[AUDIO WILL BE ADDED AT A FUTURE DATE]
(This is the second and concluding installment of the author’s observations on Egypt. Whereas the previous article delved into the ancient religions and history of Egypt, this report focuses more particularity on Egypt as it is today, and the disastrous consequences of a bad religion combined with the geographical mixing of races.)
It all started to gel when my wife and I attended a Symposium for Unconventional Power in Atlanta, Georgia, last September. A professor from the University of Florida who specialized in agricultural sciences announced he was organizing a tour group to Egypt next January. Since we had been talking about “someday” we would visit that ancient wonderland, we decided — why not this winter? We told the professor we were interested in joining his group and would he please send us his literature.
By the time we received his literature six weeks later, we had already decided (a) we would go anyway, (b) his trip was too agriculturally oriented and (c) we would do better with a professional travel company. We got new passports, visas to Egypt and signed up on an eleven day tour with the Hemphill-Harris travel agency. The starting date was February 11.
We flew out of Atlanta at 5:20 P.M. on KLM Airlines to Amsterdam. After a short layover at Amsterdam and a 30 minute stop at Athens we arrived at the Cairo Airport at 7:30 P.M. the next day.
Arrangements had been made that our tour guide whose name was Tom, was to meet us at the airport, but when we arrived that night at a very foreign airport, no Hemphill-Harris tour guide was to be seen anywhere, and we soon learned some of the down-to-earth realities of the Egyptian existence.
The airport was shabby, dirty and overcrowded with people. It was pandemonium on the loose. By the time we got through immigration and customs and started looking for the guide who wasn’t there, it was getting on into the night, and here we were stranded in a foreign airport where only the most basic of English was spoken by anybody.
I tried to phone the Ramses Hilton Hotel, but no public booths were available. A crowd of helpers were on hand at every turn, looking for a tip (called baksheesh) for anything. A pleasant young fellow finally found a telephone at some business window that we could call from for a little baksheesh. After a dozen attempts and half an hour later, we got through to the receptionist at the hotel desk, who informed us, yes, we had a reservation, and where were we? I tried to get in contact with the Hemphill-Harris tour guide, Tom, but to no avail. Communications were so bad I decided we would do better to just take a taxi on our own and get to the hotel.
After several more helpers and more baksheesh, we got loaded into a taxi and were off. Now that we understood how the telephone system worked (?) we were in for another experience. When I say we were off, I mean we were off like a bat out of hell trying to race against the international date line. Leaning heavily on the horn, as did everyone else, this fellow simply defied all the laws of probability and wove in and out of traffic like a professional hockey player. Somehow we got to the hotel unscathed. How, I’ll never know.
After settling in our room I accosted the tour guide at the hotel, who by now was in his P.J.’s and ready to retire for the night. When I asked Tom why he had left us stranded at the airport, he innocently replied that he had no information about our time of arrival and that he understood we were arriving on our own. When I showed him the printed slip with his name on it saying that he would meet us upon arrival, he feigned surprise. Whether it was real or a copout I have never found out. Anyway, we were there. We had a plush room at one of Cairo’s finest, the Ramses Hilton, and were ready to retire, not argue.
Whereas in the article, “Lessons from Egypt”, I have set down many observations and conclusions from a religious and historical point of view, in this “travelogue” I want to describe more of the modern Egypt and what we actually saw of the ancient ruins, a most impressive experience.
Despite the grueling start at the airport, the rest of the trip was a most delightful and exciting adventure. Next morning, after having a sumptuous breakfast served in our room, we were off and running with the rest of the tour group. The group proved to be relatively small (about 18), as tour groups go, all seasoned travelers, and one of the most cordial and congenial groups we had ever had the pleasure of traveling with. We were on our way to Sakkara to see Egypt’s oldest pyramid, the Step Pyramid of King Zoser. This trip, about 20 miles out of Cairo, took us out past the colossal statue of Ramses II, where I learned about “cartouches” and also about Ramses II’s colossal ego, as described in the article last month. It was also my first impression of the countryside and the primitive existence of the native Egyptians.
Cairo is one of the world’s largest cities, having a burgeoning population of twelve million, crowded into facilities that were meant to accommodate no more than three million. Everything is cramped, crowded, ramshackle and inadequate. The traffic is disorganized and jammed, the horn being the principal guiding light, if any. The streets are narrow and jammed with people. The water system is not potable, and you are cautioned to drink only bottled drinks. The electricity goes off often. The telephone system is barely hanging together, as we found out when we arrived at the airport.
