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Yellow Haze of the Sun:
Driving through Egypt’s Eastern Desert, there was nothing green to be seen for many, many miles. Still, it was rather beautiful in the soft light of evening. The sand and stone hills, some of which are 700 meters high, glow warm beige and gold through soft shades of pink. It has rugged visual appeal until you step from your modern air conditioned vehicle into forty plus degrees c. and see the sun bleached remains of some long dead creature on the desert sand.
Expedition Africa has been on the road a lot. Unfortunately, everywhere we go we are forced to travel as part of a police escorted convoy. All foreign travelers are required to travel in these convoys. There are no exceptions to the rule and since the convoys only depart two or maybe three times a day, it can really compromise your schedule and perhaps also your safety. The Egyptian government imposed these convoys in reaction to a terrorist attack on tourists in Luxor in 1997. Originally intended to protect the tourists we wonder how effective this procedure actually is. Consider this; if a would be terrorist wished to do harm to Egypt’s enormous tourism industry, all he would have to do is read the regularly posted convoy schedules available on the streets to learn where these convoys are traveling to, from and precisely when. In effect, what this does is put every single one of the foreign little eggs in one long collective basket and makes sitting ducks of them all.
In Luxor we have made some new friends. Mohammed of the tourist police and Wael the young press centre representative have both been accompanying us to all of our filming locations here. They were both very helpful and very much gentlemen.
Special thanks also go out to Ahmed, Omar, Aladdin and family of the Nefertiti Hotel, (Nefertiti Hotel.com), for their immediate friendship, guidance and assistance during our stay in Luxor. These three good souls even insisted I join them at their table for the evening Ramadan meal. As devout Muslims in this time of Ramadan they totally abstain from eating, drinking (not even water), and smoking from sunup to sundown so breakfast is dinner and it is to be celebrated. Ramadan lasts for thirty days and commemorates the time in which the Koran was revealed to the profit Mohammed.
Upon leaving, the boys all unabashedly hugged me. It was a warm and kind gesture that we don’t see enough of in Canada.
Valley of The Kings:
Just a boat and taxi ride across the Nile from our rooms at the Nefertiti, we studied the tombs of King Tut and Ramse’s IV in the Valley of the Kings.
The painted carvings on the old walls and ceilings in these ancient stone tombs still remain remarkably well preserved and vividly colourful as you will see in the images that we have transmitting back to the Algonquin site. I’m afraid we drew envious attention
from hundreds of unfortunate tourists who were required to leave all cameras behind with site officials prior to descending into these heavily guarded subterranean crypts.
A Face Only a Mother Could Love:
On our way back to Luxor from the Valley of the Kings, a Bedouin camel driver loaned me one of his mounts for a brief ride. Camels stand much taller than most horses and I found them to be very intelligent and well spoken. As I took my seat on the prettiest one, all decked out in her fine gown and jewelry, she was laying in the shade, snacking. She quickly turned her head directly to mine and nose to nose, she stared at me with those big beautiful eyes and cried “Whaaah!” like a baby. As her owner handed me the single reign and forced her to stand she spoke to us both, “Whaaaaah!” Not wanting to be impolite, I replied, “Whaaah? We continued this uncomplicated but fascinating conversation until I let her go back to her breakfast in the shade. As she plunked back down to her rest in the sand, I distinctly heard her say “Aaaaahh”.
As a mule bays in the streets below and a goat cries from the building top beyond, I’m sitting on the roof of our old hotel in downtown Aswan while completing this little note. The air is thick with the stench from nearby chemical, cement and smelting factories. I am surrounded by no less than six tall, brightly lit Mosques all thundering melodic evening prayers over loud speakers. It’s 36 degrees c. and I am told that there has been no rainfall here in two years. The greenbelt along the Nile is only a one kilometer ribbon that weaves between two desserts. The distant sizzling sand and stone hills on both sides of this narrow valley are scattered with dilapidated dwellings some of which are not much more than dugouts in sandstone. These are a strong people.
On Monday we will board a Ferry for a twenty four hour chug up river to the Sudanese border town of Wadi Halfa. The trucks will be transported by barge. There are no roads. We will begin this migration at the High Dam thirteen kilometers south of Aswan. The High Dam holds back Lake Nasser. At 180 meters deep and 6,000 square kilometers; Lake Nasser is the world’s largest reservoir. Some call it an inland sea.
Food for Thought:
Ninety six percent of Egyptians live along the Nile’s river banks. It is said that if this dam were to burst it would wash most of Egypt’s population into the Mediterranean. With this in mind its security is paramount. The hills surrounding the dam are laden with radar installations and anti-aircraft missiles. Threats made by Israel during the 1967 and 1973 wars, and by Libya in 1984 to bomb this mega-dam must certainly remain on many people’s minds.
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All content copyright 2006 by: Mike Swarbrick