Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

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Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!

19.12.06

Our Adventure in Egypt, Part Seven: Cruising up the Nile

Sunday, 12 November, was our day off. We didn't have to get up for anything, and we spent the day cruising south on the Nile from Luxor to Edfu. If you check out the map here, you can see Luxor and Aswan. Edfu is about halfway between them. So we had nothing to do but enjoy ourselves. So we did.

Before we left Luxor, I watched a little television. We didn't have CNN like we did in Cairo, but we had a movie channel that showed bizarre movies. I watched The Naked Gun, and the censors cut out the scene where Leslie Nielsen and Priscilla Presley "made love" in full body condoms. Yet they let all manner of cursing go through. It was interesting. There was also a movie starring William Baldwin and some French chick. Later Graham Greene showed up. It was truly bizarre, with the French woman living two separate lives, and in one of them she's an assassin and in the other she's kind of a simpering wuss who is married to William Baldwin, but whom she doesn't completely trust. The movies had commercials, and they would tell you what the movie was called, but this movie refused to go to commercial! It was very vexing, because I was mesmerized by the awfulness of the movie and was dying to know what it was. I had to wait until I got back to home and once again had access to the magic of the Internets to find out it was Shattered Image, and the French chick was Anne Parillaud, who was in La Femme Nikita, a very good movie. You should, however, avoid this one at all costs. The last movie I watched (for a very brief time) was called Tower of Terror, which stars, I kid you not, Steve Guttenberg and Kirsten Dunst. I bet that's one she'd like to erase from her résumé!

The next morning we were scheduled to sail at 10 a.m. We slept in until well after 8, and Krys didn't even make it down for breakfast - I went down to the dining room and got her some food. We were tired, man! Our American compatriots, Jim and Alicia, had a bit of an adventure. Jim wanted to find an ATM, because the ship did not have one. Reliable ATMs are a bit scarce outside of Cairo, but Mourad told him he could find one in Luxor. Before the ship sailed, they went on a road trip through the city looking for a cash machine that actually had, you know, cash. Alicia told us later that he went to, I believe, six ATMs before he found one that was willing to dispense bills to him. Either the machine wasn't working or the bank ran out of money. I've said this before about "developing" nations - it's not the big things that you notice, because there is horrific poverty in this country. It's the little things, like banks having no money. What's up with that? Jim made it back on board right before the ship left, and all was well. We eventually needed cash too (remember, you need to tip everyone, including dogs that don't attack you and camels that don't spit on you), and we were able to find an ATM in Aswan. Still, when finding cash is an adventure in itself, you know you're in a fun country!

We left Luxor and headed south. Cruising the Nile was wonderfully relaxing, and I wrote many postcards. The boat had a pavilion on the top deck with a swimming pool (too cold to swim!) and a bar with many wicker tables. Krys and I spent a great deal of time on the deck, watching the shore slide by. When guide books say that rural Egypt is a lot like it has been for thousands of years, they're really not kidding. We passed villages with block brick houses (many with satellite dishes - they're poor, but not savages!) surrounding a mosque, and people raising various animals (mainly goats) and hanging out on the banks. It was still very neat to see the greenery on the banks and, just beyond, the desert. It's very hard to get used to it, because it's so bizarre.

We got used to the pampering, too. The Mojito was a nice boat, and of course, all our needs were taken care of. The meals were buffets, all the time, which actually got a bit annoying, because we would have a really good meal one night and then another night where maybe the options weren't as good. For the most part, though, the food was fine. It was in the dining room, however, that we first dealt with our nemesis - French people!

Most of the people on the boat were French. I did hear at one point people speaking perfect English without an accent, but that was only two people, and I don't know where they came from or where they went! The rest of the time we were surrounded by French people! Now, I have no problem with French people. Well, not many problems. The French are fine - they're weird and quirky, but that's why we love them! I love the whole "overweight men wearing Speedos" thing that they have going on, and that constant smoking? dig it, man! In Egypt, they're like most of the world - smoke away! And so the French did. It's weird coming from a country like the U.S., where we have no smoking anywhere! I wondered how many Americans actually take advantage of the free-smoking atmosphere in Egypt - are American smokers so conditioned to not smoke indoors that even when they have the opportunity, they don't take it? I don't know. Anyway. One morning at breakfast, Jim, our traveling companion, ordered a custom omelette at the omelette bar. The guy was merrily cooking it when a Frenchwoman - we called her Crazy Omelette Lady from then on - came up and demanded his omelet. The guy who was making it was perplexed and chuckled at her. She got very angry that he would not give her the omelet, even though, you know, it wasn't hers! Later, apparently, they made the guy apologize to Crazy Omelette Lady because he laughed at her, but Jim did get his omelet! This would not be the first time the French did weird things on the cruise. Crazy Omelette Lady herself would offer us some more amusement - she seemed like she wasn't having a very good time. She almost got in a shouting match with one of her compatriots one night - we couldn't figure out why, because none of us speak French! Damn.

