You know you're in Luxor when...
May 6, 2002
There are probably only two places in the world that can give
their streets names like Cleopatra and Ramsis II without drawing
derisive laughs. One of them is Luxor. In the other, everyone
is too busy with the one armed bandits and all-you-can-stuff-down-your-gullet
buffets to notice the street signs anyway. With the temple complex
at Karnak, the Temple of Luxor and all the tombs and structures
on the west bank in the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the
Queens, the modern citizens of Luxor have inherited not only
some of the greatest monuments of antiquity, but something akin
to a money press. They simply sit back, watch the international
teams of archaeologists discover, excavate and restore ancient
wonders and collect money from the droves of tourists who then
show up to take photos (and eat, buy postcards,stay in hotels,
yadda yadda yadda...). Seems like a swank deal to me.
A Woman's Place
May 9, 2002 - Luxor Temple
The Pharaoh is the divine son of the Gods, ruler of all Egypt,
conqueror of all enemies and destined for immortality in the
Pantheon. His statues are very big. Queens were spawned from
leprechauns and rarely reached knee high on a divine entity.
This hypothesis is clear from monuments and statues throughout
Egypt. This example shows the legs of Ramsis II at Luxor temple
offering refuge to his diminutive wife Nefertari. At least one
tradition has passed down to the present day. Women have known
a subservient role in Egypt for at least 6000 years.
Egypt's most precious resource
May 8, 2002 - Hatshepsut's Temple
The temple of Hatshepsut was the scene of the 1997 massacre
of almost 70 tourists. No guidebook mentions it, no plaque here
commemorates the dead. Not wanting to be a killjoy, I asked
around discreetly but no-one wanted to talk about the incident.
Things seem to be relaxing a little nowadays but it is still
clear (and a little unnerving) to see the signs that tourists
are possibly in danger in Egypt. Everywhere police and soldiers
idle about with machine guns ready to deflect fire. On the roads
around Luxor no-one is allowed to plant sugar cane too close
to the roads as it offers perfect cover for terrorists. Tourists
are restricted to certain trains and buses and most hotels have
Still, no-one wants to talk about any of that. Every time we
bring it up we are assured that Egypt is safe and encouraged
to tell everyone we know this good news.
One of Egypt's biggest sources of revenue is tourism and Gulf
Wars. Tourist massacres and middle east unrest are all very
very bad for business.
Queen Hatshepsut's Mortuary Temple
May 8, 2002
Queen Hatshepsut is my second favorite monarch of old after
Akhenaten. After her husband the Pharaoh died, his son from
one of his lesser wives was slated to take up the crook and
flail. As he was only a stripling of a boy, Hatshepsut acted
as his regent and promptly sent the kid off to become a monk.
She donned the false beard and manly attire of the king and
ruled Egypt for over 20 years. When she finally moved to her
mortuary temple in the valley of the Kings (no valley of the
Queens for this cross-dresser!) permanently, her stepson took
the thrown and set about destroying all record of her. Dysfunctional
families have a long and blue blooded tradition.
The case for shooting tourists
May 7, 2002 - Karnak
We would never ever condone the killing of innocent tourists.
The culling of the herd to serve the greater good ... well,
for that there may be a case to be made. The first candidate
for removal from the gene pool in order to prevent the total
idiot gene being passed on to the next generation is one R.
Fogarty of Cork, Ireland. That someone would deface a 2000+
year old Egyptian temple painting leaves me aghast. That this
fool would simultaneously reveal his name and origin (well,
maybe not his origin for that must be some primordial ooze of
egotistical stupidity, not the town of Cork) just leaves me
speechless. Or almost, R. Fogarty (R, I presume, stands for
radically unencumbered by a brain), for the betterment of mankind,
you are hereby required to refrain from procreation.
Julie in the Papyrus Forest
May 7, 2002 - Karnak
The Temple of Amun in Karnak was an active place of worship
for at least 1500 years. Today we admire the scope and sophistication
of the structures here and chuckle at the pantheon of gods to
whose honor it was built. One cannot help but wonder if 3000
years from now, tourists will walk amongst the ruins of St.
Peter's chuckling at our god and wondering why we didn't build
something more impressive. After all, we have a few thousand
years more building experience than the ancient Egyptians.
Face time with the Pharaoh
May 9, 2002 - Luxor Temple
Julie with the ubiquitous Ramsis II
Amun's ruins in Karnak
May 7, 2002
Karnak was overall our favorite ruin in Egypt. The sheer scale
and age of the place is humbling while the combination of preservation
and reconstruction is enough to give the mind something to build
an idea of what it was like. We visited shortly after noon when
the combination of midday heat and tour group lunch schedule
left the place deserted. The fact that no souvenir sellers and
camel jockeys bothered us inside was the icing on the cake.