Thursday, October 14, 2010

Aswan is just so lovely. Even from my pool on the Nile, where I spent the first half of the day. The people here are friendly. Not aggressive. Just nice.

In the afternoon, when it had cooled off to 90 degrees, I caught a cab to the High Dam. Few of the cabs here have AC, and it’s like an oven inside. The dam was a joint effort between Egypt and the Soviet Union. (Hey, they asked America for money, but we said no. Conflict with Israel, etc. When the western world turns you down, you turn to the Russians. See Cuba.)

Afterwards, I have him drop me on the Corniche, where I haggle for a felucca ride. It’s just me and two guys on the boat, which in this context sounds dangerous. But on the water -- where it’s blessingly cool I might add -- there are tons of westerners on dozens of boats, zigzagging across the lake to catch the breeze with their giant sails. It’s relaxing and quiet and beautiful out here. I of course find at all I can about Ali and Jamel. How many kids they have (2 girls and 1 boy; 1 boy and 2 girls) How old they are. Jamel’s son is in college to be an engineer. Like all cultures and countries, he just wants his kids to be better off than he is. They have cell phones tucked into their galabayas, and they take them out to show me pictures of their families. We talk about the difference between Aswan and Cairo and New York before they drop me back off on land, safe as they found me, and wave goodbye as they slip back out into the lake.

The next day it’s another 5am wakeup call to fly to Abu Simbel. For anyone traveling to Egypt, take the time, money and effort to go here. It’s amazing. From the air, all you can see is sand for the entire 20-minute flight. I’ve never in my life looked out the window during a flight as much as I have in this country.

The monument itself is carved into the cliff side, 4 giant seated statures of Rameses II and his favorite wife, Nefertiti. I know I keep saying this after every sight, but this one IS actually the best preserved I’ve seen. With the massive man-made Lake Nassar (the largest man-made lake in the world, which formed after the building of the High Dam) spread out in front of the temple, it really is an amazing sight. I can only imagine the approach by boat… the entire area looks like something out of Clash of the Titans (the original, as if the remake even bares mentioning)

I could have starred at it for at least an hour, but even at 9am the sun doesn’t permit such a luxury. So I trudge back to the bus pickup area to wait for the shuttle back to the airport. It’s funny… tourists just fly in, take the shuttle, see the temple, and fly back to wherever they came from.

At the bus depot, 2 guys offer me a seat and start talking to me. I can tell they are talking ABOUT me … and I scold them for doing so. They laugh, but stop.

I’ve noticed how men are always willing to talk to women from other countries, more than those from their own. Even American men seem more willing to approach, say, a Swiss girl than an American girl that seems more familiar. They are the same everywhere. Bold in their flirtations until you scold them, then they immediately back off and speak normally. It’s such a consistent thing I’ve noticed about men around the world. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t have your guard up, but I’ve found that while most people have the ability to commit danger, the majority are harmless and just normal and nice and curious. They just want to practice their English and speak to someone from somewhere else. Just like me.

Duly chastised, we chat like normal people. They are Nubian… which is a group of people from southern Egypt and Sudan. They look at bit different than Egyptians, darker in skin color, a bit different around the eyes and mouth, but not necessarily African either. But their language sounds more like one I’ve heard in New York being spoken by African cab drivers. It reminds me that Egypt is indeed part of Africa… a fact that’s sometimes easy to forget in Cairo.

They teach me how to say “so-so” in Arabic: showay showay (apologies to my Arabic speaking readers if I have this wrong!) I find I use “so-so” a lot in Egypt.

Another thing I’ve noticed is how western tourists are so rude to people that are so different to them… and their fear and discomfort manifests itself as rudeness. As we’re talking, a lady pushed past one of the men that’s standing in our group. He looks flustered for a minute, because her push knocked him off balance. He laughs and they make a joke about it that I don’t understand, but clearly means something like ‘dude, she can’t say excuse me?“ It was clear that she was uncomfortable, enough so not to say ‘excuse me.’ And I guess in another setting, the guy may have looked scary. He was poorly dressed, with stained teeth. But in this context, he didn’t stand out at all. She did. As did her friend with all her cleavage on display. And then they get mad when the men look! Seriously ladies, ALL men will look. Some are just better at hiding it than others.

