Walking on the Land of the Nile.
Arrival to Cairo Airport. Chaos is not a word strong enough to describe the terminal. Bad news: Due to the Pope's visit to Egypt, we cannot stay at Hilton, and we are transferred for the night at a four star hotel. Four stars, my cats butt. I'd rather forget about this night.
Joke of the day: If the Pope visits Cairo museum, he may be mistaken for one of the mummies.
Worried sick about my kitty…
Day 2 – Luxor-
Woke up at 04:00 to get to the Airport for our flight to Luxor, where we will meet our cruise ship for the Nile cruise.
The ship, The Nile emerald, is a relief after first night's rathole. After leaving our bags at the cabin, our guide, a local guy named Mohamed and the three of us, my friend Helen, her mother Maria and I go for a walk at the town of Luxor.
Luxor is sited at the banks of the Nile, and once was the capital city of Egypt. As we walk through the streets, we meet dark skinned people in kelembies, their local dress (for men). The air is fresh and as we approach the commercial area I can detect the scents of fresh coffee, horses and spices in the air.
We arrive at a local bank to exchange some money. At the other side of the street I first see tourist shops with souvenirs. There are so many Gods and Goddesses statues! And countless cats statues! I start to wonder if I have enough money with me…
After a visit to the Luxor museum, we stroll through the local flee market. Two things you need to know for moving around in Egypt: You have to tip everyone (taxi drivers, guides, etc) and when buying something you have to bargain for it. Both are customs to Egypt and cannot (and should not) skip either.
I bought two papyrus drawings, one with Bast in Her cat form, and another one with Shekmet, this one to give to a friend. And got another small as a gift with Annubis.
Later on, after calling home to check on my cat, and discovering that my mother have messed up again, we visit a statue shop. I bought a marvelous cathead carved on lapis lazuli and a cat statue of basalt. The second one is depicting a mother cat breastfeeding her three kittens. I suspect I was robbed in this one, but I was captivated by this image. Price for both: 35 US dollars.
After dinner, we meet our other guide, the one who would come with us on the cruise and guide us through the sightseeing. He's also named Mohamed, and he has studied Egyptology for nine years. Off we go to the temple of Carnac.
On the way, I impress him for the first time. He asks if we have any knowledge of Egyptian mythology, and I tell him for my research on Bast. By the way, no one knows I'm pagan there, which makes my life a bit more complicated.
The Temple of Carnac is astonishing. As we walk through the high pillars, decorated by carved hieroglyphics and Divine images, I pick up a white feather. It may be a pigeon feather, but I feel it may be from an Ibis. The ibis is the symbol of Tut (or Thoth) and is as common in Egypt as pigeons are in Athens (and elsewhere).
I hoped I could get a drop from the sacred lake water from the temple, but is off reach…
Later that night we go back to the temple for the Light and Sound show. It starts from the Temple entrance, and as we walk through the temple the statues and pillars are illuminated. I get a little distance between my friends and myself for a private moment.
I feel I walk the same way as the ancient priests walked during their rituals thousands of years ago. On the way, every pillar speaks to me: "Behold, I'm the reminder of a King long dead, placed here to bare witness of glorious battles and mystical rituals, in the name of the ancient Ones, the Ones who walked this land before time begun…"
At the Hall of Pillars, I feel tremendous energy in me. I try to ground, placing my hands on a pillar, only to get more energy back in. And so I gather all the energy I'm receiving, and try to send it home, to my sick kitten, with a silent prayer to the Guardians of the Temple to keep her safe.
If you visit Egypt, do not miss this experience. It has been the highlight of my journey and a truly magickal night.
Day 3 – Valley of the Kings-
Crossing the bridge of Luxor we found ourselves in front of Hatsepsut Temple. She was a great queen, and after her death her son in law who succeeded her tried to erase her memory from all the monuments.
Next stop the Valley of Kings. In the cafeteria at the entrance I see my first Egyptian cat. A pregnant one with an attitude…
The tombs are wonderfully decorated. But there are so many tourist groups around, that our walk is blocked every couple of meters. We did not see Tutankhammun tomb. It is the smallest one and the least interesting one, aside from the curse.
We also visit the alabaster factory on our way back to the ship. We are shown how the sculptors shape the stone, following the ancient techniques. I buy an alabaster cat as a present for my vet and a statue of Bast in her human form with the head of a cat.
I impress our guide once more. He shows me a statue of Shekmet, telling me "This is the Lion Headed Goddess", and I replied that I know Shekmet. He is astonished that I even know Her name…. He's more impressed when I tell him that I know of the "Uzait" or Utchat", the "eye of Horus", that is. Especially when I tell him that when it's depicted with cats in it, it stands as a symbol of fertility.
Back to the ship and the cruise begins.
The landscape is amazing. Palm trees on each bank, ibises and seagulls flying around… But unfortunately no crocodiles. These are found even more south.
DAY 4 –Etfu-
On the forth day we visit the temple of Horus at Etfu. At the entrance there is a giant falcon statue. The first thing that came to my mind on seeing it was Tweety bird: "I think I thaw a puthycat". I hope the God was not offended…
The temple is the best preserved one in Egypt. It has also been vandalized by the Christians who converted it to a Christian Church once, and tried to erase the faces of the Deities and humans depicted on the walls.
On our way out I pick another feather. I hardly think it's a falcon feather, more like a sparrow's, but I had to take it…
Back on the ship, we wait for the den's gate to be fixed.
DAY 5 –Komombo and Aswan-
Placed by the banks of the Nile, the Temple of Comombo is dedicated both to Horus and to Sobek, the Crocodile Headed God. Inside it, many crocodile mummies were found along with a pit where the sacred crocodiles were kept. The temple itself has suffered again the vandalizing of the Christians who converted to a church once.
