Tuesday, December 19, 2017

End of a long long trip.

This post is written on Nonday, decenber 28 almost a week after we started our trek home. I would not have missed it for the world, even though I felt like an imposter in a country. Only the 13 people on our trip and the hotel manager on the Mayfair (he greeted us as "THE BROTHERS" are here.. We did hold hands on the ship and in the 5 star hotels and we did notice the looks and whispers; Homosexual acts are now against the law in Egypt as are gay gatherings. Just before our arrival police broke up a gay pride demonstration just outside our hotel in the main square opposite the Egyptian Museum. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/08/lgbt-people-egypt-targeted-wave-arrests-violence And being Jewish was like some bad wallpaper in a dingy room. Egypt exiled all the Jews in 1948 after centuries of getting along peacefully. But alliances with the other Arab countries, many more conservative, forced their hand to restrict the rights of Jews to exist in Egypt. I personally do not believe in the Passover Exodus story since no remains of 600,000 followers of Moses were never found in the desert. What were found was a people who assimilated into Judaism and then migrated to the north and across the sea to what now is Israel. The Passover story sounds great, but there is no archeolic evidence to prove this, and there are plenty to disprove it. Makes for a great story with food though. https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/the-jewish-thinker/were-jews-ever-really-slaves-in-egypt-or-is-passover-a-myth-1.420844 This is from a left center newspaper published in Israel. Already many families have adopted a new Haggadah that speaks of Egyptian assimilation and explained that the pyramids could NOT have been constructed by slaves, but by paid artisans, the Jews.
Till our next adventure Nate and Raphie

Sunday, December 10, 2017

I'm back..after 48 hours in Upper (southern) Egypt

By the time you see this, it will be after our 48 hour no internet or cell service. The south of Egypt near Sudan is called Upper Egypt since it is higher elevation than the North, which is called Lower Egypt. The Aswan Dam - the new High Dam displaced hundreds of thousands of Egyptian Nubians and forced the government to call on Unesco and other countries to save the ancient temples constructed to show the people that upper and lower Egypt were one.
The temples were carefully dismantled after building moats around them and taken piece by piece to higher ground. (BTW the US and other European countries paid for the removal and reconstruction but absent from the list were the oil rich countries surrounding Egypt...this was the mid to late 60's and these countries were already reaping the rewards of a gas hungry world. My obervation. Not a word of course was said on the tours)
We took one of the two small lifeboats on the ship (remember the Titanic) as tenders to Wadi el Seboua, the valley of the Lions. The two temples are imposing and were used later by the coptic Xtians who painted St. Peter on one of the altars, and the paint is still visible. These temples were moved as the dam was filling 2.5 miles west of their original loacations. I believe there is a YouTube video of moving the Temples that we viewed...amazing engineering and ingenious use of what was available. Have to remember that all of the thousands of workers and equipment had to be brought by barge to the extraction sites. That alone made these artifacts even more impressive. Plane back to Cairo tomorrow and then one night there and finally Homeward Bound.
On one of the walls you can find a bumblebee, honey used in embalming and also as an antiseptic. Honey was found in some of the tombs, still fresh since a closed container will NEVER spoil. Nate and Raphie

Friday, December 8, 2017

The cost of money and another plane trip and yet another cruise boat

Just a few notes on the past day or so. First of all, we took a plane from Aswan to Abul Simbel Hopping to the other side of the New Aswan Dam. Our second of three trips by plane on Egypt Air. You go through two security checkpoints and a frisking (two separate lines for men and women, so that men do not touch women and vice versa. Shoes off, all electronics out but you do get the feeling that they aren't really looking at anything closely, but rather going through the motions. A little nervous about that since we are further south with more strict religious practices than in Cairo. We went to the temple at Abu Simbel. This was moved out of the path of the Aswan Dam piece by piece in the 1960s and rebuilt on higher ground. The temples are amazing; one to Ramses II and the other to his queen Nefertiri.
Sunsets are gorgeous in Egypt; closer the Equator and very little industry in the desert. The people we have met on the streets and travelling have been so polite and nice to us. We were really worried Wednesday night and Thursday after the Trump announcement, but even though the papers here all extolled the next violence, one of the waiters told us that they too have elected crazy crooked presidents. So I guess they do separate us from our government.
It's only been 5 years since the new government formed after Arab Spring. The economy is a mess and neither of our ships have been full, this one is less than half full but with a full staff. Our tourguide said that a few years ago these boats were totally booked in November, the high season when the weather is best. I asked if there was any coinage here: the exchange rate is 17.6 Egyptian pounds to the US Dollar. So the 5 Pound note you see in this pic is about 25 cents...and we are giving them out to the nice kids on the street. Tips of a dollar get you lifetime obedience from the restaurant and ship staff. There is a lot of poverty on the streets and garbage piling up, giving you a sense of lack of pride or just getting by here. That has been the only negative part of the bus and horse rides through the city.
More tomorrow Thanks for following Nate and Raphie