OK. I’m off my rant. Two hour wait in Aswan airport for my flight to Cairo. Tons of German tourists, one man is hacking up a lung and spitting up hard boiled egg. Lovely. And they’re disgusted by the locals???

Random observation: Why do none of the dozen or so tourist police I’ve tried to speak to know English? How can they help a tourist if they don’t speak English? I’m guessing if they don’t speak English, they don’t speak French, Spanish or German either. Very strange.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Overland Through the Desert

Today we drove from Luxor to Aswan. I think that without the 20 or so police blockades we had to go through, the trip would have taken half the time. As it was, we had to drive slow because apparently there are speed cameras and we had to stop every 15 miles or so at a checkpoint.  Yousef would give his name, show his ID, and at some stops, he had to tell them where I’m from. I only know this because after the officer would ask something, he would say Amerique. At one stop, the guy didn't know how to spell 'America' so Yousef said 'U.S."  We all had a good laugh over that.

But at every single stop, he gave them money. It’s still 100% unclear to me why he has to do this. Clearly, the tour buses don’t have to. But like many non-western countries in the world, it’s just the way it is and everyone takes it in stride.  He said he has to pay because he’s not licensed as a tour guide, and if you’re driving a foreigner, you can technically get into trouble… although everyone does it. So even though it’s the norm, the police still expect a payoff to not hassle you. Everytime we would stop, Yousef would joke with the officers in his usually jovial manner, the officer would laugh, and he would pass him his license and some cash. He wouldn’t have to pay anything if he wasn’t carrying a white woman in the car.

It’s certainly not the first time I’ve seen this (ie: Vietnam shakedown of our guide and driver.) And the police were never threatening, always smiling at me. Still, as someone that grew up in America, it rubs me the wrong way that this guy is being forced to pay $20 -- a lot for him -- to just do his job.
Yousef's 25 year-old son came with us for the drive… I guess so he would have company on the drive back. He had just worked the night shift at the hotel where he’s employed. He looks 15. But he was young in the same way that all kids are… he kept putting on a CD with what I can only assume is current Arabic-type music, and after 20 minutes or so, his father would lower it or turn is off! Then a debate would follow.

Every third world country has its animal of choice. In Vietnam is was the strange ox. In India it’s cows and camels. I thought I’d see more camels here, since we’re surrounded by desert. But I haven’t seen any being used for work or transportation. In Egypt, it’s the donkey. They are everywhere: hitched to carts, carrying men to and from town, their legs dangling down and bouncing freely with each jolt, sitting atop huge bales of crops.  But I did see camels one time. We were passing through a town, curiously clogged with traffic despite the fairly empty roads leading in and out. When suddenly, a large truck turned in front of us… and poking out of the top were 30 or so camel heads. (See picture below) What a funny site to just see their heads turning this way and that, while their bodies were hidden below. I didn’t ask where they were being taken… as I’m sure it’s no where pleasant. Camel traders from Sudan bring camels up by foot to Aswan, and then there they go by truck.

Don’t worry. I saw some ancient ruins on this trip as well! Edfu and Kom Ombo. Both temples are magnificently preserved, Edfu’s pylon wall soaring out of the sand, Kom Ombo sitting in a gentle curve in the Nile, one of the many cruise ships parked just a few feet away in a contradiction of time.

I’m surpised when we get to Aswan, the Corniche clogged with traffic like a foreign Miami strip.  And it's a pretty city.  Very clean.  Actually all of Egypt is fairly clean, compared to other places in the world I've been.  Just the buildings are dirty looking, because of all the blowing sand.

