Atlantis Alumni

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Day In Egypt

The Sphinx

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo

10:03 AM Athens Time August 2, 2009
Celebrity Solstice En Route To Rhodes Somewhere in the Mediterranean

Yesterday the ship “Solstice” arrived very early in Egypt. By 7:35 different groups of passengers were disembarking and going through customs in Alexandria. Our tour bus left around 8:00 AM and wound through the city on its way to the major highways. This was our first visit back to Africa since an extensive bus tour of Morocco many years earlier. It was interesting to see the huge numbers of dusty buildings in the cities, and the throngs of people walking the streets, even though it was Ramadan. Numerous mosques were decorated with strings of bright colored lights, like Christmas trees. Everyone fasts from sun up until sun down, and then the citizens both pray and eat and party until fasting starts all over again at 4 AM the next day. Or so we were told by our guide Reem, a woman who filled us in on ancient and modern Egypt.

After two and one half hours we reached Giza, on the edge of Cairo. We were there to see the great pyramids, including the largest of all, that of Chefren. Jim said that he thought the pyramids were larger than he expected, and they seemed larger to me than what my memory recalled from my last visit to them 30 years ago. With our San Francisco buddies Bill and Wes we walked around the pyramid of Cheops, all the while being urged to ride one of ‘ships of the desert,’ the weird-looking and strange-sounding camels. Jim took innumerable photos before our tour bus drove to the nearby Sphinx. Though carved from a single block of now-damaged stone, the Sphinx still watches all and has the inscrutable features of the Pharoah Cheops, who built it.

For lunch we dined at the elegant Mena House Oberoi, a huge hotel/conference center which is located near the pyramids. Its carved wooden interiors are still beautiful and the tour groups enjoyed the buffet repast.

Then our bus driver had the difficult task of driving into downtown-Cairo to reach the large Egyptian Museum. Though still dusty and with poorly labeled display cases, the museum contains certain unique treasures, such as the golden ones from the tomb of the famed King Tut-ank-amun-ra. Our guide explained several major works. Then for a few shipmates I gave a brief explanation of the ‘Palette of Narmer’ the oldest major relief, which established the style. Probably because the statue is so small is the reason why it’s never dwelled on by guides. The Narmer stele is a document too, as it recounts pictorially the unification of upper and Lower Egypt in the first dynasty.

After the Museum, there was a long drive back to Giza to persuade the tourists to buy souvenirs at a Papyrus shop. We had ordered t-shirts and Jim also bought a silver chain with a ‘cartouche,’ or his name in hieroglyphics. Then we took the long drive back to Alexandria and the port, which lasted for almost three hours. Though a long excursion, this was ‘bottled Egypt’ in a brief tour, and all our fellow shipmates agreed that the trips were well worthwhile.

After dinner and the Bruce Villanch comedy show, we crashed around 12:30, which is extremely late for us, as our friends know(!) Today the Solstice will dock at Rhodes, our first Greek island.


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