Egypt Digest: The Nile Valley

A dearth of time, along with very slow Internet connections throughout Egypt have prevented me from blogging.  But here is a Nile Valley compendium from the ol’ timeline — the hyperlinks point to the specific entries in question — there’ll be lots more pics over there, but I’ll post a sampling from each entry here.  For the whole kit ‘n’ kaboodle of photos, there are three Flickr sets:

For some commentary and more pics from Giza, see this blog’s previous post…

March 4:

Wikitravel says of this guest house that the “rooftop hangout is one of the coolest on the planet.” Am finding it difficult to disagree!

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March 4:

Oof, I am just about the last person they should’ve let near this goddam place with image manipulation capabilities at his/her disposal. But, c’est la goddam vie!

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March 5:

Wey oh, wey oh-oh, wey oh-oh, weeey ooooh…

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March 6:

Welcome to Cairo.

March 8:

Open-to-close (9:00am – 5:00pm) at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and still didn’t see everything. A lot of times, museums can be boring, or feel like a chore. Not here, I tells ya. Not here at all

March 9:

Some crazy gorgeous architecture in Cairo. (And other neat shit, too.)

March 10:

German Hostel-Mate: Where are you from (if I may ask)?

Me: Seattle.

Him: What is Seattle famous for? I forgot.

Me: Kurdt Cobain.

Him: Ah, yes! But isn’t there some “Sky Needle” that I have seen in the movie Sleepless In Seattle?

His friend: [Laughing at the mention of Sleepless In Seattle, then…] What kind of music is Kurt Cobain?

Hostel-Mate: Grunnge.

His friend: [Shrugging shoulders]

Hostel-Mate: [Banging head, singing] “Here we are now, entertain us”.

Me: [Laughing] It’s Space Needle, by the way.

(It’s much funnier if you imagine their German accents.)

March 12:

I feel a bit like Jack Buck to-day — “I don’t believe what I just saw” — after having visited the Luxor and Karnak temples here in Luxor. Impossible to describe the intense feeling seeing these works. No idea what kind of drugs those ancients were putting into their Wheaties, but they worked a treat! (That said, it’s still not even close to what Mother Nature can produce. Standing over the brink of the lower falls of the Grand Canyon of The Yellowstone, for example, tops this experience with room to spare.)

March 13:

Meanwhile, down by thee banks of El Nile, the noontide proceedings done took a sudden and/or dramatic turn when yon errant pass richocheted off an opposing player at just such an angle and at just such a velocity. “That’s going in the fucking river!” thunk I.

Sure enough, after a couple of high bounces, the splash landing was made. The gravity of the situation was told by the large and growing numbers of lookers-on — all of whom ended up offering to the brave young soul who had dared all to strip off and swim out to rescue the wayfaring ikon an exceptionally warm round of applause.

Them soccer balls is important!

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March 14:

A day on Luxor’s West Bank. Unfortunately, the truly mind-raking sites — the tombs at the Valleys of the Queens and Kings — are no-photo zones…

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March 17:

Well I had to come all the way to freakin’ Nubia to do it, but I’ve finally found my people. Got up early, booped the ferry over to the west side of thee river to look some ancient stuff, then wandered off into the desert for a few blissful hours’ peace and/or quiet, and finally back into town via yon local Nubian village.

Walking down the road, this fine gentleman, name of “Maghredi”, pointed at my bare feet and began lecturing me about the benefits of such practice. (During which lecture, he noticed me crinkling my nose at the waft of his compatriots’ second-hand smoke. “Sorry,” quoth he, “We smoke ganja in the morning.”) He was preaching to the goddam converted, but his words were music to my ears. I took his leave, and then a few hundred metres down the road, another gentleman reacted with great happiness to the sight of my barefoot striding.

Egyptians are very friendly toward the shod; but dare to remove your footwear, and they become surprisingly hostile. To be sure, in every other country in which I’ve travelled, the locals consider me a nitwit straight through — but after a few measures of good-natured ribbing, they let me on my way. The Barefoot Farang, and all.

Know ye now that if you arrive in Egypt, and want to walk as god intended, best come on down to Aswan and get your dimpled ass over to the west bank — the Nubians will treat you right, for sure!

