Saturday, November 10, 2007

Day 15: Look Homeward, Angel

Well, this is farewell to Egypt. Back to the airport, back on a plane, and back to the states. They practically made Dad strip at the airport. I've heard from several people that airport security is much stricter on flights to the US than it is on flights from the US, and I think it must be true. Nobody wants to be responsible for missing a problem on its way into the States.

On the flight, Dad and I were way in the back of the plane, in a short row of only two seats: window and aisle. That was great - we're going to try to do the same thing the next time we fly - because we could get OUT when we needed to.

We were on the right side of the plane, so Dad got out his maps and we were able to identify some of the coastlines we were flying over. We saw the Italian coast: here is Mount Vesuvius:
and we thought this might be Elba (where they sent Napoleon the first time):

We landed in New York, slept overnight, and returned home on the 11th. I have had so much fun! Dad, too, has really got the International Travel Bug: now we're planning a trip to China!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Day 14: Birthday Dinner

At the end of the cocktail party we adjourned across the courtyard to the Egyptian Nights restaurant.
IMG_0401 cairo
I'd asked Dad if we could eat there for my birthday. I was determined not to leave Egypt without eating goat!

While the evening was pretty fun, it wasn't quite as psychedelic as you'd think from the photos. I apologize - I haven't figured out how to take good night photos yet!
I love how the "roof" of this place looks like the inside of a tent,
and I love the no-temperature breeze (You know, when the air is neither cool nor warm, but it moves just enough to feel lovely on your skin.)

We ate with Pete,
Diane and Sherm, and Abe
and Mary.
It was a really nice group, and we had a great evening. Everyone chatted and told funny stories, and generally slowed down and relaxed. We had plenty of time for that because dinner took about two hours. One thing the service here is not, is fast.
We ate more of the delicious flatbread, baked by these ladies:
The lady on the right puts portions of dough on the lazy susan, which is piled with farina, while the lady on the left tosses them into the brick oven and then brings them out again on a paddle. They are then tossed into a basket and brought to you still hot.

I had my goat, which was really delicious - that goat had lived a fat, happy life - and Dad had veal chops. Everyone's food looked wonderful, in fact. We experienced a little more local color when the hibiscus tea guy came around:
He rings a bell to tell you he's coming with his giant carboy of karkadeh, and he will pour you a glass if you want. Also, the restaurant will rent you a hookah pipe. Nobody at our table partook, but some of our traveling companions did:
It was a wonderful birthday dinner. When the bill arrived, both our meals came to £250; when we did the math that worked out to only about $50 American! Our club sandwiches came to almost that!

After dinner, we went back to our room and sat on the balcony for a little bit, enjoying the air and the view:
(That's the restaurant on the right.)


Day 14: Later

I'm human again, and can once again use sentences involving subjects, verbs and actual clauses. I had a nap, and the antibiotics have kicked in.

Once we got our luggage at the Cairo airport, we were bused back to the Marriott, where we will stay one more night in luxurious comfort before flying back to the states tomorrow. On the way, we paused here:
This is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, built in the 70s by Anwar Sadat, and he himself was buried there in 1981.

When we arrived at the Marriott, we found that our rooms were not going to be ready for awhile. Well, that's reasonable - we were there at around 11 AM, and it wasn't even checkout time, never mind giving the cleaning staff a crack at the rooms. So we settled down at a table in the Garden Promenade Cafe
along with some of our traveling companions for a wait. While we were waiting, we decided we were hungry, so we asked for the menu. After reading it, Dad ordered a club sandwich. I ordered the California Steak Cheese. The waiter said, "We are only serving breakfast". I said, "But Dad just ordered a club sandwich." He said, "We are serving breakfast and the club sandwich."
I surrendered to the inevitable. The club sandwich was quite tasty.
By this point our room was ready, and we were more than ready for our room. Getting there was a bit challenging, though - we were housed on the second floor in the "Garden Court", and there was no clear way to get there from here, so to speak. After wandering forty years or so, we arrived in our sanctuary.

Our balcony overlooked the lovely inner courtyard:
and the white tent to the right is where the Egyptian Nights restaurant is.

I waited for the porters to bring our bags, while Dad went over to the Lost and Found to reclaim the three souvenir T-shirts he'd bought a week ago and accidentally left in our original room. He was delighted they'd kept track of them! (The service here has really been first class all the way.) Once our suitcases arrived, I piled my wonderful smooshy pillows into a ramp and crawled into bed. I must get some smooshy pillows for home! Three blissful hours later, I was much improved.

