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Posts Tagged ‘#Egypt’

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

~

Early the next morning we were taken to the Nile where we boarded our vessel for the cruise part of the trip. Once we had all been ensconced in our own cabins we wandered down for lunch. Fortunately they were only a few ways to get there so getting lost wasn’t too much of a problem.

The dining room was laid out with a buffet and waiters to keep everything replenished and also attend to our tea, coffee or fresh orange juice. I was reveling in the pleasure of being waited on. As a full-time wife (recently divorced) and mother (never ends) it was a real joy having someone to bring me whatever I needed.  Of course, one of the simple things which I never gave a thought to actually caused me a little problem.

I smile! I smile a lot when I am happy and when I am appreciative of something another person is doing for me. Simple things like a fresh juice and a hot coffee and I smiled my thanks to the waiter. I smiled my gratitude and never gave it another thought. Mel and I were given superb attention and service at lunch. When we asked one of the waiters coming out of the kitchen if a dish was being replenished and they said no, we must have looked disappointed. Before we had time to move around the buffet we were ushered quietly back to the other side of the buffet and there was a small bowl of the dish we asked after. Service! Impeccable and smiling service, yes, I was appreciative of being waited on.

Each day followed the same pattern. We would all be up early and meet in the dining room. Breakfast and we would head off on a bus to a pyramid, or the Valley of the Kings, or simply cruise the Nile, go to the Aswan Dam and Nefertiti Perfumery, or catch the plane to Abu Simbel. It was a mixture of relaxed sailing on a busy river, and excursions to the pyramids and temples. The banks were more interesting and the history was on land not in the river.

But there were also some hilarious moments. I smiled. Mel and I both smiled, we were polite to the crew and waiters and talked to them. We thanked them for their service. Quite normal I believed. However, I quickly noticed something very amusing. After my accidents and the intervening period I had quite a bit of pain after each excursion. The mornings were difficult to get going and we rarely made it into the dining room first. Not far behind the first to enter, but rarely the first.

However, as soon as we arrived we had two waiters almost shadowing us.  As soon as we chose our seats we had a glass of fresh orange juice and the hot pot of fresh coffee being offered to us. It made no difference that someone else was already in the room, sitting and peremptorily holding coffee cup in the air to be filled. Everyone was ignored until we were served. Okay, in my opinion they were a tad surly and if they had to wait, so be it. Yet it didn’t end there. Throughout the meal our glasses and cups were refilled before we needed to look around for a waiter.  They would walk past our fellow diners and fill our glasses and cups first. Often it might empty the jug or pot and they would sail away into the kitchen. The same thing happened with the buffet, we were shadowed and if something looked ‘empty’ they would offer to get a fresh dish. We smiled and had excellent service at every meal.

It was hot and I was concerned about being sunburnt but somehow I managed to avoid that misery. We also avoided all the other miseries of travel we had been warned about. My medical supplies came home intact.

We had an enthralling day in the Valley of the Kings. Heat and sand and hundreds of people, but it was worth it. There was a special charge if you wanted to see the tomb of King Tutankhamen. Heavens – we were right there, we had to see it.  Lining up with the throng was an introduction to the human miasma we would get to know more intimately. The entrance to the tomb was down a steep and low walkway. In fact it was accessible only if you duck walked the entire way down to the burial room and back up to the surface. I was going to do it and it didn’t matter if it was difficult. The ‘tunnel’ was divided in two by a rope. One way down and one way back out. No stopping and no changing lanes. Overhead lights, (thank heavens for electricity), made sure we could see the snaking line of human ducks waddling down and out of the tomb.

The heat rose as we moved in and the air seemed very thin. We could hear the fans blowing air through the tunnel and I couldn’t help but wonder how they had managed this before electricity. One of our group, a somewhat large person, insisted on going down. He couldn’t see his feet when standing and was told he had to remain squatting for at least fifteen minutes down and then back, but insisted on going in. Approximately half way down we heard a commotion behind us. (Yes we selfishly made sure we were well ahead of him.) Our rotund friend couldn’t breathe, overheated and could no longer duck walk. We were told it took quite a bit of engineering to get the lines of people stopped and manoeuvre him from one side to the other and get him out. Everything has been stripped out of the tomb and it was a little disappointing but I made it into the tomb and out, under my own steam Yes! I was thrilled.

