the west bank has redeemed israel

ironic but true, at least for us. granted we have now met some more friendly israelis... the guys at the coffee shop below our hotel know exactly what we like and a really nice camping store clerk sold me warm socks today and recommended a fantastic restaurant, but thats nothing compared to palestine...

on christmas day we decided to head to bethlehem to see the churches there and catch the christmas spirit. only problem was, bethlehem is in (gasp) the west bank! we had been warned not to go there by our friendly (sic) neighbourhood border agent.
being totally contained behind a giant wall, the west bank is like a different country, but even though it was much poorer and dilapitated it felt extremely safe.

we visited the church of the nativity and st. katherine's on the spot where they think jesus was born. it was a little crazy with tourists of many nationalities jostling to kiss various objects, but interesting nonetheless.

this monk was getting quite frustrated continuously shooing the same people out from the roped off area where they insisted on getting their kids to kiss the baby jesus doll.

we then had a fantastic christmas dinner of falafel sandwich, hummus and mint tea. venturing 2 blocks away from the big churches, the tourist crowd fell to almost zero and we were in the middle of a mass of celebratory palestinians (a large fraction of palestine is christian) and being wished merry christmas left right and from behind.

when we have asked people in jerusalem for directions, we have felt lucky when we recieved a grunt and a pointed finger, rather than an irritated look before shouldering by. we asked 2 palestinians for directions. the first was named pachs and we ended up at his house for coffee and sheesha and playing with his precocious daughters. he then payed for our taxi back to bethlehem and gave us a quick tour of the old city.

we also met his good friend jamal, who took the time to show us his bullet wound courtesy of the israeli army. all of the people we met at pachs' place had been in jail or had their family members in jail at one point or another. these people were so friendly and cheerful that it was difficult to remember which were the ones trapped behind a concrete wall.

on our way back to the checkpoint an older man named jebeel noticed us consulting our map and stopped. we asked "which way to jerusalem?" jebeel initially pointed, but then thought better of letting us out on our own and hailed us a taxi, paid for it and took us right to the checkpoint. to our surprise, he then pulled out his pass (most palestinians cant leave their own city) and after removing half his clothing and being fingerscanned with a crazy sci fi laser like device, escorted us through the checkpoint and jumped in a cab on the road which took us all the way to jerusalem. all this even though jebeel doesnt speak english and we couldnt even communicate!

in short, we love palestine and are enjoying israel more. the arab hospitality/inherent friendliness is tough to beat. hope you all had a good christmas.


merry christmas!

we have made it to jerusalem just in time for christmas. after we arrived in israel i almost turned around and fled back to egypt. the only thing stopping us was our lack of an egyptian return visa and our hotel booking in jerusalem. people in israel are extremely rude and unfriendly and after coming from hyperfriendly egypt it really hurt. our first 4 major interactions with people (border, taxi, information desk, bus driver) were so shockingly unfriendly that i was actually shaking by the end (being the only 2 people left on the road after a full bus drove away, even though we were about midway in line didnt help).

anyways, today has been a bit better and we are starting to find our way around the city. here i am at the western wall (middle right, white yarmulke), the last remnant of the original temple.

we also visited the church of the holy sepulchre where jesus was apparently crucified. one thing that we havent yet gotten used to in israel is half the young people walking around with automatic weapons strung across their back. even soldiers out of uniform (we hope they are soldiers) carry their guns over a sweater or t-shirt or whatever and none of them look much over 20. even when they are wearing uniforms often their pants are super low, their shirts are untucked and (firearms as fashion) their guns are slung lazily almost down to the ground. this group outside the church were much friendlier than most civilians.

finally, as a public service announcement we would like to inform you about our friend sam. we met him first at an oasis in the western desert with ty and kelsey. we then met him again on the top of mt. sinai and a third time in dahab... it was this third occasion that convinced us that we should be friends, so we hung out in dahab a few times and hope to reconnect in turkey. he is a good guy and a great storyteller (he's irish)... if you see this man, please let him sleep on your couch. he is not planning on coming to canada on this trip, but who knows how long he can stay home in ireland?

we also met a cool dutch couple that we got along with very well. sana is in the above shot, but we dont have any pictures of bart. luckily they plan to hook up with us again in amsterdam so it is not too late.

so merry christmas everyone! we are thinking of heading to bethlehem tomorrow for christmas day, but perhaps it will be too crowded. we will be thinking of you (family and friends) so eat some turkey for us and we will put in a good word for you if jesus comes back on his birthday.


mt sinai

kylie and i are now in dahab on the red sea coast and planning on heading to jerusalem just before christmas. we just got in from the sinai desert where we stayed at a fantastic bedouin camp and climbed gebel mose aka mount moses aka mount sinai.
the mountain can be pretty busy, especially in the morning b/c many people climb it early to watch the sunrise. we decided to climb it in the afternoon and had the peak to ourselves for over an hour.

