A treasure trove of archaelogical remains & cultural riches ,Egypt offered plenty to satiate my wanderlust . There is so much more to see than pyramids & sphinx which are synonymous with Egypt . So we started with Cairo which is about as chaotic as any other city in India making me feel quite at home . Whats more we sighted the maruti 800 in Cairo , the sightings of which have become fairly rare in India now ..A hustling-bustling city with hawkers ready to bargain at the drop of a hat . And enthusiastic bargainers they are … A word of caution to potential visitors to Egypt do bargain with your heart & soul & start the bargain by quoting one-tenth of the price quoted by the vendor . For us it did not take any time to get acclimatised to Cairo . The same snarl of traffic , the same pressing crowds,the same rush around street food stalls ..Somewhere passing by you can catch a glimpse of somebody leisurely smoking away a sheesha. We head out to Giza from here . Giza is home to the pyramids . The giant , imposing structure is supposed to be burial monument for the pharaohs . Ancient Egyptians sure were obsessed with the idea of Death & After life . These Pyramids are the only remnants of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World .All inclusive there are supposed to be some 109 Pyramids ( Big , small ) in Egypt , however the ones at Giza & Saqqara nearby are the most well known being visited since eons by humankind
From Cairo we took an overnight train to Aswan which is in Southern Egypt . In ancient times this was where Egypt was supposed to have begun .We visited the Aswan dam which is an embankment built on the Nile . The Construction of this dam is said to have displaced 100000 Nubian people .It also was supposed to submerge monuments like the Philae temple , Abu-Simbel which were then relocated to other sites with Unesco’s intervention . The next stop was the Philae temple .The temple was built to honor Isis ,goddess of fertility& motherhood . This stately structure is mostly complete . Very few of the monuments that are intact .Actually to reach this island one has to take a boat ride . The island emerges to reveal the backside of the temple & a vista of Green .It is when you go inside that you are struck by the ancientness . To imagine that thousands of years ago , this had been a sacred temple for worship & was forbidden to the general populace . It feels almost magical to be there .To think that you are a part of history at that very moment.
From here we boarded our The Presidential Nile cruise which was to take us to Luxor in 3 days . By this time the rumblings of discontent had assumed fairly big proportions and people had started taking to the streets in a big way . Infact on the very day that we boarded the train ,cellular services had been shut down across Cairo . The next stop was the Kom-Ombo is a double Temple dedicated to the Crocodile God Sobek and to Horus . Komombo is situated right on the banks of Nile at a bend in the river .It is said that the crocodiles used to come to the sands to bask in the sun . Here you can clearly see the Greco-Roman influence in the architecture . The next 2 stops at Edna & Edfu were skipped due to the turmoil . We heard that there was widespread rioting and the police seem to have disappeared . The Cruise guys took a call that it was too dangerous to make stops anywhere with a bunch of tourists on board . The peculiar thing was that we seemed to be the only 2 youngsters on board . Looks like history does not have a lot of draw for the youth . We sailed straight to Luxor which was our final destination . Here couple of us took the decision to go out and explore the city & our guide made the arrangements for us .
Luxor was the ancient city of “Thebes ” and home to the glorious god Amon-Ra .The Karnak Temple is dedicated to the God Amon- Ra . It is said to be the largest temple complex is Egypt . Almost every ruler of the ancient times has left their mark in some or the other way in this monument . The locals in Luxor were extremely forthcoming and helpful . In the absence of the Tourism police they offered to guard us & true to their word some 4 of them escorted us all the while that we were in town . The next visit was to the Valley of Kings , Queen Hatsheput’s temple & Carpet Factory . The Valley of Kings is a sprawling underground Tomb City . Located on the West Bank of the Nile it is now considered part of the Theban necropolis . There are some 63 Tombs of Pharaohs here built largely between the 16th & the 11th century BC .The tombs are an engineering marvel .These are decorated largely with ancient Egyptian rituals about the afterlife .These tombs were supposed to be laden with Riches but have suffered at the hands of tomb-raiders since antiquity . So with the normal pass one can check out 3 tombs . To see Tutunkhamun’s tomb you have to shell out 100 Egyptian Pounds but its worth it . The next stop was Queen Hatsheput’s tomb which did not look anything like the other tombs that we saw . It looked more like a library with 2 storeys .But you have to admit that this was extremely well preserved considering the onslaught it must have suffered at the hands of time , nature & vandals . Queen Hatsheput was a female Pharaoh . An extremely successful ruler , her reign lasted for almost 22 years & was largely peaceful . Her focus was on building trade ties with her neighbours . She is also supposed to have commissioned the building of fairly grandiose constructions projects throughout Egypt . See that is the thing about women , focussing on things that bring stability and continuity to life .
The last visit was to the Carpet factory where they gave us a demonstration on carpet weaving . Laudable but extremely expensive to buy . And then came the chaos at the Airport . By this time Egypt was completely in the throes of the “Arab Spring” . It so turned out that our Flight from Luxor to Cairo had ben cancelled . Somehow we boarded some other flight to Cairo & when we reached Cairo Airport we saw that our flight to India had also been cancelled . there was apparently a flight next day so we waited at the airport in the night . And the next day when we woke up it looked like the entire city’s population was at the Airport . There was no place to stand let alone sit . Bawling babies , hysterical women , it was a sight to behold . Add to that there were no supplies of food & water . the line at the washroom was endless .Thankfully we were able to get a confirmed flight that afternoon & flew back .
It was neverthless an eventful honeymoon . I only regret not being able to visit Alexandria & the Museum . I have promised myself that I will go back again to Egypt . A wonderful country , warm people , rich history ..