We had to pass through a lock on our way downriver, and the trip got a little bizarre there. Many boats cruise the Nile, so there's a line at the lock to go through. We sat just north of the lock for over an hour, waiting for our turn. The moment we came near the lock the merchants swarmed all over us. Weren't we on a boat, you say? Well, yes, but they were undaunted! They came up in little boats of their own! The water was thick with men selling things. They would wave their products in the air, negotiate a price, then hurl them up to the top deck. Considering our boat was four stories high and these guys were standing on a rocking row boat and throwing straight up, that's pretty impressive! They were selling clothing, which was wrapped in plastic bags. The buyer would put the money in the bag and throw it back down. Now that's capitalism! It was pretty funny - we would be standing there and suddenly a projectile would come flying up over the rails. You had to get out of the way quickly! All the merchants could speak a little French, as they were the dominant nationality among the tourists, apparently, but they could also speak a little English. Of course, they wanted to haggle, even from 100 feet away. Krys got a shirt for 5 pounds, but when she went to give the guy the money, he wanted more. Then he tried to get her to buy a few more things. This went back and forth for a few minutes, until she got fed up and threw the shirt back. No sale for greedy man!

The merchants were funny to watch, because they swarmed like locusts to each new ship, abandoning ours (or any other one) like a stripped-to-the-bone carcass. It was certainly entertaining, which was nice, because we were waiting so long to go through the lock. Finally, it was our turn, and we headed into the structure. Nothing says quality locks like a Romanian-built lock, I'll tell you that much:


As I mentioned, we spent all Sunday cruising, and on Monday morning we went to see Edfu. It's a temple. I mean, it's a nice temple and all, but we saw so many of them, and they all blur together after a while. Edfu is stuck in my mind because that was where I decided that Krys was going to be the tipper from then on, but I'm not getting into that. Anyway, the temple was Ptolemaic, meaning it was built when the Greeks ruled Egypt between the 330s B.C. and 31 B.C., when Octavian won the Battle of Actium and Cleopatra killed herself (Cleopatra was Greek, in case you didn't know). It's a neat temple because it's very well-preserved, and you can check out the various Christian trappings that the Copts installed when they "converted" it to a church. They out crosses into the walls and placed an altar in one room. We also saw many more carvings in the rock, explaining the rituals and the myths. Lots of people can read hieroglyphics, and it's interesting to have someone explain them to you, because they make little sense otherwise. Here are some pictures from the site:





This is Mourad in action!


Jim and Alicia, our American traveling companions, stand by the big falcon statue.


Which way should we go?

We got back on the boat and headed south once more. It was another relaxing day. After the hectic pace of the early part of the vacation, we loved this portion - I highly recommend a Nile cruise if you're planning on going to Egypt (and isn't everyone?). Late in the day we approached Kom Ombo, which is not too far north of Aswan, our terminal destination. Kom Ombo is very neat to approach, because it's right by the river on a small plateau, so the view is spectacular. We docked before any other boats got there, which Mourad said was a good thing, because we'd have it pretty much to ourselves. It's nice having a tour guide and a small group, because they know when the best time to see things is, so we weren't overwhelmed by other tourists. This would come in handy at Abu Simbel, when we missed the large groups that show up there. So we went ashore and wandered around the temple. It's another Ptolemaic temple, and it's neat to remember that the Ptolemies, who were descended from one of Alexander the Great's generals, tried very hard to integrate themselves into a 3000-year-old tradition. Well, it's neat on the one hand. On the other hand, it's kind of sad that the Egyptians didn't make any architectural advances in 3000 years. But that's the cynical view!



This is difficult to see, but that little shack right below the temple proudly advertised its "Internet caffe." Never let it be said that the Egyptians aren't on the cutting edge!






This is a woman giving birth. Part of the temple was dedicated to Imhotep, who was a famous doctor (among other things), so there were women giving birth and various surgical instruments on the walls.


This is a mummified crocodile. Crocodiles were sacred in ancient Egypt, and apparently they used to hang out near the site. Mourad kept telling us there were crocodiles in the water, but we never saw any.

Finally, that night we went to the lounge in the Mojito for a goofy Nubian musical fest. I say goofy not because the music was goofy - it was very good, actually - but because after the music, a Nubian dressed in "traditional" clothing came out and took people out of the crowd and made them dance around and make strange noises, which was supposed to be some sort of Nubian ritual. The Egyptians sure aren't politically correct! It was fun to watch, and it was even more fun when Mourad told the guy to take Krys and Alicia up on stage. They hopped around and made weird noises while Jim and I tried to avoid being seen. I did manage to get some pictures, even though the lighting was poor:


That night we docked at Aswan. And so another stage of our journey was completed. Who knew it would take longer to write about it than experience it????

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