In February of 2000, I went to Egypt with my mother and my brother, Tim. My mother is from Cairo, and I had always wanted to see her country and culture. I invite you to explore with me here this incredible and varied land, rich in culture and history, from primitive agricultural villages to bustling Cairo, from the heights of the Pyramids to the depths of Sinai coral reefs. I will show you 4,500 years of art and architecture of the Nile Valley, from the earliest pyramids through the temples and tombs of the New Kingdom, through later Greek-influenced temples, through Roman fortresses, through early Christian churches, through medieval mosques to modern palaces and skyscrapers. Enjoy!

All text and photos copyright 2000, Elizabeth A. Zuckerman, unless otherwise noted. All photos have been electronically reproduced as exposed on film, without retouching or reformatting (except for the background, for readability).

Dates, facts, etc. quoted from Lonely Planet's Egypt, unless otherwise noted.

CAIRO, 2/6/00-2/8/00

Cairo is an intense place. No place in the US is this densely populated with people, but, like the US, it is densely overpopulated with cars. The smog is worse than it is in LA, and crossing a major street involves taking one's life into one's hands. Yet everything except the airport is centrally located, and it is very easy to get from one place to another. Most people cannot afford cars, but cabs are incredibly inexpensive. Cairo has an extensive bus system and a modern Metro that rivals any in the US for efficiency. Except for the hectic pace, overcrowded conditions and general unfamiliarity of it all, it is a very easy city to be in. Street crime is virtually nonexistent, and everyone happily welcomes tourists to Egypt. Many people speak English. Food is cheap. Virtually all businesses, including banks, are open late. Because of Cairo's extensive history, it features exciting architecture from a great number of periods. Above is a typical Cairo square -- Talat Harb (Three Wars).

While still recovering from jet lag on Monday, 2/7, we visited the famous Egyptian Museum. In many ways, it is very strange to see actual ancient Egyptian artifacts.  Because we are so accustomed to seeing reproductions, I just kept feeling like I was looking at another reproduction.  It was an odd feeling.  Of course, the most exciting thing at the museum was the Treasures of Tutankhamum exhibit, featuring many solid gold pieces, like this gold mask. Tutankhamun was the last pharoh of the New Kingdom 18th dynasty, dating these treasures from 1333-1323 BCE.

One of the most interesting ancient Egyptian figures is Akhenaten, who immediately preceded Tutankhamum (1353-1333 BCE). Akhenaten was the first royal monotheist, who promoted worship of one sun god, Atun, rather than many gods. He attempted to replace the old goddess imagery with images of his wife, Nefertiti, whose images are still popular in Egypt. He was also the only pharoh to depict himself realistically, with his flaws.

On Tuesday, 2/8, we did pyramids. We took a tour of the original Old Kingdom settlement known as Memphis, about 15 miles from Cairo, Saqqara, site of the first pyramids, and finally the Giza Pyramids. Memphis has a museum of artifacts, including this enormous Colosus of Ramses II, Egypt's most famous pharoh and its most prolific builder of monuments (New Kingdom 19th dynasty, 1290-1224 BCE). You will see that, unlike Akhenaten, Ramses depicted himself as a tower of strength. You can get an idea of the size of the colosus by comparison with me and my mother and brother near his right shoulder. (Photo by Hussein, tour guide.)

Next, we visited the Tomb of Akhti-Hotep and Ptah-Hotep. This father and son were not pharohs, but officials during the Old Kingdom 5th Dynasty (2465-2323 BCE). Since they were not royalty, their tomb depicts daily life at the time rather than scenes of gods. For instance, we can see from this carving that the 5th Dynasty Egyptians did glass-blowing.

We then went to see the Step Pyramid of Zoser at Saqqara. This is sort of a proto-pyramid, built by the great engineer Imhotep during the reign of King Zoser from 2630-2611 BC. You will see that the sides are not smooth, as that was a later development. In front of Zoser's Pyramid in the picture is the Pyramid of Unas, which was built after the Giza Pyramids, when the art of smoothly sloping sides had been perfected.

It was kind of interesting traveling through the poor villages of Egypt outside of Cairo and seeing the farms. The women all carry things on their heads, sometimes very large loads, on the order of a big basket of fruit and a rolled up blanket together. I can see how being able to hold one's head still and isolate one's hips like that would have aided the development of belly dancing.

