Egyptians Build ‘Em Big

It was to be my first sailing experience. Would it be my last?

A felucca is part sailboat, part death trap. Mohamed was part felucca captain, part insane. When the warm wind is blowing strong from the south, the combination is exhilarating. You’re speeding along the Nile! In an ancient mode of transportation! Yippee! However, when the wind dies down and you find yourself motionless and paddleless, bobbing in the dark, smack in the middle of a major cruise ship thoroughfare, you start wondering if jumping ship would help or hinder your chances of survival.

But Mohamed was resourceful. Using a big stick to paddle ashore for the night, we tethered up along a reedy bank that was home to the lonely yet friendly and completely unflappable zombie donkey. He guarded our felucca as we slept for the night.

In the morning it became apparent that, despite manifold adventures, we had barely departed Aswan and had a full day to minibus driving to Luxor. Now I am suspicious of the staggering of temples between Aswan and Luxor. Is it a coincidence that there is a temple at hourly intervals. Was it planned by pharaonic advisors or by the Egyptian Tourism Board? Like clockwork we stopped at every temple, but declined to enter, fearing the dreaded temple fatigue. We were saving our awe (and cash) for the superstar: Karnak Temple.

Karnak, at 2 square kilometers, is the largest temple complex in Egypt and the main structure is the largest religious building ever constructed. Beat that Dubai! Of course it was amazing, particularly the section filled with ridiculously huge columns. But we felt a bit rushed by our guide. In fact, we don’t do well with guides in general, and we opted to spend most of our time taking pictures by the columns.

Our last sight in the mad dash of pharaonic sights was the Valley of the Kings. I was a bit concerned that claustrophobia would kick in once it came time to descend to the burial chambers, but since these pharaoh’s egos couldn’t be contained by small spaces, this wasn’t an issue. The paint was so well-preserved that we just kept repeating, „1500 BC!” I have to remember to become a kick-ass hieroglyphics-reading archeologist one day.

So, as we move on from the Nile Valley and the world of the pharaohs, I am torn. I look at the view of Luxor Temple as I eat lunch, sitting majestically in the middle of the city, mocking the ugly modern architecture and I feel sad to go. Then I look in my wallet, empty from the endless string of must-see, American-priced sights, and I get psyched about the next few days: beachy, cheap, not an entrance fee in sight.

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