Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Sunny Aswan

Asalamu Alaykom,

"People don't take trips...trips take people." 
-John Steinbeck

When I began living in Egypt in 2009, I imagined touring the country at every chance.  I would be spending my money on sightseeing excursions instead of furniture.  I would be able to enjoy the incredibly rich history all around me.

A year and a half later, my wish was going to come true during my winter vacation.  I finally had enough saved up for a big trip to Luxor, the ancient captial city of Thebes.  Our little family toured that city with carefree abandon.  It was really a great experience.  After that getaway, I vowed to take many more trips.

One of the places I knew I had to go to was Aswan.  If you go to Luxor, then you also think about going to Aswan.  The two are spoken about as if they are twin cities like Minneapolis-St. Paul but they're not really the same.  Luxor and Aswan are three hours away from each other.

They are the two biggest cities in Egypt's south but they are not actually next to each other.  You can't really move easily between the two and see everything in one short vacation.  Later, I reasoned, we could return to see Aswan.

A few weeks after our return home, the whole country fell apart.  The Egyptian Revolution changed how people felt about safety in the country.  I no longer felt safe to travel freely---not even with my protective Egyptian husband.  While the cities themselves might be safe, often the routes between are not.

The other issue is that stability in Egypt remains very unpredictable.  You can plan a trip and then have an incident spin everything out of control countrywide.  The one short trip we did take since the Revolution was up to Port Said and Ismailia.  We made the journey to the coast over the long weekend for Sixth of October.  Four months later, that February, we all witnessed the Port Said stadium massacre.  This year's riots in January have made the city off limits for us until further notice.

At this exact moment, there is a lull.  In times of relative stability, it feels like you have to take the chance and seize the opportunity.  So, even though Egypt is not completely safe, we made the decision to fulfill a two-year-old promise.  We made plans to travel down to Aswan.

My husband and I really did waffle.  There was a U.S. Embassy ban on train travel for a while (due to armed thugs jumping on trains and protesters blocking the tracks).  Embassy personnel were not allowed to use the trains but obviously U.S. citizens have the freedom to do as they please.  My husband had been  thinking of riding the night train down.  When I heard about the ban, I started looking into air travel.  Later, the travel ban was lifted but my apprehension remained.

It cost our family of three about 3,280 LE to fly that one hour to Upper Egypt.  It's hard to part with that much money!  Yet, I remembered our train trip to Luxor.  You imagine you can sleep on the train but you don't really.  You do your best to rest but it's not really possible and that was before the fear factor was added to the equation.  So, against the wishes of my never-flown-before husband, we got our tickets to Aswan.

The immediate moment of having the plane tickets in hand caused me to  jump up and down.  The moment I experienced afterwards was fear.  Did we really know what we're doing?  No, we didn't know.  No one ever knows the future.  It's that moment between excitement and fear when you truly feel enlivened.

"Traveling tends to magnify all human emotions."       -Peter Hoeg

The day before the trip, I woke up sick with a sore throat.  I knew that it would move from my throat to my nose and become a full-blown cold.  I took as many Sambucco tablets as I could to lessen the symptoms.  I cried.  I really didn't want to be sick on my first vacation in such a long time.

My husband helped me finish packing and without complaint.  Many husbands help their wives but God bless the ones who do so with joyfulness.  Maybe me getting weak helped him become stronger than his fears.

I was feeling so tired.  I was feeling like I was setting out on an adventure under less than auspicious circumstances.  Subhanallah, I got a jolt to get me out of my pity party.

I never bump into anyone in Egypt.  It's a big place.  Yet, there at the airport, I saw a former parent from when I was teaching KG.  I was pretty sure that was her.  She looked a little different but I was sure it was her when I saw her daughter.  Her daughter was the little blind girl in my room my first year here.  Subhanallah.  Seriously?  If a sightless child can make it through the airport, then I might as well smile and say, "alhumdulillah."

