Monday, May 31, 2010

I'm on a boat

This last week has been a blur. Apologies for not staying up to date but we have gone from the very northern end in Alexandria all the way to Lake Nasser in the south via train. We just trained it back to Cairo and are now finishing this whirlwind vacation at a resort by the Red Sea.
Alexandria was a very classy town. The people were much better mannered than Cairo. It was also older and the romance of the sea seemed to bring out a lighter side of folks. Interestingly enough I got some of my best people shots there, mostly of couples and families. The lack of public displays of affection that I have grown accustomed to between mix genders (not to be confused with the heterosexual “bro-mance” which runs rampant through this region) was completely shot as Alexandria appeared to be quite the romantic destination for Muslim and Arab couples of all ages. The hotel was very nice, as was the full glass of milk that I had at it.
We got to see the fort of Alexandria in which stood the lighthouse (one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, no longer standing) as well as the new Library of Alexandria. For a nerd such as myself, this was an epic sight to behold, and I am I am going to try to change my study abroad from Jordan Spring 2011, to Alexandria 2011. I got to link up with my Arabic teacher from the last year, Sarah and met her cousins and mother. That was a treat as well, and I will meet some of her other family shortly.
After Alexandria we got back to Cairo, and then got on a train for twelve hours to Aswan (the most southern real city in Egypt.) We saw the High Dam, which symbolized Nasser’s control of Egypt, played tons of political significance in ensuring his power, and tamed the Nile. As alluded to in previous posts we were on a cruise ship for 3 nights. This we took from Aswan to Luxor, visiting temples and tombs along the way. Every night we were in port I got to venture to a local café and continue my loyalty to the water-pipe. Shisha (the tobacco smoked from these aka hookah) is the best in the middle east. Were I in Maine, I am certain I would have lobster every night, Hawaii: fruits, Egypt: shisha. In luxor a big soccer game was on for the Egypt cup, so I went to a local café and made friends-in Arabic. It was really nice to just relax on the boat, get a little sun, and watched the Nile lazily passing by. My affinity for boats under sail also grew when we got to take a Felucca around the nile. Imagine a wide sailboat with an odd rigging for river running. It was glorious. I also managed to convince the captain to let me take a dip in the nile-2 km south of the High dam. This was really dumb as I lost the rope and drifted a bit for the boat to come pick me up. All that time treading water in swim lessons, gym, and ROTC came in handy. Regardless it was still really cool, as I have now swam at both ends of the Nile. (side note-Discovery channel does a pretty neat Imax about rafting the Nile from start to finish, passing by many of the areas we did).
The Valley of the Kings in Luxor contained the burial chambers for 60 kings. Admission ticket allows entrance into three. (King Tut’s had a huge line, and I had seen all the treasure in the Museum) I do not remember the three I went in, but it was definitely a bit of an odd feeling. In the last tomb, which was 1km deep, I was the only one in it. I kept checking over my shoulder to see a mummy running at me selling cheap tourist trinkets. The intricate drawings on the tombs and then the other temples we saw we interesting, but then tend to blend together. Seeing some of the old temples still brings awe as they are huge and no modern tools were used to build them.
In terms of safety the Israeli raid on a Gaza bound flotilla has been on our minds. However we are safe, and keeping our eyes open. I have full trust and confidence in our leadership. Our security has been strengthened (right now I am sitting next to a federal judge who is coming to the beach with us) so we will be fine and there is no cause for alarm. I hope the situation gets sorted out soon though.
Just less than a week left till I am back in the land of cheese curds and beer. The other day I had a McDonalds chocolate shake which ought to hold over my American fix. This has been a fantastic trip and I am hoping to end it with a safe bang. So far that looks like a fishing expedition at the Red Sea. If I find Nemo, I will let you know.

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