Countries Visited

Svalbard Spain United States of America Antarctica South Georgia Falkland Islands Bolivia Peru Ecuador Colombia Venezuela Guyana Suriname French Guiana Brazil Paraguay Uruguay Argentina Chile Greenland Canada United States of America United States of America Israel Jordan Cyprus Qatar United Arab Emirates Oman Yemen Saudia Arabia Iraq Afghanistan Turkmenistan Iran Syria Singapore China Mongolia Papua New Guinea Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Malaysia Tiawan Philippines Vietnam Cambodia Laos Thailand Myanmar Bangladesh Sri Lanka India Bhutan Nepal Pakistan Afghanistan Turkmenistan Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan Japan North Korea South Korea Russia Kazakhstan Russia Montenegro Portugal Azerbaijan Armenia Georgia Ukraine Moldova Belarus Romania Bulgaria Macedonia Serbia Bosonia & Herzegovina Turkey Greece Albania Croatia Hungary Slovakia Slovenia Malta Spain Portugal Spain France Italy Italy Austria Switzerland Belgium France Ireland United Kingdom Norway Sweden Finland Estonia Latvia Lithuania Russia Poland Czech Republic Germany Denmark The Netherlands Iceland El Salvador Guatemala Panama Costa Rica Nicaragua Honduras Belize Mexico Trinidad & Tobago Puerto Rico Dominican Republic Haiti Jamaica The Bahamas Cuba Vanuatu Australia Solomon Islands Fiji New Caledonia New Zealand Eritrea Ethiopia Djibouti Somalia Kenya Uganda Tanzania Rwanda Burundi Madagascar Namibia Botswana South Africa Lesotho Swaziland Zimbabwe Mozambique Malawi Zambia Angola Democratic Repbulic of Congo Republic of Congo Gabon Equatorial Guinea Central African Republic Cameroon Nigeria Togo Ghana Burkina Fasso Cote d'Ivoire Liberia Sierra Leone Guinea Guinea Bissau The Gambia Senegal Mali Mauritania Niger Western Sahara Sudan Chad Egypt Libya Tunisia Morocco Algeria
Map Legend: 28%, 75 of 263 Territories

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Egypt: Walking (and Riding) Like an Egyptian

I am sure that Tara has written a lot of boring stuff about Egyptian monuments in her article on the first half of Egypt, but I am back for more boring Egyptian monuments. I will try to keep it as upbeat as possible.

