Cruising on the Nile 2
We have all read about the River Nile since school days and we have mental images of all such exotic places. I had always imagined the Nile to be a vast flood of sparkling water thundering down sandy, pyramid-dotted wastelands and occassional verdant oases. Of course the real Nile was something quite different. For one thing, it was much narrower than i had imagined. And quite placid.As most of the water is imprisoned by the Aswan dam . Another curious thing i had never expected was the traffic jam of cruise boats on the river ! It was quite a funny sight, looked very much like any clogged road in our metros ! And when the traffic had to slowdown at the bottleneck of the The Esna Lock, we could hear much grumbling and bickering similar to road rage.
The Cruise weighed anchor at various spots along the Nile, so that we could take day trips into the land to see the wonders strewn about. The trip to The Valley Of The Kings, with its cleverly concealed tombs, took up half a day. The actual name of the place is : The Theban Necropolis or Wadi Biab el Muluk ( modern) or Ta sekhet ma'at ( ancient)
The coach stopped quite a distance away and from the entry point of the valley, visitors are taken to the necropolis in the special shuttles run by The Department of Antiquities.The place was chocking with visitors and there were serpentine queues everywhere. The Ticket given is usually valid for entry into any three of the about 60 tombs but since the time allotted in our itinerary was too short, we could enter only two and do justice to only one . Alas, it wasn't the tomb of Rameses, said to be the best and consequently sporting the longest queue. We saw the resting place of Seti and as a souvenir, also picked up a small rounded stone from its entrance. The floor of the valley was carpeted with pebbles of all sizes and many tourists were stacking three or four into dolmens with their initials scratched on them , to say " X was here".
On the way to the Valley, a lonely house atop a summit was pointed out as the house of Howard Carter who discovered King Tut's tomb. We exchanged stories of King Tut's Curse which at at place did give us the creeps !
The temples of Amun Re at Luxor and Karnak are magnificent and left me completely awed. The size of the coloumns is unimaginable. The capitals of the pillars show excellent decorative motifs. The guide patiently taught us how to read numerals and idioms in hieroglyphics. I was thrilled when he complimented me for deciphering a certain number he pointed out on a wall ! In Luxor, the unforgettables are the colossal statues of Ramesses. we also saw the 25 meter tall pink granite Obelisk, one of the two erected by Ramesess II. We had seen its pair standing in The Place du Concorde in Paris.
The Temple of the female pharoah Hatshepsut is remarkable for its size, neat structure and resemblance to modern architecture.
The tours included the mandatory vists to handicraft centres. I really enjoyed the show put by by the alabaster artisans . I call it a 'show' because it was almost like a dance drama with a main sutradar narrating the nuances of the craft in a sing song and the chorus of young helpers adding "chants" like : "chip-chip-cut ! " , "turn-it-right-turn-it-left-and-heigh-ho !" " po-lish we po-lish !" with siutable choreographed actions. The narration was peppered with jokes and witty one liners. And that final operatic flourish ! Enjoyable show ! ( and, no , we bought no alabaster.)
At all souvenir selling street bazars, one friendly call greeted us, unfailingly : "Ameetabacchan ! Ameetabachan !"
So sad, we knew no names from the egyptian film industry to greet them back. I wondered if the urchins would recognise the only name i knew - the oldie Omar Sherrif. I guess not.