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Egypts Valley of the Kings
Reposted with editorial updates on Nov. 1, 2000
As we sail away from Djibouti, we look forward to two more days at sea. We break up the trip socializing with each other. As we cruise the Red Sea, we notice more and more oil platforms. At night, theyre seemingly aflame as each flares off enough natural gas to supply a good sized city back home. Theres still no economical way to transport it, so its wasted. One class I attended was food carving. I use the skills learned to thrill my kids and friends!
We still see flying fish from time to time, but not as many as the Indian Ocean. Being no passenger port where we are going, we put into the military and commercial port of Safaga, Egypt. We arrive early and have to hop to it! As a military base, no traffic is allowed to enter or leave the port in darkness, so we had better be back before sundown! We hop off the ship, get our passports and our video camera permits. Thats right, you need to get a permit to carry a camcorder in Egypt. If you dont have a permit, you can be arrested. Fortunately, its a matter of a stamp in the passport.
Our destination is Luxor, Valley of the Kings. It is a long bus trip there about 2 hours. During the ride our guide explains to us that the life here is still quite harsh: Many families still take their newborn infants out to the desert and leave them there for 24 hours. If they survive, theyre strong enough for desert life. If not, or if they get eaten, its Allahs will that the child was not strong enough.
In Luxor, its easy to see how the Nile rules life: Desert slowly turns to fertile farmland. It becomes positively lush on the side we are on. On the other side of the river, it remains desert, for its uphill from the Nile. Police and soldiers (its not easy to tell which is which) are everywhere. They have some new Jeep Cherokees and pickup trucks the same ones we can buy. Holes are carved in the roofs of these vehicles and 50 calibre machine guns are mounted there. It seems that they play for keeps!
We visit the temples of Luxor, called Kaarnac, a multi generation restoration project of enormous proportions. To say its spectacular is an understatement.
We must hurry off to catch the ferry across the Nile. A modern ferry takes across in minutes to another waiting bus. The topography changed back to desert within a few yards of the shore as we are heading uphill. A few minutes later, there we are. The monolithic statues guarding the entrance are still (mostly) there. Note the size of the people in this photo! At the Valley itself, we are issued tickets for certain tombs. Our video cameras are confiscated (and will be returned as we leave and thank the attendant with a little "baksheesh").
What do they think well record? Well, a few months after the trip, a terrorist attack was launched here and tourists did record it. A large number of tourists also got to be at one with the Pharaohs, as they were dead!
Tough looking "Antiquities Police", dressed in black, equipped with machine guns and the latest communications equipment provides security. 800 MHz trunking stuff, for those in the know. It seems like a good sell job for Motorola! They need trunking like we need camels!
We go in the valley and its hot! I visit a couple of lesser tombs before we hit the prize: King Tut himself. I descend down the narrow passage with a throng of fellow tourists, as it gets simultaneously cooler and darker. As we reach the opening to the gallery it is quite dimly lit. No photography is permitted at all. An attendant is there to enforce that. A little baksheesh, however, persuades him to give me a little tour, showing me the Boy King himself and allowing me a rare privilege of leaning out over the mummy and seeing the paintings of the parallel wall. No photographs though. Tut's treasures may be in the Cairo museum, but Tut himself is in his Tomb, where he should be. I've seen him myself!
After that, I join a group of tourists to the tomb of Ramsies. Which one I don't remember! Next time I'll know a little more. I go in and view the interior. It is fantastic! The restated rule: NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY! I turn off the flash and take a photo. IT FLASHED!! I was immediately surrounded by several attendants and told what a knothead I am and to put my camera away. Here is my criminal photo. Here is a bit of the carvings that line the entire wall of the corridor! To say it is fantastic is an understatement! Anybody want to buy me a ticket BACK? I'll bring back some better photographs, now that I know how to use my camera properly!
We all head back to the bus, recross the Nile, board another bus and get box lunches. Usually, these trips include a sit down lunch, so we may enjoy "shopping opportunities". Not this one! We have to make it back to the ship on time! Remember the military restrictions!
We now have less than two hours to make the trip. To say we shag tail is about right. The bus driver isn't winning any fuel conservation awards, but he sure is showing his skill on the roads. As we pull into the base gate, it is growing dim of light. He lets us off at the dock, under gantries and cranes - and the watchful eyes of Egyptian soldiers. My Mom wants to take their photo. Taking photographs on a military base is strictly forbidden, she's reminded. A little chocolate changes their minds. Nonetheless, official paperwork must be processed before we can depart.
As we cleared the breakwater of the port, was it light or was it night? It could be argued either way, but the Egyptian military obviously thought it was still light, considering the conspicuous absence of a torpedo hole in our ship...
The next stop is across the Red Sea, to a tidy little spot called the Gulf of Aqaba, a little bay where Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia all share borders with each other - with less than a mile between any of them! To say this is a potential hotspot in the world, is a true understatement. It's a vital powderkeg that could be ignited with a single firecracker set off in the wrong place! From there, we travel to a most amazing spot - the magic, ancient and pink city of PETRA, JORDAN.