However, the people are congenial and easy going, never in a hurry. They are not hostile to Americans, although they may have more cause to be so than many others that are. Whereas the Mexicans, a similar drowsy race, have their “manana”, the Egyptians top that with their own word, “maleesh”, which roughly means — “it’s alright, don’t worry about it.” In fact, the only two Egyptian words I learned were “baksheesh” — everybody had their hand out — and “maleesh,” already described.
Nevertheless, Cairo is an extremely interesting city, having a wide mixture of several cultures of which three predominate, the Ancient Egyptian with their pyramids and all, the thousand year Moslem culture with their beautiful mosques and minarets, and the modern “Western” influence of skyscraper hotels, built of course by the White Man, mostly with American money.
But to get back to the countryside, on our way to Sakkara. Once out of the city itself, a traveler is impressed with the profuse green fields, irrigated by the waters of the Nile. It can truly be said that the Nile is Egypt and without the Nile, Egypt would be nothing. The Nile has also been called the longest oasis in the world, and an oasis it is. This oasis, varying in width from approximately a mile to ten miles, has very clear lines of demarcation. Once outside of the irrigated waters of the Nile, the land is as bleak and barren as any desert in the world — nothing but miles of sand and rocks without a blade of grass in sight.
As we rolled along in the bus on a narrow two lane road to Sakkara, we could see the native houses of the fellaheen, visible on both sides of the road. They are built of mud bricks, palm fronds and other crude materials. They are extremely primitive and must be hotter than an oven in the summertime when temperatures run at 110° and more. Also visible along the road were many goats, donkeys, camels and water buffalo. It was the water buffalo which were the main beasts of burden often pulling a primitive plow.
Once we got to Sakkara, I viewed the landscape. It was located outside of the green oasis and was as bleak and desert-strewn as any barren landscape on earth. But the Step Pyramid was huge, and it was impressive, being the oldest large pyramid ever built. Also, extremely impressive were the ruins of the walls of a huge temple that had existed there in ancient times. It is hard to conceive the millions of hours of hand labor that must have gone into the building of such a huge enclosure that took in several acres, and which temple now is merely a dim outline of its former glory.
Sakkara, the city of the dead, was supposed to be the home of the god Sakr (hawk). He was the god of the necropolis in the netherworld. This necropolis contains more than 14 pyramids of which the Step Pyramid is by far the largest, and was thought by some to represent a staircase to heaven. This is probably where the Jews got their idea of a Jacob’s ladder. Remember the Egyptians had it first!
It was here at the Step Pyramid which dates back 5,000 years that we went down into our first underground tomb. The tomb, believed to be that of Sekhemkhet, is not in the pyramid itself, but entered through funeral chambers from the ruins of the nearby temple. It is here that we climbed down slanting board walks, stooped down through long, low passageways and were introduced to the multifarious and colorful hieroglyphics that decorated every square foot of the chamber walls. It does give one an eerie feeling to stand in a funeral chamber of a pharaoh who died 5,000 years ago.
Getting back into the sunlight again onto the huge grounds of the now ruined temple, we saw two cute native children riding up from the desert. Each on a donkey, the boy and the girl wore bright red, white and blue robes. Their timing was such as to have their picture taken by the tour group, and for baksheesh, of course. We were happy to oblige them.
Looking around, there were archeological diggings going on everywhere. Further out, the landscape looked like a moonscape, dry, barren and endless sand. Every so often, the ruins of another, but much smaller pyramid would poke its head above the barren sand. Using my imagination, I could only speculate as to the life and activity that ensued here so many thousands of years ago.
Having viewed the oldest phase of Egyptian history first, we drove back to Gizeh, about 15 miles distance, to now view the largest and most famous of all the pyramids. On our way we stopped at The Carvory Restaurant, just off Pyramids Road. Here we had our first sampling of Egyptian cuisine, European style. It was a sumptuous buffet lunch, with a wide variety of meats, fruits, salads, cheeses and desserts to choose from. Not recommended for anyone on a diet.
