*this blog was written on August 2*

We spent most of our time in Alexandria relaxing.

We got up our first full day there and went down to the beach.  Our hotel had a private beach area and we got a neat little cabana on the beach with a server and everything.  We had a few bevys and enjoyed the beautiful 85 degree weather and beautiful skies.  The water was basically the perfect temperature so we enjoyed a swim in the Mediterranean.  It was such an amazingly beautiful and relaxing day that it’s really not interesting to blog (or for that matter read) about.  Suffice to say, THHHHHHHHHPPPPPPPPPTTTTTTTTTT!

We enjoyed the weather.  We enjoyed each others’ company (at least I did – I can’t speak for Julie in this matter).  We walked around a bit.  We ate at a restaurant looking out over the Mediterranean’s rocky shores.  I’m really not doing this place justice.  I’m sorry, Alexandria.  Dear readers, trust me when I say you have to sea Alexandria for yourselves.

On Monday we went to see the Kom El-Shouqafa (meaning, “pile of shards”) Catacombs.  They date back to the first century A.D. but were not discovered until 1900 (when a donkey pulling a cart fell through the ceiling).  It was a tomb initially built for just one family.  The place was huge with around 20 different rooms on three levels.  Each room had numerous individual tombs.  The whole place was strangely decorated with a variety of Egyptian and Greek themes.

Dude, the place was creepy!  There were all kinds of weird little pathways this way and that and holes that led to old dark crevices, not to mention all the places where there were dead people.  I kept expecting scarab beetles to come out and eat me or some crap like that.  Part of the catacombs is still underwater so we had to walk on planks over the water to see those sections.  The planks ran across blocks of stone, weren’t nailed together or nailed down, and didn’t have hand rails.  Safety last, kids!

When we finished at the catacombs we hopped a train back to Cairo.  We’re planing on catching the Egyptian Museum before flying out tonight.  I can’t believe after almost 11 weeks I am leaving Africa tonight.  Crazy.


*this blog was written on July 31*

Yesterday we took the night train from Luxor back to Cairo.  Despite being supposed to arrive at 8am and there being hourly trains to Alexandria (according to the schedule online), we had to wait for 5 hours before we could board a train.  Poopy.

Julie + Adam + foreign city + 5 hours to blow = alcohol.  It’s simple math.

We got a taxi to the Marriott, stashed our bags, and went to the casino.  We figured sticking $10 in the slot machines is about the same as buying a few drinks.  Plus that gave us a place to keep our luggage.  When we finally got bored with that we decided to head over to an expat bar close by called Pub 28.  It did not disappoint.

We were the first patrons in the bar, arriving just as it opened.  It was dark, cool, and had a basement feel.  There was wood paneling everywhere and the walls almost seemed as if they sucked light from the room.  It was awesome.  We ordered some food and drinks and chatted for a few minutes until we were interrupted by the entrance of the regulars.  These elderly expat fellows, who seemed infinitely at home in the pub, were referred to lovingly by Julie as “the shrivies.”  It’s just not a neighborhood pub without a few guys who remember what it was like before fire was invented and will tell you about it.

On the way to the train we stopped at a local store selling liquids of the intoxicating type for the journey.  I mean, we were already boozy so of course we did.  I missed wine so much!

We had a pretty uneventful trip to Alexandria.  We could have sat in that train for 3 hours or half an hour – I have no idea.  Amazing.  Finally around 5pm we arrived, caught a taxi, and headed to our hotel.  It was right on the Mediterranean and had a private beach.  Beautiful.  We relaxed, walked around, grabbed some food, and enjoyed the nice cool beach weather.

We finished the day with a visit to the library at Alexandria.  This isn’t some old columninous landmark from Egyptian, Greek or Roman times – this is a new wonder, and wonderful it is!  It’s a huge structure set on what is believed to have been the site of the famous former great house of knowledge.  It is a house not only of knowledge (a real functioning public library) but home to a great number of antiquities from various periods throughout Alexandria’s history.  And if you’re a fan of architecture, you’ll totally dork out over it.

