Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Alex to Cairo to Aswan to Luxor to Cairo to Alex

I wanted to use the term "highlights" to identify certain experiences I underwent last weekend. I've decided to not only use this word, but, in order to do it justice, I will label each event with a highlighter color.

Bashful Baby Blue: The first day we were in Aswan we were given the afternoon off. Probably because we had been visiting all sorts of tourists sights after getting negative sleep. But of course, that didn't bother me. I jumped onto a Feluka (smallish sailboat weighing 5 tons) with my friends Andy and Emma - Emma, you'll recall is a Penn GA, and a wonderful planner - and sailed down the Nile for a few hours. She had found this guy's name in the Lonely Planet and just called him up to which he responded, "I'll be with you in an hour". We managed to find him, precisely an hour later, docked right next to our ship. Side note: His boat, and almost all of the felukas are stunning. Most of them - and they have them in Alex, too, though there they are mostly fishing boats - are painted a glorious pastel blue or green color, so that they sort of blur and bleed the colors of the water into the colors of the sky. Back to the point: This guy and his son who must be approximately 12, but can steer a sailboat like he's 35, took us first to a garden island originally planted by some Englishman but now maintained as a glorious tourist site with lots of pretty birds and foliage and trellises and the first cataract of the Nile! This guy and his son did a speedy strip down and jumped in. It was so hot out, and the water was so cool. Emma and I couldn't resist. So we swam the first cataract of the Nile. It was AWESOME. Don't try this at home, kids. If you're really worried right now, rest assured: No, I don't think I got Schistosomiasis but I'll have to get my blood checked for the antibodies in three months. Yes, I did talk to an actual Egyptian doctor afterward and he said we'd be fine. And no, my liver hasn't failed yet.

<-- This boat kind of said my name. Crazy.
Yawn Ye Yellow:
I spent the day of Sabt (Shabbat) on the boat. Everyone else went off to do some more touring in Edfu or some such, but I stayed. And I slept. And I went up onto the deck, and I read on the couches in the shade. And slept. And ate some of the food I'd brought with me. And slept. It a true day of rest. My own personal vacation. Delicious.

F# Fuchsia: There was a electronic Piano on the cruise ship. It was shaped like a (preme) baby grand. I asked to play in the early mornings and late at night nearly every day. I played for no one. It felt fantastic. ~If you're sensing a theme of excellence throughout this blog post, it may be because this trip was precisely that: Excellent.~

Obelisk Ozymandias Orange:
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away
~Percy Bysshe Shelley (1818)

Get this: I saw Ozymandias. Emma arranged the trip (of course) for us to go to the Valley of the Nobles and then to the "Ramsseum" after our day at the Valley of the Kings and Hatshepsut's Temple which were both very cool -- in a figurative sense, of was actually as hot as the depths of that place Christians think you go if you're a bad person and you die -- but Emma, as I said before, takes her tourism seriously, and I was not about to miss an opportunity to see some super-ancient tombs, statues, or temples of a people who perhaps enslaved my people so many thousands of years ago. So I spent the afternoon gazing at the tombs of those who knew they would die (Valley of the Nobles), and then at the shattered visage of a man who thought that he could immortalize himself -- Ozymandias, King of Kings. The thought crossed my mind that Shelly may have, ironically, done more for his immortality by writing that poem (which, by the by, is a re-writing of another English poet's poem) than he did himself.

This picture, however, is NOT of me and Ozymandias. It is, instead, me and Hatshepsut, who remains my favorite ruler of Egypt, because she took over the thrown for 21 years and ruled as a King, depicting herself as a man (see picture) to such an extent that she was buried in the Valley of the Kings and not the Valley of the Queens. She is defaced here because her step-son, Tutmosis III, was a bit pissy about being overlooked for so many years and took out his rage on her statues.

Oh and I found Obama in hieroglyphics at the Karnak Temple in Luxor:

Aside from Ozymandias, I've saw some magnificent examples of ancient Egyptian architecture, art, mummification, statues, history, etc. that I would love to show you so that I could wax eloquent about how my concept of The Ancient and The Pagan and The Arts have all transmorgified over the last week, but the Internet in our hotel acts like a whiny tween, and I can only upload tiny pictures at approximately the same rate as the mail gets from the US to Egypt (Mom and Grandma, I got your letters!). So please accept my apologies, and allow me to end this post with a song by Ben Harper that's been stuck in my head due to the scorching weather called "She's Only Happy in the Sun".

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