On to the famous Pyramids of Giza! Here is the largest and most famous, Khufu's (Cheops') Pyramid, completed about 2600 BC.

As the Pyramids are all by themselves out on a plain, it's really difficult to get an idea of their immense size, even when standing right in front of them. We were told at the Sound & Light Show that the footprint of St. Peter's Basilica would fit inside the footprint of Khufu's Pyramid. To give you some idea of the Pyramid's size, here is a picture of me climbing on it. Yes, there are stairs, and no, you are no longer allowed to climb to the top. (Photo by Hussein, tour guide.)

Next, we saw the Sphinx, or Abu L'Hol as he is called in Arabic. As you can see from this picture, he is right near the Pyramids. No one is sure how old he is or what he is meant to represent, but it is believed that he was built at the same time as the Pyramids and has the face of Khafre (Chephren), Khufu's son.

Here's a view of the Sphinx you don't often see -- I bet you didn't know he had a tail! You can see here that he is under restoration -- the part with the bricks has been restored, and they are working their way up.

c What a beautiful place! Sharm el-Sheikh, at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, is a westernized beach/diving resort on the Red Sea, entirely unlike the rest of Egypt. It features some of the world's finest coral reefs. It's modern and getting rapidly overdeveloped, but for now you can walk everywhere except to the airport. There is a road for cars, but just beyond the beach, there is a walkway going past all of the hotels and resorts, leading to a downtown area with restaurants, beachwear shops and the ubiquitous shops selling cheesy reproductions of Egyptian artifacts. You would expect a lot of seafood, but, as most everyone there is an Italian tourist, the place is full of Italian restaurants. Most of the waterfront is privately developed, but there are a few public beaches. This is the place where I was most comfortable in Egypt, because it was a lot more like the US and more familiar. I didn't feel as constantly confronted by the alien-ness of everything around me.

We stayed at the Novotel, which was amazing.  Everything was incredibly clean and white, the landscaping was fabulous and there was a huge breakfast buffet.  There was also an excellent dive center.  We also experienced a great deal of that famous Egyptian hospitality.  The staff was incredibly friendly and helpful -- everyone remembers you, greets you by name and comes up to you on the beach to ask you how your day was. But the best part was the incredible coral reefs, right on the premises.  You could just step into the water, wade a few feet, and there they were!  In just a short dip on Wednesday, I saw several clownfish, an anemone and a poisonous lionfish.

Thursday was kind of cold and cloudy.  We rested and checked out the town.  Tim did a brief "checkout" dive in preparation for a more challenging dive the next day, so the dive center could make sure he was up to it.  Mom and I took a glass-bottom boat ride.  The Arabic guide said everything twice, first in Italian and then in English.  

On Friday, I first went snorkeling, and then did my first dive. What an incredible experience! The fish were amazing, and the coral itself is truly beautiful! Once again, I kept having a hard time believing I was looking at the real thing instead of a Disney reproduction. It's kind of unnerving at first swimming around in the middle of a whole bunch of fish, but you get used to it. The water was incredibly clear. I only went down a few meters, but it was great to be able to explore further down from the surface. I felt like I'd discovered a whole new world I'd never seen before.

LUXOR, 2/12/00-2/13/00

We spent the next several days on a Nile cruise with a hilarious Egyptologist guide named Mahmoud. He was really a lot of fun. He said the most important thing for an Egyptologist to know is how to get back to the tour boat. 95% of the boat passengers were with one Italian tour groups. Besides us, there were just a few French-speaking Canadians from Montreal. Their French-speaking guide failed to materialize, but they could all speak English, so they came along with Mahmoud. We would periodically try to talk to them in French (or at least to understand what they were saying in French). The last day on the boat, they seated us at lunch with an Argentinian couple, who spoke a little English but mostly Spanish, so then we had to try to switch to Spanish. Going back and forth from English to Arabic to French to Spanish made my head spin, but it was definitely interesting.

Ah, Luxor! This is one of the most exciting places to see in Egypt -- the former Thebes, capital of the New Kingdom. The ancient Egyptians associated the east with the sunrise and life and the west with the sunset and death, so all of the tombs are on the west bank and most of the temples are on the east bank. There is also the quaint City of Luxor, full of signs that say, "YOU ARE LUCKY TO VISIT LUXOR," as well as more amusing messages like this one.

