THE SPIRIT OF ETERNITY
Egypt … Already tow hundred years from the appearance of the D. Cook’s first tourist agency this land attracts scientists, artists, and treasure hunters and just amateurs. Indeed this not very big piece of land impresses by the times and epochs: monumental temples of the past, futuristic desert views and coloring of Arab modern culture.
Nevertheless everything in this world the mean turns into the purpose: tourist services became the tourist business, empty trade of sacred past. It would be definitely strange if the Arabs wouldn’t have adapted their merchant’s vein in using the rich history and heritage of ancient civilization. Due to business qualities generous investments poured into onto the Red Sea coast… and as the mushrooms after the rain, the atomic cloud of tourist boom appeared – Hurghada and Sharm-el-Sheikh.
…Through the window flashed colourful pieces of bright yellow land, deep blue sea and tiny blocks of hotels… “Is that all?” – was my first impression from Hurghada, which from the bird’s eye view seemed to look too artificial, like a toy. In minutes I was lost in the multilingual crowd and busy fuss of the airport. This was my first moment of comprehension of such phenomena as tourist conveyor since here you should leave your individuality, you tastes, plans, habits, you should forget that you are actually a traveler who came to discover something. Instead you had to wear the imagined suit of the tourist and be prepared to get portioned and filtering by tourist agent oxygen of impressions and emotions.
The first point according to “brilliant” tourist program was the Nile cruise. To say honestly it was really wonderful not mentioning some details. The cruise – is an incredible combination of dynamic and calmful rest, a kaleidoscope of ancient temples and wonderful views; it’s the joy of aristocratic atmosphere of five-star ship.
The time free from excursions my friend and I were spending on the deck, relaxing in the pool, sunbathing, enjoying the views which were sliding before our eyes as in the fairy dream. And we couldn’t take all this inside, all this splendid diversity. The Nile lulled us carefully as if tempting to discover his secrets in the bright emerald frame of his luxurious shores and illusive lace of hilly desert behind.
The exciting feelings brought to us a small carnival in Arab style: exotic costumes, hot music rhythms, a lot fun and positive energy.
At the first day of our cruise the program was really very intensive. However, too less time was given to the majestic Karnak temple — the ancient sanctuary of the main god of Middle and New kingdom. Half-ruined it still raises proudly above the land and its troubles, above the fussy people walking thoughtlessly through the pylons closed to the ordinary mortals in the ancient times. Yet when abstracting my mind from the crowd and concentrating on the impressive monuments, high columns covered by mysterious hieroglyphs I could feel the power of the ages streaming through the stone. Especially it was so strong in the famous column hall with the thick giants ending with lotus and papyrus capitals, supporting the huge blocks of former ceiling.
I closed my eyes… and before my inner sight the columns and capitals and the temple walls sparked with their colours, and my ears heard the whisper of priests and their quiet light steps and the torch’s crackling; and sacred aromas of Amon-Ra myrrh and lotus, touched my nostrils.
“ Madame ! Madame!” the shrill cry rudely interrupted my mediation. It was local Arab, one of those who try to show you what you can easily do yourself and then with the same steadiness ask you for baksheesh, at least a pound.
Again I should turn into the small wheal of tourist machine. Dying in stifling atmosphere of perfume fabric-store, boring among the sparkle of jewelry shop I found interesting only the papyrus store where the process of producing this historical material was demonstrated, moreover, we were allowed to see some reproductions of famous Egyptian plots. By the way, it happened to enchant us the tradition to treat to the customers the cup of cool karkade, the red tea from the leaves of hibiscus flower.
Again to rest and go deep into the old ancient times we could after lunch when we were taken to the other bank of the Nile, to the city of the dead – the King’s Valley. The twisting way leads among the mysterious hills of the Valley, alluring to hidden secrets of the ancient priests. Many tombs are closed for visitors. The mummies are hiding from the tourists. In Egypt everything is so strange: here the dead are afraid of the alive.
Very calm mood appeared inside while standing on the terraces and columns of the temple-tomb of the queen Hatshepsut. We enjoyed the splendid view on the Valley and could feel odd trembling inside; the purple sun going down into Duat, the world of the dead, was awaking mystical feelings in the heart.
The next day there was planned a free day in Luxor. After the breakfast with my friend we wandered through the shopping lines, went deep into the local market with its noise and fuss, walked along the shore watching the numerous ships. But just before this I decided to attend Luxor temple, which seemed to stand alone as an oasa of Antiquity among the modern city with its klaxons, coachmen’s cries and endless stream of tourists and locals.
Using the absence of the groups (if honestly there was one French) I was wandering among the columns, yards of the temples and was enjoying the plenitude of some metaphysical communication with Ancient times.
One more bright moment of the day was the pass through Esna locks and vivid trade scene when the bottom of our ships was swarmed by small boats with noisy locals who proposed their goods in rather strange way just throwing shawls, dress, souvenirs up into the hands of those who were standing on the deck. In spite of the fact that plenty of things had a bath in Nile waters both sides remained satisfied.
The second day was full of visiting of Edfu and Kom-Ombo temples… The temple of the god-hawk Horus in Edfu belongs to the Ptolemaic period in the history of Ancient Egypt. The Greek influences are very visible in the columns of hypostyle hall, in the walls slightly sloping up, in the labyrinth-like corridors. The temple of crocodile god Sebek impressed us by its simplicity. Thick imposing columns were breathing with the obscure severity, and the crocodiles’ mummies with their ominous grin apparently showed their attitude to the visitors. The night illumination strengthened the effect.
In vain would I look for words to describe the feelings which come when I look at architectural masterpieces, moreover such undiscovered and full of mysteries as ancient Egyptian.
Being filled with emotions from the cruise we spent some days swimming and sunbathing. The most memorable were sea excursions on the cosy boats and stops just in the middle of the sea near coral reefs when we armed with masks and tubes were diving into the seaworld. Fantastic forms of coral castles, schools of toy like fish, and brightness of the colors gave us incredible feelings. I felt as the Disney’s Mermaid so fairy was the surrounding view. Here swiftly winged the pilot-fish, and by her side phlegmatically was waving some arrogant big fish, suddenly my attention attracted the small one, so bright, yellow with multicoloured fins and red buttons on her sides – truly a toy from the children store! With curiosity I was watching the others from the group who dived deeper with diving-suits and who looked so embarrassing and actually gatecrashers in this wonderful Neptune’s kingdom causing surprising looks in its inhabitants.
On the other trip we liked the stop on a sand island. Sunbathing after swimming, I sharply felt strong yet tender power streaming from the depth of sand and going inside every part of my soft body which from above was washed by burning beams of hot Egyptian sun.
Sea journeys were somehow similar to the shooting movie: from the Mermaid’s role to Robinson Crusoe, and again – into the Mermaid, and then – into lazy aristocrat slugging on the white pillows of the private yacht.
After diving while the others were hiding from the wind in the lower cabins some of the tourists including us, decided to rest on the upper deck. Soft murmuring of the waves, fuss and voices of the Arabs, absence of any modern things took us into the past making to imagine ourselves pretentious harem beauties for whom after a sea walk the a luxury of the sultan palace is waiting.
In reality just one of thousand standard room in one of thousand standard hotels was waiting for us.
Evidently the routine tourist programme is not to my liking: closed cramp beach and turned into the swimming pool piece of sea polluted with the oil from numerous boats after the space of Nile shores and fairy Red sea; simple cold room and dull artificial palm garden after the luxury of cabins and decks of cruise ship?
Endless excursion rhythm in which Egypt lives the whole year round drew us into its net. Indefatigable thirst for knowledge pushed us to visit the Lower Egypt where on the place of ancient capital Memphis grew the modern Cairo unlike Upper Kingdom’s capital Thebes where just provincial small Luxor exists.
Of course, Cairo is not to study in a week. One day is enough only to look at not even the all places of interest but very fast – just too symbols of Cairo – National Museum and pyramids. On the second day they let you know the legendary mosque-fortress of Salladdin and picturesque local market. This is maximum program for two days which also can be packed into one. As soon as we didn’t want two eras mixing in one day so we ordered two-day trip and were not disappointed.
