Tuesday, January 8, 2008
Day 2: Luxor, Karnak
There's nothing pretty about having to get up at 0430 in the morning, and when you're on holidays, it seems especially harsh. However, we had a flight to catch from Cairo to Luxor and temples to see. No time to waste!
One thing we learned rather quickly in Egypt was that the rules, whatever they were, weren't applicable to everyone equally. The security guards at the airport carefully selected about half of the bottles of water that our tour was given that morning for disposal; the other half were allowed on the plane. Boarding passes were passed out as if they were party favours... if you happened to be given your own, then good for you, but it was pretty unlikely. And they didn't really care. Except for the one geeky little professor who went around to all 103 of the other people, looking for his own name, so that he could claim the Air Miles. (Dude. It's a half-hour flight.)
So, after enduring haphazard security and timings, we land in Luxor. Now, we are on a "first class" tour, which means we don't have to handle our own luggage. So we board the bus and wait. And wait. Finally, after 20 minutes or so, the skinniest guy that works in the entire city appears on the horizon, painfully and slowly pulling a mountain of luggage in the general direction of the buses. A few minutes later, and under the uncaring eyes of several other, more muscular airport workers, he unloads the luggage and goes back for two more laborious trips. My friends, we have just waited 45 minutes for this one scrawny Egyptian dude to haul 6 tons of luggage 30 meters. I was almost in tears by this point in time from the sheer freakin' INEFFICIENCY of the whole show. I personally could have hand-carried all the luggage in half that time.
DH and I think that perhaps Skinny Guy was being hazed. Or punished, somehow. Or maybe all the Big Muscular Men that Just Watched were once Skinny Guys, too. Who knows? Anyhow. Enough about the luggage.
We get to the ship, check in, get our room (for which DH's sister has slipped the front desk something extra to get a really nice room for us), eat lunch, and then bail back off the ship to go visit Karnak Temple.
Today I decided to wear hijab. There are few whites in Egypt, and as a white woman with an uncovered head, I really stood out. Yesterday I felt a bit squicked how the men looked at me as if I was dinner... I reasoned that if I observed modest dress (which I usually do anyhow, don't mistake me) and hijab, I would not stand out.
False reasoning, as experience taught. Once at the magnificence of Karnak (64 acres of temple, my friends. It is freaking HUGE.) I stood out worse than ever as a white hijabi. Conversations amongst both men and women would literally stop as I walked by, then continue, somewhat excitedly, after I passed. Very uncomfortable. This was the last day I veiled, except on the day we toured the mosques.
Karnak (Thebes) blew our minds. The row of sphinxes,
the hall of pillars,
the vast size... it would take a week to see it all properly. All we had was a couple of hours, so I don't feel like I did it justice. However, it was wonderful to see in any duration.
After the temple, we boarded the boat again for dinner and then sailed north on the Nile overnight. Whether it was the jet-lag or the guava I ate in its' entirety at the airport I'll never know. (I picked the guava up from the buffet because I thought it was a pear. Boy, was I surprised.) All I knew was that I didn't feel right at dinner, and by midnight, I was done. A high fever and vomiting kept me out of the game for much of Day 3. But that's a story for another time. (Not the illness. No-one needs more details of that.)