Black Watch 2007 Leg4

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The iconic Hotel Burj al-Arab, Jumeirah Beach
Want to book a room? Visit www.burj-al-arab.com
Itinerary = ports at anchor
Wednesday 28th February-Dubai, UAE
Thursday 1st March-Fujairah, UAE
Friday-at sea
Saturday-at sea
Sunday 4th March-Salalah, Oman
Monday-at sea
Tuesday-at sea
Wednesday-at sea
Thursday-at sea
Friday 9th March-Safaga, Egypt
Saturday 10th March-Aqaba, Jordan
Sunday 11th March-Aqaba, Jordan
Monday 12th March-Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt
Tuesday 13th March-transit Suez Canal
Wednesday 14th March-Port Said, Egypt
Thursday-at sea
Friday 16th March-Heraklion, Crete
Saturday-at sea
Sunday 18th March-Valletta, Malta
Monday-at sea
Tuesday 20th March-Cartagena, Spain
Wednesday-at sea
Thursday-at sea
Friday-at sea
Saturday 24th March-Southampton

Burj Dubai under construction
Under construction: Burj Dubai will be the World's tallest building when completed in 2009.
For facts & figures visit www.burjdubai.com


Tuesday 27th February
Day 2 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
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Yesterday, our less-than-impressive tour to the neighbouring Emirates of Ajman and Sharjah was more than made-up for by our fantastic evening in the desert on our Sundowner Dune Dinner and after a good night's sleep, we enjoyed a relaxing morning on board before our afternoon City Tour.


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The Jumeirah Mosque Dubai Creek
the "pregnant building" is the
National Bank of Dubai
Al Fahidi Fort
Dubai Museum
Dubai Creek
at Abra Ferry Station
Rose Tower
1,093ft (333m) high

It was difficult not to be impressed with the scale and diversity of the amazing architecture here but rather more interesting was the Dubai Museum, housed in the restored Al-Fahidi Fort, one of the oldest buildings in Dubai, built around 1787. Here you can see some excellent displays and dioramas illustrating the cultural heritage and development of this area.

We were then deposited for 75 minutes at the Gold Souk, which pleased neither of us; but we were the odd ones out - most of the other passengers seemed keen to acquire what they were convinced would be "a bargain"! While John & I were sitting waiting for the others, a young man tried desperately to sell me a Rolex watch. He assured me it was genuine; it was guaranteed for 7 years!

Show Picture Full Size Back at the ship, it was "open seating" for dinner and organised chaos, as many departing passengers still hadn't left yet and the new ones were expected to arrive very late that evening. One of these was our friend and intrepid cruiser, Pat, flying in from Manchester to join us for the last 3 weeks of this cruise. As we retired to bed, there was still no sign of her.....


Wednesday 28th February
Day 3 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
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Having been fighting-off a bad cold for the last 3 days, I awoke feeling really rough but still determined not to miss anything of Dubai. So, drugged-up to the eye-balls, I struggled on.

Pat found us both at breakfast, apparently none the worse for her journey and game to join us in our plan for the day, which involved taking the local Open-top Bus Tour; we had established that it included a stop near the landmark Burj Al-Arab Hotel, which was on my list of "required photos".

However, having taken the free shuttle from the ship to the City Mall, where we could pick-up the bus tour, we were way-laid by a taxi-driver (Indian of course) wanting to sell us a guided tour! Normally, I am wary of these "tour touts" and would have given him a wide berth but John seemed interested and with Pat's encouragement and negotiating skills, we secured a deal for a 4-hour tour for $100 all-in; which was less than the bus tour would cost and it would be tailored to our tastes.



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Madinat Jumeirah
Hotel & Shopping Complex
The Emirates Towers
309m & 355m high
Burj Al-Arab Hotel
1,053 ft (321 m) high
Burj Al-Arab Grand Hyatt HotelA Temple of Extravagance?

True to his word, and somewhat to my surprise, our driver gave us a brilliant tour. As well as weaving in and out of traffic jams and making various improvised photo-stops, he took us on a guided tour of the new Madinat Jumeirah, a resort hotel and shopping complex designed around a kind of "Little Venice" concept.

From Jumeirah Beach we had a fantastic view of the famous Hotel Burj Al-Arab and we watched as a helicopter landed on the VIP roof-top helipad. Our driver said he had visited here a dozen times and it was the first time he'd actually seen it happen! Show YouTube video-clip View Video

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Theatre Lobby
Madinat Jumeirah
Burj Al-Arab from
Madinat Jumeirah
Madinat Jumeirah
Hotel & Shopping Complex
Persian Court China Court

Definitely worth a visit was our lunch-stop at the Ibn Battuta Shopping Mall, only recently opened and which I had heard about on television back home.

Themed on the 29-year travels of the 14th century Persian explorer, it consists of 6 Courts extravagently decorated in the styles of China, India, Persia, Egypt, Tunisia & Andalusia and it has a 21-screen cinema complex including an Imax-theatre.

