Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bird's Eye View

We treated ourselves to our first-ever hot-air balloon ride to finish off our vacation in Egypt. Though we had originally planned to do it with Bud and Ashley, Sebastian's trip to the hospital meant that we had to postpone the air ride until after they had gone. But, we enjoyed it enough for everyone (except the part about waking up at 4 a.m.).

After our insanely early wake-up call, we quickly got ready and piled into the bus, which took us to a ferry. While drinking tea on the fairy, the balloon staff expressed surprise that no one had told us that children were not normally allowed in the balloons. We also expressed our surprise since the company we had lined it up with knew perfectly well we had kids. We had expressly asked about taking them. Anyway, in the end, all four of us went up in the balloon, with a few extra staff members to assist with landing. (The landing is the only issue with kids, since sometimes the balloon basket tips over.)

Once we had reached the west bank, we watched the sun come up while a dozen or so balloons were being prepared. Misha watched with anticipation.

Almost ready!

Up we went! Misha's initial enthusiasm was considerably dampened by the noise and the heat of the torch used to give the balloon more altitude. However, once we started coming down toward the end of the trip, he got very excited to see the land below us.

The stark contrast was very clear between the sandy desert and the green bank spoiled by the waters of the Nile. We were also excited to see several sites from the air that we had previously seen on the ground, such as Habu Temple pictured here.

Habu Temple again, with Hatshepsut's Temple carved into the mountain rock behind.

And the Colossi of Memnon, their size no less impressive from the air.

The barren desert on one side of us ...

and banana trees on the other.

Floating down over open-roofed houses.

Josh enjoys the view.

Heads in the clouds.

As we came lower and lower to the ground, Misha got more and more excited. Our basket brushed the tops of palm trees and eventually the tops of the long grass as we came in for the landing.

The view was amazing, but it felt VERY strange to be a tourist in a hot air balloon spying down into the homes of poor farmers who in turn look up at you. I'm sure we all were very much aware of the difference in our economic situations.

The landing was a success. Sebastian, who had had no qualms about the ride at all, had fallen asleep and slept right through the landing.

On the ground once again.

The Valley of the Kings

Our last site to see was the famous Valley of the Kings, the final resting place of over 60 pharoahs. We went right after the balloon ride, which meant it was still very early in the morning, but it was already quite hot in the Valley. Our entry ticket allowed us access to three tombs, so we descended the long staircases and ramps of three pharaohs (Ramses III, IV, and IX, if I remember correctly). I have to say I liked the temples more, but the best part of the tombs was how well-preserved the hieroglyphs are. They are beautifully and brightly colored, safe from sun and erosion. Though the treasures and sarcophagi had been looted long ago (and those that weren't have been moved to museums), it was interesting to see the tombs. Unfortunately, photography was not allowed. So disappointing!! This link gives you a good feel for what the valley looks like, but it just doesn't do justice to the relentless sun. :) This photo shows the hieroglyphs and images on the walls of King Tut's tomb in the Valley.


Bill said...

Wow! Nice pictures and looks like quite a balloon ride. Surprised that Seb could sleep during that! Glad that Misha enjoyed it and wasn't too scared--mostly excited, sounds like. Interesting blog! -mom

kate said...

I really liked the photo of King Tuts tomb.

kate said...

How exciting to take a balloon ride and in Egypt no less. I am so glad Misha enjoyed it. I was thinking he might have had some misgivings.