Monday, May 24, 2010
So a few highlights. The Pyramids, with their geometric simplicity and gigantic scale majesty, a moderate crumble when viewed up close. Withstanding almost 5 thousand years of desert wind and marauding forces, silent and impressive even today.
The museum was our favorite. Mohammed, a 23 year old, had recently finished a degree in Egyptian History. He would pause before a statue and then explain the symbolism of the hand positions, or remark on how a female pharaoh had herself depicted with a false beard and muscular arms to inspire confidence, or how the features of a famous slave showed he was a dwarf. The place is packed with items that were being carved while Abraham loped through Mesopotamia. Of course the burial treasure of Tutankhamun is the most spectacular and famous, with the jeweled golden mask and the series of sarcophagai and ark-of-the- covenant like boxes each one larger to enclose the one before. But we most enjoyed the story and display of his father, Ankhenaten, whose images display a remarkable African flavor and who introduced the concept of a "King of the Gods", a One Highest Deity, a sort of early monotheism. For this the priests of the pantheon of lesser gods maliciously removed his name from his casket after his death. One can either assume that Hebrew images of cherubim and seraphim have been influenced by the Egyptian winged gods . . . or that both reflect an interpretation of some beings that are spiritual and real. It is awe inspiring to stroll through room after room of stones and tablets and statues that have been around for thousands of years, no protective glass or alarms, just right there in front of you.
And lastly, the Nile at night, lights of Cairo in huge waterfront skyscraper hotels, a cool breeze on the water, the slow chug of the boat, chairs pulled up to the deck rail, the same water that melts from the Rwenzoris in view of our home and feeds Lake Victoria then winds up through Uganda and Sudan, here again with us in Cairo before flowing into the Mediterranean Sea.
On to the Parthenon . .
Sunday, May 23, 2010
We toured the monastery on Thursday morning after coming down from the mountain, and by noon were in a shared mini-van type taxi (this time air conditioning!! Ok, we are weak .. . but I can sympathize a LOT more with the complaining Israelites, the sense that the Sinai goes on forever, waterless and winding ways.) The long trip, back to Cairo, this time with a heavy wind of desert dust (another reason to be glad for the AC with closed windows). Cairo must be one of the largest cities in the world, should look that up, but it holds about a quarter or more of Egypt's entire population, mostly in high-rise apartment clusters which are austere and uniform, block after block. Blaring horns, swerving buses, street-side vendors, donkey carts piled with unbelievably beautiful watermelons a splash of color and moisture in this parched place, men bustling, veiled women, the creative script of Arabic everywhere, then the wide Nile which cuts the city in half, and more of the same. We met back up with the Massos Thursday night, relaxing to be finally on the "Karen plan", merging into the pre- arranged take-care-of-you tour. After two days in the Sinai, sequential 7 hour bus trips, getting up at 1:30 am to catch our flight and then 3 am to climb the mountain . . we were ready for the showers, the beds, and the care of a tour guide! On to the pyramids . . . .