10-11 July: Luxor

Leaving behind our faithful felucca and taking once more to travel by land, we followed the path of the Nile north, reaching Luxor by midday. Formerly the ancient capital of Thebes, Luxor maintains a sense of power and regality through the magnificent temples, tombs, and monuments that it still hosts.

We started at Karnak Temple. If Abu Aimbel had seemed to me the impressive embodiment of authority, Karnak was even more so. Massive stone pillars, towering obelisks, kingly statues, and a fantastic wealth of hieroglyphics all paid tribute to the god above all Egyptian gods, Ra. I couldn't help but be held in awe.

(At times, though, I will note, my awe was mingled with immature amusement, as I also couldn't help but snigger at the many representations of the fertility god Min, who as a result of having impregnated the entire female population of an ancient Egyptian village, is always depicted in an…aroused state.)

The next day, we traveled to see the Colossi of Memnon and the Valley of the Kings, similarly constructed to honor, inspire, and exalt. The ravages of thousands of years gone by had diminished the effect very little.

Lunch that day was served to us at a home off the back streets of Luxor. We had been invited by the wife of the brother of the owner of the hotel at which we were staying – an incredible show of hospitality on her part to invite 12 foreign strangers into her house. We sat on cushions around a long, low table in the living room and ate savory chicken broth and pasta soup, stuffed peppers, fresh marinated tomatoes, baba ghanoush, dense bread, and the best fried chicken I've tasted since leaving behind the American South. After the meal, we sat together with the family and sipped mint tea, while the two little daughters constructed cars and boats out of the couch cushions.

Throughout all this, there was an element of the Luxor leg of our tour that felt like the beginning of the end. During group meals, our tour guide made speeches about how much he enjoyed his time with us and how leaving was the hardest part of his job. Email addresses were exchanged, along with all the usual, "It's been nice meeting you," "Safe travels," "Keep in touch." Boarding the night train back to Cairo, though, sparked the formal goodbyes. We took our goofy group photos in the station, we played our last hands of cards together on the train, and finally in Cairo we said hurried goodbyes to those who were rushing off to make morning flights. The organized portion of our trip had come to an end, but Suzanne and I were just on our way to a new (disorganized?) portion on our own.

No comments: