I admire avid travelers who can recount events, name famous places, and give a coherent travelogue on the spur of the moment. I am not one of them. Since I have never had a reliable memory, I experience travel. I might close my eyes and recall the scent of saffron and cinnamon, the lights on the mosque, the tune of a street musician—and inevitably, the cry of “One dollar, only one dollar, miss!” as a vendor shoves an armful of bracelets at me. I will not be able to tell you the name of the market or the mosque. Although the one I’m recalling at the moment is in Cairo—and I didn’t take a single photo because I was living it, not recording it. Fortunately, my husband was not so lax!
To even begin to relate all our experiences in Egypt overwhelms me. Forget ancient history. Modern Egypt alone is a fascinating experience—highways with no markings or stoplights, cars and mini-buses and pony carts dodging back and forth across eight lanes while pedestrians walk across anywhere. I about had seven heart attacks watching the organized chaos from a hotel window. Do you think I attempted to take a photo? Of course not.
I had not realized how close the pyramids are to the city, but I suppose it makes sense. The ancient people who originally settled the Mediterranean coast built their cities where their boats sailed. The rulers built their tombs within reach of the water and where they could be admired from the city. And where grave robbers could eventually empty them, but who plans ahead? My overall impression of the pyramids was sweltering heat (the temperatures had “dropped” to a little over 100F), crowds of people (not masses because tourists arrive in October, right?), and claustrophobic tunnels. But these were our first encounter with Egypt as we’d studied it, so I eagerly explored.
The camel ride is also de rigueur, it seems. Our tour company paid for it, so we gamely gave it a try. I almost broke my nose when the camel stood faster than I settled in the saddle, and I was thrown into its head. The driver was far more entertaining than the stoic camel, insisting on taking ridiculous photos we didn’t want so he could boost his tip. He chose the wrong passengers, is all I can say. We are not amused by us sitting on a camel holding rocks over our heads. And I lost my sunglasses. I will never be Amelia Peabody.
We were flown from Cairo to Luxor, apparently because there is nothing along the river to see? I would have appreciated a leisurely float rather than half a day spent in two airports where armed security guards demanded passports and luggage x-rays and body checks at least four times before the gate. A gate which was wide open to the world and camels, I might add, but who am I to question? And I didn’t dare photograph!
Once finally on our luxurious boat, we were amazed by the startling contrast of the lush Nile greenery against the stark Sahara mountains. (Not Sahara Desert, mind you—Sahara means desert) But it was still over a 100 F and the only time to sit on the beautiful deck was early morning, unless one was inclined to parboil in the pool. We took some lovely saunters at dawn and watched the full moon rise over the mountains and rather enjoyed the desert nights.
By the time the ancient Egyptians moved their capitol to Luxor, they were building temples to the gods rather than pyramids for themselves, maybe in hopes of eternity on earth since they considered themselves gods? It’s not as if the lectures sank in. My mind tends to create my own stories. Our guide attempted to explain the different types of hieroglyphs and how they changed from picture representations to actual letters, but I can’t translate Apple icons, so it was all Greek to me. <G> I admired the pretty pictures in the few temples unravaged by flood, time, sun, and infidels. Nefertari’s in particular was utterly spectacular. I’m amazed at how well the colors stood the test of time.
My strongest impression here is the way the various religions “borrowed” their origin tales from each other. If one was a scholar, which I obviously am not, it might be possible to merge the Greco-Roman myths with the Egyptian gods and how they ultimately influenced the Hebrew religions that led to the birth of the Christian tales.
But it’s the people who interest me. I’m more into cultural/social studies than ancient history, I fear. So I loved wandering the markets and mud villages, riding in the pony carriages, watching the donkey carts, and visiting the Nubian village above the Aswan dam. Building the dam displaced what few of the ethnic Nubian villages remained in southern Egypt and northern Sudan, just as Americans pushed out native tribes in the West and the Brits drove out native Indians. The dam was, at least, essential to control Nile floods, although I’m not getting into the problems now with climate change.
Our tour company sponsors a school in one of the villages, so they welcomed us into their homes, and that was one of the more vivid experiences of our trip for me. The house we visited had a huge open air courtyard surrounded by several stories of rooms. One of the most important chambers featured the grandmother’s “wedding china,” baskets and tin mugs made from beer cans and a vast array of antiques from a different century and a culture long lost.
And apropos of nothing, the 4th the book in my Psychic Solutions Mysteries series, The Rainbow Recipe, released yesterday. Hope you had a chance to take a look at it! Maybe my next historical can contain a taste of Egypt. . .