It was great seeing the family again.  Mr. Boo took out his noisy video game that I hadn't wanted in his backpack so his former classmate could play it.  Subhanallah, it was beautiful to see her pressing the controller as he directed her with his voice.  Her mom and I chatted at the gate.  We took pictures and traded contact info.  It felt like a blessed moment and a sign that everything really was going to be OK.

The plane ride was uneventful.  Mr. Boo and Ahmed sat together.  I sat next to a nice, old Canadian lady who asked me nervously about my hijab but still found reason to talk with me.

We landed at Aswan's dinky airport and felt how the heat had been turned up a notch.  Though we were still in Egypt, we were in a new land.  It's hard on my husband to navigate through new places.  He doesn't like to feel out of control of his surroundings.  We needed a taxi to get us to our hotel.

On the way, we crossed the dam.  The dam has been a miracle achievement for Egypt and for 800,000 Nubians it's been a deplacer.  Very few modern advancements are made without hurting the least fortunate.  The Philae temple to Isis and Horus, which had been saved by UNESCO during the dam building, were on our right.  It had been resettled better than the natives.

We took our ferry ride over to Elephantine Island for our four-night stay at the Movenpick Resort.  Yes, this would be a huge step up for us.  I've stayed in my fair share of cruddy Egyptian hotels and I wasn't about to keep doing it.  Everything about the lobby bespoke of class.

Then there was a glitch.  Of course there was a glitch.  When the woman at the reception desk asked for our passports, I handed all three of them.  Maybe I was so relieved to actually have Mr. Boo's passport (after about 9 months of trying) that I handed it over too.  She left to photocopy them and then returned with a funny look on her face and asked to see our marriage license.  I had completely forgotten that the difference in Mr. Boo's last name was a red flag of impropriety.  My husband dug out the official paper (which he always carries in his wallet) and handed it over as his face tightened.

"You do not travel if you are afraid of the unknown, you travel for the unknown, that revels you within yourself." 
-Ella Mallart

Soon after that, in the privacy of our lovely junior suite, my husband was mad.  He threatened to leave and go back to Giza alone on the train.  I was handed the cash, he zipped his suitcase shut, and headed for the door.  I stopped him.  He was illogical.  He hadn't prayed yet.  I knew the whole experience had been too much for him.

My guy had left his family and traveled out of his comfort zone.  He had zoomed up into the clouds for the first time and had experienced the headiness of seeing how big the world really is and how humblingly small we are.  He didn't know what to do with the memory of being an ordinary guy working in a hotel.  How could he now be the one others worked to please?  And just when we thought we could enjoy a family vacation together, up comes the knowledge that our family comes with fractures.

I prayed alone.  I knew that, while I was praying, he might make good on his threat and leave.  I went to God to ask for increased patience and love.  Alhumdulillah, when I finished my prayer, he was still there.  I didn't want him to leave.  I wanted him to find himself again---even in strange surroundings.  Mr. Boo asked him to pray and my husband visibly softened.  He said they would.  I laid down on the couch and closed my eyes.  It was a bit much for me to take (especially since I was not feeling well).

When I awoke, there was a fresh start.  The mood had lifted.  I'm telling you all this because we need to remember that transitions are harder on some than others.  We can't pull our loved ones through seismic shifts without having them gasp for air.  When they struggle, we can't leave them, even if they threaten to leave us.  It was really worth it to me to continue on the journey with the man I love.

"I am not the same having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world."
-Mary Anne Rademacher Hersey

We adjusted to Aswan that night and woke to this scene the next morning.  That is the moon still lighting the sky before dawn.  Waking for fajr prayer is a blessing anywhere but especially along the Nile.  It was an extremely peaceful spot in the world where we were privileged to sit.   

At first, the bats ruled the air.  They swooped silently between the trees and I wasn't afraid.  I marveled at them.  They were so beautifully designed and I loved them for eating up the mosquitoes.

