Sunday, December 19, 2010


My wanderlust led me to the midst of hustle and bustle. At first sight it reminds you of any large city, people and cars everywhere but this is no ordinary city, this is Cairo, Egypt, with a mind of it's own; where antiquity exist side by side with modern. The sighting of a horse - drawn carriage or a camel in the midst of heavy traffic seemed natural. The stop lights if you can find them, I was told are for show, no one pays attention. Instead, the blowing of the vehicles horn is a language on its own and the horn is the master of the road, which the drivers understand very well. When a driver cuts off another the horn gives off an angry sound, stay in your lane brings out a warning sound. Letting a fellow driver through is music to the ears, a courtesy sound that seemed to say, thank you, and so on. The Pyramids, the sphinx, citadel and oh yes, Khan el Khalil Market, where haggling is a daily exercise; the alluring smell of incense, all add to Cairo's flavor. When I gaped at pedestrians trying to cross the highways, laden with cars, the guide put me at ease, letting me know it is a way of life. This is the city that makes no excuse for its appearance, it does not hide its laundry because company is coming. The attitude is "take me as I am." And I loved it!

The next leg of my journey took me to Aswan where my travel partners and I boarded the Sonesta for an adventure down the River Nile and to Luxor with its huge columns. The ship took off and my eyes darted from left to right, not wanting to miss the splendor of the river banks with its lush vegetation. And in each town where we disembarked, the captivation prevailed. The chapters of my history book, things that I had learned about on ancient civilization began to come to life. This tour of an historical era took my breath away. The stories, the secrets of the Pharaohs, the kings and queens revealed as we strolled through tombs and temples and listened to the tour guide translate the meaning of the hieroglyphs, the ancient Egyptian script. The brilliant people who designed these structures thought about everything, the preservation, the art with meaning, the architectural designs, the calendar of different seasons which included harvesting and days of celebration.

We learned about the the valley of the kings and queens, about Queen Hatshepsut, described as the greatest female ruler who dressed herself like a man and called herself pharaoh. New information has been revealed of the life and death of King Tut. Aswan and Luxor and the towns in between that we visited have a laid back attitude but boast of importance, nevertheless. There is more exploration everywhere, looking for lost treasures and restoring the treasures of the mysterious and magical ancient Egypt. So many will keep coming to see Egypt's pride and joy.

Like the gorgeous towns, I have many stories to tell but too many to reveal here. This one however is a contender for the centerpiece of my journey. When we disembarked in Edfu, a town along the riverbank of the Nile, a young girl called out to me to buy her goods. She did not have much, a few bracelets with the scarab(beetle) in a blue stone. I was hurrying to keep up with my group and could not stop. The young girl about ten years old, told me in well-spoken English that she would see me when I returned. Sure enough, there she was and we hugged as if were long lost friends. There is something about young entrepreneurs that tugs at my heart; of course I helped to boost her enterprising spirit, bought a few of her goods and gave her enough to buy some more stock.

A new found acquaintance on the ship asked out of the clear if I was a dreamer and I answered with a resounding yes. I am always dreaming about the next destination, I love different cultures, I love learning new things, it has made my life so much richer. It has taken a longtime to get here, setting sail on the Nile has been a dream come true. As my mind wandered, while driven to yet another excursion, I peeped through the window at a horse-drawn carriage with a happy face tourist. The horse's gait was full of excitement, as if it was happy to share the road with modern transportation, bursting with pride as it kept pace. "Look at me, I am hot to trot." As it merrily galloped along.

Shokran, Shokran, Egypt for your invitation and the lessons learned. I had my fill of falafel and pita, delicious dates and yogurt and tasteful local dishes. This new year I plan to feast on koshary, a simple vegetarian delight. Thank you for allowing me to climb through the narrow shaft of the Great Pyramid of Khufa in Giza, bent over in an awkward position, determined to make it to the top. Thank you for pointing me to the Nubian village, sailing on the faluca (sailship) putting me closer to the stomping ground of Queen Nefertiti. Now when I wear my cartouch or some other Egyptian ornament, I will understand better the symbols and the history behind them.

You have guessed right, my mind is wandering to the next globe trotting but for now I will savor the time I spent with this wonder of the world. Nature has been very generous to Egypt and likewise Jordan, but Jordan is another story for another time.