My hotel in Aswan is an even a bigger shock. I’m not the only that thinks so; Yousef’s son says it’s very fancy. I tell him it didn’t look half this good online, and he laughs. It looked 3 star at best when I booked it but in person it’s easily 5-star.  I pay Yousef, (adding extra for his good service and payback for the police payoffs, gasoline, etc.) thank him profusely for helping me and keeping me safe, and he high-fives me goodbye.

When I check in, they tell me I’ve been upgraded to a suite on the Nile. O-K. The room is huge, with a terrace overlooking the pool and the Nile, which is packed with feluccas, the local sailboats. Ah, the unexpected surprises of travel.

I hate to say it, but Aswan might be my throw away city. You know the place and feeling.. When you’ve been getting up at 5am for 5 days in a row and traipsing around in the hot sun. You just get burnt out on ruins. Still, I force myself to go out to the souq (after some pool time and a nap.)

I have to say, I expected the shop keepers to be much more aggressive. But they weren’t really that bad.  There were some other westerners walking around, but we were definately in the minority.  Unlike Cairo, almost all of the women are covered here.  But nobody stares at me, so it's nice to feel a little free from that.  (I'm sure the men starred, but after I passed by at least!)   I spent some time in a spice shop, the owner putting small pinches of stuff into my hand to sniff. I buy some dried lotus flowers that they tell me to put in water when I get home and they will expand and spread out with color.  I hope I can take them back into the U.S. 

When I was in a shop packed with alabaster items, the lights suddenly went out in the entire market. As I was wondering whether or not I should be concerned, the shop owner, Ali, laughed and said don’t worry, the lights will be back on in a few minutes. This market is safe. He was right on both counts. He was friendly without being creepy, totally charming and not pushy at all (which helped him make a sale off of me!)

There's nothing like some time in the local market to make me settled into a place.
I hope to take a felucca ride tomorrow. Maybe see the High Dam. But I can’t make any promises.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What To Do When Each Is More Amazing Than the Last?

By 6am I was standing in front of the Colossi of Memnon -- 2 giant seated statues 50 feet tall. I could tell you who the statues depict, but does it really matter? There are hundreds of pharaohs and keeping them all straight hurts my head. These remind me of that 80s movie, “The Never Ending Story,” and the rock creature that eats rocks. That’s what they look like. It’s startling to see them sitting like this, in a flat space of land.

Youseff drops me at the entrance to the Valley of the Kings, where I’m distressed to learn you have to leave your camera behind! I understand not being able to take pictures inside the tombs, but you can’t take them of the valley either. Bummer.
The valley lies between towering mountains. It looks like a movie set.  There are dozens of tombs open to the public, and hundreds more that are not and are still in the process of being excavated. They say that even today, they are still discovering things... and one of the most interesting sights is a group of turbaned men removed shards of rock and who knows what else by hand and basket… the same way they probably did it thousands of years ago.

Everyone has a different idea of what the best tombs are, so I just take my guide book's suggestion. I pass several tomb entrances that are clogged with tourists, even at 7am. My first tomb of choice isn’t as crowded, but it is at the top of about 20 stairs. This is an unwelcome sight, as the front of my thighs and calves are still burning from the pyramids. At the entrance, I’m faced with another decent of at least 30 feet, if not more. There are people going down, people coming up, all on the same narrow staircase and steep ramp. This is not for the faint of heart! The crowds add to the heat. And while I thought it would be cooler under the ground… like it is in a cave… it’s quite the opposite. It’s sweltering inside.

Still, it’s amazing.

The tombs were long ago been ransacked by thieves, but the brilliantly painted walls remain, having never been touched up. For a moment, I miss the knowledge of a guide to point out little details of what’s written on the wall. But I realize it’s too hot to stand down there listening to any explanations.

The next 2 tombs I want to look at are closed. Hmmm. My ticket allows for 3 tombs. How to decide? Sadly, I make my choice not on what each tomb has, but whether or not I have to climb down into a hole again. Still, I’m not disappointed. It’s amazing how the dry heat has preserved all of the artwork.

