I’ve just come from the top of the Mt. where Moses was buried and saw the Dead Sea from there. I’ve got to read my bible when I get home!! Such a nice young college prof. has been “sightseeing” me and I’ve learned much from her. It is a lovely little city with an almost perfect climate (tho a bit chilly this morn.) built on hills with terrific views. I go home on Sun., Bill to Africa.
We docked in Luxor about lunchtime. We were tied to another ship so we had to walk through that one in order to get onto land. We could see in some places the ships were four or five deep. In the afternoon we set out for Karnak on the east bank of the river. In old Egypt, the east side of the river was associated with life as the sun rises in the east. The west side of the river was associated with death as the sun sets in the west. Therefore, generally, temples were built on the east side and tombs were on the west side. In Luxor, the Temples of Karnak and Luxor are on the east side and the Valley of the Kings is on the west side.
Karnak was built about 4,000 years ago. It was a large complex built for the priests and the King, no others were allowed entry. There was a man-made lake in the middle and outside the entrance was a large platform for commoners to gather during festivals. Different kings contributed so it grew over the years. The site was overwhelming, so much to see. The entrance was lined with ram-headed sphinxes. As we entered, the Great Hypostyle Hall was 54,000 square feet with 134 massive columns all beautifully painted. All but 12 columns are 10 meters (33 ft). high with the remaining ones being 21 meters high (69 ft.). The site is considered the largest religious building in the world.
From there we headed into town and stopped at a place where they made papyrus paintings. We had a lesson on how papyrus was made and then were free to spend as much money as we wanted. The prices were reasonable so I bought one and framed it when I got home.
By this time it was getting dark, apparently the best time to see Luxor Temple. The temple was built about 1400 BC and was used mainly for coronations. In about 395 AD, the Romans occupied Egypt and converted the temple into a fortress and later put a Christian chapel inside. In 640 AD a mosque was added and is still used to this day. There were originally two obelisks at its entrance. One is now at the Place de la Concorde in Paris. Our guide kept lamenting how many things had been stolen from Egypt. Recently excavated and open to the public, the Avenue of the Sphinxes ran from Luxor Temple to Karnak.
Over a year ago we were well into the Covid pandemic. Things were starting to look up with the vaccine on the horizon. There was light at the end of the tunnel. I booked a trip to to Egypt for the following year and crossed my fingers. I was due to leave January 9, 2022.
In July, things started to open up and four friends of mine went to Egypt between then and September. Then Omicron hit. I weighed it all and decided to move forward. I would be ready to go but if it got canceled, I would be okay with that, too. I got my visa, my plane tickets, my vaccination docs. About two weeks before I was to go, I started hearing about all the flight cancellations. I was scared my flight would be cancelled or delayed and I would miss my connection in New York. So I decided to leave a day earlier and spend the night, just to be sure. My final itinerary arrived from the tour company. It looked like all systems were go.
The only Covid related requirement for entry was proof of full vaccination. I needed to set up the proof with a QR code on my phone. That was easily done. Getting back into the USA was a little more complicated. But more about that later.
I left my house on a Monday at 4 am to catch a 7 am flight. It was minus 4 degrees F, winter in Minnesota. My plane left on time. The following day I had to check out of my hotel and go to the airport very early. The flight was to leave at 6:30 pm and I was there about noon. There was no place to sit. I found a railing to lean against and finally checked in about 3 pm. I was on my way, double masked and excited.
We arrived in Cairo at about 11:00 am the next day but we didn’t arrive at our hotel until about 3 pm. There was so much red tape. We needed permission to leave the airport, we needed to have a tourist police body guard, etc etc. That evening, after a short bus tour of the city, we went to dinner at Feleyfel for mixed grill and hummus and baba ghanoush and other delights. It had been a long day. The food was good.
The sight seeing began early the next morning with a visit to the Egyptian Museum. It was crowded with Russians who had come over on a day tour from Hurghada on the Red Sea. They go to the seaside resorts to get away from winter cold and do day trips by bus to Cairo and Luxor. The Egyptians have built a new museum near the Pyramids and are in the process of transitioning items out of the Egyptian museum. It was still full of artifacts. They have so much stuff and are still discovering things all the time. The mummies had been moved to the Civilization Museum and so we only saw one or two. King Tut’s mask and other items were in a special room where you could not take photos. Our guide pointed out a few treasures and we wandered around for a while trying to take it all in.
That afternoon we wandered through the open market and then headed to the Citadel. Sultan Salah al-Din al-Ayyubi (Saladin) ordered the construction of a fortress on the Muzattam Hills overlooking Cairo in 1176 AD. It was completed by his successor Sultan Kamel ibn al-Adel in 1207 AD. Monuments were added to the area as well as a large Mosque which dominates the compound. The Mosque of Muhammad Ali Pasha. There are other smaller mosques and museums that can be visited. The day we were there, they were getting the mosque ready for a wedding.
Day three we had to get up at four in the morning to catch and early flight to Aswan. From the airport in Aswan, we boarded a bus and went directly to Aswan Dam and Lake Nasser, one of the largest man-made lakes in the world. Returning down river, we got onto a motorboat and crossed the river to Philae Island to tour the Temple of Isis. The temple was built during Egypt’s Greco-Roman period around 280 BC. It is hard to wrap your head around how old everything is. The obelisks from the front of the temple were taken by British Consul Henry Salt and are now in Dorset, England.
Our next stop was a quarry where an attempt to cut out a very large obelisk from the rock had failed since it had a large crack in it. They would dig out the rock around the shape they wanted to extract and use water to separate it. Yeah, I didn’t fully absorb the engineering angle but apparently it worked. Except for this time, anyway. From there we finally checked into our cruise ship and had some lunch. It was like 2 pm. And it wasn’t over yet.
After lunch we all precariously made our way onto a felucca, a small sailboat. We sailed down river to a Nubian village where we were to take tea with some Nubian villagers. A dirt pathway surrounded by garbage took us up a hill where there was was a large pile of garbage, and on top of the pile were three goats and a cat munching away.
We turned the corner and were led by a man into a house. After climbing high steps we found ourselves in a very pleasant open air room with colorful paintings on the walls. The woman of the house was very welcoming and made tea for us. Our guide told us he had a surprise for us. The man we had seen earlier brought out a large white bucket. Inside the bucket was a baby crocodile. Lovely.
On our way out of the village we came across a man weaving. He was making beautiful scarves in a room with a loom and shelves of his finished products. He made several sales that day. Interestingly enough we saw a poster of the very weaver at the airport. Apparently he had been recognized for something or other. By the way, there are lots of stray dogs and cats in Egypt. One of my tour companions kept wanting to feed them.
Back on the felucca, we made our way zig zagging back to our cruise ship.
Day four was another early day, we had to catch a flight to Abu Simbel.