14. November 2004 11:02
by Rene Pallesen

Bedstemor's 85th Birthday ( 13 - 20 Nov 2004 )

14. November 2004 11:02 by Rene Pallesen | 0 Comments

bedstemor s 85th birthday 13 20 nov 2004
Bedstemor's 85th Birthday ( 13 - 20 Nov 2004 )

Ancient Egyptian stories and legends have long made their mark through movies such as "Cleopatra", "The Mummy" and wowed us women with Omar Sharif's performance in "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Doctor Zhivago" and more recently in cartoons such as "The Prince of Egypt". There is a certain mystic about middle east portrayed to us from a very young age when we hear bedtime tales like "Ali Baba the 40 Thieves" or "Sinbad the Sailor" - most of us have a dream of seeing the pyramids.

I was very lucky to have the opportunity 20 years ago to come to Egypt with my parents and at 10 years old, there's only so much a child can remember. But this year, the Pallesen Family once again get together for the Matriach's 85th birthday. It is tradition for the family to come together and travel to an exotic country - in the past Tunisia, Morocco, Gambia and for Grandmother's last wish, to see the pyramids of Egypt, that her husband saw 45 years earlier.

The Matriach's three children, six grandchildren (Nikolai could not make it), four greatgrandchildren and respective spouses all came together for a week in magical Egypt. It is autumn with warm days and cool nights - a contrast to the approaching winter in Denmark.

Saturday 13 November 2004
Departure for Egypt

Our family had to leave Falster at 2:30am to catch a 6:30 flight, 4½hr later we arrived at Cairo Airport. I have dim memories of a very warm airport in complete chaos, with people pushing to get their luggage through, shouting over a mad din. Instead we found a rather clean and uncrowded airport. We were met by the AB Travel Agency representative, taken to a Hotel Pyramisa, left in a closed piano barPallesen familie venter på værelser and promptly forgotten until one of us had the bright idea to ask for our keys.

Our family shared a two-bedroom hotel room with a large living area. Our first afternoon was spent walking around the streets of Cairo trying to find a place for the family to have dinner. Our hotel was located across the river from downtown Cairo, so there was not a lot to see, combined with the fact that many shops were closed during the day over Ramadan, the Islamic period of fasting from dawn to dusk. Sunday heralded the last day of Ramadan, so many were preparing for the final feast.

In the end, the whole family had dinner in the hotel's "Oriental" restaurant of Egyptian style. We figured we would get some decent Egyptian food but were disappointed to find most of our food luke-warm. The rice was very dry, little meat on the lamb and rather bland food. To our surprise, after our comment about this, we were presented with a complimentary platter of fruits native to Egypt such as fresh dates and guava. To our amusement, no matter what kind of Egyptian wine we ordered, they all tasted the same. There was plenty of Egyptian beer and of course the danes lived up to their drinking prowess and Bedstemor ("grandmother") treated us all dinner.

Sunday 14. november 2004

On the first night we didn't sleep very well - sleeping in a different bed combined with quranic prayers coming from a nearby mosque didn't exactly leave us with a peaceful sleep. However we were all up early to get together in Bedstemor's room for a "surprise" get-together - to sing the danish birthday song amongst a flutter of red white flags, and present her with a small gift. This family "surprises" the birthdayee and all sing in unison this rather cute birthday song.

The Citadel Muhammad Ali Mosque

Udsigten fra CitadelletOur first destination was the Citadel. It is the city's fortress that once housed the royal family and although most of the complex is open to visitors, the military still have a foothold and some areas are out of bounds. It takes a half day to explore all areas of the Citadel but we didn't have the opportunity to do so, and instead spent most of our time in the Muhammad Ali Mosque.

<== There is a magnificent view of the city from the Western Terraces - magnificent had most of Cairo not been filled with the same shade of mud-bricked buildings. What was most notable about Cairo was its lack of colour or rather its ability to blend into the desert.

Mohammed Ali MosqueOur guide Adam/Mohammed provided little insight to the function or history of the Citadel, and instead sat the group in one corner of the Muhammad Ali Mosque like a bunch of school children, and gave a lecture on Islamic laws and behaviour.

