Ancient Wonders of Egypt
 
We began our exploration of the incredible wonders of the ancient world in Luxor by descending the tombs of the Valley of Kings (where King Tut’s treasures were found).  Seeing ancient monuments, tombs and temple complexes on both the east and west bank of the Nile in Luxor was like watching the illustrations from the pages of our primary school history books come to life before our eyes.  As young children, we had both seen countless illustrations, cartoons and photo recreations of the impossible structures that the pharaohs of Egypt built to instill awe and fear in the minds of any observer.  Five thousand years later, they are still achieving their goal.
 
The scale of some of the monuments are mind boggling – a pair of 100 foot tall obelisks each carved out of a single piece of granite quarried many kilometers away; temples and buildings that would dwarf some modern office building built out of solid limestone blocks; enormous funeral complexes dug hundreds of feet into cliffs and mountains; and of course the countless pyramids--and not just those of Giza but the literally dozens of gigantic pyramids that dot the topology of Egypt.  
 
Beyond the scale, we were pleasantly surprised by the real beauty, intricacy and emotional qualities that were part of many of the granite and limestone sculptures. In some of the temples, we were still able to see parts of very colorful completely painted facades – thousands of years after they had been painted.
 
We concluded our time in Luxor sailing down the Nile on a felucca, snacking on classic Egyptian food while watching the juxtaposition of ancient and modern practices on the shores.
 
In Cairo, one of the highlights was visiting the dizzying Egyptian Museum, with its hundreds of thousands of artifacts, mostly piled unlabeled on floors and shelves of rooms labeled with little more than a number and no corresponding guide.  While there are supposedly plans to move the collection to a brand new modern museum, I’m sure some of the joy of literally getting lost amidst piles of ancient rubble will be lost in a well-organized and well-presented museum.
 
The Pyramids of Giza – a tourist attraction that has mesmerized visitors for thousands of years.  While we had both seen photos and documentaries about how these feats of engineering prowess were constructed, we were completely awe-struck thinking about the scale of these buildings.  The pyramids are the size of mountains – seemingly more a geological formation in terms of their scale, than something man-made, but they are constructed out of solid rock, built up from millions of enormous limestone blocks.  When the sun is shining off of the still smooth top of the largest pyramid, you can almost imagine seeing the gold alloy casing that has long since been stolen or eroded that covered its peak.
 
We descended into the pyramids early in the morning, before the rush of tourists, left largely by ourselves to ponder the enormity of the pharaohs’ task and the longevity of their legacy.
Ancient Wonders of Egypt
May 6th - 12th, 2007
Luxor and Cairo, Egypt
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