The King Tut tomb is $20 extra. It’s way too expensive, but I do it anyway because when am I coming back to Luxor? His real body is down there. It’s not as well preserved as the mummies I saw at the museum in Cairo. But there’s something cool about seeing him where he was found. Floor to ceiling paintings cover the tomb.

When I climb out of the last tomb the air outside actually feels cooler. But not for long. I figure it must be close to noon, it’s so hot. When I look at the clock and see it’s only 8:45am, I burst out laughing.
Youseff cranks the AC for me as we drive to our next stop: Deir al-Bahri and Hatshepsut’s temple (otherwise called Hot Chicken Soup. I guess because that’s kind of how it’s pronounced AND it’s hot as soup outside.)

This is one of the best preserved temples in all of Egypt. While Karnak is half falling apart, this one is almost in perfect condition. It’s carved out of mountainside, columns pushing their way out of the rock, three stories high. Statues 20 feet high guard the entrance and colonnades flack both sides, filled with paintings covering the walls and ceiling.

Poor Youseff. When I get back to the car he wants to take me to another temple. But I’m spent. So I go back to the hotel for a swim and a nap. Phew.

Those that know me know that I love a good afternoon tea. Which is how I find myself at the grand Winter Palace... a sprawling hotel built by the English in the last 1800s.  For 75 Egyptian Pounds (about 16 US dollars) I get lots of tea and delicious sandwiches with the crust cut off.  (Why do sandwiches with the crust cut off seem to taste better?) The desserts are so-so, but I’m really paying for the quite and comfort than anything else.

On the way back to my hotel I pop into some shops. Once guy comes in to tell me he’s not going to hassle me and let me shop in quiet… and then proceeds to ramble for the next 20 minutes. At least it’s normal conversation: politics, the economy, different countries… and not a inquiry into whether I want an Egyptian husband. Too bad, because he’s very handsome! (just kidding Dad J )

Sunday, October 10, 2010

What Could Be Better Than the Pyramids???

Off to Upper Egypt. Why do they call it Upper Egypt when it’s south of Cairo? Because the Nile River flows north towards Cairo.
While waiting for the flight I make no secret that I’m evesdropping on a conversation between an older couple and a younger couple discussing travel. The older couple live in Connecticut and are on their way to visit their son who’s working in Dubai. The younger couple from Chicago quit their jobs a year ago and are wrapping up a year traveling around the world. They got engaged on the trip (who says you can’t travel long term with your spouse?) and she’s planning her wedding long-distance! I of
course start peppering them with questions about their trip. Be sure to follow their blog They are inspiring. 

On the flight, I’m seated next to an older Egyptian woman, Fatma, on her way to Luxor for business. She runs a non-profit that helps homeless children. She insists I drink a mango juice (delish!), gives me her card and tells me if I need any help in Egypt, to call her.
Now, a friend of a friend arranged a driver for me in Luxor. Youseff. I’m suppose to exit the airport, walk to the tiny parking lot, and ask for him. Everyone knows him. But there’s no need, because before I can start my search, a man in a light blue long garment and white turban bounds up to me and asks loudly if I’m looking for Youseff. He has an infectious, booming laugh and immediately puts me at ease.
After a quick stop at my hotel to check in, we take off for Karnak Temple. He buys me water and refuses my money. He drops me at the entrance after pointing out where he’ll be waiting.
Karnack is beyond description. It’s massive, taking up the equivalent of several football fields. First you’re greeted by what seems like a mile long path flanked by sphinxes in various stages of deterioration. And then there’s the sheer size of the columns. There’s no way to capture the soaring height or the massive width of the columns. I look at my pictures afterwards, and they just show your average column. They are easily 5 stories high and in one section there are dozens of them, like a stone forest of sequioas. Some of the color from the original artwork is still visible. There are giant seated statues of pharaohs scattered about. A marble carving of a scarab (beetle.) If it wasn’t so hot I would stay here longer taking pictures from a dozen different angles and just staring with my head tilted back in awe. However, the sun is searing the skin off my arms and despite the fact that I’m drinking more water than I’ve ever drank in my life, I’m thirsty.
So, I fight the crowds and heat-induced delirium back to car.