it was not an isolated wilderness peak like we are used to in the rockies, as someone had built a chapel at the top, but the views were spectacular nonetheless. the whole moses getting the 10 commandments thing, as well as the burning bush didnt really seem real and was difficult to grasp. i did however get a feel for the israelites complaining as they had to wander around this desolate landscape for 40 years.
we left the peak before sunset, which was too bad b/c when we were almost down the mountain, the sky turned into this:
in the evening we were entertained by our bedouin hosts telling riddles and stories and teaching us various dances.
finally a note about cats in egypt: they are everywhere! they are also a bit different than the typical canadian cat... their ears are longer and their eyes are somehow a bit deeper. it is every cat for himself, and today in dahab a cat snatched a piece of pizza out of kylie's hand. i got a picture of this beautiful cat by holding my camera at knee level beside a newspaper stand. total fluke that it framed so well and that this guy's brother was posed in the background.

oh, one more thing. we just got an email confirming that the package we mailed home with our new bedspread has arrived in lethbride!!! wow. 4 days. 3 cheers for egypt express! now i wish that we had shipped home some lamps as well.


It's my birthday and I'll buy if I want to . . .

Buy if I want to, you would buy too if you were in Egypt and things were really cheap and you found a beautiful bedspread and you hadn't been shopping for 10 months . . .

So I had a wonderful birthday on Sunday, Marc rented a room at the Hilton (at a very reduced price after a lot of haggling) and we had a beautiful view of the Nile from our balcony.

We spent the day (after an amazing buffet breakfast) purchasing and shipping a beautiful new bedspread that I had fallen in love with two days previously. I also bought a new sweater that seem to be all the rage here in Egypt.

We spent the day today climbing Mount Sinai but that is another post altogether! Off to get warm in our camp (it is freezing here! Well maybe not like Canada cold but cold nonetheless).


Temple overload

We are again back in Cairo (we keep thinking that we will leave to go to Israel soon but the food and accomodation here is so cheap and good we just can't leave!) Tomorrow we are going to the Sinai and after climbing Mount Sinai we will head to the Dahab on the beach and then slowly make our way to Israel. We plan on being in Jerusalem for Christmas. Just a quick post for today as it is a special day for me ;) and I would rather spend it doing other fun things than sitting in a very smoky internet cafe.

While in Luxor we went to two of what must be the most amazing temples in the world. If you can show me some others I challenge you, but they must be over 3000 years old and very large and magestic.

The first temple we went to was the Luxor Temple. We liked it so much during the day that we also went back at night! We had to get the most for our money. The second was Karnak Temple and the size of it actually put Luxor Temple to shame. ;)

Unfortunately the computer I am on is not letting me re-order the pictures so you will just have to enjoy them in random order.) We have officially said goodbye to Ty and Kelsey and they are now jetting off to Athens as I type. Have fun you two! We will miss you!

Luxor Temple at night.

Marc went a bit crazy after he and Ty did Purple Temple and took some wacky shots.

Marc and I took a sunset felucca ride to end our time in Luxor.

Karnak Temple

Although we have only been in Egypt for a few weeks and have very little Egyptology experience we were able to finally figure out how the temples were built. You can see the device peeking into the right side of the picture. What has taken all these historians so long?!!

Silhouette Silhouette Silhouette AHHHAAAA!

Being headless is quite becoming on Marc.

Ty, be very afraid, very very afraid!!


there and back again

well we managed to remain hydrated throughout our entire desert excursion and have returned to cairo and are staying at kelsey's cousin jody's house (who happens to be a fantastic host).

all together we spent 4 nights in the desert, although we only camped for the middle two. both of those nights were spent in remote surreal locations in the white desert.

campsite #1

dune running behind the camp.

classic bedouin poses

on our way to campsite #2

campsite #2

mushroom chicken mushroom


me and my mummy

in the white desert ty and i had a chance to practice one of my favourite sports. i grew up rockjumping at writing on stone, but have had limited access to appropriate facilities since.

finally on our way home we visited a 400 year old mudbrick village in the desert... unfortunately mudbrick and modern water infrastructure do not mix (your house starts to spontaneously dissolve if you have any water inside) and thus the village is slowly being abandoned.

after 4 days we left the desert for the ancient splendour of luxor. check back for further information.

also, ty and kelsey's blog presents an excellent alternate and slightly fantastic take on the week's events, with lots of pictures. josh has recently added his version of our time in cairo, presented as an advertisement for the divinely located, angelically priced and paganically appointed sultan hotel.