Joshua Tree National Park

My kids and I were in Palm Springs, California over the Thanksgiving weekend. And one of the highlights of this trip was visiting the magnificent Joshua Tree National Park. We stayed in the city of Indio in Coachella Valley and It was about little more than half an hour drive to the Southern Entrance/Cottonwood Entrance of JTNP from our hotel.

Beautiful landscape of Joshua Tree National Park, California

Beautiful landscape of Joshua Tree National Park, California

Ticket per vehicle is $30 which can be used for the next 7 days. You can spend from half a day to few days or weeks in this park. We bought few water bottles, some protein bars, luncheables, chips, and candies before entering the park. We arrived the Southern Visitor Center around 10:30am and stayed until about 3:30. If you have time and energy, staying longer is highly recommended to enjoy dramatic sunsets or to camp or if you love star gazing…to experience a stunning desert sky from the park. JTNP is a paradise for the hikers, rock-climbers, photographers, nature-lovers, kids, adults, and many more.

If you follow the JTNP map, it’ll take you to all the spots and parts of the park that you want to visit. We made it to most of the places that we planned to visit. These are some of the really cool and beautiful places of JTNP that we loved and the kids enjoyed:

Ocatillo Patch: Ocatillo is not a true cactus but a beautiful plant indigenous to Sonoran and couple other desert in the USA. JTNP has an area, called Ocatillo Patch, (follow the sign). It’s a nice place to take some pictures, walk around, and explore the nature.

Ocatillo Patch in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Ocatillo Patch in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Cholla Cactus Garden: This was one of our favorites. A whole big area on the both sides of the road is covered with cholla cactus, a beautiful looking but very thorny cactus. Be careful with kids here. We ended up spending more than half an hour strolling thru the cacti, taking pictures, and having fun looking at these plants in the desert. We even saw couple small lizards here.

Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Cholla Cactus Garden in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Jumbo Rock Campground: This was our number one in the park. Jumbo Rock campground and the surroundings are the places with really huge boulders. My kids couldn’t get enough of rock climbing and the stunning view of everything…the trees, big rocks, mountains, blue sky, everything was part of a big piece of this beauty. It’s a big playground for any age. We stopped at different sections of Jumbo rocks and still couldn’t see all of it.

Jumbo Rock Campground in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Jumbo Rock Campground in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Camping in JTNP is a very popular activity and we saw bunch of tents and RVs parked in Jumbo Rock Campground. I can imagine the beautiful night sky from here. Tourists can spend days among these boulders for rock climbing, photography, or just hiking.

Skull Rock: Skull rock is another jumbo rock which has the shape of a human skull. We didn’t spend much time here other than just taking some photos. But there are other big rocks that can be climbed and trails that can be hiked.

Skull Rock in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Skull Rock in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Keys View: Keys View is another must. Even if you don’t visit other spots in JTNP, Keys View deserves some attention. This is a view point from where you can see the mountains and Salton sea. Although we didn’t stay too long since it was getting a bit cold, sunset from this spot is very famous…just bring some extra clothes.

Keys View in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Keys View in Joshua Tree National Park, California

Once we were done, we left the park thru “Joshua Tree” visitor center, which is about 20 miles from Keys View. JTNP doesn’t have any running water, restaurants, café or snack bars or vending machines inside the park. It’s better to bring lots of water bottles, sandwiches or bars, extra clothes, or even maybe first aid kits (just in case you are that unfortunate or clumsy tourist who may have a bad luck with the cacti there).

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The Natural Wonders Of California

With its star-studded cities and sun-kissed beaches, it’s easy to forget that California is also blessed with many jaw-dropping natural wonders around the state. Oddly shaped rock formations, remnants of old volcanos, stark desert land, and stunning mountain vistas attract many visitors to the state. Following are a few must-see natural wonders you’ll want to see when visiting California.

