Floating down the Ages
So my Egypt Adventure is almost over and as per my style I’ve procrastinated too long on making a blog post so prepare for a massive wall of text.
The Alexandria students saw a football game on December 2nd, the day after my birthday. It was organized by Sabri, one of the Egyptian students. All of us IFSA kids went and so did some private students and a bunch of Middlebury kids. The game was actually pretty good but it should have been a slaughter. Al-Ahli was playing Smooha. Ahli is one of the two best teams in Egypt and Smooha only just moved up in the rankings high enough to even be worth Ahli’s attention. But they were playing poorly and Smooha was bringing their A-game that night so it ended up as a 1-1 tie. I don’t know anything about football so I don’t have much more to say about the game. But there were riot police EVERYWHERE. Maybe 200-300 riot cops in full gear with batons and Large shields, and another couple hundred regular police. They were sitting in a ring around the stands keeping everyone in line. At the end of the game, before they let the spectators out, they lined the stadium, linked arms, and stood there. Presumably to keep people from rushing the field. The other really entertaining thing was the Ultras. They’re an extremely dedicated (insane) group of fans. They had maybe 4 whole banks of bleachers in a row. They had organized chants, massive banner-tarps, paint, they were soo crazy. I took some video of it all and when I get back to the states I will upload it.
We all struggled through class that last week. It was rough staying awake in class, or even going to class. Nothing productive got done. We had a paper assigned and most of us didn’t end up getting that sucker done until we were actually ON the cruise.
The cruise was a blast. The 9 of us met up with the Cairo kids and we took a sleeper down to Luxxor. That was a lot of fun. I was pretty tired and feeling somewhat anti-social so I didn’t partake in the shenanigans but most everyone stayed up late watching movies and running up and down the hall and in general being loud and having fun. Dr Alkomi was staying in a compartment next to all of us so I was a little embarrassed at our distinct lack of decorum. Its hard to remember that I’m the oldest one here and the average age of our trip is 20. Bunch of whippersnappers. Or maybe I’m just an old fart. In any case I didn’t sleep much, although not for lack of trying. I didn’t sleep much the entire trip. Something heavy must have been on my mind because I was really restless at night.
We arrived at Luxxor and checked in to our hotel by about 9:00. We arrived at 7:00am maybe but they didn’t have rooms ready for us. As is typical for Egypt they said we would have our rooms in 20 minutes but it took the staff FOREVER to get moving. One of the biggest differences between Egypt and home is the distinct lack of a service culture. In America customer service is king. In Egypt the customer is mostly just an inconvenience.
In any case the suite I stayed in was massive, and gorgeous. I wanted to room with Jon or one of the Jameses but Mr Memdoh just sort of lumped the Alex boys together. Which worked out because our suite was easily the nicest of the assortment of rooms we were given. We crashed out until about 1:00 or so, had lunch, and left on our tour of the Karnak and Luxxor temples. We all took a ton of pictures and the temples were incredible. I kept having to remind myself that what we were looking at was a pail shadow of its former glory. These temples would have been painted, lit with candles, full of incense and perfumes. Maybe busy with priests and worshippers.. I also kept asking myself what the architects would have thought if someone had told them 3,000 years after every memory of a memory of them was forgotten people would be wandering their temples in awe.
The Luxxor temple was the best part of the first day though. We got there at night so it was beautifully lit. Egyptian temples at night are very romantic. I think its some combination of the nice climate, the lights and the setting, and the weight of history about the place. I strongly recommend grabbing your nearest romance and wandering through an ancient temple at night.
I don’t remember what I did the rest of that night. Dinner and then we retired to watch a movie before crashing out. Tuesday morning we rolled our buts out of bed at 6:00 am. I’m pleased to say that most mornings Trevor, Rob and I were the first ones down for breakfast. I think Ger only beat us once. We went to see the valley of the kings and queens. They were neat but really they were just tunnels cut in to the ground. The best thing about them was that the paint on the walls was mostly intact, so you could get a better idea of what the larger temples might have looked like. After that we got to see Hatshepsut’s temple and THAT I was excited for. I remember studying it in my art history class freshman year. I loved that class. In any case the temple was cut out of the mountain side and it has a massive open courtyard. Not a whole lot else to say about it really. I was just excited to see something I had learned about.