On Saturday, we visited Karnak and Luxor Temples. Karnak was my favorite thing in Egypt. It is not one temple, but a huge temple complex built over the course of nearly 1,500 years (starting in the 20th century BCE), with each pharoh adding a bit. Here is the entrance to this magnificent temple. In front is a row of ram-headed sphinxes, which once extended several kilometers to Luxor Temple and was used for promenades.

As you walk through the temple, you go through rows of columns. Every surface is carved with hieroglyphs, although some are damaged.

Mahmoud told us about one of the ironies of ancient Egypt -- the preservation of this detailed obelisk of Queen Hatshepsut. Hatshepsut became queen in 1473 BCE after a power struggle with her nephew, Thutmosis III, who was very young when his grandfather died. Thutmosis felt, throughout her reign and after her death in 1458 BCE, that she had usurped his rightful power. He hated her and destroyed many of her images. The priests, however, would not allow him to destroy this obelisk, as it was a monument for a god. Thutmosis instead built high walls all around it. Ironically, this protection from the sun helped to preserve the obelisk in the state in which we see it today.

This is a beautiful statue of young King Tutankhamun (1333-1323 BCE).

Throughout ancient Egyptian architecture, you will see the lotus, symbol of Lower (northern) Egypt, and the papyrus, symbol of Upper (southern) Egypt. Here is an example of a lotus column.

And here is an example of a papyrus column.

I tried to take some pictures that really gave a feel for what Karnak is like -- how you are just surrounded by ruins and statues and columns scattered here and there. Here is a more open, more ruined area. You can see Hatshepsut's obelisk in the background.

Here is a view looking up at some of the structures, where you can see a little bit of what was once various rooms. You can see more examples of the papyrus columns here.

Here you can see Hatshepsut's obelisk and the papyrus columns from the preceding picture in the context of the surrounding structures.

After Karnak, we went to the nearby Luxor Temple, constructed during the reign of Amenhotep I (1525-1504 BCE). The temple was added to by Ramses II. At the entrance to the temple is a well-preserved statue of Ramses II. There were originally six of these statues, but only two remain.

Here is the statue from behind. You can see the detailed carvings on the back of the chair, detailing Ramses' exploits.

Like Karnak, Luxor Temple features rows of beautifully carved columns.

Here are more examples of papyrus columns in the court of Amenhophis III (1391-1353 BCE).

And here is a beautiful view looking up a column.

This temple was used by Christians during the time they dominated Egypt (from Roman times until the Islamic conquest in 640 CE -- although it should be noted that a majority of Egyptians remained Christian for about 300 years after the Islamic conquest). The early Christians painted over some of the ancient Egyptian art with art of their own. Here is an early Christian painting -- I believe it's supposed to be a depiction of the Last Supper.

And here is the other end of the Avenue of Sphinxes, which once connected Luxor and Karnak Temples. Apparently, many parts of the avenue are today buried under the City of Luxor.

On Sunday, February 13th, we went to the west bank of the Nile in Luxor. We first saw the Colossi of Memnon. These two enormous seated statues are all that remains of the temple of Amenophis III (1391-1353 BCE). The Colossi really give you a sense of the age of New Kingdom architecture, as they were already an antiquity visited by tourists during the times of ancient Greece and Rome. When Alexander the Great arrived in Egypt in 332 BCE, these statues were already as old as the venerable Winchester Cathedral is now!

In about 30 BCE, the statues were damaged by an earthquake. This caused the statue on the right to make a singing noise as it warmed in the morning sun. The Greeks imagined that the Ethiopian King Memnon, killed in the Trojan War, was singing to his mother, the dawn goddess Eos. The statue ceased to sing after it was repaired by a Roman governor in the 2nd century CE.

Next, we went to the famous Valley of the Kings, where the New Kingdom pharohs were buried. The tombs are nestled amongst lovely sandy hills. For your ticket, you are allowed to visit three tombs. The first tomb Mahmoud took us to was that of Ramses IX of the 20th dynasty (1196-1070 BCE). Each tomb follows the same architectural pattern -- a long tunnel shape that gets longer and narrower as you go through.

All of the ancient Egyptian carvings were originally painted in color; however, most of the color has faded over time. Inside the tombs, out of the sun, the paint was preserved, so you can see what it once looked like. Try to imagine Karnak temple painted in colors like these heiroglyphs.

