State of D’Nile Cruise, cont.

30 Nov

Day Two: “Fight for it!”

Day Two of our Nile cruise began at the crack of dawn. In general, neither of us is in favor of vacations in which you’re forced to get up around 6:00AM, but I guess if you’re going to get up that early, it might as well be to see a 2000-year old temple.

So our little group of six stumbled off the boat and walked with our trusty tour guide Ahmed to Kom Ombo, a temple built in the early second century BC (meaning it’s practically brand new by Egyptian standards). This was our first encounter with the massive crowds of tourists, as evidenced by the hundred or so cruise ships docked along the river. But this is where Ahmed was worth his weight in gold. In true Egyptian style, he refused to have us suffer the indignity of waiting in line, so he took us right to the entrance, past a couple hundred bewildered European tourists, and we squeezed ourselves in. This would become a recurring theme of the trip, as we only had to wait in one line, and that was when the bewildered European tourists finally got mad and yelled at us. I felt a bit sheepish about all this queue-jumping, being a consummate rule-keeper, but I figured, when in Egypt, push and shove and swarm to the front like the Egyptians do. The most memorable moment came when we wanted to see a wall of hieroglyphics at Kom Ombo, but there were literally hundreds of tourists between us and the wall. Ahmed told us to just go ahead and walk right past them. When people started giving us dirty looks, and their tour guide started yelling at Ahmed, he told us to “Fight for it!” and then, as the crowd grew increasingly restless, he admitted, “They’re going to kill me.” We did indeed fight for it, and pushed our way through the crowd, and nobody killed Ahmed, so it was all good.

Kom Ombo isn’t the best preserved temple, especially compared with some of the others we saw, as over the centuries people have pilfered much of the stone for other buildings. But it has some really great hieroglyphics, especially detailed records of ancient Egyptian medical practices, including drawings of all the surgical instruments they used and detailed recipes for several medicines. It’s amazing to think how much knowledge the Egyptians had, so many thousand years ago. There was even a shallow pool where the women (the pharaoh’s wife and maybe other nobles) could have water births! But our personal favorite was the glyph showing a woman halfway through delivery, with the baby falling out. I suggested that Melissa go for the authentic Egyptian experience and have a water birth with ancient Egyptian medicines and surgical tools, but she just shot me a dirty look. (Pretty much the same look the gives me whenever I suggest what I think are innovative methods in childbirth and childrearing.)
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From Kom Ombo, we quickly checked out a working replica of a Nubian farm. Nothing super special, although Melissa was convinced that the camel would eat her arm off when she started feeding it. You’ve heard about those killer man-eating camels, so it could happen.
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We got back on the boat, and sailed for a few hours up to Edfu, which has the best preserved major temple in all of Egypt. It really was pretty incredible, and the hieroglyphics and other carvings are preserved beautifully. Throughout the trip it never ceased to amaze me that I was walking among temples constructed more than 2000 years ago but whose walls looked like they were carved just last week. Ahmed gave us the grand tour, telling us all about the god Horus, and we did the requisite (though by no means forced) oohs and aahs. We had to take a horse-drawn carriage to and from the temple, and on the way back the driver was telling us all about how his horse Laila was pregnant. We thought that was nice, until he kept mentioning how we should pay him extra money to feed Laila, for the good of the baby. Yes, and I’m sure all of our extra money would go straight to the pregnant horse. He wasn’t particularly pleased when we gave him the regular fare.

The rest of the day was very relaxed, as we just sailed up the Nile toward Luxor. We napped and read and played cards most of the way, although I also killed an hour or so playing chess with Ahmed. We had hoped to spend a little more time on the deck, but it was actually just a bit too chilly, especially with the breeze, so we stayed below deck most of the time, although we did go up to catch a nice sunset along the Nile.

A highlight of the day came when Melissa returned to the room and the cleaning guy told her he had left a surprise for her in the room. A little worried, she opened the door and saw…a four foot crocodile stretched out across the bed! Apparently in cruise ship training class they teach all the cleaners how to make ginormous towel sculptures and crocodiles was our guy’s particular specialty.

Then, because it was Thanksgiving, it came time for dinner, and the big Thanksgiving feast! Oh wait, we were in Egypt. And we were the only Americans on board the ship. So for our Thanksgiving feast we had beans in various states of mash, puree, and fry. Plus a bunch of mediocre pastries that I couldn’t eat anyhow because they all had nuts. So the Thanksgiving quantity was there, but there was definitely little quality on offer.

The entertainment more than made up for it. It was “Galabayyia night” on the ship. Galabayyias are the traditional Egyptian dress worn by both men and women. On this trip it seemed like everyone and their dog was trying to sell us galabayyias, especially the man who ran the gift shop on the ship and kept assuring us he didn’t believe in hassling customers but the harangued us the whole time about making sure we bought galabayyias from him. Anyways, the Euros were all over this and at dinner they all showed up decked out. It was like Halloween for them. Some of the women were in belly dancing outits and a few of the men supplemented their costume with the traditional Saudi red scarf and sunglasses. These guys were the best, not only were they dressed up, but they were completely in character, presiding over their dinner tables like shiekhs. Later, we peeked into the bar where the dance party was supposed to be and saw them sheikhing it on the dance floor, by themselves. Ah, the foreigners really add to our vacation experiences.

Our group had gotten hooked on cards and played until they kicked us out of the dining room. We went up to the freezing cold deck to watch as the boat went through a lock and sailed on up (down?) the Nile under the stars. At this point we were frozen and exhausted and went to bed.

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6 Responses to “State of D’Nile Cruise, cont.”

  1. Patrick November 30, 2007 at 8:33 pm #

    Thanks to Melissa for the save on this one. Somehow I had forgotten about half of the day when I wrote my entry, so she came in and finished it for me.

  2. Chad December 1, 2007 at 1:37 am #

    I just listened to a podcast of an old time Agatha Christie radio show. It was based on her book “Murder on the Nile.” Anything interesting like that happen?

  3. Uncle David December 1, 2007 at 3:55 pm #

    I am kink of shocked that Melissa doesn’t want a more traditional birth. Damn these modern advances like the pain killers, just a tree to hold on to and a leather strap to bite…then back to work. Oh well thats what happens when you let them go to school and watch Oprah.

  4. mom December 1, 2007 at 7:43 pm #

    More pics please! Especially of the mummy tummy!

  5. Melissa DM December 1, 2007 at 10:58 pm #

    Pics forthcoming! I’ll put them up first thing tomorrow along with the last installment of our too-lazy-to-blog-it-all-at-once vacation.

  6. Vicky December 4, 2007 at 5:37 am #

    Regarding water births…Tessa was born in the water, and if we were going to have more, every birth hereafter would be a water birth. It was still in the hospital, all of the technical advances at the ready, but it was positively lovely.

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