Sunday, October 28
Today was a resting day, which was nice. After breakfast I stopped in the lobby to use the Internet. fine. I thought I could get done in a half hour, but it shut off just as I was about to send the email. I got another half hour so I reviewed and turned one picture right side up before sending the notification. Then I had time to run through my email and get that caught up too. All of this while sitting at a desk watching the Nile go by. I got a mystery about an archaeological dig here in Egypt, but I can’t concentrate on it when I want to look at Egypt in person!
We have docked in Luxor now, but our boat is on the outside of the row (for now) so my room still has a nice view. It was quite a lovely day, and interesting scenery as well. We went past a ‘lock’ which seemed more to me like a narrow passageway just large enough for the boat to pass through. I didn’t see the mechanism for changing the water levels myself. When we approached, we had to slow down, which gave ambitious sales people a chance to approach. There was a guy rowing the boat, and a guy waving merchandise to get attention. If he detected any interest at all, he put the item, mostly cloth things, in a plastic bag, tied it shut and threw it up to the top deck with great accuracy. They could use these guys in the NFL. If you decided to buy it, you put the agreed upon money in the plastic bag and threw it back. Since all the money is paper, it would float if they didn’t catch it, and they could fish it out. I didn’t join in the negotiations, but it was interesting to watch.
I have noticed a couple of bridges since we left Aswan, and one little car ferry, so there are ways to get back and forth, but not often. I just heard various horn blowing noises, and I think another ship may be parking next to us. Yep, I just looked out, and the Royal Princess is soon to be my new neighbor. We are going to meet at 5:00 to take an orientation walk in Luxor before dinner. I guess I’ll be pulling my curtains—don’t want to be too neighborly!
Tonight I’ll have to pay my bill for ship-board expenses (laundry, beverages, etc), and also pay the jewelry shop for the couple of trinkets I found (pendant and a couple of pairs of earrings). There is supposed to be a belly dance show tonight...we’ll see what that is like! Well, time to turn on a light, since the other boat is up close and personal, although I can’t see anyone it the opposite cabin.
At 5:00 we set off, traversing the lobbies of three boats to reach the bank and climb the stairs to the street. After a short walk we spotted the ruins of Luxor temple, right in the center of town. We decided to take Ahmed up on his offer to give us a tour. We had to get our own tickets since it isn’t included in the tour. I think we had more crowds here than anywhere else we had visited, I’m not sure why. It was getting dark when we started, but there was very good lighting. This was another large temple connected to Ramses, with colossal statues at the front, and equally colossal columns in the court. The reliefs were very detailed and illustrated both history and mythology. There was a beautiful obelisk out front covered with hieroglyphics that are as clear as the day they were carved. There is the base where a matching obelisk was once placed. King Mohammed Ali Pasha traded it to the king of France for a fancy French clock. The obelisk still sits in the Place de la Concorde. The clock is still in the mosque of Ali Pasha in Cairo, but has never worked properly!
After the Temple we found our way back to the boat easily. Ahmed said that the touts in Luxor are the most aggressive of the bunch, and I can believe it just by the number of times we were approached on the short walk. One of the group was amused by the rather chubby boy who mimed that he needed money to eat because he was so hungry!
Back at the boat, I stopped at the jewelers to pick up my order. The earrings and pendant are really nice, and will be a good souvenir. Then it was down to dinner. We’ve gotten spoiled by the good food for the last three days. The next stop was the main desk to pay my bill. They weren’t ready, but I couldn’t face another trip up and down stairs just for that and they took pity on me. Then it was up to catch the belly dancer in the lounge. She was really good, and did have a detectable belly, although not to much with the exercise she gets. There was a little Egyptian girl about five who really got into it and was just about as much fun to watch. After the belly dancer, a male dancer came out. He spun in a circle for at least five to ten minutes with a large skirt that stuck straight out and did a routine with five baskets, then with a second skirt, and then the skirts lit up, then he spun the skirt over his head while moving through the audience. All in all quite impressive. I don’t know how he could stand up when he was done, my head was spinning and I was sitting still!