When René ventured to ask more about the Citadel, he was scolded for interrupting and told to listen. We never got the opportunity to find the number 7 Napoleon's troops had painted above one doorway to avoid using the unfamiliar Arabic names or the twin half-round towers because our guide simply didn't know where they were.

Ind i Mohammed Ali Mosque

During this time, I had the opportunity to wander off and walk the beautiful alabaster-lined arcades of the mosque. the soaring central prayer hall was a glimmer of hundreds of lights hanging in concentric circles. Arabic inscriptions in gold were painted on the ceiling. Women had to be suitably attired and could not wear sleeveless tops or short skirts or shorts. In one corner lay the sarcophagus of Muhammad Ali - the builder of the mosque and an albanian mercenary who was the founder of the dynasty that ruled till the revolution in 1952.

Cairo Egyptian Museum

I have memories of wandering around this museum, peering into smudged glass cases, staring into the shrivelled faces of some once well-known pharaoh like Ramses II and wondering if the ancient Egyptians were giants in their large coffins.
20 years later, it was almost impossible to push through the crowds of tourists - only useful because their guides provided more information than ours. With only two hours, there was no way that we could view the whole museum or see the royal mummies.
The museum was celebrating its centenary and there was a special exhibition dedicated to TutAnkhAmun - the most famous archaeological find. With travel guide in hand, we oohed and ahhed over the gold treasures found in his tomb - a gold throne featuring the famous scene of TutAnkhAmun's queen anointing him, chests made out of ebony ivory, cheetah-skinned hunting shields, bows, arrows, alabaster canopic jars holding King Tut's mummified organs, gold sarcophagus - if Howard Carter had found such treasures for a little known boy-king, imagine what the tomb of a pharaoh like Ramses II would have been like? King Tut's inner coffin of solid gold and the famous mask of gold that everyone wants to see and is portrayed in many egyptian images.
The museum has become another money-making expedition for the Egyptians with an exhorbitant price to view the royal mummies. We had to content ourselves with the animal mummies - cats, dogs, birds, goats, Nile perch (yes, fish as well!) and most amazing was a 7-metre crocodile mummy.
The exhibitions were arranged by themes on the upper floor and chronological on the lower floor, going clockwise from the Old Kingdom, to the Middle and finally to the New and later kingdoms. There were rooms full of giant sarcophagi that would've weighed a tonne each, a room full of miniatures showing the egyptians' daily lives, a room full of ancient papyrus long faded and rooms full of bits and pieces from ruins, statues, palace floors - a place where one needs a days to spend with a decent travel guide.

Khan Al-Khalili

På gaderne af Ægypts største bazar, Khan Al KhaliliAfter a stop at an egyptian perfumery and some lunch, we headed to Khan Al-Khalili - the oldest bazaar in Egypt that has lasted since the 1300s. Ancient buyers visited the khan for goods brought in on merchant caravans. No longer do we find slaves, silk, jewels or diamonds, but wooden guitars, brightly patched pouffe covers, clothes, t-shirts, crappy papyrus paintings, bongs/water pipes, bright bolts of cloth, the aroma of spices is very much present and stalls are heaped with bright red, gold and blue powders and sacks of seeds pods. Coppersmiths hammer out platters, tureens, coffeepots and enormous crescent-shaped tops for minarets. It is a ritual of the bazaar to expect to bargain - locals or foreign visitors - usually a 10th of the offer price - if you have paid a third, you have paid too much. We had only an hour to spare but many of the shops were closed for a siesta after lunch. Ulla I pointed to bags of multicoloured spices. He wanted £50 (AUD$10, 50DK.Kr) and after I said "da ketir awi" (it costs too much) and walked away, the shopkeeper doggedly followed us for a kilometre reducing the price from £40 to £30, £25, £20 and after we shouted £10 in jest, he offered £15, £10 and finally £5 before finally giving up on us. After much haggling, we managed to bargain for two ornate glass perfume bottles for £20 (AUD$2.50; 20DK.Kr)

Bedstemor's Birthday Feast

Bedstemors festIrene Ole had organised a private room for Bedstemor's birthday party. A single long table in a room of egyptian style. Small silver pots lined in two rows in the middle of the table kept the food warm.