Strange but the first day’s impressions stamped in the memory better than those of second day though the last was as interesting and full as the first one. The mosque which was at the same time main strategic point and was name after Salladdin – first enemy of Richard the Lion Heart, immediately awoke in the head the images of the severe epoch of Crusades, harsh struggle between East and West.
The magnificence of the pray-hall carpets for nobility and cool grey marble for the warriors where once 70 people were killed in the political plot, make you think about unconnected mingle of mercilessness and religiousness of the Arab people soul.
It seems that every day the yard and mosqueare full of pupils whom are taken here to learn the history. With great enthusiasm and interest they look at tourists, their noise came over us when we went out themosque. From the hill where it is situated, the splendid Cairo view is opened. While we were taking photos of great panorama the girls surrounded us reminding the curious exotic birds who overcome their shyness. The most courageous were asking us about our Egyptian impressions maybe intending to improve their English.
One more colorful impression became for us visiting of famous market Khan-el-Khalili. Dress, jewellery, statues, kalian – all this you can find in Hurghada too; what was really splendid the fact that here was the centre of the life in the Middle ages. Endless labyrinths of shops, calls of barkers and bargaining became the fitting finish of our Cairo trip.
At the first day there were National museum and pyramids. The museum left the impression of the small child who was given the sweet and immediately taken away without trying it. Every object there you can study for hours. It’s impossible even to look around more attentively because you have to keep an eye on your guide who like a true sea wolf confidently drifts in the rough sea of tourist groups. Just wandering alone you can feel the museum’s energy. Odd feeling appears like being on the other side of the mirror. There is am impression that it’s not you who look but you are the object being observed from the glass, that gods and goddesses of the Ancient Egypt are true masters here and allowing you to look at the things where they live (sarcophagus, stellas, masks, jewelery) at the same time watch and study you. Why? Only they know this.
In the halls of the museum there is the energy of magic. Here are almost all treasures of the empty tombs and temples. Renovated by careful hands of restaurateurs, they seem to reborn the power of themselves, which they enlightened in the past. The tourist seemed to understand this: they didn’t want to disturb the atmosphere by remarks, thoughts but in fascinating were watching pharaohs’ masks, sacred animals’ statues, golden bracelets and pins of king Tut. The other halls – of Ancient Greek and Rome were almost empty, there were locals there.
Unfortunately the time flew as a light. Awaiting for our group members we were enjoying the small pool with a fountain in the centre surrounded by luxurious papyrus stems and white sacred lotus which cutting through the water with his slender stem, trustfully opened his tender petals to the world. These modest flowers embody the magnificence of diversity, not in vain they were the eternal symbols of Egypt. Maybe because the lotus is the flower of three elements (of water, land and air) and papyrus stem in cut is the triangle, the sacred geometry figure, embodiment of the fire energy.
In a while we were standing face to face to Eternity, living unexpressed moment of watching the first world wonder – the pyramids of Gisa. Firstly we were impressed by the space, by the crystal-clear air. How not to believe that the pyramid – the world “conditioner”, like a absorber of the negative energy. Alongside with the admiring of the ancient genius who created such a miracle, deep inside there grew unexplained disappointment which soon burst into silence despair. Despair to comprehend, discover, and realize the Mystery of the pyramid, the mystery of Egypt which you hope to know when watching it. In my head one thought pulsated: “Why? Why? Why is the Mystery so far, so hopelessly far?” But if you look at emotionless face of the Sphinx you may be sure: he’s a reliable guard for it. In vain we were walking around the pyramid, going closer or further, in vain were trying to find a good place to look from, in vain were touching the rough surface of monolith blocks… The pyramid was hiding from us. Or, better to say, we ourselves were hiding from her. Strangely some inside heaviness, maybe, our “ego” prevented to set up a contact with it. And inner voice immediately reminded that only priests, washed and pure, owning the initiation steps, knew the Mystery and its power.
The pyramid is not for ordinary mortals. But even its watching fills the soul with intangible uniqueness. Try and maybe you will be lucky to open if not the Pyramid mystery then the mysteries of your own soul which hides plenty of surprises.