Monday, December 13, 2010

Valley of the Dolls

Today was surprisingly cold. All right, not as cold as Canada, I’ll give you that but it was definitely not hot. The wind choked the heat right out of that big old sunshine. It also brought in a haze which Ramses told us was sand from the desert. This started in the morning and by late afternoon the sun looked more like the moon and the day presented as overcast. The air was filled with dust and the locals had their faces wrapped. Some were watering down the streets to reduce the dust. It made me cough and sneeze and the air had a dusty smell to it, like an attic that hasn’t been cleaned in a while.

We started the day visiting the ladies of the dead valley. Their tombs are separate from the men like the old school dances. Seems a bit weird if you ask me but apparently this was the done thing. Princes, nobles and princesses all had their own spots too. Queen Nefertari, the wife of Ramses II had her tomb here. This is one tired woman. I bet three thousand years of sleep hasn’t caught her up yet. Don’t forget, she had over 200 kids! Her name means “most beautiful of all women”. Yeah, right. Not after 200 kids. Her tomb was closed to the public…

The tombs were interesting and well preserved but we couldn’t take pictures. Again, the helpful guards pointed out pictures and we coughed up the obligatory baksheesh. We do carry the coin but there’s something about being forced to “give” that sucks the fun right out of it.

We went to Medinet Habu after the tombs. This is the last mortuary temple built. It was built for Ramses III. It was pretty impressive. The walls, columns and ceiling were covered in hieroglyphs. Some of the paint was still there and surprise...we were allowed to take pictures! These hieroglyphs look similar to those in the tombs so kind of pretend you know what the rest looked like. Some of these were carved REALLY deep. The deep ones were cartouches and we figured that by Ramses III, they had figured out that the each pharaoh who came along enjoyed defacing the names of prior pharaohs so they better dig really deep if they want the thing to last.

When we got into the hypostyle hall a guard began to drag me into the forbidden areas. I told him I had no money and apologized. He told me it was no problem and continued to lead me around. I reluctantly followed and we took copious quantities of pictures of me in front of various hieroglyphs blocked from public view. Frequently, I reminded him I had no money and resisted following but he insisted. It was actually a great tour and I saw interesting pictures. I even have a picture of me pretending to touch a statue because the guard thought that would be an excellent idea. At the end he launched into the sad story of the many children he has and could I please give him a little something. I reminded him I had no money which was true. He was extremely disappointed and asked me to look in my purse. I offered him my pen but he wasn’t impressed.

The tours of temples and tombs has been really cool but our ride on camels today topped it all. It cost about $30 for the four of us to take a one hour ride and that included a tip that was as much as the price of the ride! It was a lot like riding a horse. The camels were very soft and their feet were soft as well. They don’t have hooves like horses. Their feet are more like calloused skin.

On our ride we went past banana fields, sugar cane fields, mango and lemon trees and a cool little village. We also saw a crocodile-like lizard in the water which was about a metre long. The boys didn’t know what he was called. It’s never good to be on a first name basis with crocodiles. The village, homes and people were fascinating and I thoroughly enjoyed the trip.

They still use animals to plow the field. I haven’t got a picture of the water buffalo but they till the soil, and the farmer walking behind then plants the seeds. As the buffalo walks up the next row, the dirt plowed for the seeds in the last row is dumped back over the seeds and a new row is plowed. In thousands of years, they haven’t found a better way to do this. Interesting. A water buffalo is a very valuable animal to the Egyptians. It can cut their food budget in half. As well as helping farm, it gives milk which can be drank but also makes a yummy butter and cheese.

They use donkeys to carry crops into town and you can see them everywhere along the side of the road. The donkey waits while the farmer cuts the crops by hand. They load up their wagon with the greens and drive in to town or back to the stable. The greens feed the farm animals. Horses don’t seem to be used as widely, probably because they cost more to feed.

Everything about the Egyptian’s lifestyle is so foreign and fascinating. It has been my favourite part of the visit so far.


maryanncart said...

Loved seeing all of you on the camels and Tom's turn signal comment - quite interesting shot of the sun/sand...Love Mom

Mynnette said...

I LOVE what each of you has written. We had the "tourist trip" to Egypt, but did a side trip on our own to Memphis and the red pyramid. Got the same treatment at the hypostyle- forbidden area? Yah, right.Your kids are so lucky- took me 70 years to get there! We found that The USA and Egypt split the cost of armed guards(at least for American tours) since tourism brings in so much $. Hope you get to the Cairo museum! Pictures are terrific- you all look like movie stars! Hugs all'round- Mynnette