We feasted on cumin-flavoured fried fish, chicken fillets egyptian-style, cinammon-flavoured ravioli, rice, mashed potatoes and beef steaks in pepper sauce, sang and toasted with bottles of egyptian wine and beer to Bedstemor.

Whilst the children played in one corner, there was much chatter througout the table and the evening finished off with chocolate and fruit cakes topped with "Happy Pirthday" (note, it's not an error) and we laughed in amusement in a plethora of egyptian sweets - baklawa, semolina tarts, rose-water flavoured tarts, and tarts that tasted like liquid honey... Ulla almost wanted to take the rest of the desserts with her (except for the rose-water flavoured ones - it was funny to watch her expression - rosewater almost smells like cosmetics). The waiters were extremely attentive, coming by every two minutes to serve us.

Best of all, Bedstemor turned 2 years old, as she blew out each candle on the cakes. As the danes would say, "det var meget hyggeligt!" (it was cozy)

Monday 15. november 2004 (7:30am start)

From the brown buildings and streets of Cairo, we travelled 24km southeast of the city to Saqqara, changing from a uniform brown to lush green fields of large cabbages and hundreds of date palms. It was like an oasis, a gentle mist gave a surreal sense of the fertile plains of ancient Egypt. Women in full-length black abeeyas squatted in the fields, the odd man walking around - such a contrast to the intense crowds of central Cairo.

Saqqara's Step Pyramid

Founded as a necropolis (burial city) for the Old Kingdom and is one of the richest archaeological sites in Egypt.

The Step Pyramid is less that ½ the height of the largest pyramids at Giza, but this monument served as a predecessor of the smooth pyramids. Previously tombs were made of mud brick, rectangular slablike structure covering a burial pit. But the architect Imhotep had the bright idea to construct in stone and Zosers trinpyramide i Sakkarabuild the slablike structure 5 times one on top of the other, creating the first pyramid.

We entered through the Great South Court - the size of a soccer field, down a corridor of 40 pillars inspired by bundles of tied reeds. Whilst Adam was making another one of his speeches, I was tempted by a turbaned egyptian in a dress who took me to the top where I managed to get one shot of the magnificent pillars up top, before being scolded by Adam and being asked for baksheesh (tip). I was gratefully rescued by a couple of Italians when the egyptian would not let me go without a baksheesh. However, once I surfaced from the building, I was blinded by white sands and the immense pyramid sitting solitary amongst a few ruined stones, with a much smaller triangular heap of stones in the background. Although the morning had been cool, the sun soon warmed us up as we wandered round to the north.


Ramses II ligger på Memphis' lille museetOnce the capital of ancient Egypt, it remains unexcavated due to villages built on top of it and a high water table as a result of the Aswan Dam. There is a small garden with small finds - bits and pieces but the most exciting thing to see is a colossus of Ramses II lying on his back as the lower legs are missing. The colossus would've been 5 stories high had it been standing. Nearby lies the largest alabaster statue ever found - 80 tons of sphinx - imagine what treasures that could've been found if Memphis could've been excavated, especially as this ancient city lay halfway between Upper and Lower Egypt.

Our final stop before lunch was a papyrus museum - another place of commission for Adam. Bedstemor purchased a papyrus of egyptian alphabets. Some of the paintings cost a massive £3,500 (AUD$900, 3,500DK.Kr). For lunch, we had a splendid egyptian meal in the middle of nowhere that served excellent mezza (egyptian tapas) of baba ghanoush (roasted eggplant dip), tzatziki (cucumber dip), hummus (chickpea dip), fuul (beans) served with freshly made pita bread, warm vine-leaf rolls, lamb kofta and freshly roasted chicken in thyme. It was feast fit for a king and the most egyptian meal we had on the whole trip.

De store fantastiske pyramider i Giza. Her ses vi den største pyramid - Cheops/Khufus pyramidPyramids of Giza

From air the desert pyramids were right on the edge of the city, 16km from Cairo.

I remember vaguely, as a child, hunched over, walking up a surprisingly warm shaft lit by a single light bulbs and emerging into a very chilly dark room that held a single stone sarcophagus, the room empty except for occasional square holes in the wall where food was left for the afterlife.

