Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Egypt, February 2013

Egyptian Excellence!

Although most people opt for a skiing trip in February, I think we'd had enough of all the snow in England that Egypt was a very welcome sunshine break! Most days consisted of getting up early in the morning (around 6am)  to go and see the ancient temples and artefacts whilst avoiding the blisteringly hot desert sun. After lunch, we'd then return to our lovely little Nile cruise boat after lunch to soak up the sun. It's a hard life, I know. 

I found that structuring the day like this was really beneficial because I was able to soak up as much as possible about the ancient world without being completely drained by the heat. Aside from that, I was absolutely taken aback by the sheer quantity of ancient artefacts: from beds to make-up, to diaries and love letters from thousands of years ago - mostly in great condition. 

I am humbled and privileged to have been able to see hugely important parts of history because some people will live their whole lives without seeing them. For instance, there are currently plans to build a replica of Tutankhamen's tomb for tourists to visit because the water vapour from the tourists' breathing is creating too much humidity in the tomb. Having said this, at the moment there aren't many tourists because of all the political disturbances. Although this is creating huge financial problems for Egypt, we did enjoy the almost exclusive access and the lack of queuing!

The sphinx was a lot bigger than I expected!

In the photo above you can see the Great Pyramid. Before I got there, I never knew that you could go inside it. Despite the lack of photographic evidence (cameras aren't allowed) I can assure you that it was incredible. We had to scramble up some wooden ramps, steps and ladders to get to the sarcophagus in the middle, and it was pretty difficult to see less than a metre ahead of you - even though there was artificial lighting inside. I have no idea how they found their way all those years ago! I felt like Howard Carter and his colleagues must have done in the 1920's when they practically stumbled upon Tutankhamen's tomb. It's something that I won't forget in a hurry!

As you can see, its still possible to see even the colours  that the ancient 
Egyptians painted on the temples, let alone all the carvings and hieroglyphs. 
Who knew that paint could last so long?! 

This is probably one of the most fascinating photos that I can show you.

On the left hand side, you can see where the Christians have painted on top
of the hieroglyphs.  They believed that the ancient Egyptian beliefs
were Pagan, and therefore dangerous. In other temples there are many  Coptic crosses
etched into the walls, to protect the temples from what were believed to be very
dangerous archaic ideas. I reckon it's like a historical timeline!
However, it seems that the ancient Egyptians were a lot cleverer than most people nowadays would give them credit for as they didn't just draw pictures on walls like cavemen. Egyptian inventions like scissors, beer, the foundations of astronomy and mathematics remain unchanged even to this very day. They had very complicated calendar systems and on some temples you can see their meticulously planned festival calendars, marked with significant events - complicated further by leap years. It seems that the Egyptians were highly organised, and their language so complex that even today Egyptologists cannot say for sure what all it all means.

--- Cairo. What I can only describe as a sprawling mess of humanity. ---
As you can see from this photo, Cairo has grown outwards rather than upwards
unlike cities such as London or New York. No green spaces and
too many people! The traffic in Cairo is beyond anything you have
ever heard before - throughout the day and night. Since the revolution,
things in Cairo have been difficult for the people and unfortunately
we saw many dead animals (e.g. donkeys, dogs, camels etc) and mountains
of rotting rubbish by the side of the roads.

Admittedly, we did stay a pretty luxurious hotel when we were
in Cairo, for safety reasons more than anything of course! However, we really
enjoyed ourselves there - living the life of VIPs!
Personally, Egypt gets mixed reviews from me. The negatives would be the standard of living in Cairo, because many people don't even have fully-built houses to avoid paying taxes, and there are many improvements that need to be made to make life more comfortable for modern Egyptians. The revolution has meant that basic things like constant electricity and waste collection are just not happening. It cannot be denied that the people are really suffering and that something should be done to help them. Cairo has become dirty and dangerous. Although there are many incredible things to see (particularly in the Antiquities Museum), there's definitely a lot of room for progress and improvement.

It seems that the situation is better in the South, for example in Luxor and Aswan. The banks of the Nile are lush and fruitful and the weather was great too. Although it is a poorer area, it was much more tranquil and beautifully rural but without the hustle and bustle of Cairo. There are millions of different aspects of the ancient civilisation to be seen, and it's a shame that the wonders of the ancient world have been suffocated by the hubbub of the industrialised modern day world.

Despite this, I think ancient Egypt would be the first place I would go to if I had a time machine...

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