I have always had a fondness for photographing ceilings, so I particularly adored the goddess Nut. She is a sky goddess, so she is usually depicted on the ceiling or roof. Here, we see her swallowing the sun at dusk, and the sun travelling through her body to be born again at dawn.

Next, we visited the tomb of Seti II (1210-1204 BCE). This tomb featured beautiful sunken reliefs. The Egyptians did both sunken and raised reliefs.

The final tomb we visited was that of Merneptah, son of Ramses II. It is believed that he was the pharoh whom Moses confronted when he freed the Jews from slavery in Egypt. You can still see the sarcophagus in the bottom of this tomb.

Next we went to one of the attractions I was most excited about seeing -- the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut (also known as Deir el-Bahri). Although this temple was the sight of a dreadful massacre a few years ago (and every tourist attraction in Egypt is now heavily guarded by men with large rifles as a result), I've still always felt that it was one of the most beautiful and exciting of Egypt's monuments. I am fascinated by the way it was partially just carved out of the hillside (although parts of it are free-standing).

You can see that the horrible terrorist action has not driven too many people away, from this picture showing the crowds (and me) in the foreground.

In this close-up of the third terrace of the temple, you can see several statues of Hatshepsut. Once, every pillar on the third terrace had a statute of Hatshepsut; however, many of them were damaged by time and by her successor, Thutmosis III. You see some scaffolding in the picture because the temple is under restoration by a Polish-Egyptian team. Mahmoud told us that they have been working on restoring the temple for decades.

You can see that, in order to legitimize her authority as pharoh, Hatshepsut portrayed herself as a man, with a beard.

You can walk up and see the entrances to the inside of the temple on the second terrace, although you cannot enter because of the restoration. You can see here, however, the elaborate level of decoration with which the doors were done. Some of the color is still preserved here.

Here is an early, cartoonish attempt to depict motion in a still drawing. There are four images of this man, and we are supposed to see that he is in the process of lifting something.

Hatshepsut included images of gods in their honor. Here is a statue of a fertility goddess called Hathor, who is depicted either as a cow or as a woman with cow ears.

Here I am with another god, Horus, who appears either as a hawk or as a man with a hawk's head. There will be more about both Hathor and Horus later as we proceed down the Nile to temples dedicated to them specifically.

One site in Luxor we did not see (as it was not on our itinerary) was the Ramesseum. This is the ruins of a once grand moument of the great builder, Ramses II. We did drive past it, and I got a picture from the car.

It was time at last to leave the grand and glorious City of Luxor, and I felt lucky indeed to have visited it.


We took a boat called the M/S Orchestra from Luxor to Aswan. Mahmoud told us that the most important thing for an Egyptian tour guide to know is not what the hieroglyphics mean or who the pharohs were or when the temple was built, but rather, where the boat is. It's actually fairly easy to lose track of your boat, because, he says, there are more than 300 of them operating on the Nile. There are so many, in fact, that there isn't room to dock all of them along the shore, so they line them up three or four deep, and you just walk through from one boat to the next until you come to your own. Here's a photo of the boat's lobby.

In between visting temples, you travel down the Nile in style. The trips include three elaborate, multi-course meals every day (mostly Italian food, of course). Every boat has a deck with a pool on top. Here I am enjoying the M/S Orchestra's Claire de Lune deck.

As if the temples on the Nile's banks weren't enough to attract you, the banks themselves are beautiful, with a variety of plant life and beautiful cliffs.

The best view of all from the boat was this incredible sunrise my mother woke me up to see. It's a rare thing for me to be awake at a time when one might photograph a sunrise, but this was definitely worth getting out of bed for!

I promised there would be more of Horus the hawk god. On Tuesday, February 14th, we visited Edfu Temple, dedicated to Horus. The temple is a mile or so from the riverbank, and every Edfu tourist travels to the temple via a horse and carriage (hantour).

The Temple of Horus dates from a later period than the temples in Luxor, and thus is better preserved. This particular temple is Egypt's best-preserved. It was built over a period of nearly 200 years, starting in 237 BCE. This was during the period of Greek rule over Egypt. One of the ways the Greeks legitimized their rule was by worshiping Egyptian gods declaring themselves to be pharohs designated by Egyptian gods. Thus, they built temples to Egyptian gods in the Egyptian style with some Greek influence.

