Tuesday, October 5, 2010

So, You Want to Go Back to Egypt? Or, the History of Egypt in Twelve Hours...

Today we saw and did everything one would expect to see and do during a trip to Egypt...but, not in one day. Either I'm losing steam, or we had an arduous journey. I'll let you be the judge.
Our tour bus left the hotel at 7:45am, heading for the Giza pyramids. Since it was a holiday (6th of October, when Egypt won back the Sinai from Israel), traffic was light. We took a winding road that lead directly up to the pyramid complex, just at the edge of the Sahara Desert. There was nothing in the distance but sand in one direction, and in the other, the city of Giza. It looked so strange to see apartment buildings behind the imposing ancient structures.
Our guide told us that if the largest pyramid, belonging to Cheops, was broken down into hand sized pieces, it would cover two thirds of the earth. Amazing! We also learned that both Joseph and Moses would have seen the pyramids in their day, being between 800 and 1,200 years old at that time.
We of course, had our photo taken in front of the pyramids, and then took a once-in-a-lifetime ride on a camel. They are such funny creatures...gentle and gangly, and they tower over you without intimidating. And the noise they make is indescribable! Thankfully, ours didn't spit. But, our camel driver almost did when we gave him the $1 tip each that was suggested by our guide for taking a photo. He was offended, and said in very few words and signs that it wasn't enough for the great photos he took! Our first experience with the many "land mines" we tried to avoid with the Arab traders.
The four of us decided to walk down into one of the pyramids...a narrow and low passageway leading to a burial chamber. How they carved into that rock is beyond me. I felt like a miner in a shaft.
The Solar boat was next. This large wooden structure was found near the bottom of the pyramid, all in pieces, and was carefully reconstructed. The Pharaohs wanted to follow the sun after death, so this boat would provide the transport.
Hard to believe that after a few thousand years people forgot the significance of the pyramids, until the discovery of the Rosetta Stone allowed archaeologists to understand hieroglyphs. Before that time, people would just help themselves to the stones, ignorant of the mysteries they held.
Next of course, was the Sphinx; the half Pharaoh (representing wisdom) half lion (strength and protection) carved structure, found just down the road. People enjoyed taking crazy photos at all angles with this giant.
A quick trip to the Coptic area, the oldest in Egypt, which supposedly (according to their tradition), is where the prophet Jeremiah lived. It was full of Jews at the time Mary and Joseph fled here after the Angel warned Joseph of impending danger. They hid here in Giza for awhile, and then continued on the move around upper and middle Egypt.
Lunch and a break was well deserved, and then on to the Egyptian museum. When we arrived, we were told that the generator had broken down. Security cameras were affected, so they closed for the day. Instead, we went on to the papyrus museum, where we learned how it was made, and how to judge it's authenticity. The gallery sold a variety of beautiful designs painted on the paper; one of which caught our eye. Last stop was a family owned business that sold personalized cartouche jewelry, along with sculptures, furniture, and other various Egyptian mementos.
That about ends our whirlwind tour of Cairo. We have had nice conversations with folks on our tour bus, and our guide, Osama (the good one, he tells us), has been great. Other men with common names such as Yasir and Mohammed have been helpful as well.
But we haven't met anyone that seems to be seeking. Are we not praying with faith? Could it be we are not sensitive enough? Or is it a sad representation of spiritual darkness in this part of God's world? Only the Lord knows...keep up the prayers. We need continued stamina, healing from a tummy bug (they call it Pharaoh's revenge), and strength in my knees, which seem to be giving me problems.
Tomorrow, we will spend mostly on the road to Sinai. I will tell of my interactions with those that have scammed me. We were warned, but my heart is too soft to refuse giving out "baksheesh"!
Until then, Good bye! Masaleh'ma!

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Journey into the Promised Land

Journey into the Promised Land
From Egypt to Israel