The working reproduction of the "Elephant Clock" (an ancient Islamic water-clock) in the India Court
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Our 4-hour tour actually ended up as 5 hours and proved a fantastic way to close our 3 days here. Driving back from the Mall, we witnessed the incredible amount of construction going on, towering
Show Picture Full Size above which was the Burj Dubai, still under construction but already 134 floors & 1,588 ft (484 m) high. So determined are they not to be outdone, they will not reveal how high it will be when completed in 2009 but the best guess is 162 floors & 2,651 ft (808 m) high, easily exceeding the present record of 1,671 ft held by Tower 101 in Taipei.

But as if all that desert isn't enough, they are building in the sea as well! The now-famous Palm Jumeirah is a revolutionary island complex in the shape of a palm-tree, where every property has a water frontage. Opening in late 2008, it will also be the new home for Cunard's QE2 which will be "retired" here as a permanent hotel and additional tourist attraction. Show Picture Full Size

However, it doesn't end there. Palm Jumeirah is just one of 4 schemes under construction, one of which, modestly called The World, is based on a map of the World. The Gulf States are acutely aware that their oil reserves and revenue will be exhausted in 15-20 years and are intent on turning these city-states into holiday destinations - mostly for the rich and those who would like to be! It is ironic that the fabulous shapes of these man-made islands can only be fully appreciated from Space.


Thursday 1st March
Fujairah, United Arab Emirates
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It's actually only 82 miles from Dubai to Fujairah but it was 237 nautical miles on our overnight passage back through the Strait of Hormuz.

Feeling dreadful after using-up all my energy reserves yesterday, I finally gave in to the 'flu today and decided to spend the day in bed. Pat was also poorly with a stomach-upset, so John was left to carry on without us on his organised excursion into the local area. As if to emphasise the point, an e-mail from Dad at home told me the battery on my car was flat!


Saturday 3rd March
Dolphins in the Arabian Sea
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This was something of a "Red Letter Day" today. Not only did our team win the morning Quiz but we also sailed through a school of leaping dolphins! Unfortunately, there was no announcement from the Bridge and it was only the "oohs" and "aahs" from other passengers that drew my attention. We had seen dolphins and pilot whales before but always in small groups - nothing as spectacular as this. I rushed inside to get my camera but by the time I got back outside, it was too late!

However, they say patience is a virtue and I sat for the rest of the afternoon on deck with my book (and my camera) and was rewarded by our sailing through another school, this time even larger and more active than the first. View Video >>


Sunday 4th March
Salalah, The Sultanate of Oman
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View the details of our visit to Muscat, Oman 10 days earlier and read about Sultan Qaboos bin Said Here >>
Second largest city in Oman and birthplace of the present Sultan Qaboos bin Said, this area was the centre of the Frankincense Trade and is steeped in religious history; a tomb in the city is claimed to be that of the Prophet Emran, father of Moses, while in the Qara hills is the resting-place of the Prophet Job, both pilgrimages for Muslims, Christians & Jews alike.

Yet another tomb is that of Mohammed bin Ali, a revered Islamic sage who died in 1135 AD, while at Samhuram, believed in local folklore to have been the location of the Palace of the Queen of Sheba, we visited archaeological excavations of a site dating back to 3,000 BC.

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Adbullah
our lovely guide
The Tomb of
Mohammed bin Ali
House in Mirbat Mirbat Castle
scene of a battle in 1972
Coconuts & Bananas

More recently though, this was the centre of the Dhofar Rebellion (1965-75). At the coastal town of Mirbat, we saw first-hand the damage that war inflicted on the town. While there is so much religious mythology in this region, one story we were told from 1972 is both touching and true:-

The Battle of Mirbat (1972)
A detachment of 9 SAS and about 100 irregulars were defending Mirbat Castle against an attack from more than 250 rebels. Amidst the fire-fight, one of the SAS officers, a Fijian named Sergeant Talaiasi Labalaba, held-off the attack with only an old World War II 25-pounder in a dug-out and was killed just before reinforcements arrived. The saddest part was that, being SAS, the British Government could not admit their involvement, let alone such self-sacrifice, and while the Captain and 2 other SAS were awarded medals 3 years later, Sergeant Labalaba was merely "mentioned in dispatches". Seeing the spot where he was killed, while being told this story, was particularly moving.
Read a more detailed description of the Battle of Mirbat Here >>


Monday 5th - Thursday 8th March
4 Days at Sea
See Voyage Map See Egypt Map

Leaving Salalah, we sailed through the Gulf of Aden and turned north-west, entering the Red Sea. At 1,722 nautical miles, this was our second-longest uninterrupted sea-passage on the whole "Around Africa Cruise"; just as well really because I was only now recovering from what had been a bad case of 'flu. Nevertheless, it was back to our sea-day routine of talks (on this leg of the voyage, by none other than Sir Nicholas Parsons - really very witty!), twice-daily quizzes and dance-classes with Lynne, one of our table-companions, who's husband Gareth didn't seem to mind at all!


Friday 9th March
Safaga, Egypt
There are various hypotheses as to the origin of its name but suffice to say that the Red Sea is not red! And besides its dramatic back-drop, there's not much to the port of Safaga; there was really only one place to go.....
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Show Picture Full Size The Temple of Amun-Re at Karnak (near Luxor)
Together with an armed police escort, our 6 tour buses drove in convoy the three-and-a-half hours across the mountains to the River Nile at Qena and on down to Luxor. Even if you have seen it before, Karnak still blows your mind. Just think that 4,000 years ago, this was the centre of a great and powerful civilization!

