ASWAN IS AS…BEAUTIFUL AS EVER

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Aswan is my most favorite city in Egypt, “ Home of the Nubians”. This is where I feel most at home. It has it all for me :  The warm and friendly people – “my cousins, the Nubians”, the food –  I swear the best chefs in Egypt get down right here, great accommodations – I love being on Elephantine Island at the Movenpick Aswan Resort and last but not least, the unparalleled relaxation is second to none.  My biggest regret is that it has taken me 6 years to return for visit #3.

There is no question this country has had more than their fair share of internal political problems. The problems that keep tourists away.  Tourism, one of their leading sources of income was at its peak in 2010 with 14 million visitors compared to Paris with 8 million. Since then it has declined severely, impacting the livelihood of so many. Some years ago, a taxi driver in Jamaica said to me, “ We know when Kat brings her groups here, there will be food on our table”.  I’m happy that we are here in Egypt making a difference.  I would love to bring a group here a few times a year but for now, the next tour is scheduled for Nov 5-19, 2019. The team I’ve worked with  throughout the country from Upper Egypt to Lower Egypt since 2011 are top notch providing the best of everything, including “safety first”.

After, saying goodbye to the wonderful crew on the Royal Lotus, luggage loaded on the bus; we headed to the landing to board a ferry that would take us on a 10 minute ride to our hotel,  Movenpick Aswan Resort. Everyone seemed to be excited about their accommodations with their spectacular Nile views.   The layout of the property and the landscaping of the grounds is fabulous. Since my last visit they have added a new building which appears to be a separate hotel, they have their own everything.  You know I was curious and had to take a look.  The best thing going for them is that it’s brand new but in my opinion lacking warmth and ambiance, it’s a bit sterile and the rooms are on the small side.  Thank you, New Bldg 2, but I’m standing pat.

Many were looking forward to visiting the Nubian Village.  It was quite an educational experience but can be a challenge getting there if one has mobility issues. We traveled by falluca and then transferred to a larger boat, then trekking through sand and gravel to reach one of the homes.    I vividly remember visiting in 2012, the ground was muddy that day and that was the end of my Louis Vuitton sandals and my white fit was definitely done for the day.  The Nubians in the village speak a dialect of the many Nubian languages

Day 2 the group visited the Nubian museum and the Unfinished Obelisk.  I decided I would sit this one out and wait til it’s “finished”.  I was anxious to spend the day at our gorgeous pool and then down to the lower level for my Swedish massage.  Planning for the remaining time in Aswan was done over a late lunch with our guide, Mo.

A word about Mohamed Mansour, “Mo”… a licensed Egyptologist, an historian and an all around great human being. He goes above and beyond what his duties are as a guide.  He’s been with this group since day 1, beginning with presenting each Lady with a rose as we left the airport.  Before leaving the cruise, Zandra Harris wanted to add to his tips and others followed suit. At our last group  dinner, Joey Smith had words and they presented Mo with a cute little box filled with US dollars and Egyptian Pounds;  Mo, who was sitting at my table, was deeply touched by this act of kindness.  He said to me, “I feel strange accepting this. You don’t take tips from your family”.   I look forward to working with him again next year.

Today is the optional tour to Abu Simbel (the temples of Ramses II and 1st Royal wife  Nefertari). Quite a magnificent site to behold!

When we leave Aswan Monday, we fly back to Cairo for a one night stay  in Heliopolis so we will be close to the airport for our flight back to New York. I’m sad already… I love it here and can’t wait to return.  There is still very limited space if you plan to join us next year. Surprise:   There will be an optional 3 night tour to the Holy Land.  It’s only a mere 1 hr flight away.

Well my friends, Hopefully, you enjoyed this journey through the land of the Pharoahs. In 2 weeks,  we’ll be in Dubai.  See you then,1DCD2798-4DED-42A0-AB74-CBDA9716273B.jpeg

Peace and blessings

 

 

 

 

With A Child’s Heart

 

Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson both sang about a child’s heart. Take a listen to Kari and her reaction to the artist’s work :  Truly with a child’s heart.   She is speaking to the artist.  His name is Myron Curry but our family calls him Casso.  I’ve added a couple of my favorites.

