The faces of Egypt : Part 1

Choosing Egypt

I often wonder whether Egypt chose me rather than me choosing Egypt. My husband had always indicated an interest in visiting Egypt but the decision to travel there was nudged by three things.

Firstly, I was travelling on a plane, casually leafing through the in-flight magazine when I spotted a picture very similar to the one below. Something about its starkness appealed to me and I carefully tore out the picture with a mental note to myself that I wanted to stand at a similar spot one day and take a similar picture with the St Katherine’s Monastery sheltered in the valley.

Secondly, I thought this would make a great birthday present for my husband’s milestone birthday.

A third reason was that for various reasons, the biblical story of Moses kept surfacing and it felt that just as much as Moses needed to heed God’s call, I too was needing to heed a call though in doubt of my own capabilities. Looking back a number of years later, the lessons I needed to learn  at the time became clearer to me.

So in September 2010,after  SA hosting a very successful Fifa Soccer World Cup – we were on our way. (As an aside, while SA and Egypt are on extreme sides of the African continent, it was amazing how warmly we were welcomed everywhere either by association with the World cup or our late president- Nelson Mandela)

This was a packaged tour – one of the benefits of this was that we were accompanied everywhere by qualified Egyptologists to share the very rich history of this culturally  and historically rich country. There are many whose livelihoods are dependent on tourism so you have to be vigilant about paying more than you need to from many who peddle their wares. We even had to pay a separate person to help us climb off the camels.Chances are that you’ll never get off if you refuse to pay.

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Mt Sanai : Chevvy8

Arriving in Cairo on a very hot day, it was good to be cooled by sundowner non alcoholic cocktails at the hotel poolside.

The pyramids are a dominating feature in Egypt  but we also observed many canals crisscrossing the city since it does straddle the Nile river.

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I love the picture below since it seems to tell a number of stories. Most of all though, it appears to give the impression of a city trapped in a bygone era. I marvelled at the many unfinished buildings across the city, at how on earth they got to hang the washing the way they did.Unknown to us at the time, while some election campaigning was taking place, the first uprising took place on the day we arrived in Cairo.

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This view of the city, taken from the Pyramids gives an indication of the density of the city with its population of over 20 million people at the time. Surprisingly, there were hardly any traffic lights and I found it very difficult to  cross  the streets with the ever churning  waves of traffic .

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EGYPT 2010 085_1024The Pyramids will always amaze me as a major  accomplishment of human acumen though they also presented a paradox to the current state of the city.

EGYPT 2010 080_1024The picture above and below, give an indication of the magnitude of the pyramids . No doubt that much physical effort is embedded here but so is an ancient ingenuity in design and the nature and effect of physical properties of various materials that were used in the construction of the pyramids.

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The Sphinx of Giza with a human head and the body of a lion is said to have been sculpted out of a gigantic mound of limestone.

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After an increasingly hot day in the sun and posing with numerous strangers who demanded payment to be in your picture or take your picture, it was great to relax around another pool and feast off delicious hot grilled koftas, spiced chicken and many other tasty delectables which were strange to my palate. On our second night we left Cairo on an overnight train through the desert to Luxor.

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Join me next week for a trip through the temples of Luxor and a visit across the Nile to a Nubian village.