The Great Court and Hypostyle Hall. A single 69 ft column is all that remains of the Kiosk of Taharqa

With the joining of Upper & Lower Egypt, around 2037 BC the capital moved to Thebes (modern Luxor) and work began on the first temple at Karnak, dedicated to King of the Gods, Amun-Re. For the next 1,600 years, successive Kings would alter and add to the complex, each leaving their own record of greatness. The result, even in ruin, is a site of enormous proportions. View Temple Plan >>

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Ram-headed Sphinx Rameses II
later usurped by Pinudjem
The Great Hypostyle Hall Hypostyle Hall
the columns are 82 ft high!
Column detail
Hypostyle Hall

At the entrance, you can see the remains of an avenue of ram-headed sphinxes but once inside the Great Court, which alone covers 8,000 sq m, you get a first glimpse of the great main axis. A single 69 ft (21m) column is all that remains of the 10 that formed the Kiosk of Taharqa, beyond which is the Great Hypostyle Hall, a "room" of 5,400 sq m and 134 columns. The 12 central columns supported a roof 82 ft (25m) above the floor, while the remaining 122 columns are a mere 46 ft (14m) high! Many of the reliefs and inscriptions on them are intact and you can even see the original colours on the underside of the roof beams - only about 3,200 years old!

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Festival Hall
and Sanctuary
Temple of Ramesses III The Obelisk of
Queen Hatshepsut

97ft & 320 tons
Obelisk of Thutmose I
75ft (23m) tall & 143 tons
Obelisk of Thutmose I

The Temple of Ramesses III dates from about 1160 BC and leads off the Great Court while the Festival Hall was a temple added during the reign of Thutmose III (1479-1425 BC) and is at the other end of complex, beyond the Sanctuary.

At the centre of the site stand two Obelisks; the tallest was one of a pair erected by Queen Hatshepsut (1479-1457 BC) and is 97 ft (29.6m) tall and carved from a single block of granite weighing 320 tons. The top of its sister lies nearby. The smaller obelisk is one of a pair erected by Thutmose I (1504-1492 BC) at what was then the entrance to the Temple; at 75 ft (23m), it weighs only 143 tons! Other obelisks also stood in this Court and in other parts of the site but where they have not fallen down, they have been plundered to eventually appear in various cities of the World.

After an unhurried hour-and-a-half wandering freely at Karnak, followed by a light lunch at the lavish Sonesta St George Hotel in Luxor, we departed for the next "show-stopper" of the day.

Show Picture Full Size Thebes (the West Bank) & The Valley of The Kings
When I last came to Egypt in 1992 with Andrew, we were unwell on the day we were supposed to visit the Valley of The Kings, so I was particularly keen to see what I had missed 15 years ago!
John and the rest of our tour group assemble in the searing heat of the mid-afternoon sun

We crossed the Nile over the "New Bridge", opened in 1997, and this was the first of many improvements that have been introduced here. From the new Visitor Centre, they take you on a motorised "train" up the valley to the main area of interest. Security was strict (and armed) and for some reason, video cameras are not allowed; even still cameras are not allowed inside the tombs.

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The Valley of The Kings Entrance to the tomb of
King Tutankhamun
Detail from the tomb of
Ramesses III
Queen Hatshepsut's Temple The Colossus of Amenhotep III
No not Memnon!

There are about 62 discovered tombs, 25 of which are royal tombs, but they recommend that you visit just 2 or 3 in the limited time normally allowed here. The most popular is, of course, that of King Tutankhamun but it is not most elaborate or extensive. I chose Ramesses III which at 410 ft (125m), is one of the largest; and Ramesses IV where the state of preservation is particularly good. (The detail from Ramesses III above is off the Internet as is this one of Ramesses IV >>. See also the spectacular Seti I Tomb >>)

At nearby Deir el-Bahri we were allowed a brief glimpse of the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, the only example of its kind, and in the setting sun, the two Colossi of Amenhotep III, for years wrongly attributed to Memnon. Once marking the entrance to a magnificent temple, now totally lost, these statues are 59 ft (18m) high and date from about 1350 BC.

It took some time to assemble the 2 mile-long convoy that departed Luxor that evening. Travelling through the mountain desert at night, it was unwise to think of what might become of us if we were "ambushed"! Happily we were not and together with our armed escort, our 6 coaches returned to Safaga and our awaiting Black Watch, arriving with military precision at 9.30pm.

Overall, a fabulous day - which was quickly followed by 2 more amazing days.......


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Saturday & Sunday 10th-11th March
Aqaba, Jordan
View Jordan/Egypt Map
Leaving Safaga at 11pm, we steamed north-east across the Red Sea and into the narrow Gulf of Aqaba, a "finger" of water about 100 miles (160km) long & only 15 miles (24km) across at its widest point. At the very tip of the

Gulf, the Israeli port of Eilat stands on a narrow strip of coast between Egypt and Jordan, directly opposite the Jordanian port of Aqaba, where we arrived at 11am.

