An Egypt without tourists could mean two things: one, that we would have the monuments and sights to ourselves without bumping shoulders with thousands of other tourists, or it could mean that the energy of the Egyptians would become so concentrated on the few visitors who have braved the revolution that you’d find yourself holed up in your hotel contemplating skipping the second meal of the day just so you don't have to face the desperate mobs. Both turned out to be true.
It is really wild to drive into empty parking lots that are usually filled with busses and take pole position by the front gate. In Edfu we were two of a handful of other visitors; in the three hours that I spent roaming the temple complex I came across two other families. Ours was the only car in the parking lot. The guard told us that on any given day the lots would be full; people are trucked in here by the busload. Two different ticket sellers working at the Edfu and Karnack temples estimated daily ticket sales of 7,000 – 7,500 respectively. It is great if you don’t like gaping tourists in all of your photos, but not so good if you’re an Egyptian merchant relying on the tourist industry.
So before you get caught up empathizing with the Egyptians I must tell you about a call I made to my Granddad last night. He was stationed in Egypt during the Second World War. I wanted to ask him what the Egyptians were like back then, just to get a feel for the people, a sort of mental gage. I wanted to know if the palpable desperation is a new phenomenon or are they just class act scammers from way back when, prying on your sympathies. Well, I won’t repeat my Granddad’s words, but let’s just say nothing much has changed.
Yes, I know it is sad to see a country digging out from decades of corruption on a mass scale, but these guys are really good at reinforcing compassion fatigue. After decades of scamming a good wake-up call might be in order. It got so bad that we even decided to violate a basic family rule, no hotel food, and ate dinner at the Sheridan one night just to avoid the street scene. That dinner only reinforced our rule, but that is another story. We’ve met other travelers more bright eyed than we are who remain somewhat torn between pity and irritation, a bit worn down by their persistent whining, but GP and I are road worn and salty at this point. We don’t want to hear it.
With our ‘thick skin’ on we’ve spent the past two weeks wandering alone through some of the most incredible sights I’ve ever seen. Everything is bigger and more ornately carved than I had imagined. Incredible. Now those of you who know me know that I have an appreciation for all things aesthetic, it’s in my blood. Both of my Grandmothers have/had a deep love for excess. My Nana loves anything over the top: sequins, rhinestones, ruffles and anything pearly or opalescent. My Grams had a flare for red: red and gold flocked wallpaper, red velvet boudoir furniture, fur bedspreads, nudes hung on the walls (very risqué to my conservative young memory) and tubes of Channel Red that she’d stock up on when in Portland…oh and she even had an Egyptian room. My gaudy streak runs deep. I am in heaven here.
In keeping with the theme established over 3,500 years ago the shops are crammed full of every conceivable Egyptian trinket most of which are gilded and glittered. At one point all of these gorgeous temples were painted in primary colors from foundation to roof, it is hard to imagine these elegant sand blasted stone structures were at one time the height of gaudiness. But the modern day Egyptians are keeping the tradition alive and well and it is a sight to see. I would love to wander into all of the shops, but I can only subject myself to a few hours of their begging and finagling a day. Imagine hearing [in creepy slimeball voice] ooooh, lucky man 100 times a day *shiver*. Surely there are more original ways to make a buck.
Sending my love,