Then, right before the dawn, the birds began to tweet and twitter.  The white herons glided into the marshy wetlands next to the Nile.  I gazed over at the gardens coming to light on Kitchener's Island.

We never did make it across the Nile to that botanical bounty.  I admire any war hero who can turn his sword into a plough.  It was such an idyllic place from afar that I never really did want to stand on its shore.  Some places should remain out of reach.

Instead, that morning, we readied ourselves to see the temple on Philae .  I have mixed feelings about visiting the  temples of gods and godesses.  There's a definite line between appreciating the ancients and worshipping like them.  Some Muslims do not like to visit these sites.  Extremists even want them destroyed.  Me?  

I feel how powerful God is in those places.  The Ancient Egyptians believed they were god on earth.  Astragferallah.  They all died.  They did their absolute best to recreate an eternity with their architecture but it still can't hold up to Allah's creation.  The temples, tombs, and carvings are amazing yet they are not what I worship.  I can admire what I see but not forget The One I love more than anything or anyone. 

I did not like the inner sanctum where the statue of Isis used to stand.  I felt really creeped out and left that room immediately.  The energy was not good.  The open air felt better.

I love how the sun shines out from behind in this picture.  The capitals on top of the columns were so reminiscent of Art Deco and then I had to remember which came first.

This bird's open wings mirrors the fanning of the capital.

Click here to see more pictures of the site from another blogger who went there one August.

It was hot on the island.  It was stiflingly hot.  You really can't travel to Aswan in the summer without thinking you're going to die.  Ideally, you travel to Upper Egypt in the winter.  We were pushing it by going the end of April.

We retired to the hotel room after seeing the temples.  You can't fake staying cool.  You have to get out early and head in early and submit to the heat.

After cooling down, we walked over to the pool.  It would be for another day.  Maybe we could find the island's museum instead.  On the map it was just a little walk.

Honestly, I couldn't figure out how to escape our resort.  I felt like The Prisoner.  I could see the Nubian village buildings next to us but I couldn't find the way to them.  I had to find out from the reception desk that there was only one little green gate keeping us apart.  

What a world of difference that gate made.  The village was not what I expected.  I had seen photos of the tourist version of the Nubians' homes.  Really?  The poor on Elephantine island live in mud brick homes.   

I have lived on various socio-economic levels.  I'm comfortable with myself enough to not be too hung up on classes.  Yet, our consumption of "the good life" next to our neighbors in mud brick homes was sobering.  I felt, for the first time, how closely "tourism" and "terrorism" are.  My husband and I always joke about him having to pronounce "tourist" carefully because his accent can make it sound like "terrorist."  In many ways, my presence on that island wasn't right.  I've been the white chick on the island before (in the Virgin Islands) but this time I really wondered if what I was doing was right.

Don't get me wrong!  I still enjoyed myself.  I wished, however, that I had brought some teaching materials down for the local school.  I wish I had something to share with those who didn't have enough.  I wondered about their fate as proud, displaced people.  In retrospect, our journey through the villages made me understand an Egypt I hadn't known before and in some ways I wish I didn't know.

My husband greeted everyone with, "Asalamu Alaykom," and asked each one if we were getting closer to the museum.  We were, they reassured us.

When we finally saw a European looking house rising up on a hill, and we were relieved.  Then we found out that it was closed.  It was closed down.  My old guidebook had failed us.  

Yet, at 4:30 that afternoon a man agreed to guide us quickly through the site of the reconstructed Satet Temple.  I've been reading about Hatchepsut to my youngest students and I wanted to see her efforts.

This sculpted head is part Hatchepsut and part Khunum, the god of the Nile's flooding.  It was worth the walk to see it.  

At the end of our tour, we headed down to the Nilometer. It's a staircase to the water's edge with each measurement marked in the walls.  A good water level meant a good growing season (and more taxes).

I like taking pictures of staircases to nowhere.  Led Zepplin must have influenced me more than I'd like to admit.

