An Egyptian Birthday
December 23, 2015
As the sun rose behind us and warmed my back I was overcome with feelings of excitement. After a pretty rough night I was waking up on the Nile on my birthday! We had tea and coffee with breakfast, which consisted of pita bread with cheese, jelly, honey, hard-boiled eggs and wafer cookies that were filled with chocolate. During breakfast Nate remembered that it was my birthday and announced it as Waleed was taking the ladder back down to the bottom deck. He quickly shot back up the ladder, “Whose birthday is it?” he exclaimed. I told him it was mine and he said, “I will get Fuzzy to sing for you!” He came back up with our captain fuzzy, who sang happy birthday to me in Arabic. It was a really nice start to my 22nd birthday.
Our boat floated across to the other side of the river. On shore we could see the big, beautiful, bus Waleed had secured for us. We drove for about an hour through very small villages with farming land. The children ran along side the dirt road smiling, waving and giving us the peace sign. Any hostility that people had warned me about or that I was worried about experiencing as a westerner, and certainly as an American, I hadn’t seen any signs of. Everywhere we went people were extremely friendly and gracious.
The first place we arrived to on our drive north was the Kom Ombo Temple (translation: Golden Mountain). It was divided in half to worship both Horus and his half brother, the Crocodile god, Sirius. It also depicted the importance of Imhotep, who Waleed believes is also be the biblical Joseph. He interpreted the Pharaoh’s dream about skinny cows eating fat cows and predicted that 7 years of prosperity would be followed by the seven years of famine. Because of his prediction Egypt was saved from the famine by storing up during the 7 years of prosperity. This placed Imhotep in high regard. He invented what are essentially the modern surgical instruments and was very well respected though not worshiped until hundreds of years later after his death. That’s why he can only be seen at this relatively modern temple. The detail and the stories were amazing and I am truly learning, and actually understanding, so much.
After Nate, who went to catholic school, explained stories from the bible to me we left the temple and walked to the nearby crocodile museum. It was really cool inside and I really enjoyed it. There were many mummified crocs with stories about how they were kept and worshiped in the ancient palace. On our way back to the bus though we got a little turned around and ended up being harassed by a man selling scarves or “magic carpets” as we call them now. Part of me feels guilty because these people are just trying to make a living and support their families. Years ago, when tourism in Egypt was thriving, this man would have no trouble selling to tourists but Nate and I might have been the only people he had seen that day. This, of course, didn’t increase my need for a magic carpet. Eventually we made it back to the group where a sort of fight had broken out between a few people. There was certainly hostility mounting and our big bus was suddenly feeling a lot smaller. It took another two hours of driving before we arrived at our next, and last, temple of the day.
This temple was Edfu. I think it was the most well preserved temple I had seen in Egypt. It was so large and open and what I had expected these temples too really look like. It had high walls like a fortress but most of the hieroglyphs had their faces scratched out making them unidentifiable. In the 1st century the Christians came through and defaced them and in the 6th century the Muslims did the same. It’s such a shame that our religious beliefs equate to the destruction of history. The temple itself was still amazing though. The corridors and rooms stretched on for much farther than the other temples we have seen. If all of the faces hadn’t been scratched out it might have been my favorite temple so far. You could wonder seemingly forever and still end up somewhere you hadn’t been before.
After leaving Edfu we stopped the bus at a little market to get snacks. Nate and I tried a third variety of ice cream. We wanted, initially, to try a foreign brand with a polar bear logo but Waleed advised against it so we settled with kit-kat instead. It was good for being the first and likely last kit-kat ice cream bar I will ever eat. Our bus was then stopped at a boarder checkpoint near Luxor. What we thought would be a quick stop turned into almost an hour of waiting for clearance. Waleed argued with the guards to let us through but it seemed no one wanted to be held accountable for letting a bus full of tourists through without the proper clearance. We all waited patently and eventually it resolved itself, with help from Waleed (and I wouldn’t doubt some exchange of money).
When we got to our hotel in Luxor, Steigenberger (it’s German) we found a place to have dinner. There were two restaurants in the hotel that we could choose from if we didn’t want to venture out. It was Italian or something else that I don’t remember because having my usual Italian birthday dinner was all that really mattered. I got the rigatoni with gorgonzola cream sauce. Yum! Nate and I started out at a table for two but more and more people from our group kept joining us until eventually we were sitting at a table for six. It was nice to have the company and Nate paid for my dinner, which was sweet of him. Our waiter was adorable and we fell in love with him. Basically everyone working for or around us in the service industry has been adorable and so accommodating. I also love their sense of humor. They’re so witty and quick, it’s no wonder I have always wanted to visit Egypt, turns out we are kindred spirits.