After the library and a delicious coffee while watching the sun set over the sea, we headed back to our hotel to relax for the evening.  There is a lot of relaxing (and some tourism) to be done tomorrow!

This will do nicely…


*this blog was written on July 30*

We had an amazing but VERY long day today!

We started out at 4:30 am to get a hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings.  Sucky to get up that early (especially considering we didn’t leave the ground till like 7:00 am) but it was TOTALLY worth it!  Along with about 9 other balloons we rose up hundreds of feet into the air to check out the ruins, temples, valley, and Nile river basin.  I’m not going to lie…my legs got a little shaky up there and my stomach was walking like an Egyptian wearing combat boots but I managed to neither ralph nor faint.  Or fall out for that matter.  Needless to say the view was breathtaking and despite the queasiness the experience was well worth it.  We got to take some great pictures of sites we were to visit in a few hours and even went through some trees on the way down.  I don’t know who got a bigger kick out of that – the other riders or the captain himself.  Oh yeah, the captain was even wearing wings and had those stripes on his shoulders.  I found that amusing and wondered what my friend Jesse (a commercial airline pilot) would have to say about that.

After the balloon ride we met up with our guide and headed off to the Valley of the Kings.  It was great having a guide to show us around, teach us stuff, and advise us as to which tombs to check out.  When you visit the valley you get to go into 3 tombs out of like 20 so you have to choose wisely.  We went to Ramses IX (the last one built in the valley), Ramses III, and Thutmose III.  They all had some amazing stuff on the walls, all chiseled and then painted depicting gods, their deeds, and their eventual ascent into the afterlife.  It was incredible to see how detailed their work was and how much of it had lasted for thousands of years!  Much of the paint was still there and to this day scientists haven’t figured out how they made such durable paint.

We then headed over to the Temple of Hatshepsut, who was the stepmother of Thutmose III.  When, at a young age, he became pharaoh she sent him away to school and ruled Egypt herself.  She had a huge temple erected in her honor which depicted her as the daughter of a god thus being entitled to rule Egypt.  When she finally died, Thutmose III  exacted his revenge on her usurping his crown by having every image of her in Luxor destroyed or hidden.  He then said, “You’re not my REAL mommy” and ran away.

From there we checked out the Valley of the Queens which was not nearly as impressive as the Valley of the Kings but had much better and more colorful murals.  There was also virtually no one there so we got to check everything out at our own pace and enjoy our time unrushed or surrounded by sweaty tourists.

On our way to lunch we stopped off at the Colossi of Memnon (two huge statues which were in front of a huge temple which is long gone) to take some picture.  “I am CRUSHING your head!”  “Look, I am holding you up!”  “I shall use you to rest my elbow on.”  And other such nonsense…

We grabbed some falafel, koushery, and schwarma for lunch at a local place recommended by our guide then headed to the Temple of Karnak.  Wow.  Like, freaking WOW!  It’s the largest religious structure in the world, taking up something like 24 acres.  It was built over many years by many pharaohs who each added something of their own.  Most added a pylon which is basically a hugs free standing wall full of carvings and such.  There are also a ton of obelisks, statues, and several places have rows of sphinx.  The most impressive part, however, is the great hall which is made up of 134 remaining columns standing as high as 65 feet and completely covered with carvings.  It was the most impressive thing I’ve seen in Egypt and that includes the pyramids.  It’s just so freaking cool, and having a guide to explain who built what, how the temple was used, and what the carvings meant made it all the more sweet-awesomer!

We were already ex-HAU-sted, drenched with sweat, and sunburned but we had to stop off at the Temple of Luxor on the way home.  It was pretty amazing as well, but I kind of wish we would have seen that before Karnak b/c it just couldn’t compare.  That and we were REALLY tired.

