Freaky fortnight in the land of bellydancers

Two people who are shameless about hiding their photographs from their friends are back from a vacation in Egypt. Here is a photo-less account of their trip from them.

by MARIA MATHAI

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 two  weeks.

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.








 

 

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