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Crusing the Nile then Sailing the Nile with a few thousand years history in between

Last night we visited a temple in the evening, beautifully lit up. This one a double with the Goddess Isis and another Horis. This one had medical instruments chiseled into the stone as well as prescriptions that were written by ancient medicine men (women?) signed with the Eye of Horis which looks remarkedly like the Rx sign on script pads your doc gives.
this was in the city of Edfu. Overnight we cruised to the city of Aswan. What I noticed that as we went South, more and more women were covered with hajib and many with face veils. I saw no women or even girls with heads uncovered and many more men in clerical clothing. It seems like the US with more churchgoers in general in the Southeast than North. We went to the Nubian Museum (we are closer to the Sudan here) and it was amazing.
There are also many unfinished buildings, some high rises, that are unfinished with no one working on them. Most of these were started before the 2011 Arab Spring that ousted Mubarek, but the new economy has yet to catch up. The faltering Egyptian Pound hasn't helped much and of course tourism is down since the Mosque massacre of 300 souls lost a few weeks ago. To end the day we took a sunset cruise on a Folluka, a lovely sailboat with a crew that sang and made us dance as the sun was going down. We sang and tried to do a conga line, but proved once again, many Americans cannot dance.
Flying tomorrow over the dam and getting on another cruise boat to continue our journey up the Nile Nate and Raphie

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Edfu, Egypt and the temple of Horus

Edfu is steeped in Egyptian legend. The Falcon God Horus battled his Uncle Seth, who killed his father. built between 237 and 57 BC, but designed as much older temples but has been preserved because it was covered in sand. To get there from the ship we took a horse drawn carriage through the crowded ancient streets. Pics below. Nate and Raphie

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Valley of the Kings Birds Eye View Literally

Started off this morning with a 3 AM wake up call for a pre dawn balloon ride over the Vally of the Kings and Mortuary mountains. The most beautiful sight I've seen was seeing the sunrise from 600 feet up. The view was breathtaking and all 7 balloons went up at once. Our entire group of 24 fit into one basket...Here is a pic, not of us, but of a neighboring balloon and the first sight we saw this morning.
Later in the day we did the ground tours of Ramses I through IX and a few others. the colors of the drawings in the tombs have been untouched for over 3000 years and are still as vibrant as today. Amazing how some of the stories of jealousy and betrayal are repeated in both the Jewish and Catholic religions. Our tourguide made the stories come alive by making us act out the parts of the different Egyptian kinds and gods. A good sense of humor is very necessary when you spend an entire day visiting tombs.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Karnak, Luxor and our home (ship) for a few days

Nothing could have prepared me for the treasures of Karnak and Luxor, two huge temples built and rebuilt and added onto for generations. The mere size of the carved columns and painted friezes that have survived outdoors to this day were magnificent. I'm sitting right now in my stateroom on the SS Mayfair looking out at the beautiful temples to a civilization long gone without any real reason. Maybe it was a famine, maybe spent too much on wars, perhaps a goofy religion that relied on live sacrifice..no answers, though I can see a few reasons our civilization might look like this not too far into the future.
Tomorrow we get up at 4AM to go for a sunrise balloon ride over the valley of the Kings. Whether you believe in the "Ancient Aliens" series as Raphie does, or if you just can't fully believe that the math and engineering were that advanced 5,000 years ago. (a bit too American invented EVERYTHING, this is something I have wanted to do since I was a child and read about the Pharoes. The ship is beautiful, but a bit dated. We've met some great people on the trip and I know we'll see them again on our adventures. The best thing about travelling especially with Viking or Gate 1, is that you really meet some great people, experience the land first hand, and the guides are wonderful. Tomorrow should be another amazing day Nate and Raphie