We toured the town again that night and found our food once again at Al-Masri.  I kept watching the table in front of us and wondering if the large European-looking man was part of the German and Swiss archaeological team reconstructing the Satet Temple site on Elephantine.

Getting back to the hotel meant taking the ferry.  Normally, we didn't have to wait long.  For some reason that night we did.  I people watched.  I tried to figure out the group to our right.  There were two woman, a guy and a little boy.  Who was with whom?  

When the ferry pulled up at the dock, we started down the three  small steps and the pretty, young lady when down.  I don't mean she went down the steps.  I mean she fainted.  I saw it happen.  It was as if in slo-mo.  She was so graceful that it almost looked like she had suddenly decided to sleep on the metal dock.  

It was a shock to realize that no one with her knew what to do.  Ahmed and I had to jump into action.  I had the little boy sit down next to Mr. Boo.  Ahmed put the back pack under her head.  I raised her feet on my lap.  I asked questions of the other lady.  Was she sick?  Did she have diabetes?  Had she done this before? 

I had the dock workers bring her a drink with a little sugar.  We put water on her pulse points.  We loosened her hijab.  She started to cry and I talked to her firmly and reassuringly.  "Ameerah, enti kwaysa".  

The hotel doctor had been notified and when he arrived on the next ferry boat, we sat her up.  He wanted Ameerah back at the hotel.  She started crying and couldn't carry her own weight.  My husband picked her up and carried her onto the ferry.  I said Quran.  I talked to the boy and a little girl who had now joined the group with another woman.  It was intense.  

"Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it."
– Cesare Pavese

The next morning, I saw the two women with the boy and the girl.  I asked about Ameerah.  They acted as if nothing had happened and that I was inquiring about something that was none of my business. Oh well! 

We had left the comfort of our room to once again gorge on the breakfast buffet.  One good thing about walking around so much was that somehow I ate everything in sight and still lost some weight.  

It was getting later.  At 9:30, we had to make our deal with a boat captain to take us across the way to the Tombs of the Nobles.  We saw them from our patio area but, unlike the gardens Kitchener's Island, I really had to see the tombs for myself. 

That little jaunt across the Nile cost us 60 LE.  It's painful to pay that much for a short ride but the trade off is that the captain waits for you.  He was an interesting man, a Nubian, with good English and a European wife from Belgium.  

We didn't opt for the camel ride to get to the top of the mountain.  I'm still not sure if that was a mistake.  We trudged.  For a major tourist attraction to not have steps and safe footing is still strange for me.  I don't expect Disney World but it's a struggle to experience how primitive Egyptian tourist sites remain.

No matter how these pictures appear, let me guarantee for you that they were taken in the heat.  If a place is hot at water's edge, then it is painfully hot on top of a mountain.  Really?  You have to be stupid or saintly to climb to the highest point under a burning sun.  I always feel how close death I am on these expeditions to tombs.  There's a reason the dead are in these locations---no one else is going to live there!

So, the moment comes on a trip when you have to let go of your discomfort and enjoy the experience.  I did enjoy the tombs.  "Enjoy" is maybe not the right word. I was very aware that I was visiting the dead.  

“What gives value to travel is fear. It is a fact that, at a certain moment, when we are so far from our own country, we are seized by a vague fear and an instinctive desire to go back to the protection of old habits. I look upon it more as an occasion for testing.” 
-Albert Camus

As Muslims, we enter into these places with "Asalamu Alaykom," the same greeting of peace we make to the living.  I often uttered, "Aoozabellahi min a Shaytan a regime," to protect me from the unseen world of evil.  I warned my husband not to try to playfully scare any of us.  We didn't want to be screaming in the tombs.  

There were more bats and I'll admit that bats in a tomb are scary.  They are not the happy, mosquito-eating bats of pre-dawn.  Well...maybe they were.  Come to think of it, they probably were the same bats.  