Dominating the approach to Aqaba is the Flag of The Arab Revolt, claimed to be the largest in the World at 197ft by 98ft (60m by 30m), atop a 426ft (130m) high flagpole, the tallest unsupported flagpole in the World.

The Flag of the Arab Revolt; the World's largest flag & the World's tallest freestanding flagpole, 426ft
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The Great Arab Revolt of 1916-18 against the Ottoman Turks also had the objective of creating a single unified Arab Nation. It never quite achieved this objective but it became one of the most famous "events" of modern history as a result of the involvement of T E Lawrence, immortalised in David Lean's film "Lawrence of Arabia". And this was to be the theme for our afternoon excursion.


Saturday 10th March
Day 1 - Wadi Rum
Part of the filming of "Lawrence of Arabia" took place in this area of desert, geologically a dried-up river bed, and we transferred to 4x4 Jeeps to explore this spectacular landscape.

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This entire area is another protected UN World Heritage Site. Our 4x4 Jeeps were not up to the standard of those for our previous desert jaunts (and had no air-conditioning) but in a strange way, this made the experience all the more exhilarating. Hot and dusty - but exhilarating!

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The site of
Lawrence's Spring
A hidden cleft
Nabataean Carvings
The Seven Pillars
of Wisdom
Spectacular Scenery The Rock Bridge
Cross it if you dare!

We visited a spot called Lawrence's Spring, which is thought to be where Lawrence camped before his epic battle-charge on the then Turkish port of Aqaba. Here we were introduced to some real-life Bedouin tribesmen, sheltering under a traditional Bedu tent. See Picture >>

From the Visitor Centre, there was a fine view of the Seven Pillars of Wisdom, a mountain outcrop named after Lawrence's autobiographical work. In another spot, in a narrow cleft in the mountain, we were shown Nabataean Drawings >>, while at yet another viewpoint, we were given the chance to walk across a natural rock arch formed by wind-erosion over thousands of years. Some of our group took this opportunity but I confess that I couldn't; I took pictures of them instead!



Sunday 11th March
Aqaba, Jordan (Day 2) - Petra
Our second day was an all-day excursion, so it was another 8.00am start. This time, we were back in "proper" luxury coaches and after a short break en-route, we arrived at 11.30am.

Very often, when you first visit a famous place you have seen only in pictures, it can be a little disappointing - if nothing else, the presence of loads of other tourists doing the same thing can spoil it! Not so in Petra. Maybe it was a quiet time of year; or perhaps it was that Petra is not that easy (or cheap) to get to. Whatever the reason, we did not feel overwhelmed by crowds and as a result, it was a truly incredible experience. And fun!

Show Picture Full Size The Nabataean City of Petra
The main entrance to the city is by way of The Siq, a narrow 100m gorge that twists and turns downhill for about 1200m (three-quarters of a mile). You can hire a little cart but it's better to walk; occasionally, you may be lucky like we were, and be quite alone for a few moments. The sheltered quietness here is just wonderful.

The Siq; the traditional entrance to the Hidden City

As you turn the last bend in The Siq, you get the view that everyone has seen in all the guide-books; this is your reward for the walk and it is so much better than any guide-book can describe!

The Treasury was built as a royal tomb in the 1st Century BC. The elaborate exterior, 130ft (40m) high and 92ft (28m) wide, is carved into the sandstone rock-face and includes features "borrowed" from Greece & Egypt, as well as Nabataean images. Behind the facade, there are just 3 chambers.

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The Treasury
"Guide-book View"
The Treasury Nabataean houses on the
Street of Facades
The Roman Theatre John in front of
The Urn Tomb

From here, you turn right onto the Street of Facades and you can hire a donkey and guide if you wish. Many of the monuments and tombs on this street were used as municipal buildings or houses. The Roman Theatre was built around the time of Christ and seated 3,500 spectators. It is unusual in that it is carved out of the rock rather than built with stone blocks, as is more usual.

The history of this site is quite complicated and not always entirely clear. What is known is that the Nabataean Civilization flourished in this region for thousands of years BC but most of the elaborate temples and tombs you can see today are what survive from the 1st Century BC.

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Click to enlarge
Key to Map
1. Djinn Blocks 13. House of Dorotheos 25. Turkmanian Tomb
2. Obelisk Tomb 14. The Nymphanaeum 26. Conway Tower
3. The Siq 15. Collonaded Street 27. Moghar Annassara
4. The Treasury 16. Byzantine Church 28. Palace of Sacrifice
5. Street of
Facades
17. Winged Lions
Temple
29. Lion Fountain
6. The Theatre 18. The Arched Gate 30. The Garden Tomb
7. Aneisho Tomb 19. Qasr Al-Bint 31. Triclinium
8. The Urn Tomb 20. Unfinished Tomb 32. Renaissance Tomb
9. The Silk Tomb 21. Al-Habees Museum 33. Broken Pediment
Tomb
10. Corinthian
Tomb
22. Archaeological
Museum
34. Roman Soldier Tomb
11. Palace Tomb 23. Lion Triclinium 35. Snake Monument
12. Tomb of
Sextius Florentinus
24. The Monastery36. Crusader Fort

There is far more to Petra than you can possibly see in one day, let alone the few hours we had available. And it is easy to underestimate the effects of the heat & sun in this hidden valley, which is quite a sun-trap. The climb to The Monastery for example, would have taken us another hour each way, so we had to turn back and be content with a rewarding two-and-a-half hours here.

