Egypt Land of Oasis and Wonders of the World

Emirates EK 505 for Dubai was waiting at Sahara airport Mumbai in the early cool silent morning of 3rd December 2009. I was to take this to catch the connecting flight for Cairo. The landing at Cairo was on time. The SOTCtravel agents were ready to welcome us with their placards at the Cairo International airport and they took us to a Hotel ‘Softel Le Spinhinx’ , quite close to the world famous great pyramids. The hotel, a twin sharing cottage type was spotlessly clean. We were very happy to see in the midst of Arabic food a nice Hotel ‘Caravani’ with both good vegetarian and non-vegetarian Punjabi food. The owner came personally to welcome us and took a keen interest in serving us.

Egypt has its own culture and is called the Mother of all civilization. It is surrounded by Mount Sinai and the Mediterranean Sea on one side while on the other side are Alexandria, Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel, Sudan and the Libyan desert along the River Nile (second largest in the world). Around 90% of Egypt consists of desert, a place where nothing grows or blooms and practically no one lives. Less than 1% of Egypt’s population lives here in Cairo which is a part of the Western desert along river Nile. Yet in spite of their hardships (mostly poor farmers and labourers) Egyptians are warm and hospitable. The native word for Egyptis ‘Misr’ and the Arabic name for Cairo means “Triumphant”.

The city of Cairo is the largest in Africa and has its own culture and civilization, where you get every Indian product from pin to piano and day to day essential items and local products such as Ayurvedic perfumes, toys, papyrus products like paintings for reasonable prices. It is really surprising how they have transformed the desert in spite of religious and political pressures. Islamic and Arab Egypt came into existence in 642 AD. After the departure of Napoleon Bonaparte, it was Mohammed Ali the architect of Modern Egypt and the father of the Nation, an army officer, who with the support and help of local people modernized the City. It was during his regime that the Suez Canal was built.

The great pyramids of Khufu in Gaza (part of Cairo) are one of the seven wonders of the world. They are built with gigantic blocks of stone. The Egyptians believed that the pyramids would be impregnable and the mummified cadavers of Royalty would be safe and be preserved forever. As they had faith that the Monarch was King and God, the Mythical Sphinx statue with the body of a lion and a human head stands guard.

The Egyptian Museum is a real treasure trove of ethnicity, of ancient antiquities and mummies and their accouterments numbering in excess of 100,000, dating from ancient Egyptian history. The gallery featuring the famous treasures of Tutankhamen the then ruler is also here. Most of the pyramids were vandalized by invaders except that of the juvenile Pharaoh because his tomb was concealed on the side of a hillock. His Mummy is kept inside a golden casket suitable for his body length and girt. The casket including the funerary golden mask weighs 120 kg. of solid pure gold. The pyramid structure was the greatest invention in the human annals. Its surface can slice off even the most violent desert storm. There is no retention of water, for there is no roof. The rays of their God Rh (sun) cannot heat the pyramid at any single point. Whatever may be the destructive power of the earthquake, it will be unable to cause even minor jolts to the structure. The pyramids seem to be the ultimate among the Samadhis reserved exclusively for the Nobles.

Most of the rulers had a fascination for animals and reptiles. One thing in common is the Cobra. Why they have such affinity towards this reptile I do not know. The Cobra is seen on the headgear of most of Pharaohs. The legendary beauty Cleopatra has a vibrating cobra as her ear-rings. Even the golden facial mask of young King Tutankhamen sports both cobra and vulture in front of the crown.

Alexandria (named after Alexander in the 332 BC) is the second largest city of Egypt popularly known as ‘Pearl of Mediterranean’. The Library of Alexandria , vast, modern and high-tech, internationally very well known, funded by United Nations and Euro-Asian countries including India is worth seeing. Pompeii’s pillar constructed in honour of the Emperor Diocletian at the end of 4th century AD and the Catacombs which are the largest Roman Cemetery consisting of three levels cut in rock in this city are worth visiting. The high dam of Aswan, the pride of Egypt is an ideal spot for a panoramic view. This is where Egypt ends and Nubia (city) begins.

Abu Simbel is three hours drive by bus from Aswan where we were to enjoy our Nile Cruise. This is very near the border of Sudan and requires a convoy for safety and security reasons. Ramses II and Nefertiti are the main monuments in the form of temples to be seen here. Due to construction of the high dam the monuments were threatened to be submerged in Lake Nasser. The temple monuments were built almost 3000 years ago. The facade of the temples is 108 feet high and 125 feet wide with four colossal seated statues about 65 feet wearing double crown and having cartouches of king Ramses II. The alignment of the structure is such that twice a year the sun’s rays reach into the innermost sanctuary and illuminate the statues.

The temple of Edfu and Karnak are on the west bank of river Nile in Luxor city and can be seen when they are illuminated under a master creation of a Sound and Light show. This is the place where generations of Pharaohs and Nobles were buried in great splendor and were subsequently looted by ancient Egyptians. But even after 5000 years, the architecture and the paintings have retained their original colours and tell the story of the civilization of Egypt.

On the last day of our trip, SOTC accommodated us in a fine hotel at Luxor full of scenic beauty. It had a cottage “Maritim Jolie Ville Luxor Island Resort” serving us the best dinner and breakfast suiting our taste. The next day we were to reach Luxor International Airport to catch MS 354 Egypt Air Express back to our destination – home sweet home. The week had passed sofast it almost seemed like a dream. This Egypt sojourn is unforgettable and memorable with many happy wonderful memories!.

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