I had entered the Queen's chamber in the largest pyramid and 20 years later, only the first 300 can enter these pyramids - for an exhorbitant fee.

René står næste pyramiden
The largest of the three, Cheops' pyramid was the largest, standing at 146metres at one point, took 920 metres to walk around it and contained 2.3 million blocks! Each block was at least one metre high, so you can imagine how massive these pyramids were.

Den anden største pyramid - Chephrens pyramid

The 2nd largest, Khefren's (Cheop's son) pyramid still had some of the smooth shiny limestone casing that once used to cover all these pyramids.==>

The massive solar boat that once carried the pharaoh's body from Memphis to Giza and the three smaller Queens' pyramids stood at one corner of the massive Cheop pyramid. We didn't have the opportunity this time to enter the tombs, but I feel priveleged that I did and that I still have some memories of the event.

The Sphinx

SfinxenThe pyramids loomed in the background as it sat silently on the hot sand under the glaring sunlight for 4,000 years. Napoleon's troops once used it for target practice, so its nose and pharaohs beard and long fallen off and lies in a British museum. The Greeks called it "the Sphinx" as it was based on a mystical creature with the head of a man and body of a lion, which would stop any traveller along the way with a riddle - if the riddle wasn't answered, it became the sphinx's dinner. Throngs of crowds surrounded the sphinx and we could only enter in single file. Over time, it seemed that tourists could view it from further and further away. 45 years ago, Bedstefar's (grandfather) could touch the Sphinx and even climb to the top of the pyramid; 20 years ago, it was simply surrounded by a small wire fence but I could stand close up to it; now it lay in a very large pit where visitors could only view it up close if they zoomed in on their cameras. 4 millenia later, it still manages to awe all of us.

Tuesday 16. november 2004 (2:30am start)

Yes, you did read that right - we were all waiting in the lobby at 2:30AM. Last night, Bedstemor's grandchildren treated the family to a Spanish-Egyptian Italian dinner, which was followed by a Familien i en cacophany of tambourines, oboes and drums played for an Egyptian engagement couple in the lobby.

This morning we were flying to Aswan, to board a 3-day cruise up the Nile, sailing up to Luxor. When we arrived, we were taken for a short felucca ride along the Nile with a fantastic view of the Tomb of Nobles. When we returned we were given our rooms onboard a four-storey cruise ship that had an indoor games room, a pool and sundeck at the top. Even from our rooms right at the bottom, we had a magnificent view of a small white mosque-like structure on top of huge sandy mountains dotted with small caves.

In the evening we had the opportunity to visit a small souq (local bazaar) selling t-shirts, papyrus paintings, mounds of saffron and dry scented lotus flowers, brown, red, yellow indigo mounds of fragrant spices - all of which some of us bargained for - the most expensive £25 papyrus painting (AUD$5, 25DK.Kr) to cheapest £15 embroidered t-shirts with hieroglyphics (AUD$3, 15DK.Kr). To top the evening off, we took a £5 horse carriage ride back to the ship.

Den anden papyrus har jeg købt fra bazaren

Wednesday 17. november 2004 (7:30am start)

It seemed some of the family had succumbed to a tummy bug. The rest of us steered clear of unwashed fruit, fresh salads, raw vegetables and drinks made with local water. However, this didn't stop us from going out to see a few sights.

The Unfinished Obelisk

Had this obelisk been completed, it would've been the largest and heaviest ever made standing at 142 metres. It sat in a granite quarry, perfectly complete on three sides but abandoned when a flaw was found in the stone. It is almost impossible to imagine how the ancient egyptians could've moved even a single rock made from this quarry as it stood a great many miles from any of the monuments ever made. Unfortunately for Egypt, most of its obelisks have been spirited to other countries - to Italy, Britain, France and even Argentina by foreign archaeologists in the last centuries. Most of us didn't have the chance to view the complete obelisk before Adam rang a bell that he carried (to annoy us I suppose)

Den ufuldendte ObeliskDe meste familier kom ikke så langt til her

High Dam

For centuries the Nile controlled the Egyptians' lives - either flooding or insufficient water levels were disastrous for the people who relied on this huge water source for their livelihood. When the Aswan Dam was built, some of the villages in the south lost their water supply.

