Located on the Giza Plateau along with the three giant Pyramids, the Sphinx is a limestone statue of a reclining sphinx. The sphinx is a mythical creature, with the body of a lion and a head of a human. The Sphinx is about 4,500 years old. The head is about 66 feet high and the body 172 feet long. Egyptologists believe the head of the great Sphinx is that of Khafre.
Resting after our long camel ride around the pyramids, Jacque and I took photos then walked through the bazaar next to the Sphinx where vendors bartered with us to buy their souvenirs and items. A small Egyptian boy was selling two stuffed animal camels that played Egyptian disco music. I bartered him down to a very low price and bought one for Jacque and one for Holy. Upon leaving us the boy was scorned by his father for selling the camels to cheap. We said goodbye to Cairo, boarded a train for the 425 mile, 11 hour overnight ride to Aswan in southern Egypt.
Here are sights, sounds and impressions from our visit to Cairo, the small town of 9.1 million people. We saw lots of mosques, thousands of satellite dishes and open air meat and fruit booths. Traffic jams everywhere and constant horns honking. Much worse than New York City. I did not see one traffic light until I got to Aswan. We stopped at the famous Egyptian Museum (Photo #5) home to over 100,000 relics, antiquities and many items from King Tut’s tomb but sadly, they did not allow cameras in the museum.
After the 13 hour overnight train ride from Cairo, we stayed two nights at the Isis Hotel directly on the Nile River. Aswan is Egypt’s sunniest, southern city averaging 85-90 degrees in the winter and unbearable in the summer.
We crossed the Nile on a small ferry boat to the west bank and rode camels for 90 minutes out into the desert to see the Mausoleum of Aga Khan III (Photo #2 & #3) and the Monestery of St. Simeonen (Photo #4 & #5). The monastery dates back to 600AD. I ended up getting a butt burn due to the bouncing and rubbing against my camel’s hump during the long ride. That was embarrassing.
We then visited the Aswan Botanical Gardens on Kitchener Island home to hundreds of desert and local flowers and shrubs. Jacque posed for a photo shoot (Photo #6) with the Nile River as a backdrop. In downtown Aswan’s bazaar area near the Ferial Gardens and Nubian Museum, I met Omar the Tentmaker (Photo #7), who made a few dresses for my overweight high school girlfriends.
That evening we rode in the back of a pick-up to a local Nubian village on the west bank of the Nile River. A Nubian family cooked our group a typical Nubian dinner (Photo #8 & #9) and provided music and dancing afterwards. It was tradition to sit on the floor cross-legged and eat – no kitchen table.
This museum houses many artifacts from the Parthenon. Archaeological excavation beneath museum (Photo#2 & #3) shows an ancient Athenian neighborhood life from 4th century BC to 12 century AD. Walking above and looking down through the transparent floor we could see ancient streets, residences, baths, workshops and tombs.
On other floors were sculptures and everyday objects from the Parthenon. The Frieze (Photo#4) was 115 blocks of continued sculptural decoration depicting scenes from Greek history. We saw 92 metopes which are individual sculptures depicting battle scenes and victories.
Jacque’s favorite were five of the six original maidens or Caryatids (Photo#6 & #7), support columns for the Erechtheion temple located up on Acropolis hill. Through a long, large window use could see the Parthenon on Acropolis Hill right behind the museum.
Walking around downtown Athens that evening Jacque made her most important archaeological discovery – buying a McDonalds apple pie made in Greece!
After the 170 mile ride from Athens to the southwest slope of Mt. Parnasus, we visited the Oracle of Delphi ruins then walked a half mile to one of the most visited museums in all of Greece. Founded in 1903, the museum contains many famous attractions in fourteen rooms including the Charioteer of Delphi (Photo#1 & #2) from 475BC considered one of the finest specimens of a 5th Century bronze sculpture.
Room #3 contained male statues Cleobis and Biton (Photo#3) sculptured around 580 BC. Room #5 contained the Sphinx of Naxos (Photo#4) and in Room 12 the Roman marble statue of Antinous (Photo#5). We spend another hour going room to room observing the incredible statues, gold costumes and ancient weapons. Final photo, our great non-stop explorer finally needed a nap.
