Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Temples at Luxor

8 a.m. Monday:
Cairo's Egyptian Museum is now my favorite museum anywhere. It's nearly a hundred years old and feels even older. There's no air conditioning (!) and the lighting is sporadic. Everything inside seems to be brown, the same color as the rest of Cairo. Plans are under way to modernize the museum, but I love it the way it is.

Everywhere you look here there are treasures
—sarcophagi, tomb relics, statues, and gold, gold, gold. I'm mortified when, as I see a golden throne of Tut's, gum falls out of my mouth onto the floor. It sticks.
Flight to Luxor. I sleep the whole way, lulled by the heat. Everyone keeps saying that it will be even hotter in Luxor. Impossible.
2 p.m.: It's hotter in Luxor:
40.5°C. Luxor is the oven and I'm the bread. Don't they ever have clouds here?
3 p.m.: When we arrive at the Great Temple of Amun at Karnak, my jaw drops. It's the most impressive thing I've ever seen. The largest temple complex ever built, it was adorned and rebuilt by generation after generation of pharaohs. Hieroglyphs and painted reliefs cover nearly all the surfaces.
Everything is big here. Huge statues and obelisks are everywhere. And the columns! In the main hall alone, 12 columns stretch nearly 21 meters high, each one wide enough on top to hold 50 people. Flanking the hall are another 122 columns, these each 13 meters tall. The tourists are dwarfed in comparison. It's not hard to imagine how awe-inspiring the temple must have been to the Egyptians who worshipped here.
9 p.m.: Tonight, after dinner on a felucca, a narrow sailboat, it's back to the hotel garden for coffee and entertainment from a belly dancer. I feel like a character from an Agatha Christie novel, traipsing ancient sites by day, cruising the Nile at night, and recording my thoughts all the while.

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