The winged scarab is a popular Egyptian motif often seen over doorways, as here.

Near the entrance to the temple is a statue of Horus the hawk himself. Here I am with him.

Since this temple is so well-preserved, you can really see how every surface of the columns had been carved. Every surface of the columns at the previous temples had also been carved, but some of the carvings have been lost with time.

And it wasn't just the columns. The Egyptians carved (and painted) every surface of each their temples. It was much more obvious in this well-preserved temple. I took this picture along a wall to give you an idea of the amount of covering there was.

This is a Nilometer, of which several have been found in Upper Egypt. These determined the scale of taxation. They were holes located near the Nile that were used to measure the water level from year to year. If the water level were high, they predicted a good harvest and charged high taxes, and if the water level were low, the predicted that the harvest would be poor and charged lower taxes.

After traveling a little further down the Nile, we stopped at the dual Temple of Sobek and Haroeris at Kom Ombu. This is a Roman period temple, begun by Ptolemy VI Philometor in the 2nd century BCE, although it was still being worked on at the time of Emperor Augustus in the 1st century BCE. This picture shows the structure of the temple. Note the "twin" doorways, again with the winged scarabs above.

The reason for the "twin" doorways is that Kom Ombu is a twin temple, having two perfectly symmetrical sides. One side is dedicated to Haroeris, also known as Horus the Elder, another falcon, and the other side is dedicated to Sobek, a crocodile god, as crocodiles were common in Kom Ombu before the erection of the Aswan dam. Crocodiles were sometimes mummified in ancient Egypt, and this temple has many crocodile features, such as a bath for baby crocodiles and a crocodile-shaped Nilometer. You can see some better-preserved temple carvings here.

The sun was going down at the time we visited Kom Ombu, and I didn't really want to use a flash, so I did not get pictures of some of the temple's more interesting carvings. I did get some interesting effects by shooting with available light, as you can see in this photo of the side of the temple.

And this photo of what I believe is an alter.

Some of the temple's more interesting carvings included a drawing that apparently some scholars believe is a primitive stethoscope. It looked like it could just as well have been a necklace to me. There was also a fertility symbol depicting young manhood and old manhood. This featured two erect penises, one dripping seven drops of semen and the other five. Mahmoud asked us to figure out which represented young manhood and which represented old manhood, and, when no one responded, he said, "Come on, this is civilization!" Of course, the one with more drops of semen represented young manhood. I did get a picture of this elaborate early calendar. The Egyptians, of course, were clever astronomers, and understood the yearly cycles of the earth and sun to the point where they knew they had to add a leap day to the calendar every four years, as we still do today.

ASWAN, 2/15-16/00

Unlike Luxor or any of the Nile Valley towns, Aswan is not only a tourist destination, but a large, civilized city where a lot of people live. You had the option of going to restaurants instead of eating all of your meals on the boat. The first thing Mahmoud took us to was the Unfinished Oelisk. This was going to be part of one of Hatshepsut's monuments, but was unfinished because a crack was discovered in it. Today, it is used as an example of how the Egyptians did their construction. Mahmoud told us that they used a combination of driving stakes and pouring water between the stakes to crack stones.

Here is the Ufinished Obelisk itself. You can see where it is cracked in the middle, and left as part of the rock from which it came.

If the Unfinished Obelsik had ever been extracted from the parent rock and moved, it would be the largest single piece of stone ever handled by human beings (larger than the rocks at Stonehenge). To give you an idea of its size, here is a picture of the Unifinshed Obelisk in its environs. The Unfinished Obelisk is the long, smooth-edged stone jutting downward from the left edge of the picture into the middle of the picture. For scale, you can see some people walking around on the rocks above the Unfinished Obelisk.

Next, we visited the famed Aswan High Dam. Not terribly attractive, is it? The British built the first Aswan Dam between 1898 and 1902, but it has been replaced by the High Dam, a joint Russian-Egyptian project constructed between 1960 and 1971. One of the largest public works projects in the world, it stands 111 meters high. The High Dam has increased the fertility of Egypt's lands and helped feed its poor people, but it also flooded the homeland of the Nubian people, most of whom now live in either Aswan or Abu Simbel. Many archeological sites were also flooded, although some monuments were moved to higher ground. The High Dam forever ended the annual Nile flooding cycle that sustained Egypt from ancient times until the 20th century.

