Still in Cairo… last night went to the Khan el-Khalili bazaar and then today saw the Pyramids, Sphinx, and a pharonic boat (which was actually surprisingly interesting), rode a camel and… went to the Egyptian Museum. The museum is where all of King Tut’s treasures, the royal mummies and many (MANY) statues are stored, so it’s a key part of an Egypt visit. But there was some question about whether we would make it there, because it is a stone’s throw from Tahrir Square, where the protests are going on. It was checked out before our visit and since all was calm, we were able to go. Still, it was a little daunting that hovering over the museum’s courtyard are the remains of the former Democratic party’s building that burned for several days during the revolution, like a little charred reminder of what has been going on.
I should mention that I am here on a tour, which I never, ever do, but with all the turmoil I thought it wise (and comforting) to have someone else be responsible for my safety.
The pyramids were great, and it was nice to go at a time when I could actually enjoy them (last time I was here in August when it was insanely and oppressively hot). Plus the cloudy weather made for some great photos.
Tonight we take an overnight train down to Aswan (good timing since the elections start in Cairo tomorrow and things may get testy), so despite whatever risks there may have been in coming here, I am leaving unscathed. So, yay.
Made it safely to Aswan… yesterday went to the Philae temple, which is unique because it is on an island in the middle of the Nile. It is dedicated to the god Isis, whose husband was apparently living under some rocks in the next island over. Or something. I have a short attention span.
Then in the afternoon we went to a Nubian village and had dinner with a local family, which was great. The Nubians are a formerly nomadic people who used to roam between southern Egypt and Sudan (which is to the south). They are a mix of African and Arab and have their own language, culture, etc. When Egypt constructed their giant dam the Nubian land was flooded, which led to them settling in this area. The dam also caused the Philae and Abu Simbel temples to have to be moved. Costly all around.
Today I hopped a quick flight to the aforementioned Abu Simbel. It is famous for the entrance having four giant statues of Ramses II (the Pharoah often thought to be the one known to Joseph and his probably-not-technicolor dreamcoat). The statues were intended to impress visitors coming to Egypt from the south and it definitely lives up to its purpose (although I actually came from the north). They are massive. Next to Ramses’ temple is one for the Queen, Nefertari, which has its own four statues that are not quite as big as the king’s. Pharoahs have to protect their egos afterall.
We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the temple because it degrades the remaining painted bits– all of the temples in Egypt were originally brightly painted throughout, but the paint has mostly worn off over time, leaving just the carved stone that we now think of as being Egyptian.
Tomorrow we are taking a felucca (sailboat) all day and night, and I somehow doubt there will be WI-FI (although we just found out there will be toilets, which had been questionable, so, yay) so I will catch up in Luxor.
After spending all day and night Wednesday on a felucca (sailboat), which was very relaxing, we arrived in Luxor on Thursday. After a rest we went to Karnak temple, which is one of the largest remaining temples in Egypt. Then this morning I was able to go on a sunrise hot air balloon ride over the west bank and Valley of the Kings. This afternoon we visited several of the Pharoahs’ tombs in the valley and had lunch with a local family. It’s been a nice few days all around.
Tonight we take the overnight train back to Cairo, then I’m heading to Alexandria for a bit before flying home very late tomorrow night. After stopping in Addis, Nairobi, Istanbul and NYC I’ll finally get to LAX late Monday night.
I may not have internet access until I reach the states, so this may be my last post. In that case, thanks for following this blog!