30 years ago, a new High Dam was built which resulted in the man-made Lake Nasser to the south being created ==>

This meant many people had to be moved as villages were buried, as well as some of the ancient egyptian monuments such as the Temple of Philae.

Aswan dæmningAt its highest point, the High Dam stands at 111m high, 3.8km long and 980m wide at the base.

Three times the number of stones used for Cheops' Pyramid was used.

Videoing isn't allowed as it is a high-security military area - should there be an attack on this Dam, then much of Egypt would be submerged under water and would be a disaster for the country.

Given only 10min, Adam "rang" us back to the bus.

Temple of Philae

Vi sejler til Philae templetAfter Aswan Dam, the Temple of Philae was submerged for six months a year and tourists had to view it through the murky waters of Lake Philae. When the High Dam was built, it threatened to submerge the Temple permanently, so was moved stone by stone to a new island similarly landscaped. Philae is special in that it's only accessible by boat and the sunset forms a spectactular backdrop. A temple dedicated to Isis (goddess of women, sex purity), it was one of the last outposes for paganism and due to the popularity of Isis, was also used by the early Christians. The Temple walls and many pillars were filled from top to bottom with hieroglyphs and images of Isis - many defaced by the early Christians who considered ancient Egypt's gods to be "pagan". I had a fantastic afternoon walking in and out of all the nook and crannies - visiting the Birth House, Nilometer, the "Pharaoh's Bedstead" and much to the amusement of the family, I was the last to emerge.

Kom Ombo templet i aftenKom Ombo

The ship set sail from Aswan at 3:45pm after an afternoon spent sunbaking and drinking beer (typically danish to make the most of sunshine and beer). We were sailing 48km north of Aswan to Kom Ombo - the site of an ancient city devoted to the worship of a crocodile god, Sobek. The ancient city is long gone and crocodiles existing on nearby sandbanks have been hunted to extinction.

At sunset, we visited the Temple of Kom Ombo, dedicated to both Sobek the Crocodile god and Horus, the falcon-headed sky god Isis' son. Although we didn't have the opportunity to explore this 2 crocodil mumie på Kom Ombo templetemple, it was both spectacular and eerie at sunset, with large light illuminating it. There existed a pit filled with water, with a platform halfway down, where crocodiles were lured in from the Nile with human flesh, and the largest crocodile was caught and mummified as a tribute to Sobek. At the Chapel of Hathor (Horus' wife), an American shouted "Geez, I thought I was supposed to see crocodile statues!" *laugh* It contained two of the mummified crocodiles found at the Temple.

We returned to a small cocktail party before dinner, provided by the ship to introduce all the staff responsible for making our trip enjoyable.

Thursday 18. november 2004 (7am start)

We sailed overnight past Kom Ombo to Edfu, a small regional center for the sugarcane trade, visited the Temple of Horus and sailed on to the Lock-crossing at Esna.

Temple of Horus

Den smukke Horus temple i EdfuThis is the most complete of its kind, a Greco-Roman temple that conforms exactly to ancient egyptian principles of architecture ie visit Edfu to see what almost every other temple in Egypt would've looked like in its original form. We were awed by the massive walls of the pylons at the entrance, distince reliefs showing mirror images of Horus and the pharaoh grasping the hair of his enemies. It was built by Cleopatra's father around 50yr BC. Standing in the forecourt of this well-preserved temple we can see mud-brick houses lined up at the top of the compound walls because this temple was once buried right up to the ceiling with a village built on top of it. Many of the temple relifes capture the cataclysmic battle of Horus with his brother Seth. We entered a small Nilometer - a dark, dank tunnel that smelled of pee and was once used to measure the level of the Nile. Again I was the last to emerge (a couple of minutes late only) to the loud applause of everyone (and a huge glare from Adam).

