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.

.

9536A53A-1972-407F-888B-0213EF604EEF

Egypt, Land of the Pharoahs

BREAKING NEWS!  I just received the updated safety protocols from my contact  for entering Egypt.  Unlike Europe, we as Americans are now welcome provided individuals are in possession of a NEGATIVE COVID-19 Test.  That being said; all remaining 16 travelers still on board with me will receive the protocols. You can’t imagine how this news brightens my day.  The past 5 months have been very bleak for me; banned from Europe…heartbreaking;  where I first touched down in Switzerland 1983.  My mother has always said, “One monkey don’t stop the show”.  So Egypt here we come, a year out and I, along with the prayer warriors  will continue to pray for better days  ahead for the world.

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

Announcing: KAT’S KITCHEN – “Tastes From Around the World”

Travel has been my dream as a child, it’s  been my life for over 37 years and now travel remains so  uncertain. In all my travels all over the world; I’ve amassed a great number of recipes from most corners of the world.  For the last 4 months I’ve reposted almost 100 blogs taking you to revisit those wonderful places which no doubt have held special memories for you.  I have now decided to merge my passion for travel with my love for cooking and in making palates and tummies feel happy.
This is just a preview of what KAT’S KITCHEN is all about.

I will be offering “small plates”, something different  on one day of each week.. There   will be:  Vietnamese Spicy Garlic & Green Onion Crab,  Jamaican Style  Oxtails, Jamaican Brown Stew Chicken,  South African Baked Salmon, Brazilian Moqueca (fish stew), Chinese Sweet and Sour Pork Chops, Kat’s Seafood Louie to name a few and of course from time to time Kat’s Homemade Caesar,  my notorious Spicy Shrimp Dip and a few other menu items.  On Deck  for starters , we’ll travel to Vietnam for that crab. along with some shrimp fried rice.   There are a few orders left.  Do you  remember how some of my tours would sell out before the paperwork was published?  Well it seems this may also be the case.   There will be a designated drop off and pick up location.  Payment by Zelle or PayPal confirms your order prior to delivery.   Interested parties not in the local area, unfortunately  you will miss out on this  but let me know ahead of time if you ever plan to come out west.
Interested parties,  TEXT ME at  510-499-5909 to get the weekly menu.

Take care until next time,

Kat

The Time Has Come To Say Goodbye

For me, This morning’s breakfast was in the Spice Market Restaurant. Man I missed the Jetty. I love that intimate place.  Today,  everybody  was doing their own optional activities.   Some went on the Spice tour, others were planning the sunset cruise and some like Vera Brown and Sonya Fife were doing both.  In between times some went to GABI BEACH to hang out or to have lunch. I used my down time to rest and enjoy my suite.

This all inclusive resort in Zanzibar, the city beginning with a “Z” was the perfect ending to an idyllic vacation.  Each of our 3 properties have included breakfast, lunch and dinner – Awesome Sauce!    and I might add that the meals have all been on point and truly a foodie’s delight.  The MELIA sits on expansive acreage.  There is even a private beach (Gabi)  a mile away, accessible by golf carts driven by staff.  This morning I was invited to THE LEVEL for dinner so after the sunset cruise, my family ((Katrina and Phil) and myself were driven to THE LEVEL.  We dined on lobster tails, fish, lamb chops, and chicken perfectly grilled by a Chef from Nepal and entertained by a group getting down with sounds of  Kool and the Gang, Stevie and others.

The sunset cruise was as Deborah Berhel pointed out, “different but nice”. I tell you it was no repeat of my yachts and catamarans in Mykonos and Negril but this is Zanzibar.

In the morning, one last breakfast for me at the Jetty and then we roll out of here at noon for our charter flight to Dar Es Salaam where we will all have a day room at the 5 Star Serena Dar Es Salaam to relax and then have dinner until our late night flight to Amsterdam.  Earlier today I messaged the hotel to book a final spa treatment upon my arrival there.  With my grueling schedule, my body needs all that goodness for my well-being.  I will be home less than a week then it’s back in the air and off for 3 weeks in Morocco and Marseille with 2 groups.