There was a guide helping us enter into these carved-out final homes.  I didn't like to go in too far.  I felt like it might be fated to be my last home and visualized some freak cave in.  There were some bones to remind me how bodies look after staying in a tomb.  

I had to deal with two dangerous creatures outside of the tombs.  One was a little snake hiding at an entrance which made it impossible for us to walk past.  Another was a college girl, from a group who had also climbed the mountain.  She was trying to pose in cute ways for the boys to take her picture.  She laughed too loud and talked too much.  Whatever.  

When she tried to expand her circle of friends to my husband, that's when I asked her,  "Kallam ma meen?  Da gozee ana.  Andak kateer ragel hena mafish goz.  Kallam ma ragel de mish kallam ma raglee."

This translates to, "Who are you talking to?  That's my husband.  You have a lot of unmarried men here.  Talk to that man; don't talk to my man."

She laughed coquettishly and tried to say something about me not understanding Egyptians.  Oh, I do understand Egyptians and I told her so.  She tried to say something else and I told her that I was busy with my family.  I was nice enough not to push her down the mountain.

We cooled off in the pool that afternoon.  It was shady and quiet (except for Mr. Boo chortling and splashing).  I wore my modest suit which doesn't cover like a Burkhini but it's inshahallah good enough.  We relaxed.  No one else came.  We enjoyed ourselves and really it was wonderful.

Upon returning to the hotel room, we realized that my husband lost his ring in the pool.  Yep.  After an easy time comes hardship.  It works both ways.  He told me that he would just get a new one.  I wasn't having it.  So, he called the front desk and he went back to the pool with the worker who had given us our towels.  He was the one to find the ring again.  Nothing like a little suspense followed by a happy ending!

“A journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it.” 
-John Steinbeck

That night we ate in our room.  We aren't used to eating out so much.  It's hard on us.  It seems like it's going to be endlessly fun but after two nights, it wasn't.  

In many ways, going out and seeing extraordinary sights is also hard.  I can't handle weeks of it any more.  I feel over-saturated.  Yet, if you're already there and you feel you should get your money's worth.

Getting my money's worth, reminded me to pick up my card for one hour of free internet.  I checked my few emails and thought to check Twitter.  I'm glad I did!  Though we had just discussed traveling to Abu Simbel, where the colossal statues of Ramses are, the travel agent who wanted our money neglected to tell us what Twitter did. 

There had been an armed protest of Nubians on the road.  They had blocked any tourists from leaving.  That meant that busloads of angry and frightened foreigners were forced to stay in a town with few amenities while the police sorted out angry and displaced Nubians with guns.  They wanted their land and their rights.  I understood that completely.  Yet, cutting off your tourism-dollars nose to spite your economy face doesn't make total sense.  I wasn't mad at them.  I was mad at the travel agent who hadn't allowed us an informed decision for ourselves and our boy. Shame on him.  It's always best to be forthcoming.  Since you're not going to get that in Egypt from those working in the travel industry, you need to search Twitter for real people's reporting.

Abu Simbel was out.  I was sad but alhumdulillah.  It was three hours away.  We'd either be spending close to 4,000 LE for air travel or spending less for a hired car which would mean six hours round trip.  And it was dangerous!  No, we needed a Plan B.  I looked through my DK and Lonely Planet guidebooks and found it.  The next day we were going to Kom Ombo. 

Not a lot of people go to Kom Ombo temple.  It's dedicated for Sobek, the crocodile god, and Horis the Elder.  It's outside of a little village Daraw.  Here's  a picture of a masjid in Daraw.

Daraw is an hour north of Aswan on the way to Luxor.  We drove through it without stopping.  It was too hot to actually get out and take a picture, so it was from the comfort of our taxi.  The village isn't worth a stop though some like to ogle the camel market on Mondays.  We have enough camels here and market days are CRAZY (having experienced Kerdasa's years before) so we opted out of that.  I reasoned that the temple itself would be enough.

