Thursday, 10 July 2008

Further Hieroglyphics...

...that means more Egyptian characters (feel free to insert Dr Evil laugh here. What? I'm sure Shubby Doo got the!).

Well, here goes...

Allow me to introduce you to Liver Man aka Cleaver Man, aka Mahmoud, the Chef.

Each night we had a buffet type meal (hence the purification ritual mentioned in my previous post :)), but in addition to this there would be some kind of 'added bonus' e.g. stir fried vegetables while you waited, or craved lamp (refer to previous post) or pasta sauce whipped up fresh. Anyway, Mahmoud was always in charge of this.

He was actually quite sweet. Very shy, but he pee'd me off slightly very early in the trip when he asked me who TB was i.e. 'friend', sister. I asked why he wanted to know, and he replied with a shrug 'two girls....', and left all the insinuations lingering in the air. I hissed and moved on. Excuse me, do i look like a lesbian? You may think it a bit forward for a chef to be asking personal questions, but in Egypt it isn't apparently! All the Waiters etc were very friendly and flirtatious with the women. By the end of the trip Eddie, our waiter was professing undying love for TB, and freely referring to Diane as 'baby' right under her husband's nose!

Ok, so Liver Man got his name like this - On one of the days, the 'extra' was liver. I can't remember what was being done to the liver 'cos i never have and never will be interested in liver - it's disgusting. Like eeeeuuuwwww. So anyway, TB was wandering around the food trying to decide on what to have when suddenly, she sensed someone standing right behind her. She turns round and is confronted with an unsmiling Mahmoud (he's smiling slightly in the picture, but usually had this deadpan expression on his face), so she's there, looking up into his face, and he goes solemnly 'I have liver' and then turns and walks away.

I'm sorry if the humour doesn't translate, but it was hilarious, at least the way TB related it to me. After many repetitions and good laughs over it, we eventually came up with the possibility that he might have actually been saying 'I have Cleaver', you know, just like in the horror films, before the killer raises their arm and chops someones head off......oh, i'm sorry! Welcome to the weird and wonderful place that is my mind.

Baba Groper 1
On our second evening, we had a Galabiya party, and everyone had to buy galabiyas and come to dinner dressed up. After dinner, we retired to the sun deck for fun and games, one of which was a variation on musical statutes, whereby when the music stopped, Osama (our compere for the night) would call out random numbers and you had to form a huddle consisting of that number of people. Or he'd say something like '1 man, 6 women' and anyone that couldn't find a group would get eliminated. The long and short of the story is that TB ended up in a huddle with an elderly man whose hand began to travel south!

Baba Groper 2
I was standing at the notice board in reception one night, checking the itinerary for the following day when this guy comes over and stands beside me, presumably to also check the board. We get chatting and he asks me if i'm Nigerian too (Ayman, our guide had begun to refer to us as his Nigerian friends). I said yes and he remarks on the fuel situation in Nigeria (he's a long-distance lorry driver). Somewhere in the course of the conversation, he's going on about what a shame the situation is, and how the Nigerian people already have it so bad (i smile and nod) without having to also 'get it in the arse' (his words, not mine) from the government. For some reason, he feels the need to mime the action of getting it in the arse, and proceeds to reach for my arse, i kid you not! Someone walks in noisily at the same moment and i turn to see who it is and thereby manage to avoid the full force of his grubby hand *shudder*, but not all of it. I promptly say good night and beat a hasty retreat!

More pictures here

Next up (final instalment)...
Abu Simbel and the Indecent Proposal.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Valley of the Kings (and other random titbits)

The flight from Gatwick to Luxor was relatively run of the mill. We were met by our guides at the airport and ferried to the boat in two coaches, which was to be the arrangement for the rest of the week. We were subsequently split into two groups according to cabin number and assigned to an Egyptologist/Guide for the week.

We had Ayman in our coach to the boat, and he later turned out to be our assigned Guide. As he welcomed us to Egypt and gave us a run down of what would happen once we got on to the boat, he mentioned his colleague’s name was, Osama (I’ll let you create your own jokes). That's a picture of Ayman. It's not a good one, actually. He's more like an Egyptian Ben Affleck look-a-like in real life. Osama threatened to smash my camera if i photographed him.

After we’d settled in, we went up to dinner. The tables seated 6s and 4s. We ended up on a table of 6, and we were told to stick to the same table for the duration. Our table companions turned out to be a couple, Dave and Diane, from a small village in Northamptonshire, and Sharon and Davinda, East African Asian sisters.

