Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Day 11: Qena

Once we were back on the boat, we lunched and napped and attended Ihab's lecture on hieroglyphic writing and Arabic script. It was a pretty quiet afternoon. I'm trying to get enough rest to kick this cold/scratchy throat thing that's creeping up on me. Not having much luck, though.

While we were lolling around this afternoon, the River Anuket cast off again and we sailed up to the town of Qena, maybe 45 miles north of Luxor. We are docking here overnight, and tomorrow those who bought the extra ticket are going to see the Temple of Dendera.

Along the way I spotted a small herd of water buffalo - a common sight on the riverbank:


Here the 12th century meets the 21st:


Mud bricks and satellite dishes!

Tonight they arranged a special treat for us. Actually it's been kind of surreal. Right after dinner, they announced that our ride was waiting for us. We got off the boat and there it was:


the choo choo train! It was like one of those "train rides" you take at a theme park: each "train" consisted of some kind of a motor vehicle disguised as a steam engine up front, hauling several "train cars" for us to ride in. The "engine" even emitted smoke! We piled in and they hauled us up and down just about every single street in the town of Qena, whose roads they had closed for our cavalcade. It was so clean and tidy it seemed fake to us - like a Potemkin village - and it was almost unpopulated at 8:45 of a Tuesday evening. All the visible residents were clean cut and happy, and they smiled and waved at us as we passed. We rode around in the nice cool air, escorted by every cop in Qena, for about 45 minutes. This is the closest I've ever come to feeling like a rock star!

Our destination was the Girls' Club of Qena. This is a beautiful facility with a pool and other exercise-related things for girls. They had set up a bunch of tables for us in front of the pool, facing a little area they used for a stage:


and they put on a "folkloric show" for us - there were five different dance/music acts representing five different areas of Egypt - the Bedouin area, the Mediterranean area/Alexandria, etc., culminating with a piece they called "the hundred year wedding". This was a multi-part dance depicting the events of a village wedding, including the groom's visit to the marriage broker,
the henna party with the bride dancing with her girlfriends,
the families parading the couple's new furniture through the streets, a fight between the two families (!) over the quality of the gifts, I think - you can tell the "families" apart by robe color -
and ultimately the wedding itself.

It seemed to take about a hundred years, but it was a nice show!

The ladies of Qena also exerted themselves, putting out a huge pastry buffet with a lot of homemade goodies, plus offering soft drinks and bottled water. Knowing how much that stuff costs over here, I expected somebody to pass the hat at the end of all this, but no! It seems that Qena is trying to get itself back on the map for tourism, and they are just working overtime to make our stay pleasant. Well, it sure worked!

Unfortunately, all day my cough has worsened. I'd planned to start my antibiotics this evening, but then I read my pill bottle: "Do not go out in direct sunlight while on this medicine." Hello - EGYPT? No way am I missing Dendera tomorrow and Karnak and Luxor on Thursday, so I guess I'll tough it out and start the meds Thursday evening.

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