There are three kinds of intelligence: one kind understands things for itself, the other appreciates what others can understand, the third understands neither for itself nor through others. This first is excellent, the second good, and the third useless.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Teenage angst

Except I’m not a teenager, and it’s not really angst. It’s more of a passing morbidity, a kind of dull, washed out perception of the world around me. You wish it would end, you wish it was better. Sad really, how everything in the world is dependant on other people and the relationships you have with them. You say you’re a loner but you’re not really, even loners can’t survive on their own. They have to talk to the people at work, the people at the shops, family etc. so on and so forth. I’m not a loner, I never have been, but suddenly I found myself wanting to be. Sex and sexual politics, accepting what you are and what you like, getting other people to accept your choices, all this, this made me want to be a loner.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Paper reader

I’m against ID cards. Whilst watching the news today I mentioned to my hose mate that I was against ID cards. He told me that they are a good idea and that they can just offset the price of them by raising taxes. Not surprisingly I disagreed with him on that as well. In return he told me 'that’s because you're a paper reader, you read the papers so you're a fodder eater.
Made me laugh no end.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Egypt – Cairo

I hated it, it was dirty, sleezy, stank and had all the charm of a rotting cow carcass. My dad told me before I went that one day in Cairo has the same effect on your lungs that smoking 20 cigarettes has… and that’s probably about right. It’s really easy to get caught up with people, really easy to start thinking that they are nice and genuine, when really they just want your money. This point was really drove home to me whilst stood in a little shop down the road from our hotel. I was approached by a man called Halal who spoke near perfect English and was exceedingly charming. He asked us where we were from, where we were going, what we had planned etc etc, then suddenly we were being ushered into his little back room where he started shoving tacky souvenirs at us. He offered us a drink of water from the tap (really obvious to spot because it smelt so badly of chlorine) despite having told us it was bottled and then introduced us to his friend Ali. The both of them stood there telling us about how they would like to set up a business in Bradford because they both knew lots of people who lived there. After about an hour of trying to sell us things they came to conclusion that we simply weren’t having any of it and quite literally booted us out on our ear with a resounding ‘don’t come back’, nice. As long as you know that people are only being nice because they want something, then cairo is ok. Personally I hated it though.

Karn El Khalili market at night.

A hazy city sunset.

Halam and Ali’s shop, never trust people who run a shop called Baghdad market.

This was taken by Alex, it was his attempt to prove that everyone in Cairo has sky T.V

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Egypt - Luxor

A tourist Mecca but so so beautiful. Here the Nile is thick and lush, you can sit on a felucca an watch the kingfishers dive. Nature just thrives around the riverbanks, it’s simply gorgeous.
My favourite moment here was sitting in a felucca, having a traditional Egyptian lunch and watching the sunset. It’s almost a relief to watch the sun fall to the horizon line, and you breath a sigh of relief as the heat suddenly subsides, replaced by the warm, but bearable, still night air. It was hear that I had my dragonfly encounter. The Nile has the most awesome collection of dragonflies you could possibly imagine, they are huge. I was lucky enough to have one land right on my arm. Apparently letting it crawl all over me made me very brave.. right. I was also lucky enough to have my camera next to me so I hurriedly took a picture before it flew off. Turned out to be the best damned picture of the entire holiday!

The suset was simply stunning as well, all kinds of burnt hues filled the sky as the sun fell.

If I could ever recommend one place to go in Egypt it would be Luxor.

Valley of the Kings,
The Egyptian belief that "To speak the name of the dead is to make him live again" is certainly carried out in the building of the tombs. The king's names and titles are inscribed in his tomb along with his images and statues. These catacombs were harder to rob and were more easily concealed. Construction usually lasted six years, beginning with the new reign. The text in the tombs are from the Book of the Dead, the Book of the Gates and the Book of the Underworld. The tombs themselves are stifling and amazing, cut into living rock they follow the pattern of three corridors, an antechamber and a sunken sarcophagus chamber. Inside the air is hot and still, but despite being terribly uncomfortable, you cannot help but be awestruck by the sheer feat that building them must have take.

Traversing the valley on a donkey.

Karnak Temple
Ancient temples were considered to be the residence of the god. The Karnak temple was the dwelling place of Amon-Re, his wife Mut and their son Khonsu, the moon god. Construction continued on this temple for more than two millennia under the belief that once building ceased, the temple "died." This temple was my favourite, it’s huge and imposing and excellently cared for. The huge walls of hieroglyphics really bring home just how skilled the ancient builders of the past must have been.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Egypt - Nubians

Aswan has a Nubian populous whose charm and sincerity is staggering. To be invited into a complete stranger’s house in the late evening for tea and something to eat was a highlight. The man didn’t know us from Adam yet he invited us in, led us to his roof top and gave us free food and drink in exchange for simple conversation. He spoke Arabic, Nubian, English, French and Spanish. The guy was a legend. The house was painted blue, the ceiling filled with sand and strewn with tables. In the corner of the rooftop was a little bed that belonged to his son, a three year old boy covered in sand and dirt. The little boy was wearing an England shirt and kicking around a partially inflated beach ball, he was a shy little bugger. We ate Kofta and rice, drank coke and left. The man asked for, and expected, nothing.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Egypt - Local humour