Indiana Jones rides again!
John wouldn't do this but on the way down to the Siq, you can ride a horse. Unlike the "real" Indiana Jones, however, they don't let you ride through the Siq itself!

I took it leisurely going down (as it was only the second time I had ever ridden on a horse) but on the way back, my Bedouin guide Abdullah (eager for a bigger tip!) encouraged me to go at a canter (well, it felt more like a gallop to me!). Great fun!
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After a late lunch at the Movenpic Hotel, just outside the entrance to the site, we made the non-stop 2-hour journey back to Aqaba by 6.00pm.


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Monday 12th March
Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt
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During the night, we sailed back down the Gulf of Aqaba to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, and I took the opportunity to go snorkelling off the coral reef at Ras Mohammed National Marine Park. Travelling light, I had no camera but this is what it was like! Picture >> But after the heat of the Tropics, it did feel a bit chilly!

The $70m Golden Odyssey; one of 3 yachts owned by Prince Khaled of Saudi Arabia

On the way back, we stopped for some shopping (!) and I bought 2 nice porcelain mugs but then proceeded to leave them in the mini-bus! By the time I had realised, the mini-buses had all left and nothing had been handed-in. However, at the Tours Desk, I learned that the tours in Port Said would be provided by the same company (Abercrombie & Kent), so I might keep my fingers crossed!


Tuesday 13th March
The Suez Canal, Egypt
Show Voyage Map Show Suez Canal Map
By dawn we were already at our anchorage at the head of the Gulf of Suez, surrounded by a dozen other ships, all waiting to get into the "queue". We were due to move off by 7.00am but it wasn't until nearly 10.00am that we
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finally raised the anchor and took our place in the convoy proceeding into the Canal. At 9 knots, I had already worked out that we were not going to make it to Port Said on schedule by 5.00pm!

The brainchild of Ferdinand de Lesseps, the present Canal took 11 years to construct and was opened in 1869. It runs 101 miles (163km) from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea through the Bitter Lakes, a natural salt-water lake which allows the equalisation of tides between the two seas.

Trivia: The 1869 Canal was not the first. It is believed that in the time of Ramesses II (about 1250 BC) there was an artificial waterway from the Red Sea to the Nile which fell in and out of repair over the centuries. King Darius I of Persia, who conquered Egypt in the 5th Century, built monuments on the opening of his canal, but that one was put out of commission in the 8th Century.

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The Mosque at Suez
Entering the Canal
In the Suez Canal
a ferry crosses in front of us
Armed Guard Posts
all along the Canal
WWI Memorial
at Ismailia
October 1973 Victory Memorial

Although the Canal appears very wide, the deep channel allows only one line of ships, so they form twice-daily convoys North & South, with passing-places north of Ismailia and in the Bitter Lakes. In 2005, over 18,000 ships passed through the Canal. View Suez Canal Map >>


A Bit More History! The Suez Canal Company was a joint Egyptian/French project under a 99yr lease. Britain originally considered the Canal a threat to its interests but after the Egyptian Civil War, bought Egypt's shares in the Company in 1875. Declared an International Neutral Zone by treaty in 1888, the Canal was under the protection of the British until 1954 but needing the revenue, Egypt then nationalised it in 1956, precipitating the Suez Cricis in which Israel invaded Sinai, supported by Britain & France. The "cricis" was finally resolved by the intervention of Canada & the USA who brokered a settlement. Then from the 6-Day War of 1967 between Israel & Egypt, the Canal was again closed until after the Second Arab-Israeli War of 1973, when Egypt regained control of Sinai and the Canal, and it was reopened in 1975. You can still see evidence of the battle along the Canal - and the present Egyptian armed security posts. Now wasn't that interesting!

After anchoring for over an hour in the Great Bitter Lake mid-afternoon, we finally made Port Said at 10.00pm. While the passage of the Canal had been very interesting, it was disappointing that we had no on-board commentary, as there had been when we passed through the Panama Canal in 1994 aboard Sagafjord and in 1996 aboard Royal Viking Sun. An opportunity missed, I think.


Show Picture Full Size Wednesday 14th March
Port Said, Egypt
Tied-up alongside overnight, it was another very early start as we were greeted by the wonderful cacophony of all the calls to prayer at 4.00am!
Frantic Port Said. The building with the green dome houses the Suez Canal Administration

Today was going to be a big day; it was the last full-day excursion and the last "Big Event" of our "Around Africa Cruise". So bleary-eyed, we were washed, dressed, breakfasted and fully covered in sun-cream, to be on the coach by 7.00am for our three-and-a-half hour journey up to Cairo, with an armed police escort again!