La Brea Tar Pits

The La Brea Tar Pits is home to one of the world’s most famous most famous fossil collections. Fascinating fossils of plants and animals have been uncovered here and are on exhibit along with mammoths, dire wolves, saber-toothed cats, and more. Even the pits themselves are interesting with their bubbling tar. Take an Excavation Tour to learn the history of the tar pits and watch scientists working on fossils they have recently uncovered.

Natural Bridges

See the world famous yearly migration of monarch butterflies at this beach near Santa Cruz with its unique natural bridge. The best time to see these phenomenal monarch butterflies is usually from mid-October to late January. It’s also a great place to see rare shore birds, migrating whales, and otters and seals playing offshore. Tidepools along the beach give a glimpse of ocean life. The park’s coastal scrubs and grasslands offer a colorful display of wildflowers each spring. For a longer visit, there are several great hotels near Natural Bridges State Beach.

Mount Wilson

Get a stunning view of the San Gabriel Mountains above the Angeles National Forest at 5,713 feet when visiting Mount Wilson. They even have an observatory that was once the best-known one in the world during the early 20th century. They have a collection of the most detailed photos ever taken of the surface of Mars. Hike the Mount Wilson Trail that loops around a breathtaking waterfall. The 12.5-mile loop is best for experienced hikers.

Joshua Tree National Park

See the charmingly twisted Joshua trees at the 1,235 square-mile Joshua Tree National Park. The area lies between two separate ecosystems, the Colorado Desert and the Mojave Desert. The rugged rock formations and stark desert are quite dramatic. Camp out and go for long hikes to contemplate the park’s natural beauty.

Mojave National Preserve

The 1.6 million-acre Mojave National Preserve is park nestled in the beautiful Mojave Desert. Marvel at the unusual Hole-in-the-Wall cliffs, cinder cones, and lava flows. Listen closely and you’ll hear the “singing” of the humongous dune mounds of Kelso Dunes. Located in Southern California, it’s truly a place of immense beauty.

Old Faithful

Travel out to the Napa Valley to see the lovely wine country and pay a visit to Old Faithful near the town of Calistoga. It isn’t as powerful as the one at Yellowstone, but it erupts faithfully every 10 to 45 minutes depending on the season and amount of rainfall the area has had. This part of the valley was once a volcano that erupted about 4.3 million years ago. The remains simmer to create today’s hot springs. The geyser is powered by nature but was actually created when a 19th-century settler who was digging for a well.

You’ll find more natural wonders scattered about in all parts of California. Leave the glamour and glitz of the city to experience them.

Wadi Rum, Jordan – Journey to the moon

WADI RUM, JORDAN: Journey to Wadi Rum was like journey to another world or another planet. Wadi Rum, meaning Valley of the Moon, is the largest and most magnificent of Jordan’s desert landscapes. Vast scenery of Wadi Rum is endless and is at everywhere you look. This silent and timeless place is still untouched by humans although it has been inhabited by many cultures since prehistoric time. This is a vast wilderness that holds spectacular treasures from as early as 4000 years ago. Wadi Rum was added to UNESCO World Heritage site for its natural and cultural significance in 2011.

Vast and empty land of Wadi Rum, Jordan
Vast and empty land of Wadi Rum, Jordan
     

This makes a great day trip from Petra or Aqaba. Many people come to Wadi Rum for overnight or weekly camping. There are some designated areas where they can stay like the Bedouins, roam around in camels, horses, or donkeys, and eat meals prepared by the Bedouins in traditional style. Trekkers, hikers, and rock climbers come here to enjoy the tranquility of the boundless empty spaces. This place can also interest professionals like geologists, scientists, and historians. To the west, this became very well-known after the epic movie “Lawrence of Arabia” in 1962. It was also used as the surface of mars in the movie “Red Planet”.

