Destinations, Middle East


February 10, 2009 • By

I’ve decided since I was such a big hit at the Egyptian party I would go ahead and assume a new identity. From this day forward, please refer to me as Nefertiti, the Queen of Egypt. I also like the Queen of the Nile but there is a bit too much pollution in the river and we all know I can’t have any references to anything less than perfect. The ancient Egyptians declared themselves gods and kings all the time why can’t I? It seems like a pretty straightforward process. Now I need some sucker willing to spend the next 25 years chiseling me a temple. I think my boat mates referring to me as the beautiful Nefertiti may have gone to my head. Egyptians dig me. It’s fun to be admired and even the boat crew wanted to take my picture. Of course I was totally into posing like an Egyptian with the cobra movements and all. I even have the pictures to prove it. (I did indeed pay $6 for pictures of myself). I guess my brother thinks I’ve lost my mind but I contend it’s been years in the making as I was completely overlooked as homecoming queen in high school. (NO I AM NOT BITTER).

Our Egyptian party was a total blast. The DJ played music and we slithered around practicing our belly dancing moves to Egyptian hip-hop. Couples played a “dirty” game –I thought as we are in a Muslim country– the men wore blindfolds and pinched a beer bottle in between their legs maneuvering forward based on the awaiting woman’s directions. The key was for the man to pour his beer into the woman’s glass. Basically, this was a crotch-to-crotch game or as an onlooker exclaimed, “OH there’s beer in his glass and he poured it all over her pants.” Obviously she never played kings or pyramid or even quarters for that matter. Didn’t they have that game in 1930?

As the Queen, I participated in the single ladies game and something more appropriate for royalty. I won a bottle of water (a real jewel in Egypt). When the thumping music stopped, I was item less which meant I was the winner. Mind you there were 3 of us left so we all won. Our boat was big on prizes.

The only remaining mystery of my Nile Cruise involved a 20 something year old guy who seemed to accompany 7 other 70+ women. He never left their side dining with them at every meal, tanning and swimming with them on the boat and accompanying them to bed much earlier than anyone his age. My group had various theories…caretaker, grandson, son, etc. By the end of the trip, I got everyone to agree on “servicer.” This was after I pointed out he carried her purse on several occasions and I didn’t see many sex pot 70+ year old women frolicking in the sun in high heels. I tried like crazy to figure it out and my group decided I needed to corner him. It was a tough mission as he never left his lady’s side but the last night he wore a t-shirt that read, “I’m a Virgin.” I saw my chance. Half way out the door and alone I shouted to him, “hey how could you be a virgin when you’re on a cruise with 7 women?” His response left me speechless; “there’s always room for 8.”  I guess he told me.

My boat docked in the magical land of Luxor, former Kingdom of Thebes. It’s about 4 hours from Aswan and 11 from Cairo. It’s quite a historical city as it’s filled with some of the most magnificent ruins to ever be discovered. Egyptologists and archaeologists continue to find new remains on a fairly regular basis.

The city is divided by the Nile. The East Bank is the main thoroughfare of the city and contains two towering temples called the Temple of Karnak and the Temple of Luxor. The West Bank is home to the Valley of the Kings, the site for many of the tombs of pharaohs from the New Kingdom, including Tutankhamen and Ramses the Great.  Much of these sites has been amazingly preserved.  It is my feeling that these works are even more impressive than the pyramids.  To see the workmanship on the walls at the Valley of the Kings is almost unbelievable.  Imagine coming to work each day -blindfolded by the priests (so they never knew the exact location) and crafting the tomb of a king. These people worked in low light and likely desert conditions chiseling these hieroglyphics masterpieces.

Thirty-seven tombs have been discovered at the Valley of the Kings and most of the insides are still very much intact. The colors on the walls in addition to the “artwork” are gorgeous.  The ancient Egyptians possessed wisdom unmatched by anyone of their time and I might go as far to say no single group has come close since that time (I haven’t been to India yet so we’ll see).

Another little factoid worth sharing about the ancient Egyptians involves the sun. They believed the sun died every night in the west and was reborn each morning in the east. Hence, the temples celebrating life are located on the East Bank and the tombs embracing death on the West Bank. This also confirms their understanding of life and death. Everything dies but comes back again.

The Temple of Karnak is an equally empowering visit and I would have loved to see its splendor in the day.  Completed entirely in Egyptian style there are columns a fixed with the lotus and the papyrus– powerful Egyptian symbols even now.  The temple’s columns are immense and I cannot do it justice on paper. It’s the size of two football fields with statues and columns sectioning off various worship rooms. Ancient Egyptians built their temples from the inside and out so likely columns and rooms were added over hundreds of years.  The temple also houses a few remaining obelisks. The rest have been stolen, destroyed or reside in other countries.  There is one particular granite slab that I paid great attention to at the Temple. It represents the god of marriage. The legend says a woman who walked around the statue 7 times would soon find herself married. I did make the obligatory walk. It can’t hurt might help. Don’t worry I skipped the god of fertility’s slab. I figure I have enough problems right now.

I’m boarding the mouse-infested train back to Cairo. THE TRAIN I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR 3 HOURS TO TAKE BECAUSE I DIDN’T KNOW 21:50 WAS 9:50 AND GOT HERE IN PLENTY OF TIME FOR THE 8:50. The train that just cost me an extra $20 in baksheesh tips to use the toilet and get some tea. These people are persistent.

Before I sign off, here are a few more Egyptianisms:

Me to our guide: Do your “priests” or whatever they’re called have to try out to speak 5 times a day on the megaphone?
Guide: (very pissed off). We don’t have priests.

Me: I know but your leaders or whatever. The calls to prayer– I mean don’t people have alarm clocks?
Guide: They have clocks this is just a reminder.

Me: Well it’s really annoying and I think if someone doesn’t want to pray they should not be forced to.
Guide: It’s ok that you don’t live here then and you should know the voices are much better than they used to be.

Me: Great so they used to be loud, annoying and tone deaf.
Guide: Silence.

Haggler: Felucca, motorboat, taxi, horse carriage? Maybe tomorrow.
Me: maybe never

New Haggler: Felucca, motorboat, taxi, horse carriage?
Me: (turning around in haggler’s face) where you from? $1, 5 Egyptian pounds, maybe tomorrow, felucca?
Haggler: Speechless
Haggler friend: laughing hysterical
Me: priceless