Luqman's Day 7 - 10,000 years in one day
We are now on our first full day in Egypt, and I must say that it is jam-packed. We are expected to see history as it unfolded for over 10,000 years. Our schedule included a trip to the Pyramids of Giza, the Great Sphinx, and the Cairo museum. I admit that I wondered how we could condense so much into 24 hours, but I trusted that the tour company had done this once or twice, so I went on with it. We met downstairs on a surprisingly chilly and overcast day. We also knew that we were to leave by train that same night, so we prepared to leave the hotel soon after our return from our day's activities.
Now, please allow me to digress for a second and speak on the hotel. It was quite "interesting." Now don't get me wrong; it was not bad, and the room was nice, but it was kind of like a trip back in time. I guess the funniest thing was the décor. There was a little seventies feel to it. I guess the carpet was the maroon or deep red color that makes everything feel like it is made out of fake velvet. I felt like Dirk Diggler in his prime when I walked up in there. Or maybe I felt like I was inside the Dream of Jeanie bottle. Whatever it was, it was funny cause you would think that in Cairo, it would be pretty easy to get a design theme (hmm, pyramids, pharaohs, hieroglyphics, sand dunes, anything…). However, our hotel kind of went for that top shelf flea market look, so we had paintings of peacocks and other stuff that nothing to do with nothing. We also had a push button tv. Yeah, some may be too young to remember, but that is the one with 13 channels and a button for each one lined up horizontally. God forbid you have thick fingers in which case you will be watching channel 7 and 8 simultaneously. But like I said, the room was still nice. I guess it was like that old school Benz that your uncle has from the 80s and won't get rid of. It seems like the first car that ever had power locks, and you ride in it thinking, "Man I bet this car was the bomb when it first came out." Or maybe that is just me. Anyway, I am getting off the hotel now.
Going back to our activities, we first went to the pyramids. Now this is truly a life changing experience. You really cannot believe your eyes or that you are seeing the crown achievements of mankind with your eyes. They are absolutely huge and beautiful, especially when you remember that they were built around 2400 BC. For over 4,000 years, they withstood all the wars for power over Egypt, from the Hyksos to the Lybians to the Greeks to the Romans to the Turks to Lil' man complex himself (Napoleon). These pyramids withstood plenty, from grave robbers and foreign kings drilling through them looking for treasure, to removal of the limestone to build mosques, to Napoleons curious scientists, and they still stand today for everyone to see. We even got to go into a tunnel in the second pyramid (Pyramid of Khafre) into a small room. Other folks were in there meditating and trying to take advantage of the immense spiritual energy rumored to still be contained in these monuments, which are geological and architectural marvels in every sense of the word (I could speak for days on this, but for the sake of time I will refrain). We then went to the panorama spot to get a view of all three pyramids and some minor pyramids built for the queens nearby. We then went to the Great Sphinx (Heru em akhet in Egyptian), another absolutely breathtaking piece of work, even with the nose and part of the ears blown off by French cannons. It still has the grin of pride and staying power that has made it famous. It is worth noting that the Sphinx looks quite different in real life than in some history books that I have seen, but you can look for yourself and decide. After more picture taking, we went to eat a wonderful lunch in a restaurant overlooking the Giza plateau. It was a delicious buffet and well priced…until we learned that every drink they brought us that we thought came with the meal was actual 15 Egyptian pounds a piece (about 3 dollars). I was wondering why they thought we were so dog gone thirsty. And I can't knock the hustle, but they really got us. My pride won't allow me to disclose how much I spent on water and tea, but lets just say that I would have thought we were in there toasting with Ramses II for that price. But anyway…
We next went to the Cairo museum. It is so full of history of this wonderful civilization that they just have stuff out on the lawn like they were having a kemetic yard sale. The museum was full of tourists and priceless relics were everywhere. There was not enough time or attention to get to everything. I was continuously frustrated at how I could not get to a fraction of what I hoped to see there, but I was near tears many times seeing these I had only seen in documentaries or read in books. Seeing King Zoser who commissioned Imhotep to build the Step pyramid at Saqqara, King Cheops or Khufu who built the great pyramid, Queen Tiye who ruled alongside Amenhotep III, and her son Akhenaton, the father of monotheism, was nothing short of amazing. But there is absolutely no substitute for the collection from Tutankhamen's tomb. The jewelry that adorned his body is second to none I have seen (including the great pieces of the Asantehene in Kumasi, Ghana), and the shrines that he was held in which were built one of top of one another and meticulously designed in gold (four in all, with the biggest one perfectly fitting the room it was all found in) were unbelievable. However, nothing can prepare you for the golden sarcophagus he was found in, or the (insert adjective here because none I can think of does it justice) gold and blue mask he wore with his likeness on it. I just stood transfixed in front of it and didn't want to leave. It is as if it has a hold on you. The work done on the 120 kg of gold his innermost sarcophagus was made out of honestly made Sistine Chapel by comparison look like a doodle (please understand that this is no disrespect to Michelangelo or his work, but it is honest). There were also rooms full of belongings and statues of other pharaohs and nobles and common people. I especially appreciate how there were paintings and woodcarvings of army infantries and carpenters and seamstresses, and tons of other normal people doing normal things. It really gave character to the people and showed that it was not all about the high priests and pharaohs. The people fully contributed to this society as well. It made me want to go home and cut the grass and have someone dip me in bronze while I was doing it so folks in a thousand years would know that I was about business when I was here. But way too soon we had to leave to my chagrin so I stomped out and pouted as we left.
Next, we went to a papyrus institute where we were showed how papyrus is made. Several people in the group made various purchases of the beautiful art work, and I think I got hustled again, but by that time I was numb to the whole experience and in heavy denial. I just kept focusing on the great things I saw that day and thinking of what Imhotep would do in that case (play it off player). After that time, we were all beat, so we went back to the hotel and showered and prepared to depart by train to Aswan in South Egypt. From there we will visit a Nubian village and visit Abu Simbel. Though my stomach feels now like I am suffering from one of the plagues, I hope it will pass. Guess I will just have to fill you in on my condition if I live to blog again. But until that time, Hotep.