Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Looking Back on Where We Have Been: A Match-up

Sitting in our room from the east bank of the Nile at modern day Luxor (Waset - or Thebes, as the Greeks --always just unashamed in being wrong --called it), we can, with a clear mind, reflect on our experiences here in Kemet. Now, as we have a 4:30 a.m. wake up call in order to beat the sun at Hatshepsut's temple and the Valley of the Kings and Queens tomorrow, I will keep this blog concise and lighthearted; I have to get the silliness out in order to conduct my late night study session in preparation for tomorrow, which will doubtless leave me in a weary haze in the morning.

Thus far, we have stayed in two cities in Kemet: Cairo and Aswan. Luxor has yet to prove itself as a favorite in certain areas, which we'll judge after we've exhausted its abundance of important sites. However, it is with great pleasure that I match up Cairo and Aswan (a very western method of critique, one may argue) and declare a winner as the "favorite."

The 10 Dimensions of Satisfaction: Cairo vs. Aswan

1. Speed: Cairo happened to be very fast-paced and loud - similar to New York City if we want to suggest an equivalent. Aswan, on the other hand was slow and quiet, aside from the canting that blared from the mosque several times a day. I'm a small town girl, so I'm going to have to give this one to Aswan.

2. People: Considering that most people we interacted with were selling something, whether it was the vendor on the street or the guard in the tomb or temple trying to get tips in exchange for the privilege of taking pictures, I can only judge the people based on the "hustlers" we interacted with. In Cairo, we had some serious salesmen-women-and-children. You would get the occasional scarf thrown on your head or the 20 postcards for a dollar offer. This was also the case for Aswan, but at least there, the hustlers may preface the hassle with "My sister." Thus, Aswan takes it.

3. Postcard Moment: In Cairo, riding a real-life camel with the Giza Pyramids of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure as a backdrop. In Aswan, the magnificent cliff facade of the temples at Abu Simbel...after a 3 hour bus ride and some incidents of racial profiling in the temple. Aswan, you lost on this one.

4. Museums: Cairo had the Cairo Museum. It was HUGE and full of so much that we've seen on TV, in books. The antiquities were absolutely breathtaking...if you could breathe at all in the musty, no-A.C. or climate control interior. Plus, you are not allowed to talk, take pictures, or breathe wrong, so don't even worry about it. And you had to pay extra to get into the mummy room. Now at the Nubian Museum in Aswan, although the place was much smaller, there was definitely better climate control, and the exhibits were labeled better. And we could talk. And take pictures. I'm going to call this a tie.

5. Hotel: Honestly, earlier today I couldn't even remember our hotel in Cairo (Le Meridien Pyramids) because it paled in comparison to Aswan. Nuff said. But because I like to embellish I will say that I now remember that Cairo's pool closed early. Wack. Plus the hotel was loud and crowded. In Aswan, we stayed at the Movenpick, which was a veritable resort on Elphantine Island. I mean, we had to take a ferry across the Nile every day to get back there. It was quiet, and everyone's room had a view of the Nile at sunrise and under the night sky. (A view that I miss considering I have a view of of a construction pit here at Luxor right now. I don't even want to talk about it anymore.) Aswan wins that round.

6. Transportation: Cairo gave us the please of riding a bus everywhere. Well, we did get to take a plane from Cairo, although that plane had some serious turbulence on the landing, which I'll fairly attribute to the atmosphere over Aswan. In Aswan, however, we got to ride a bus, a ferry, a boat, and we even moved around a little bit by swimming! The Aswan bus, though, was driven in high-speed-police-chase fashion. Tie.

7. Sites: This is a hard match-up. On one hand, we saw the Giza Pyramids, Khufu's funerary boat, the Step Pyramids at Saqqara, a colossal statue of Ramesses II at Mennefer (Memphis), the tomb of PtahHotep, Teti's pyramid, Kagemmi's tomb in and around Cairo. In Aswan, we went to the Philae Temple, Abu Simbel, the unfinished obelisk of Hatshepsut, and the Tombs of the Nobles. How can someone really compare the satisfaction of being at any of the sites. I loved them all.

8. Merchandise: In Cairo, it was all about people flirting with you and handing you things that you can find all over Egypt. And there was a semi-sketchy jewelry store. In Aswan, we could purchase and watch people make papyrus. There were also oils and spices. Prices were cheaper, and at the market, you could "talk em down." Aswan gets this one.

9. Things done and heard as a consequence of being Black: Cairo - "Obama! Obama!" "1 dollar." ...Aswan - "Obama! Obama!" "My Sister" "My color" "My Cousin" "You are Nubian. American Nubian." Get to be followed by some guards. Get to ride a boat, though. Get to dance on a boat. Get to drive a boat. Get to use my Nubian-ness to negotiate lower prices. Definitely Aswan.

10. Contributions to Exhaustion: Cairo - Climbing a steep pyramid bent over liable to self-decapitate or break spine with one false step. Temperature = summer in Texas with a slight breeze....Aswan - Climbing mountains with no pyramid stuffiness. However, Temperature = hell. "Re, why have you forsaken us?" Cairo has it.

All-in-all, Aswan is the place that has the key to my heart thus far. Something tells me, though, that after tomorrow, there may be some competition between Aswan in Waset (Luxor). Waset has already tugged at my heartstrings with Ipet Isut ( "The most select of places" or the Temple at Karnak )Until tomorrow, let me get some sleep so I won't be looking like a zombie walking around the west bank.



Zelle said...

Angi I totally loved that =)

BLP said...

You paint a vivid picture of both places AP; can't wait to hear your final thoughts on Luxor. Sleep well my Nubian princess. I love you, Mom.

Pearl said...


After visiting the Cairo Museum last summer (Inaugural Egypt Trip Representative), I was moved to work in the Museum sector.

Your complaints are extremely valid and will change!

However, I vote for the Aswan Museum. It was a better museum experience.