It was a 13 hour day so we headed home, relaxed, and packed up.  We caught the 10:00 pm sleeping train back to Cairo with plans to catch the first train we could find to Alexandria to close out our trip.  After a day like today, we def look forward to some cool, relaxing beach time!


*this blog was written on July 29*

We arrived at 5am here in Luxor.  We got a ride to our hotel and they let us check in early (for an additional charge of course).

Our room is amazing.  We share a huge balcony with 10 other rooms which overlooks the Nile and the Valley of the Kings.  We have a king size bed, flat screen TV on the wall, and even a little sun room leading to the balcony.  Perfect.

We were so exhausted from our past couple busy days that we just ended up relaxing, napping, and enjoying some QT together.  After a restful afternoon we grabbed some dinner and took a sunset falucca (traditional wooden sailing boat) ride on the Nile.  We sipped on wine and enjoyed a peaceful ride as it grew dark.

As we returned to our hotel we heard music and could see dancing so of course we joined the party.  We went down to the restaurant, sat down, and virtually immediately the party ended.  Of course it did.  That didn’t stop us from enjoying some snacks, having a few drinks, and taking advantage of the beautiful cool night.  The fact that the seating area was surrounded by high-power fans helped the night be artificially cool…we thoroughly enjoyed this fact.

After a couple hours we realized it was time to turn in.  We have to get up at 4:30am for our morning balloon ride.  Can’t wait!


*this blog was written on July 28*

We started the day going to the Citadel and Old Cairo.  The Citadel is a huge fortress on the outskirts of Cairo.  It was built by Saladin (the great Islamic leader who united Muslims against the Crusades) and has the huge and beautiful Mosque of Mohamed Ali.  The mosque was breathtaking!

In Old Cairo we checked out some Coptic Churches and an old Synagogue.  Coptic basically means Egyptian Christian. According to legend, the Holy Family hid in the basement of one of the Coptic Churches we visited when they fled after Jesus died.  The churches had round wooden tops (like Noah’s Ark), an upper chamber (women and men were separated at churches with the women in the upper chamber), 12 columns (for the apostles, with one different column standing for Judas), Coptic crosses (a cross with three points on each tip equalling 12 points), a wall separating the worshippers with the pulpit because it is a sacred place, and a variety of other designs featuring the numbers 3 (the Holy Trinity), 10 (the Commandments), and 12 (the Apostles).

In the afternoon we went to see the pyramids.  Oh wait, what I meant to say was, THE PYRAMIDS!!!  (nbd)  Although they were smaller than I imagined, they were more impressive than I could have dreamed.  The first is the tallest of the three.  The second may look taller but it is actually on a plateau above.  This is the only one that still has part of its gypsum limestone exterior (on the top).  The third is actually quite a bit shorter than the other two.  They were built by grandfather, father, and son (which is why each successive one had to be shorter).

After doing the cliché pictures-with-our-finger-on-the-top and taking some hilarious pictures on camels, we went under the middle pyramid.  There’s a shaft about four feet by four feet where you can walk the quarter-mile or so to the burial chamber.  Ok, so actually only I went into the pyramid…Julie took one look and was having none of it.  She says she’s claustrophobic but I think she’s just watched one too many episodes of Scooby Doo.  I didn’t want to try to force her to come down and risk her crying for her mummy.  Yeah, wasn’t going to leave that one un-puned.

On the way back to the van I found Julie in traditional Arab headscarf with a vendor hassling her.  “You got bamboozled” said I, forshadowingly sticking my foot in my mouth.  He put one on my head and I tried to stop  him saying, “I don’t want one and I’m not giving you any money.”  A guy with a kid on a camel came up and wanted me to get on.  Again:  “I’m not giving you any money and I don’t want to get on your camel.”  Before I knew it the guy picked me up, threw me on the camel, and it was walking off in the wrong direction.  WTF?!

