International Travel

Pharoah’s Belly in Egypt

December 29, 2009

In the fall of 2000, Carol and I had a three week adventure in Egypt. It was a life-changing trip. I had been to Europe before but never to the exotic Middle East. The architecture, colors, smells and sounds transported me to another time – like being on an old movie set. It reeked of ancient stones and civilizations. Some of the ruins we visited were 3000 years old. When I entered these stone temples, I would walk up to the wall and observe the carvings, sometimes with bits of color, and imagine the person decorating the massive structures. I pictured them in white long flowing gowns, speaking a language I couldn’t understand. When the guide wasn’t looking, I would sneak a touch of the walls just to try to feel the history. Before the trip, I had no knowledge of Egypt and after, the mythology fascinated me. My photos are tucked away in albums but now want to scan and post them . . . so that’s one of my goals in 2010 – daunting but doable. I posted a couple of them on my flickr site. I can’t wait to go back and also explore other regions in the area. I came across a couple of emails that I sent while on the trip and decided to post them . . .

First Email: We jumped on the 10:20 am flight to Cairo and landed about 3:00 pm. After passing by many pleas for us to ride in everyone’s cab, we picked up our bags and went to the bathroom where we were pushed into a toilet stall, handed toilet paper, and had soap thrown in our hands. The only English these women knew were “tips, tips, tips” (baksheesh).

We jumped in a cab and learned a little history on the way into Cairo to our hotel — Pension Roma. A side alley led us to the entrance where we opened a gate to an elevator and went up to the 4th floor. Cheap and clean. We cleaned up and found this “internet cafe” — a small room on the second floor of an old building with four computers with less than a 28K modem (well, at least it seems that way). Where’s the food, I’m starving!! The big window opens up to the street below — filled with honking horns and Egyptian music (oboes and drums).

Second Email: We’re in Luxor now – luxurious compared to where we have been. Let me take a step back. Had a great time in Cairo, even though it’s a crazy-ass, horn-beeping, guy-grabbing-western-girl-butt, kebab eating place. We had a great tour guide and so it was a lovely experience. Our guide is an Egyptologist and had a wealth of information. We were ushered around in his friend’s Hyundai and saw, of course, the pyramids, museum, citadel (Muslim). So in other words, we saw a lot of old stones. Yes, they were pretty darn cool. I would never want to drive in Cairo – they lines on the roads are their for decoration and the horns are meant for honking! When Carol and I would walk around alone every guy would try to talk to us, a few even walked along with us but we kindly told them to get the hell away from us. And yes, Carol got a pinch in the butt as we excitedly rushed to get her new Swatch. They think that Westerners are easy because of the movies and television shows they watch.

I forgot my pin number for my credit card at home (not bright) but thought I would just charge the hotel rooms and tour and Carol could take out cash. Well, nobody takes credit cards here. My friendly guide took us to a bank where I walked out with a wad of Egyptian pounds. Whew!@#$%

We took the overnight train the Aswan (about 12 hours) after three days in Cairo. Aswan is dirt city – the market had live chickens and turkeys, all sorts of great spinx-headed cheapo statues, colorful spices, and meat hanging out in the sun. I’ll be playing the role of a vegetarian on this trip. It was 100 degrees in Aswan. We were whisked through the sites because we only had 1 1/2 days there. We saw Aswan dam and Lake Nassar (has alligators). The Temple of Philae was my favorite – it is an old city (from about 2000 years ago) on an island. It had to be cut up and moved to a new island about 30 yrs ago because after the dam was built the island was flooded. We could still see some of the old columns sticking out of the water. It was so amazing – I could imagine the people walking around in their long white attire as back in those days. Their stories and art are written all over the walls. Then we went to an old Nubian village by felucca (boat) down the nile – green landscape with palm trees on the left side, big Sahara sand hill on the right. After that took a horse-carriage ride through the souq (market) and then to dinner at a Nubian restaurant and entertainment.

The next day at 5 am we took a 30 minute flight to Abul Simbel right on the nile (close to the Sudan border) and saw the most amazing, massive carvings. Ramses II had his body carved at the front of the temple four times (at ages 20, 40, 60, and 80). And of his 80 some brides (he had over 100 kids), Nefertari was his favorite and so her temple is right next to his. Ramses II had a huge ego and wrote his name all over the place in Egypt – even on existing temples and statues that were before him. They built the temple so that the sun would shine in directly at a statue of him (inside the temple) two times a year for about 25 minutes – originally on Oct. 21 and Feb. 21 (his birthday and the day he became pharoah). It happens a day later now because they had to move this about 50 yrs ago, also because of flooding. We were two days off from seeing the magical glow on the statues. This place was certainly breathtaking!

Then quick flight back and on to a felucca, a sail boat. We weren’t too thrilled. We were tired and wanted to take the nice big boat – that had toilets and a swimming pool – parked right next to us. We laid on the deck with a tarp over us and they cooked for us; we would dock at night and sleep on the boat. We took it down the Nile for 2 days, 2 nights. It was very hot during the day and quite chilly at night. But we did meet some nice Aussies on the trip. On our first potty stop, we went up into the trees to squat and some nice Nubian boys were trying to watch. They didn’t see, but came up to us as we were walking back to the boat and got a nice grab at my butt — man, no respect! They got one of the Aussies, also. Anyway, along the way on the two day trip, we saw a camel market (if peta could see this!), the Temple of Sobek and the Temple of Horus. All very nice but not quite as spectacular as the others. Our ‘nice’ captain tried to cuddle up with Carol the first night – she wanted to kill him but decided she would rather get to Edfu (our final destination). On the last day on the boat I got the pharoah’s belly (the runs) – thought you would all love to hear that. I’m trying to make you feel as though you are all here with me. It’s no wonder that we all didn’t get it – they washed the dishes in the Nile!

We are in Luxor and I am recuperating from it. After being in the dirty but interesting countryside it’s nice to be in civilization. It’s a tourist trap here.

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