Floating through Egypt

Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
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Trip End Aug 01, 2007


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Saturday, September 9, 2006

He Said:

Quick note: My Egypt entries are more history blurbs and sightseeing chronologies rather than cultural anecdotes. Prior to arriving in Egypt we were doing more of the budget route, meaning transportation and restaurants primarily used by locals (read as: cheap) We are on the luxury end of the spectrum here, meaning far less hassle and better quality of everything but at the cost of being less 'immersed" in the culture, chaos, routines of "real life". Because of the super efficient tourist infrastructure and security restrictions it is difficult for a Westerner to experience Egypt as anything but a tourist. Please keep this in mind while reading our entries.

On Tuesday (which would have been my first day back to school) we flew the 500 or so miles south to Aswan, the last city in Egypt. Our residence for five days in Northern Egypt was the Sonesta Sun Goddess river cruise ship. It is a bit early-1980's in décor and color schemes but hey, with friendly service, a swimming pool and all the tasty food you can eat you won't hear me complain. During our days on board we crammed in an incredible amount of sightseeing on land and water. Compared to the dusty buses, sweaty trains, and delayed airplanes, a cruise is an amazingly comfortable way to see a country. Hmmm, maybe we should have done a boat trip around the world instead. It is quite the lesson in contrasts to be sitting in a swimming pool sipping a cold drink while robed and turbaned farmers using oxen drawn plows till their fields on the lush banks. It like I'm in the present watching a movie set 2000 years ago slip languidly past.

One thing that was a bit strange (and unnerving) was that as we were touring around Aswan we were accompanied by two armed guards and escorted by a pickup truck with six soldiers carrying AK-47s. I've never been so heavily guarded. I guess they are not taking any risks when it comes to terrorist attacks on tourists.

The five ancient temples we have visited were utterly astonishing in their workmanship, design and state of preservation. In many places you could actually see remainders of the original painting on the stone. Hieroglyphics were so vivid you would have guessed them freshly carved although they were crafted well over 2000 years ago (a pothole repair on a Jersey freeway barely lasts a month!) The adornment of all these temples also made me appreciate the complexity of the religion of the ancient Egyptians. A vast number of gods and goddesses, dozens of celebrations, intricate prescribed rituals, familiar themes of good v. evil, a highly trained priesthood, and a complete intertwining of the affairs of church and state made for some pretty convoluted legends. Thanks to the explanations of our expert guides, much of the mysterious customs seemed to dovetail perfectly with the environmental conditions, history of the area, and the need for social control and organization of the people. Great material for teaching my anthropology course!

By the last day of the cruise, the sigh emitted each time the tour bus stopped at a site was a pretty clear indicator that Katie is Ancient Egypt-out. But hey, she's been a great sport so far! All these temple and tomb tours combined with 6:00am wake-up calls could tire out even the hardiest sightseer, and at least it's not ME running her ragged this time!

A flight this morning brought us quickly back to Cairo. Katie's parents depart tonight and tomorrow we are off to the Sinai Peninsula. Depending upon transport connections and how quickly Katie recovers from "ruins fatigue" we are most likely going to get in some SCUBA diving in the resort town of Dahab with a few day sojourn in Jordan to see the ancient ruins at Petra then back to Dahab for a few more days. Check back in a few days to find out what actually happened.


She Said:

I have a really great story about a wedding we witnessed in a small town on the Nile during our cruise.... But I haven't written it yet! Check back soon!
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