Notes from Luxor, Assiyut, and the Dakhla Oasis in Egypt

Nobuko has been sharing her experience about travels to Cairo, Luxor, and now Assiyut and the Dakhla Oasis. See what she has to say.

Part 1: Getting from Cairo to Luxor

Getting from Cairo to Luxor was a breeze – but at $60 per bed, it is not cheap. The tourist sleeper train, which leaves from Giza station, was very comfortable with small 2-bed cabins that included clean sheets, a pillow and blanket, and a basin. Also included in the price were a pretty hearty dinner and breakfast which was served in your cabin. I shared the cabin with a Samoan woman who is a New Zealand citizen. She was also traveling alone for one year so we had much to talk about. The whole trip took 10 hours.

Part 2: Getting from Luxor to the Dakhla Oasis

Now, the transit from Luxor to the western Dakhla Oasis was an arduous one. It took me 16 hours to arrive there via Assiyut (more about that train route on TripAdvisor). I took a local train at 7:30am (cost less than 20 E pounds) which arrived in Assiyut at 1:30pm after enduring an incredibly dusty path. There was only one car for first class, but there aren’t any noticeable differences between first and second class.

I met a group of four female college students who kept me company by teaching me Arabic. I remember only one word from this lesson, which is magnun = crazy. After they got off, other women filled their seats. But these women made me feel uncomfortable by continious laughing at the sight of me. I think the laughter was not malicious, but I left to move to another seat.

Assiyut is a large city. But the bus station is only a five-minute walk to the left  from the train station. The direct bus to Dakhla did not leave til 6pm, so I decided to take the bus at 3pm to the Khagra Oasis which is located two hours before reaching Dakhla. My plan was to take another bus from Kharga to Dakhla. The ride to Kharga was hot but smooth, arriving at 6:30pm. But the onward bus from there did not leave til 8:30pm – which meant I would not arrive in Dakhla til 11:30!  By this time I was simply exhausted, so when I learned this I was going to look for an accommodation in Kharga.

I do not speak Arabic. There were many instances where I really wished that I had studied some words. But there is always someone who speaks some English and offers me much needed help. A group of college girls got me in a taxi with them, and I was taken to a micro bus headed to Dakhla. During the travel, they fed me and gave me drinks. When we reached Dakhla, one of them gave me a ride to an accommodation in her boyfriend’s car. So I was in bed before 10:30pm.

The travel route I had taken I would not recommend to anyone. But unfortunately, there aren’t many other options unless one has $130 to spend on a five-hour taxi ride from Luxor to Dakhla.

Dakhla itself does not have any sites. 30km away from it, there is Al Qasr, an abandoned medieval fort city made of mud and bricks which served as the capital for the area for a long time. It’s a surreal experience to walk through the maze of small streets in this ghost town. Some multi-storied houses are more than 1200 years old and still standing in good enough condition for us to walk in. The wood of Acacia trees was used for constructions and for city gates for its durability. To make it extra strong and preservable, it was soaked in salt water first. As a testament, none of the acacia trees were crumbling. Amazing!Acacia wood was also used for curving the prayer areas which decorate the doorway of the houses. These prayer boards record the dates when the house was built and the names of the artists who curved the boards.

The whole city was designed to remain cool in the hot desert climate by making narrow streets which created much shaded areas. The narrow and bending streets also served as a defense tactic to prevent invaders from marching into the city with  high velocity and momentum.

Aside from Al Qasr, the Dakhla Oasis was supposed to be famous for its hot springs. However, these are cemented structures with pumps that pour spring water into the pools. And due to the prolonged decline in tourism over the past few years, the pools had moss growing inside and some pumps were not operating. So my dream of getting into natural hot springs were miserably shattered.

The hotel staff were very nice people, but they did not speak English. This was a problem apart from getting breakfast and getting a wi-fi password. I could not get a map or contact information for the tourist office in town because they did not understand what I was asking for. I aimlessly wandered the streets looking for the tourist information office. Someone picked me up and drove me to the tourist police office. Probably they didn’t know what else to do with me. There finally I met the officer Mr. Mahmud, who spoke English. He gave me some tea and a snack, and called the tourist office on my behalf. With directions in my hand, I headed to the tourist office, but got lost within a few minutes.

Mr. Mahmud probably figured that I would get lost, so he came after me and drove me to my destination. There I met Mr. Omar Dahi who agreed to guide me to Al Qasr. But I admit, it was so much fun to ride in police cars! Now I understand why cops are one of the most popular attraction among the elementary school kids on  career day!

Dakhla Oasis, also spelt Dakhleh and translates to the inner oasis, is one of the seven oases of Egypt’s Western Desert. Dakhla Oasis lies in the New Valley Governorate, 350 km from the Nile and between the oases of Farafra and Kharga. (source: Wikipedia)

Guided Kronberg Castle Tours

During the summer months, international visitors to Kronberg Castle have the opportunity to join guided tours in the English language.

The 2013 tours take place on the following Sundays: May 5, June 2, June 30, July 28, and September 1.

Each tour begins at 16.30h and lasts about one hour.

Admission is 5,00€ (children 3,00 €, families 10,00€).

Dorothea Peukert
Public Relations
Burgverein Kronberg e.V.
www.burgkronberg.de
d.peukert@burgkronberg.de

Good Beer Area and the Wireless

We spent the past Easter weekend in the heart of Germany, namely the region Franconia in northern Bavaria.

As usual, we met my siblings over dinner in one of those rural guesthouses, where local cuisine and often home brewed beer is served. When I opened my iPad, this popped up:

Good Beer Area

We had a good laugh on this one – the guesthouse on main street in this small village of Hausen with a population of 636 residents – uses English. Quite modest is its claim of Good Beer Area. They should call it Best Beer Area.

A typical pub interior

 

Brauerei Martin in Hausen

Quoting Frank Zappa:

“You can’t be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.”

 

Advent Choir Concert in Oberursel

ADVENT CHARITY CONCERT

The girls’ choir of Maria-Ward-Schule, under the direction of Wolfram Gaigl, will present many English Christmas songs at one of the local churches.

When: 15 December 2012 (Saturday)

Time:  19:15 – 20:00 followed, by an Advent Market

Where: At St. Hedwig Church

Address: Im Eisenhammerweg  in Oberursel

Organized by St. Hedwig’s fundraising group

The concert’s proceeds are going to St. Hedwig Church in Oberursel

Adventskonzert Bad Homburg

The entry is free, but the church appreciates donations.

Country Hotels in Germany

The magazine Geo Saison, in its current October 2011 issue, ran an article featuring their choice of the 18 best country hotels in Germany.

These country hotels are spread out all over the Germany, reaching from the North Sea down to the Alps. One of them is located in the heart of Germany, namely Hotel Schloss Zeilitzheim in Northern Bavaria.

On of our visits to my hometown in Northern Bavaria, we had an overnight at Hotel Schloss Zeilitzheim.

Country Hotel Schloss Zeilitzheim

Quoting an excerpt from the Geo Saison article, written by Hannah Glaser:

Den jungen, gutgelaunten Hausherrn von Schloss Zeilitzheim treffen wir im Garten, auf den Knien beim Löwenzahn stechen (We found the young and good-humored castle owner in the garden, on his knees pulling weeds).

This, among other daily routines, contributes to a familiar atmosphere when staying at the hotel.

Country Hotel Schloss Zeilitzheim

Hotel Schloss Zeilitzheim ranked 7th on the Geo-Saison list (full list available on Presse-Portal).

For more information, visit Zeilitzheim Castle Hotel in Bavaria, Germany.