The food was quite good. Lots of fish (surprise, surprise), but also beef, chicken, lamb etc. The food labels were a constant source of amusement, as for example, Carved Lamb was once labelled as Craved Lamp.

Each night, in the reception, they put up our itinerary for the following day on the notice board. We had early starts each day in order to beat the sun, nevertheless it was relentless. The temperature ranged between 44 – 47 degrees Celsius throughout the trip! My bottom lip used to be pink; it’s now the same colour as the top lip. I’m still not sure how I feel about that.

Before going in to each meal, we had to ‘purify our hands’ i.e. use the anti-bacterial hand gel from the dispenser outside the dining room. I once tried to slip past without complying, but I was summarily bounced back by the Head Waiter. I later began to refer to this as the purification ritual as we would all form an orderly line and approach the dispenser on our way in to meals.

Valley of the Kings

Our first excursion consisted of a trip to the Valley of the Kings (every time someone said Valley of the Kings for some reason, I would hear dramatic music in my head as in dun, dun, duuuunnnnnnnnnnnn), Valley of the Queens and Hatshepsut’s Temple, taking in the Colossi of Memnon – the guardians of the Valley- first.

The next stop was Valley of the Queens. The Ancient Egyptians apparently cared more about the after life than the present, and so they would prepare their tombs and amass great treasures throughout their lives so they could use them in the after life. Due to Tomb Robbers (tomb raiders, I guess), the Pharoahs began to move their tombs to harder to access places such as the west bank of the Nile in Luxor which borders the Sahara desert. This didn’t help much as, the tombs continued to get raided. The main reason the tomb of Tutankhamen and Tutankhamen himself is so famous is because his was one of only 3 to be discovered with all the treasures intact.

His tomb in the Valley of the Kings (dun, dun, duuuunnn) contains his mummy, but the treasures have been moved to a museum in Cairo. The entry ticket to the Valley of the Kings (dun, dun, duuunnnn) gives you access to 3 out of the 62 odd tombs, but there is an additional fee to see King Tut’s tomb. We chose not to (not because we’re cheap, I hasten to add!) but because it was very hot and would have involved a walk back to the gate to get a ticket and then back again.

Ayman sat us down for a talk about the Valley, and the Kings etc. Very interesting, you can watch and listen here. You can see he’s very passionate and knowledgeable about his subject. Whilst cameras are allowed through the gates, video cameras are prohibited in the Valley of the Kings (dun, dun......yeah, ok its getting old now), you have to leave them at the gate, presumably because recording moving pictures is not allowed. I completely forgot as I filmed this (besides, they should know that most digital cameras these days have a recording function) and Ayman didn’t say anything although I caught him giving me looks to say ‘oi, you’re not meant to be doing that’. I played dumb, and continued filming him, but finally gave in after about 10mins.

After the Valleys (Kings and Queens) we made a stop at Hatshepsut’s Temple. Hatshepsut, was the wife of Tutmose II. When he died, she co-ruled with her step-son because of his age, but later muscled him out and assumed the throne on her own. She faced lots of challenges along the way and to gain acceptance, she started to dress as the male rulers did with the kilt and headdress and a false beard. Her statues also represent her as a man. She also claimed divine lineage i.e. Amun-Re impregnated her mother who then gave birth to her.

She ruled for about 20 years, during which there were no wars at all (hmmm, i wonder why?). After her death, the step-son finally ascended the throne. He hated her so much for what she had done to him that he then proceeded to destroy and deface all her statutes across the land, and tear down buildings, temples and obelisks she'd erected.

Next up...
Baba Gropers

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Karnak Temple (and the Grinding Granny)

WE went to Karnak on the last day i.e. the day before we were to return home, and they definitely did save the best till last.

I think i'll let the pictures speak for themselves. There's no point in trying to give you a history lesson. If you're interested just google Karnak, and the possibilities are endless. Wikipedia is a good starting place.

My favourite part was the Hypostyle Hall, which is basically a hall with a flat ceiling supported by columns. Each of the Temples we visited had at least one Hypostyle, but Karnak was definitely the most impressive with 134 columns. Karnak was the main seat of the Theban Triad made up of Amun-Re, Montu and Mut, and up to 30 Pharoahs contributed towards the complex over the years, seeking to make their mark on the country's most important temple; hence the sheer size of the place. It's divided into 3 precincts, one for each of the gods. The only one open to tourists at present is the precinct of Amun-Re. Amun was the local deity of Thebes (modern day Luxor) who gradually rose through the ranks and became adopted by the other regions, ultimately becoming identified with Ra-herakhty i.e the merged identities of Ra and Horus.