We visited this stone, ancient Greek theater built in 161AD on the southwest slope of the Acropolis. The old façade (Photo#2) and seats have had some restoration making it one of the best places to experience live classical theater or musical performances. Seating capacity is 5,000. Jacque and I witnessed a concert by one of Athens favorite singers (Photo#4) with the military band playing in the background. Jacque met the star mandolin player (Photo#5).
Nearby on the south slope of the Acropolis hill is the Theater of Dionysus (Photos#6 & #7) built in the 4th Century BC seating 17,000. Dionysus was the God of wine making, fertility and theater. Basically, a party God.
One of the worlds greatest treasures, the Parthenon was completed in 438BC and considered the most important surviving building of classical Greece. It is dedicated to Goddess Athena and sits atop Acropolis Hill.
We walked up a steep, winding path (Photo#1) to Acropolis hill where it dominates Athen’s skyline. At the summit we walked up 40 steps and through the Propycara, a monumental gateway serving as the entrance to the Acropolis (Photo#2 & #3).
The Parthenon is the largest structure on the Acropolis. We walked around its massive four sides (Photos#4-#6). There was some scaffolding around ¼ of the Parthenon as it was undergoing some reconstruction. On the east pediment there was some beautiful sculptures of figures during the passage of time during the day Photo#7).
Another building atop the acropolis was the Erechtheion, an ancient Greek temple built in 406BC and dedicated to Athena and Poseidon. On the east side of the temple is the “Porch of the Maidens”, six draped female figures call caryatids which serve as support columns Photo#8 & #9). These are replicas as five of the replica caryatids have been moved out of the weather to the new Acropolis Museum.
Jacque and I walked about three miles from our hotel past the ancient Olympic Stadium to The Temple of Olympian Zeus or sometimes called the Columns of Olympian Zeus. Construction began on the temple in 600BC and was completed in the 2nd century BC. The temple once had 104 colossal columns.
We walked completely around this open air museum viewing the 16 surviving columns, one lying on the ground (Photo#3). The column’s carved architecture showed intricate Corinthian detail (Photo#4). On the grounds were ruins of former classical houses, water wells (Photo#5) and other small structures. From the Temple you could see the Parthenon on the Acropolis hill about .3 miles away Photo#6).
From our hotel we walked two miles to the only stadium in the world built entirely of marble The Panathenaic Stadium was built in 138 AD and excavated in 1869 and upgraded. The stadium hosted the opening and closing ceremonies plus 4 of the 9 contested venues of the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and was again used as an Olympic venue in 2004.
Across the street was the beautiful National Gardens Park where Jacque met and posed with some Athens Police officers (Photo#4). A mile walk brought us to the Arch of Hadrian (Photo#5) or Hadrian’s Gate built in 131AD to span an ancient road. We looked up and could see the famous Parthenon in the distance.
Expedition Team: Jacque Kelly, Dave Miller Expedition Date: April 2018
At our Bed & Breakfast located only four blocks from the Blue Mosque, we ate an incredible breakfast (Pages #5-#7) of very healthy fruits and vegetables. We then visited the Basilica Cistern 532AD, an ancient underground water cistern with 336 columns. You could hear water running in the dark passages. One column was called “The Weeping Column” as water seeped from the top and ran down the pole (Photos #2 & #3). Two other columns had heads of “Medusa” carved into them (Photo #4). We visited an underground shop and I dressed up as a Turkish King with Jacque as a Princess (Photo #5).
Afterwards we walked through a park with a giant display of roses, flowers, food booths and ice cream that they swung in the air on a stick (Photo #10-#13). We then grabbed our suitcases and headed to the Istanbul airport. Along the way through the city we saw countless beautiful flower displays, large container ships on the Marmara Sea (Photo#14) and mosques everywhere. At the airport I had to laugh, Winston cigarettes had large letters “Smoking Kills” on their boxes (Photo#15) but sponsored the airports smoking lounge (Photo#16).