Another excursion took us to a pyramid where the external walks were undergoing renovation and preservation work. As we walked behind one wall we saw to our right some of the best reliefs in the complex. The ground was a little rough, okay, it was very uneven, and there was a small rope alongside the path, to warn people of the uneven surface. ( I wish I could draw an angelic face here). As we walked across to get our photos an armed ‘soldier’ dressed in black, big gun, came hurrying towards us. We were not supposed to be there. Smiling once more, we explained we only wanted to get some pictures. Smiling all the while, he relented and stood guard for us to get our pictures. How we were supposed to steal the cartouches is beyond me.  As we were moving back to the path some of our group appeared. Attempting to cross the rope our guard lifted his rifle. No admittance.

Of course as soon as Ayman, our guide, made an appearance he was told that we had been arrested and escorted away from the temple. Not bad, kidnapped by camel drivers and arrested by a guard. We were then admonished by members of our group for encouraging the locals and the waiters. It simply wasn’t right, smiling at them, making eye contact, it set a bad precedent. It would be misunderstood that we were leading them on!  Yes, we received our fair share of proposals or propositions but nothing we were unable to handle or deflect. Sorry, it sounds like sour grapes and cold coffee.

The flight to Abu Simbel was an education. I didn’t think aeroplanes like that could get in the air. Shake, rattle, clank and hold onto your hats. But the sights made it worthwhile. A group photo in front of the temple signaled the last of our land trip in Cairo. All that was left was the return to Cairo after Egyptian dancers in the lounge that night. Mel and I both shimmied on stage!

The next morning I wondered why I had done it but, it was a great way to end the trip. The next day we traveled back to the Cairo Marriott again for one night. Our final stop at the Papyrus Place. Too many choices but I had a wonderful time. After that it was on to Jordan.

Egypt was so full of adventure and it lived up to more than I anticipated. The history and majesty took my breath away and I wished my mother had been able to see it, as it was one of her loves. I managed to get into a little unexpected drama, innocently, but began to realise that I was simply a small part of a larger whole.  My search was beginning to put its pieces together and I had glimpses of who and what it might reveal.

~

Next week…..Jordan

© Susan Jamieson 2014

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#In Search of....

image from www-josephinewall-co.uk

“There has always been, for me, this other world, this second world to fall back on–a more reliable world in so far as it does not hide that its premise is illusion.”
Graham Swift, Ever After
“You’re still alive. Be thankful for that. You can still walk and talk and think. Yes, you feel like shit most of the time, but it could be worse. So instead of sitting in your room waiting to die, why don’t you join in on life until you do die? Dammit! Get off your dead ass and make something of the life you still have left!”
Deanna Lynn Sletten, Widow, Virgin, Whore

~

The luxury of the Cairo Marriott was only a brief stopover in the trip, but one that was a glimpse into ostentatious luxury. Could I have handled more? Well, if I had a huge bag of money and all I needed were casino tables, possibly. However, I wanted more, the real Egypt I had been introduced to as a child by my mother, through her love of the Pyramids. She hadn’t been able to see them personally but her library was an exquisite collection of all things ancient Egyptian.

Our first full day of sightseeing began at the Giza Necropolis – without a sandstorm. What an incredible difference from the last time we were there. Our tour guide Ayman was as well versed in Egyptology as Vered had been in Israeli history. At least we started off well with a good tour bus!  Arriving at the Pyramids we were greeted with a car park which resembled a bus depot. Trying to remember which bus ‘belonged’ to us was no small feat. We were admonished “Not to go anywhere alone”, “Not to go anywhere with the camel drivers”, and finally “To remember that tourists had been abducted, murdered and…worse”.