That was it for touring that day. I took a little nap (after another poor night of sleep) and then we all hung out on the deck. A few people went swimming and a few more slept the entire afternoon away. But I’m really glad I went up topside. As our cruiser stopped to go through a lock a number of small boats rowed up to us. They were selling things! It was one of the most outrageous and hilarious experiences of the trip. They would toss up textiles (towels, shirts, scarves, galabeyas etc) in plastic bags and we’d look at them and toss them back. It was a lot of fun bartering from the top deck of a boat. Josh, James and Lauren bought galabeyas and Kasandra and I bought carpets. They’re pushy though. At one point this guy was trying to throw me some nonsense and I kept yelling at him that if he threw me that thing I was NOT going to catch it. All in all it was hysterical. The rest of the night was pretty mellow and we went to bed early.
I still didn’t sleep well and almost skipped going to the temple the next morning. It was at some random place named Edfu that I’ve never heard of. So I figured it couldn’t be that great. But I hauled my lazy but out of bed and omg I was so glad I went. The place is HUGE and as you walk around the bend the temple suddenly appears out of nowhere. The thing is absolutely massive. We were following around this tour guide the whole trip. He was sweet at first and I didn’t mind listening to him but after a while his stories got a little annoying and his historiography was clearly lacking in some areas. By this point we were all a little done with him. So we all kinda split off. Kasandra and I ditched the group in the main foyer and explored some little side passages and then wandered around the temple.
On the way out we passed through this market, and we had picked up Lauren. Both girls were doing a little ‘window’ shopping and I was going my best to keep one eye on each of them. But I had all these egyptians come up to me and give me a little wink and say “Two women! very nice! Lucky man! Good work.” It was funny in a creepy sort of way.
The afternoon temple was a little lame. Trevor and Rob and I and some of the girls followed the tour guide but the rest ditched. We didn’t really pay attention though. Mostly we told dirty jokes and made fun of the hieroglyphs. That night the boat was throwing this “galabeya party.” Trevor and I bought matching white and blue galabeyas and a bunch of the girls bought some as well. So did the rest of the people on the boat. Most of the rest of the passengers were older.. 50’s or 60’s. It was hilarious to see these people wearing scarves and galabeyas and other ridiculous stuff like beaded beanies. They looked goofy. But they were having fun so who am I to judge? There was a belly dancer, and this guy who tried very hard to look like a dervish but he was pretty awful. Jon got to play his guitar for the audience but only a few people stayed.
I only got a few hours of very very unrestful sleep that night. To the extent that I may as well have not slept. We saw the Aswan dam. It wasn’t that big a deal. Then we went to this beautiful island temple that had been completely relocated to keep it from being damaged by water. It was covered in old grafiti and the site itself was absolutely stunning. But by that point I was tired and sick of seeing old temples. There is only so much you can see before you’re saturated and just can’t be bothered anymore.
The second half of the day the rest of IFSA went on a faluka ride (sail boat) around the Nile. Trevor and I stayed in to take a nap and Kasandra wasn’t feeling well so we didn’t go. I couldn’t sleep at all and ended up watching a movie with Kasandra.
Didn’t do much else that day. Dinner, watched some movies. Played some backgammon on the deck. I stayed up watching movies with Josh and Kasandra. IFSA was taking us to Abu Simbel Friday morning and our bus left at 3:00, but we had to be assembled at 2:15. So I decided not to sleep. Those two however pooped out at 11:00 or so. The bus ride was maybe 3 hours and I didn’t sleep. I watched the sunrise out a window and it was very nice. By the time we arrived at Abu Simbel I’d been awake 24 hours but hadn’t had good sleep in 36.
Abu Simbel was amazing. People asked me what the best part of the trip was and I’d have to say that Abu Simbel was in a league completely by itself. The park was beautiful and the temple was just astounding.
We took the bus back to Aswan and Jon and James and I listened to Chris Rock on my laptop during the trip. At Aswan we waited around at a hotel, had lunch and just tried to kill time. We had about 4 hours before we had to be at the train station. They had giant chess pieces (maybe 2 feet tall) and Josh and I played a bunch of chess. He beat me each time but I put up a pretty good showing. I had an interesting conversation with Naseeha and Lina, and a cat took me on a tour of the hotel grounds. I found this little kitty near one of the paths and she led me along the paths. It was sweet.
On the train there were more shenanigans but I participated this time. We had wheelbarrow chicken fights. One person holds on to their partner’s legs, they have to run on their hands, and you charge the other team and have a chicken fight. Rob fell ontop of me and won our battle. We did superlatives for the whole group. For example most likely to travel the world with just a guitar, most likely to get her MRS, most likely to take over an Egyptian women’s prison. I stayed up until about 1:00am talking with Kasandra and Josh. When I hit the pillow I hit it hard and finally got some good sleep. I was up for 48 hours with only a few hours of rest. I don’t know how I managed to do it.
We got back to Alex safely and knuckled down for our last week of school. Stay tuned for part two, as soon as I make myself some dinner….