Amazing landscape of Wadi Rum, Jordan - it does look like the surface of the moon
Amazing landscape of Wadi Rum, Jordan – it does look like the surface of the moon
     

It took us about hour and half from Petra to reach Wadi Rum. We paid 150 JD (50 JD per person & my 3-yr was free) for all four of us for about 5 hours of stay in Wadi Rum. The price included the tour and Bedouin-style lunch. Our guide met with the Bedouin in a spot near Wadi Rum, not near the Visitors’ Center. So, we avoided paying the entry fee there. But usually tourists have to pay about 50 JD to enter the valley and pay separately to the Bedouins for tour and everything else. There are many options to choose from to explore the desert and they can be arranged by the Visitors’ Center or your hotel beforehand.

Beautiful Wadi Rum, Jordan
Beautiful Wadi Rum, Jordan
     

TIME of TRAVEL: We flew to Jordan in mid-February in 2013. Wadi Rum was our last trip there after Petra. It was slightly chilly in the city, but once we were in the desert…it was really pleasant. Try avoiding going there during summer…it can get crazy hot. Even most of the Bedouins move off the desert to elevated mountains in hot summer months.

A nice afternoon in the desert of Wadi Rum, Jordan
A nice afternoon in the desert of Wadi Rum, Jordan
    

OUR HOTEL: We stayed in Movenpick Resort in Petra, right outside the Visitors’ Center. I don’t think I need to say much about Movenpick, it’s a 5-star hotel…very luxurious rooms with excellent customer service. Wi-Fi wasn’t free but breakfast buffet, with variety of different items to choose from, was free for its customers. We checked out of the hotel in the morning and headed straight towards Wadi Rum on the last day of our trip and checked in Arab Tower Hotel in Amman at night.

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: Wadi Rum is a classic picture of sandy desert. Whole area is 280 sq. miles (780 sq. m.) of natural scenic site. Visitors can spend days or weeks exploring its mountains, hills, vast landscapes, sand dunes, many natural rock bridges, sandstone and granite rocks, Bedouin inhabitants, natural and hand-cut caves, inscriptions and petroglyphs, and many other wonders of nature and pre-historic time. Our Bedouin guide brought an old white 4×4 SUV to take us around the desert. Adventure is having your SUV stuck in the sand or taking a ride thru the empty path of desert without following any signs or paved road, and sliding down small sand-dunes with the vehicle.

Our 4x4 transportation in the desert of Wadi Rum, Jordan
Our 4×4 transportation in the desert of Wadi Rum, Jordan

1) Mushroom Rock: This was our first stop in the desert. Our Bedouin guide has a small shop of his own and a place for tea and coffee (only open after dark) inside a tent. There is a natural rock formation close to the tent, looks much like a mushroom in a way.

Mushroom rock in Wadi Rum, Jordan
Mushroom rock in Wadi Rum, Jordan
   

2) Seven Pillars of Wisdom: We saw this bold rock formation almost right after we entered the valley. The name came from T. E. Lawrence’s book although name has nothing to do with the valley.

This amazing columns of rock is known as Seven Pillars of Wisdom in Wadi Rum, Jordan
This amazing columns of rock is known as Seven Pillars of Wisdom in Wadi Rum, Jordan
   

3) Caves and Lifestyle: Many natural and hand-cut caves can be found in Wadi Rum. Some of them are from the time of Nabataeans. We stopped at two of these caves (one from Nabataean period) where no one lives anymore.

One of many natural caves of Wadi Rum, Jordan
One of many natural caves of Wadi Rum, Jordan
    

Another interesting thing he showed us was how Bedouins used to wash their hands or body in the old times before soaps were available. I don’t know the name of the plant, but he took some branches, tore them in small pieces, smashed with rock, added some water, and started to rub in his hands then bubble started to form…a natural anti-bacterial soap.

Our Bedouin friend is showing how they used to use plants to clean their hands in the old time - Wadi Rum, Jordan
Our Bedouin friend is showing how they used to use plants to clean their hands in the old time – Wadi Rum, Jordan
     

4) Castle from “Lawrence of Arabia”: There was a castle built in Wadi Rum during the shooting of the movie “Lawrence of Arabia”. The sandstone castle is still standing in one part of the valley. We just drove by the castle without stopping.

