Travelogues: redbaron >> Ancient Egyptian Monuments

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Egypt
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Trip Information
Trip Date:2006-02-06 - 2006-02-19
# Photos:3 [View]
Countries visited:Egypt
Viewed: 4146
by Guenther Eichhorn (redbaron) (18)
In February, 2006 I spent two weeks in Egypt. I was
always fascinated by ancient Egypt and always wanted to visit these
sites. It was everything that I hoped for and then some!! My full report
is at http://gei.aerobaticsweb.org/egypt.html

The Egypt part of the tour started in Cairo with visits to the
Egyptian Museum. This is a fascinating museum with enormous amounts
of ancient Egyptian relics. Some of the most famous parts are the
pieces found in Tutankhamun's tomb, the only tomb of a Pharaoh that
was found intact. All others had been robbed. Another note-worthy
exhibit in that museum are the mummies of some of the Pharaohs.

From Cairo we flew to Luxor. Luxor has a couple of very impressive
temple complexes in the city. And then there are the Valley of the
Kings and the Valley of the Queens with their tombs. The tombs are
fantastic. They are lavishly decorated with paintings. The colors of
these paintings are brilliant, 3500 years after they have been
painted. The ancient Egyptians used almost exclusively mineral
paints, produced by grinding up colored semi-precious stones. These
mineral based paints last basically forever, whereas organic paints
would be long gone. Unfortunately you are not allowed to take
pictures in the tombs, so I can't show any of that.

From Luxor we took a cruise ship to Aswan on a three day trip. Being
on a cruise ship is not really my cup of tea. I felt like I was in
prison. I like to walk around and explore things, and you just can't
do that on a ship. Entertainment activities like napkin folding and
mummy wrapping just don't do it for me.

But we did visit two very impressive temple complexes in Edfu and Kom
Ombo during the cruise.

In Aswan we visited the Great Aswan Dam that created Lake Nasser. It
is an impressive dam. Its construction is quite different from other
dams that I knew, for instance the Hoover Dam on the Colorado River in
the western USA. Its profile has very shallow walls. The slope of
the downstream wall is only about 15°. At the base the dam is
almost 1000 m (3300 ft) wide.

When the water behind the dam started rising, it began threatening
many temples that had been built along the Nile by the ancient
Egyptians. Over 20 of these were rescued by cutting them out of the
rocks and moving them up and away from the water. The most famous of
these is Abu Simbel, a temple built by Rameses II. The rescue of this
temple was big news in the late '60s, I remember it well. When I
followed this rescue, I hoped to eventually see it myself. I took the
short flight to Abu Simbel and visited that temple for a few hours, a
long-held dream come true. It is mind boggling to see!

Another temple that was rescued from the water is the Isis temple in
Aswan, again a very interesting site. We went there a second time at
night so see a sound and light show. It is quite touristy, but it did
also give some factual information.

From Aswan we flew back to Cairo to see the Pyramids. These Pyramids
are HUGE. The first man made object higher than the Pyramids
was the Eiffel Tower, built in 1889. Until then the tallest man-made
structure was the Great Pyramid in Giza. The Great Pyramids are also
the only survivor of the Seven Wonders of the World. The other
six don't exist anymore.

The three Great Pyramids in Giza are not the only Pyramids. In fact
there are many dozens of them. Our tour brought us to the Step
Pyramid in addition to the three Great Pyramids. In addition, seven of
us got together and rented a taxi and drove to another set of
Pyramids, the Bent Pyramid and the Red Pyramid (see href="http://gei.aerobaticsweb.org/egypt_architecture">Architecture).

The tour guides were excellent. The guide responsible for my group
was Ereen. She was excellent. She has a degree in Egyptology
and was very knowledgeable. I am very interested in Ancient Egyptian
Mythology, so I had thousands of questions. Ereen answered them all
cheerfully and in as much detail as I wanted. A lot of the
descriptions on these pages are due to input from Ereen. Thanks!

The food was pretty good. You usually get an assortment of
salad-style dishes first, then an assortment of main dishes with
chicken, beef, and fish. The food is mostly buffet style. Deserts
are usually very sweet. There is lots of fresh vegetables and salads,
which is very much to my taste. I didn't eat much of the Egyptian
food, not because I didn't like it, but because I liked it too much.
I had to seriously curb myself, or you could have rolled me home at
the end of the trip . The food on the ship was very plentiful, but
not extremely good. Some of it was good, some of it just average.
Nothing was very good, let alone excellent.

There seem to be enough places where you can get alcohol. However,
hotel bars are very expensive, and the bar on the ship was even
more expensive than the expensive hotel bars. The prices on the ship
are easily explained, you are in prison, so you don't have any choice,
so they can take what they want. Behavior like that used to be
called "Highway Robbery".

The temples were everything I had hoped and wished for and much more!
Mind boggling doesn't do it justice in my opinion. Seeing these
carvings and paintings, some of them over 4,000 years old is just
incredible.

The museums are of very different quality. The Egyptian Museum in
Cairo is immense. It has a huge number of artifacts. But it is an old
museum, and many of the artifacts are not marked very well and not
displayed very well. But the huge quantity of astonishing artifacts
makes up for that. The most astonishing artifacts are of course the
burial gifts of Tutankhamun's tomb. He was a fairly minor Pharaoh, as
far as Pharaohs are concerned, and he died young, so he didn't have
time to accumulate all the treasures. His claim to fame is that his
tomb was the only royal tomb that was not plundered. The treasures in
that tomb were amazing. Imagine what it was like in the tomb of a
major Pharaoh. I was in hog heaven in that museum. I spent about six hours in
there, and that was not nearly enough. The museum in Luxor was much
smaller, but much better displayed. It has some astonishing stone
sculptures. The museum in Aswan is also small, but very nicely
displayed. Unfortunately you are not allowed to take pictures in the
museum in Cairo. I did take pictures in the museum in Aswan,
unfortunately you can't use a flash, so that limited what I could
do.

In order to stay that long in the museum in Cairo, I split from the
tour and stayed on my own. This meant I had to take a taxi back to
the hotel. I had taken a business card from the hotel so I could show
it to a taxi driver to get back. That didn't work out so well at all!
The card was in English, and the taxi drivers don't speak or read
English! The first one gave up and drove away when he realized that
we couldn't communicate. The second one was smarter. After some
haggling, he agreed on a price, without knowing where he would be
going. I had asked in the hotel what the ride should cost, and our
price was less than the limit that they told me at the hotel, so I was
OK as far as the price was concerned. The taxi driver drove down the
street and stopped a couple of blocks later. He took the card and
went to a man standing next to a restaurant, asking what this address
was. That man didn't know it either, so they got somebody else from
the restaurant. That man finally knew the hotel and told my taxi
driver. This taught me a lesson, from then on I always asked the
hotel to write down the name and address in Arabic on the cards that I
got.