I especially like the sistah looking out the window. I call it “Waiting”.  She appears to be waitin for her man to return. In his absence, she has carried the weight of the world on her shoulders.  Check the definition of this strong sistah’s muscles.

Egyptian Sights and Sounds

The ROYAL LOTUS would be our home for 4 nights and 5 days.  The dock where we boarded the boat is located less than 12 minutes from our hotel in Luxor.  So we were there in a flash.  We wouldn’t be setting sail until the next day at noon so we were free to come and go off the boat if we so desired. Once we set sail, it was most relaxing to be up on the pool deck enjoying the sights and sounds as we saw Egyptians going about their daily routines along the riverbank of the Nile and hearing the “Call to Prayer”.    Up on the top deck,   as I did my normal “work” thing with 2 devices and a borrowed hot spot, keeping up with the upcoming Kattrax Tours; I observed some of our folks reading, listening to music, engaged in deep topics of conversation or stretched out napping.

Darlene donned her swimsuit, had plans to lay out by the pools but inquired, “where are the umbrellas “?  She was informed, “No umbrellas on that end. Thats the tanning section”.  LOL.  6 years ago, this same time it was in the 70’s not the 90’s.  I’d  say yes it’s definitely global warming but nevertheless,  it’s been wonderful and enjoyable.    I will always avoid the hottest times of May – August.  Next year when we return in November it shouldn’t be as warm.

The boat docks by night and glides along the Nile by day stopping at various places to sightsee like Edfu, Kom Ombo and going through the Esna Locks.  There was the cultural night on board with a belly dancer, some drummers,  a male  Tanoura dancer whirling and swirling around like a spinning top. A few of our ladies were pulled up on the dance floor to participate but Georgene from the Bay Area really showed the belly dancer what she was working with and showed her a thing or two.

Tonight was our Galabeya party where everyone dresses up in Egyptian galabeyas for the evening.  The Kattrax group showed up and showed out. Everybody had that look you want to  know better. Phillip Peoples had all eyes on him looking like a Sheik from head to toe.   After dinner the dining room staff, played drums, and marched out singing happy birthday and  presented a cake to Ms Mary Jacobs of North Carolina.  They went 1 step further and one of the handsome waiters got her up to dance.  She was quite surprised and delighted.  I did my usual exit stage left, straight to my cabin  while the others retired to the Lounge Bar and got their dance on.  I could hear the Dj spinning a little bit of everything from James Brown to the Wobble. One thing about a KATTRAX tour is that  no matter what country we’re in, our groups are always quite diverse with Generation X, Baby Boomers and an occasional Millennial whose parents started them with me at the tender of age 5 or 6 and are now accustomed to the style of  yours truly, The Ambassador of Luxury Travel.  They don’t want anything less.

Well, we are almost to my favorite place….ASWAN –  home of the Nubians and where I feel most at home   Stay tuned….

 

Up, Up and Away in a Beautiful Balloon

 

At 4:40 am  while the majority of the group slept peacefully, 16 brave ones left our Luxor hotel to sky up in a hot air ballon.  After a 15 min drive they were at the Queen Joy —- the boat that would take them to the balloon park.  After a brief orientation and safety talk by the pilot they were up up and away. Once up, they spent 45 mins gliding over the east and left banks, viewing the valley of the Kngs and Queens,  Temples of Karnak, Luxor and Queen Hatshepsut.

Upon their return, the only comments that could be heard from each participant ranged from:  Awesome to Fabulous any other synonym that may come to your mind.

Later that afternoon the entire group was driven to the boat dock where we boarded  the ROYAL LOTUS  for our 4 night cruise to Aswan  —— Home of the Nubians.

Goodbye Cairo, Hello Luxor

 

Our last day in Cairo, I chilled while the group visited the Museum of Antiquities, Old Cairo where early Judaism and Christianity flourished in Egypt, the Ben Ezra Synagogue and the church where the Virgin Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus took refuge.  From my balcony, I intently watched workers setting up and preparing for this elaborate wedding; even creating a bridge over the pool for the wedding party and serenading musicians to walk across.

