ASWAN :: UPPER EGYPT :: 30 0 N 31 1 E
THURSDAY, JANUARY 21, 1993 -- Last night I had dust, fun and commotion at the Aswan Street Party; today was the chance to recover from it by embarking on the beginning of a long felucca trip up the Nile (or should that be down the Nile?) to Luxor. Not long after leaving Aswan, however, I realized my decision to travel with the Dahab gang had been a big mistake. Let me elaborate on this realization for a moment:
There are just some people in the world you gel with, and some people you don't gel with, and it is a crime to force yourself to stick with them, or be forced to stick them with you, when you really have squat all in common. Let me put it more succinctly: imagine spending three days in a narrow boat in the middle of the biggest river in the world, in the absolute middle of nowhere, with people you don't even remotely dig? To really top things off, imagine that they don't dig you in the slightest either? There is no Net access, no TV, nothing to divert yourself from them. You have got to sleep together on the common bobbing deck. You could try talking to the pilot for some diversion, but he only speaks Arabic, so that gets tired real fast. Admittedly you are surrounded by one of the most beautiful lands in the world, which might help alleviate the boredom a tad -- and this is not only a beautiful land but an intensely interesting one as well, not merely steeped in history but actually stuck in history. If going to Iceland makes me think that I have ventured forth to an alien planet, going to Egypt always makes me feel like I have gone back in time, back to the Ancient Days. (Travel to Ethiopia has the same effect!) Egypt is for sure is one of the most exotic countries in the world for travel, and will always have that going for it.
But anyway, I digress. The simple fact of the matter was that I was on the River Nile, stuck with a crew who I hated, and it was going to be three days before we got to Luxor. To make matters worse, there was a girl on board (Judy from the UK) whom I had had the hots for earlier in the trip, but tragically -- heartbreakingly -- it was becoming clear that things weren't going to work out as I had hoped. When I first met her on the bus from the Israeli border to Dahab back in my glorious Sinai days, she seemed interested in me. We smoked a rose bong on the beach in Dahab, and laughed at all the camel riders passing by. Now one week down the track and it was suddenly like she didn't even speak to me. Worse, some of the guys on the felucca had let it drop that she had made a boyfriend in Israel, and shagged him on some kibbutz in that godforsaken land. So, I had failed again in the love department. Poor old miserable me!
Have you read that book The Life of Pi about the Indian lad stuck in a boat with a wild tiger for months and months... well in Egypt at the start of 1993, that was me. And just like Pi, all the tigers were all in my own mind. It all seems so petty and childish looking back on it. Regardless of how boorish your company, the Nile is an amazing river, and I would kill to be back on that felucca again, regardless of the politics on board. Life is too short for moping. Often I would look up to see a flock of Egyptian children running along the bank, dressed all in dirty white robes, forgetting their flocks of goats and sheep to wave at the strange foreigners who were traversing their world. When we pitched up on the side of the river to "camp" for the night, I got into a convo with some Egyptian children about their part of the world. That was cool -- that was a once in a million opportunity. That's what travelling UNCLONED WORLD style is all about!
Friday, January 22, 1993 -- Another fairly aimless day on the Nile. The sun still shone, and the passing scenery was still magnificent, but I began to feel increasingly alienated with (by?) the Dahab gang. At least we stopped in Kom Ombo to see a temple, and I did do a little more writing.
There is some speculation about whether Ancient Egypt was really an All African Civilization, rather than a Semitic civilization. I think when you go to a place like Kom Ombo Temple, you realize that Ancient Egypt arose out of African roots, out of African soil -- to begin with, that name "Kom Ombo" sounds so African, it is a fully African name. Approaching Kom Ombo from the water, all you see is sand and a manmade fan of vegetation, alltoobright under the blazing winter sun. Inside, heiroglyphs cover the walls (but what do you expect, this is Egypt after all.) After so long stranded on a slowly moving felucca (while the big five-star tourist ships steamed past, oozing opulence), it was cool just to chill out on my own for a while. But before too long it was time to go back aboard, and resume the lonely crowded ride to Luxor...
Saturday, January 23, 1993 -- I was happy, waking before sunrise on this wintry morning, as the felucca set off -- the last two days have been wasted but I suppose they will make me appreciate more exciting periods of the holiday which will surely come. Anyway, we got let off before Edfu (breaking one of the rules of the ride), but of course I wasn't complaining, because it got me out of my spell in captivity. We bundled into a taxi (I felt good being on a road, rather than a gently meandering river), and then drove through some of the most exotic scenery I have seen anywhere in the world (it even comes close to beating the moonfields of Iceland!) The seemingly endless vistas of sugar cane fields, dustry donkeys, overripe youth trotting along, muddy apartments blocks so shabby they looked like they would fall over at the slightest provocation, was to put it simply -- fantastic! This was Tropical World Rayon! Egypt is the King of the Third World!
We made it to Edfu, which was suitably squalid. Another taxi transported us to Luxor, that historic center of Egyptian culture. As soon as we got there I decided to ditch the Dahab Gang, and do my own thing. While I was hoping to see Garnet today, I wanted to prove to myself that I could travel by myself. Thus I took to the streets, and enjoyed the dusty chaos. If dusty chaos turns you on, then Egypt won't disappoint you at all. What I basically did was do a walkby of the Luxor Temple, ignoring the peddlars, and then I followed the Nile to see the outskirts of the Karnak Temple -- all in all, impressing myself with how I could sightsee on my own. In the days and months and years to come, I would develop into becoming an able world traveller. It was in Luxor Egypt that I took my first steps towards reaching this noble goal.
Later that afternoon I got a message from Garnet and finally met him at the nightly Sound and Light Show at Karnak. After three days with the Dahab Gang on the felucca, I was mightily relieved to see him again and meet the two Australian girls who had evidentally teamed up with him. It was time to move things up a notch, into a higher level of intensity...
IF YOU WANT TO CRUISE DOWN THE NILE AND YOU DON'T WANT TO ROUGH IT THE WAY THAT I ROUGHED IT, YOU CAN ALWAYS TRY OUT THESE CLASSIER OPTIONS AND OPPORTUNITES:
Oberoi Philae Nile Cruise: The ship has been awarded as "Best ship on the Nile" several years in a row, and according to those whom know, this is not just because there are balconies attached to every cabin.