Youseff buys me some kushari for lunch. It’s pasta and rice and lentils and chickpeas. I know, it SOUNDS disgusting. But it’s scrumptious. He also makes me some tea before dropping me back at the hotel with an agreement to meet at 6:30am tomorrow to see the Valley of the Kings (early hour = less heat.)
I quickly head down to the pool to wash away the layers of sand and dust that seem to accumulate on your body every time you visit a sight here. It cakes in your ears and clogs your nose with sand boogers. My pool sits on the Nile River on a floating dock and nothing is more welcome that that cold water.

As the afternoon brings cooler weather… and by cooler, I mean 80 degrees, which actually does feel cooler! … I walk down to Luxor Temple. Every few feet I’m approached by men asking if I want a carriage ride, a cruise on the Nile, to buy a stone statue, a papyrus painting, do I want an Egyptian husband, where am I from, how pretty I am (clearly a lie, given the state of my hair.) They’re not as aggressive as touts in India. But the combination of heat and the effort of being polite yet firm has me mentally exhausted by the time I reach the temple.

Thankfully, the temple is so awesome that it’s worth the effort. It has more colossal statues intact than at Karnak. To see several of those massive stone men in a row, instead of just one, really makes an impression. The paintings here are even more vibrant than those at Karnack,  with whole scenes intact.

The walk back to my hotel is short. Not so short that I can’t manage to haggle for a pair of earrings from a jewelry stand. But long enough to be hassled by a dozen men. It never feels aggressive or unsafe. And when I tell them firmly to go away, they do. But still, it’s exhausting after a hot day battling scantily clad westerners.
It’s driven me into my hotel. Where I sit writing this in the air conditioned lounge while a DJ spins bad jazz and show tunes. There’s rumor of karaoke. And I’m eating fish fingers. Before you cringe, know that they bought a large fish fresh today, and but pieces from it to make the “fingers.” They’re delicious. Take THAT Gortons!

Today’s agenda: The Pyramids

In a temporary state of ignorance, I hadn’t realized that there are hundreds of pyramids in Egypt until I started doing research for this trip. And there are different kinds, from different periods. So, narrowing it down can be a challenge.
Nader made the decision for me. We would see Saqqara, which has a step pyramid; Dahshur, which has a red and bent pyramid; and the most well known, Giza.
It’s a 45 minute ride to our first stop, but because it’s Friday we aren’t subject to the awful Cairo traffic I keep hearing about. (Muslim countries have Friday and Saturday as their weekend.) He’s driving behind a small truck for a few minutes before I start wondering, “Is he going to pass this guy or what?” I finally ask him. He replies that he doesn’t want to drive too fast with me in the car. I tell him I’ve driven in India and southeast Asia, so driving in Egypt is nothing. This makes him immensely happy and he swerves around the sluggish lorry and we pick up some speed. But not too much, as there are speed bumps every 5 miles or so. He says this is because the farmers leave their kids behind to play along the roads, and they run out in the street, so the government put the speed bumps in to force the cars to slow down.
We arrive at Saqqara at 10am, and it’s already scorching. Not steaming, because that would imply moisture. And there is none of that. (Which incidentally makes for very good hair days… the first trip I think I will have good hair in pictures, until I realize I am sweating so much that it’s impossible. Oh well, at least my bad travel hair will be consistent!)
Saqqara is in the middle of nowhere. Sand stretches in every direction for miles until the horizon gets fuzzy. One pyramid has disintegrated into a pile of sand. The step pyramid looks like it might crumble away at any moment. And for a moment I think, “eh, they’re not that impressive.” Until I tune into Nader and I’m reminded that they are 5000 years old. The fact that there is anything remaining of the them at all is amazing.
Next stop: Dahshur. The bent pyramid is a misleading name, because it’s more rounded than bent. It’s neighbor isn’t “bent” but you’re allowed to go inside. Nader says he’ll wait for me outside. Not a good sign. I peer down the narrow, dark, steep decline before plunging in. It’s at least 2 stories down, at a steep slant, bent over. The entire tunnel is maybe 4 feet high. It makes the Vietcong tunnels Melissa and I walked through seem spacious. It’s also getting stuffy. I finally reach the bottom and am able to stand up straight. As I’m aching my back in a stretch, I notice a strong smell, like ammonia. I look around and there’s nothing to see. The walls are bare. It’s dark. And it smells. Bad. It's slightly cool, because I mean, come on, I'm INSIDE a pyramid.  But not enough to stay longer than it takes to catch my breath. By the time I make it back up the top of the cramped ramp, I’m drenched in sweat and panting for my life. And the stench of ammonia? It’s from bat
poop. Nice.