We had an Early morning wake up call for our early morning check out for our early morning 50 minute flight to Luxor. I was ready to hit it donned in my Islamic Abaya.  It seemed wherever I went, whoever I came in contact with, I was given the royal treatment.  It was magical. Then it dawned on me…. In the early 2000’s I had my past lives read.  I didn’t put too much into it at the time but I was told I was from Egyptian Royalty, perhaps a “Queen”.  Really?  Well, I cannot count the ones  on this trip that have referred to me as  “my Queen”; from Business people to the littlest child on the street. It’s mystical and magical and I’m loving it.

Today the security at the airport was tight again. Check after security check and our guide and his team had it all under control.  The flight to Luxor was 50 minutes and soon the group was walking among the pillars of the temple dedicated to the God of Amun Ra and along the avenue of the Sphinxes at KARNAK and Luxor Temples.

Our welcome dinner was on hit…something for everyone. I especially dug the pasta station where the chef had it going on. The next day was spent visiting the great Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens where generations of Pharoahs, kings and queens were buried in splendid crypts cut into the cliffs and guarded by the huge Colossi of Memnon.

Of course the shoppers continued to do their thing with the purchases of Alabaster, and gold and silver jewelry.  While they were out and about; I had one of the best massages ever in the hotel’s Key of Life Spa.  It was called the Anti Stress Massage.  It was definitely quite what the doctor ordered — 90 mins/ $60.    Our last evening reminded some of our Paris by night in 4 stretch limos.  In the Land of the Pharoahs it’s done a little differently. Think of Tupac and “Picture Me Rollin’”.  When I tell you “we was deep”, trust and believe… WE WAS DEEP.   I could be proper and say, “ We were deep” but something gets lost in that translation. At any rate….. We rolled through the city in 18 Horse Drawn Carriages. The sun was beginning to set and the hot Luxor sun had cooled down a bit.   Yeah, picture us rollin’.

At 430am several brave souls will climb in a Hot Air Balloon and glide over the Valley of the Kings and Queens as they watch the sunrise and  hear the Muslim early morning Call to Prayer ring out through the city.  Later we board our boat for our 4 night Nile Cruise.  Of all the  88 cruises I’ve been on, some 14 and 10 nighters; nothing compares to a 4 night cruise on the Nile River where along some riverbank Moses was found hidden in a basket.

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Egypt, Land of the Pharoahs

We were all flying to New York in order to fly nonstop to Cairo on EgyptAir. It was another reunion of sorts with so many reuniting with past Travelers they have met on other Kattrax Tours, as far back as the early 2000’s.  At least 6 of us would be in Business Class and Business always excites me, no matter the airline. With my Priority Pass – a great lounge pass to have  (thanks Simon) I was able to invite 4, got them situated and then I made my way over to the Business Class Lounge for EgyptAir.  With Priority Pass it matters not who you are flying unlike some airlines.  On board the aircraft, when it was time to go nite nite, I stretched out on my lay flat bed seat, wrapped up in an ultra soft blanket and managed to sleep the majority of the way. No internet so I was happy to wrap it up.

Another part of my excitement was just in returning to Egypt for the 3rd time and remembering being here during the protests in 2011.  We had excellent security then and even so now; from arrival through Immigration (my contacts had our visas ready for us upon arrival, ushered us to baggage claim, through additional security checks and a final check out the door to our waiting bus which had to wait for our 2 police car escorts —- 1 in front and 1 in the rear. Having that extra layer of security always feels good.  We had my same guide from 2011, “Mo” and it was so good seeing him again and to know he would be with us not only for 3 nights in Cairo but flying to Luxor,  then 4 nights cruising the Nile, then on to Aswan – home of the Nubian’s, a day trip to Abu Simbel then returning back to Cairo to prepare for our flight home.

All of our hotel rooms for everybody in each city have Nile views.  That’s the only way to go.  It is my goal for all that travel with me get the BEST possible experience.  I’ve been unofficially named the “Ambassador of Luxury Travel” (Thank you Casso) and I strive to live up to that name.  Our hotel in Cairo, the INTERCONTINENTAL SEMIRAMIS is landmark luxury on the banks of the Nile with Japanese, Thai, Italian restaurants, tons of shops and even a Duty Free shop for your shopping pleasure.