Castle that was built for the movie "Lawrence of Arabia" in 1962 in Wadi Rum, Jordan
Castle that was built for the movie “Lawrence of Arabia” in 1962 in Wadi Rum, Jordan
    

5) Inscriptions on rocks: There are many sites in Wadi Rum where you can find etched inscriptions, paintings, graffiti, and petroglyphs. They are usually from Nabataean or Thamudic periods. We stopped at 2 places and climbed up small hills to see them.

Etched inscription on mountain walls in Wadi Rum, Jordan
Etched inscription on mountain walls in Wadi Rum, Jordan
     

6) Natural rock bridges: Natural rock bridges are also very common in this Wadi. We saw total of 4 of these bridges in the middle of the valleys. These arches are absolutely sexy and can be climbed to the top to get a view from high above.

A natural rock bridge in Wadi Rum, Jordan
A natural rock bridge in Wadi Rum, Jordan
   
    
Another natural bridge of Wadi Rum
Another natural bridge of Wadi Rum
     
A stone arch in Wadi Rum
A stone arch in Wadi Rum
      

7) Our Lunch: After about 2 hours ride in the SUV with our guide and the Bedouin driver, we stopped at a nice picnic spot with awesome “backyard” view for lunch. The Bedouin had our lunch marinated and foiled beforehand.

Our Bedouin guide is trying to lit the fire up to cook our lunch
Our Bedouin guide is trying to light the fire up to cook our lunch
     

Both of them collected some dry branches to cook the food on. Then lit up fire and placed foiled meal on it. It took about an hour to cook that chicken. In the mean time he put some Bedouin music in his radio-looking machine, placed small mattresses on the sand for us to sit or lay down, and put a pot of water on fire to have some tea after lunch.

Lunch is cooking on hot sand and ashes
Lunch is cooking on hot sand and ashes
     

It was about 4 pm when the food was ready. He had everything very well planned …brought some breads, yogurt, even a bottle of coke, and some disposable utensils for lunch. The smell and look of our lunch looked oh-so-good. The dish is called Madfouna…a chicken dish with potatoes, carrots, peppers, lots of lemon with salt and pepper. We sat on the mattress with our food in our hands and some sand on our food (couldn’t help it, there were some whirling sand around us, they kept flying on our plate). But either way, that food was delicious. After lunch, it was time for some hot tea. I never had sage tea before. Usually people here drink lots of mint tea. But he made some sage tea for us…tasted very refreshing in the hot desert.

Our lunch in Wadi Rum, called Madfouna
Our lunch in Wadi Rum, called Madfouna
     

By the time we were done with our lunch it was about 5 pm and very close to sunset. On the SUV again and to the unknown…

8) Panoramic Site: This was the best part of the tour for me. The color of desert started to change its shades near the sunset time. Nature looked more mystical and astounding. Our Bedouin friend took us to a panoramic spot where we were amazed by the beautiful atmosphere. We were on top of a small hill surrounded by some sand dunes, a lower valley view, and uniquely cut rocks and hills. It was immense and boundless.

Sunset in a panoramic spot in Wadi Rum, Jordan
Sunset in a panoramic spot in Wadi Rum, Jordan
       

After all the traveling I did in my little life, Wadi Rum is the only place where I truly left my heart. I kept going back to its enormous and ageless place of beauty in my thoughts every now and then…thinking about miles after miles of its gratifying look. It truly felt like I was on the moon for the first time in my life.

