Thursday, 14 October 2010

Sunday April 11th - Suez Canal

Today was our slow cruise along the Suez canal. It was a very windy and hazy day, so conditions were not ideal for taking photographs on the way, but we still managed a fair few just to give an idea of the place. The Suez Canal in Arabic is Qanat as-Suways. It is a sea-level waterway running north-south across the Isthmus of Suez in Egypt to connect the Mediterranean and the Red Seas. It separates the African continent from Asia and it provides the shortest maritime route between Europe and the lands lying around the Indian and western Pacific oceans. The canal extends 101 miles (163 kilometres) between Port Said (Bur Said) in the north and Suez in the south, with dredged approach channels north of Port Said into the Mediterranean, and south of Suez. The canal does not take the shortest route across the isthmus (which is only 75 miles) but utilises several lakes, from north to south. The construction of the canal was completed in 1869.

This morning we spent some time doing the rather mundane task of washing some of our clothes. Worryingly, when we were down in the laundry room, Keith had a "funny" turn and had to lie down on the bench for a while. He felt very faint, like he does when his blood pressure suddenly drops, which can be a sign that he is bleeding internally. I was a bit shaken at the time but Keith was fairly calm about it, just stayed there until he felt fit enough to return to our cabin. I was of course worrying all the way there, but he insisted that I didn't call for the doctor until (or rather if) there was an obvious sign of bleeding. Thankfully, once he'd rested on the bed in our cabin for an hour or so, he felt OK again. We don't really know why he had the turn (Whoever thought to call them funny?? They are far from it, in my opinion) in the first place, but were relieved nothing serious had occurred.

We also managed to buy a gift for our two grand-daughters this morning - some traders from Port Suez had boarded the ship and were selling their wares just next to the reception area. We got a couple of intricately beaded Egyptian head-pieces for them, one in lilac and one in white. I would have bought one for myself but thought it was a bit of a waste as I would never wear it!

What surprised me about the trip down the Suez Canal today was the way in which we seemed to be literally floating down the middle of the desert! Highlights of the journey included this building, which I am assuming is a house and appears to be solar powered judging by the enormous solar panels just outside the building. I love the way the "drive-way" to the house has been adorned with pebbles/stones - it obviously says something in arabic, but I've no idea what that is!

The house was quite a distance away from the canal and I couldn't make out what it was at first - only when Keith took the photo above did it become clear! No corner shop for these residents, then - wonder if they caught ferries up and down the canal instead of buses to get to the next town?

In the next photo, Keith has captured me taking some video footage of another vessel travelling along in the opposite direction - in a specially created passing place at Al-Ballah.

You can just about make out the shape of the vessel on the extreme right hand side of the photograph. For long enough, I was convinced that it was a deserted ship in the desert, until the Captain made an announcement about the passing place at that time - then I realised the vessel was actually moving as well!

We passed two bridges - one was the  swinging railway bridge, which I captured on video but not on the still camera. The second was the Al Qantarah Road bridge, which is shown in the photograph below. It is an impressive structure, which opened in 2001. It is the world's highest cable-stayed bridge, towering 70 metres above the Suez Canal and  measuring over 9km long. It was built for peace and as a means of increasing economic activity between Egypt and the Sinai Peninsula.
The bridge has 4 lanes and is designed to support  28,000 vehicles a day! It is also known as the Mubarek Peace Bridge. Built with assistance from the Japanese government, Prince Mubarek visited Japan in 1995 and that was when the 60% grant was agreed.  Egypt paid for the remaining 40% of the total cost.It was part of the plan to develop the Sinai Peninsula.

The columns of the bridge are remarkably similar to the Egyptian obelisks standing in many temples across the land. I'm sure this is not accidental!

Here's just another view of the passing landscape as we travelled down the Suez Canal, which was a very peaceful transit, even with the wind!

This afternoon I was rehearsing for our passenger choir concert - which was planned for Sunday 18th April so not long to go now! We were told today that there would be a photo-call on Tuesday and that there would possible be a flautist accompanying us for one of the songs!

As the evening arrived, we encountered rather more unsteady waters! We'd reached the Mediterranean Sea by now so it was nowhere near as calm as the Suez Canal! Keith and I enjoyed a rather large gin & tonic in our room this evening, prior to going down to dinner. We'd bought ourselves a bottle of duty free gin on board the ship and therefore only had to buy the tonic water from the mini-bar in our room. We like to have a preprandial aperitif when we are on holiday and I love to sip on it whilst I'm getting ready - as long as I don't drink too quickly and end up with mascara on my lips instead of my eyelashes! We blamed the alcohol for our rather unsteady sway to the table tonight, although if I'm honest, the swell of the sea outside was the main culprit! The dining room was not as full as it normally is, and we were informed that the young Opera singer, Faryl Smith, would not be performing that evening due to her feeling slightly queasy with sea-sickness!

Usually, the table next to ours was empty at diner-time, but this evening we were joined by Alan Webb, the resident computer teacher and, coincidentally, the pianist who is accompanying our choir. Alan is a very talented musician as well as being a likeable man from Leeds no less! He was sitting with another person I'd made "friends" with on the ship, Michael. I didn't realise until tonight, however, that this Michael was famous. He was held in high esteem by our friends at the table, as he is not just Michael, but "Sir Michael Parker, KVCO,  CBE" - a guest speaker on the ship who is also a designer and producer of major events across the world. He famously has organised the late Queen Mother's 90th and 100th Birthday Celebrations as well as many other Royal and worthy events, more often than not  to raise money for charity. In fact, if you "google" him, you will discover that he has organised the majority of big national events over the past 40 years! He is also a very approachable and funny man. I am proud to have met him and admire his enthusiasm and ability to organise such events!

Sleep tonight was a rather moving experience, to say the least!

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