April 10, 2001


Right now I'm feeling: Fulfilled and very tired

Right now I'm listening to: Yuki Kimura

Yuki Kimura -- Love and Joy  

A view of the three great pyramids at Giza

King Tut's canopic jars.
On display at the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities

Some crazy Egyptians I
hooked up with for a couple of days

The beautiful island temple of Philae

The Temple at Abu Simbel

Inside a tomb in the Valley of the Kings

The only honest man in Cairo

Dreams of Egypt

I like to think of myself as a "writer". But when I try to put the feelings of my trip into words, the words won't fit. Egypt was everything I ever thought it could be. Everything I ever dreamed it could be. And a whole lot of things I never thought it was.

I'd been looking forward to this trip all my life. I was deathly afraid that it would fall way short. That the fantasy I had built up in my mind over two decades wouldn't match up at all to the realities of trudging through the desert and looking at stone walls and sand dunes.

But it did.

I flew into Cairo at night. Cairo is one of the most densely populated cities in the world and the city lights I saw as the plane flew over... well, I'll never forget the sight, I'd never seen anything so amazing. I'd read a handful of guide books but I wasn't prepared for the barrage of persistent Egyptians peddling tours, taxis, or hotels. I spent almost a week in Cairo. There are so many monuments in and around Cairo that you could spend a month in only that reigon.

I took a few days to go around and see what the main city of Cairo had to offer, like mosques, markets, city-scapes, and museums. It was crazy. I'd never seen so many people confined to so small a space. Even in Japan it wasn't as bad. The markets are so cool!! Dirty, crowded, and dodgy, I got ripped off and got some deals. The best museum, of course, is the Museum of Antiquities. It has the most complete collection of Egyptian relics in the world. And it is a disgraceful mess. Statues, art objects, or paintings are hung or placed whever there was room with little or no explanation of its significance or where it was found.

The pyramids were amazing. Larger and more massive than I'd imagined, I got to climb in an down three of them, two enormous, one small. Inside the pyramids, the shafts are small, claustrophobic, and very, very hot. But also worth every minute I spent down inside there. A once-in-a-lifetime climb.

There are a few cemeteries that are really good. Saqqara is amazing. The complex only recently discovered when some hapless native's mule fell into a shaft, it has given us so much information about ancient Egyptian life.

The temples can steal your imagination.. and the Nile will steal your heart. I had a terrific cruise along the Nile exploring temlpes along the way during the day and a beautiful Singaporean girl keeping me company on the moonlit nights. Thousands of stars, a brilliantly full moon, handsome cab rides... dazzling sunsets, intoxicating, sugar-cane scented breezes.. a trip along the Nile is something you can never forget. It's truly spellbinding. All of the cliches are true.

I went on a couple tours (which I usually don't) because it was cheaper and easier getting to certain places on a tour than it was by myself. I was really surprised at how little the tour guides new and how much they tried to just pass over the heads of gullible tourists. I really couldn't help myself. A handful of times I found myself correcting our guides about the history of a certain monument or about the reading of a line of hieroglyphs. The guides hated me. At one point, I went off on my own and a handful of tourists followed me. I showed them around the temple, explaining things as I went! I had never been there, but I had studied the history and architecture of the monuments at length and was able to answer all of their questions. It was great.

The final leg of my trip included the Valley of Kings and the Valley of Queens. I was just about "tombed-out". The tombs in the Valley of Kings were spectacular. There isn't much left in the Valley of Queens. The famous tomb of Nefertiti cost big bucks to get in and you have to wake up pretty early in the morning to get a ticket to see it. I bought a souvenir book of the tomb, but I would really like to see it next time I go.

Leaving was hard. I had studied a lot of history, language and architecture before I went, and looking back, I wish I had studied more, but I can't imagine going there without the things I already did know. To trace hieroglyphs in the stone and know what they meant, to know what rituals were performed in certain chambers, to let the sand of the western desert run through my fingers and know that the oldest, most sophisticated civilization in the world was built on this same sand... It was an incredible sensation. Egypt was an incredible experience that I will never forget.

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