Friday, June 13, 2014

Egypt Travelogue - Pharanoic Thebes - II


Ramses II
Click by Danish Henry

The trip to Luxor could not have been complete without a visit to the many temples of Luxor. The Temples of Karnak are the largest ancient temple in the world. The Karnak complex is a complex of an open air museum, temples, pylons, intact and dismantled obelisks and monuments. All parts are not open to the general public. Signs of graffiti and vandalism by Napolean Bonaparte, the Italians, Coptic Christians and Arabs still linger. In the main hall stands high the statue of Ramses II – his ego frozen into stone. 

At the Temple of Karnak, Luxor.
Click by Omar Shabana
The Temple of Karnak in Luxor.
Click by Danish Henry 

The Temple of Karnak.
Click by Manthan Mehta
In the temple is an intricate network of gigantic pillars placed with the precision of a nanometer and studded with exhausting hieroglyphic inscriptions.  The walls are coated with depictions of interaction between Kings and the Egyptian gods and hieroglyphs – an enigmatic approach to communication; having to do something with phonetics.  Despite significant advances in deciphering ancient Egypt, Egyptologist still is like Swiss cheese – with holes in it. Our guide highlighted the astonishing synchronization of the architecture with the sun. The temple is a true reflection of the enormousity and extravagance of the Egyptian empire.  And finally a day in the power house of one of the greatest civilization ended. This is a place you would like to see for yourself before you die.   

Pictorial representations of interactions
between the Kings and the Gods
at the Temples of Karnak.
Click by Danish Henry 
Hieroglyphics at the Temple of Karnak.
Click by Danish Henry 


The Kings were bizarre yet interesting, unreasonable yet logical, overwhelmingly wealthy with no moral values, obsessed with symbolism and intoxicated with self-glorification with utter disregard for human rights.

The Ancient Egyptians were not just another group of people with an all-powerful King. They left a lasting legacy in many fields of life. They had the management skills to manage a workforce of thousands, were bench-markers in engineers who made attempts (though failed ones) at building a primitive type of a dam at the Nile and established an extensive irrigation system to benefit from the predictable flooding. Also, they were architectural wizards who build the iconic pyramids and imposing temples at Luxor. In politics, they were great politicians who exercised control upper and lower Egypt with peaceful transition of powers. They were biased historians who documented to detail (bar the construction of the Pyramids) and had knowledge about the movement of celestial bodies and placed their structures in line with the sun (Ra – the sun god). Medicine fostered as evident from the earliest manuscripts of medicine. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Egypt Travelogue - Pharaonic Thebes - I


The next day, we set for the ancient city of Thebes, modern day Luxor, before the sun woke up. This was indeed the most interesting part of my journey to Egypt. On our way to Luxor, we had the opportunity to take a glimpse into the country life and I must say the Egyptian rural life is not very different from ours. Our first stop was at a place what locals call Mamnoon. Mamnoon is a place with two incomplete pharaonic statues with archaeological work in progress. 

The Valley of the Kings. Click by Danish Henry

What came next is one of the oldest and largest royal necropolis in the world – the Valley of the Kings. The Valley of the Kings is a set of mountains (with the al-Qurn dominating others) with 62 known underground tombs for the Pharaohs. These underground tombs, as elaborate they can be, have dedicated burial rooms, stone sarcophaguses and security systems against tomb robbers. The walls of the tombs are decorated with pictorial representation of the King’s life.   The tombs are an archetype of fine craftsmanship, artistic minuteness and geologic mastery.  Interestingly, the length of a tomb indicates the life span of a king. We visited the tomb of Ramses II, Ramses IV and Merenptah.


Behind is the Tomb of Hapshetsut.
Click by Marija Abramovic
Close by is the tomb of King Hapshetsut – paradoxically a female and a King. The Tomb, unlike other tombs in the Valley of the Kings is not underground, has recently been preserved by the Polish government. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Egypt Travelogue - Holidaying Hurghada


We travel 8 hours south of Cairo to reach the coastal city of Hurghada - a well planned city built on modern lines well known for the aquatic sport facilities.

Above the Red Sea. Click by Danish Henry

In Hurghada, we kick off with the mesmerizing Red Sea with our shorts and sun-blocks. The Red Sea is a vast spread of azure water - cool and crystal clear. It imparts reposing effects and holds one of the most beautiful arrays of corals and reefs, being one of the best places for snorkeling on planet earth. Our vessel ‘Little Caesar’ passes a solitary Gifton island. Next, we were sailed to the Red sea shore.

The Gifton Island. Click by Danish Henry 

Aboard the 'Little Caesar'
Later that day, our ship ventures into deep sea for snorkeling. Beneath the calm waters lies a multitude of marine creatures, porous sponges, splendid corals, vast reefs, nature with all its grandeur. It was altogether a new experience – a whole new way of seeing life and nature.

The night is lightened at the Hardrock CafĂ© in Hurghada. In another instance, at a store near my resort, a shop owner displays the picture of the Patriarch of Coptic Christians. This shopkeeper, with his curly hair invites me to visit his church and apparently seems to derive immense pride from Egypt’s Christian history. 

At another shop, I overhear a captivating Arabic song. The shopkeeper tells me that is sung by Nancy Ajram. I google her and find she is the belle of Arab music.