Egypt 17 – 19/07/2012
As we were informing in a ‘fast forward’, after long negotiations and after paying for the Aswan and Hurghada mafia’ s Ramadan, we finally had our own egyptian no. plates and CpD.
Freeing my mike from the shabby barge brought us to tears.
The port looked like a dump, but we were on cloud nine
Egypt is said to be a gift of the Nile. To cross it, we took the road along the fecund Nile Valley.
In Luxor, a modern town built on 4000 year old ruin of Thebes, we had time to take in some ancient architecture. Entrance to the highly restricted temple was along a paved processional way, bordered by sphinxes.
The massive pylon gateway to the Luxor temple is marked by an obelisk. Its pinnacle was once covered in gold, so that it projected the live-giving first rays of sun into the temple.
The temple of Luxor, just like the adjacent complex of Karnak, and like all egyptian temples, was built on sacred sites. The pharaohs were keen to contribute their own design to the existing buildings. The most prominent example is Karnak, the result of over 2000 years of reconstruction.
The processional egyptian rituals dictated a longitudinal temple layout. The hypostyle hall marked the transition from the open courtyard to the progressively smaller and darker succeeding rooms, the last and least accessible one being the sanctuary (naos) where only the god, the pharaoh, or the high priest could enter.
The hypostyle hall of Karnak has been restored to give an idea of its past monumentality, but picture this place decorated in splendid colors.
Whereas in most cultures it’s purpose is decorative, Egyptian art, largely unchanged for over 3000 years, was essentially functional. The clear outline, the profile of nose and mouth, the eyes shown as if see from the front were techniques that ensured that the figure could breathe and see and, when magically reactivated through correct rituals, able to function effectively. The hieroglyphic inscriptions usually represent the five names of the pharaoh, followed by protective symbols and epithets such as ‘life’ or ‘health’, just like under Islam, the name of the Prophet Mohammed is followed by the formula ‘peace be upon him’. Sometimes a cartouche was carved, to protect the royal names, or to prevent potentially negative elements to be magically reactivated.
After so much intellectual effort and a brief meeting with Carola, the ride to Hurghada was a welcome relief. The scenery was breathtaking, but the city was not. The sorry babylon of kitsch contemporary architecture and rubble chucked in such a stunning location is appalling.
Even if we could have afforded the 100 dollars per person (all inclusive) required to stay a night in the massive tourist hub, it was not the right place for us. 100 km north we couldn’t resist taking a dip in the uber blue waters of the Red Sea, then, rejuvenated, we rushed to complete our Cape to Cairo race.