Now it is time to get packed up again, and we move to our Luxor hotel tomorrow. It was nice to have a quiet day, as the next few days will be hectic with sightseeing.
Tuesday, October 29
Still in Luxor, in our hotel, complete with elevator. That is a treat since the boat has the dining room on the bottom floor and my cabin on the fourth floor! I have realized that my everyday life includes no steps at all. My room looks out to the Nile, so that is nice.
This morning we went to the Karnak Temple. It was crowded, as was the Luxor Temple last night. They say that this area has the majority of ancient monuments in the world. That may be the case, and maybe even more to be discovered! This area was known as Thebes in ancient times.
The temple complex covers 60 acres with several temples, some of which were there before the larger complex was built. Most of it was built between 1570 and 1090 BC by a variety of kings. The main god honored was Amun. It seems most of the temples have honored a trinity of gods, often the got, his wife, and son. In this case there is plenty of room for everyone to have their own temple. Entry to the main temple is along a wide path lined with sphinx having a rams head, the ram being the symbol of Amun. There is an entry courtyard where one of the walls still has part of a mud brick ramp that was used for transporting the stone building blocks to the upper portion of the wall. Past the courtyard, you enter the amazing hypostyle hall. This is an area the size of St Peter’s Rome and St Paul’s London combined. It is filled with 134 pillars, all covered with varying amounts of hieroglyphics and other decoration. The pillars in the center section are taller, and have the shape of an open lotus flower at the top. The others on either side have a closed lotus bud. The differing heights allowed for a row of windows to let in light. Portions of the roof beams still have painting with original coloring available, due to being shielded from direct sunlight. The walls of the temple have a variety of scenes carved in relief that honor the accomplishments of various pharaohs, gods, and portray other legends.
Moving on into the next area, there are a couple of soaring obelisks of granite, the highest is 30 meters high. Ahmed told how they split the granite by boring holes, putting in wood wedges, watering them to make the wood swell and eventually splitting the granite. It is an amazing feat of engineering to raise it to vertical and get it balanced on the base so that it has stood for thousands of years. The pyramid at the top of the obelisk was plated with gold or silver so that it would catch the sun and enable travelers from far away to find their way to the temple, much like a church steeple or minaret on a mosque. This is definitely one of the most massive temples we have seen. Luxor seems to be on every Egypt itinerary. I noticed more tourists here than anywhere else on the trip. I am grateful now that we got up and headed to the pyramids so early that first day, and enjoyed a relatively uncrowded visit.
After Karnak, we went for a visit to Animal Care Egypt, a charity that the tour company sponsors. On the outskirts of Luxor, the facility provides free veterinary care to injured animals, including many donkeys and horses wounded either by accident or neglect. They also do spay and neuter services for dogs and cats. They do an educational program for school kids, to make them aware of good animal treatment. There are a lot of working animals in Egypt and they don’t always get good care. Some of the cases are pretty sad, but the animals are well taken care of here, and get a second chance.
On to the hotel, where we checked in to relative luxury. I enjoyed a lazy room service lunch and rest in the room before I venture out again.
Several were walking to the main market, but I was lazy and went to the smaller market near the hotel. I was one of the few customers, so I got lots of attention. I got some little souvenirs, at tablecloth, inlaid box, postcards, scarf, and some questionable, if not tacky little things I don’t need. It was an interesting experience! I bargained some, but not drastically, and I probably provided some entertainment for the folks!
Now to see if the internet works here! Then it is an early night, because we leave at 7:00 in the morning to visit the Valley of the Kings. It would be nice if we beat the worst of the crowds—we’ll see.
Well, it didn’t work, so I just had dinner and came back upstairs. I am now watching a Friends rerun with Arabic subtitles!