Then on to Cheops and the Great Pyramids, one of the most famous places in the world. (At the Sound and Light show that evening, they claimed it was THE most famous.) The impression the pyramids made on me was not disappointing. It lived up to my every expectation. Cheops, the largest of the three, is indeed massive. Its original height was 481 feet, and the base covers 13 acres. There are several long empty corridors inside the pyramid. Going down these corridors to the tomb chamber was one of the options of the tour. After talking to someone who had done so, and said he would not do it again for a million dollars, and after climbing up and down the low corridors on board walks at the Step Pyramid, I declined. Instead, I decided to walk around the perimeter of the pyramid by myself, a venture that took longer than expected, and kept an impatient tour group and bus driver waiting for my return.
The bus next took us to the world famous Sphinx, only a few minutes away. Here, too, were not only crowds of people, but again donkeys and camels. The owners of the camels were extremely persuasive hucksters, fervently imploring the naive and astonished tourists to take a camel ride, or at least have your picture taken astride the back of a camel. I was persuaded. After all, what is a trip to Egypt without having a picture of yourself sitting on the back of a camel? I gave the driver an Egyptian pound and he helped me climb on the back of a reclining camel. With a little prodding from the owner, the beast snorted and bellowed loudly and rose to its full height. My wife then took a picture as the beast and I posed, with the pyramids as a backdrop.
On our way to the hotel, we stopped at a papyrus shop and gallery and were instructed in the ancient and fascinating art of making papyrus from the Egyptian reed, an art as old as the pyramids themselves. On display was a large selection of colorful paintings of the Egyptian mystics on papyrus.
Our guide, Tom, explained that there were only very few things in Egypt that were worth purchasing, and he could recommend only three. They were papyrus paintings, Egyptian hand woven wool rugs with intricate native designs, and gold or silver cartouches. We had already bought a wool rug on our way back from Sakkara in the forenoon, so we now added three colorful papyrus paintings, with hieroglyphics and all, to our collection. Then off through the crowded streets of Cairo to dinner at the Ramses Hilton after a very busy day.
But the day wasn’t over yet. Tom, our guide, asked the group how many of us wanted to attend the Sound and Light program at the Pyramid that evening, since this too, was part of our paid tour. Out of our group of 18 only my wife and I volunteered. Six of the group had arrived here in Egypt the day before from a Safari Tour in Nairobi, which Tom had also headed. The other ten were too tired. We were tired also, but we decided we wouldn’t miss this show for the world. We skipped dinner and only had half an hour to change into warmer clothes.
Since we were the only two of our group to go, we had a private limousine provided, with not only a chauffeur, but also a ticket agent that went along, bought our tickets, showed us where to go and waited outside until the show was over to guide us back to the limousine.
We were extremely glad we made the effort. We had seen the Sound and Light show eleven years earlier at the Acropolis in Athens, and we had seen the Sound and Light show floating down a cruise boat on the Colorado River at Moab, Utah, illuminating the cliffs, but this show at the Pyramids was by far the most awe-inspiring.
Through the sound system the narrator started the show with a solemn and majestic “You have come tonight to the most fabulous and celebrated place in the world. Here on the plateau of Giza, stands forever the mightiest of human achievements.” Impressive? We were impressed.
The lights then flashed on each of the three pyramids in turn, then on all of them. Then different voices, — the Sphinx, priests, pharaohs, etc. — spoke up from different locations in sonorous, cultivated voices as if speaking from their tombs. The whole show was well scripted and well orchestrated, narrated by well known actors.
A booklet describing the production claimed that the study in putting this program together lasted six months, and carrying out the project took a year. It took more than 18 miles of wiring and cables to connect all the sound systems and lighting arrangements scattered over a considerable area. We took with us a set of LP recordings of the whole program so we could again listen to it back home. The program is in English 5 nights, and in French two nights a week.
Tuesday, February 14. Next morning we were out of the hotel by 7:00 A.M. and off to the airport to fly south to Aswan 534 miles upstream from Cairo. It was to be a long, hectic morning that lasted through most of the day, in fact.
This same airport which we had left late at night only 36 hours earlier in a cloud of dust and hen feathers, was still the same mass of confusion as upon our arrival. Whereas we had arrived on (the Dutch) K L M before, we were now taking an Egyptian airline to Aswan, and one peculiarity about Egyptian airlines is that you don’t get seating arrangements. It’s every man for himself and the competition is fierce. Not only are you not sure of your seat, but you can’t even depend on getting on a given plane. It is something like standby, in competition with a herd of buffalo.
