May 16, Luxor, Egypt. Second day viewing Egyptian antiquities. We see huge stone temples, hear endless stories of dynasties and their pharaohs, empires, conquests, gods. Our guide, with his college degree in Egyptology, rattles off the names of more pharaohs than I can remember. The only ones that stick are Tutankhamen, Cleopatra, and Elizabeth Taylor. I learn that Moses was born and raised in Luxor, and went on to lead a life of biblical proportion.
Of course the stories we hear are mostly written by the winners. Losers rarely had the opportunity to tell their side of the story. We spend a pleasant day strolling though ancient temples, hearing interesting stories about the leaders who built them and the warriors who destroyed them.
Perhaps the most impressive structure we see is the temple of Karnac – a massive achievement in engineering and art constructed over many decades under the rule of many pharaohs. Much of the temple is intact, although the wood/thatch roofs have long since disappeared. The scale of the place is remarkable and provides clear evidence that pharaohs suffered from the same affliction as modern societies – that pathological need to compete with one’s neighbors, often disregarding fiscal prudence.
Karnac is huge. One section has 134 massive stone columns, some 70′ tall and 10′ wide. Each column, plus all of the walls of the temple are etched with hieroglyphics and scenes depicting many of Egypt’s hundreds of gods. The symbolism of the art provides a window into the beliefs of these people. There are many rooms, many huge statues and several obelisks. There are 70′ tall obelisks carved from single pieces of pink granite, transported and placed in the temple as a single piece of stone. One cannot help but be impressed by the place, and to notice the most important lesson of all – the builders are no longer here, long ago replaced by an endless succession of empires and conquest, decay and new beginnings.
After a long morning of antiquity, we have lunch, then board a chartered propeller plane to fly 300 miles to Cairo. We drive through the energetic, polluted, and decaying city of Cairo, past Cairo Square, the site of recent protests. We check into our fashionable hotel overlooking the Nile.
Tonight we’ll enjoy modern luxury and comfort, dine with fellow travelers. Tomorrow we’ll see the crumbling pyramids, situated on the edge of the crumbling city of Cairo.
Karnac by night
Karnac by day
Shaded areas retain their original coloring
Welcoming committee of Karnac
Afternoon heat zaps energy
Christian crusaders tried to edit anatomically correct artwork
Respite from afternoon heat
Symbolism is everywhere
Repair work is continuous job
Columns crowns resemble lotus flower
Read between the lines
Street in Luxor
Due to quirky tax laws, most building here are unfinished
Lots of bicycles in Luxor
Our prop plane to Cairo
Look closely at this one