My friends, I hope you have enjoyed reading about this awesome Kattrax adventure as much as I have enjoyed bringing it to you.  It’s been a grand experience.

Photo credits: Katrina Peoples, Sonya Fife, Paula Smith & Alton James

Chillin’ At The Beach to Chilling Slavery Thoughts in Stone Town

This morning I was determined to have breakfast at the Jetty. So I  set my alarm for 8am and made my way.   It’s located at the tip end of the Jetty.   It’s quaint, very intimate and yes, it is the Kat’s Meow.  Yes, serve me.  I detest buffets.   I practically had the place to myself until Katrina and Phil joined me.  It was such a beautiful setting and there was no rush to leave.  I’m sure we were there a couple of hours; just chillin’.

This afternoon the group was set for the Stone Town tour.  Stone Town is the older part of Zanzibar City. One of the highlights but quite sobering and chilling is the site of the former slave market which where later the Anglican Cathedral of Christ Church was built. Built on the location of the whipping post from the island’s largest slave market.  The Church was built by the third Bishop of Zanzibar and famous abolitionist, Edward Steere. Steere is buried behind the main altar, as he died a few weeks prior to its completion.  The grounds also hosts one of the most famous Slave Monuments in the entire world.

Zanzibar was one of the largest Slave ports in the vast Indian Ocean Slave trade, which was dominated by Arab slave traders.  Although best known today as an island paradise, there are many reminders of Zanzibar’s dark history in the slave trade around Stone Town and across the island.

The slaves were shipped here in boats from the mainland, crammed so tightly that many fell ill and died or were thrown overboard.  Dozens of slaves including women and children were imprisoned for days in crowded cellars with little air, no food or toilets.

We walked through the maze of alleyways, seeing the sights, smelling the scents of the  market; and soaking up the local color while  enjoying the education but now most were ready to make our way to JAFFERJI HOUSE ROOFTOP RESTAURANT.  Our guide cautioned us it was 4 flights of stairs.  Well I don’t know about his counting but it was more like 9 flights. Heck, he had already walked us 5 miles through the town; another extra few  flights of stairs wasn’t going to make a difference.

The Island of Zanzibar

We said goodbye to Serena and the Serengeti today.  One final game drive en route to the airstrip for our flight to Zanzibar.  It was a 2 hour flight to the tiny island 50 km off the coast of the mainland. It’s a Muslim country,  in the Indian Ocean.  We flew over the Ngorongoro Crater on our way.  What an awesome sight to behold from the air.  After arriving, once situated with our ground handlers, we had an hour drive to the MELIA ZANZIBAR.  Once Goldie got management straight and everyone settled in their rooms; it was all good.

The Melia is an all inclusive luxury resort on an amazing beach of white sands. Its 5 restaurants serve local and international specialties.  Our first night, some dined at the pool bar while others dined at the Spice Market Restaurant. In a word, the dining experience was amazing as was the Entertainment that followed with the Masai warriors doing their thing.  I anxiously anticipate what’s in store for us tomorrow on our STONE TOWN TOUR. Stone Town is the old part of Zanzibar City, the main city of Zanzibar in Tanzania.  Stay tuned!

Serena, You are Wonderful!

C7B3AF86-4E96-4F8E-86C7-2A04D57B1C5FBFD4DE7D-1AEE-4B86-99E7-4D9A5ECAA5FB659CE9FD-54D7-489F-8AE9-ABF872E73D0A7DFBFD31-F879-46A4-B6C4-1A4B29454A34C4970065-8405-4AA9-8B84-5100F003E37BA6B7B6F5-AE54-46CF-9439-F9ED89C6AECC5CF5E4B8-0B1F-4D78-BCEF-48D1727D1DC9

Serengeti Serena Lodge… I should have known with a name like “SERENA” it had to be a winner. From the moment we set foot on this property, we have been shown nothing but LOVE, pure and unadulterated LOVE.  This being my 13th visit to a Game Lodge, in Africa, I tend to pass on the drives even though each drive is special in its own right.  The knowledge and expertise of the Ranger has a lot to do with the success and we had it with the 3 brothers assigned to our group.