The High Dam created the world's largest artificial lake, Lake Nasser, named for the Egyptian president who initiated the project.  The lake covers 5250 square kilometers.  All of the Nile's famed crocodiles are now gone from the Nile and live exclusively in Lake Nasser.

We took a lovely boat ride on Lake Nasser back to the ancient world for a visit to the beautiful Philae Temples, the last temples we visited. I particularly liked these temples because they were dedicated to goddesses instead of gods -- Isis and Hathor. These temples were constructed between the 4th century BCE and the 3rd century CE. I took a lot of pictures of them because they were really beautiful and on a really stunning site, so I didn't want to give them short shrift by scanning just a couple. The main temple, pictured here, is dedicated to Isis, the mother of Horus the hawk god.

I wanted to take this opportunity to show you that the tickets for all of these attrations are really interesting, each featuring a picture of the attraction. They cost LE20, or about US$8. They cost only LE1 for Egyptians, so my mother got in everywhere for about US$.40.

In this image of one of the towers, you can see how the early Christians chiseled out faces of gods they found offensive. Mahmoud told us, however, that rather than defacing images of Isis, the Christians instead identified her with Mary the mother of Jesus. One image of Isis inside the temple was destroyed not by the sudden force of a chisel, but was worn smooth by years of touching in worship.

Although the main temple is dedicated to Isis, images of Hathor are everywhere, as atop this row of columns.

Mahmoud told us a hilarious story about how one time to entertain himself he made up a story about what some of the hieroglyphs said, rather than giving his tour group their true meaning. The Eye of Horus with the lines dropping below it is a common figure in hieroglyphs, so he told his tourists that Horus was crying because someone had been turned into the animal pictured here. (Note how you can even see the animal's ribs!) He said another tour guide overheard him and just stood there shaking his head.

You see familiar temple themes and architecture as you walk through the temple -- rows of columns and the typical arch with the winged scarab above it.

You can see how the column heads got more complex during the Greek period. Instead of the old papyrus and lotus columns, we now see these beautifully detailed composite columns.

The Philae Temple complex included a smaller temple dedicated to the ubiquitous Hathor.

Hathor's Temple was closed so as not to damage it further. An Egyptian guard posed here for a picture.

Through this doorway of Hathor's Temple, you can see Lake Nasser beyond.

After construction of the dam, this temple was flooded and had to be moved about a quarter mile to higher ground. Here you can see the original site of the temple, mostly underwater.

One of the most popular tourist pastimes in Egypt is sailing on the Nile in boats called feluccas, as pictured here. Mahmoud took us and the Canadians on a felucca ride to see the other sights of Aswan.

From the felucca, we saw the Mausoleum of the Aga Khan on top of a hill overlooking the water. The Aga Khan died in 1957, and every day since then his wife has placed a rose on his tomb. Below the mausoleum, you can perhaps see holes in the hillside. These are the Tombs of the Nobles (as opposed to kings and queens), and they date from the Old and Middle Kingdoms.

We got off the felucca for a stroll on Kitchner's Island. Kitchner was a British commander of the Egyptian army and a man who loved flowers. He imported plants and animals from all over the world for this beautiful and peaceful botanical garden, which was developed in the 1890's.

That evening, Mahmoud took a bunch of us in a cab to the bank, which was a scene of utter chaos. No one paid any attention to the concept of a line; you had to be very aggressive to get waited on. Banks in Egypt close in the late afternoon and then open again in the evening when no American bank would be open. I had been trying unsuccessfully for days to call my beloved husband Eric (I won't include a gratuituous photo) from remote areas of Egypt without paying a truly exhorbitant charge. Mahmoud took me by cab to a place where there were international phones that accepted phone cards. (Egyptian antiquities are featured everyone -- see the scan of the phone card.) Mahmoud kept insisting that there must be something wrong if I should be so concerned that I got to talk to my husband, since we had been married for over eight years. After I talked to Eric, though, he said that my face brightened up completely, so I must still be in love with him after all this time.

