Friday, February 4, 2011

Egypt Day Four


I’m laughing at myself because as I read my journal to re-write about every day I see that every entry starts with something along the lines of “Best. Day. Ever.” I have such a way with words….

But seriously, I would have to categorize this is one of the best days ever. We go to go to the Valley of the Kings! Again, I don’t have any pictures because we weren’t allowed to bring our camera to this site, but for the sake of the post I got some pictures from the good ol’ Internet.

So The Valley of the Kings was the principal burial place for the Pharaohs from the 11-16th century BC. So far they have found 63 tombs and chambers and are still excavating more. We were lucky enough to get to go into 4 tombs: Ramses IV, Ramses IX, King Tut, Merneptah (The son of Ramses the Great). My class was so lucky because our teacher is an Egyptologist, so while no one else was allowed to bring their guides in the tombs, we got something better. We got to hear Brother Muhlestein “talk to himself” (through a microphone that connected to our headsets) about all the different hieroglyphics in the tombs and what they meant.

Internet shot of the Valley of the Kings

Inside Merneptah's Tomb

The tombs would start to be built at the beginning of a Pharaoh’s rule, so the size of the tomb was based on the length of rule. You could always tell where they were in the development on the tomb when the Pharaoh died because it was sloppy and sometimes unfinished. It was amazing to walk through these tombs, to hear about how important the afterlife was to these Pharaohs and seeing the chapters from the book of the dead depicted on the tomb walls. Surreal doesn’t even begin to describe it. I could have spent all day just walking through these tombs looking at the remains from this ancient civilization. I kind of felt a little rushed because there were so many people trying to get in and out, I guess I’ll just have to go back… okay mom?

Ramses IV Tomb

Merneptah's Burial Chamber

I can’t decide which tomb I liked the best because I liked them for different reasons. I really liked King Tuts because inside we got to see his Mummy! I have never seen one before, and because we weren’t able to go to the Cairo Museum due to the political disarray, it was the only one I saw the whole trip. He was small, green/black, and all shriveled up; it was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. To think I was face to face with an Egyptian Pharaoh… amazing. Also, Tut’s tomb was the only tomb of all 63 tombs that wasn’t raided.

This is how good old Tut looked last I saw him...
Inside Tut's Tomb

Anthropologist's estimation of what Tut would have looked like

Next we went to Queen Hatshepesut’s tomb. She was the only Woman Pharaoh, he son in law was supposed to be pharaoh, but because of his young age she took over. As revenge, after her death, he attempted to erase all mention of her name or face. Her temple was one of my favorites so far. I remember learning all about it in Art History and when our little tram arrived at the temple I felt like I had just stepped in to my Art History text book. It was incredible to actually be there. Our guide walked us through for a while, showing us all the different Hieroglyphics and what they meant then we got free time to wander and explore. I loved to imagine what it would have been like to wander around during her time.

Hatshepesut's Temple

Piers and I in front of the Holy of Holies at Hatshepesut's Temple

After that we went to Ramses the Great’s funerary temple. I really loved it because we got the whole place to ourselves, it was hard for me to share these sights with the other tourists so when the Ramaseum was empty it was such a treat. One day I would really like to meet this Ramses because he was most likely the Pharaoh of the Exodus, the very pharaoh of Moses’ time. He ruled for over 66 years, giving him ample time to create lots of statues of himself, one of which we saw the day before. He had over 200 wives and concubines and over 150 children. His temple was incredible. The height and decoration was tremendous, and because it was nearly empty I got to just wander and marvel. I wish I was better with words because then maybe I could begin to describe to you what it was like. These temples are some of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.

Ramses II Temple
Nice Fanny Pack?