Fra vort skib på NilenReturning to the ship in time for the 9am sail, we set off for Esna, 48km south of Luxor. Whilst the family tanned on the sundeck, I sat in the sun at the front of the boat, enjoying sense of peace and tranquility. It was truly beautiful to sit on a boat not too big or small, to watch the changing scenery on both sides, passed fields of giant palms and lush green fields, a smoking metal, the ship moving at a leisurely 16km/hr and passing some incredibe mountains of sand and cliffs. Ole joined me for a chat - he Irene are moving to Greenland on Tuesday. Later in the morning, I joined René and Ulla by the pool, gossiping about Bedstefar and family resemblances, watching Vinnie's kids and Sebastian splash about the pool, Lonnie, Sarah Birit stripped down to the minimum to get a bit of colour.

En ægyptisk mand ryger vand pibeWe reached Esna and used the few hours to get off the ship and stretch our legs after a morning of lazing around the pool. I was itching to walk around Esna, away from tourists and see how the locals lived. René and I headed for the quieter streets avoiding the busy streets around a souq. We were followed by a few children clad in long grey or white robes, who guided and annoyed us. Most of the narrow streets were unpaved, some very muddy and smelling of manure. Skinny, skeletal donkeys balanced again flat wagons, many shy girls waving from the darkness of their doorways or 2nd-level windows, whilst little boys came out to say hello and mill around us. Most houses were simple of mud bricks, with tiny wooden shuttered windows to keep the intense summer heat out. Some had extremely ornate wooden doors, reminiscent of colonial days. Occasional peek in doorways revealed empty mud-lined rooms as most people lived in the upper floors. Eventually René shouted imshee! (go away) as the kids got noisier, more aggressive, pulling on our arms and throwing pebbles at us. When I stumbled over a whimpering black and white disease-ridden puppy in brown paper, it was kicked aside - making me almost reach out for it if René hadn't stopped me.it was wise not to even make contact witht the children, who were dust-covered and clad in the long egyptian grey robes. It was such a relief when they finally left us even though we knew they were hiding in in alleyways watching us wind through the streets. There were goldsmiths glittering with ornate rings, earrings and necklaces; tailors still sewing by hand on the steps of their shop; coffee houses filled with solitary men smoking their water-pipes - their eyes following us down the street. We had spent so much time just sitting around that it was good to get away.

Crossing of the Lock

We set sail at 3pm and many ships like ours got together near two bridges just north of Esna. For one hour of the day, a bridge opened up for the ships and cars were ferried across the Nile instead. In the meanwhile, the ship had organised a special Egyptian "Oriental" dinner where guests could dress up in egyptian attire. It was a traditional egyptian feast of flat bread, baba ghanoush, warm stuffed zucchini and capsicum, warm cabbage rolls, chickpeas, lentils, fish, and traditional dish of okra, and a dressed up rice-stuffed whole lamb with a foil-covered head, small skinny eggplants for ears sitting upright on a silver platter. To finish it off was a plethora of egyptian dessert - semolina tarts, almond-milk agar (jelly) and the tartlets that tasted of liquid honey. Between 10-11pm we all gathered together for the lock-crossing.
Canal lock-crossing involves ships moving from a one water-level to another, usually where a dam is involved. Two cruise ships moved into a channel that is closed off and the water in the channel gradually reduced - in our case approx 10 metres. Once we reached the new water-level on the other side of the lock, the door in front of the ship opened and we sailed out. The lock-crossing took approx one hour, although all the waiting took a few hours. It was well-worth staying up even though we had an early start the next day. What was most amazing was the way the ship travelled with such expertise through such a narrow channel with barely enough space on each side.

Friday 19 November 2004 (7am start)

Overnight we had sailed from Esna to Luxor arriving at approx 2am - the last port for us. We were awoken by efficient wake-up calls and we could hear phones ringing in all the rooms going on early tours. We had a long day ahead, cramming four different sights.

Valley of the Kings

Builders of the great pyramids realised that hidden entrances and false shafts were not going to protect their dead pharaohs or the riches buried with them from tomb-robbers, so from the 18th dynasty, the ancient egyptians started digging underground. Rolling hills and valleys of sand, rubble and solid limestone - it is amazing to think that the ancient egyptians managed to bury something like possibly over 300 pharaohs of which only 62 have been found (last was TutAnkhAmun).