I was hoping of seeing live crocodiles, but they never appear nowadays this far north…
Later that day we reach Aswan, which is the end of the cruise. Our first visit is the Island of Philae, above Aswan's Den. Located on this island is the Temple of Isis.
We go there by boat. On our way, we see the old location of the Temple. It used to be half way under water, but the Egyptian Government moved it stone by stone to its new location. Despite the relocation and the tourists who fool around, this is a place of great power.
On our way back to shore, I reach down and dip my fingers in the water. I secretly touch my forehead with the Nile water, anointing myself, while whispering a blessing. Not much of a ritual, but it was the best I could do under the circumstances.
Next stop is a place where a half-finished obelisk was found. I pick up a piece of pink granite as a souvenir. (I was allowed to do so).
In a discussion with our guide, it seems that I can find a sistrum in the local market. But my plans are canceled, since my friends are both ill and I'd rather not walk alone in a strange city at night.
DAY 6 –Back to Cairo-
Next day we fly back to Cairo. I get to sit by a window, and I can enjoy the view of the desert. It is absolutely magnificent. There is the Nile, spreading across the land like a blue royal Cobra. Next to the Nile there are just a few hundred meters of fertile land. And beyond those, miles and miles of sand. Grey sand, silver sand, golden sand, crimson sand, and in the edge of the horizon, blue sand – just a reflection of the sea.
At Cairo we find out that there's no time to visit Alexandria, and so, I do not get to see Bubastis. It is located on the Delta, somewhere between, Cairo and Alexandria. I hope I'll see it next time.
After settling in at the hotel, we go for a walk at Cairo streets. It looks much like Athens, apart from the fact that most women are wearing scarves that fully cover their hair. It is really strange, seeing young teenage couples to walk hand in hand and the girl to have her hair covered. It is expected that men will look strange to us, especially since both my friend and I have long hair.
The night starts to get cold and we head back to the hotel for a hot cup of tea. I like the desert weather. At nights, I cannot seem to be able to feel worm. As I recall, even back home, high temperatures never affected me. But cold I cannot tolerate.
DAY 7 –Cairo : the Pyramids, the Sphinx and the Kan El Khalili marketplace
We start early for the pyramids. They are located very close to the city. No words can describe them. I hope the pictures I've taken can display some of their wonder…
We are too late for entering the Great one. Some kind of restoration is being done, and only 140 visitors per day are allowed. But we go inside the smaller one.
Going down to the burial chamber is like a descent to Hell. We walk down a narrow corridor, on a floor that has no steps, just rails to help you stabilize your feet. The air is stale and oppressive, and there's not enough room to stand up. You have to walk down bend in the middle. It's really claustrophobic down there, just thinking of the tons of stone above you. The place gives out the sense of death. Not a place for people with heart problems…
Next stop the Sphinx. Another place of great power. Again, no words can describe this site. But there's another story that comes to mind. Do you know the comic hero Asterix? In the book describing his adventures in Egypt, there's a funny theory on what happened to the Sphinx's nose….
After the Sphinx, we visit a local store of essential oils. I feel like a kid in Disneyland! I want to buy all of them, since they are absolutely pure and relatively cheap. Finally, I settle to six: lotus, Lavender, sandalwood, orange blossom, jasmine and a mix called secret of the desert, which is supposed to be aphrodisiac when worn. Like if I'm ever going to need it… Once again, I impress another guide. The sales manager at this store tells us how the ancients used to use their oils. They placed one drop on each side of the neck, for luck and love, and a third one … Where? He asks. In the forehead, on the third eye, for long life, I answer. He asks me if I was an Egyptian in a previous life. (I probably was, but as I suspect, not in a human form).
After a visit to a leather store, in which I had absolutely no interest in, and lunch, we visit the famous flea market of Kan El Khalili. Goddess, what a disappointment! Apart from its size, it has no difference from the flea markets in Athens. If someone has visited Greece, the flea market of plaka is just the same. And I cannot find a sistrum. Nevertheless, I buy some cute crystal vials to put oils in. On thing I enjoyed there were the cats. Many kitties running around, all well fed and friendly. The practiced eye of a cat-lover could detect small bowls of catfood near every store. I ask a guy in a store about the great number of cat statues being sold. He told me that Egyptians love cats very much. If he told me the truth, then Bast is still worshipped in Egypt…
Day 8 -Cairo museum and home-
Next day we are supposed to leave at 13:00 from the hotel. Enough time for a visit to the museum.
Another disappointment…. It takes us one hour just to get in. Security checks over and over again, and an enormous crowd waiting to get inside. The exhibits are astonishing. Images of Shekmet guard the stairs to the second floor, where the Tutankhamun treasure is kept. The jewelry and the mask are more than beautiful, and his sarcophagus whispers the story of a young king long dead…
But I never got to see the royal mummies. I have to pay an extra forty pounds to get to this section of the museum, but I've run out of Egyptian money, they do not accept US dollars or credit cards. But as we walk around the various halls, I feel drown to one. Inside it there are shelves of Gods and Goddesses statues. One entire self is for Bast. There are so many statues of Her! In Her feline form, as a woman with a cat's head, as a mother cat who breastfeeds her kittens… I'm deeply touched, but time runs short and we have to go.
After a three hours delay of the flight, I'm finally home. Earlier that day, I had leaned over Bastet's statues, hoping She'd talk to me. Deep in my heart, I had hoped that She would make Her presence known to me in Egypt. But as I opened my front door, there She was, in the happy eyes of my kitties who waited for me at the door. I should have known better: the Divine Ones have no limitations of earthly borders. All the time I searched for Her in Egypt, she was waiting for me purring on my bed…
March 15, 2000