Best sunset I have ever seen in my life was in Wadi Rum, Jordan
Best sunset I have ever seen in my life was in Wadi Rum, Jordan
   

A whole day in the desert of Giza, Memphis, and Saqqara

GIZA, MEMPHIS, & SAQQARA: Giza is THE site where most of the tourists (if not all) come to while visiting Cairo. This is the iconic image of Egypt and one of the most famous symbols of all ancient wonders. The pyramids and the sphinx in Giza, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, give a real glimpse to the early Egyptian civilization, their life-style, beliefs, and talents. Looking at something that old (from 2500 BC) literally gave me goose-bumps.

The desert in Giza Necropolis, Egypt
The desert in Giza Necropolis, Egypt

Memphis is more like “an open air museum” as our tour guide Haisam said. This was the first capital of unified Egypt during the Old Kingdom around 3000 BC and another UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the pyramid complex in Giza.

The open-air museum of Memphis - 1st capital of unified Egypt
The open-air museum of Memphis – 1st capital of unified Egypt

Saqqara is also a necropolis which houses the first and the oldest pyramid in Egypt. I think I would really remember the beauty of the desert of Saqqara for a long time. It was almost sunset; we were standing on a small hill and looking at other pyramids in far distance. The sight of sand with pyramids in the backdrop during that moment will stay with me as long as I live…this was a memorable day overall.

An ancient corridor to pass in Saqqara before reaching the Step pyramid
An ancient corridor to pass before reaching the Step pyramid in Saqqara

Please scroll down to “Places We’ve Visited” for detailed information on these three places.

TIME of TRAVEL: We flew to Cairo during our Christmas break of 2012. Although Giza is about 45 minutes of drive from Cairo downtown, it took us little more than an hour to reach there due to traffic conditions and some road blocks. November to March is the best time to explore Egypt, when the weather is fine and you can enjoy desert sun without going crazy from exhausting heat.

OUR HOTEL: We stayed in Cairo Moon Hotel in the heart of Cairo, only 10 minutes’ of walk from Cairo Museum and Tahrir square. Honestly speaking this was a below average hotel with tiny (for only 3 people) and scary elevators, big red ants walking all over the floor, too much noise late at night, and few other problems. But the owner of this hotel, Mohamed, is an exceptionally friendly and helpful gentleman. All the staffs here are same way too which overcomes all the other problems of this hotel. Mohamed organized few trip for us here and there including the trip to Giza.

We paid 45 USD for a private car with driver and 15 USD for a tour guide, Haisam (please click on my Tour Guide tab if you or someone you know needs a tour guide in Cairo). For a total 60 USD, I think, we got a great deal to tour around Giza, Memphis, and Saqqara. Fortunately, brother Haisam was an excellent guide who knew A LOT about Egypt from its ancient, recent-past, and modern era. He was very humble, gentle, nice, and finally, someone we could absolutely depend on for anything.

EATING & SHOPPING: We stopped at a local street-side restaurant for lunch that day. It was more like a quick pick-up shwarma in between Giza and Memphis. There is absolutely no place to eat or have lunch within the boundaries of the pyramids; at least I didn’t see any.

For souvenirs, we saw many individual vendors selling cheap items here and there in Giza and Saqqara. Memphis has more stores where you can get some small gifts and something for yourself. WARNING: do not buy any papyrus products from them as they are not real papyrus papers. Our guide Haisam took us to a big showroom of papyrus, Golden Eagle Papyrus on Sakkara Road. This is a government approved store, and therefore you know you are buying the real thing. It has hundreds of papyrus wall decors to choose from at various price ranges and with different themes. The guy who was showing us around actually took 10 minutes to show us how a piece of papyrus was made from its trees…thatwas absolutely fascinating and very educational for our little ones. Here is their phone number if you need it – +2037719585.

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: Our taxi left for Giza little before 9am and we reached the place where we were going to rent out camels from near the entrance to the pyramids around 10. Giza is the place where we spent most of the time – about 3:30 hours. Memphis is about half an hour drive from Giza and we spent, I think, about little more than an hour. Then our final destination of the day, Saqqara, was another half an hour drive and again, spent about an hour near the sunset time. Our guide, Haisam, kept us entertained with all the charming secrets of these pyramids and ancient Egyptians all day.