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The Giza Plateau: The Pyramid of Cheops (Khufu), Pyramid of Chephren (Khafre) and the Menkaura (Mycerinos) Pyramid

The Pyramids at Giza, Cairo
We alighted the coaches into a scene of chaotic crowds & camel-ride vendors. Everywhere, locals were trying to sell post-cards or trinkets; some were not selling anything but just trying to get money for getting in the way of your photographs! Even the camel-mounted tourist police wanted "baksheesh" for having their picture taken!

If that wasn't bad enough, gusty winds kept stirring-up miniature sand-storms, making it quite unpleasant at times and quite difficult to take photographs. So these are a bit of a miracle really!

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The Pyramid of Cheops The Chephren Pyramid
450ft high & 1,000ft wide!
The Desert Patrol The Pyramid of Chephren & The Sphinx The Sphinx

The Great Pyramid of Cheops (or Khufu) is the bigger of the two. Built around 2560 BC, it was 481ft (146.6m) high, with a base length of 754ft (230m). Now, having lost its "topping", it is a mere 455ft (138.7m) high. The Pyramid of Chephren (or Khafre), which always looks the bigger, is in fact slightly smaller; even though it retains some of its original limestone covering, it stands 448ft (136.6m) high and 706ft (215m) along its base. See Map of the Giza Plateau >>

The Great Sphinx, at 241ft (73.5m) long & 65ft (20m) high, is the largest monolith statue in the World and has the body of a lion with a human head. Unlike the Pyramids, it was not built from blocks of stone but carved from a limestone outcrop. Until 1925-36 when it was excavated from the sand, only the head was visible and no-one knew what it looked like! Early Picture >> Show Picture Full Size

Trivia: No-one knows when this statue was constructed but it is widely believed to be around 2500 BC and the time of Khafre, when it seems to have been part of a funerary temple complex. A shape often used to depict a guardian in association with a tomb or temple, no-one knows what the ancient Egyptians called them because there is no reference to them in any scripts so far found; the name "Sphinx" was attributed by the Greeks, who believed in a similar creature in mythology. The so called "Riddle of The Sphinx" refers to the Greek myth but perhaps all this is why The Great Sphinx of Giza continues to remain such an enigma.

Show Picture Full Size The Egyptian Museum, Cairo
After a very nice lunch at the Nile Hilton, the Museum was just around the corner. Dusty, musty and very crowded, it was nevertheless amazing to see so much "stuff" that is thousands of years old! In the Tuthankhamun Room, some of the gold jewellery and ornaments were breathtaking in beauty. It is such a shame that the Museum suffers such poor maintenance and does not do justice to the exhibits.

King Tutankhamun's Coffin

Needless to say, we had the inevitable detour for shopping! But this time, I couldn't resist doing a spot of bargaining and made my own purchase of a "King Tutankhamun Death Mask" (not a real one!) for 30 knocked-down from 136!

Back at the ship, and after a 13 hour tour, we were exhausted but there was more good news because our tour operators (Abercombie & Kent) had brought my lost shopping with them all the way from Sharm el-Sheikh. I was so pleased - and most impressed!
Leaving Port Said that night, we set out into a choppy Mediterranean, on the homeward leg of our wonderful voyage. We still had 10 days and 3 ports to go but in the last 6 days, we had been bombarded with so many spectacular sights and it did feel as though we had now "seen everything" and we were ready to go home.

And emphasising this "turning point", was our Certificate of Circumnavigation, not quite of the Globe but at more than 19,000 miles so far, a large part of it!
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More Plumbing Problems!
Back in January, on the 1st Leg of the Voyage, I had come back to my cabin late at night to discover a soaking-wet carpet because of a drain blockage. But ever since Mombasa, my shower had been behaving eratically. As this started at a "Turn-Around Port", I put it down to more passengers on my deck taking showers at the same time, so I altered my routine to compensate.

The trouble with 30 year-old ships is that they do fancy refurbishments but the plumbing often stays the same and just can't cope. Since Dubai, the situation had deteriorated to the point of constant problems with the water temperature. Having reported it a week ago to no avail, today I spoke to the Chief Engineer and he promised to look into it.....


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Friday 16th March
Heraklion, Crete
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But the temperature of my shower was not the only thing that was plummeting; the temperature in the Mediterranean had suddenly fallen to a chilly 61 deg F.(16C)!

But in the capital of Crete at least it was still clear & sunny as I set off to visit the ancient Minoan Palace of Knossos, home of King Minos & the legendary Minotaur.

Arriving quite early, it was a pleasant change to visit somewhere without crowds of people; it was almost deserted! Wandering amongst these ruins perched on the mountain-side was quite relaxing.

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The Harbour
and Venetian Fortress
The Venetian Fortress Palace of Knossos Throne Room
Palace of Knossos
King's Throne
Palace of Knossos

Discovered by archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans, an English "Gentleman" of independent means, the Palace was uncovered 1894-1903. So intrigued by the site, he bought it in 1900 to continue his work here. Most of what you can see today dates from about 1450 BC or the Late Minoan period of the Bronze Age but the excavations reveal a huge complex of 1300 rooms and corridors, up to 5-storeys high in places, with a sophisticated system of aqueducts supplying water and sanitation.

Controversially however, Evans is also responsible for "restoration" work around the site, including some lurid colours that he maintained were true reproductions of the original decoration.

