Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Gardener's Travelogue First Stop-Egypt

First stop  -  Egypt.

Thank God we had both been on the extended luxury tour of Egypt at
other times in our lives, or else this whirlwind, greatest- hits visit would have never been sufficient….  
 We can’t quite figure out what they saw in the King Tut exposition in Times Square that has been drawing crowds for eight months  because everything really extraordinary is still right there in the dilapidated dingily fabulous old Cairo Museum.  Even without any lighting and crates of antiquities piled slapdashedly about — the gold, the grandeur, the King Tuttiness of it all is just breathtaking.  I won’t go on and on about Egypt because there are libraries of books about Egypt and everyone has already seen a thousand pictures of the pyramids in Giza (well, here’s a few anyway) 

and Karnak in Luxor.  
What we did have in Egypt was the most fabulous guide imaginable who brought every legend to life with stories and pantomimes…I strongly suggest that if Egypt is on your itinerary of future places to go…to definitely see it with him and no one else.  His name is HANY, he is based in Alexandria, he is a wry, sly, tall, stylized Egyptian  and you will thank me……Alex City Travel.

This is Sekhmet…vying to be my favorite god, even
though I am generally a dog girl

And aside from some tatty and tired out old palm trees
And one white-trunked extremely gracious tree at a fancy Giza hotel
There was only one interesting gardening allusion in Egypt and in order to appreciate it, you really needed a stretch of faith
But it was much more believable that The Burning Bush that we encountered the next day in the Sinai after a 3 ½ hour ride parallel to the Nile and through the Sahara to get to St. Catherine’s monastery.
Unbeknownst to us, November 25th just happened to be the feast day of St. Catherine, so we were not the only ones to trek through the desert…let’s just consider the jostling and the crowds a pilgrimage of sorts.
We couldn’t see much of the Church (and of course no pictures, just like in the Egyptian tombs and other sacred places) except for the glittering ostrich-egg crystal chandeliers, but the little museum upstairs is filled with glorious gilded icons and several codexes (codeci?) that were fragile and magnificent.
St. Catherine’s Monastery is said to be built upon the very same mountain from which Moses carried the tablets.  No one seems to know exactly which mountain it might be, but maybe this one?
The overland part of the journey had almost ended, but on the return to Safaga (the port of Sharm el Sheikh)  we stopped somewhere totally fact,  Dahab you could say has sprung up out of nowhere but is clearly the invention of some smart developer has definitely been to Miami Beach.  There were three infinity pools…three!
And in these pools were all sorts of bathing costumes…
  Now it was time to board our very nice ship, the
Aegean Odyssey, more like a big yacht than a huge scary 
“cruise ship” and we were very pleased with our trappings
And even though we travelled with ubiquitous all-look-alike rolly-wheely suitcases because the nice luggage that once was a hallmark of voyaging in style has been relegated to the closet or made use of as a bedside table
 because there is simply no one to help you carry them anymore,  but we were extremely pleased with the young classical
scholars who were on board to assist us…
Under an almost full moon on the Red Sea our little ship left Egypt
surrounded by masses of white birds against the inky dark waves which were a slightly different black than the night sky.  It was really thrilling and the next morning we made our way through The Suez  Canal surrounded by all
sorts of seagoing stimulating things
Though we were actually going the other way and leaving Egypt

There were many instances of coexistence between the Western World and the Near East,  old and new civilizations, Christians and Muslims.  This was an especially poignant one on the banks of the Suez Canal just as we were leaving it and entering the Mediterranean



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