The procedure was something like this: There was a plane leaving for Aswan about every 20 minutes. Our group, with our fearless leader Tom in charge, was squeezed into a large waiting room into the midst of a large crowd that was funneling its way into the next waiting room with a guard allowing a certain number of people through the portals to another waiting room. After much push and shove our group finally arrived at the door of the next waiting room where we were fortunate enough to see the planes from Aswan coming and going through a door that we would eventually pass through. After about an hour of push and shove in the second waiting room we all finally made it through the last bottleneck and dashed across the field to our plane. Off to Aswan.
We arrived a little over an hour later.
Aswan, as you know, is famous for the mighty High Dam which the Russians built and completed in 1965. The town of Aswan itself sits 7 miles downstream from the High Dam. Before the building of the High Dam, Aswan had a population of 50,000. Today its population has swollen to 500,000 and by the looks of the average fellaheen, the 500,000 individually are as poor and destitute as were the 50,000 twenty years ago. There is no accommodating a geometric population growth. The more resources that are poured into the mud races, the faster the population explosion, but economically they always sink down to their original subsistence level.
It was here at Aswan that I first noticed that whereas the native population of Cairo was a dark mud color, here in southern Egypt they were black as the ace of spades. They are identified as Nubians, having the kinky hair of a genuine nigger.
Be that as it may, as we drove from the airport to our hotel, we crossed over the Nile on the Lower Dam, a dam the British had built back in 1910 or thereabouts, an item that was news to me. This lower dam sits about four miles downstream from the High Dam and about 3 miles upstream from the town of Aswan itself.
When our bus arrived at Aswan we disembarked on the east shore of the Nile and immediately transferred ourselves and our belongings onto a motor ferry. This took us to Elephantine Island which sits in the Middle of the Nile and on the tip of which our hotel, the Aswan Oberoi, is located.
Here we encountered a bizarre situation. This lovely old hotel, the finest in Aswan, did not have our rooms ready. With all the baggage of our party of 18 stacked in the bar, we explored the lovely grounds of the hotel for about an hour and a half, then leaving our baggage behind, we again embarked on a tender, back to shore, back on the bus and back to the Aswan airport to fly to Abu Simbel, 168 miles to the south.
I said earlier that it was a hectic morning, what with the embarkation at the Cairo airport. Well, things got rougher and more drastic at our next embarkation into the air. Whereas the airport at Aswan was much smaller, of course, it made no concessions to Cairo whatsoever when it came to crowding, waiting and confusion. Our fearless leader advised us that this might be as good a place as any to eat our box lunches which we had brought with us from the hotel. This was no easy accomplishment, what with the smell, the crowding and the pandemonium. Some of us ate most of our lunch, and some did not. Some of us gave most of it to the native fellaheen who were scrounging for leftovers in an overfilled garbage can in the waiting room.
Anyway, after much of the same push and shove procedure we had encountered in Cairo, only more of it, after about 2 hours (at least) we were finally up in the air and off to Abu Simbel where sits one of the wonders of the world, The TEMPLE OF ABU SIMBEL.
There is a slogan in traveling that says something to the effect that getting there is half the fun. Well, this was hardly the case this Tuesday of February 14th. But when we got to Abu Simbel it was well worth it. This Temple, which was built by that powerful ego Ramses II for the glorification of Ramses II, was something to behold. Carved into solid sandstone on the west bank of the Nile some 3,300 years ago, it was and still is, a marvel to behold. I have more fully described its face and interior in last month’s essay and will therefore not repeat it.
What I did not mention is that nearby the Great Temple stands The TEMPLE OF HATHOR, also carved out of solid rock. This temple was also built by Ramses II for his wife Nefertari and dedicated to the goddess Hathor. Outside the temple on the face of the cliff are six large statues, four of the omniscient Ramses II and two of his wife, as well as smaller ones of their children. Inside, the Hypostyle Hall has a roof supported by six pillars topped with the head and face of the goddess Hathor.
Egypt can lay claim to roughly three major architectural and engineering marvels in three different eras of history. The first broad grouping is that of Ancient Egypt and the building of the pyramids, temples and other architectural wonders. This spans a period of several thousand years. The second marvel was the building of the Suez Canal by deLesseps in the 1880’s. The third, though of lesser accomplishment, was the High Dam at Aswan built by the Russians in the 1960’s, and has been highly trumpeted throughout the world.