Pyramids of Giza and our ride in the desert of Egypt
Pyramids of Giza and our ride in the desert of Egypt

1) GREAT PYRAMIDS of GIZA & SPHINX: After arriving at Giza city, we first went to the place where we were going to rent our camels from; another option was to ride a horse (but who would…?). We took the longest ride which took us around the deserts, to the panoramic spot, to the pyramids, and then to the sphinx.

Here comes one of our rides to the pyramids in Giza
Here comes one of our rides to go to the pyramids in Giza

Pardon my ignorance, but all this time I thought there were total of 3 pyramids in Giza necropolis. But as we were approaching the “Panoramic spot” near the pyramids, Haisam explained that there are 3 main pyramids which are the burial sites for 3 pharaohs (Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure) and 6 small ones (3 with the pyramid of Khufu and the other 3 with the pyramid of Menkaure) for their mothers, daughters, and wives. Panoramic spot is an up-hill site from where you can see all the 9 pyramids lined up. This place not only gave us magnificent view of the Great Pyramids, but from here we could also be fascinated by the wilderness of the desert. Watching men riding their horses fast, flying white sand in the air looked like Arabian Sultans chasing their enemies in Hollywood movies. I am not exaggerating, but it was a true beauty that I enjoyed from the back of my camel.

The Great Pyramids of Giza
The Great Pyramids of Giza

After the panoramic site, we were on the camels again and off to get up-close and personal with these pyramids. So, we touched the old limestone of these relic structures, took some pictures, and back on the camel headed towards the sphinx. You can actually go inside the burial chamber of these pyramids which we didn’t do. At any given day, at least two of the three big pyramids will have the burial chamber open to visitors. And you pay separately for these visits.

On the camel again and we headed towards the Sphinx. Sphinx of Giza, the biggest one in Egypt, is located in front of the middle pyramid, which was for Pharaoh Khafre. The Sphinx’s body is a combination of head of a man, representing the wisdom of human and the body of a lion, meaning the strength and power of a lion. This was our last stop before returning our camels to their owners and start driving towards Memphis.

Sphinx of Giza, the biggest sphinx in Egypt
Sphinx of Giza, the biggest sphinx in Egypt

One thing I must say here is that, if you haven’t ridden a camel before, DO IT in Giza…you won’t regret it. I cannot describe the royal feeling of looking over the sand and to the astonishing pyramids from a camel-back as it slowly makes it trails into the heart of the desert…nothing beats that. It was a bit scary when the camel got up or sat down with me on its back…I felt like screaming every time. Oh, and not to mention the pain I had in my legs the next day from that ride. The trick of riding a camel is that you have to relax and just let your body move back and forth with the movement of the camel, which took some time for me to get used to. I felt like I was going to fall from that height and break a leg if I let my body loose.

Here are some necessary information/precautions when visiting Giza. First of all, if you are thinking about riding camel/horse in the desert, see if your hotel/tour guide can arrange that for you before arriving in Giza. You can always contact and take our guide Haisam, if he is available (please click on my Tour Guides tab). Second, never, ever rent camels once you are already inside the perimeter of the pyramid complex. Lots of horrible stories have happened where they not only charge you sky amount of money, but also takes your money first for 1 hour and won’t give you the camel for more than 10 minutes. We paid 400 LE for 2 camels with 2 helpers for about 2 and half hours and a free horse for brother Haisam, our guide. Also keep in mind that, the helpers expect some tips after you are done with the trip…they work really hard walking on foot on the desert for a long time under the sun, be a little generous. The entrance fee to enter the main gate to Giza pyramids is 60 LE for adults and 30 LE for kids. If you want to go inside one of the 3 pyramids its 100 LE for adults and 60 LE for kids. Usually the biggest pyramid, “Pyramid of Khufu” is open every day for the visitors in addition to another smaller one. Another thing is – don’t wear any fancy clothes on the day you are going to Giza. You are going to desert, you will be covered in dusts by the time you are done seeing these pyramids and other sites. Wear something very comfortable, a hat, and take few water-bottles with you, especially if you are traveling in summer. Finally, don’t try to climb the pyramids…its forbidden and extremely dangerous.