After Alexandria, we took an overnight train to Aswan, which seems to be the southernmost town that wasn't covered by lake Nasser when they built the Aswan High Dam and flooded most of southern Egypt. It has a lovely setting beside the Nile, which now never floods since they built the dam.From there, we took a day trip to Abu Simbel, a massive monument built by Ramses II. It was going to be flooded with the dam, but the New York Metropolitan Museum came along and offered to move most of the big temples that were going to be flooded. In exchange, they got to move one temple all the way back to New York. Abu Simbel has four massive statues of Ramses looking out at the water that were meant to scare away anyone that wanted to attack. One of the statues now takes the form of a pile of rubble at the base...
These are not small statues. Too tall even for me to climb and sit in his lap. That was a disappointment.
No photos inside Abu Simbel--unless you wait until the guard turns his head (or bribe him, but I went the first route). This is Ramses II smiting his enemies, which he apparently does by driving a stake into their heads. Might be the best method of smiting that I have ever seen.
Our camera has face recognition, but it isn't perfect. It says the statue on the far right is Tara.
One of my favorite Egyptian goddesses of whom I had never heard until last week is Hathor. She is a cow god who can turn into a beautiful woman, but the beautiful woman is still vaguely cowish looking. This is her in the form of a girl. Reminds me of the female ogre in Shrek.
A smaller chapel at Abu Simbel (not to be confused with the notorious Abu Gharib prison in Iraq) has very well preserved hieroglyphics on the front. They translate as, "the pharaoh statue below represents Ramses II, who worked as an elf for Santa Claus before being promoted to pharaoh."
We paid $4 each to see the Aswan High Dam because we figured we wouldn't be back soon. This is the extent of what we saw. It is a huge pile of rock and concrete with a power station on it. Sure, it powers most of Egypt, but it is even more boring than this picture lets on.
We visited an island temple called Philae. It was a nice temple, but the best part is that before the Nile was dammed in the late 1800s (by a much smaller dam than now), this temple spent part of the year half submerged and you could boat through the temple looking at ruins. I think they should have left it that way.
You can see on these columns where the water used to come to. In some places, there is also graffiti up high with dates from the late 1800s. Even then, people were stupid. I'm not opposed to graffiti, but it seems wrong on a 5000 year old temple.
Inside are some nice bedtime prayers. The seated people are gods accepting offerings from the pharaoh on the right. Similar scenes seem to account for about 98.6% of the artwork in Egyptian ruins.
A similar scene, but the gods are standing in this one. The god on the left is whatever god was responsible for carrying the sun at this point in Egyptian mythology, as seen by the sun on his/her head. One of the best parts of Egyptian mythology is that it evolved constantly--tons of gods were responsible for the sun over the centuries with old gods disappearing and new ones coming onto the scene.
We also went to visit "the unfinished obelisk", which would have been an 1100 ton piece of granite that would have been twice as large as any other cut piece of rock in the world, or something like that. Hundreds of people spent months hammering it out with harder rocks only to see it break when it was almost free. Oops. Bet the queen wasn't very happy.
Here is a finished obelisk in Luxor. Most of the obelisks in existence were quarried at Aswan and shipped on boats down the Nile. Many probably fell off and sank. The funniest part about obelisks is that despite being rather phallic, the ones that we saw were mostly created for Hatshepsut, a female pharaoh. She had herself kinged pharaoh by creating a story about being born from a god and having it inscribed on the wall of an old temple and then pointing to it as proof that she was born from a god, so maybe she really wanted to be a man. She is almost always shown with a strap on beard...
In front of the Temple of Luxor is a path of sphinxes, which used to run the full two miles to the Temple of Karnak. They are about the size of lions, but it must have been amazing to have them every 15 feet for that distance.
The Temple of Luxor seemed much more impressive by night than during the day.
The statues are about to come to life and form an army! Ancient Egypt will rise again!
The Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens have very strict no picture policies, so even though the tombs were really great, you are left with the picture of the Colossi of Memnon, which used to stand outside a massive Temple. Sadly, the temple hasn't been around for a couple of thousand years, but a bit remains of these guys.
Near the Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Hatshepsut (the female pharaoh) has been heavily restored after being partly demolished by earthquakes and thieves. It seems especially popular because they have little carts that take people from the entrance to the monument, so almost no walking is needed. We thought all the Americans would be there, so we are left to conclude that we are currently the only American tourists in Egypt.
Here the pharaoh gives some offerings to Horace, a god of the underworld and all-around bird brain of a god. Haha, get it? He's got a bird head.
This guy stands over me in protection. Even better, I think it my be Hatshepsut in drag, who was apparently tougher than any man. Though, when her stepson eventually came to power, he hated her so much that he tried to delete any written reference to her anywhere. Thus, her name, and sometimes her face, are often chiseled off.
We were recently asked for more snake pictures. Maybe not what the person had in mind who asked, but here you go. We haven't seen any real cobras in Egypt, but lots of depictions of them. This one even comes with a night sky full of stars.
It was often difficult for me to understand how all these tombs could be undiscovered. Then we saw the rocky desert where they are all found, and these little holes are discovered tombs. Now I am surprised that the grave robbers ever found even a single tomb, let alone almost all of them before the archaeologists could.
At Karnak Temple outside of Luxor, they have a procession of rams head sphinxes. I guess I'd be scared if this thing attacked me.
This statue neatly illustrates the equality of marriage. The pharaoh is the tall one and his wife is a bit shorter. If they had children, they would be even smaller.
Me with a giant, 4500-year-old scarab beetle statue. From the actions of the old people I saw later on, it must give long life if you walk around it about a dozen times, but it also looked like some of the people would have a heart attack and die before completing the prescribed regimen.
One of the most impressive parts of Luxor is the 103 massive columns at the Temple of Karnak. Originally, they were all painted like this one (as well as carved) and seemed to feel like Candyland (Tara's observation, but it seems correct).
We decided to stop and see the Suez canal because the Panama canal seemed so interesting when we were there. The Suez Canal is Boring with a capital B. Here is a boat going through it. I think the main difference is that the Suez has no locks, so it is essentially just a boat going down a man-made river.
Fortunately, we only stayed in Suez for a few hours, then through a tunnel to the Sinai Peninsula. It is almost entirely a huge desert. Here is a good picture taken by Tara out the bus window during one of her precious few minutes of being awake on this bus ride.
Here I would insert scuba diving pictures from the Red Sea, but I don't have any. Trust us that the coral is really nice. Instead, pictures from our journey into the desert. This is the Colored Canyon area.
The Colored Canyon has some bizarre formations like these eyes looking out at you.
It's no Grand Canyon, but it ain't bad. And who are those gorgeous people?
I asked the guide how, exactly, these patterns form. He replied, "Mmmm...I think it has something to do with water." Surprisingly, we did not give him a tip at the end.
Tara was incredibly hungry for lunch. So much so that she swore this rock looked like a giant piece of pastrami. Judge for yourself.
Well, that wraps up our time in Egypt. Though we got a little sick of Egyptian ruins by the end (much like you did reading our posts), we had a really good time and the history is amazing. Some of the temples seem in better shape than modern structures that are 50 years old. Egypt has lived up to all the hype and is definitely worth a visit.

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