Apologies for the somewhat fragmented nature of this blog. It all started to go horribly wrong with Egyptian Wi-Fi which meant I couldn’t post anything until I got home. Since then I have survived a 3 week stint in hospital for some “routine maintenance” and a spot of very overdue “medication juggling”. Spending the festive season sandwiched between the withdrawal symptoms from the old meds and the side effects of the new !!
Not a lot of fun, but it seems to be sorting itself out, as I prepare for my next adventure up the Mekong River to Vietnam and Cambodia at the end of January. Hopefully should be more blog friendly as the cruising bit is interspersed with a few decent hotels which should be able to accommodate me with Internet access etc.
So watch this space. Oh yes and Happy Xmas to any of you that have followed this one to its conclusion.
Last time I was at the pyramids was several decades ago providing PA system for a Frank Sinatra Gala performance and Banquet in aid of Mrs Sadats hospital charity for very wealthy what we would now call Oligarchs. It was billed as Three Extraordinary Days and they certainly were !! A few days later Anwar Sadat was assassinated by his own soldiers at a military parade and the course of Egyptian History changed for ever !! Any way that’s another story !!
Arrived off the bus and decided to make the acquaintance of a friendly camel (called Charlie Brown) and before I knew it had climbed aboard and lurched off as only camels do across the desert. Needless to say there was considerable cost to all aspects of this, especially when I wanted to get off !!
Traipsed around the Sphinx and other tombs, temples and the buried boat department, All very impressive but the local village has advanced considerably since we were here with Frank and in typically Egyptian style to the detriment of the whole shebang !!
Then off to the Cairo Museum to see all the stuff that used to be in the empty tombs and temples that we had visited on our way down river.
No photos of the Best of Tutankhamun not even with Photo permit ! However loads of Sarcophagi, bling and mummified Pharaohs and their pets. Outside the obligatory Dog who had managed to evade the embalmers,,,,,,,,,
We finally cruised into the outskirts of Cairo – Needless to say escorted by a fair sized contingent of Police Patrol Boats.
Crammed into a tiny area of downtown Cairo is a cluster of Coptic Churches – supposedly on the various sites that Mary, Jo & Jesus stopped off on their flight into Egypt in order to escape the wrath of Herod who didn’t appreciate the threat to his authority. Yet another style of Christianity with its own style and symbols. They also founded monasteries all along the route many of which are still active today. Given the fact that Egypt is now almost totally a Muslim country these days it doesn’t take much imagination to understand why relations get a bit strained (sometimes lethally !) from time to time. Especially as the priests and popes (patriarch’s) don’t exactly blend in with your average Egyptian !! Think long beards, ornate gowns and silly hats and names like “His Holiness Pope Tawadros 118” I didn’t dare ask what happened to his 117 predecessors !!
Icons, Frescoes abound as well as intricately carved iconostasis and pulpits made of ebony & cedar inlaid with ivory, marble and other stuff.
Next door is a very impressive Coptic Museum which contains many relics, carvings, scrolls and bits of monastery.
Next up is a trip to Giza to see the Pyramids and stuff. Somehow I ended up on top of a camel called Charlie Brown……………..
Beni Hassan has some of the best preserved tombs in Egypt probably due to their inaccessibility. Both of the two sites that we visited involved a climb of 400 steps. Not one for the mobility impaired !!!
Carved out of the rock and of course smothered in reliefs and bas-reliefs and frescoes, all stripped of their treasures by generations of tomb robbers it was worth the climb.
Then back through one of the “cities of the dead” to the ship in time for afternoon tea and dinner. By this point in the trip and not having been allowed to explore any Egyptian towns or cities it was time for a spot of “toys out of the pram” and a minor mutiny amongst my fellow tourists, it was finally agreed that we could walk through the local town of El Minya to soak up a bit of local colour. Now there were eleven of us and as soon as we were off the ship we were cocooned in a bubble of Police, Military, Special Forces and SWAT teams. I counted 23 at one point, interspersed with a bunch of bickering officers who couldn’t decide who was in charge. All armed to the teeth and dressed in full combat gear they swept the streets of the local population before we were allowed to continue. On several occasions (being somewhat rebellious by nature) I would try to lag behind and evade the cordon, only to prodded back into line by the muzzle of some lethal looking SWAT weapon. Warned you that the “rant wasn’t over…..
Nice to see that gay pride is alive and kicking in Egypt…………
During the 18th Dynasty of Pharaohs – around the 13th Century BC, Akhenaten inherited the throne and decided that all the other pharaohs had got it horribly wrong and that there should only be one God – Aten – The Sun God. So he tried and fortunately failed to destroy or deface all other gods and their temples – No mean feat !!!
He created a vast new complex and city at Armana dedicated to Aten with Temples and Tombs Galore. His Wife Nefertiti was probably the mother of Tutankhamun. Akhenaten only ruled for 17 years and after he popped his clogs Tutankhamun – only a boy – abandoned Armana and returned to Thebes – Karnak etc.
Little remains, though the footprints of the various temples and palaces are still clearly visible. Akhenaten had a thing about mummified Ibises and among the many tombs scattered around the site are literally hundreds of thousands of mummified ibises – not to mention baboons in their individual sarcophagi or amphora.
Top right is a mummified Ibis next to an individual sarcophagus and a plethora of broken urns – all part of the process.
A bit of local colour including some very enthusiastic school kids who all came out to watch the small group of tourists go by, Then back on the river to Beni Hassan – lots of steps and tombs coming up next.
At this point we were virtually “templed out” as they all seemed to be omnipresent !! First stop was Dendera – another vast complex smothered in intricate carvings to which ever deities it was built to celebrate:
Then onto Abydos for more of the same – these ones built for worship of Sety 1 ( a bad guy/god) and our old mate Rameses ll and dedicated to the cult of Osiris.
Historical Note: The reason that many of the statues and carving are badly defaced (especially facially) is that after 2-3000 years the Copts arrived in Egypt (Christians to you and me) and set about painstakingly chipping off the features of any one/thing that was not remotely Christian. They also lived in many of the temples lighting bonfires, much to the detriment of the 2000 year old paintwork. Vandalism on an industrial scale – but then the Coptic Christians were like that. They also built a large number of large monasteries along the “route”, many dedicated the “Flight into Egypt” by Mary, Jo & what’s his name and most of which claim to have been patronised by them on their way through. More on the Copts later………………
Don’t worry if you are starting to suffer from Temple fatigue: we move onto tombs next – In vast numbers with the occasional temple and or complex thrown in !!!
Linked by a 2Km avenue of sphinxes to the Temple of Luxor, the Karnak Complex of Temples and Sanctuaries is vast and needs several days to explore thoroughly. Every Inch of stonework be it columns, pylons, walls or cenotaphs are carved, inscribed and/or smothered in Hieroglyphics and painted. Statues and Sphinxes everywhere !!
How they managed to construct and install so many HUGE structures in close proximity to each other with no machinery apart from human labour, ingenuity and brute force beggars belief !!! And of course no frigging Health & Safety to deal with, so the death and injury toll must have been extensive !!
Then back on the boat for a short trip downriver for more Temples & Tombs…