Hal Higdon and his wife Rose will be traveling through Egypt and Israel from March 7 through March 27. In addition to our regular Tuesday Q&A postings, we will be hosting Hal's updates from his travels on this blog, under the tag "Egypt".
Approaching the locks at Endu, the rowboats surged toward us. There were three or four boats, two men in each boat, one of them rowing, the other one standing in the stern waving towels and various other items for sale at us. And as we close on the lock, which would lower us to the level of the river past the dam, I worried that the boats might be crushed, but obviously these vendors had been doing this for a while. Quickly, they began hurling items in plastic bags onto the top deck and members in our party began hurling them back. That didn't discourage the vendors, who continued to propel sale items at us. I couldn't help thinking that there was an opening for a quarterback in Indianapolis.
And soon it got worse as we entered the lock and became prey for the dozens of vendors standing on the concrete walls on eah side of us. Items reined upon us, particularly as the water level dropped and the sellers were on the same level. But we eventually passed through the lock and some within our group did buy towels, and scarves and sheath dresses and various items.
Vendors; they are the scurge of the tourists visiting the monuments of Egypt. One has to feel sorry for them, since the tourist industry is down, way down, many who might otherwise visit Egypt postponing trips because of fears following the Revolution. Some say that instead of 12 million visitors last year, only 2 million came, and in many ways that is good for us, because there are no long lines or crowds of shoulder to shoulder people getting in our way. But it is bad for the vendors, because their business has to be way down too, and they have to survive, and we feel sorry for them, and sometimes buy, but they buzz around us like paparazzi around Lady GaGa, and it can be irritating at times having to fend off people pushing items in our faces and saying, "One dollar. One dollar."
We are in Luxor, or rather on the river off Luxor, our boat the MISR being our hotel. Without question, Luxor has more fine art than any other city in the world, and I am including Paris, and Rome and Athens. The tombs in the Valley of the Kings are breathtaking, the size of the temples at Karnak so huge as to make one wonder how could they have been built without the cranes of today. And the colors! Particularly in the deep tombs the drawings and hieroglyphics on the walls are comic book bright when it comes to colors.
I asked Michael how the artists could see to work in an era before electricity and they couldn't have used torches otherwise they would have choked on the smoke. Mirrors, he said. Mirrors that reflected the light of the Sun into the darkest chambers, even when there were 90-degree corners from one tunnel to another.
We have only one more day on the river and we will be back to Cairo for a wrap-up of our tour.