.Through the Suez . . .
The Suez Canal is very unlike Panama. It is a sea level canal, so without locks it lacks a lot of the operational interest of Panama. Instead of being surrounded by rain forest jungle you are surrounded mostly by sand, broken up by occasional dusty towns. I gave some entry commentary from the bridge and our Egyptologist gave some historical commentary mid-morning, but, unlike Panama, there wasn’t a whole lot to talk about. Some folks expected a more blow-by-blow account, but other than blowing sand . . . The Panama connection is of course Ferdinand de Lesseps. And when it opened the Suez Canal was one of the great marvels of engineering triumph, which of course paved the way for de Lesseps to take on Panama. The Suez side of the Canal is a demilitarized buffer zone between Israel and Egypt and is all sand. There are a few international peace-keeping outposts, and a few US installations designed to shoot down missiles if ever Egypt and Israel start shooting nukes at one another. The main Egypt side has little towns, and agriculture, mostly fed by water brought in from the Nile. What I found fascinating were the towers built above houses and in farms, maybe two stories high, with lots of holes. Pigeons are a delicacy in Egyptian cooking and the towers are for raising pigeons.
We arrived in Port Said late in the afternoon and Nikki and I took the opportunity to roam around. There isn’t a lot of tourist interest in Port Said but we found it fascinating because of the old French-style buildings from the Suez Canal construction days, which are similar to some of the old French buildings in Panama City and Colon.
Egypt is definitely on the “return and spend some time” list! We missed our call in Safaga because of some engine problem that delayed us, but we had a fantastic time in Port Said traveling to Giza to see the pyramids. It’s a long ride from Port Said to Cairo and the pyramids at Giza, but it is well worth it.
The national museum in Cairo houses incredible treasures, including the treasures from the tomb of King Tut. But the museum itself is a national disgrace to Egypt. This is a country that takes in $6 BILLION a year from tourism and tourism is the biggest national industry, but the museum is a disgrace. Here are some of the most precious and beautiful items in the world sloppily displayed with poor lighting in horrible settlings. Supposedly a new national museum is in the works, but . . . when you consider that in the past 5 years Egypt has taken in, by it’s own accounting, $30 BILLION from tourists coming to see what’s in the national museum, hell, they should at least be able to invest in some lighting and display, even if it is temporary.
If you forget about the poor condition of the museum, the treasures from the tomb of King Tut are amazing. When the Egyptian tombs were made they were almost immediately the targets of tomb robbers. What made the discovery of the tomb of King Tut so amazing was that nobody had robbed it previously of its treasure. Here was a relatively obscure, young king who only ruled for nine years, and if his tomb contained all this treasure, one can only dream of what the tombs of more significant rulers must have contained.
[And now the early risers are arising and coming in for coffee . . . and stopping by to chat . . . and there goes the concentration. “No sir, I’m hiding out in this dark corner because I don’t want to talk to you or anyone else!” Ooops! There goes the Muzak . . . with a song that has clear lyrics saying “beat the shit out of” . . . what’s with that? . . . and the lights of Normandy are getting closer, soon it will be time for a shower. See what getting a blog done is tough?]
Sometimes when you’ve dreamed of seeing a famous, iconic site, like the pyramids, you are disappointed when you actually get there. Not so with the pyramids! To see them in person was an amazing experience. Yes, they do look just like they do in the pictures, but the actual stones are much, much larger than I had imagined. Yes, it is a zoo of souvenir sellers, camel drivers hawking rides and photos, zillions of tourists and tour buses, but the pyramids are spectacular never-the-less. I don’t know why, but I expected the Sphinx to be about the same height as the pyramids, but still spectacular.