I felt well enough to go to the farewell cocktail party, where they told us our schedule for tomorrow. It turns out we can sleep in until FIVE AM! They're getting soft with us, I tell you. We said goodbye to Ihab and the other program directors (even though they'll be taking us to the airport tomorrow) and thanked them for all they did for us.

Day 14: The Road to Cairo

Happy Birthday to me.

Still feel crummy.

No sleep.

Antibiotics not helping.

3:30 AM wake up call to catch early morning plane.

Plane took off at 6:40 AM.

Plane landed at 7:40 AM.

Still sitting in airport at 10:15 AM. Baggage appears to be coming under its own power.

Happy Birthday to me.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Day 13: The Last Temple

Our final tourist destination was the famous temple of Luxor, only a mile and a half from the complex at Karnak. By the way, the temples we're seeing today are around a thousand years older than the ones upriver: the oldest parts of Karnak still in place date from around 1500 BC, and the Luxor temple dates from about 100 years later, 1400 BC or thereabouts.

Luxor Temple is dedicated to the same gods - Amun, Mut and Khons - as much of Karnak, and during the annual Opet festival they would carry a statue of Amun over from Karnak to "visit" Luxor for a while.

We got there almost at sunset, and since the temple faces north, the light was usually coming from "behind and to the right". As we approached
you can see the obelisk to the left of the main entrance. There used to be a pair of them; the right-hand obelisk is now in Paris. This is one of those times that Ihab sounded just a little bitter when he talked about it.

The statues flanking the entryway are Rameses II, the Great Chiseler himself:
The fact that the temple had already been there for a hundred years didn't stop him putting his statues all over it! Though, to be fair, he did expand it a lot.

The base of the obelisk is surrounded with carved baboons:

I finally asked Ihab what the deal was with the baboons - there were a dozen baboons painted on the wall of King Tutankhamun's tomb too - and he said the Egyptians thought that baboons worshiped the sun like they did, since in the morning, they face East and stand up and hoot.

To the left of the gateway we see the Big Head of Ramses II:
This originally was on top of a statue, but the statue is long gone and only the Big Head remains. Seems curiously appropriate!

Once past the outer pylons, you see this ginormous colonnade:
and if you go in a ways and turn back, you see a mosque built right into the wall on top of a temple court! See the arches?

Rameses II is everywhere!

Oddly enough, I don't think these guys are Rameses II...

You find many interesting things in little nooks to the sides:
(These are Roman-era wall frescoes!) The view down the colonnade in the other direction looks gorgeous in the evening light:

At this point, however, the photographic record thins: my chest cold suddenly morphed into horrible bronchitis and I had a hard time walking back to the entryway. Fortunately there are a lot of big slabs of rock there - I unashamedly sat down frequently to catch my breath.

We did pause for one more photo shoot with the Big Head
and to admire the dramatic night lighting:
and I couldn't resist the allure of the Avenue of Sphinxes, even if I was gasping like a fish!
Back at the dock, I spotted a sign I had missed up till now, one in which I have a professional interest:
I'm sure it's spelled properly in Arabic...

Day 13: Between Temples

Since we had a few hours before our final temple, we decided to enjoy the sun deck one last time. Dad finally made it into the pool!
This is a view down the river bank - the cruise ship docks just go on forever, it seems!
I really enjoy the serenity.

Day 13: Animal Care in Egypt

Many people, including Dad, returned to the River Anuket after our tour of Karnak, but I decided to go to the "Discovery Series event" - a tour of a local animal hospital. The hospital was founded by a couple of British ladies who had visited Egypt on holiday and were appalled at the conditions endured by the horses and donkeys they saw in and around Luxor. They eventually founded Animal Care in Egypt, originally just as a place where the animals could be groomed so they didn't get harness sores, but it expanded into a much larger operation over the years.

When we arrived the first thing we saw was a sandbox for horses!
The horses and donkeys like to roll around in there - I guess to scratch their backs. The founder, Julie,
told us about the work they do here while he
looked on and neighed at us repeatedly, and he
wreathed around our ankles and generally behaved charmingly.
This little donkey
was not at all interested in a roll.