However, I would like to add a fourth marvel that we witnessed at Abu Simbel that was a direct consequence of building the High Dam. That engineering marvel is the slicing of the Abu Simbel Temples, both the Ramses and the Hathor Temple, piece by piece and moving it to the top of the cliff, and re-assembling it in a condition that would almost defy detection from its original condition. We also got a good look at how this was done by American engineers and to the tune of American (taxpayer) money, 75 million dollars worth.
A huge concrete half dome was built at the top of the cliff into which the two temples were then moved, piece by numbered piece. The face of the dome was then reconstructed to resemble the natural face of the cliff, except where the faces of the two temples were exposed. The roof of the dome was then also covered with desert rocks and sand, blending it in perfectly with the rest of the rocky cliffs. Unless you walked into the dome through an obscure door to view the interior’s full size, its scaffolding and its machinery, you would never suspect that both temples had not stood on that same ground for the last 3,300 years.
We had ideal weather to view the temple and also the landscape as we flew back to Aswan, 168 miles to the north. We got a fine view of Lake Nasser (backed up by the High dam) and the bleak, barren desert that surrounded it on all sides; nothing but rocks and sand with ridges of low mountains interlacing the landscape.
Back at Aswan into the bus, across the Low Dam, into the tender, back to the Aswan Oberoi Hotel on Elephantine Island, we discovered that our rooms were now ready. After a sumptuous dinner we were now also ready for our rooms after a long, hectic, interesting and tiring day.
Wednesday February 15th. Our stay at the Oberoi was short — only one night. First thing Wednesday morning we transferred ourselves and our gear to one of the Sheraton cruise boats, which was to be our hotel for the next five days. Sheraton had several such specially designed behemoths to cruise the Nile, and ours was called the ATON, named after the monotheistic Pharaoh Ikhnaton’s one and only sun god. Having settled in, we were on the go again right after lunch. Our guide had chartered a felucca for the afternoon, navigated by a native fellaheen. A felucca is an ancient Egyptian sailboat with a gaff-headed sail, and they have been sailing the Nile without a change in design for thousands of years.
After a hectic trip to Abu Simbel the day before, this proved to be a most enjoyable and relaxing afternoon. We went to Kitchener’s Island and saw the beautiful gardens there that were a legacy of the British stamp on Egypt, which by the way, is considerable. We then embarked the felucca again and sailed to the opposite shore of the Nile to visit the Mausoleum of the Aga Khan. It is a beautiful Mausoleum, built by his wife and his son, sitting on a high hill overlooking the Nile. The dozens and dozens of feluccas looked like lovely white seagulls on the deep blue water below. In order to help make the climb up the hill to the Mausoleum, there were a number of those persuasive camel drivers again to meet us and greet us. My wife and I rented a camel and climbed aboard. Away we went up the steep hill with the driver leading the snorting and bellowing beast, with us hanging on to a precarious saddle that threatened to slip forward had we not been going up hill. After seeing the mausoleum we opted to walk back down the hill.
Back into the felucca, and with lovely calm weather, we drifted easily to the dock of the Old Cataract Hotel (circa 1880’s). We had tea and crumpets on the large veranda of this stately old hotel, which sits on a high hill overlooking the Nile. We had a commanding view of the cataracts, which are studded with tremendous smooth black boulders. After another delightful ride on the felucca we were back on the ATON.
We had dinner with a cocktail party that night. For entertainment we were favored with a program that featured an Egyptian belly dancer and four piece band that had its electric amplifier turned up very very loud.
Thursday, February 16th. Still at Aswan in the morning, we took a tour to the Aswan High Dam about 7 miles upstream. After seeing Hoover Dam, and some of the other gigantic concrete dams in the United States, the Russian built dam was a huge disappointment. It was a broad, long, ragged earth fill, 364 feet high and two miles long at the top. It created 300 mile long Lake Nasser, backing up to where it expands past the Egyptian border into the Sudan. Its waters have expanded Egypt’s cultivation by a third — an additional two million acres.
More impressive than the dam itself was the huge modernistic concrete monument the Russians built to commemorate the completion of the dam.
