EGYPT – A LAND OF GHOSTS
The Sphinx and the Great Pyramid of Giza rest close to one another at the edge of the Sahara Desert and the outskirts of Cairo
Egypt not only capitalizes on its culture and history, it revels in it.
The old and the new live side by side here, a physical and spiritual culture of pharaohs and kings, and a contemporary population whose past is tightly linked to its economic future.
For, in this arid country of blowing sand and vast cities, you can’t escape the past. It clings to you at every corner of its ancient temples, stares at you from every doorway of its tombs and monuments. It speaks to you from the obelisks, pyramids, from along the Nile River and from the rolling desert hills that still conceals their timeless mysteries.
And no place reflects this more than the majestic ruins of Karnak on the shores of the Nile in the modern city of Luxor once known as Thebes. It’s here, more than any other place in Egypt that I sense the past and where the ghosts that provide the modern world with the material of movies, novels and television documentaries are most apparent.
It’s here that Ramses II, Tutankhamen, Queen Hatshepsut and the countless men and women of power and influence of those times walked the same stones on which my own feet pace.
To the ancient Egyptians, Karnak was known as The Temple of Amun, and it is the largest religious structure in the world, measuring 1.5km by 800m and took more than 1300 years to complete. Only Angkor Wat in Cambodia, comes close to matching its size and grandeur.
Above me at noted intervals along my walks are the still brightly painted symbols and figures on the underside of many arches and I try to imagine the artists who painted them.
The Great Hypostyle Hall, along the main entranceway covers an area large enough to accommodate the whole of Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral. The structure has 134 columns, the largest twelve of which are 21 meters high and the other 122 columns being about are aboutt 12 meters tall.
No wonder I feel insignificant and wonder what architects could design these massive pillars that make Roman and Greek architecture seem almost diminutive by comparison.
Thebes was once the capitol of ancient Egypt and was home to some of the greatest archeological sites of the ancient world—built to honor the living, the dead, and the divine.
I’m certain that Pharaohs once stood and sat where I would linger at a nearby restaurant along the Nile sipping Egyptian beer and watching the traditional wooden sail boats, called felucca, slip by.
The tomb of Ramses II lies across that river; and Queen Hatshepsut - one of the most prolific builders in ancient Egypt – must have sailed past the shores that my hotel room overlooks.
Walking along the pathways of Karnak and nearby Luxor Temple, I try to imagine the great Pharaohs who constructed these enormous structures that celebrated their own mortal existences in the hope they could escape death.
Having stood before the great Pyramids that lie on the edge of Cairo and having climbed deep down into several of the 62 tombs including that of Tutankhamen, that line the Valley of the Kings not far from Karnak, I realize my time affords only a casual glimpse into a complex land that has had many ruling dynasties.
Yet, those transitional empires are only blips in the Egyptian saga - just as the current Egyptian rulers will be a mere blink in the eye of Egyptian history.
The most convenient way to experience these great Egyptian sites is through licenced tour groups out of Cairo or Alexandria, easily pre-booked in Canada; by taking a side trip while on a cruise; or by taking a comfortable river cruise along the Nile.
Yet, the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, the great temples of Luxor and Karnak and the Valley of the Kings are more than tourist destinations, names in a brochure. They echo centuries of art, literature, great architecture, and the popular culture of that time.
Egypt is a destination that will remain forever locked into the mind of anyone who visits, and its ancient icons will forever influence how I view this part of the world that seems for ever embroiled in political and social change.
Much like it must have been in ancient Thebes.
PHOTOS: by Toshi
1. The Sphinx and the Great Pyramid of Giza rest close to one another at the edge of the Sahara Desert and the outskirts of Cairo
2. Luxor and Karnak are prime examples of the wealth and power wielded by the pharoahs
3. Walking among the massive columns at Karnak provide an insight into remarkable engineering feats of the age of the pharoahs.Travel Writers' Tales is an independent travel article syndicate that offers professionally written travel articles to newspaper editors and publishers. To check out more, visit www.TravelWritersTales.com
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