I’m sitting at the foot of the pyramid-shaped tomb with more than 4,000 years of history. Few clouds on a blue sky briskly moves wind, which at the same time is firing on my face grains of sand. Only buildings of Giza spoil the landscape, which though are being barely stopped before invading this historic area, by the separating wall. Good morning, we’re in Egypt!
My friend why tourists are not coming?!
However, there’s nothing to complain about. I contemplate the view of the last surviving wonder of the ancient world without the bustle and crowds of tourists. The revolution of 2011, anti-government riots, shot downed plane ruined the tourism sector in the land of the pharaohs. Wherever we appeared and were involved into conversation with the locals, I was asked Habibi, why tourists don’t come?! Despair in this question is not surprising. A huge part of Egyptian society live just from tourism.
But we, as selfishly I have to admit, as much as possible like it! (Us, which is me and my mom. The whole journey was a gift for her upcoming 50th birthday :)). The dramatic drop in the number of visitors has its consequences for those who choose to come. Solicitation is endless. You can take it calmly, or with a sense of humor, but in the end it becomes hard to bear. In addition, for every transaction, whether you try to arrange something you need to be constantly vigilant, because the other part will try to rip you off.
All the way to the south!
After one day in Cairo, we boarded the train. Not just any train but sleeping one, which took us far to the south, away from the overcrowded and polluted capital, to Aswan. Cities constituting for most travelers base to the surrounding temples. One of them, Abu Simbel is 3 hours away further to the south, just 40 km from the border with Sudan. Motivation to spend, more than 12 hours train plus another 3 in the bus, we had not only because of its spectacular look but also because of Polish accent!
Temple of Abu Simbel, dedicated to the sun god Amon-Re and Horakhte, was built during the reign of Ramses II, of which 4 statues, 20 meters high, guard the entrance to inside. They were designed to show visitors from the south the power and might of Pharaoh and his country.
The uniqueness of Ramses II, is emphasized till this day. Twice a year, February 19th (date of birth Ramses) and October 21st (start reign), the rising sun illuminates the images of Amun-Re and Ramses in the middle of the temple. What’s amazing is that it was managed to maintain this performance despite the change in location of the temple itself…
In the 60s of the XX century, the Egyptian government had planned to build a dam on the Nile, which entailed consequences in the form of flooding huge tracts of land, and the numerous monuments of ancient Egypt. To protect the temple of Abu Simbel, it was decided to move it. The task entrusted to multinational team of engineers and archaeologists under the aegis of UNESCO, which was headed by none other, but a Pole! Kazimierz Michałowski!
In the years 1964-1968 temple was cut into more than 30 100-ton pieces and moved 260 meters away and 65 meters higher. Once it was on the Nile bank today at Lake Nasser. The whole operation, however, didn’t take away anything from the spectacular complex and in fact, if not for the guide and the Internet, even I wouldn’t realize that something is wrong.
River – life
Meanwhile, we’re in the train again, this time slightly towards north. Behind the window slowly in the setting sun shimmers longest river in the world (although more and more studies says that it’s the Amazon river).
If Egypt would be an organism, a Nile would be for him, the main artery pumping blood, and thus sustained him alive. Most of the country, constituting the most populous country in the Arab world, is uninhabited. Because how to live in the desert? Almost all the population is concentrated in the valley and the Nile Delta. In this desert land Nile gives life. It gives electricity, irrigates millions of hectares of arable land, provides water to 17-million Cairo (the largest city in Africa and the Middle East). Making long story short, if there wouldn’t be Nile, there wouldn’t be Egypt.
The capital of the pharaohs
After a 3 hour drive we arrive to the former capital of ancient Egypt – Thebes, which is today’s Luxor. It was here focused life of the world ruled by pharaohs and this is where all the key decisions were taken. Here, as well, every Pharaoh wanted to perpetuate its existence by the construction of another obelisks, or the expansion of existing temples, of which the most significant and most important is one in Karnak.
The largest temple in the world, is so vast that it could accommodate 10 Christian cathedrals. Passing another statues, obelisks, discovering another nooks and crannies, without any difficulty, with the eyes of imagination you can build in your own head what had been lost through time and see how huge this complex had to be. According to the beliefs of the ancient Egyptians, it’s here where lived the most important of the gods – the god of sun Amon-Re, with his family, whom the Greeks identified even with the Zeus.
From the temple of Amun at Karnak, we go the same way he was moving up the procession with the statue of Amun carried in the sacred barge to the Temple in Luxor. 3 km stretch once was fully lined with sphinxes. To the present day survived only a scrap of the old route, which, however, still makes a great impression with scale, symmetry and attention to detail.
Luxor Temple is already mostly the work of the pharaohs Amenhotep III and Ramses II, whose statues 3 (remaining from 6) greet travelers at the entrance to inside.
The whole temple is preserved in surprisingly good condition. While the temple resisted the time, but failed to guard against human activity. In the middle of the complex is also located (fits here as chalk and cheese) mosque (see the film), which was built by the Arabs after the conquest in the VII century.
How many pharaohs in the today’s Egyptians?
Before the VII century country successively was conquered by the Libyans, Persians, Greeks, Romans, and finally the Arabs, who in number of 4,000 riders conquered the ancient land of pharaohs and they stated here forever. Over the next centuries, from the Arabian Peninsula masses of people migrated to Egypt and mixed with the ingenuous people who slowly but surely where less and less in numbers. So if in today’s Egyptians actually flows some pharaohs blood it’s very diluted.
While Egypt has always remained Islamic, it was still passed from hand to hand. From the Turks, through French, to the British. Finally after II World War it gained full independence.
To the holiday resort in convoy
Meanwhile, we leave the valley of the Nile, and go to my opinion, the greatest treasure of Egypt, Red Sea! More precisely, to the southern part of it to the town of Al-Qusair, which is quite away from the noisy hustle and bustle of Hurghada or Sharm El-Sheikh.
And here already we don’t pay attention to money! Let’s have fun! 5 Star Movenpick resort with access to the beautiful coral reef. So, I’m such a traveler, that finished in the holiday resort :P But what wouldn’t you do for your mom? What’s more on her birthday! :)
Coming here wasn’t without a little adventure. Interesting was transport itself from Luxor to Al-Qusair. The initial plan envisioned taking the bus. As the departure time was totally inconvenient for us, we decided to take a private bus.
Weary with the scrolling scenery outside the window suddenly we realized that… we’re escorted! Both behind us and before us were driving pickups with two armed soldiers. Same thing happened when we were traveling from Aswan to Abu Simbel. The authorities are probably aware that another attack or incident with tourists, no one else will come here. Better perhaps safe then sorry.
End full of tense
After 3 days of doing nothing (this is probably my max I can spend in a place like this), we catch a plane to Cairo to take a course from there back to Dubai. As I’m a steward, airline tickets actually cost me usually relatively low. However! As you remember from previous posts, the condition is that there has to be a place on the board. Indeed, passengers who paid full price for the ticket are in front of me.
At the airport in Cairo after reaching the check-in, to our horror, wild crowds. The chances of boarding are getting lower in eyes, though I try to keep calm and optimism. Chimes 12 noon and we still without a ticket, even though the plane was supposed to take off at 12.05. People eventually begins to disappear, and I feel that the moment of truth is approaching faster and faster with every minute. Waiting in full suspense for reading out our names disturbs only stream of sweat running down my back. In the end there it is! Miss Elsbjeta, Mr Daniel! As one of the last we’re boarding tha aircraft. We made it! :)
Check out the video from the trip as well!