Just outside of Luxor, our cruise ship got stuck in the river.
During our last night on the ship we started moving really slowly, making turns and letting other ships pass by (I am sure there are nautical terms for all of those things, but I don't know them). Apparently the water level was low and there was only room for one ship at a time to go through the deepest channels. They knew where the deep parts were not because of some sophisticated radar equipment but because there were 2 guys in a boat with a long stick who were riding around and measuring. Their efforts did not pay off though, because we ran aground (that sounds sort of nautical) and churned up mud all night trying to get out. We got to abandon ship in the morning when a motor boat came to pick us up, while the ship waited for a tug boat rescue.
|View from our ship shortly before we got stuck in the mud|
The day in Luxor was our most intense sight-seeing day. We started at the Valley of the Kings, and visited the tombs of three pharaohs. The setting was fantastic - huge white rocky hillsides overlooking the Nile and a clear blue sky overhead. The tombs have small plain doorways that lead to tunnels going downward into the hillside. All along the walls are carvings, still brightly painted, telling the story of the king's life and his plans for the afterlife. I guess they were pretty confident about those plans.
There are symbols for everything - the scarab beetle represents the morning, baboons represent the hours of the day, most of the gods are represented with the heads of different animals, and all over the walls is hieroglyphic writing to explain the story of what's going on in the pictures. Little side rooms open up along the passageway - they held the treasures that the pharaoh would take into the afterlife.
The Valley of the Kings is where King Tut's tomb is located. Because he was young, hadn't ruled for long, and his tomb was built in a hurry, it was forgotten by robbers and found intact by Howard Carter in the 1920s. We had already seen the contents of his tomb at the Egyptian Museum, and our guide said the tomb itself wasn't so impressive, so we decided not to go in. I guess we had already because Egypt snobs.
Then we saw the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. It's a little more weathered than the other temples but set into a hillside with fantastic views. Here are some photos:
The last place we visited was Karnak Temple in Luxor. Karnak is really a complex of several temples and it is huge. It has a row of ram-headed sphinxes, a couple of obelisks, a room of massive pillars, a great hall and a lake. Take a look:
My thoughts on Egypt? It is an amazing place; the history is mind-blowing and the archaeology is beautiful. It makes you feel kind of small. The more I learn about religions, ancient and modern, the more I find they have in common with each other. The sunshine is wonderful and the ground is sandy. It's not a comfortable vacation because there's not a lot of middle ground between hiding in the tourist bubble and feeling completely foreign and wary of what's happening outside of it. The food's not great but they do a nice fresh mango juice and make some solid pita bread. I am happy that we got to experience it, and to share that experience with good friends.