Luxor and Aswan
Though I wish I could blame my denial on the divers cutting the internet cords off the shore of Alexandria but the truth is I’ve been trying to write about our trip to Luxor and Aswan, as well as the past few weeks with different Egyptians friends, but I haven’t been satisfied writing about our enjoyable yet enclosed, and tipping on sterilely isolating, time on the cruise when Egyptians are struggling through such difficult times of finding and fighting to define themselves as a nation.
Essentially, to state the obvious, it is emotionally frustrating to see a people struggle so profusely. It is hard for anyone to be apart of the solution when 1) people are arguing about what the problem is 2) the problem may not be yours to solve but yet 3) bad things happen when good people stand ideally by (not that I’m in the position to unroll large change)—having said that I couldn’t be more glad to be here, to live amid the chaos Egyptians are living.
Our spring break trip took us into other Egyptian dimensions compartmentalized from our daily experiences in Alexandria and Cairo. We flew from Cairo to Aswan, in Upper Egypt, located to the south, on Friday March 1. We cruised on the Nile en route to Luxor for Saturday and Sunday, flying back to Cairo Monday afternoon the 25th of February. The 26th through the 2nd we explored Cairo, visited St. Catherine and climbed Mount Sinai. In total we visited seven Pharonic temples the High Dam, and two sites significant to the Abrahamic religions. Specifically we explored Philae Temple, Kom Ombo Temple, and Edfu Temple in Aswan, and Karnak Temple, Luxor Temple, Habu Temple and R’Mose around Luxor. Unfortunately, since the revolution tourism, the primary source of income to Luxor and Aswan, has dwindled down to the occasional hiccup. The venders in Luxor are unable to afford their rent and protested by cutting of access to the Valley of the Kings and Queen Hatshepsut’s temple. Their demonstrations for livable salaries (aka lower rent) had not received drawn much of the media’s eye. Ergo we did not get to visit those monumental sites. But if we were to miss any, I am glad they are magnetic enough to warrant a second trip in the future and that they are the most photographed of the sites! I enjoyed breathing in the historic dust and sand of the temples, finding colour painted centuries before, and absorbing the contrast over a mere few meters of water soaked luscious green and the grating sands. Though a pleasant journey, the cruise felt disconnected from Egyptian life. To combat this we explored on foot in between temple trips and planned dancing competitions with our fellow cruisers from Japan and Taiwan. Exploring we discovered that Luxor has the hidden gem in the rough and it isn’t Aladdin nor a ruby but Egypt’s best falafel. Tucked away in a tiny restaurant in the local downtown are refreshing and green falafels, accompanied by spicy tahina and sliced potatoes. No other falafels have compared, but now we know what greatness is we are on the hunt for the best falafels in both Alexandria and Cairo. Not to perpetuate the stereotype because of course Egyptians eat more than just falafels. Falafels are a staple breakfast food but definitely not the only one.
Visiting Saint Catherine resonated with me more in terms of travel method than the cruise. Along the way, we traveled with Egyptians, drank tea seethed by a fire from nestling against red logs, hiked, climbed, and stargazed. We spent a long time weaving beneath the stars as their expanding whispers of light dominated the moonless sky. .The local boy, who ensured we did not fall off the mountain during our night decent, told us these stars are nothing in a polluted sky. A powerful statement after we traveled 8 hours by bus to his small desert town. For the real ones we need to trek in for three days; this currently stands as my post-finals plan.