Archive for Sunday, April 11, 1999


April 11, 1999


The Great Pyramid of Giza and other Egyptian monuments continue to inspire.

After a long day of flying and a messy Cairo traffic jam, the thought of a shower sounded blessedly appealing. But first, time for a quiet moment on the balcony outside our room. The dark night was soothing. The stillness was startling and the breeze enchanting.

Expected, yet stunning in its sudden presence, was the Great Pyramid of Giza. From that moment at the Mena House hotel till now, I have vainly tried to find words that could convey the overwhelming awe that the timelessness of this Pyramid and the other Egyptian monuments inspire.

Looking back I realize it is a spell -- a spell still woven by the ancients on those of us today who come to marvel at their accomplishments and are struck as well by the audacity of the scope of them. It's a timeless place, yet fixed in time.

Tenses have no meaning in the Valley of the Kings or at Karnak. Past, present -- dwarfed by these monuments there is a sense of being caught in a time warp. (Eternal as it seems, however, the future is threatened -- threatened in part by our eagerness to experience the power and pride of these long-ago kings.)

The names of the pharaohs and their queens and their gods and goddesses are as intriguing as their stories are wondrous. Ramses. Hathor. Horus. Hatshepsut. Tutankhamen.

Learning the myths and history on-site from a knowledgeable Egyptologist is not only painless, it's actually quiet delightful and guaranteed to last -- at least until all of the photos come back and the need to sort and identify comes up.

Timeless travel

Cruising up the Nile (actually heading south) seems almost as timeless as the monuments. Except for another occasional cruise boat, the river belongs solely to you as it must have to those royals going to honor Isis in her temple at Philae or Sobek at Kom Ombo.

The beauty of the Nile has not been compromised by pollution nor by development along her banks. The green fertility bordering the Nile is as precious today as it always has been with the specter of the lifeless desert never far from the eye or mind in this land.

While it is great fun to cast oneself as one of Napoleon's soldiers discovering and uncovering some of these monuments for the first time in centuries, or a Victorian dilettante admiring the great wonders of the world while pocketing a piece or two for the personal library back home, the best way to see these works of art and majesty today is on an all-inclusive tour.

Availing the services of professionals who have lived their lives surrounded by this mystique and have made it their duty to study history and archeology and related subjects enhances the appreciation for what you're experiencing. They also know their way around the daunting traffic. And because they don't like to stand in line any more than you do, they make sure that you arrive at the monuments before the rest of the crowds when at all possible.

When traveling abroad, eating experiments shouldn't spell disaster. On an inclusive tour like ours offered by Special Expeditions, ethnic food sampling can be a safe pleasure. The tour company, while providing a broad range of new food temptations, can also cater to any food allergy in the group, thus ensuring that all travelers have a pleasurable, worry-free experience.

Lessons of labor

Theories abound concerning the origin of the Pyramids. Whether you agree with those who believe in the alignment of the Pyramids with the Belt of Orion, or those who hold firm to their conviction that the Pyramids will lead eventually to the los continent of Atlantis, or whether you brandish the belief in sheer human engineering and ingenuity combined with a commitment to hard labor, you will not be disappointed in your trip to Egypt.

For if philosophers, scientists and other thinkers can broadcast beliefs such as those, surely there is room for whatever private belief you care to hold after your own Egyptian experience.

Even today, Egyptian peasants toil long, hard hours working the small plots of land they have to eke out a living. The lessons of hard labor from their fellahin forebears have been written in their DNA. Today's peasant, using only his hands and animals to husband the land, is not much different from the stonecutters of the Pyramids whose tools we can only hazard a guess at.

Those who go through life seeking absolute answers to questions may, indeed, be discontented by their trip to Egypt. But for those who question the answers, Egypt will be a springboard for thought.

However, the adventure would not be wasted for there is something for everyone. Cairo bazaars offer color, bargains and an array of people from all over, while the monuments and tombs offer serenity and quiet in spite of the tourist groups.

-- Carol Khoury is manager of River City Travel Co.


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