Seriously, so much. Got up at 3:30am yesterday to meet Achmed and Mohammed for the ride to the airport. Security here is so strange - we had to send our bags through the x-ray and go through the metal detector to just get into the airport, but when I set off the metal detector with my bionic knees, nobody blinked. I've probably gone through 25 metal detectors since I got here and set them all off, and nobody seems to care.
A short flight to Luxor. Looking out the airplane window, there is nothing but dessert for as far as you can see. This is the Sahara and there is nothing but sand. Until you get over the Nile and there is this green stripe running through the middle of nowhere. Luxor is green and lush for several hundred yards on either side of the Nile, and then there is nothing but sand. It is also the biggest open air museum of unbelievable artifacts in the world.
It is much less crowded and crazy than Cairo and much more beautiful. Fewer people, fewer cars, more carts and donkeys, more people in traditional Arab robes. The people are much browner skinned, with curlier hair. They consider themselves Africans and the people of Cairo, who are much lighter skinned, consider themselves Asian. Luxor is Upper Egypt and Cairo Lower Egypt, even though Luxor is South of Cairo. The Nile runs backwards and south is considered upriver and north is down river.
We are on the Sonesta Saint George, which is an old-fashioned river boat. Four decks, all cabins are on the outside. It's very elegant. Our room is about the same size as a hotel room in Europe - small, but workable. In addition to the beds, there is room for a table and a couple of chairs. The bathroom is huge, with a shower/tub/sauna contraption that were still trying to figure out. We get to our room and unpack and nap for an hour or so.
Lunch on board - a buffet with regular buffet stuff. Lots of vegetarian action, salads, chicken, fish, etc. Food was fine but nothing memorable. We share the table, and all of our tours, with six other people. And Indian couple and their son who live in Florida. The couple are both doctors and the son is about 15 and very charming. A Malaysian couple and their daughter to live in Malay. Everyone is really nice and it's pretty comfortable.
After lunch, we're off! First to the Temple of Karnak. It is the temple to Amun Ra and is the second largest religious site in the world, after Angor Wat in Cambodia. It was built in about 1300 BC and has a lot of well preserved artifacts. I'm going to just post pictures, because although I learned a lot of facts, I've forgotten them already.
Afterwards, we went to the Temple of Luxor. It's three kilometers from the Temple of Karnak, on the other side of the river. It was built for the wife of Amun Ra and has 1600 Sphinxes lining the road to the river. It was built in 1400 BC and added on to by a lot of people, including Alexander the great. A lot of the Egyptian temples were changed around when the Romans and the Greeks were in charge. There is a whole section devoted to fertility, with many figures of a man with a prominent penis which people touch when they want to get pregnant. Our guide said that the complex has two people employed full time just going around cleaning the penises. I'm not sure if he was kidding or not.
We had signed up for the Karnak sound and light show, so everyone else got to go back to the ship and we went back to the temple. It was kind of interesting and kind of cheesy - disembodied voices taking on the the personas of the different gods and priest and telling the story of the Temple. We got back to the ship and ate dinner at about 9 and then collapsed. We had to leave at 6:30 this morning.
Did a mad dash to the Valley of the Kings, to beat all the other tour groups. We did! The Valley of the Kings has uncovered 62 different tombs of kings and their families, dating back to forever. This is where King Tut was found. His was the only intact tomb of all of the tombs located. We weren't able to take pictures anywhere in the complex, but I'm going to pull some down from the web and add them. Some of the paintings were 3000 years old or more and still vibrant. It was pretty fascinating.
Then the Temple of Hepshatsut. She was the only female Pharoaoh and ruled in about 1500 BC. Large and sprawling, it was interesting only because she ruled as a man and when she died, most of her temples were destroyed.
It feels like I'm just rushing through all of this, but to be honest, the whole drama is actually seeing these massive, man-made giants that are 3 to 5 thousand years old. Read up on them, because they're fascinating, but there are many of them and pretty amazing. I have to remind myself that they are not reproductions.
Lunch back on the ship was buffet again, and then deck top to relax and sail. We left Luxor about 1 and started sailing upriver. The top deck of this boat is swimming pools and tables and lounge chairs. It's surprising how much of the banks are not developed and are just green and fertile. They grow a lot of sugarcane here, and they also use it to make paper, like the papyrus plant. A little donkey went running by with a little boy in a robe with a stick went running after. Kind of seems like we're in a movie. Pretty soon, we start hearing "Hullo? Hello?" from the side of the ship. There are several row boats with a couple of guys in each one trying to sell us things. They will throw a bundle onto the boat (towels, rugs, tablecloths, etc.) and the people on the boat will catch it and pass it around and see if anyone wants it. If someone does, then they yell down "How Much?" and the vendor gives a price and they start negotiating. When they get to the bottom line, the vendor says "So it shall be", and throws up another package. If nobody wants wants in the bag, we tie it up and throw it back down. If someone has bought something, we put the money in the bag that's going back down. One of the guys on the boat, on a different tour, served as negotiator for everyone. He had a marvelous time and this went on all afternoon. It was hysterical and so entertaining. They tied up to the boat and so were being pulled along with us. They stayed with us until we got to the lock about 6pm.
We got to the lock and got locked in and sat for about 30 minutes while the river rose us up about 70 meters, then passed through. The sitting on the deck watching the Nile go by is pretty special.
We had a "cocktail" party where each person got one fruity drink, with or without alcohol, and one piece of cheese. Then the crew came and paraded around to some kind of Egyptian Colosseum tune (think Rocky with wailing} and then we went to dinner.
The menu said St. George Salad, which turned out to be a crepe with meat in it or deviled chicken, which was kind of like a Waldorf salad with a chicken tender on top. I went with that, then sea bass and cream of broccoli soup. The food is very good here.
We docked in Edfu for the night and the plan is to go to the Edfu temple. I'm going to skip it, as I've developed a pretty bad chest cold and spent the night coughing. I think I'll sit on the deck and watch the world go by. We sail to Komombo this after noon and I'll see that temple this evening. I'll have David take pictures.