On the way back we stopped at a riverside dock and took a tender to an island located between the old and the new dam, on which stands the magnificent Temple of Philae. The oldest part dates back only to the 4th century B.C. and the remainder was built during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. It was magnificent and it was huge, and strangely enough, it too had been dismantled piece by piece from below the present water line and re-assembled to its present site on the small rocky island of Philae. This was done through the efforts and generosity of the Germans.
Before getting back to our cruise ship for lunch, we stopped at the granite quarries where we viewed (and walked on) a huge obelisk still in situ. It was 125 feet long and estimated to weigh 1,170 tons. It had been cut and shaped lying on its side with the bottom side still firmly anchored in its granite bed.
After lunch we set sail in the ATON to cruise down the Nile to Kom Ombo, where we stopped to view the temple of the same name. This temple, situated on a hill overlooking the Nile at a point where the river makes a bend is dedicated to the gods Harwar, a hawk-headed god, and Sobek, represented with the head of a crocodile. It seems that any idiotic caricature would serve as a god as well as any other in the minds of the gullible and superstitious ancients.
The fine reliefs throughout the temple were most impressive.
We were there only 30 minutes, then back to the ATON, and continued cruising down the Nile. This cruise was a relaxing and most welcome relief from the hectic pace we had been through. Not only relaxing, but most enjoyable. We sailed on well into the night and tied up at EDFU.
Friday, February 17th. In the morning we went ashore and boarded fancy horse drawn carriages, four people to a buggy. We drove a mile or so through the relatively large town of Edfu to the Temple of Horus.
As we drove through the streets, there were donkeys, dogs, water buffalos, camels, children and grownups in large numbers. Small stores, or more like bazaar type booths, lined the streets. Vendors were all over the place. Children ran alongside our carriages, but they were well behaved. Whereas in Haiti or Mexico in a similar situation a tourist is usually besieged with beggars, especially little children, this was not the case here. In fact, the few that did ask for a handout were quickly admonished by either their mothers or other children not to do so.
Arriving at the Temple of Horus we were presented with another huge and impressive temple begun in 237 B.C. by Ptolomaeus III. The front facade is massive and stands 117 feet high. At the entrance stands a sacred falcon colossus, carved out of granite.
Back to the ATON and on to Esna which is located only 30 miles south of Luxor. Here we disembarked again and went ashore.
It is fitting here to note how our cruise ship was specially designed for these Nile cruises. Some of these landing places have only the faintest semblance of a dock, others have none. So how does a large 4 deck cruiser accommodating 84 passengers manage to dock at such places as Esna where there is nothing but a sloping, rock studded embankment to dock at? Well, they thought of that item, too. The ship can push itself sideways by having water jets emitted below the water line, fore and aft. It also has large wooden booms, like telephone poles it can push out sideways, also fore and aft. As it sidles up alongside the bank, these booms are protruding on its side, sticking into the embankment and protecting the ship itself. The lines are then tied to convenient cleats on shore and there she sits. A wide gangplank is then lowered connecting the ship to the shore and the passengers are all set to disembark or board.
Another neat little feature about these ships is that the sides are flat and parallel and the ship is just the right width to fit through the several locks that impede its passage between Aswan and Cairo.
We disembarked at Esna and walked to the Temple of Khnum (the ram god). As I said before, any caricature will do for a god. Anyway, the temple was lovely and massive. It represented the Ptolemaic period of Egyptian history, although part of it was constructed much earlier by Thutmose III (1,500 B.C.).
The interesting feature about this temple is that it lies about 28 feet below the present level of the town. It sits in an excavated bowl and its foundation represents the level of the land at the time it was built. Archaeologists say there is much more to this complex, but since it is covered by 28 feet of top soil, and the town is built on it, no more excavations are contemplated.
We sailed on and arrived at the great city of Luxor that night. This city, which contains the most magnificent and greatest collection of all ancient Egyptian ruins, was the site of the ancient city of Thebes, the capital of Egypt at the height of its glory during the Middle and New Kingdoms.
Since we arrived at Luxor in the early evening, my wife and I took a walk down the street along the river bank to see a certain hotel. We had read much about a grand hotel built in Luxor during the 1880’s that had been the haunt of royalty and the elite, namely the Winter Palace Hotel. Seeing it now, a hundred years after its founding, it was still charming and stately, but definitely did not live up to its billings.