When I stumble to the (thankfully) air conditioned car, I ask Nader if Giza is also empty. When he nods I say, “ok, then I don’t need to go inside.” He laughs in response.

I guzzle an entire water bottle and then start quizzing Nader about his life. He got married "old": at 30.  He’s 40 now. He has 3 kids: 1 girl and 2 boys. He explained how you go to school in Egypt to be a guide and how he gives his business cards to tour companies that then recommend him to clients.

By the time we get to Giza it’s 1pm. So basically, it’s like being on the sun. There’s very little shade. And unlike the other 2 sights, which were virtually empty, Giza is teeming with tourists. Gigantic groups of Japanese with their umbrellas and high-tech cameras. Russians in short skirts, halter tops and heels. Fat, old British ladies in tube tops. Yes, tube tops. (unflattering and inappropriate anywhere, let alone in a conservative Muslim country!) Americans in their sneakers and socks and baseball caps.

There’s easily 1,000 people. All cramming into very tight quarters. Lovely. I take a slug of water and tell Nader I’ll meet him outside in 30 minutes. A troop over to the pyramids. There are 3 in a row, and the largest one is big. The biggest I’ve seen. But I have to say, they look… vulnerable. Not weak necessarily. Just as if they have what is takes to remain … but that it also wouldn’t take much for them to disappear. It’s always funny to me when I see such a well known monument like this, or the Eiffel Tower or the Taj Mahal. You’ve seen them in cartoons growing up, and on calendars and coasters and in movies. And when you finally do see them in real life, they almost don’t look real.

I stumble around in the bright heat to the Sphinx. It literally sits at the edge of the city sprawl, with satellite dishes clustered on top of buildings and Pizza Hut across the street. Kind of like how the Colosseum in Rome is in the middle of all the traffic. Still, when I turn my back on the city and face the Sphinx for some photo ops, it’s makes me smile to myself that I’m actually hear in Egypt.

A footnote: I wasn’t aware of this, but in Egypt they make their falafels with fava beans instead of chick peas. Saying it’s better doesn’t do it justice. There is no comparison. If I were to open a fava bean falafel stand in NYC, I would be rich. Trust me.

Dazed and Confused in Cairo

First impressions of Cairo: sprawling, massive blocks of clay. At least that’s how it looks from the air. All the buildings look dirty, until I realized they are just coated in a layer of sand. I guess there’s no way to prevent that! My guide told me that sometimes they don’t finish the outside construction of a building and focus on the inside instead… meaning the inside can be opulent, while the outside looks like a hovel.

There are minarets poking into the sky everywhere where I look. A 180 degree head swivel takes in at least 15 at a quick count. It’s noon and a Friday, so the call to prayer is echoing from all angles. It’s not synchronized, so it’s more a mish-mosh of chanting, some clearer than others until you move out of ear shot. Groups of men are gathering in alleyways and under bridges to pray. I thought they were just kneeling in groups to pray anywhere, but I find out later that anywhere there are groups, there is a mosque. It’s a fascinating sight and I wish I could take a picture, but that’s probably not a good idea.