Have  you ever been on a camel?  Every time they stand up or sit down you think you’re going to die.  When they start walking you think you’re going to die.  The way they smell makes you want to die.  Off he went riding away as I yelled at the kid to stop and Julie screamed at the guy.  At one point I was actually looking down wondering if I could jump down off the camel onto the rocks wearing flip-flops with a sprained ankle.  I decided I would fare better with the Bedouins and mentally prepared myself for life in the desert.  Incidentally, a good way of remembering the difference between “desert” and “dessert” is that you always want more dessert than desert and dessert has one more “s.”

Anyways, so the guy finally let me down.  Jerk.  Of course the guy started hassling me for money.  Julie had been snapping pictures of the whole thing in between yelling at the guy and he had a kid with him so I gave him $2.  I’ll own up to it:  it was I who got bamboozled.

We stopped at the Sphinx on the way out.  It was WAY smaller than I imagined.  I would have thought it would be fatter seeing as how there is a KFC / Pizza Hut directly in its site line about 100 yards away.  Did you know it was built from a big piece of stone that was leftover and unneeded after building the pyramids?  True story.  It asked me the air speed velocity of an unladen swallow but I ignored it.

By the time we got back to the hotel we had just enough time to grab some dinner (schwarma – Mmmmmmmmmmm!), pick up some wine (merlot – Mmmmmmmmmmm!), and make it to the train station (train food – grooooooooooosssss!).  We’re taking the night train to Luxor to check out the Valley of the Kings and all the temples for a couple of days.   We leave at 8pm and arrive at 5am.  Hooray!  This should be an interesting experience…


Julie arrived safely last night at midnight. He flight was supposed to get in at 4pm but it was delayed…yeah, 8 hours. Ridiculous.

I surprised her with roses and champagne waiting in the hotel room. Yeah, I just needed to brag about that.

Today we slept in for a bit then checked out Al Azhar Mosque, Khan Ali-Kalili, the Mosque of Sayyidan al-Hussein, and Al Azhar Park.

Both mosques are beautiful and full of history. Al-Azhar Mosque is over 1000 years old and has a mix of architecture from various times and styles. The Mosque of Sayyidan al-Hussein figures prominently throughout the history of Islam in Egypt and is where members of the government come to pray on special occasions.

Khan Ali-Kalili (if you’re not spitting, you’re not saying it right) is a huge market area where novice hagglers come to train before going pro. The vendors will tell you anything to get you to come in their shop including saying “Everything here is free” (an obvious but funny lie), and “I don’t know what you want but I’ve got what you need” which some guy said to Julie. I don’t know how I feel about that one. I was also told on at least 8 occasions, “You are a very lucky man.” Thank you, but please stop reminding Julie of that before she realizes she’s slumming it.

Al-Azhar Park was beautiful with fountains and walkways and great views. There is actually a restaurant from which you can see the entire Egyptian skyline. We were hot and ready to get some AC and rest so we decided to come home for a bit then head back there for dinner.

A word of advice if you ever come to Egypt: Ask a few people how much a taxi ride is, negotiate with the driver before you get in the car, offer way less than you were told (don’t assume the bell hop will tell you the right price), and don’t be afraid to walk away. The guy at the hotel told us it was 69 Egyptian Pounds to get to Khan Ali-Kalili. We got a taxi back for 20. We also got a ride from there to Al-Azhar Park which we were told 20 pounds, negotiated it to 15, and then the driver tried to charge us $15 (almost 6 times as much). We got out of the taxi and then quickly found a driver to take us for 10 pounds.

Negotiating transportation here can be taxiing.


…when I walked around Cairo by myself on the first night that I’d ever been there…AT 3 IN THE MORNING?!?! Oh yeah, that’s now.

I had a hankerin. I got some beef schwarma (sp?), Pepsi, and a bag of what look to be Lays Chili Lime potato chips but I’m not sure b/c the bag is in Arabic.

Dude, this city is bumpin even at 3am. There were people of all types and ages out.  Even kids.  With and without parents.  NYC, you got NOTHIN on Cairo!