Saturday, February 18th. The weather was clear and beautiful. We got an early start and crossed the Nile in a crude motor launch to the west bank. A bus then took us to the Valley of the Kings, where we saw the tomb of Ramses VI, to the tomb of Tutankhamen and the tomb of Haremheb (19th Dynasty, 14th century B.C.).
Since I have already described these tombs and all the loot once buried there, in last month’s article about “Lessons from Egypt”, I will not repeat it here. All I can reiterate is — what a shameful waste!
That same morning we also visited the beautiful Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, which I have also described in last month’s essay. On our way back we stopped to take pictures of the two Colossi of Memnon, huge statues of solid stone.
By the time we arrived back for lunch at the ATON, it was the middle of the afternoon, during which we were able to take a well deserved rest.
That night, we were to enjoy another Sound and Light Program, this time at Karnak. It was considerably different from the one Monday night at the pyramids. Whereas at the pyramids we sat in our chairs and stayed put during the whole program, at Karnak we assembled as a huge standing mob at the entrance in front of the Avenue of the Ram-headed Sphinx. (They are reclining and lined up on each side, a total of 40. Originally, when this avenue extended all the way to Luxor Temple, there were a total of 124 of these magnificent statues.) The sound system then begins the show by giving us a dramatic script of the sacred solemnity of the place and occasion, then tells us to move on to the next area in this huge temple complex.
As we moved in the darkness from one area to another to the accompaniment of dialogue and music, after about half an hour we reached an elevated grandstand. This was temporarily semi-lighted until the people were seated, then the show went on. The grandstand provided an overall view of the layout of the whole complex, including the Sacred Lake, which reflected the huge monuments as the lights played on one, then another.
It, too, was impressive, but the Sound and Light program at the Pyramids was still the finest.
Sunday, February 19th. Another clear beautiful day. In the morning we visited the Temple of Karnak by horse carriage to see the great Temple of Amon-Ra at Karnak, where we had viewed the program of Sound and Light the evening before. Then on to the Temple of Luxor in the heart of the city. These two great temples, the Luxor Temple and the Temple of Karnak, are about three miles apart. In ancient times when Thebes was at its height, these two were one continuous complex connected by the impressive Avenue of Sphinxes. Less than a century ago the Temple of Luxor was covered under a hill of rubble and hovels.
That afternoon we flew back to Cairo and the Ramses Hilton Hotel.
Monday, February 20th. There are over 500 mosques in Cairo. In the morning we visited three of the most famous Mohammedan mosques. The first one was the Mosque of Ahmed Ibn Tulun where King Farouk and some of his forebearers are buried. The whole complex was beautiful indeed, displaying the best in ancient Moslem architecture. Everywhere you looked it was very ornate. Lacy grillwork, Islamic inscriptions, gold plating, jewel encrusted decorations everywhere.
The second mosque was in The Citadel, a large military enclosure erected by Saladin during the Third Crusade. Soldiers and guards were everywhere, as they were at all government buildings in Cairo since the 1973 war. Located in the Citadel also is the Muhammad Ali Mosque, which we visited. Buried here is the Shah of Iran, whose tomb we also viewed although the Shah’s family has discouraged public viewing of his grave.
We then visited the Khan el Khalili Bazaar, an interesting experience. Although not as large as the one we had visited at Istanbul eleven years ago, it is of considerable higher quality.
In the afternoon, we visited the Cairo Museum, and viewed with special interest the 3,500 pieces of rich artifacts from the tomb of Tutankhamen. Since I have already covered these in last month’s article, I will not repeat the description of this most amazing collection.
Except for formalities, goodbyes, airports and travel back home, that completes this exotic journey into the Land of the Ancient Pharoahs.
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In last month’s observations I summed up the impact of the astounding Egyptian culture and civilization on its own people and the world at large. Because Egypt’s achievements in the cultural, religious and architectural areas were so unique and spectacular, I chose to describe those architectural and archaeological wonders in this, the second installment, because to have done so in reverse order would have been anticlimactic.
There are a few other observations about modern Egypt that I need to add, however.
