Sunday, March 23, 2008

Back from the land of the pharoahs

Check it out!!! It's the freakin' end of March and I haven't visited blogger for ages. It's almost like I've become so lazy that I've neglected my cyber enclave for the sluggish alternative that is Facebook, only to realise now that so many of my imageshack photos are gone. Well, we'll fix that up some other time.

Meanwhile, the new year has come and gone, major events at work at a stand-still due to red-bloody-tape, and I've been to Egypt and back, all in a month and a half.

The state of my spanking new (once yellow) sneakers is testament to the dusty adventure I've been on in the desert wildnerness that is Egypt. That is to say, that dust, desert sand and ash from the permanent haze there really took a toll on my clothes and lungs.

But it was a lovely holiday with family and friends, and I've made so many new acquaintances that are just a joy to have around on vacation.

Egypt, in spite of her lovely polluted air, is gorgeous. And once acclimatised to the endless harrassment from local merchants, and getting used to being marginalised because of one's gender, it is a pleasant experience. Luckily, Cairo was progressive enough that women were evidently more empowered than the less cosmopolitan areas like Luxor and Aswan.

So I'm back from the trip visibly unharmed, but thoroughly satisfied with the adventure.

This trip, I was threatened by merchants twice for attempting to bargain (this happened in the more ulu areas of the country), molested by a meek looking young man (but I made sure he was properly ashamed before making a run for it), got suitably dust-coated in the Valley of the Kings when I decided not to wear long pants, cooked from the outside in Aswan as temperatures soared to 34 degrees, and chilled in windy Cairo and Alexandria where the weather turned out to be a comfortable 18 to 24 degrees.

We took a hot air balloon over the West Bank of Luxor, strolled through Karnak at night when the atmosphere was one of awe and reverance, settled down on the Nile as we cruised for 4 days south toward Aswan.

We circled the Aswan high dam in searing heat, and joined a pre-dawn convoy to Abu Simbel, my favourite place in Egypt, where the famous Temple of Ramses II appeared behind a hill overlooking Lake Nasser, and the monstrous statues of the ancient Pharoah's likeness simply took my breath away.

Later, I braved a personal record of not taking a shower in 53 hours, during which we boarded an overnight train to Cairo. There, the formidable Pyramids greeted us in an anti-climatic rising from behind the hazy cityscape, where tarred roads led up to the Pyramids and between them. The beauty of neighbouring Alexandria and its gorgeous coastline made the 3-hour drive from Giza city worth it.

I don't know how to describe the feeling of having touched 3000-year-old monuments upon which the foundation of a mighty empire rested.

Coming back from it all, reality is hard to stomach. I've learnt to embrace a new language - Arabic, and it is really beautiful. I've lost my immunity to chilli, evident in my stomach's poor response to local food the week since I've returned. I've made a new friend, my Egyptian guide, whose passion for his country's ancient history is truly admirable, and whom I've learnt so much from.

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