No virtual tour of Egyptian antiquities would be complete without a picture of Ramses II's temple at Abu Simbel. However, I didn't go to Abu Simbel (it involved catching a 4:00 am plane and paying an additional US$250), so this photo is from a brochure my travel agent sent me. This whole huge temple was moved to higher ground with the flooding of Nubia to form Lake Nasser. This New Kingdom temple was carved between 1290 and 1224 BCE, and it features many very large statues of Ramses. Mahmoud took the Canadians to Abu Simbel on Thursday, and we stayed and relaxed in Aswan. I lay in the sun on the roof deck of the boat, and later took a walk down to a restaurant on the water. Mahmoud and the Canadians returned in the early afternoon, and we said goodbye to all and got on the plane for our return to Cairo.

CAIRO, 2/17/00-2/19/00

On Thursday, we visited the American University at Cairo, where my mother attended. My grandfather taught for many years at the School of Oriental Studies, pictured here. This is a very westernized institution, with classes taught mostly in English. Lots of the women had their heads uncovered. Their hair is beautiful.

We walked over a bridge over the Nile to an island, on which are the neighborhoods of Gezira and Zamalek. It was very pretty there -- there were lots of green plants. We stopped for ice cream at the Marriott, which used to be Ismael's royal palace. It was beautiful.

That night, I took Tim to a belly dance show. Cairo is the world capital of belly dancing, and since I've been dancing myself in a very American style, I really wanted to see the authentic Egyptian dance. To see a first-class belly dance show in Cairo is no small thing, however. The shows are in fancy hotel clubs where you have to dress up and buy an expensive dinner. But what really makes things difficult is that the show starts at about 1:30 and goes until about 4:00. AM, that is. Cairenes are about the streets at all hours of the day, and it is a very safe place to walk around late at night. So I took a nap for a good part of the afternoon and early evening, and Tim and I went to the Semiramis Hotel for the show. It was absolutely fantastic. I think the dancer's name was Hanira. She was beautiful, with long brown hair and a super sweet smile. Hers was a much "dancier" dance than a lot of belly dance -- she hopped and moved and swung all over the stage. She had several sparkly costumes and changed about four times. She didn't do very many things that were terribly technically complicated -- there was not much showing off of very difficult moves. I've certainly seen dancers who were more technically adept, but she had a grace and sweetness that more than made up for any lack. I enjoyed myself immensely.

The last two days of the trip was the most interesting for me, because I got to meet some of my Egyptian family. My mother has two cousins named Mary and Eva. They were both born and had grown to adulthood since the last time she was in Egypt, so she had never met them before. Their father was her uncle, and she had met their mother, Karima, when she was a young woman. We got to try some interesting new things, like sugar cane syrup and Turkish coffee (much better than American coffee). Karima read our coffee grounds. Mary and Eva each have children, whose English is better than my Arabic. Mary showed us a videotape of her engagement party. My grandparents, both of whom have since died, were in the videotape. It ws wonderful to see their pictures; I nearly cried. We saw their home in Heliopolis, which is a nice part of Cairo, and Mary's husband Sharif took us on a tour of the lovely neighborhood. It was much more interesting than commercial downtown Cairo, because you got to see how people actually live. He took us to their club, with a lovely swimming pool.

Heliopolis is a great place where you can walk everywhere. We saw the Baron's Palace there, but it is currently closed to visitors.

I was warmed by the sight of such familial love as these parents had for their children. I also felt very welcome and at home. It is a wonderful thing to have family all over the world.

One big difference I see between Egypt and the US is that while, in the US, we are always unsatisfied and looking to buy the next new thing, Egyptians, although much poorer, try to be satisfied and are grateful for what they have. They also look forward to being able to buy new furniture and such, but their attitude is much less acquisitive.

On Saturday, Mary and Sharif took us to two of Cairo's scenic neighborhoods, Old Cairo and Islamic Cairo. I promised at the beginning there would be architecture that wasn't from the BCE era, didn't I? We took the Cairo metro to Old Cairo. It's a wonderful, modern metro, as efficient as any in the US. The first two cars are reserved for women, I guess so they don't have to be squished in with strange men. (The trains are rather crowded.) In the absence of men, the women were just as friendly as Egyptian men were everywhere, welcoming us to Egypt. My mother asked Mary why so many of the Moslem women were wearing head scarves, when they had not done that when she lived in Egypt. Mary said they started doing it about ten years ago as a gesture of defiance against perceived western imperialism -- sort of an in-your-face gesture of pride. I found this ironic.

Old Cairo is the oldest part of Cairo, being the original Christian settlement. Some of the buildings date from 98 AD.