One is about their money. The Egyptian unit of money is the Egyptian pound (designated as L.E.) divided into 100 piasters. An official travel book put out by FODOR’S in 1984 stated that anyone staying over 48 hours must exchange at least $150 U.S. at the airport. This, I found to be incorrect. However, since we were stranded and on our own at the airport, I figured that we would have to have taxis, baksheesh and various other sundries to contend with, so I immediately exchanged $100 U.S. at one of the many official exchange windows, for which I received L.E. 81. Whereas the official rate of exchange is somewhere around 1 L.E. to $1.22 U.S., actually the Egyptians themselves have little or no faith in their own money, and most of the shops, vendors, etc., would gladly take American dollars on a one for one basis for their merchandise. Furthermore, if you have any Egyptian money left over when ready to leave the country, you might as well spend it on anything, or give it away, because you cannot reconvert it back to U.S. dollars. Nobody wants it. The Egyptians have absolutely no faith in their own money, and for good reason.
The fact is, the Egyptian economy is rotten, weak and tottering, without any solid economic base. It will collapse as soon as American subsidies (carried on the shoulders of American taxpayers) are withdrawn.
The second observation is about the Nile and present day Egyptian agriculture.
The Aswan High Dam has been highly touted as a modern engineering wonder, and the benefits Egypt will derive therefrom are presumably manifold, such as 2 million more acres under cultivation, billions of kilowatts of electric power, etc. Yet, it is my conclusion that the dam will prove to be a disaster, in several ways.
For thousands of years the Nile flooded its banks and deposited its rich mineral-laden silt on the farm lands. This kept the land watered and fertile forever, its fertility being renewed each year. Now, with 300 mile long Lake Nasser and structural and controlled irrigation, the following disastrous consequences are developing:
1. Much of the water evaporates in the formerly dry desert climate of Upper Egypt. The water coming down the Nile now has a higher saline content (as does our own Colorado River by the time it reaches the Imperial Valley of California).
2. Through controlled irrigation, rather than the former flooding, the salt content builds up in the soil over a period of years and will poison the formerly eternally fertile oasis.
3. The mineral-rich silt will no longer be deposited on the soil, but will eventually fill Lake Nasser with mud.
4. The climate has been changed into one much more humid, which will hasten the destruction of her many marvelous historical monuments, as too, of course, will the acrid fumes of modern industry.
5. The farmers there too, have been snookered into using large quantities of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, as have American farmers.
6. Between the controlled irrigation and the wide use of chemical fertilizers the eternally fertile Valley of the Nile is being poisoned into extinction.
Briefly, I will recapitulate.
A. The great Egyptian race of Ancient Egypt was a unique breed of men and produced the first great White civilization (emphasis on the great). It died because they had a bad religion, one that was obsessed with life in a non-existent hereafter, obsessed with a world of non-existent spooks.
B. Long before Christianity raised its destructive Jewish head, the Egyptians had already invented every fictitious concept later used and copied by Judaism and Christianity. Some of these fictitious concepts were: the existence of a “soul” that supposedly lived forever; gods and spooks, both “good” and “evil”; polytheism, and also monotheism; a murky netherworld and a “hereafter”; rewards and punishments to be meted out in the hereafter; vast material sacrifices and monuments to their fictitious gods; baptism (ablution) and cleansing by water; the practice of circumcision as a religious rite; and a host of other spurious ideas that derailed the mind into an insane spooky world of make-believe.
C. Had they paid more attention to preserving their wonderful genetic qualities, their gene pool, instead of fiddling around with spooks that weren’t there, the history of not only Egypt, but of the world, would be a marvel to behold.
D. Had they had a racial religion such as CREATIVITY, that wonder would today be a reality.
E. Since they did not, they became mongrelized and degenerate. Their present population is one of the most pathetic on the face of the earth, embarked on a runaway population explosion to disaster, with the help of U.S. subsidization.
F. Let the history of Egypt be a serious object lesson not only to our own CREATIVITY movement, but to the White Race as a whole. Let us remember once and for all, the ULTIMATE HORROR is the MONGRELIZATION of the WHITE RACE, and that without a racial religion, the Ultimate Horror is now rapidly engulfing the world.
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Because they, the Egyptians, pursued a course of careless dementia, they lost their most precious treasure — their genes.
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Remember, also, just as you cannot reverse an omelet back into a perfect egg, so, too, is mongrelization forever an irreversible process.
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Let us never forget that the DIVINE SEED of the once great Egyptian White Race was lost forever because it did not possess a racial religion such as CREATIVITY constitutes. Because they were instead obsessed with fictitious abstractions about gods, spirits and spooks, their precious genes were mongrelized into the shameful mess that is now their sorry plight.
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