This morning we woke up at 7:30 a.m. and rented some bicycles to go see some of the ancient Egyptian wonders situated across the river. We took our bikes and jumped on the ‘locals ferry’ which cost each of us 50 pts (US$.15) to cross the Nile. We started riding down the asphalt through the desert panting and sweating due to the heat of the day (already). I shall never forget riding past this local’s house where a donkey was sitting in the sun in the courtyard out front. The master, an Egyptian woman dressed head to foot in black with only her hands and eyes showing, was pulling on the donkey’s rope to try to get it to go sit in the shade. The woman had a friend with her, dressed exactly the same, who was also pulling away on this rope to get the donkey to move. It was getting oppressively hot and if the donkey had sat in the sun for a while it probably would have died from the heat, hence the reason the women were so determined to get the donkey in the shade – donkeys are expensive. The master then picked up her small switch and began whipping the donkey in an attempt to get the thing to stand up. She sat there and whipped the thing on the snout, and the donkey’s only response was to bray loudly in protest. She beat it some more but didn’t get anything more than some more brays out of the animal. She then left her assistant holding the donkey’s rope and walked around to the hind quarters of the animal. She bent down and physically lifted up the donkey’s butt trying to get it up. The donkey didn’t move, and he was so heavy than after holding it up for a few seconds the woman dropped the donkey to the ground again. It was so funny seeing these ‘eyes’ doing this feat dressed head to toe in black. We rode off leaving the woman to do her body squats with the donkey. She’ll have some awesome back muscles if she keeps it up!
We rode a good distance to the Valley of the Kings to have a look at some of the tombs Mr. Carver unearthed before finding Tutankham’s tomb. We went into three of them, each very, very deep in the earth. We had to climb down these totally narrow staircases (or sometimes chicken ladders) to get into the bellows of the tomb. Each was magnificently painted with the most brilliant murals on the walls. It’s hard to imagine the Egyptians were so advanced that they could come up with such great colors for their paints. Plus, they were so intricately painted – the detail incredible. The only thing about these tombs is that it was HOT. It was super hot outside – we all almost lost it during the ride up the hill into the valley, but these tombs were pushing that level of heat as well. We went through a few tombs, each with an Egyptian man outside to make sure we didn’t take any photos inside without giving him some baksheesh. Tutankham’s tomb was ‘Closed for Renovation’, but I hear it’s been like that for quite some time while the Egyptians try to figure out what to do with it.
Bicycled from the Valley and stopped at the first Coke vendor we could find. Actually he was an old man outside this tourist shop situated in the middle of nowhere – hot and desolate all around. This man had a portable cooler of cold cokes and because of his isolated location he could charge us whatever price he wanted. We each paid him the E£1.00 (US$.33) and pounded our Cokes. When we were done we returned the bottles to the man, and I guess he was having some sort of guilt trip about over charging us, for now the going rate on three Cokes was E£1.00. We each had another Coke then mounted our bikes for the next leg of our journey.
Rode over to the Deir el bahri (Hatshepsut to you and me) temple, which one usually sees on some of the ‘Visit Egypt’ travel posters. From a distance it looks really good, but when we got up close we noticed it was mostly restored and you couldn’t do anything but walk around in front of it, so we weren’t too stoked on it.
Back on the bikes to go to our next stop, the Ramesseum, a half standing Egyptian temple. It sits off the main road and, although it is technically a ruin a lot of it is still intact. You get a real feel for how large the thing really was. It was interesting walking through it and being able to appreciate the time and effort put into the carvings and paintings. They do that for ALL temples in this country, though. We rested in the shade of a large tree in the Ramesseum complex just enjoying being there. We were in the shadow of an Egyptian monument with desert all around us, and it was pleasant in the shade so we just sat and enjoyed it.
After our rest we rode back to the ferry port and caught the boat across (after the dude tried to overcharge us for the ride). Wandered back to the hotel to rest during the heat of the afternoon then got ready to go over to the nearby Karnak temple that evening to see the son et lumiere (supposedly the best one in Egypt). Got over to the temple but they wanted E£18.00 (the equivalent price as our hotel room) to get in so we walked back to the markets and had dinner. After dinner we wandered some more and Sarah got sucked into a silver shop and bought a couple of Bedouin silver bracelets for a really cheap price. There were these French people in there when we entered and they’d just negotiated the price so Sarah said she wanted the same price. Good job. I went and negotiated for a small cotton backpack to put in my pack – I think I finally ended up paying E£3.00 for the thing. Wandered a bit more then headed back to the hotel to crash out – we were moving again tomorrow.