It got sadder from there, since Julie took us in the office and told us some of the terrible things she's seen, complete with pictures. I couldn't look at a lot of them; instead I looked at Arthur:
He's Julie's new puppy. Most of the veterinary practice here is large-animal: horses, donkeys, the occasional water buffalo, but they occasionally get a dog or cat. A couple of kids brought Arthur in - for what, I don't remember - but they'd cropped his ears and tail because they were going to use him for dogfighting.
Well, she just plain took him away from them and now he has a good home! And for all he's been through, he's still such a gentle and outgoing little guy, not shy or defensive toward people at all. He's going to be the Hospital Dog I guess.

I gave them money.

Day 13: Karnak

The Temple of Amun at Karnak is a vast and marvelous thing. The entire complex covers the area of about ten cathedrals, and was built up over generations to be the biggest temple complex in Egypt. It's mostly dedicated to the "Theban Triad" of Amun (a very old, sort of amorphous, "hidden" god), Mut (his wife) and Khons (their son) and you get the idea that by the time these temples were built, Amun was pretty much the Boss God. There are also temples to a bunch of other deities within the enclosure wall. There's a bunch of rubble, but there's also a lot that's in good repair.

You approach via an aisle of ram-headed sphinxes:
(I really like the sphinxes...)
and come to the First Pylon (gateway). It's actually the back of this pylon that is most interesting:
The pylon was never properly finished, and that stuff at the base is the original 2500 year old mud brick construction ramp! This is cool for the archaeologists because it tells them a lot about how the pylon was constructed.

Next we went into the hypostyle hall:
This would originally have been roofed over, but now the roof is gone and the hall is open to the sky. Many of the lintels between the pillars are still in place, though,
and they're covered with hieroglyphs. You can still see the colors, because the undersides of the lintels are in the shade:
As we penetrate deeper, we are tantalized by the sight of obelisks in the distance!
The biggest obelisk in the place - and the tallest surviving obelisk in Egypt - belongs to Queen Hatshepsut:
It's one of a pair; the other one didn't fare so well:
One of the interior gateways is framed by these pretty pillars with images of lotus flowers:
and papyrus reeds:
These are the symbols of Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt respectively.

Out to one side of the temple near the fallen obelisk, there is a giant scarab beetle
that is supposed to be lucky. If you walk around it 7 times clockwise, you're supposed to find true love or something. Don and Shirley said they didn't need it!
While Ihab was guiding us around and telling us all about the carvings, I noticed this guy following us. It seems he was a tourist from Germany who was there on his own, and he just attached himself to our group to get the benefit of Ihab's knowledge! I think that was pretty clever, and it didn't hurt us any.

Then Dad and I decided to make our way to the rear of the complex. There was an area called the "Botanical Garden" that I wanted to see (because I'd been reading my guide book again!) Well, we tried to get there and kept finding our way blocked by paths that didn't seem to really go anywhere. We finally decided that the only option we could see was to go straight through what I think is the Sanctuary of the Temple of the Middle Kingdom (map here). This was a series of three enclosed chambers which were, like most sanctuaries in Egyptian temples, raised above the ground level. At the far end of the third chamber, you could get out through a hole in the wall - but it was maybe three feet above the level of the path outside.

Now I, in my 40s, sat down on the ledge and scooted off it, dropping less than a foot. No problem. Dad, on the other hand - a little bit older than me, does a flying Wallenda off the ledge and just lands on his feet, rocking a little but otherwise unfazed, right in front of the Green Group leader who was just rounding the corner on the path we couldn't find.

Oh well. At least we gave some folks their excitement for the day!

The botanical garden area was put in by Tuthmosis III, the nephew of Queen Hatshepsut. He spent most of his summers out leading military expeditions in the lands of the Hittites and Assyrians, and while he was out there he saw a lot of plants and animals that you don't get in Egypt. When he came back in the winters, he had his artists attempt to carve what he'd seen. Since he was working from memory, the depictions aren't really botanically accurate, but it was interesting.
These'll probably show up better if you click to make them bigger.

While we were back there, we got Abe and Mary
to take our picture.
The back part of the temple is very extensive, but it isn't in very good repair compared to the front:
As we worked our way out, we came upon this pharaoh:
I don't know who he is, but I liked him. He's a little more life-sized than some (*cough*Rameses*cough*).

Here's the great colonnade from a better angle (also the sun was further up by this time)
These columns are freakin' huge!
I still love the ram-headed sphinxes best!