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March 18:

I just wish to high Hell that I could recall all the little, nuanced details that add such vivid colour to these sorts of experiences: The police capitan languidly drawing upon his cigarette while making sure the situation was under control; the smartphone used to translate betwixt Arabic and English being ceremoniously passed to and fro’, its glow emanating like as though it were King Tut’s big, gold Ankh; the surreal, milky atmosphere painted in the sky; the Japanesian’s goofy hat; the sound of the muslim prayer call filling the air; the Chinesienne worriedly asking of her attempted phone call, “Does this sound mean I’m out of money?”; the look of glee settling over the people’s faces when the bag of peanuts was produced; and so very many more. Without these, the story just can’t be the same.

But, so, what I can say is that a dust storm the likes of which arrives but one day per year blowed in and stranded myself and five others here in Abu Simbel, three hours south of Aswan and site of one of the most prestigious archaeological finds in the whole of the Nile valley.

I had fallen in, a few days back, with a VERY cool trio — a Canadian, a Chinesienne, and a Japanesienne — from my hotel. I’d previously made plans to visit to-day, and they decided to come with, on their last day in Egypt before getting a ride on a merchant steamer to Sudan.

It was a bit cloudy in Aswan, but further south, became very windy and hazy. Still, we arrived just fine, had a grand time visiting the temples (assessment: the hype is warranted!), and arranged with two Japanesians also visiting the temples to share the microbus back to Aswan.

Negotiating the fare and time of departure was a bit trickier than expected — but eventually we were on our way…only to be stopped after about thirty minutes’ driving, and an hour or so later, sent back whence we’d come to have a li’l powwow with the presiding member of Simbel’s finest. He (a most charming accent he possessed) patiently explained to us that it was too dangerous to be out driving, and that he’d arranged with a local hotel for a very steep discount off its normal rate. So, here we are, spending eight dollars per each rather than its usual rate of fifty-seven smackers. Nice place, too — and even despite the storm, it’s got by far and away the best Internet hookup the whole of my time in Egypt. Go figure!


The 4:00am wakeup announcement that the storm had abated and that our driver was present set us on our way. This time, it was not weather, but instead police checkpoints that slowed us down. However, we arrived back to Aswan by 8:00 or so; the Japanesians immediately departing for the airport. The CanJapSin trio took a few minutes to pack, after which I saw them to their microbus up to the dam and their passage to Sudan, then set about on some more explorations about town. What a twenty-four hours that was! I should clarify that I was the whole time (until we got turned back, of course) under the impression that this weather was normal for the area — an effect of the lake, I thunk. Good thing it’s not, maybe, as I was loving enough to want to move there!

Almost lost in all the hubbub was the very impetus for the journey in the first place: The temples at Abu Simbel, though taking only a few hours to tour, are as masterfully realised as anything in Luxor — if not moreso. Confounded no-photo regs mean you’ll just have to trust me in re the interior. But have added some more snaps of the exterior — as well as some photo-op hijinks of my intrepid co-conspirators (they didn’t all exactly register the concept of “flipping the bird”, but, it turned out even better that way, perhaps)…

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March 20:

Aswan: It’s got ancient ruins, the eponymous high dam, a couple of small but excellent museums, and other suchlike tourist drawing cards; it’s got Nubians; it’s got sailboat rides on the frickin’ Nile river; it’s got boundless hectares of gorgeous, unspoilt desert through which to aimlessly ramble; it’s got parks and public gardens (these last are severely lacking in Egypt); it’s sunny and warm 365 days per year (or 364, as I very recently discovered), but cools down nicely in the evenings; it’s got produce stands, restaurants, cheap as street food, juice bars, and sheesha joints up the good old-fashioned yingyang; it’s got some pretty cool street art; its souk smells of incense rather than exhaust fumes (hardly any motorcycles enter!); the guidebook says there may be some crocodiles around; it’s got far less dust, rubble, and rubbish than everywhere elsewhere in the country; though it’s actually got more mosquitoes than the country at large, they’re still very few in number.

The only thing missing, from what I can gauge, is accommodation options geared toward the modern backpacker. If they’d put up a few guest houses with good mattresses, good roof decks, clean lavatories, good Internet connections, inviting common areas, and community kitchens, the hippies would be here in droves. (Oh, I guess they’d also need to make plenty of cheap beer available.)

Not that droves of hippies is necessarily a good thing — but at least it would save me from having to stay in the shittiest and noisiest of shitholes, as I have been doing for the last many days since my arrival here. At $4.11 per night for my own room, it’s difficult to complain too much; but I for one would rather spend a few more dinero for a dorm bed in a nice, clean place.

March 22:

Back in Luxor just for a day to visit the museum. Not a patch on the museum in Cairo, but certainly still time well spent!


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