A random poser in Giza, who later asked for money since he posed for my camera and he was the one who kept insisting that I take picture of him and his camel
A random poser in Giza, who later asked for money since he posed for my camera and he was the one who kept insisting that I take picture of him and his camel

2) MEMPHIS OPEN-AIR MUSEUM: This is rather a small open area to explore compared to Giza’s vast desert and the pyramids. There is an enclosed area where an enormous limestone statue of Egypt’s most important king Pharaoh Ramsey II from New Kingdom rests. Research has indicated that most likely it was Pharaoh King Remses II who chased Moses out of Egypt and drowned in Red Sea. The statue is about 10 meters long and laying on its back. Outside, there are many ruins along with couple other smaller sculptures of Pharaoh Ramsey II. The alabaster sphinx, called Sphinx of Memphis, in the middle of the yard is in its original spot from 1200 BC.

A limestone statue of Pharaoh Remses II from New Kingdom in Memphis
A limestone statue of Pharaoh Remses II from New Kingdom in Memphis, researchers believe that he is the Pharaoh King who chased Moses out of Egypt and drowned in Red Sea

Entry fee here is 30 LE for adults and 20 LE for children. There are few souvenir shops lined up in one side of this open air museum.

An alabaster sphinx in the open air museum of Memphis, known as Sphinx of Memphis - also from the New Kingdom
An alabaster sphinx in the open air museum of Memphis, known as Sphinx of Memphis – also from the New Kingdom

3) SAQQARA NECROPOLIS: As I have mentioned above, Saqqara Necropolis is a vast burial ground which has the first and the oldest pyramid in Egypt. It features the famous Step pyramid of King Zoser or Djoser from the 27th century BC. There is a corridor that you have to pass to come to the Step pyramid complex. I can’t remember what Haisam said, but the passageway is also an ancient stable-like architecture with many stone pillars and many rooms. After climbing the stairs opposite of the pyramid, we came up to a small hill, from where we saw another two famous pyramids in the far distance of Dahshur, called Bent pyramid and Red pyramid. Bent pyramid was built under Old Kingdom from around 2600 BC by the son of Djoser. This is an example of a transitional form of pyramid between Step pyramid and regular smooth pyramids. As the Bent pyramid did not come out the way expected it was never used. Instead the Red pyramid was built next to it with correct pyramidal angles and that is the burial site of the king. It was almost dusk and looking at those pyramids from afar on the dusty desert was magical.

Step pyramid of Saqqara Necropolis - the first and oldest pyramid in Egypt
Step pyramid of Saqqara Necropolis – the first and oldest pyramid in Egypt

Entrance fee to Saqqara pyramid is 60 LE for adult and 30 LE for children. This is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with the pyramids in Dahshur.

Bent pyramid (back on the left) of Dahshur and Red pyramid (on the right) in far distance, seen from Saqqara
Bent pyramid (back on the left) of Dahshur and Red pyramid (on the right) in far distance, seen from Saqqara

in Marrakech, Morocco

So, we are in Marrakech right now. We took a day trip to the Atlas mountain range on our 3rd day here. The day trip was actually to see some Berbere villages and their Kasbahs (their traditional houses). Our main spot was Ait Ben Haddou and then to Ouarzazate, about little more than 200 km drive from Marrakech. It was an exhausting day but the ending beautify of driving thru the Atlast mountains and desert (we were very close to Sahara) was fantastic. Here is a picture of the Atlas mountains from an  overview spot…eNjoY

 

Layers of Atlas Mountains near Marrakech, Morocco

Layers of Atlas Mountains near Marrakech, Morocco

 

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