Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Legendary and lecherous Manchester United striker George Best once said, “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.” Before this weekend I could have said the same about water, falafel, and taxi rides. But the $400 dollars I spent on the cruise from Aswan to Luxor was the best $400 I ever spent, and that includes the broken cuckoo clock I bought in the Black Forest.

It only lasted for three days and two nights, but I would’ve paid the price of admission just for the food. In sharp contrast to the involuntary fasting I have participated since my arrival, the cruise offered buffet-style meals; it was like TDR on a boat. So I gorged myself on dates, various forms of chicken and meat, and made the dessert table my own. I know my eating habits is not the primary reason you’re reading this, but I feel not mentioning my number one past-time would be entirely misleading, lying by omission if you will.

But now to the adventure! We left AUC at 3:30 am Friday and our flight landed in Aswan around 8. When I say Egypt is a backwards country, I’m not being condescending. They call south Egypt “Upper Egypt” and the Nile flows north, defying the laws of gravity. Also, there are no human rights and they shut down the whole country for a whole month to celebrate Ramadan (which, Ham d’Allah, ended over the weekend). There, that’s me being condescending. We got off to a wild start by looking at some dams. Spirits were low, as we were tired and hot. And when I say hot, I mean rul hot. Aswan is on the ominously named Tropic of Cancer, which has been described as the equator’s little brother. And when I say spirits were low, we were looking at dams.

The day took a positive turn though when we were ferried out to Philae temple. It was here that it first hit me how awesome ancient Egypt is. These guys were dragging and decorating stones thousands of years ago, and here I am sitting on it today, still being able to make out what they drew. I can’t read my handwriting five minutes after writing it. It also became apparent I was not going to be able to understand our tour guide, so all historical information in this post is pure speculation.

After seeing the temple we checked into the ship, Princess Sarah. We grabbed some grub and then were ferried out to a Nubian village. The Nubians are the native people living below the Egypt you normally think of, though there seems to be a fare bit of overlap. The ride out there was probably the most entertaining part. Within a minute of leaving the dock our boat brushed another boat, sending the bumpers flying into my classmates sitting on that side of the boat. Then we passed a boat of what I took to be aspiring Somali pirates, who apparently have no fear of crocodiles or disease and were having the times of their lives splashing around the Nile. Then we were attacked by these submarine children, who more or less popped out of the water and foam boards and attached themselves to our boat. They sang such classics as Row, row ,row your boat and the Wheels on the bus. Then they asked for money and it was awkward so we shooed them away and on to the next boat. I didn’t come to Egypt to make friends, damn it.

Finally, after some very scenic landscapes, we arrived in the Nubian village. Here camels were much more prevalent than cars and it seemed like we were more in Africa than the Middle East. We were told we were going to be taught the Nubian alphabet, which I immediately tried to drop and pick up Nubian Prose, but that class was already full. So we learned the Nubian alphabet in the form of a song and then went to sit in this common area to drink tea. While sipping tea, we were informed that there were crocodiles in our midst! And sure enough, in this covered pit, there were crocodiles. And they even offered us a chance to poke them with long sticks! Holding half-dead lions one week, poking caged crocodiles the next. I’ve turned into quite the wilderness man. Next weekend I’m hoping to sit on a dead hippo.

We returned to the ship, had dinner, then went to see what the night life in Aswan looked like. We went to a market, suspiciously labeled “Tourist Market”, and checked the place out. Everyone is trying to sell you everything, and one guy shouted “How can I take your money!” I think he was going for how can I help you, but I think his broken English was much more clear. What was most shocking was how much mariwuana we were offered. It is forbidden in Egypt and the drug laws are extremely harsh, decades in jail for any kind of possession. This kind of strict drug policy probably explains Call of Duty and Halo’s lack of popularity over here. But I guess Aswan parties hard and the crew I was rolling with admittedly do look like stoners. It was funny though cuz whenever we said no they always acted so confused, like they had no idea they had even asked a question. We ended up hanging out at this boys only café, which I know sounds similar to most parties held at Connecticut Heights, but in this case girls weren’t allowed much less invited. It was pretty bro.