There are a lot fo woman wearing hijabs (headscarfs). Some, but not many, are wearing full black abayas, which cover their entire face except for their eyes, which are elaborately made-up (in case you were wondering, burqas cover the entire face, including the eyes, which look through a mesh screen.) But many more than I expected are wearing western clothes. There are more men wearing the long white galabays… but even if that weren’t for religious reasons, I’d say they would wear them anyway because of the heat.

Egypt is the hottest place I’ve been to date. Hotter than Greece in August. Hotter than Sydney during a 105+ heat wave. It’s hot. And while it’s a marvel that ancient Egyptians built all of this… I’m more amazed that they did it in this heat. Because really, it’s everything I can do not to throw up from the heat. It’s that hot.
Luckily, my first stop is indoors: the Egyptian Museum, a labyernith of stone fragments and statues and sarcophagi. My friend Mona, who is graciously hosting me in Cairo, arranged for a guide, Nader. He’s baby faced, both energetic and a bit lazy, and immensely friendly.

That helped offset my fatigue and the lack of air conditioning in the museum. Some of his words were quite honestly buzz in my ears. But he did pass along some neat tidbits. Ie: How do you know if a statue of a pharaoh was made while he was alive or dead? If he has one leg forward and a straight beard, it was made while he was ruling. If his legs are together and his arms are crossed over his cheat, is was made after he passed into the afterlife.
The highlight is of course the half a dozen or so mummies… all with their hair and nails intact. A bit creepy and nightmare inducing. I’ve never seen a dead body before. Yes, I realize these are 5000+ years old, so it’s not quite the same thing. But the level of preservation is amazing, making the bodies look like they’ve been a dead a much shorter time.

For those of you uninitiated in the mummification process, allow me: First, they remove the eyeballs (which they later replace with crystal or stones that look shockingly like the real thing), then they stick a hook up the nose and drag out the brain bit by bit. They throw the brain bits away, because they thought the brain was a useless organ. Then, they remove the stomach, intestines, liver and lungs. Those are put in 4 separate jars, that usually get their own mini-tomb. And then the body is left for 40 days at a slant to drain out all of the fluids. Yes, 40 days. In the heat.

King Tut’s tomb artifacts were also on display. I didn’t think I would be that impressed, as I had already seen the exhibit in New York with my very own Egyptian guide (thanks Amir!)  I guess it shouldn’t be any surprise that the good stuff was in Cairo. He was buried in a painted, wooden coffin that bit his shrunken body (it’s smaller after all the fluids are gone), then that was put into 2 or 3 more slightly larger coffins that were gold and silver and ornate. Then those were put into 4 boxes, one silver, the other gold, painted, etc. Sort of like a nesting doll... Egyptian style.  The largest box, which is what Carter saw when he discovered the tomb, is about 12x12. So, enormous… given it’s use.

Overall, the museum provided a good base for what was to come.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Tut, tut, tut


interjection, noun, verb,tut·ted, tut·ting.
1. (used as an exclamation of contempt, disdain, impatience, etc.)
2. for shame!
This is the sound some people make when I tell them I'm going away... again.  They don't understand why I'm not married, not having kids, not buying a home, not saving more money than I already do for retirement...
To them I say, "Bon Voyage!"
In 48 hours I will be on my way to Egypt.
To stare in awe at the last of the 'Seven Ancient Wonders of the Worlds,' to stand on the banks of the world's longest river and wade through the sands of its largest desert.  And wander through a region that has been inhabited since 5500 BC. 
It's my first trip to a Muslim country, although I've been to northern India, which has a high concentration of Mulsims.  I'm also traveling solo.  And while I've traveled alone before, it's been a while.
I thought I'd be a bit more nervous about it.  Or bummed out that I don't have a husband to travel with.  :-)
Instead, I'm thrilled and chomping at the bit.
See you in Giza.