We were in the middle of nowhere, somewhere in Luxor. The heat was intense and we were riding donkeys, yes donkeys. The scenery is simply stunning and the guy who owned the donkeys took great pride in pointing out mango trees, fig trees, banana trees and sugar cane plants. The road was dusty, winding and treacherous underfoot. Alex was in front of me, his big 6 foot 3 frame balanced precariously on the amazingly tough little donkey. On his head he was wearing a red baseball cap adorned with the yellow square and black horse logo of Ferrari. Now out of nowhere comes these two farmers sat on a horse and cart laden with sugar cane (or something that looked like it) they take one look at Alex, stick both their thumbs up and holler at the top of their voices “Hey man! Nice Ferrari!!” It was probably the heat but I laughed so hard I nearly fell off my donkey. We were also treated to shouts of ‘lovely jubbly’ ‘see you later alligator’ and ‘cheap as chips’. Rather oddly the Egyptians love the British.

Egypt - Aswan.

Spent four days in Aswan, the southernmost area we visited. This was hot, hotter than you could possibly imagine, the highest temperature reached 48oC and it was a nightmare. If hell is burning in pits of eternal flames, then this it what it must be like. Come two in the evening you have to walk very quickly along the pavement in order to avoid the soles of your trainers melting. Ziad, our guide, was not happy. He thought it was too hot and began to muse over the steadily changing climate. According to the government the climate in Egypt hasn’t changed, it has been completely unaffected by global warming, the reason why people feel hotter is because they are simply busier. People have changed because the rhythm of life is more intense. Before, they did not carry as many burdens and life was easier. Heat is a feeling, not just a figure. Personally Ziad feels that the government lie about the temperatures, they say it’s high 40’s when it’s really in the 50’s, why? Because if the temperature reaches 50 or more the government are supposed to tell people to stay home, stay inside and stay cool. That adds up to a lot of days lost work and production. All outdoor thermometers (like the ones you get on the side of garden centres) have been removed by officials and people who cry about it being too hot, whilst waving their own thermometers, are ignored. It’s a funny old game really.
Either way the heat is terrible, it ruins the wonders and the beauty of Aswan because you simply cannot bear to walk around in it. It rolls off the streets in waves, you sweat to the point of complete discomfort and it’s bloody awful. Still, the stiff upper lip got me through and with a pair of white linen trousers, a white long sleeved cotton t-shirt and a white cotton scarf wrapped around my head, I braved the heat.

Philae temple
Philae temple was dismantled and reassembled (on Agilika Island about 550 meters from its original home on Philae Island) in the wake of the High Dam, its original location is still market by a series of posts pertruding from the water. The temple was dedicated to the goddess Isis and is in a beautiful setting which has been landscaped to match its original site. Its various shrines and sanctuaries, which include The Vestibule of Nectanebos I which is used as the entrance to the island, the Temple of the Emperor Hadrian, a Temple of Hathor, Trajan's Kiosk (Pharaohs Bed), a birth house and two pylons celebrate all the deities involved in the Isis and Osiris myth. Philae is a truly beautiful temple.

outside the temple

inside the temple

Monday, June 13, 2005

Egypt - Giza

The first thing my friend Chris asked me when I got home was “So what was more impressive, the pyramids, or Everest?”
Everest hands down. He seemed to think that the pyramids should win because they were man made, but I just don’t feel the same. The pyramids are spectacular, there is no doubt about that, but they are an attraction. Like a panda in china, mythical in mind but in reality, quiet and badly treated. Adorned with ‘no climbing’ signs and guarded by AK57 wielding camel riders, the pyramids look uncared for and abused. Tourists roam freely around the area, browsing for cheesy souvenirs whilst taking photos. They flock to see them from their holiday resorts and leave nothing behind but litter and scars.

The best time to see them is at night, when they are lit up from the base in different colours. I have to confess to paying the 60LE entrance fee to go and see the sound and light show, and it was money well spent. To see the sphinx manipulated with lasers, complete with glowing eyes, was awesome.

This one was taken right from the base of the largest one whilst looking up.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Thoughts on Egypt

I’ve decided against a day by day breakdown this time as this has turned out to be a longer holiday than originally anticipated, instead I’ve done it in blocks… sort of.
I can’t explain what it’s like to walk around in heat that tops 50 degrees C. It’s practically unbearable; it makes you tired, irritable and thirsty. To have to wade through sand so deep that you sink to your shins, to have to ride grumpy, stinking camels and finally, to have to deal with an Islamic nation… is bloody hard. Everyone had told me how nice Egypt was, how friendly the people were and how much I would enjoy it. They were wrong. What part of Egypt did they see? Did they step outside their resort?

On the way from Cairo airport I was dazzled by the beauty of the city, with its vast roads lined with palm trees, it’s huge hotels combing the skies and it’s friendly locals waving and shouting ‘hello’. Yet cross the Nile and it’s a different story. The tourism disappears and the seedy side of Cairo creeps out. When I showed my mother my holiday photos, she asked me if I’d been to Beruit… it was that bad. It’s charming in its way and in all truth it’s better than India or Nepal, but the people, the people make it worse. I understand that it’s their country but during my two days in Cairo I was groped, forcibly pulled into shops, hugged, wolf whistled, jeered and leered at more times than I could count. It left me feeling dirty, sleazy and embarrassed.

Nowhere is the heat more obvious than in the Sahara