Monday, April 30, 2007

Egypt - 3 : The Nile Cruise

The final part of our trip .. and a last ditch attempt to complete the measly three posts in the same month. Weekends have been terribly busy with guests at home, and time is flying as usual.

The Nile Cruise is one of the most common features on trips to Egypt. Only after getting there did we realize just how common it is. Like most typical tourists we went on a cruise between Luxor and Aswan. This is one of the most popular routes since the there are many well preserved temples en-route and it makes for interesting stops. There are nearly 300 cruise boats which ply on this route. This means that while the cruise is docked they literally park parallel to each other and sometimes you have to cross multiple ships to get to your ship - like in this picture where there are four ships together. The worst though is the for people who are on the ships in between and can't even leave their curtains drawn since they can literally climb through their neighbours window - its that close. And if that was not disheartening enough, since the distance between Luxor and Aswan is not a lot, most of the time on the cruise is spent 'docked' rather than 'cruising'.

With all the negatives out of the way, it was still a lot of fun. We visited lots of interesting temples. Most of the temples were breath-taking in their size and intricacy especially when you think of it in perspective of how old they are. Not for a minute did I get bored, though even till the end I had little idea of the chronology of the rulers of Egypt and had totally mixed up their pantheon of gods. Our guide explained some of the theories behind how Obelisks were made to stand and how carvings were done of such high walls, am not sure if they are accurate, but they made for interesting listening.

Luxor was definitely the most interesting of the places along the Nile. Apart from being the site of the largest temple complexes - Karnak Temple, I was most fascinated by the Valley of the Kings. I could not imagine a place so barren - such an apt representation of death. The tombs were also striking especially the vivid colours of elaborate paintings, most in their original forms without restoration seemed surreal. Photography is not allowed inside, but they would have made great pictures.

One of the things which disturbed me was how many of the beautiful carvings had been destroyed by chiselling away of the features. This was a common theme across most of the temples we visited. From what the guide told us, as Christianity spread there was an intolerance by the Christian population for Paganism. The Christians wanted to spread the message of one 'God' and this resulted in removing the features of the 'many' gods represented on the ancient carvings. When Christianity became the official religion in three hundred something AD, the minority Christian population set about destroying tombs, carvings and burnt a library of papyrus scripts. What struck out in this story was the vicious destruction of beauty and the intolerance of another religion. To me it just seems so unacceptable. So much worse than when the Romans ruled Egypt and painted over their temple walls (a layer on top of the existing sculptures) with pictures of themselves. Atleast all that beauty remained below; it was not destroyed, just covered temporarily. It filled me with a certain helpless anger that people could get away with destruction in the name of religion. Someone mentioned that you feel similarly when you visit Rome and see so many beautiful ancient gods 'beheaded' because they represented the local pagan beliefs. It just makes me so angry and so sad at one level. I suppose it is things like this which makes me stay away from anything religious. Below is a picture of a carving that is intact and one that is destroyed. Not sure if it is clear enough to illustrate what I have been trying to describe.

To end on a less serious note. Here are some other random pictures. In all it was a lovely trip and I highly recommend Egypt to anyone considering a holiday there.

We cruised for a very short while. It was lovely when we did. This is a view of the banks of the Nile as we went along

A horse carriage one takes to get to Edfu Temple. Very stinky!!

Luxor Temple. The bigger, Karnak temple, has a famous Sound & Light show.


Beks said...

I feel apologetic on behalf of Christians everywhere, though I'm sure if anyone who did the defacing knew I was feeling apolgetic, they'd be wanting to deface me:D

30in2005 said...

It looks wonderful and though so many people have highly reccomended it, it seems to be one place we never have the chance to visit. YOur detailed descriptions have been wonderful to read - I feel the power of virtual travel!!!

Southways said...

Hey we are finally going to Egypt tonight. Cant wait!! Why are you not blogging??????

Beks said...

Ok time up. New blog post required. Stat.