Last spotted in San Francisco, USA on March 28, 2003, 1:23 pm
Who is he? Where is he going? Where has he been? David Barrett / Quinthar
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My first attempt to write this, unfortunately, ended up turning into a huge rant about how Egypt is disappointing and frustrating in almost all respects. This version will focus on the positive aspects of the country. (It's worth mentioning that this is much shorter.) I will summarize my rant, however, with this one image: in the story of the tortoise and hare, Egypt is the hare. But anyway...
Egypt has an incredibly colorful and magnificent history, and most of a visitor's time is spent exploring and studying this. Upon arriving in Cairo I headed, of course, to perhaps the world's first wonder: the ancient pyramids. It goes without saying, they're big. Real big. And in case it's not apparent, it's in the middle of the desert and hot. Real hot. The hour and a half by horse around the pyramids left me gasping for water toward the end.
The next night I boarded an overnight trail to Aswan, the southernmost Egyptian town on the Nile. Aswan is situated near the island temple of Philae, and about four hours north of the absolutely incredible Abu Simbel, both of which were covered with and dredged from the rising waters created by the High Dam. The High Dam itself is a testament to the engineering prowess of its Russian designers, as anything that can tame the Nile deserves respect.
After a few days exploring Aswan and the temples, "the gang" boarded one of the limitless "faluccas" for a lazy cruise down the Nile - undeniably the highlight of the trip. We disembarked the tiny ship in Kom Ombo, and then took a military-escorted bus to Idfu, and finally Luxor.
By the time we arrived at Luxor we had learned to avoid and ignore the worst of the city's distractions, and had a great time nonetheless. But, all good things come to an end, and from there I boarded a trail to Alexandria, easily the most enjoyable city of all Egypt. In Alexandria I became a bit lethargic and retreated to the comfort and familiarity of my favorite place: the coffeeshop. Several days and untold gallons of tea later, I boarded the one and only passenger ship out of Egypt's greatest port city to Cyprus, gateway to the East.

Located a short distance out of Cairo is the incredible complex collectively known as "the pyramids". We (a South African guy I meet at the airport and I) were taken to the pyramids, as well as other select Cairo destinations (not really selected by us, mind you), by Achmed the taxi driver. The taxi was fast and had a blazing horn, which was in constant operation.
Driving through Cairo is only slightly less dangerous than actually walking, as the roads are absolutely insane. Were you to point at the game Frogger and say "the cars are the alligators, and the people, frogs", you'd only be inaccurate in that the logs actually stay in their lanes. Cairo traffic, like traffic in the rest of Egypt, is as chaotic as I can possibly imagine. It's hard to say how many lanes the roads have as cars just go wherever they can fit, but I'd say you can fit four or five cars across on some of the big roads. And to make things more interesting, in intersections cars make left and right turns from any of the ... [more]
On an island just outside of town are rebuilt ruins of the ancient Philae Temple. The temple is a beautiful collection of tall pillars and walls, every foot of which is inscribed with beautiful hieroglyphics. Almost as impressive as the temple itself is the fact it was dug out of the Nile riverbed when the a dam partially submerged it many years ago. The level of the water can be seen in the discoloring of the pillars in the picture.
Easily the most impressive temple I visited, Abu Simbel is also the most difficult to reach. Accessible only by a four-hour bus ride, escorted by the military and within a stones-throw of the Sudanese border, Abu Simbel sits on the edge of a large lagoon on the Nile - a lagoon in which until recently it sat covered in water and mud. Essentially two temples, one to a pharaoh and one to his wife, Abu Simbel was originally carved in a single piece from the face of a sandstone river gorge. However, the rising waters submerged that portion of the face, making it exceptionally tricky to recover. In essence, engineers had to carve out the stone around the entire temple, and then dice the temple itself into thousands of numbered pieces, finally to reassemble them eighty meters away at the water's new edge. Knowing this, it's incredibly impressive how well they did that job. The cuts to the temple itself are extremely will hidden, just as they're exceptionally apparent in the surrounding rock face. It's lik... [more]
The temples of Egypt are really quite incredible and extremely well preserved - so much so that one almost wishes that they were left in their original, crumbling state, even if does mean that many could only be visited with scuba equipment. The Idfu temple has a magnificent wall, perhaps thirty to fifty feet tall and decorated with exceptional characters, surrounding an inner columned structure, This picture is taken in the atrium of the inner structure, the main door of which is guarded by a fearsome granite falcon. However, after taking this picture, I think I started getting overwhelmed by ancient Egyptian structures, and more than anything wanted to simply get some ice cream at the stand out front.

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