Our welcome dinner was a hit. The buffet had something for everyone, including sushi.  After a good night’s rest, everyone was ready for whatever the day would bring,  We boarded our private bus, I took the mic, welcomed everyone and gave thanks to God, the most high one for getting us here safely and of course I  gave my short spill on “ bus etiquette”, no seat hopping!  Riding directly behind the driver was a very handsome suited and booted armed guard. Then later we had a police car escort (two more handsome cops in white uniforms) zipping us in and out of traffic with blue lights and sirens as we made our way to the STEP PYRAMID of King Zoser, the PYRAMIDS OF GIZA, THE GREAT SPHINX, MEMPHIS (the old capital of Egypt), a carpet factory/school and a visit to a papyrus showroom. There was some fantastic shopping going on and a lot of happy campers.

More excitement for me was to see everybody in the specially designed tee shirts by yours truly. Oh they looked so good!  A few have said, “after all these years of taking folks around the world in grand style, Kat is still killin the travel game”.  0FA8B19B-4943-4764-AA73-161F985BB757

DELTAS  and AKA’s Together —- Doing the damn thing at the Pyramids! Reppin’ the Bay Area, Gainesville, Raleigh, and New Orleans.  Hey, that looks like Phillip Peoples in the background.4CAFDF02-62C8-4C92-A170-B2646B0D6247 Joey Smith and James Portlock- friends for over 50 years from back in the day in Fillmore, San Francisco

HOT JAZZ, ICELAND & THE BLUE LAGOON – JULY 8-16, 2020

For 18 years straight the summer European jazz festival circuit was my playground ; hitting  the North Sea, Montreux, Nice, Copenhagen, Juan Les Pins and a few others. After mulling over the 3 day North Sea lineup and schedule every year; my mentor, the incomparable, knowledgeable and distinguished  Dr. Wesley Johnson (rip) would say, “Kat, it’s not who we are going to see but who we are going to see  that may not be here next year”. Yes, so true.     Yesterday as I cleaned out the garage I came across photos of me with old timers, the old school  jazz musicians from the bebop era, the ones the youngsters these days have learned from: Dizzy, Lionel Hampton, Harry Sweets Edison, Kenny Baron, etc….what memories! Well a lot has changed. Rotterdam is not THE HAGUE, but it’s still good, and it’s still an unforgettable experience.

That Rotterdam Hotel, across from the Central Rail Station was once the Westin, then the Manhattan and now the Marriott —- yes the one everyone wants to stay at. For 2015 in order to secure it, we started and locked in 18 months ahead.  Well, we have it again and just like then, those that wanted to join us had to produce a “Good faith “ deposit. So if you are not really serious or one that cannot plan that far in advance, then you should remove yourself from the list.  The max for this tour is 36. The good faith is $300pp which will be deducted from the final tour cost.    On the interested list with first choice to confirm: Joyce, Dessie, LaVerne, Cheryl E, Juanita, Lucille, Billie, Mitzi, Briana, Maurice, Janet,  Wilemma, Carol, Anita, Shonda, Janice, Kellea, Trina, Sybil, Joyce B, Gloria, Diva, Sharon, Imelda, Geralyn, Gerie, Audrey, Anna, and Fatina.  What further excites me about this tour is Iceland and the Blue Lagoon with its geo-thermal waters.  Our hotel there has also been secured.  It is on the hip and trendy popular shopping street, Iceland’s single, coolest street, “Laugavegur”, which means “wash road”, was once the route to the hot springs where many Icelanders took their clothes to launder. Now this hyper-cool thoroughfare is a place where you shoppers can easily drop hundreds of dollars on clothes and accessories. All night long? Or all day long?  In the summer, the sun only sets for around 3 hrs.  Are you in or are you out?  I know, “What’s the cost”?   Rates are forthcoming!

 

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Me, Joey & Susie Hotel Lobby

Breaking News!!!!Egypt Next Week

Good morning Travelers,

We have had an unfortunate cancellation for 1 female.  If you are able to travel with valid passport, easy going, non smoker………call me.  510-499-5909   for details.       Right now The plane ticket from JFK TO CAIRO is $800 r/t on EgyptAir.     The land will be an unbelievable $2000.  We got you on the Tourist Visa and the domestic ticket within Egypt.  You snooze, you lose🤦‍♀️

You just handle the EgyptAir ticket, getting to/from JFK, and Pay Kattrax $2000.