Truly, the temple was amazing.  I haven't seen much better carving anywhere else.   At other sites, you can see the shapes of the objects but at Kom Ombo you can see the small details down to the scales on the crocodile or the feathers on the goose.

I'm not sure why it's so good there.  I think part of the reason must be because it's rather new (parts are from Ptolemy).  The colors are still apparent too!  Did you see the polka dots design on the Egyptian hat up above?  That's a true journey into history.  I enjoyed the temple so much.  We were the only visitors there until, upon our departure, we crossed paths with a Japanese couple.  Really?  It's a shame because the place is a gem.

Mr. Boo wasn't happy about the temple at first.  He'd fallen asleep in the air-conditioned taxi and had been understandably miffed to be pushed out into the heat.  When the tourist tout came up with a handmade stringed instrument and bow, we paid whatever he was asking.  Yes, there is a reason why Egyptian tourism is big business.  We were there and we had to buy something ANYTHING to make Mr. Boo enjoy his time.  Alhumdulillah.  We still have it and he still takes it out to practice. At least...I think it's him...it's either him or a cat in heat.

We tried to see the Crocodile Museum while we were there but an electricity outage made that impossible.  That was a bummer.  Mr. Boo played his little Aswan stringed instrument by the Nile to serenade us before we moved on. 

We bought some sodas at the little tourist village below the temple.  It didn't really quench our thirst.  I knew what we needed.  We needed some acer asab.  We went back into Aswan and bought some.  Once again, I was the pampered tourist and got mine handed to me in the taxi.  Here's one of my big Egyptian loves.  

This is the freshest sugarcane juice you can ever hope to drink.  If you ever make it to Aswan, you have to drink two things:  acer asab (sugarcane juice) and karkade which is hibiscus tea.  Both sugarcane and hibiscus are grown around Aswan.  I was drinking karkade every morning at the hotel buffet.  

Now, I bought some karkade to make at home.  The trick is that you just let it seep in regular, room temperature water and not in boiling water.  What I'm told is that karkade increases blood presssure if it's been boiled and decreases blood pressure if it's only been steeped in cold water.  If I'd been smarter, I would have bought a few kilos of the dried petals to bring up to Giza.

We did buy other things in their market.  Mr. Boo got a wooden crocodile and snake from the 40 LE he'd slowly earned by getting up and getting ready every morning of the trip.  I got underwear which sounds funny but I actually did go all the way to Aswan and bought undies.  I also bought a white galabiya for the first day of Eid.  

Back at the hotel, I wanted to buy a trinket.  It's strange how the tourist shops don't really cater to a tourist's needs.  I tried to explain to the shop owner that, since it's Elephantine Island, he should have elephants prominently displayed in his window.  I bought one.  I gave up all my statues years ago yet I wanted this one.    It's carved from one piece of the special pink Aswan granite.

I also decided to buy a pottery piece from Aswan.  I grew up around pottery.  I appreciate it more than china or crystal.  The pottery from Aswan incorporates metal detailing and even leather!  Do you see the leather triangles on this jar?  

My piece is smaller and less formal.  Though I loved this piece, I didn't buy it.  The one I bought has some of the same bright colors as my living room so it made more sense to purchase it.

“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” 
– Mark Jenkins

That night was our last.  We splurged on dinner in the hotel's restaurant.  It was pricey but convenient.  I ordered two vegetarian entrees that sounded interesting.  Mr. Boo ordered a huge hamburger and my husband ordered chicken.  The maitre de was so attentive and kind.

The other table (yes, it was sparse that night) was a British couple we'd seen around.  I had assumed they were guests but (joke on me) they were snowbirds.  After our meal, we started up a conversation.  I was really intrigued by the lovey missus.  She was so vivacious.  What was her story?