Kongernes Dal

The mountain under which many of the tombs were found has a pyramid-shaped peak.

Ramses V/VI grave

Our tickets allowed us to visit three tombs only and only a handful were opened on the day with long queues at each.

We visited the tombs of Ramseses III, IX and V/VI - all of them relatively small tombs, some partly excavated, others quite madly damaged by humidity from all the tourists and from oily fingers.

Det smukke loft af Ramses V/VI graveThere was a variety of hieroglyphs and images, of the pharaohs, how they treated their subjects, even the ceilings were beautifully adorned with dark blue skies, thousands of stars and the sky goddess Nut, stretched above. Tomb of Ramses III was like a picture book of "Better Homes Gardens" with images of hundreds of pots, furniture and food preparation. In the tomb of Ramses V/VI was a large shattered giant pharaoh-shaped sarcophagus eerily illuminated by silver light - Ramses VI unusually sharing a tomb with his predecessor brother. It is truly amazing that such images have lasted thousands of years, hidden away in dark low-humidity tombs that are quickly disintegrating since they have been excavated.

Colossi of Memnon

Colossi af MemnonJust past the Valley of the Kings, we stopped to view the Colossi of Memnon - twin 18-metre figures of Amenhotep III that once stood in front of what was believed to be Egypt's greatest temples, even larger than the existing Temple of Karnak. Each carved from single pieces of stone, once famous for bell-like tone emitted each sunrise. The Greeks believed these sounds were made by the immortal Memnon greeting his mother. After an Roman emperor made restorations in 170AD, the sounds ceased.

To our amusement, Adam made another one of his commission-based stops at an alabaster factory. He couldn't understand why we broke into laughter. Instead of boycotting the trip, we all went rushing in for free cups of coffee. René led a race with Sebastian and Vinnie's boys sliding across the smooth alabaster marble floor. At the other end was Ulla being approached with a small £10,000 alabaster hippo, to which she jokingly said yes and the shop-assistant went away to put it aside.

Temple of Hatshepsut

Dronning Hatshepsuts terrassetempelLying next to the Valley of the Kings is this temple of the only female pharaoh who ever ruled in Egypt. Due to a botched job by an Egyptian-Polish archaeological team, the ruined temple was recreated to resemble a bus depot, with much of the original artwork covered over or destroyed. The sucessor to Hatshepsut's brother/husband was stepson Tuthmose III who had to wait 20 year to get his throne, hence when she died, she was not mummified and her temple destroyed as punishment. The temple was at the site of a Coptic monastery and fantastic limestone cliffs. There may not be much of the temple to look at but the view, from up close, far away or even from the sky is definitely worth the trip.

Then we had lunch and a brief rest. I was surprised to find that a humorous member of housekeeping had set up towels, blanket lettuce leaves to resember a man and his snake. I thought René had played a joke on me until I found out something similar other family members' rooms!

134 kæmpe-søjler af Karnak temple - verdens største tempelkompleksTemples of Karnak Luxor

Karnak was known as "Ipet-Isut" - The Most Perfect of Places.

Much of it is in ruins but is possibly the largest temple complex ever built anywhere and created over 1,500 years by successive generations of pharaohs.

It was the residence of pharaohs, place of worship, wealthy treasury, centre of administration and employed thousands.

Karnak is most famous for its giant columns - 134, each 15m high, centre 12 columns were 21 metres tall. It takes six adults to stretch their arms out around a column's girth.

Between the columns there once stood statues of pharaohs and the whole effect would've been intimidating, as though passing through a hall of giant gods.

Underskrift af Ramses II

<== Ramses II was responsible for a lot of the restoration of the temple and his signature is etched deeply in certain area so no other pharaoh could take credit.

Den højste obelisk i Ægypt - Hatshepsuts Oberlisk i Karnak tempel

Past the giant columns stood the tallest obelisk existing in Egypt at almost 30m high. Although made out of one piece of granite, the Obelisk of Hatshepsut looks like it's made of two different stones as the lower half was covered up for many years by Tuthmosis III in his resentment towards his stepmother's usurpment of the throne. There once existed 17 obelisks but these now lie in various parts of the world.