Suitably encouraged we set off. Ayman walked us around the pyramids and gave us a brief history of the area. This complex of ancient monuments includes the three pyramid complexes known as the Great Pyramids, the massive sculpture known as the Great Sphinx, several cemeteries, a workers’ village and an industrial complex. The Pyramids of Giza consist of Great Pyramid and the Pyramid of Cheops and Khufu, the somewhat smaller Pyramid of Chephren) a few hundred meters to the south-west and the Pyramid of Mykerinos a few hundred meters further south-west. The Great Sphinx is to the east of the complex. (That’s the travel guide explanation).

After a thorough tour of the area we were given an hour to wander at our leisure. Considering there were no shops to visit, the camels beckoned. Mel wasn’t too sure but after being so strongly advised to “be careful” it seemed an insult not to have a ride. Beside, how could we come all this way and not have a ride on a camel, around the pyramids too?

The camel must have seen me coming and after following the instructions to climb on board I was halfway there when she decided to stand up.  WHOA! Not what you want to happen. From a very precarious perch the tip and sway was alarming, and I was trying to reassure my friend that all was well.  I managed to settle on my high perch and then we had to get the camel to sit down again so she could get on.  I’m sure if you asked her she would tell you she had a grip of iron. Once settled the careful walk began. Did you know they only use female camels because they are more placid? Yes, strange thoughts ran through my mind too.

I think it must be part of the ride because half way around the circuit we stopped and the driver (why do they call them drivers?), asked if we wanted to have the famous photos taken – the one where you look as though your finger is right on the tip of the pyramid? Well, first I had to persuade Mel it was okay to give him my camera… he could have run off with it. Leaving us on his camel? Oh well. That was the easiest part. Broken English trying to ask you to point just so, in order that your finger, held just so (artistically) appears to be on the very tip of the pyramid behind you, just so. The laughter began and it was a long drawn out attempt to get a couple of photos but I was in a good mood so I didn’t mind. Some of our fellow travelers weren’t as amused.  The remainder of the ride was uneventful, apart from the ship on the high seas feeling as we, or rather our camel, sat back down again. Gee Mel did get off quickly!

We must have made an impression with the camel drivers because we quickly gathered a group around us, all offering to show us where to go to get the best photos of the pyramids. Why not? Well, the obvious answer was the stern admonishment not to wander off because of the dire possibilities for a female alone in Egypt. But that was alright because we weren’t alone – we were together!  So off we wandered, about two hundred metres and took some wonderful photos of the pyramids and then with our erstwhile friendly camel drivers. All was well and we were walking back towards the bus when our guide, Ayman came hurrying towards us, concern written large on his face.

A couple of the sour pusses who had seen us wandering off with the camel drivers had hot footed it over to Ayman and told him we were being kidnapped! Honestly. At that particular time I was in no mind to be trifled with – by anyone, particularly someone of the opposite sex. I would have cheerfully chopped them off at the knees. I knew this and I’m sure the camel drivers sensed this, even if they spent a considerable amount of time, in their broken English trying to persuade us to take them away with us!  I did try to take it with good grace but I was really irritated. I could sense how the trip was going to go.

Goodbye to the Grand Sphynx

Goodbye to the Grand Sphynx

The Alabaster Shop

The Alabaster Shop

#In Search of

Breaking more hearts?

In high spirits, (I refused to be crestfallen at this turn of events) we walked back to the bus to head back to our next stop, the Alabaster factory. We couldn’t get into trouble here and bought quite a few pieces to take home with us. The salesmen however were overly eager to offer their services to us…. if we wanted them to run away with us to Australia. I could see a pattern developing. Ayman decided we needed to have an eye kept on us because we might get into ‘trouble’ but, that was yet to come.

#In Search of..

Statue of Rameses 11 at Memphis

Back at the hotel we were advised we would be leaving to go on our Nile cruise early the next morning. This was going to be fun!

Whatever it was I was searching for was becoming  a little clearer. I was leaving more of the old persona behind and finding there was a fun person inside, someone who could laugh and enjoy the silliness of life. I was feeling the awe and majesty of the Pyramids and a sense of the great power and mystery they contained. Yet I knew my search was not over yet.

Blessings, Susan x

Next week – Nile Cruise and ‘arrested’.

© Susan Jamieson 2014

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