Btw, if you got the Michael Jackson reference in the title, you get infinity awesome points. Lewdow and CBiggs, I’m just going to assume you were already there.


Who’s that guy we know that’s in Cairo?  Oh yeah, IT’S ME!

I had another long day of traveling.  Up to leave the hostel at 7am.  The airport was sucky.  Had to go to one place to get a fake ticket, then wait an hour for them to call my flight so that me and 70 other people could go stand in line to get our real tickets.  It’s like they thought, “How could we make this system as inefficient as possible?”

Anyways, by the time we all got our tickets and checked our bags and went through the customs or whatever lady and went through security 3 times, we sat in a room for another half hour.  And THEN boarded.  Seriously?!  We left at least an hour late.  Just because.

And what’s the deal with having security at every gate?!  You know those machines gotta cost a lot of money…why not just have a few at one security checkpoint for all the gates?!  You can’t even buy a bottle of water from a duty-free shop and carry it on the plane!  Oh Africa!

I was going to go into Nairobi where I had a layover but because we were running late already and I  had gotten mixed messages as to whether I had enough time, I just decided to play it safe and stay in the airport.  I actually, and to my great surprise, was able to get some work done that I need to finish up for my project.  Less to do when I get back to Atlanta!

Anyways, so I got on the plane to Cairo.  The flight attendants, who were all men which was weird, were quite rude.  There was no being nice or cordial or anything…it was all orders.  Remind me never to fly Kenya Airways ever again.  EVER!  I mean I get that they have a tough job, but part of that tough job is being nice to people even when they aren’t being nice.  And I was.  I promise.  But they weren’t.  Shenanigans.

Finally I got to Cairo.  There were no signs telling us where to get visas so we ended up having to back track.  Oh, you get it at the bank!  Of course!  Why didn’t I think of that?!

My bag actually arrived.  I feel like it’s Christmas every time I check a bag and it actually shows up.  This is how much faith I have in the airline industry.

My driver wasn’t there (well, he claims he was but he certainly wasn’t where he should have been when he should have been there).  I had to negotiate a ride to my hostel and both the guy who I negotiated with and the driver asked for tips.  This is a common theme I’ve heard.  I gave them both a tip but said no when the driver asked for more.  I feel like I’m going to be doing that a lot.

There was a sign outside for the hostel and a large open doorway that led to an open courtyard.  There was no signage inside.  I had to go back outside to figure out the hostel was on the third floor.  Up I went the empty, worn, sketchy stairs.  I had no idea if I was in the right place.  What on earth am I doing here and what have I gotten myself into?  Luckily once I finally dragged my bag up the stairs, I came to a landing with a pleasant, colorful set of rooms.

It’s actually kind of nice here with several rooms, wifi, a tv with cable, and showers on the rooms.  It’s not the Marriott (where I’m staying tomorrow and Tuesday) but it’ll do for the night.

I can’t believe I’m in Cairo.  I can’t believe Uganda is over.  I can’t believe I’ll see Julie in 14 hours.  I can’t believe it’s already been almost 10 weeks.  I can’t believe any of it.  I am ecstatic!


I’m in Entebbe.

I boarded a bus at 5:45am.  I arrived in Kampala at 2pm.  I met with Sempa and took care of a few last bits of business then headed to Entebbe at 4 (which of course took 2 hours on a matatu but should only have taken 45 minutes).  Grand total of travel and business today:  12 hours.  Ugh.

Here are some “highlights” from my day”

1. Getting up at 4:45am.  That’s always fun.  I think it should be illegal for anyone to ever have to get up before daybreak.  Dean, you know people in government.  Could we work on that?

2. Having to carefully plan what I was wearing based on packing, being freezing cold in the morning, and being swelteringly hot in the afternoon.  Was still cold in the morning and drenched in sweat by 1pm.

3. Thinking about and strategizing the best place to sit on the bus and then being epically wrong.

4. Getting yelled at for having my window open by some guy because it was bad for his baby.  You know what’s bad for your baby, buddy?  That worm infested goat meat on a stick that bought on the side of the road and are feeding her!