The further we walked into the temple, the older the temple and the more ruined it became so when we reached the other side, it was a mass of ruins.

Smukke vægge i Karnak tempel

The most beautiful aspect of the temple to me were the images of a queen embracing her pharaoh.

It was considered taboo for such displays of close affection that for many years it was covered up with a gold plate.

Near the Sacred Lake - a body of water used for priests' ablutions - stood a giant scarab beetle. Adam told us to walk around it seven time and our wishes would be granted. It would've been very comical to see a large group of people all walking around this large beetle.

After 1½hr, it was time to move on... to another commission-based stop - a cotton t-shirt shop with template-printed t-shirts costing five times more than what I bought them for.

Luxor tempel

Finally our last tour - the Temple of Luxor==>

There was once an Avenue of Sphinxes that joined the Temple of Karnak to the Temple of Luxor for 2.5km.

In pharaonic times, Luxor Temple sat at the heart of the ancient capital of Thebes and was well-preserved because it was once buried under the village of Luxor and even had a 13th-century mosque built amongst its walls - which the villagers demanded it remain during excavations of the site.

It is a temple that doesn't seem to be flooded with tourists and at the diminishing lights of sunset, the temple casts an eerie but beautiful shadow through the city.

En After the tour, the rest of the family returned to the ship whilst our little family decided to walk through the city - a short walk along the Nile. Like the walk around Esna, we were interested in walking through the streets, taking photos and seeing how people lived - old men smoking bongs, tailors mending clothes, a man cleaning cups in small coffeeshop, an open butcher with carcasses hanging by the roadside, little kids all vying for a shot on a photo, women clad from head to toe in black, children happily waving from all corners - these people were smiled more and seemed friendlier - and none asking for baksheesh (tip), and a sharp contrast to the streets of Esna. We stopped for a drink on the rooftop of a hotel and watched another fantastic sunset over Luxor.

En kobbersmedEn tømmer
En ægyptisk kvinde bærer noget på hendes hovedEn skrædderEn sky dreng
En mand laver maden ægyptisk caféAnden mand ryger vand
Venter på gadenAnden ægyptiske café / restaurant

en Sko magerTømmerEn slagter

en Hvivlende danserAfter our last dinner, we were entertained by a young boring bellydancer and what I've been waiting to see... a Whirling Dervish - a display of Sufi dancing.

Sufism a semi-mystical branch of Islam with an unorthodox approach to prayer ie dancing to attain a trancelike union with God.

Urged on by the pulse of drums, strings and pipes, the dancer spun in a blur of multicoloured skirts - reds, yellows blue until he looked like a spinning top.

Photo Courtesy of Tour Egypt Photos

Saturday 20 November 2004 (4:45am start)

Most of the family enjoyed the cruise and the sights they saw. They were not very happy with the organisation of the tour, with ridiculous early-morning starts, packed days on some and almost nothing on others. Most of all, many of the family were unhappy with Adam - we vented on our questionnaires and Ulla gave the AB Travel Agent representative an earful, about how rude Adam had been, how unintelligible his heavily-accented danish had been, he picked on some of us, glared at the children for chattering at the back of the bus, he avoided questions and scolded anyone who interrupted him with a question. Worst of all were all these unneccesary "commission-based" trips that cut into our sightseeing time. He was the typical Egyptian that could've made our trip much more enjoyable.

From an early flight to Cairo, a mad-scramble for our baggage, a three-hour wait in the coffeeshop of a nearby hotel to a 4½hr flight back to København, it was 5pm by the time we all retrieved our luggage and bade our final farewells to each member of the family. Despite a 4:45am start, it took us a whole day to return home.

There is a certain amount of sadness that it may be last time the family is united as Bedstemor is getting on in her years. René has been on approx ten reunions, organised by Bedstemor's children but paid for the grandparents - as a legacy to the family. I have been lucky and privileged to be invited to one of these family gatherings - four generations in all. It allowed me to visit another exotic part of the world and to get to know this very special Matriach.

BEDSTEMOR på Karnak tempel

§ The End §

Created: 8 Dec 2004Last Updated: 16-Jan-2005

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