Sunrise Behind the Pyramids
Oct 2, 2016
TRAVELING ALONG, Part 10—
The first time I travelled to Egypt it was to meet up with my fiancé there, who was visiting family in Amman, Jordan. More about that later.; this is the story of a group of women traveling to Morocco, then Egypt.
My second, third, and fourth trips to Egypt were in 1990, 1991, and 1993. Each trip had its own special story and flavor. 1990 and 1991 were especially good years.
The 1990 trip began with a visit to Morocco. We were in Marrakesh (which is where Morocco gets its name; it is pronounced ‘ma RAH kesh, which sounds like Mor RAH koh). We were there to go the Festival of Folk Arts, where towns and tribes from all over the country sent dancers and singers to perform their unique regional dances and songs on stage, every night. Each night the performance began after sunset, after the last call for prayers of the evening.
I kinda/sorta got left behind as my group traveled through the streets of Marrakesh to get to the ruins of El Badi Palace, the location of the Festival. The stage straddled ancient pools in the garden of the palace. There was so much to see and photograph! Storks landing on the tops of buildings, doorways, you name it. At one point I looked away from my camera and realized that I had no idea in which direction my group had gone, and the streets were deserted. Very deserted. As I stood there, contemplating my options, I found out how NOT alone I really was. About 4 people came out of their doorways or leaned out their windows to point the way. At least THEY were watching out for me, because my group sure wasn’t! (Although, in their defense, there was a lot of “Linda, come ON!” being said earlier).
But this story (and the next) is not about the streets of Marrakesh or Tangier, (which will be another blog). It is about the streets of Cairo. Because after we left Marrakesh, we flew to Cairo, for fun. We did some things together, but I also went off on my own, a lot.
On to the Pyramids…
On this trip I decided it was REALLY important for me to get film footage of the sun rising being the Pyramids. A great idea, one my friends supported (which was good, because I was not going alone). So at 3:30 in the morning we got up, caught a taxi outside the hotel (I think we had arranged for this the day before), and drove to El Giza. We got out. No one around. No. One. We had expected to be able to get a donkey or something to take us into the desert so we could be behind the pyramids, because that is where we needed to be to see the sun rise in the east. BEHIND the pyramids. To get to the plateau on which the pyramids sit you go UP, and at some point you actually can see a line of demarcation between the green of the area irrigated by the Nile, and the Sahara Desert (at that point, the Western Desert). You can practically straddle the line with your legs. But not at 4 am in the morning.
The cab stopped and let us out. There was no one there and really, why would there be? Everyone else was in bed or in nightclubs.
We walked. It’s not like you could get lost, because, well, they were kind of RIGHT THERE all the time. It was sandy and gravelly, but no high dunes. We walked, and walked, and found a great spot to sit to watch the sun rise.
We waited. Sounds wafted up from the city—dogs barking, music coming from the nightclubs that would not close until dawn. The only other sound was the hum of the mosquitoes. Who would have thought. I guess even though we were beyond the irrigation canals, there were still lots of areas for them to breed. So, we waited, and swatted, and I did a video pan of the area every now and then to get the change in the sky as it lightened for the day. I would hoist my camera to my shoulder, quiet my breathing, start my pan (always right to left, for some reason), and try to ignore the mosquitoes that had landed on the now exposed area of my arm.
We waited some more. We swatted. I panned. And then, we gave up. It was 7 am, no sun had shown, we were getting hungry, and my friends were more than a little irritated. And hungry. We were very, very hungry.
Finally, we gave up and started walking, headed toward the Mena House Hotel for breakfast. We walked past the pyramids, now towering in the light of early morning. We came close to the Sphinx as we moved closer to the Nile, and heard a donkey bray as a grounds keeper moved towards us, fussing and wanting a fee (which he was not authorized to get. He just wanted baksheesh—a tip). I turned around at the sound, and
THERE IT WAS. The sun. Seen through a haze of dust and pollution. Not at all in the direction we were watching, but much more to the left of us. All this time, and I had miscalculated the direction. I did a painting of it later.
So I got my video, the breakfast was delicious, the Mena House was gorgeous (a luxury hotel), and then we took a taxi and went to our rooms to bed.
What did I learn?
• People ARE watching you, you are not paranoid
• Mosquitoes will find you, no matter where you are
• Sound really travels in the desert
• Waiting for the sun to rise is like waiting for water to boil
• Never underestimate the power of smog
• Always bring a compass
To see the paintings: www.lindahollett.net/world-views
Next week: Alms for the poor, and “Imshee, imshee”
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