so stayed on board the ship enjoying the sunshine. Day two was a ship at sea day so by day three we were looking forward to setting foot on land.

Alexandria, Egypt – trip to El Alamein

Alexandria, Egypt

We woke up to see this beautiful facade from our cabin window. We had arrived in Alexandria.

We had opted to visit the El Alamein battlefield, museum and war graves today and so after breakfast headed out to the waiting coaches. After driving for some time we reached El Alamein and looked across the rugged landscape that was, in 1943, the scene of a desperate fight for control of North Africa. The battles for El Alamein were fought between an allied force commanded by General Montgomery (the desert rat) and an Axis force commanded by Field Marshall Erwin Rommel (the desert fox). The first battle was fought in July 1942 and ended in a draw. The second battle fought from 23rd October 1942 to 11th November 1942 ended in a decisive allied victory and was a major turning point in the war prompting Winston Churchill to say ‘Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.’

El Alamein Battlefield

The inside area of the El Alamein Museum offers an insight into the details of the two battles using a range of display boards, dioramas, uniforms and photographs

El Alamein Museum
The outside area is devoted to armoured vehicles. Each displayed on a pedestal with further details on a plaque.

Tanks El Alamein
Across the road from the museum is the Commonwealth war cemetery. There is a separate cemetery for German soldiers. We spent some time here walking round and reading the messages and details on the simple white stones.
A memorable and moving visit.

El Alamein Cemetery

 

Port Said – trip to Saqqara, Memphis and Giza]

Port Said Egypt
We woke up the following morning having docked in Port Said. We had an early breakfast before disembarking and finding our coach. In all there were 20 coaches leaving the ship bound for Cairo. We also had our first experience of the devious tactics used by the locals to try to persuade us to give them money. We had been given packed snack boxes and the locals approached us trying to put our lunch in their bags for which they would then demand payment. Luckily we got past them quickly and found our coach.

We soon were heading out of Port Said and travelling towards Cairo. It was a long journey (around two hours) but we were kept amused by the sighting of camels, horse and carts, rural farmers and armed police.

Before long we had reached Memphis, capital of the Old Kingdom. We only had a very short time here but managed to see the Memphis Sphinx and the giant statue of Ramesses II.

Memphis Sphinx

Our next stop was Saqqara, just a short distance from Memphis, it served as the burial ground for the rulers of the Old Kingdom. The earliest Kings were buried in mastabas – flat-roofed tombs.

Mastaba in Memphis

When it was time for Djoser to have his burial site built he asked his Vizier, Imhotep to design a bigger structure. Upon completion of a large mastaba Djoser felt that it was not big enough and asked for another storey to be put on top. Imhotep made the second storey slightly smaller than the base. In all a further five storeys were put on top each slightly smaller than the previous. The completed structure became the first pyramid and is known as the step pyramid of Djoser.

Step Pyramid

After lunch we were next taken to see the Pyramids at Giza. There are three main pyramids of which the Great Pyramid is the biggest and five smaller pyramids. This picture has been taken from the top of the hill and you can clearly see the city of Cairo in the background. Most photographs of the pyramids are taken from an angle so that the city is not visible and it appears that they are out in the desert. It was quite a shock to realise how close to the city the pyramids actually are.

Pyramids of Giza

We were then given the opportunity to go inside the great pyramid. We had to pay to go in but decided that it was too good an opportunity to miss. We entered through a very low passageway and had to bend at the waist to descend into the pyramid for some distance until we could stand up straight. A lot of people suffered with claustrophobia and didn’t make it to the inner chamber but we kept on going and eventually reached the Queen’s chamber.

Inside Great Pyramid

Once back on the coach it was just a very short journey to see the Sphinx. The traditional image of the Sphinx, with the Great Pyramid behind makes the two appear much closer than they actually are. Also if you turn around you can see a busy street with shops and a McDonalds.

The Sphinx

Our final stop for the day was a shop which gave us a demonstration on how to make papyrus. We then headed out of Cairo and back to Port Said. We rejoined our ship about 14 hours after we left in the morning. With another long day ahead tomorrow it was dinner and early to bed.

 

Ashdod, Israel – trip to Jerusalem, Masada Fort, Dead Sea

We were up early again with another long day ahead. The day before in Egypt had been very hot so we were shocked to find that the temperature in Israel was several degrees lower.

Jerusalem

We stood high above Jerusalem to take advantage of this photo opportunity and also to enable our guide to explain a bit about the buildings that could be seen in Jerusalem but it was difficult to concentrate as everyone was feeling cold with the drop in temperature.

Once back in the coach we headed out of Jerusalem past the wall that separates Israel from the Gaza Strip.

After a while the landscape began to change and the temperature rose and we reached the fortress of Masada.

Masada, Israel

High above the Dead Sea, close to where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, sits the Masada fortress. Constructed by King Herod, the fortress was meant to be a refuge for Jewish people to escape from the Romans who were expanding their Empire around the Mediterranean.

The story is told that when it became obvious that the Romans could not be stopped Herod ordered a mass suicide rather than face any Jew being taken prisoner.

Masada Fort

After spending sometime walking round most of the fort we made our way back to the coaches to be taken for lunch at a hotel before spending the afternoon sunbathing and swimming in the Dead Sea.

Although our ship was docked in Israel for a second day we remained on board relaxing after the last two very hectic days.

 

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