While the others spent their time enjoying the 2 drives a day and in some cases all day; my time was spent getting rejuvenated at the Spa, resting, reflecting and preparing for upcoming international tours.  At lunch yesterday, enjoying with Ms Sonia Epps, mother of Tedra Scott; the server asked me, what? no game drive?  I said,   No.  and about that time there were about 8 zebras sipping water at the pool and out of nowhere, 2 huge buffalo appeared.  I said, “See the drives come to me”.  It was spectacular.

We were all told to meet at the bar before dinner.  The staff had a surprise in store for us.  We were led to a very private area that was set up just for us.  There were 3 beautifully set tables and a bonfire  for our group and our 3 Rangers, a complete buffet with the Chef and his Sous Chefs grilling fish, lamb and sausages, a total spread down to desserts.  As we made our entrance the group was served flutes of champagne.  We even had the drummers and dancers….all for the Kattrax Group.   The spokesman told us, we were the largest ever African American group they have had and he’s been here 20 years.  They were so honored to have us in their presence.  Dessie AJ and Tedra had words of appreciation for the staff and our Rangers.

In closing, the entire staff paraded through singing, dancing and with a cake.  They even got me up to dance.  It was a beautiful farewell.  Who knows? Maybe we will return some day.   Tomorrow we fly to the island of ZANZIBAR.   I’m excited!

San Francisco Sause, It’s The Sauciest

Greetings my friends!
A lot of us have been spending a good deal of time in the kitchen since we’ve been locked down, shut in and sheltering in place.  90% of my time is spent in the kitchen.   I’ve gone through tons of Dungeness crab; trying different recipes as my “crab” partners in crime have done.  My spicy shrimp dip aka crack dip, my delectable chicken deviled eggs,  smooth chicken salad,  seafood louies filled with the most, my Jamaican style oxtails, and gumbo have all gone to another level.  Some of my favorite people that live alone, or just don’t cook have been treated to some of the above.  Which brings me to tell you about this SF SAUSE.  It is all that and then some.  It is especially good for those that want a gourmet taste but just not the energy to do a lot of prepping in the kitchen.   I highly recommend San Francisco Sause.  It will make ANYTHING TASTE GOOD.    A variety pack of 4 gives you the opportunity to taste all 4 flavors: Regular, Spicy, BBQ GRILL, and Hot AF (as eff***).   Don’t let the name fool you.  It’s not unbearable.   Website:    SFSause.com   Bon appetit!

 

 

The Serengeti…

Yet another name from my childhood that I thought was fictional only to grow up and discover it was a real destination.  Words mainly garnered from my beloved Amos “N” Andy episodes, like The Zambezi River and Lake Titicaca.  At any rate, here I am on the Serengeti  and enjoying my pleasant surroundings.

We had an 8am  flight from the Arusha airstrip which was a mere 5 mins from our Lodge.  Now we were faced with the moment of truth.  Would we all weigh in with our luggage being less than 33 lbs?  Yaay!  We made it and these guys were serious about weighing each bag.  They split us up into 2 groups with 13 on one charter and 6 on the other. This flight would only be 60 minutes and I was fast asleep shortly after take off.

After arriving at the Seronera Airstrip,  our 3 vehicles and Rangers were waiting for us.  The Serengeti Serena Safari Lodge was 27 km away and the plan was to do a game drive en route.  Nice!  By the time we reached the Lodge, they had already  seen 3 of the BIG FIVE – Elephant, Lion, and the very elusive Leopard.  Upon arrival at the Lodge we were greeted by drummers, dancers and flutes of champagne and glasses of orange juice and refreshing cold towels.

There would be another drive before dinner.  I passed on the game drive and made my way to the massage tent and enjoyed the African Footprint Ceremony.  This is just what Dr. Kat ordered for her tired legs and feet.  What a special treatment to soften, cool and hydrate.  The masseuse did her thing so well I scheduled the same treatment for the next 2 days.

It’s dinner time now.  I can hear the drummers beating  and the dancers making their calls.  Until next time…