Trivia: The Legend of The Labyrinthe
The nature of the Palace is believed to substantiate the Greek Legend and that the Labyrinthe was, in fact, the Palace itself. The Legend says that King Minos's wife Pasiphae fell in love with a great white bull, a gift from Poseidon that was supposed to be sacrificed. She had Daedalus make her a hollow wooden cow, and tricked the bull into mounting her! (Good stuff these legends!) The result was the Minotaur, half man, half beast which was so difficult to handle, Minos had Daedalus build a labyrinthe to keep it prisoner. Later, when the Minotaur was killed by Theseus, King Minos had Daedalus and his son Icarus locked in a tower......

The saga of the plumbing continues...
I got back to my cabin to discover a huge hole in the wall outside; they had decided to change the valve but couldn't get to it from inside! During the afternoon, they replaced the valve with an "automatic mixer" and filled the hole, ready to redecorate, but my shower that evening was a disaster. Initially it seemed ok, then suddenly I was first doused in cold water, before Show Picture Full Size
being scalded! Needless to say, I was on the 'phone straight-away, dripping wet! I met with the Chief Engineer again (at 11.00pm!) and he said they would try changing the pumps tomorrow....

& The Mystery of Cabin 4008
John had gone on a tour on his own in the morning and had later admitted that he had fallen asleep during most of it! In fact, we were both quite exhausted from all the full-day excursions recently and even our attempt at an afternoon exploration of the town got only as far as the pretty harbour.

In the evening, as usual, I was waiting for him at the head of the stairs outside The Observatory for our regular evening drink but he didn't arrive. After 10 minutes, I decided to investigate; I went down to his cabin and knocked. No reply. I knocked again - more loudly. No reply. I tried the handle
Show Picture Full Size and the door opened to reveal, on the bed, the reclining figure of John, fully dressed in sports-jacket, tie and grey trousers, with his hands crossed in front of him, fast asleep! It's funny now but it gave me quite a fright at the time and you can imagine what, for a moment, I thought!

The Observatory Lounge - our regular rendezvous for pre-dinner drinks

With a day at sea to recover, this time we were regaled by the 84 year-old Sir Donald Sinden CBE into the filming of "The Cruel Sea" in 1952. Not only did they accidentally crash the ship into a real Navy Destroyer while filming the final scene but apparently no-one realised that he couldn't swim and he nearly drowned in the tank at Ealing Studios, but for the prompt actions of Jack Hawkins, who dragged him out just in time!

Sunday 18th March
Valletta, Malta
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Show Picture Full Size And it was during World War II, in 1942, that the island and people of Malta were awarded the George Cross by King George VI; the 50th Anniversay Memorial stands at the entrance to Grand Harbour, one of the great harbours of the World.

Throughout its history, Malta has held a strategic position and it became home to the Order of Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem from 1530 to 1798.

Grand Harbour Valletta and The 50th Anniversary Memorial to the George Cross



Again, the weather was perfect; chilly but bright and sunny. So, feeling a bit more energetic, I took the short but steep walk up to the Upper Baracca Gardens where there were some great views of Grand Harbour and the city, before returning to join John for a leisurely harbour-cruise from the nearby town of Sliema, on the other side of the harbour.

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Black Watch & the bookship Logos II at Pintos Wharf Floriana
from Castille Place
Black Watch The "Eye & Ear"
Watchtower
Fort St Angelo
by the Knights of St John


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Lascaris Wharf
& Upper Baracca Gardens
The Carmelite Church
& St Pauls Cathedral
Maritime Museum
Vittoriosa
Private Yacht
Vittoriosa


After another day at sea, we had about the roughest night in the whole voyage since that first night out in January. I was awoken at 3.00am with crashings and bangings, rolling and heaving; at one point, the wardrobe door crashed open and the contents of the tea-tray nearly ended up all over the floor! I didn't sleep much after that - or so I thought.

Next thing I knew, I awoke again at 7.55am and realised I had overslept! I rushed down to breakfast and met John coming up the stairs to find me. Amazingly, he had survived the night without any ill-effects, although he did go to bed with his wrist-bands on!


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Tuesday 20th March
Cartagena, Spain
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Needless to say, for our last port-of-call we were an hour-and-a-half late arriving and for the first time, they had to announce that some of the early tours would have to be cancelled. However, ours wasn't and the weather (on land at least) still seemed to be bright & sunny and really very pleasant.

On top of the Charles III Rampart, the Midshipmen's Barracks, built in 1785 as a Naval Academy

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The National Monument Old City Hall (1907)
recently restored
Grand Hotel
previously a bank
Maestre House
Plaza San Francisco
Roman Theatre

Founded in 221 BC by the Carthaginians and occupied by the Romans, it became "New Carthage" and their main stronghold in Spain. Today, Cartagena is not only a major port but also Spain's naval base. However, none of this leaves the city looking drab or industrial - for from it. With an attractive promenade and wide pedestrianised streets, it's an easy city to explore on foot and it boasts some fine examples of turn-of-the-century "modernist" architecture, many lovingly restored. Below one of the two forts above the city are the partially excavated remains of a Roman Theatre.