5. Having my bags in the seat next to me and being forced to move them for some guy despite there being plenty of empty seats on the bus.  Why do I only get special treatment because of the color of my skin when I don’t want it?!

6. Peeing on the side of the road alongside about two dozen strangers.  This is normal here on long bus rides.

7. Meeting up with Sempa and chit-chatting with him as we got everything taken care of before I left.  He was so kind to pick me up from the bus and drop me off at a matatu and it was pleasure spending the small time I got to spend with him!

8. Waiting in the car with Sempa’s three daughters while he grabbed them lunch.  They play fought the whole time (the two youngest ganging up on the oldest).  It was hilarious.  When I told them that dad was coming back they straightened up forthwith.  Sneaky.

9. Matatu ride from Kampala to Entebbe.  A bunch of African leaders are here in Kampala for a big meeting (sorry for the lack of specifics – I have been in a news void for 9 weeks).  That plus the bombs = police EVERYWHERE!  We passed at least 4 of these VIPs en route flanked by police cars and ambulances and military vehicles.  Kinda cool.

10. Backpacker’s Hostel Entebbe.  This is my third stay at the Backpacker’s chain (Kampala and Kabale are the other two).  I’m renting and sleeping in a tent.  There are tons of munzungus here including a group doing an overland tour of Africa which sounds amazing.  They started in Nairobi and some are going all the way to South Africa stopping at various national parks.  The place is off the beaten path (no bombs) and very close to the airport and they have a car which will take me at 7am for $6.  Pimp.

BONUS:  The word for a public van taxi here is “matatu.”  It comes from Swahili meaning “to pay 3 cents.”  In the 1960’s it cost 3 cents to get from Nairobi to a suburb and it was easier to just say, “matatu” than say, “I’m taking the taxi that costs 3 cents.”  The term just stuck.

DOUBLE BONUS: Boda bodas are motorcycle taxis.  The word “boda” means “border.”  The original boda bodas were bicycle taxis that took people from Kenya to Uganda, from border to border…or “boda boda.”

I’m leaving at 10am.  6 hour layover in Nairobi so I’m going into the city.  Met a tour guide with the overland tour group who is from Nairobi and whose friend drives a taxi.  He will be picking me up and rushing me into the city to have lunch then get back for my flight.  Wish me luck.

I land in Cairo at 11:30pm tomorrow.  Crazy.  Is it more important to study up on Arabic phrases or Bangles lyrics?  Discuss.


I’m exhausted. I visited the Kutamba School this morning to say goodbye to the kids and teachers. I got roped into teaching one period because the teacher was out for the day. At break the kids sung to me and wished me goodbye. It was precious.

I decided to do the hour long walk back. I stopped to watch the guys cutting lumber by hand for a minute. They wanted money for me to watch and take pictures. Hardly. I also checked out the market in Upper Kisiizi but failed to find any good clothes or fabric. I did however draw a lot of attention as the only munzungu there.

I spent the rest of the day doing a little work but mostly getting packed, taking pictures, and saying goodbye to people. I played in the regular evening football game and of course sprained my ankle my last night here. Great.

I can’t even properly reflect on leaving here. It just hasn’t hit me yet. I get on a bus in 6 hours to leave Kisiizi, maybe forever. I will likely be on that bus driving out of town before it hits me and I get all emotional and stuff. As if it won’t be awkward enough being the only munzungu on a bus in Uganda at 6am, if I start crying I’m going to feel a fool. Maybe Mr. T will pity me. Likely not.

I’m packed. I need to go to bed. I’m meeting with Sempa when I get to Kampala then straight down to Entebbe where the airport is. No risks here. I fly out at 10am Sunday so I will be up at 6am then to catch my ride to the airport. Sleep-schmeep.

Ok, I’m obviously delirious from being tired. To the bed place!