So, it turns out that they have spent the last seven years being part-time ex-pats.  They were floating down the Nile when she spotted a beautiful mansion on the hill.  "That's my house!"  She declared and then went about buying it (and having their money ripped off by an unscrupulous lawyer).  There was no electricity and no running water.  She would hightail it back to the hotel for baths and credits the kind staff with saving her sanity during the remodeling.

One of the crazier stories she told was of living for months with a stench.  She wasn't sure what it was.  When the workers eventually moved the heavy stove, there was a dead desert fox.  Subhanallah!  She stayed.  Her husband had gone back to the U.K. and left her to "get things sorted."  Somehow she did.  

She was ever so respectful of our little family.  I was respectful of her and her husband.  There are no children between them.  They have this life they've carved out and they're not trying to be something  they're not.  They are authentically British Conservatives with money and Western clothes and mores.  Honestly, you don't have to jump into a galabiya, head scarf and flip-flops to live in Egypt.  I asked her if anyone had ever pushed religion on them and she said that no one ever had.  That's good.  We don't need to push others to Islam because we actually only push them away.

I asked her about having friends.  She has less and less connection with friends back home who can't understand her part-time life in Egypt.  She also can't be bothered with making ex-pat friends in Egypt simply because they are British.  Nationality doesn't pull at this lady as much as a sincere connection.  I was really glad to have had the chance to speak with her.

The last day was needing some effort to get up, get packed and get out to the museum before we left.  I really wanted to see the museum but I was tired.  It's hard to keep going day after day---especially in the heat.  Four nights was enough for us.  

My husband called our taxi driver, an elderly Nubian man, who was as tall as he was proud.  He really catered to our needs during the trip.  God bless him.  When we rode with him, I knew that we were being welcomed to his land.  He met us at the ferry dock and took us up the hill to the museum. 

We passed by the Cataract, where Agatha Christie wrote, "Death on the Nile."  I would have liked to have had tea there but the British couple told us that even tea was an outrageous 55 LE a cup.  Another day!

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.” 
– Martin Buber 

The Egyptian museums are always too overwhelming for me.  I can't believe what I'm seeing.  It's unreal to think that any one place could hold so much AND be seen by so few visitors.  We were some of the only people that morning.  

I took a lot of pictures.  None of them are going to be great because they were through glass.  The real point of the pictures is for me to remember what I saw; I need to make the memory tangible.  

This picture is of the oldest pottery ever uncovered in Egypt.

I know I should tell you what year they're from or even which century.  Even if I zoom this photo, it doesn't state a number.  This reminds me of the Antoine de Saint-Exupery quote from "The Little Prince" about how grown-ups love numbers, and that, if you were to describe a pretty house, no one would care, unless you told them the large amount of  money it was worth.  No, I don't know how old this pottery is but it is the oldest in Egypt.

Of course there were mummies.  I like the animal mummies.  This sheep mummy was so well done.

I can't show you all the amazing objects.  I can't.  There's too much!  I only wish that you get a chance to see it for yourself.  It's possible. 

Isn't she beautiful?

For me, I waited years EVEN with living in Egypt to see Aswan but I made it there.  If you have a dream to see Egypt then keep it.  Maybe it's not the right time now but inshahallah there will be a time.

I'll end with this page from The Holy Quran on display at the museum.  The calligraphy was done with such artistry.

I don't know what it says but I would like to leave you with this quote from the 115th verse of the second surah Al-Baqarrah:

وَلِلَّهِ الْمَشْرِقُ وَالْمَغْرِبُ ۚ فَأَيْنَمَا تُوَلُّوا فَثَمَّ وَجْهُ اللَّهِ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ وَاسِعٌ عَلِيمٌ

Walillahi almashriqu waalmaghribu faaynama tuwalloo fathamma wajhu Allahi inna Allaha wasiAAun AAaleemun

"To Allah belongs the East and the West; whichever direction you turn your face, there is the presence of Allah.  Surely, Allah is All-Embracing and All-Knowing." 
-Quran 2:115, Malik Translation


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