Outside the city, our tour drove through the Hyatt Regency Complex, with one of the best golf courses in Europe, before visiting the small village of Cabo de Palos, where they had no electrity before 1960 but which is now a thriving resort.


Notorious for shipwrecks, the waters here are designated a Marine Reserve and the scuba-diving is excellent. On the headland is the Cabo de Palos Lighthouse. Built in 1865, the tower is 167ft (51m) tall and its light can be seen for 25 miles.
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Show Picture Full Size The nearby inland sea of Mar Menor is protected from the Mediterranean by an isthmus on which stands the resort of La Manga del Mar Menor. Show Local Area Map Its shallow salty waters, perfect for watersports, were once called "the largest swimming-pool in the World" by Hollywood actress Esther Williams.

The windy Mediterranean beach & watersports resort of La Manga del Mar Menor

Mind you, at this time of year La Manga was not at its best. It was quite windy on the Mediterranean side - but not so much that John & I couldn't enjoy our packed lunch by the sea wall. (Because the tours were late and we would miss lunch aboard, the ship gave us all a packed lunch!)

As a departing gift, the tour guides were giving away miniatures of "Licor 43", a citrus-vanilla liqueur and a speciality of the area. Not surprisingly, there was a run on them - I managed to get 3!

At 5.00pm, we departed. After cruising more than 20,000 miles visiting 28 amazing destinations, it was time to head for home.

In Cartagena, Black Watch prepares to depart for Southampton - and home
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Wednesday 21st - Saturday 24th March
At Sea, en-route to Southampton
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Although very windy back out at sea, we had a steadier night and passed through the Strait of Gibraltar about 7.00am the following day. Then it started getting "bumpy" again and I decided to do a last load of laundry in the laundrette before the packing had to be done.

Open Menu The special treat today was the All-Rounders' Captain's Lunch to which about half the ship was invited! Clearly following the maxim "save the best till last; then that's how they'll remember you", we had free wine, including Champagne, and a particularly nice menu. But still, it was very good. (Open Menu)

The Saga of the Plumbing - the final chapter!

The Chief Engineer & I had now reached mutual resignation that the problems with the shower were largely insoluble. He even admitted he had the same problem in his own cabin! However, I was visited by the Hotel Manager who I had also previously informed of the situation. The result was an offer of 500 to reflect the inconvenience - an offer which, needless to say, I graciously accepted!

The good thing about cruising south from the UK is that you usually get a day or two at the beginning to settle-in and a couple of days at the end to wind-down and do the packing without having to rush. On this occasion, it was a good job because there were so many suitcases to pack! But it was also time to reminisce and prepare to say goodbye to some of the lovely people we met.


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Me with Claire
my stewardess
My Cabin
Balcony Cabin 8024 - Deck 8
Ken
Our Bar Waiter
The Observatory
"Our" Bar for evening drinks
Jerry
Our Bar Waiter


There was my little stewardess, Claire, who had so faithfully looked after me for the last 11 weeks and who would occasionally share her troubles with me.

Our regular "haunt" for pre-dinner drinks was the Observatory, where Ken and Jerry attended to us and knew exactly what we liked. Ken always watched out for me at tea in the afternoon too, and even knew what kind of sandwiches were my favourites!

High-spot of every day though was Dinner in the Glentanar Restaurant where our waiters, Fidel and Montri were so good. Montri could remember all the desert orders without writing them down; and whether you wanted one scoop or two!


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The Glentanar Restaurant Fidel
Our Table Waiter
Table 110 - 1st Leg
Me & John, Gareth & Lynne with Val & Malcolm
Montri
Assistant Waiter
Table 110 - 4th Leg
with John, Christine & Pat


By now our table companions had become real friends. Never lost for conversation, our table was always one of the last to leave! There was Gareth & Lynne from Wales; little Lynne had become my regular dancing partner and had been such fun. There had been Val & Malcolm (who always had a funny story to tell). We missed them when they left at Cape Town but then we were joined by John & Christine from Norfolk and the six of us got on "like a house on fire". And then there was the intrepid Pat, already a friend of ours who joined for the last leg of the cruise from Dubai.


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Gordon
lived yards from where we now live
The Lido Lounge
Morning & Afternoon Quizzes
Brian
got soaked visiting the Victoria Falls!
The Poolside Cafe
Breakfast & Afternoon Tea
John & Christina


On sea days, there were the quizzes in the Lido Lounge; team members included Gordon (who in 1962 lived in a flat overlooking the spot where our house is now!) and Brian, always getting into bizarre situations and delightfully bemused at the attentions of Patsie who was always after him!


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Above left: John, Pat & Me - Right: with John & Thelma
John & Thelma were on an adjacent table in the Restaurant and often sat with us for evening drinks. A lovely couple, John was always having problems with his camera!

With so many wonderful destinations, we had enjoyed some amazing experiences. We had seen spectacular landscapes, wildlife, architecture, history and culture; beautiful happy people living in poverty, and almost obscene wealth in the Gulf. This had certainly been "The Holiday of a Lifetime"!


See Detailed Mileage Log for this cruise >>

4th Leg Mileage: 6,485 nautical miles
Around Africa Cruise Total: 22,237 n miles
Total Mileage to date: 126,451 n miles

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