We are back from our two blessed weeks near
the sun and the sea. Egypt was fantastic and great and lovely
and any other superlatives that you can think of. In some ways
the place was quite familiar – remarkably like India. Of
course the language is different and the people dress
differently but you feel more at home in Egypt, down to people
trying to con you. Now that’s unfair because even though we
read a lot about scams etc we had a singularly trouble free
The people are amazingly friendly and have
a soft spot for Indians. Main reason being – Mitab Bashaan
(read Amitabh Bachan). Bollywood is BIG there – and the
average man on the streets has seen most of your 60’s and
70’s hit and flop movies and also movies you didn’t even
know existed. They have seen them . And they adore it. We got a
taste of what celebrities go through as we couldn’t walk on
the streets without being hailed by someone or the other. You
walk two metres and someone shouts – Indiaaa. You turn around
smile and walk away and they go Mitab bachan, Mard. Coolie, Amar
Akbar Antony and of course El Shola… One of the other hit
movies is “Elephant is my Friend.” No prizes for guessing
which one that is.
We landed in Cairo at night and its big.
Massive city. Spent the first day just roaming around the
central area. Saw the pyramids. It was interesting to know that
the only image of the man (King Cheops and Chephren are the 2
main ones) who
built such massive structures to ensure his immortality we have
today is a small 4-inch statue. He tried to have his greatness
is recorded forever and ensure he remained immortal – and
today there is nothing left of his image. Just the structures he
erected to preserve his body stands. Its only the pyramids which
have survived .The pyramids lived up to their reputation. They
take some getting used to and initially it can seem a bit anti
climactic also. But then it hits you and you cannot anymore look
at them as just another monument. Saw the broken-nosed
Sphinx and lots of Hieroglyphs.
Did a dinner cruise on the Nile and saw
belly dancing & sufi dancing. Belly dancing was interesting.
Shaquira is just a poor imitation of the real thing. You must
see the real thing. My only regret we couldn’t go again. And
sufi dancing – which is very tough to describe but is
performed by a man who goes round and round for about half an
hour all the time twirling stuff around. Doesn’t sound very
great when I say that but its very colourful and the guy was
good. Like I said, very difficult to describe.
We went to Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel and
Alexandria. Geographically speaking covered the country from the
north to the south. We rode in a caleche.
In Aswan, we went on a felucca – which is
an Egyptian sail boat. Upstream was no wind but downstream we
had a measly wind which filled the sails. The movement was not
enough to satisfy our felucca captain but his two Indian savari
were very happy with the whole experience. Saw the sunset while
floating on the Nile. What more can I say.
Luxor and Aswan have amazing monuments and
the temples are mind blowing. When you think that these guys
were building such massive structures 5000 years ago – your
WTC’s and Sears Towers don’t look very amazing. By the time
we reached Alexandria we had had what is commonly called
Pharaohnic Fatigue – simply put our minds refused to take
anything more in. So Alexandria was the perfect break. The sea
and a European environment. Went to one of their happening
restaurants there called Fish Market and
hogged. In fact the whole trip we hogged on fish and
shish kebabs, and shish tawooks and shawermas……
Went to the Egyptian Museum and saw the
Tutankhamen treasures. Lots and lots of gold and lapis and other
semi precious stones. The
guy had a mask made of 11kgs of gold. Imagine. 11kg’s. And
this was made after he died. Saw mummies and sarcophagus and all
kinds of statutes. For the more gorily inclined – saw
mummy’s of people, animals and even babies. In one case the
mummified internal organs of one of the queens was also on
display. As well as all the instruments they used. In Luxor they
even have a Mummification Museum.
On a different note entirely, Did you know
that 6000 years ago they used to carry their eyeliners in small
bottles quite like your Lakme / Revlon bottles of today. In fact
they were slightly more practical and had figured that a bottle
with 2 compartments is more sensible – so you could select
which colours you carried. (For those who are interested read on
others skip this portion – FYI blue and black eyeliner were
the most popular.)
In Luxor - Valley of the Kings and The
Queens – that’s were they buried all the Pharaohs and Queens
and their Princes. It was OK – walking inside a tomb and going
through the corridors. Somehow it all feels very sanitized with
tubelights and glass separators but even though all the modern
stuff which destroys the whole effect of the Tombs something
lingers. You realize how these Kings lived – they had an army
working for 6 months after their death so imagine how much they
had at their disposal when they were alive. Most of the tombs
are closed for renovation and restoration. And the paintings and
hieroglyphs get destroyed by flash as well as by the moisture in
the tourists breath. So they keep some open for tourists. Every
few months they rotate the tombs – we were lucky that one of
the better ones of Rameses was opened just the week before so we
got to see that.
Coming to Aswan – we saw the big Dam and
the lake created by stopping the waters of the Nile. Massive.
You realize the difference between this river and our rivers. It
is so big – I cant visualize it in full flood.
PS: Egyptian men are natural flirts. Ahhh
Marrreeeea. Beautiful name……..
PPS: A Caleche is a ghoda gaadi. As is
obvious we played the tourist to the hilt.