The next morning we woke up at 8 for bfast and then spent the rest of the morning poolside. If I spent half my weekend eating, I spent the other half getting my tan on. A lot of people in the know peg it as the missing piece of the puzzle for me cracking into People’s 100 Most Beautiful list. Around ten or so we hoisted sail, lifted anchor, and most importantly, turned on the engine. It was a pretty surreal experience to be floating around in a pool with a sprawling backdrop of desert, grassland, and small towns all blending into each other. We passed enough mosques to make Ground Zero appear like a non-secular city square in contrast to the Muslimist stronghold we all know it has become. Soon we took another ferry to Kom Ombo, which was legit. It was one of the first cities with a hospital, has tunnels that go under the river, and a giant well like structure used for measuring the height of the river, called the Nilometer. I didn’t really capture the point of the Nilometer, as the actual Nile itself surrounded the island and it would be pretty apparent when there was a flood. Also the tour guide made the absurd claim that this one stone pit that was connected to the Nilometer was a hot tub. A hot tub in the middle of a desert. Okay “tour guide”, I’ve seen this stunt before in Slum Dog Millionaire. But it was pretty cool, they had ancient depictions of surgery and the like. On the other hand, they also had ancient depictions of child birth, which I didn’t care for. But my mind was elsewhere, for that night there was going to be a costume party!

For the low price of $15, I bought a two piece gallibaya with a scarf included! Talk about a deal. Naturally I got blue to bring out my eyes. Mitch got black, Richie white, and Ryan wore a t-shirt but saved it by wearing a scarf and sun glasses, claiming to be the son of an oil tycoon. The costume party was pretty hyped up so we were all pretty excited. Naturally, we got there first. After a half hour, it was pretty apparent my suitemates and I were some of the few who chose to participate in the costume party that evening. But then the dancing started, and I just let myself go and forgot all my problems, like I do. The night ended pretty disastrously, with Ryan challenging me to a juice drinking contest through straws. I still haven’t felt well since. But I won. Needless to say, since I’m including my juice-drinking feats in this paragraph, the costume party was a letdown. And we had an early morning the next day.

Wake up call at FIVE IN THE MORNING. After a weekend of little sleep, this displeased most of us. After Kom Ombo we cruised to the Edfu temple, which was striking in its sheer size. It was completed by Cleopatra, but that’s all I can tell you about it. We went back aboard and passed through one of the locks they have on the Nile. The locks are used to make the ride smoother to change elevations, but after immediately crashing into the left hand side of the canal I doubted their efficiency. In the end it was pretty boring, but it gave me a good excuse to get a good calf-tan on. Not long after we set off for the Valley of the Kings, where no cameras were allowed, adding to the mystique. It was awesome, but so hot. I don’t know why the ancient Egyptians chose to ride out to the middle of the desert to dig so far down in the earth. Seems to me we passed a lot of real estate on the way there that would have sufficed. Just another way I could have built the world better. But yeah it was very cool, a lot of the tombs had the original paint still on them. And the hieroglyphics were amazing. Probably a hundred yards of them detailing Ramses’ life. Either he led quite the life or it takes forever to spell anything using birds and eyes. I like to believe the latter, if only to convince myself it would take 100 yards to sum up my life in birds and eyes. Then again FIFA is only four letters. I’ll never get tired of FIFA jokes, so don’t ask.

All that was left on the cruise was Luxor Temple, but what a way to finish. It was dark by that point, but they do a nice job of illuminating it. The obelisk was pretty intense. I know we have the Washington monument, but I think the absence of goose crap on the obelisk added something to it. The other cool thing here was the Sphinx Avenue, which has scores of little sphinxes all lined up. After viewing the temple, we went back to the cruise to enjoy the last supper. By eleven, we were on the way to the airport and by four Monday morning we were back on campus. And so ended one of the greatest weekends of my life. To console myself, I ate three falafels.

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