Photos from my trip to Luxor with Karen and Rachel (Feb 1-5)
This is the remains of the derailed train and track rebuilding crew that we encountered south of Minya.  I never heard for sure how many people were killed or injured, but it was a pretty bad crash.
Much of our train ride was during the night, but in the daylight, the scenery was beautiful.  Most of Upper Egypt (in the south) is very rural and green, which is always a nice change from Cairo!
Arriving at our hotel, we found one fewer bed than people.  Sharing didn't work out so well, so we had to find a new room.
The first tourist stop of the trip was the Karnak Temple, where we saw remains of a huge temple, complete with 130 giant columns (below) and lots of statues of the pharoah (left and bottom left).
Our next stop was the perfume factory where we smelled perfumes and watched a man make blown glass perfume bottles.
What vacation is complete without some sort of injury?  It wasn't hot wax this time, but Rachel fell getting out of the cab and cut her toe.  Fortunately, Karen was around to play the part of Jesus and wash her foot in the perfume factory bathroom. 
Historically important tourist site #2 was the Luxor Temple, where we saw more Temple ruins and noticed the blend of architectural styles (Christian, Muslim, Pharonic)
Our last tourist stop of the day was to a papyrus factory, where we learned how to make paper from a plant.
Manel, our extremely friendly and generous tour guide, invited us to have a tasty lunch at her house.
After our first day of touring, we returned to the room to find our towels folded into cute animal shapes.
When you're getting 10 to 12 hours of sleep a night, silly pictures are almost guaranteed to be the result!
The rest of our evening was spent up on the roof, enjoying the sun setting over the Nile and the Luxor Temple.
Our second day began with a stop at these statues on the side of the road.  Note the large number of roadside souvenir shops (right) across from these two, nearly deserted statues - how Egyptian!
At Valley of the Kings, we toured three tombs, all of which had lots of colorful hieroglyphics still intact.  We rode a tram to get to the tombs and it felt a little like Disney World!
Our last stop of the second day was Queen Hatshepsut's Temple, where we saw statues of the queen, made to look like men and Manel showed us how to read some of the Hieroglyphics.
Near Queen Hatshepsut's Temple, these men were moving large rocks up the mountain the way the pharoahs did it - looks like hard work!
Returning to the hotel, we found our towels creatively displayed again and were surprised to find Karen's bed missing.  Yes, that's right, the maids removed a bed from our triple room for some reason!
We had a bit of trouble getting a new bed from the hotel, so Karen decided to try out alternative sleeping arrangements...

...Goldilocks style!

too cold! too short!
too uncomfortable! too claustrophobic! too wet!
Finally, after one polite phone call, one annoyed phone call, and a visit to the front desk, we got a third bed, but it took the entire day!

Again, too much sleep and free time can have very silly consequences!

too small! finally, just right!
One more afternoon spent lounging in the sun, reading by the pool, and we might never want to go back to Cairo!
We celebrated Matt's birthday with dinner and a cake.  Due to an unfortunate mix-up between the flour and the powdered sugar, the cake didn't really bake as much as it boiled in the oven for an hour without becoming solid.  After dinner we poured the cake into a gravy boat and ladled it onto sliced strawberries and bananas.  It wasn't bad and I'm sure this will be one of Matt's most memorable birthday cakes!
I spent the last weekend in February visiting Karen and Laura in Minya.  Matt and I took a train to Minya late Thursday night and spent a restful weekend visiting monasteries, walking the corniche in Minya, and relaxing on the houseboat where we spent one night.
Friday evening Matt and I joined Karen for the weekly Bible study she started in Minya.  It was interesting to discuss the Bible and problems in the church with a group of Egyptian protestant and orthodox Christians.
Friday night we had dinner on the houseboat.  We had pizza and mine was, of course, without cheese because of the vegan fast.  I've never had green beans, peas, carrots, and potatoes on pizza, but it was tasty!


Our room on the houseboat was small and had terribly uncomfortable beds, but we had a good time reading, chatting, and pillow fighting (he started it!).
 Saturday we visited two monasteries outside Minya.  The photos on the right show the old portions of the Abahor monastery.
On the left is the modern part of the first monastery we visited.  The icon on the far left is painted on the ceiling of the monastery and is much larger than it looks in this photo.
One of my favorite parts of our trip on Saturday were the glimpses of village life that we got.  This village surrounds the monastery and is full of Christians.
Traveling between monasteries, we passed this quarry.  Karen and Matt weren't quite as excited about it as I was, but it looked very similar to American quarries, except that none of the workers wear hardhats or steel toed boots.
At the second monastery, we went into a cave-like area filled with icons and crosses drawn in blood from sacrifices.
Outside the second monastery we experienced more village life in the form of farm animals, including this donkey that followed us as we walked around the village.
 The view from this monastery was spectacular!
This was the newer portion of the second monastery (Monastery of the Virgin Mary)
Saturday night we ended our relaxing weekend with some bedtime yoga.  It was a peaceful way to end the day and get ready for bed (and Karen and I even convinced Matt to try it).