Giving the Ankh (eternal life) to the Pharaoh

Spencer and I in the temple with guest appearance from Brother Muhlestein with the bunny ears over there

We did all of this before lunchtime. Seriously, this was only half of my day. Crazy huh? After lunch we all met by the Nile to find sailboats waiting for us. Our class split up on to two of the sailboats and we had our Egyptian guides pull us out into the river. It was such a beautiful sunny day and it was so much fun to just float down the river and watch the city all around us. When we got off the boats we walked up the ramp to find about 40 camels and their guides waiting for us. We all stood in a line and waited to be paired up with a camel. Some were really mellow and others were a little on the psycho side with muzzles over their mouths. They put all the boys on the crazy camels first and saved the calm ones for the girls.

Our class "house" Slytherine (fitting for me right?)
Our Sail Boat

My TOMS that Paige painted for me chillin on the Nile

Getting on a camel is quite the endeavor. They sit on the floor with their legs all bent underneath them; you just hop on top and then hold on for dear life. Their back legs go up first so you feel like you are at a 90 degree angle with your face towards the ground, then they push up their front legs and you are on a camel. Rachel and I made friends with our camel drivers “Tom and Jerry”; somehow I still don’t believe that is their real names. They thought it was so funny to hear us scream when the camels would start to run. They took us down some neighborhood streets in Luxor, we went through a lot of agricultural spots where we saw children eating sugar cane, donkeys carrying cart full of crops, and the people just going about their lives. It was so much fun to feel a part of the culture, the people are so hospitable. They offered us sugar cane and we watched the sun start to set over the papyrus flowers. Looking back on it now it feels like a dream already.

After our ride of about an hour we came back to get on our sailboats home. It was the perfect time of day to be on the Nile. The sun was setting and the sky was purple and the lights from the city were reflecting in the water. Our boat got stuck for a while so we all just sat and talked with our boat driver while listening to Bob Marley. It was one of those perfect moments in life. Sitting on the bow of the boat with the whole Nile in front of you, just reflecting on how you got to this moment in time. It was perfect, one of those moments that you’ll never be able to recreate.

After dinner we had free time, so a bunch of us went down to the souk to buy souvenirs. What an adventure that was. The vendors in the Old City are nothing compared to the Egyptians. You can't get away with even looking at something, as soon as your eye makes contact you are being bombarded with prices and you have no time to think and before you know it you've bought a $5 purse that you think is tacky, they are good. In addition to that, they make you feel like the most beautiful person alive just walking down the street. I mean I had just gotten off a camel for goodness sake, I was filthy and smelly and my hair was a mess, and I still got countless proposals… Thank goodness we had our great guys with us to defend us if needed.

Despite the creepy ones, there were a lot of really great people and I made a lot of friends. It was fun to meet these people and talk to them about their lives. In one instance I was with my friend Nathaniel and a man we had been talking to asked if Nathaniel was my husband… naturally I said Yes at the same moment he exclaimed No! It was funny trying to convince them that we were married while Nathaniel was trying to get me to stop lying. They asked him “Why are you ashamed?!” and told me that I needed to find a man that appreciated me… and on came my favorite line “I would give all the stars in the sky to marry you”. Precious right? Later, a boy in the near by shop had overheard our conversation and came to Nathaniel and told him that he needed to not be so shy because he could tell that I loved him and that he should ask me to be his girlfriend. So when I came out of the shop he asked and I said yes! The boy was so happy and he said “When you get married, you know who to thank, Akhmed”. Let me just tell you that word travels fast in the market because every store after that men would come up to me and say I was so lucky to have found him and that he was so lucky to have me. It was quite the joke(: One guy asked if he could take a picture with me and another man came up and told him that I was taken and pointed to Nathaniel. It was probably one of the funniest moments from the whole trip.

And that was the end to our eventful day. It is so fun for me to re write all of this down, its like I’m re living it again in my head. Now that I’m back at the JC I can’t believe that I actually left. Today we watched “Death on the Nile” (So funny, I definitely recommend it) and it was so much fun because they did a lot of the things that we did while we were in Luxor. I’m so grateful that I had the chance to go.

Sorry it has been taking me so long to write this all down… only 3 days of my Egypt trip left to tell you about!

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