The columns are so wide in diameter that apparently it takes 10 people linking hands to encircle one. We didn't try this but saw other groups attempting it. Our Egyptologist, Ayman proved to be one of the most politically incorrect people, joking that it would normally take 10 people, but 20 Japanese tourists to encircle one column. Hadihaha..

Other highlights include the Sacred Lake in which the priests of Amun would purify themselves before presenting sacrifices to their god. There's also the statue of the Scarab Beetle which is associated with good luck, as the beetle usually came out with the rising of the sun. It is thought that if you circle the statute 7 times, good luck would be yours. The Scarab beetle is also the apparent inspiration for those bugs that crawl underneath the skin and move about in The Mummy (or was it The Mummy Returns). Oh, and the complex lay buried under sand for over 1000 years until it was discovered in the mid-19th century!

That's enough for now, i think. Remember i'm still taking questions.

Sacred Lake

Scarab Beetle

Advisory Note
If you ever visit Karnak Temple, do not under any circumstances go back in the evening for the so-called Sound and Light Show. It sucks! We paid £17 each for the privilege and basically saw what we had seen during the day, lit up and with amplified narrative (by the way, ancient Egyptian kings and queens spoke with Shakespearean accents!). All i'm saying is save your money and avoid it!!!

Grinding Granny
On the second evening,after dinner we were introduced to the boat's management and Heads of department. It was kind of amusing, as it took place in the Lounge bar, with all the guests seated and one of the guides would call out each person and their job title and the DJ would start the music and the person would come in and stand at the front of the room. TB and I had loads of fun whooping loudly as each person came in (hey, we had to keep ourselves amused somehow!).

Anyway, after this, we had a supposed 'disco'. The dj was abysmal. The music selection even worse. So much so that we had to stage an intervention, and (to give you an idea on how abysmal the playlist was) we settled for Dancing Queen by ABBA! So not wanting to go to bed yet, we chilled and watched the one or two other people who decided to brave the dance floor.

Eventually, the dj puts on a relatively danceable track. I think it was Mambo No 5 or Shakira's Hips dont lie (albeit the Spanish version), when some guy comes out of nowhere and begins to grind against this girl who it turns out is his girlfriend. The guy actually went on to propose later in the week and whilst the girl accepted the ring, she refused to put it on her wedding finger as the guy is in the process of getting a divorce but technically still married.

But i digress...So they are grinding away, and it's quite raunchy and beyond the playful kind of grinding. TB, who can be quite puritanical, is almost ready to walk out in disgust. Me, i'm really not bothered much, when all of a sudden, this woman who had been dancing away with her daughter and friend, goes behind the guy and begins grinding against him. So, basically, the guy is grinding his girlfriend from behind and this granny is grinding him. I was almost on the floor with laughter! I'm not sure if she knew what she was doing or if she was drunk, or if she thought perhaps a conga line was forming and decided to join in, or what! The girl was so embarassed, which made it all the more hilarious to me...mwahahahaha! And since then, she became known as the Grinding Granny. The End.

I actually took a surreptitious picture of her, but it was one of the ones i mentioned that i lost! Ah well...

more pics

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

An Experiment

Hi Everyone.

Big shout out to Ms Sula for her suggestion, which worked. Laptop is now up and running, which is tres fantastique. However, i now find myself with writer's block. Can't seem to put anything down in any logical sequence, i'm afraid. And so i've come up with a genius idea - why don't you, my avid readers, ask me questions about the trip. Anything. Whatever you want to know. And i promise to answer your questions to the best of my ability. This (hopefully) will get my mind working and and spark off the creative process which will facilitate a proper post...or at least that's the plan.

Okay. So click here for the itinerary, which gives an idea of what we got up to.

Here's a list of some of the characters we met. My friend, Tripping Buddy (TB) and i share the same sense of humour, so by the end of the week, we had christened practically every other person on the boat!

1 - The 2 Stooges
2 - Liver man aka Cleaver man
3 - Baba groper 1
4 - Baba groper 2
5 - Grinding granny
6 - Dancing waiter (self explanatory)
7 - Anti-social Grandpa (also self explanatory)
I'll add to the list as i remember...

So, let the experiment begin. If this doesn't work, i shall have to do a rethink. But let us wait and see, eh?

Cheers, lovely people...