Obviously a long post.. Egypt deserves it! :)
Our second stop in Egypt was Luxor, connecting with the town of Safaga, a small port town on the Red Sea. We set off in our excursion bus at 7am, and drove 3.5 hours west, through the mountainous desert. Gradually the land became greener, and we knew the Nile was close. I'd expected Luxor to be a large open area with ancient ruins along either side of the Nile, -which in some ways it is, but the modern city has developed around the Nile shores, and ancient ruins are basically stranded in the middle of a thriving centre of activity. I was surprised at how history has been lumped in with modern buildings.
The 2 giant statues of Ramses II are just standing alone in the middle of a field of weeds, beside a parking lot, with a small rope fence around them. So casual.
In the morning we visited the Valley of the Kings, but, alas, they no longer allow ANY cameras at the site, since people have used flashes and are fading the painted images inside the tombs, so now, they have banned all cameras. We were swarmed by masses of boys and youth trying to sell us trinkets and post cards. Our whole bus was overwhelmed with them by the end of the morning. They have had almost no tourism recently due to the political activities in Egypt, so their sale pitches were all the more intense since it's their livelihood. I used the experience as a chance to practice my Arabic, and a boy and I exchanged language lessons for a few minutes, which was a nice 'cultural exchange' for me!
The afternoon segment of the trip was the real highlight though: The Temple of Karnak. This has always been what interested me most about Egypt. The temple is certainly the most impressive, and I was in heaven, as was Iain of course!
We wandered away from the lecturing tour guide and spent some time wandering away from the tourists, to immerse ourselves in Real History. Karnak is full of different eras of massive pillars decorated with an assortment of different painted images and carved hieroglyphics. There are also some massive obelisks, each carved out of one solid block of granite! We wandered all the way through the temple, and had a bit of an adventure with a fake police official (wearing full uniform including a rifle!) but my instincts warned me that he wasn't to be trusted -especially when he suddenly expected us to pay him money because he pointed out a few good photo spots!
Anyway, it was fast and furious, just 2 whirlwind days in Egypt, but we got a taste of the country and can return again when the political situation is under control. The only signs of 'political unrest' we noticed by the way, were masses of banners posted along roads, etc. en route to Luxor.
Now we are in the '4 days at sea' stage of the journey, en route to Oman... And we're about to pass through “pirate country”. We've noticed a few changes on the cruise ship: An armed guard posted on either side of the ship, 24 hours a day-toting binoculars and bullet proof vests- as well as 4 stuffed life-sized figures of 'Costa Captains' posted at the 4 top corners of the ship, as decoys, should any pirates be looking to take a first shot at us!
I suspect it's all for show, so that the cruisers feel safe. We also received a bed time notice the other night about 'going to our muster stations' should any pirates suddenly attempt to attack us...
Anyway, it all adds to the adventure. Over and out, until we reach Oman, home of Sinbad the Sailor and the Queen of Sheba, as well as frankincense forests!
Hilary Slater: I write in the morning before I get out of bed. I write in the evening when the world is quiet. I write at Starbucks, where I can escape the household interruptions. But most of all I write in November, when NaNoWriMo inspires me!